Calm, Forward, Straight

Calm, Forward, Straight

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

At the Barn #49 - No good deed goes unpunished (II)

Recently during my many midday trips to the barn to administer cooling showers over the last month, I noticed that Cowboy was often out of hay. Out of hay in his boiling hot sand paddock with no grazing. Out of hay from noonish to sometimes after dark. When it happened five days in a row, I finally had to say something.

One evening everyone was at the barn at the same time, so I brought it up to Cowboy's owner L. She's young - fifteen - but a good rider and a pretty good listener too. I mentioned that the hay bag had been empty repeatedly, and asked how much hay she was feeding.

When she said three flakes. I proceeded to give the "hay lecture" :

Hay flakes are all different
Horses (with no grass) need 2% of their body weight in hay per day
For Cowboy that's 24lbs or so, which could be a third to a half bale of hay depending
Weighing the hay is more accurate - did she want to borrow my scale
Horses need to eat constantly for their digestion to function properly
Without enough hay, at best you have a restless bored horse, at worst a colicking horse

During the hay discussion L's mother M walked up and interrupted:

"Well - I've NEVER heard that before. That's not how we did it in Pa. When he lived in Pa he only ate so and so flakes. Besides he just drops it on the ground and then it's wasted."

This put me over the edge. I laid into her about how I didn't care how they did it in back in Pa - didn't he also have grass up there - yes. Was she the one feeding him there - no - it was full board. Didn't he show up to my barn from Pa about 150 lb underweight - yes. Eight hours is entirely too long for him to go without hay. A few bales of hay are waaay cheaper than colic surgery, and besides you have to be able to get your horse on a trailer before you can even get to the vet...

This was the interesting part.

The conversation took place over my paddock gate, me and Val on one side. L and her mother on the other. When things got intense, Val proceeded to stretch his neck out over the gate, turn his head sideways and gently lay it on M's shoulder. He snuggled up close to her neck and kept his head there for the entire exchange, about ten minutes. Val has given me a horse hug or two since I've known him, and he's more than happy to share grooming, but this was a very unusual display of affection. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that Val was trying to diffuse the tension, and that he felt for M while she was undergoing the wrath...

( Okay - my ability to tolerate foolishness patience was at zero. Hormonally challenged.)

Was I being cute - - - again?!


I saved this critter from being hammered by the sprinkler in the garden this evening...

I thought it was called a Hummingbird moth. Pretty hefty right? :). They hover while hunting nectar at night, and do sound just like a hummingbird when they buzz around your flowers.

Apparently it's also called a Sphinx or Hawk moth. Unfortunately (I didn't realize) the caterpillar version is  the tobacco / tomato hornworm - dreaded enemy in the garden. They are startlingly large as well. Pretty is as pretty does...


  1. LOL on your tags. And this proves Val is just as smart as you think he is!

    I had to deal with a neighbor who was throwing all her lawn clippings over the fence for my horses. She immediately took offense when I asked her not to. "Our horses back in Idaho loved grass clippings," she said.

    I tried to explain that the gelding had previous bouts of laminitis, but even as I tried to explain that to her she got that MEGO look (My Eyes Glaze Over) and I could tell she wasn't listening.

    You don't say how the conversation ended up, but I usually find that in any situation like this that I've found myself in, suggesting how it must feel from the horse's point of view is the way to sugarcoat the pill. The only thing that I think kept my hillbilly neighbor from being really offended was that I told her the horses LOVED the clippings--that was of course part of the problem, that the horse with bad feet had no "off switch" for his appetite and would eat himself sick.

    Sheesh. And people wonder why we like our horses so much--sometimes they seem way smarter than the animals of the homo sapiens variety...

  2. Good for you for helping Cowboy out. I've found in the past when I see someone doing things that can really hurt a horse it's best to speak up. They may get defensive at first but if they really care about the horse they will usually change their ways in a few days after they've had time to think about it. The mother doesn't sound like she can take a little constructive criticism but the kid probably will give him the hay he needs.

    And yes Val, you are as cute and smart as ever.

  3. You are very brave. I didn't realize there were other horses where you are. I thought you and Val were alone on your farmette. Trying to educate people about how to properly care for horses is often very frustrating.

    We had boarders once. At the time we did not have sheds or shade in our pastures. We watched them keep the horses in the 90 degree hot sun without fly masks. We offered to bring the horses (for free - we didn't charge board at all!) into the cool barn just during the hottest part of the day. They said, "NO". They wanted the horses to "cowboy up" as they said. This is while all three boarders spent their own days in air conditioned comfort. My parents would look out the window and see the horses standing at the "out" gate with flies all over their faces. It was more than we could take. I had to ask them to leave. It was too painful to watch.
    Good luck with your own situation. Luckily, you have the kind, sweet, sensitive Val to keep tempers cool. What a great horse!

  4. Well. The word verif. is "fluisma" - which makes me think of a combination of flow/fluid and charisma - kind of what Val was showing to M. as he loaned her some good energy through a rough moment!

    I do not know how you do it wrt boarding. I think I would have said all the things you said and then handed them an amended boarding contract with same in writing that also said in big bold letters: failure to comply with these horsekeeping practices will result in immediate eviction.

    Here's to a full haynet for Cowboy from now on!!

  5. Your place, your rules. Period. Especially since if the horse does colic it would be you right there caring for him. I'm behind you 100%.

  6. obnoxious people, that's why when I have my dream place down in Texas no boarders!

    I have heard of boarding barns that feed by the flake, rather than the pound of the hay, which is ridiuclous. Or they all feed the same dang amount of feed to every horse.

    Val's a funny boy!

  7. Thank you for speaking up on Cowboy's behalf. Sometimes it's really hard, but not saying something about a situation when animal welfare is involved is pretty much condoning it. It can be hard to give people the benefit of the doubt, but in many cases it's just lack of education, or "that's the way we always did it." Sure, changing people's opinion can be hard, but you never know if you don't try. I'm glad that you tried, and I hope for Cowboy's sake things change.

    As for him being w/out hay and wasting it on the ground, I highly recommend a small-mesh haynet. They're $10 from Dover, and you can cram about 4-5 flakes in there. That much lasts one of my boys at least 12 hours, and there's almost no wastage at all.

  8. Thank goodness Cowboy has someone looking out for him - you! I, too, am not one to silently stand by if it concerns the well-being of an animal.

    That moth is amazing! The caterpillar may be an enemy of the garden, but the moth version is a pollinator if it's going after nectar, right??

    Where you live is so interesting!

  9. Some people are just plain ignorant . . . glad you spoke up for him. Sweet of Val to help out!

  10. Val is one cool dude. Very smart.

    Your conversation with the boarder is the story of my life. We have had hay quantity and quality issues at my barn. The barn finally started offering three feedings of hay a day (I cried with happiness), but that was after years of many of us offering the same arguments that you described (Barn owner always brings up $$$). Finally the vet and a local horse expert made the argument and it was heard, but why not just listen to your paying boarder?! Unfortunately nibble net was a fail for my hard-keeper (he lost weight). The 24/7 turnout and privacy are too good to risk leaving. Beet pulp has also made the difference for us. It can be very difficult when you are dependent upon someone else to house your horse.

  11. Good for you! I wish soooo many more people shared your view. Horses are not MEANT to have empty tummies, ever! I can *tolerate* twice daily feedings, but those feedings better be adequate. And what some see as hay wasting is often the horse just saving it for later. Gah. And yes, Val is the sweetest:)

  12. Thank you SO much for discussing weight! Can you add what kind of hay it is you're feeding? It drives me crazy when I'm on a message board and people from all over the world are talking about feeding their horse "a bale" or "three flakes" of hay. What kind, how much does it weigh?
    That 24 lbs is half a bale explains so much to me... our bales (alfalfa and bermuda) are each around 100 lbs. I think the lightest we've gotten were 95lbs and heaviest were 110 lbs.

    Feeding is part of the reason we're now on horse property. Our horses get fed 5 times a day. At 5-something am the mares get their hay and my gelding gets his beet pulp. I have to add some grain to it to get him to eat it. 1-2 hours later my guy gets his hay and the mares get more grass hay. Middle of the day they all get a large pile of grass hay. Early dinner is their night hay, and after dark they get their grain - generally around 9pm. The two thinner ones usually still have hay left at that time, and even when I've gone out to check around midnight. The heavy one lasts about 30 minutes after feeding, because even with her nibble net type hay bag, she just wolfs her food down.

  13. I have heard people talking about giving their horses 2 flakes a day. 2 flakes!! I can't imagine. We go by weight and quality. We don't actually weigh it since we've been feedling long enough to have a good feel for how much to feed. It's something you can't get at most boarding facilities and it is something our boarder appreciates. Her horse will clean up every last stick of hay so he gets more. His weight is great - not fat (its grass hay), but not skinny. She said he used to be a hard keeper. I think he just wasn't getting enough hay. We find him to be an easy keeper - we feed, so we give him as much as he wants. Maybe not cost effective -- but that's not what we're about. Happy & healthy horse, happy and healthy me.

  14. Good on you and spoke truth and he spoke mi.dress and concern. I am sure at least one of them got the least they my Google it and find out about proper feeding ratios. I mean, horses are grazers people, not humans! In fact, we humans may take lessons from the horses, little and often, not much and far between.

    You are so right on, bless you for speaking up. Cowboy horse needs people like you!

  15. Good for you for speaking up for the horse. The conclusions some people draw about horses/training/nutrition are astounding sometimes. I hope Cowboy's folks elect to listen to you - and closely.

  16. I haven't seen hay feeding explained so simply and well before - thanks. We don't have trouble just going by 'feel', but it's good to know the guidelines.
    I'm so glad you spoke up for Cowboy. Good for you. Let us know if it improves.
    Good for Val for diffusing things. Rogo did a similar thing when I was unable to get away from a venting (very unreasonably) BO where we last boarded. Rogo kept placing his lips closer to her mouth until he finally just gently put his lips on her mouth and she couldn't talk anymore :) Horses are so smart. I just love your Val. He's a sweetie.

  17. Keeping horses requires one to always be learning and ready for "new" information or ways to do things. Thank you for providing the mom with the correct information! I just hope she is open-minded and smart enough to take the information and use it.

    Those green tomato worms are HORRID...but my chickens love 'em. :D

  18. But the real question... have they followed your advice?

    People are such a pain!

  19. Good on you for talking to them! Do you think they listened?

    Aaaaaaaaa tomato worms give me the heebie jeebies. Horrible monsters. Too bad they turn into such pretty moths. I am normally very live-and-let-live but I get the screaming willies when I see tomato worms.

  20. hmm. you were very kind to speak up. Owning a horse should be about educating yourself and others. I hope I am at least always willing to listen... I get my first horse (in a long time) today. I am now a follower of yours.


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