Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Evening Chores, Horses, and Bun-Bun

Good evening everyone.  It's pouring rain here. I think they are calling for a couple of inches in 24 hrs.  It's also 40 degrees.  Cold rain, not my favorite weather but I'll take it over snow any day.  I am a snow scrooge.  Why? I work outside.  Plus, I can count on being here alone to do all of the work outside in the snow by myself.  Again, why? Because there are only about 7 snow plows in this entire state.  I live in a place that used to not get snow, but now it does.  If you don't believe in climate change, get a job outside.  We're having unseasonably cold winters and unseasonably hot summers.  It's definitely changed since I was a kid.  How do I know? I was an outdoorsy kid, imagine that.

The new Tuesday schedule has me here alone in the afternoons.  I can't seem to find anyone from the Bible College that doesn't have class on Tuesday afternoons.  It's apparently a very big day for Biblical learning.  Again, that's ok.  It gives me time to get things done that need uninterrupted time.  There's not a lot of uninterrupted time here.  It's one of the downsides to teaching my staff about horses as we go, there are a lot of questions.  But, I'm ok with that as long as they do it my way.  You heard me, my way.  It is my farm, my liability, my life's investment, my animals, so it will be done my way.  You'd feel the same on your farm.  If you're self-employed, you probably feel the same way about your business. When you have the most to lose and it belongs to you, it's ok to think your business is Burger King...where you can have it your way.

It was a light afternoon and that's ok, too. I need a few light days right now.  I'm a little tired, and it's not from reading! See "They Don't Build 'Em Like They Used To" if you don't get that joke.  Again, for those of you who just joined in, my help has been on a five week winter break.  I had Cowgirl Slim while she was on her two week high school break. I've had snipits of Dod and Rose, but I've been here alone a lot.  Especially during that snow we had the second week in Jaunary.  Yeah, I was real alone here.  Sure was.  I feel snow scrooge coming on, so I'll stop with that train of thought.  My friends who've already heard that grousing  are thanking me for not making them read it again.

So, evening chores are done.  Chief is inside so he doesn't eat himself to death.  Horses are fed.  Bun-Bun is fed.  Spot has been outside but he vetoed doing any business due to the cold rain.  Gee I hope I can persuade him to take care of things before bedtime.  I don't like waking up to odor de Spot.  But, we're devoted to each other and he's old and he has nerve damage in his spine, so what are ya gonna do? Huh? Clean it up and be happy he's still around, that's my plan.

I was thinking, as I was doing chores, about the questions I am asked by non-horse people. I especially enjoy the people who are driving by who come in and ask questions about why I'm not doing this or that. Or the phone messages from people driving by.  Yeah, thanks for your concern but you obviously know nothing about horses, so move along please.  No, I don't really enjoy the drive by folks.  They've seen too many movies and they think they know something. They don't. They are annoying.  They are especially annoying when it's about my neighbor's horses and not mine.  I've threatened to put up a sign with an arrow pointing to their pasture that says, "These are NOT my horses.  If you have questions or concerns, please call  So and So at 555-5555."

My all time favorite drive by reports is: "There's a horse laying down!"  Yes, I know, horses do that.  Horses lie down for 20 minutes a day for REM sleep. That's all the REM sleep they need. I wish I could stay sane on 20 minutes of REM sleep.  The rest of their sleeping is done dozing and standing up.  Horses lie down for other reasons.  They will lie down and stretch out to sun themselves in warm weather like sunbathing.  They will lie down sort of like a dog to curl their legs under them to conserve body heat in cold weather. Yes, horses lie down when they are perfectly fine.  Just because the horse is lying down doesn't mean he's sick or dying or already dead, ok?

This is how you can tell if a horse is on the ground and in trouble.  The horse is thrashing around like he's in pain--because he is. Not like the horse who is rolling to scratch his back, I mean really thrashing and then doesn't get back up.  I guess you could also have a horse that's lying down perfectly still who is already dead, but you're probably too late to tell the farmer then.  Are we clear though? All lying down horses are not sick or dying, ok? Good. Glad you're one less person to bother me about it.  It's well intentioned, I know, but it's annoying.

Ok, back to tonight's chores...One of the questions I imagined some of you asking is: Why didn't I bring all of the horses in if it's a cold and  raining outside tonight?  Horses have an amazing ability to control their metabolism.  The horses aren't cold out there.  They aren't wet to the skin because the rain runs off.  If you put your fingers just under their hair, you'll feel they are warm and dry.  On a cold day, you can put your hands under their manes and warm up very nicely.  Horses raise their metabolism by eating more hay.  It's that simple.  They are throwing more logs on the fire of their internal furnace by eating more hay.  Now, it also gives them more energy so they are pretty frisky in cold weather, but they aren't cold.  So, if you see horses outside in the winter and they have plenty of hay or grass to eat, they aren't cold.  Don't be one of those annoying people who drives up to some farmer like me and verbally accosts them with, "Why aren't you bringing those poor horses inside in the cold?" They are not cold.

Heat, extreme heat and no shade, that's dangerous to a horse, especially a black horse because they absorb more heat.  It's the same reason you don't wear black tee shirts and shorts in the summer time.  Black attracts more heat. It's scientific, if you don't believe me look it up.  In the summer we are on "reverse turnout." I don't have a lot of trees here, so there's little to no shade on the property.  The horses come in by 11:00 a.m. and are turned out at 5:00 p.m.  My horse barn is double insulated and we have huge barn fans. It's rarely above 80 degrees in there. The black horses wear fly sheets (looks like they are wearing coats--they are mesh and no they aren't hot) to not only protect them from flies, but to deflect the sun when they are outside. The black horses also have misters at their paddocks that they can stand in front of to cool off in the morning and early evening.  Yes, they learn to do that.  Horses are not stupid.  Horses are very smart. That's another lecture, I guess.

In the warmer months, I actually don't have a lot of flies here because it's obsessively clean and I use fly predators. Fly predators are insects that eat fly larva.  I order them in the warmer seasons, they send me fly predator larva every month, as they mature, we dump them on fresh manure. The fly predators grow and eat the fly larva.  Magic, very few flies and no pesticides. 

Back to bringing the horses inside in the cold.  I don't bring them all inside when it's above 25 degrees.  Why?  I have insulated water troughs so when it's above 25, their water doesn't freeze until almost sunrise when it's the coldest.  By morning, we'll be out there breaking up the ice in the water troughs, so they haven't gone long without it.  In truth, they can break up the water in the troughs themselves.  Tar did it Sunday morning.  Horses are strong creatures, a little ice in the trough doesn't deter them if they want that water.

Well, then, why do you bring them in when it's below 25?  If it's going below 25, we'll hit that temp just before sunrise, which means it's been 32 or colder for a while.  This means their water has been frozen for a while and we're probably going to find a 2 or 3 inch thick sheet of ice on it.  I don't have heaters for my water troughs because it's just not cold enough here long enough to justify the extra expense.  Practical, farm life makes you very practical.

Rabbits also do better in the cold than the heat.  A rabbit will die of heat stroke pretty easily, even in my well insulated barn.  So, Bun-Bun moves into my office with the air conditioning when it's hot.  He is not a good roommate.  Bun-Bun, I swear, has a little sling shot hidden in his hutch.  Why do I think this? Because bunny turds are 10 feet across the office from where he's stationed.  Cowgirl Slim vacuums my office every morning in the summer because of Bun-Bun who does most of his target practice at night when he's bored.  I am so glad she is obsessive-compulsive around the edges.  Fortunately, bunny turds don't smell or make a mess. They are hard little balls and completely dry.  So, it's just unsightly and probably somewhat unsanitary to have bunny turds all over my office thus the constant vacuuming.  See, that's another difference between your life and mine. I bet you don't have a bunny with a sling shot shooting turds all over your office in the summer, do you?

I cannot give you a better laugh tonight than that image of Bun-Bun and his sling shot. So giggle away.  No, I have not been drinking.  This is just life on the farm and I swear it's all true.

Good night everyone.  Thanks for reading. You've learned a little something new today, I hope. Sleep tight.

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