Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘slow feeder box

September Eleven

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Twenty years later, I’m pausing to remember my trauma of that day, witnessing so many other peoples’ trauma over the unimaginable death and destruction unleashed by fanatical terrorists hijacking commercial jets containing passengers to use them as explosive missiles.

I spent the first moments, and then the unfolding hours, trying to grasp the reality that such things could be happening. We didn’t learn of the events after the fact. We witnessed much of it as it was happening. I’ve never really liked hearing the sound of a commercial jet flying overhead after that day twenty years ago.

This morning, I turned on some of the television coverage of memorial events being held at the three locations where the planes crashed. In Minnesota, they read the names of people from the state who were killed that day, as well as Minnesota members of the military who died in the wars since.

Thinking of John Lennon’s lyric “Imagine there’s no countries…,” how many more names would need to be recited if loved ones from Afghanistan were to read the names of all who died in the twenty years since.

Meanwhile, in the idyllic surroundings of our home on this beautifully warm September day, we are living life in peace. The first hints of color continue to slowly transition in the panorama of trees along the edges of our woods.

On this third day of being the only person feeding our animals, they are all settling into my way of doing things. On Thursday evening, the horses demonstrated a fair amount of uncertainty navigating the feeding routine, but as I have adjusted my methods and they’ve responded willingly, this morning was as serene as ever.

Having watched Swings lose as many pellets out of her mouth as she consumes, I’ve started soaking her servings in a little water first and that seems to be making it easier for her. We had hoped having their teeth floated would help her more than it appears to have done.

This morning I decided to try again to use the hay boxes I built. They were powering through a single bale so fast the last time we tried using these that we switched to providing the net feeders from which they were used to eating.

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If they make it through a bale too fast today, I’ll plot a modification to the grate that might slow it down to something comparable to grass-grazing speed, if I can guess what that actually is.

It seems illogical to me that they would prefer dry hay bales over the two large fields of fresh grass that we provide them full access to day and night, but I’m not a horse. I trust they know why they make the choices about what to eat.

As rescued thoroughbreds, they know about memories of trauma.

Today we are soaking up the peacefulness we have been afforded and adding another day of distance from the source of our past traumas.

We will never forget, but we will always seek that world where we all be as one.

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Written by johnwhays

September 11, 2021 at 10:01 am

Crime Scene

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Yesterday morning, Cyndie walked into the barn to find one of the chicks was perfectly perched on the stick I had added to the brooder. Not only are our new babies healthy, but they are smart, too.

The horses are also smart, but they (or at least one of them) didn’t practice healthy decision-making overnight. Beneath the overhang of the barn Cyndie stumbled upon what appeared to be a crime scene. One of the slow-feeder boxes had been assaulted.

Evidence is entirely circumstantial, but we believe one of the geldings, most likely Hunter, was the culprit. The big unanswered question is why? And why all of a sudden, after years of leaving them be, for the most part.

There was a single isolated incident, way back when the boxes were first put in use, that we found one box mysteriously moved out of position. Both times, what surprised me most was a distinct lack of drag marks. I have a hard time visualizing how they might be picking up the box to move it without one part dragging in the dirt.

This time the box was both moved about 10 feet and turned completely upside down.

If I had to guess, I’d say the message for us is that they are unhappy with the limited supply of hay we have been serving, as well as the quality, since they are again getting more of the bales for which they have previously demonstrated a very vivid disdain.

Cyndie held out a suspicion that the grate may have gotten hung up and they were messing with the box to remedy that situation, but became startled by something, leading to the chaotic catastrophe she found in the morning.

That theory lost a little footing when she found this later in the day:

 They didn’t even wait around for darkness to make their opinions known a second time.

I guess I should think about moving the trail cam to the paddock to capture what the horses are up to when the innkeepers are away. The mis-behaver might end up losing some privileges, which is the opposite of what he is after, I’m sure.

I hope this behavior isn’t a way to act out over jealousy about the new tenants getting all the attention in the barn. The chicks are just so irresistibly cute, don’t ya know.

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Written by johnwhays

March 29, 2017 at 6:00 am

Morning Pictures

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Delilah and I set out in the pre-dawn light to walk the long way through the woods to the barn so we could feed the horses. The coloring comes through with a blue tint before the sunlight starts making its way through the clouds.

dscn5548eI always find the view of fresh snow on the branches irresistible to capture, but the pictures never do justice to what I get to see in real life.

Legacy likes to pretend he doesn’t know how to get around the obstacle of the arena fence line to come in for the morning morsels of feed. The two younger chestnuts ignore his act and simply keep grazing until its time to go.

dscn5552eThis morning provided good evidence of the horses having a preference for one hay over another from the selections we have to offer them this year. I specifically mixed the supply in this box last night.

dscn5550eNot wanting them to suffer over their picky-ness about the fuel being served this morning in the snowy cold, I emptied the box of the less desirable hay and replaced it with one of the bales they prefer.

I dumped the unwanted hay out in the raised circle.

dscn5553eNow guess which one they prefer.

After getting back up to the house to feed the rest of the crew, I will be stepping back outside to crank up the Grizzly for the first snowplowing of the year.

With a Polar Vortex cold snap predicted for the days ahead, it is finally feeling a lot like winter around Wintervale today.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2016 at 11:06 am

Working Well

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dscn5534eIn case you’ve been wondering lately how the old slow feeder boxes I built are holding up, I’m proud to report they are working out really well. Precisely as I had envisioned, in fact. On this cold December morning, as Delilah and I made the trek up the driveway from the mailbox, the four horses were visible under the overhang grazing peacefully, 2 per box, in the brief splash of early sunlight shining over the horizon to the east.

I expect those few minutes of sun and blue sky are all we will see today, as clouds are now prevailing and we are due to receive up to 8 inches of snow by the end of tomorrow.

Prepare the shovels.

With this morning’s temperature hovering in the single digits, the herd was very interested in fueling their internal furnaces with non-stop input of hay.

dscn5541eWhen I arrive with a new bale in the wheelbarrow, which I need to repeatedly remind them is off-limits for grazing from, they hover close for the instant of opportunity to chomp up a mouthful when the first portion lands in the box. I let them take bites while I methodically, but swiftly, arrange flakes in the box. I want to get the grate in place before they take to pulling more than bite-fulls at a time and dropping them on the ground.

It pleases me greatly that they never show any hint of displeasure over the addition of the grate. I can start sliding it in place while they are mid-bite and like a precisely choreographed performance, settle it in place as they seamlessly continue pulling up bites, now through the openings. The grates don’t appear to bother them at all.

Being famously picky about the quality of their hay, horses will ignore what they don’t want until it becomes the only option. Then they will usually eat that anyway. We have bales from several sources and we don’t always get the same hay in each box. When they like it, I will find nothing but dust left with the grate settled on the bottom of the box.

Frequently, there will be a half-eaten bale with a whole bunch of unsavory cast off grass nested on top of the grate. They pull it out and nose it aside while continuing to graze their way down to more desirable tidbits. They seem to have a brilliant ability to discern. However, when I collect the neglected leftover hay and drop it off somewhere else in the paddock, often times they will follow me over to eat it.

Maybe the new and different ambiance makes it taste better to them. Regardless, the slow feeder boxes are working out just like I hoped they would, and that makes me continually happy.

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2016 at 10:56 am

Very Happy

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Despite the annoying ongoing saga of my favorite auto repair shop failing to figure out why my “check engine” light keeps coming on, I am feeling so very happy today, over how well my homemade slow feeder hay boxes have worked out for our herd.

DSCN4385eWe keep the boxes pushed up against the back wall in the two spaces beneath the overhang, so the hay doesn’t get wet. There is enough space for two horses to nosh at the same time (if they are feeling agreeable).

Only one time did we find a box pulled way out of position. It was really puzzling, because there was a surprising lack of obvious drag marks that would have helped to reveal how it got there. Other than that curious instance, the horses haven’t showed any inclination to need to mess with the boxes at all.

I had struggled to make the boxes sturdy enough to withstand a beating, anticipating that the horses would test each one in a manner similar to how they tested our solar-powered electric fence charger. I made the mistake of hanging it in a location where they could reach it.

The red control knob disappeared, the plastic trim around the solar panel got ripped off, and they scratched up the paint with teeth marks. I wasn’t very happy about that outcome.

Occasionally, the horses will get extremely picky about hay they don’t want to eat and the grate ends up at an extreme angle, due to their eating only one end of a bale down to the bottom. Most often, they just munch away evenly and the grate settles to the bottom.

As I was making my way in and out of the gate to the small paddock last night, making trips to the hay shed, I noticed a sensation of also being very happy that our horses allow us to be so relaxed with gate management. I have yet to find evidence of them attempting escape from any of our fenced areas, and they show no tendencies toward threatening a getaway when I am occupied with my own entering and exiting through the openings.

This gives me the impression they are satisfied with their confines and all that is within.

When they are happy, I’m happy.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2016 at 7:00 am

Barn Chores

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DSCN3959eDuring the previous weekend we finished creating the stone walkway out the back door of the barn. Looks good now, but I am wary of how well it will hold up to the ravages of changing seasons and expected usage. Most often, that is the route out of the barn for the wheelbarrow full of manure and soiled wood shavings, after the horses have needed to spend a night indoors during the coldest of brutal nights.

Maybe we won’t have very many severe cold nights this coming winter, what with the forecast of a super El Niño intensity unseen in 50 years. I wonder if the global climate is being impacted by human activity? (I just can’t help myself, putting a question mark at the end of my “I wonder” statements.)

I will be surprised if our stone placements survive their first winter of shoveling and freezing without needed some level of maintenance when next spring arrives, but for the minimal effort we put into the project, I think the path is adequate for now.

At the very least, it’s a heck of a lot nicer to look at.

With the stones all in place, the next task receiving our attention became the stalls in the barn. Taking advantage of some dry September air, we pulled floor mats out of the stalls for washing, and raked out the dirt floors so they could air out.

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While standing in the stalls, it occurred to me that I need to get to work designing new slow feeding hay boxes for each one. The current setup allows the horses to pull hay out freely, dumping it on the floor, where it goes to waste and leaves them with nothing to eat.

A smaller version of the two boxes I’ve already built will offer a perfect solution for that.

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Written by johnwhays

September 15, 2015 at 6:00 am

Hay Games

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DSCN2781eFebruary has arrived right on schedule, showing up with a new frosting of snow for us. The horses have been doing just fine without blankets, but that meant this morning they are wearing blankets of snow that make them look like powdered sugar treats.

Makes them down right irresistible.

Until I find they have been behaving badly. I don’t know if it was intentionally malicious or just bad planning, but somebody’s butt dropped a pile of nuggets into one of the slow-feeder boxes overnight.

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I bet they can identify who the culprit is. Wonder if they chastise the offender. What would we say to a member of our family who contaminated our food? I think that person would catch a lot of flack.

We’ve got something of a new routine going for serving up the daily hay. Even though the slow-feeders are working like a dream, there is no denying a horse’s love of eating freely out in the open.

I have placed the feeder boxes beneath the overhang to keep the hay protected from precipitation. It is pretty clear the horses would prefer being out from under that roof.

Recently, I had cleaned out the bottom of both boxes of dusty remains and decided to dump it on the ground beneath the willow tree. Since Hunter, the youngest and lowest in the herd hierarchy, usually has to wait for a turn at the slow-feeder boxes, he came right down and started nosing around in the scraps I had dumped.

That got the attention of one of the other chestnuts and they left the box to come down and make sure he wasn’t getting a better deal. Soon the three chestnuts were doing a comical slow dance of rotation as they moved from the ground below and the box above.

The next time I was filling the boxes, I decided to throw Hunter a bone and dropped a whole flake under the tree for him. Oddly, it is right next to the old feeder, but they like the hay down low so much better, and I was still of a mind to move their focus away from the old feeders to the new slow boxes, so I am completely ignoring them.

Our hopes with the old feeder was to keep hay off the ground where it gets trampled, peed and pooped on, so as to reduce waste. That didn’t really work as imagined, because they still spilled a whole bunch anyway. DSCN2788eNow with the new boxes, waste has been greatly minimized, and it is starting to feel like we enough hay that such a loss factor is hardly a concern.

Since one of the boxes had been soiled this morning, I threw out several flakes for them while I cleaned up and refilled the boxes. All four of them were quick to show me they much prefered the unobstructed ground-hay under the tree.

Sure, until one of them goes and poops on it.

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Written by johnwhays

February 1, 2015 at 11:26 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