We buy our hay in three ton lots from our suppliers, delivered and stacked by two wiry young men. The two young men have changed over the years, since slinging around eighty pound bales of hay is not a long-term career. It gets stacked in the hay aisle of our barn, as high as seven layers. Sometimes it seems as though the stackers are being unnecessarily clever about how they interlock the bales as they stack. I try not to fuss about how high the bales go, since they are doing pretty well to stack the hay and still leave room for me to get into the stalls from the hay aisle.
However, getting the top bale down when it is stacked seven high can be challenge, since they are over my head. I used to get Jack to do it but he generally brought down half the pile, scattering bales like pick up sticks, and fussing about getting clobbered in the process. So I mostly do it myself now. I became a lot more cautious about doing it after the time I impaled myself with a hay fork when a bouncing bale hit the hay fork in my hand. One doesn’t expect eighty pound bales to bounce, but they do.
I’ve developed a fairly efficient process for getting down the top bale. I hook the hay fork into the twine of the bale and make sure it is securely attached. I loop one of my lead ropes though the handle of the hay fork and hold on to both ends, pulling steadily until the desired hay bale drops to the ground. The lead rope gives me enough room that I can move back if I’ve miscalculated how many bales will drop. However, usually no more than two bales will come down if I’ve selected the correct bale.
I am extraordinarily gratified each time this method works since I’ve developed it.
I thought it was bad when I went out to feed horses this evening and I saw Hap was standing on three legs behind the barn. I was sure he had broken his front right leg and the vet confirmed it when she came out about forty minutes later. He was humanely destroyed a few minutes later.
It really sucks. But as my friend D said, it would have sucked just as much if he had been 35 as 25.
So about 11 am I notice that my critter-sitter, also known as R, had just left a message for my cell phone. Unfortunately, the routine that I use to check messages while in the US did not allow me to pick it up in Canada. This wouldn’t have worried me so much but my critter-sitter wasn’t supposed to try to reach me except for an emergency. After several failed attempts at using the cell phones belonging to me and Jack I started begging cell phones from friends here at the convention. (We left one very elderly dog at home and horses are ALWAYS an emergency waiting to happen.) I finally got hold of my friend D who boards my mare and asked her if she knew why my critter sitter had called me. (The friend D who boards my mare has what is essentially our medical power-of-attorney for our critters so I knew she would know what was going on.) D assured everyone was fine including Rion who was playing in her back yard and that R was there. It turned out that Indi (a very sweet, older grulla gelding) had decided to play with the hydrant in D’s barn the previous night. He had never, ever done this before. In fact, no horse had done this for over a decade, which is why there wasn’t a safety fastener on it. It was quite a stretch for Indy to reach the hydrant and flood the barn. When D got to the barn in the morning, all the horses but my mare were up to their fetlocks in water. R was calling to find out where we keep our Shop-Vac, so she could take it over to help the clean-up process. I don’t know if she ever found it, but D reports on Facebook that her barn has been cleaned up.
It’s always something.
Update: 2:04 pm MDT: The mineral oil has passed through Lily’s digestive tract. This is very good news. I am about to leave to pick her up at the clinic.
Yesterday, when I got to the barn, D reported that my mare Lily had been acting as though she was having one of her “spells.” She has had a fair number of these spells over the years, which present as mild colic attacks. We arranged our plans for the day so we could keep an eye on her. By mid-afternoon, we started to worry that this was more severe than her regular spells, and called the vet out, who diagnosed a moderately severe impaction colic. However, there were no signs of a torsion after a rectal exam, so she tubed her with oil and water, and gave her heavy-duty pain killers. Two hours later we called her when it was obvious that the pain-killers were doing very little, and she was accumulating gas rather than passing it.
I called the vet and we had one of those grim little discussions about whether Lily was insured (NO) and whether colic surgery was an option (NO). (If colic surgery had been an option, she would have handed off Lily to a clinic that does them.) As Lily was continuing to try to throw herself down when allowed I was afraid to even put her in a
trailer for the fifteen minute ride to the vet’s clinic.
The vet came out again. While we were waiting, Lily managed to go down and get her
hind legs through the rails of a fence. I felt like giving up at that point, but Lily managed to get herself uncast right after the vet arrived while we were discussing what to do. The vet did another rectal exam and still felt no signs of torsion (a twist in the intestine). I was sure she had a twist higher than the vet could feel but not quite sure enough to request she be put down. The vet had given her more drugs, and this time they seemed to give her some relief. Even so, of the three of us, D was the only one who had much optimism at that point. D and I arranged to meet the vet at her clinic in forty-five minutes since the vet had another call to make, which gave us a chance for a long over-due supper. The vet was having the day from hell since her partner in the practice was out of town.
Lily went into the trailer without too much fuss and came out breathing fire. I walked her (actually was dragged around by her) for a while, then led her into her stall at the clinic. She investigated the stall and then went down. She still looked more comfortable than she had for many hours and lay quietly with her head up. As we waited for the vet to arrive, we could hear gas gurgles, which was very welcome since she had been lacking gut sounds for a scarily long time. I told the vet I wanted to her to call me with any significant change, good or bad. The vet had another colic case in clinic, and expected to be up all night administering pain-killers and fluids.
I was laying awake at 1:30 when the vet called to say that Lily had made a big pile of manure and had passed a lot of gas and seemed reasonably comfortable. We had previously discussed a procedure which would vent the gas but she had not felt it necessary. After that, I was able to sleep for a few hours. At 6:30 I spoke to the vet again. She had left a vet tech monitoring Lily and had gone home to catch a few hours of sleep herself. She was guardedly optimistic, since Lily had made another pile of manure, had gut sounds on both sides (though diminished on her right side) and was only occasionally looking at her right side. If all goes well, we hope to bring her home today.
When we moved here, there was a small pen with privacy fencing for the previous owner’s dog, and a few strands of barb wire around what we now call the horse field. We had a larger dog pen built the first month we were here in December 1992. We didn’t get around to building the barn until the summer of 1996, and fenced a little over two acres for the horse field in October 1996. In September of 2000, we fenced another two acres for what we still call the new field, and also fenced an adjacent area to replace our previous dog run. The dog run shared a fence line with the new field.
About five minutes are the dog run and new field were finished, I realized we should have put a gate between the new field and the dog run, but could never convince Jack that it was a good idea. When I learned that Lily and Lightning were coming to live with us, I told Jack I wanted to put a gate in so I could take the dogs out to the new field to play fetch without having to put dogs on leads to get them there safely.
On our way to the restaurant Sunday, Jack spotted a place that sells Preifert gates. Preifert gates are lightweight and recommended for use around horses. Yesterday morning I called and asked the owner if he had anyone who could install a gate for me. The young man he recommended came by a few hours later to check things out, and then came back this morning and installed our new gate. I am very pleased. It only took nine years. (The four-foot gate to the horse field is to the left in this photo, and the new gate is the one on the right.)
I just got a call from our neighbor to the west telling me she had seen one of our horses out of our field. I didn’t immediately panic because where one horse goes, the others would follow, and I could see Rags calmly grazing from the window. Even if Hap had jumped out of the field, which Rags couldn’t do, Rags wouldn’t have been so calm about what he would have viewed as abandonment.
However, as I expected, I counted three heads almost immediately when I got out to the horse field. I also saw a rider walking near our fence line. I shouted to make sure she was okay and she said she had dismounted voluntarily but let go of the reins. The horse, evidently a dark horse like Hap, had headed home for his barn.
So I turned the horses out in the new field for two hours. We’ve had enough precipitation recently there is actually something resembling grass out there.
Every night, Hap is shut in his stall while he finishes his ration of horse chow. Then I go to the barn and let him out to join the others to eat hay at the hay feeders. I’ve been leaving Orion, with some difficulty, at the gate while I do so. Rion has been doing his best to get through the gate with me since he doesn’t feel I should go anywhere without him.
This evening, I had let Hap out out of his stall and turned out the barn lights when I saw this small dark shape streaking toward me. I had barely identified it as Rion when he turned and dashed in front of Hap, who was joining the others at the feeder. Hap put his head down almost to the ground, and carefully placed his feet so he wouldn’t squash Rion. I called Rion who changed course again and dashed back to me. Rion seemed very proud of his success in joining me, presumably having found a place a very small dog could go under the mesh fence the separates the dog run from the horse field.
Hap has always been quite tolerant of dogs, and I am extremely grateful that he extended his tolerance to Rion tonight. I felt as though my life flashed before my eyes when I saw eight pound Rion on an apparent collision course with an eleven hundred pound horse.
The high today was 10F. Days like this make me even more grateful for having electricity (to heat the stock tank) and a cold water hydrant in our small barn. It was brutal taking care of horses without either during the blizzards of 1997-1998. We installed electricity to the barn a year or so later, and kept running hoses out to fill the stock tank in the barn for another winter or so. That changed the day I went to water horses one morning when it was significantly below freezing, and I discovered that Jack had not drained the hose properly when he topped off the spa. (It took several hoses to get to the barn from the house hydrant.) Since we had discussed The Proper Draining of Hoses on several previous occasions, I told him I felt it was only fair that he water the horses until such time as we had water to the barn. I think he found the plumbing contractor within a week, and we had water to the barn within two weeks.
On days like this, it helps a lot. Keeping stock watered properly during extended cold snaps is brutal without running water and stock tank heaters.
Go to Jack’s weblog to see some photos he took of the horses during the the nightly feeding. Despite the difficulty of taking photos of dark (mainly) horses in the dark, you can determine that we don’t have the usual problem of keeping weight on elderly horses. (I obsess a bit on the subject: our first boarder was an elderly, very thin, Thoroughbred gelding named Dugan. I felt like hanging a sign on him: “This horse gets as much food as is safe for him to eat.”)