Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Fall Colors Between Rhio's Ears

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Mouths to Feed

G & her family have been gone since July 5.  Her three horses, two cats, and one pony are pretty self-reliant, but needed a human caretaker for the 3 1/2 weeks the family was away.  I gladly volunteered my services, and, as always, things did not go 100% according to the plan, but everyone fared well and I hardly know what to do with myself now that the family is home & I'm not making my twice- or thrice-daily visits to Tischer Creek Farm.

The plan: Belle the pony stays in the barn during the day due to her allergies, and goes out into the "dry lot" paddock with a shelter and hay for the night.  The horses, Paco, Gimi, & Sefi, have free grazing in the back pasture at night and are locked in the paddock area during the day.  All the equines get a handful of vitamins and a sprinkling of grain in the mornings.  Cats get fed twice a day and can stay either in the house or out as they prefer.  It sounds so simple!

The reality: The weather was ghastly, with oppressive heat & humidity for nearly two weeks.  The horses were dripping sweat by noon, and even the pony's stall was stifling (though at least shady).  Oozing horse fly bites needed doctoring, and stinky feet needed thrush treatment, and overheating horses needed hosing and fans to stay comfortable. My planned twice a day visits quickly morphed into three times a day so I could check on everyone more closely in the dangerous heat, and I kept the horses stalled for all or part of the days as well, which meant 4 stalls to clean instead of 1, 4 water buckets to dump, clean, fill, & haul instead of 1, and very appreciative horses (which makes the effort so absolutely rewarding)!  Several mornings Paco, Gimi, & Sefi had to be chased out of their stalls to go back outside for a few hours, when they would have preferred to stay in the barn (though the mornings were the most tolerable part of the day).

Gimi and Sefi, the "little ones," are just three year olds and have minimal experience with hosing.  The several days that I attempted to cool the horses down by hosing were interesting, to say the least.  Paco seemed to enjoy it the most, and Gimi quickly figured out that he liked the cold water on his chest and shoulders, and *really* liked flipping his nose through the spray and splashing me, but Sefi wanted nothing at all to do with the scary water-spouting snake.  Belle didn't really like it, either, and so I left those two to sweat (you'd think they'd figure out how good it felt!) and concentrated my efforts on the more appreciative boys.

After their hosing, I scrounged around to come up with enough fans for everyone and managed to snake extension cords through the barn aisle so each horse had a fan for his/her stall.  Sefi was of course afraid of her fan, and I don't think ever really got used to it, as she mostly stayed on the half of the stall away from the fan.  Gimi fell in love with his fan, and stood blissfully in front of it with his forelock blowing in the breeze.  Paco & Belle seemed somewhat indifferent to their fans, although both of them managed to knock their fans around when I wasn't there and cause a bit of a ruckus.  I was a bit apprehensive on leaving them to their own devices after my first attempt at "be-fanning" the barn, as Paco's & Gimi's fans were floor fans balanced on the garbage can (!) and the mounting block, respectively.  I was nervous about the multiple extension cords, and the capacity of the electrical circuits, and flammable nature of barn contents, though I raked all the loose material out of the aisle, made sure the stall doors to the hay & bedding were firmly shut, and even unplugged the radio and the fencer for good measure.  Upon my return that evening, Gimi, who I most suspected of getting into trouble, was completely innocent of any wrong doing, and Paco, who I thought the least likely to bother anything, had managed to knock his fan over (or, it fell over on its own, also a possibility).  But, no damage was done and the horses seemed as comfortably not-hot (I can't say "cool") as I could have hoped.  I somewhat refined my fan technique on subsequent afternoons, and did finally get a good working set-up which seemed to balance air flow and safety, as well as put fans in the shed Belle uses at night and the big horses have access to during the day, so that even if I didn't bring them in to their stalls, they had some fan action if they wanted it.  And you can probably guess, but I found Gimi standing with his nose just on the inside of the bars directly in front of the fan on more than one occasion!
Belle & her fan - gotta love baling twine!  She did manage to knock this around a bit but no damage done. 
The horses and I came to a mutually agreeable arrangement for coming in, going out, applying fly spray, donning fly masks, administering thrush treatments, and doctoring the oozing fly bites, and our visits slipped into an easy routine.  The cats got progressively more desperate for attention (I did pet them & talk to them!  Every time I came!  Really!) and got to the point of following me everywhere, meowing pitifully, except when I would bring the dogs along and they would fluff up, hiss, and run under the porch (poor kitties - so traumatized!).  The strange little insects called fly predators arrived in the mail as promised, and I let them hatch before spreading them about as directed.  This was my first experience directly with fly predators, and I have to say, I do think they make a big difference in the leg-biting fly population, although they don't seem to have an impact on the deer or horse flies (which I think makes sense, as those flies breed in water and the fly predators eat the eggs laid by flies in organic matter like manure, moist ground, old hay, etc).
Gimi, Paco, and Sefi wondering if I am going to feed them. 
Luckily the weather broke, and I was able to quit all the hosing/fans/stalling rigamarole this past week.  I did a little temporary fence repair where two wooden posts had broken and the whole fence was leaning precariously, and after the initial look-see (Gimi studied it pretty carefully), the horses left my handiwork alone (whew! I don't think the fence was packing much of a punch as far as I could tell with the fence tester, but I will fully admit I was too chicken to touch it).  I "fixed" the gate with a bungee, and found the little red wagon to be a real back-saver when it came to hauling the buckets of manure around.
The broken wood fence and my "fix" with T-posts.   Thank goodness I was able to find posts, post pounder, caps, insulators, electric rope, screws, and a drill that worked!  Nothing like nosing around in other people's stuff :) 

Ah!  The barn aisle all neat, clean, and tidy - I love that! Now imagine this with blue extension cords & fans all over the place, some balanced on things they probably shouldn't have been... not such a pretty or satisfying sight (and why didn't I have my camera that day?!). 
So this is what it's like to have your own place?  I think my McGyver is ready to roll - bring it on!

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