Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘hay feeder

The Diet

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Not that we want to compound the misery we put our horses through, but the weeks of indoor confinement they just endured have come with the added insult of decreased rations. If protecting them from the ravages of founder (laminitis) means we need to closely control what our horses are consuming, we need to do it regardless of how unhappy they act over the situation.

I am certain that the reason Cayenne was prancing around snorting when I freed her from the confines of her stall on Saturday was because she had grown so agitated over the lack of anything to eat in her “cell.” She had made that clear with the kicking of the wall and pawing at the floor when I showed up to greet the farrier and get Hunter some padded shoes.

The precisely measured portions I had meted out at noon were ancient history and she wanted more. Luckily, she settled down a little bit while Hunter was brought out of his stall to stand between both mares and be fitted.

Later, after the three horses were done thrashing around outside in the paddock, they settled down and took up stations over the hay boxes, where bonus servings had been made available to augment their celebration over the return to the great outdoors.

Now, even though it was a bonus offering, it was still a precisely measured meager portion of a bonus.

It didn’t take them long to show their feelings about the restrictions of this new diet still being in place, even though they have been released from confinement in the barn.

Yesterday, I spotted them grazing on the winter manure pile inside their fence line. It seems there have been a few morsels of hay raked up with the manure.

Cyndie fretted the other day that feeding our animals (and I might add, her family and guests) is one of the ways she shows her love. For the record, she loves me a LOT. It breaks her heart to see the horses stoop to digging through the manure pile for blades of grass.

I’m sure it’s not the first time a restrictive diet has brought on behaviors for which pride gets tossed aside.

In reality, they aren’t really that desperate. They were just checking out the pile for a brief few seconds. I thought it looked funny and snapped the photo. It makes for good story!

The diet is for real, and their adjustment to it is going to take some time, but we are optimistic a new balance will emerge and we will be back on a path to optimal health, soon.

Soon, in a relative sense of the word.

 

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Written by johnwhays

March 12, 2018 at 6:00 am

Making Prototypes

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Despite the time squeeze of trying to be in two places at once, filling in for two different vacationing people, I found a way to occupy Delilah by taking her to the shop for a distraction while I tinkered on prototyping a design for grates that I can use for slow feeder boxes in the barn stalls.

IMG_iP0910eShe seemed to appreciate the chance to be out of the house with me, despite the confines of her leash. I decided that while Cyndie is away, I will only allow Delilah off leash if I am able to give her my undivided attention, like when I am throwing discs for her to make spectacular diving leaps toward, or flinging squeaky tennis balls great distances for her to sprint after.

Before Cyndie left for the coast, she picked up some fence panels from Tractor Supply for me to make my own grates. As nice as the ones are that I had a local welder make for the two full-size boxes I built, they were a bit pricey.

The first challenge I am facing is finding a way to add some weight to the grates. The custom welded ones are made of heavier rod and also have side plates that give it a desirable heft, so it lays firmly against the bale. The horses can pretty much ignore it and concentrate on nibbling the hay between the squares. The weight helps the grate to keep dropping as the hay is consumed.

The fence panel is made of lighter gauge wire and I fear without added weight it wouldn’t tend to fall as naturally, and the horses might become inclined to mess with it when it got hung up. They have a knack for eating down on one side at a time so that the grate can end up tilted dramatically.

One thing I am considering for the stalls is that there will be no sharing. It will be one horse only that will be grazing hay, so there won’t be mixed behavior. Whatever eating tendency each horse has will define how the slow feeder works in each case.

My first shot at adding something akin to the side plates on the welded grates, was to attach a section of an old T-post that I cut to length on the band saw. By snipping off a section of fence panel so there were end wires extending beyond the area that will cover the hay, I was able to bend them over to capture the post.

In terms of weight, I think it will work adequately for what I want it to do, but I didn’t end up with the exact dimensions I had in mind. Turns out the fence panel wasn’t welded to exacting specifications. The dimension between squares varies, so I will cut another one a whole square larger and take a second stab at a method of bending the sides around a section of post.

I want it to cover an area as wide as a bale, to make it easy to fill the box with full flakes and then drop on the grate and secure it. Speaking of easy, the horses will mainly be in the barn when it is below-zero, so I’m trying to design the box so it will be possible to fill it when wearing big mittens.

That is, in case we ever again experience any below-zero days, what with the planet simmering away at a record pace now days.

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Written by johnwhays

September 17, 2015 at 6:00 am

Sweet Harmony

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Yes, Hunter and Cayenne sharing a hay feeder.

It’s hard to describe how precious it feels to now see Hunter side by side with the other horses grazing at the hay feeders.

When I first put those boxes out last year, I wasn’t sure how well the new setup would work. I wanted the horses to be able to feed at them, 2-at-a-time, but it wasn’t to be for Hunter. He was either not welcomed by the others, or just not comfortable stepping up to the “table” while someone was already there.

The signals are often so subtle that I miss them entirely, but occasionally I would witness a simple shift of position or nod of a head which communicated clear enough to an approaching horse that they should just stay where they are. My standing near, trying to invite a horse in, would not be enough to override whatever messages were being sent by the horse already at the feeder.

Hunter always got his turn, eventually, so I chose not to worry about it. I let the horses manage the routine of grazing at the hay boxes all by themselves.

It’s pretty sweet to see they have finally worked it out so they can all cordially graze together at the same time, no waiting. To me, it seems like such a dramatic change in their behavior, but they make it appear as if it was nothing at all. Looking at them now, you’d have no reason to assume it hasn’t always been this way.

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Written by johnwhays

August 27, 2015 at 6:00 am

Slow Hay

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I want to chronicle my project to get slow-feeders for providing hay to our horses, especially since my initial intent was to buy feed boxes because I didn’t want to build them myself. It didn’t quite work out that way in the end. I searched online and found most images were of home-made versions. One site offered to sell a set of plans to build your own. I opted to order a plastic box that most closely matched a version that appealed to me.

As I described in an earlier post, that online order flopped and I got my money back. I gave in and decided to try making two of them myself, based on the images of others that I liked. What primarily inspired me to follow through was an introduction to a local welder who said he could make custom grates to my specifications.

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I had him make two. It wasn’t cheap, but since I planned to use materials I already had lying around to build the boxes, I would still be able to do it myself for a third of what it cost to buy them. I used plywood for a base and 2×6 boards for sides on the first box. The second box ended up being a combination of plywood and boards for the sides. I had a bunch of 1×1 lumber that I played with to brace the bottom and lift the base off the ground.

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To prevent the horses from lifting the grate out of the box, I added iron corner pieces on one end and a chain on the other. The horses are comfortable with the chain because it is what we use to secure all our gates. To add hay, I unhook the chain and the grate comes out easily. I added handles on each end to make it easy to pick up and turn over to remove the hay dust that accumulates in the bottom. I thought about using slots on the ends to sweep out debris, but it ended up being easier to just tip the box and dump it out.

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It has been working well for us to add flakes as needed, instead of trying to always fit a full bale beneath the grate. We basically just fill it so the grate is up to the top. As they eat, it drops as the level of hay goes down. Sometimes they eat all of one end first and the grate ends up at quite an angle, but mostly they eat it fast enough that I find the grate almost level and near the bottom by morning. Best of all, they are eating every bit of the hay, instead of tossing it on the ground.

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I am particularly thrilled with how well it works to mimic natural grazing. The horses nibble to get a bite and then pull it out between the grate squares and munch away. Their heads are down, as opposed to the other feeders we have that hold the hay up at their standing head level. Those feeders allow the horses to push their noses deep to get at some morsel of a bite they want, and then they can toss their head and flip the hay they passed up onto the ground. The slow-feeder grate only lets them get a modest mouth-full of a bite and they need to tear it out with a motion that is identical to how they naturally break off bites of grass.

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Our horses have proved to me that they can eat together, two at a box, but I often have found them taking turns. I think it is part of their hierarchy playing out. When all four had 360° access to the old feeders, they would do this dance of moving each other around all the time. The new set up makes it easier to force a subordinate horse to wait its turn, instead.

I am absolutely thrilled that the horses have adapted to this new method of being fed hay, and that my (begrudgingly) homemade boxes are performing as I hoped they would. It is working so well, I am contemplating how I will adapt the design to work in a corner of their stalls in the barn. It all starts with the grate, and I’m thinking about testing a cheaper option than the custom welded solution, because this time, I will need 4 of them.

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Written by johnwhays

January 21, 2015 at 7:00 am

Coming Home

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Cyndie will be coming home from the hospital today! All the small rugs have been removed from the floors and I’ve cleaned away unnecessary clutter in preparation for her return. I’m heading to the hospital early and hope to have her home by noon. She’ll need to negotiate three steps to get into the house, but then she should have minimal hazards for life on our main floor. I haven’t been able to eliminate all hazards. For instance, Delilah will be so excited to see Cyndie that she will want to jump all over her.

I will be happy to have her home, but not quite as excited as Delilah. I had a couple of days of free sailing with Cyndie receiving full-time care at the hospital. With her home, I become the person responsible for her care, in addition to my other duties maintaining our property and tending to the animals. Luckily, I will have some occasional support from Cyndie’s mom and maybe even a home-healthcare nurse who can check on how the incision is healing.DSCN2613e

Any amount of time I can safely be out of the house will now be spent constructing a couple of slow feeder boxes. Yesterday, I picked up the grates from “my welder.” They look just like what I was hoping to get. They should, since they were custom-built to my specifications.

At the rate the horses have been dumping hay all over the ground around the present feeders, I feel a strong urge to get these boxes built as quickly as possible. I sure hope my plan to scrounge enough wood for two boxes will work out.

For all those times I have saved leftover lumber at the end of a project, it would be nice to finally experience some justification for the practice, and actually find a productive use for it.

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Written by johnwhays

November 20, 2014 at 7:00 am