Posted by: Realist | September 20, 2009

Fans for the Summer Heat, Flies

Our older horse gets really hot in the summers and also gets tormented by the horse flies.  Our horses stay out 24×7, they don’t get put into stalls during the day.  We decided to put some fans in the run-in shed for their comfort.  Once we got power out to the run-in shed (which is another story), I bought some $40 fans from Walmart that have metal grill housings for safety.  I turned them upside down and mounted the legs to the wall.  Voila, instant air conditioning and fly repellent!

fansI initially thought our two horses would share the two fans, side by side.  But the alpha horse would take up both fans by standing sideways, one on his head and the other on his butt.  On hot days, he would have one side of himself sweaty and the other side dry.  Interestingly, he always faced the same direction.

Our poor other horse would stand behind him, stamping at flies, and try to get some cooling.

Here’s a picture that includes the run-in shed stall.

fans_and_shedThe fans lasted one year.  The next summer, when I went to turn them on, only one worked.  The other one was so encrusted with dirt that the blades wouldn’t turn.  After a month, the working one also gave up the ghost.

I thought about cleaning and oiling them, and even started to dismantle them one day, but decided at $40/each it would be easier to simply replace them.  A quick trip to Walmart and I had two new fans.  It was really easy swapping them out since the legs of the old fans were mounted in the shed and I simply replaced the fan bodies.  Of course, I bought the exact same model so I could swap them out.

I sometimes worry the horses might get hearing damage from standing next to the fans for hours at a time.  They’re not painfully noisy, but even moderate noise over time can do damage, and the alpha horse stands right next to them.

Posted by: Realist | September 20, 2009

Cow Feeder and Rubbed Manes

When we first got a round bale hay feeder, we bought the “tombstone” style feeder for horses from Tractor Supply, and not the cow style feeder.  Supposedly horses could rub their manes out with the cow style feeders.  After a couple years, our horses had broken off most of the tombstones simply by pushing on them.  Here’s a picture of the result:

tombstone style hay feeder

Every time a tombstone broke off, I’d hammer down the sharp edges left on the feeder with a hammer and we’d keep using it.  Eventually, after enough tombstones broke off, the feeder stopped holding in the hay, and lots of hay ended up wasted.  The guy who sells us the hay said many of his horse-owning customers use the cow-style feeder with good results.  I asked about the mane rubbing issue, and he said he hadn’t heard of it.  So, somewhat dubious, we went ahead and bought a cow style feeder from him.

cow style hay feeder

It seemed to hold the hay in just fine.  Unfortunately, soon after we noticed the dreaded rubbed mane.  Then it got worse and we noticed that some of the coat was also rubbed off.

Mane and coat rubbed from cow hay feeder

Supposedly, as the hay gets lower, the horses insert their heads through the side of the feeder instead of over the top.  Then the top bar rubs against their mane, rubbing it off.  I also started worrying what might happen if the horses were startled while their heads were inserted into the side of the feeder, might they knock their heads and get injured?

So the warnings about the cow hay feeders were in fact true.  The problem is the horse tombstone feeders didn’t last very long.  Perhaps we bought a cheap one?  I recall it was a few hundred dollars from Tractor Supply, so it wasn’t that cheap.

Posted by: Realist | February 13, 2009

New Horse!

We got a new horse!  It’s a 4 year old Quarter Horse gelding named Peppy Zan Man.  I suppose that makes him a colt.  We got him from the trainer who started him, so he’s only been handled by professionals.  After test riding half a dozen other horses for sale, I realize now this is a big plus.  So many of the other horses were really stiff since they’ve been pulled on by beginners for years.

Because we wanted a horse that was rock solid, and because riding a horse out in a field alone is a good test of temperament, all our test rides included cantering in a field.  And boy is that eye opening.  We tried one little pony who seemed fine, but out in a big field this pony started galloping around and was completely unsteerable.  Another horse bolted in the field and also could not be steered or stopped.

Peppy was great.  He’s got more whoa than go, rock solid, both with other horses and alone.  I took him out on a short trail ride, cantered him around, and he was fine.  I also took him out alone away from the horses and again he was fine, down the road, through trees, trotting around, etc.

He has the right mind set that we’re looking for.  Calm, cool, relaxed, and would rather stop than go.  But with a good kick he’ll go as well, so he’s not a nag.  He’s the kind of horse we can put beginners on, hack out on a trail, ride bareback, go horse camping with, trailer/tie/hobble, and just in general have fun with.  He’s also young enough we can compete him if we desire.

He passed the vet pre-purchase exam with flying colors.  We’ve never had a horse do that, they usually have something slightly wrong with the flexion test.

The Western trainer said he was the greenest (and cheapest) horse they had, and I was surprised to find he was more broke than most of the English horses we looked at.  I suppose different people have different standards of broke.

Posted by: Realist | January 7, 2009

Trailering Perfect Storm

Yesterday my wife trailered a friend’s horse to the vet, and a simple trip ended in tragedy. Because there are multiple topics, I’ll start from the beginning and split this into multiple posts.

Our friend’s horse had to be taken to the vet for a simple examination. She asked us to trailer the mare, and we of course obliged. As we’ve done with other horses, we asked if we could load the mare a few days before to make sure she loaded, was comfortable with the trailer, etc. This mare was 3-legged lame and the owner didn’t want the additional stress of practice loading. (In hindsight, this was a warning sign, as trailering a lame horse is not a great idea.)

On the day of trailering, the friend’s horse would not load. My wife tried the Dually halter but the horse was not trained to it and simply pulled back even more. Somehow they got the horse loaded (I wasn’t there). Although we always trailer with shipping boots and sometimes even with a head bumper, this owner didn’t want to use them. I learned to use such protection the hard way, as Montana once reared up in the trailer while it was parked and cut both his head and his fetlock. I’ve also learned that a horse needs to get comfortable with shipping boots before trailering.

So onward to the vet they trailer with a lame horse who wasn’t used to the trailer and wasn’t wearing any protection.

They arrived at the vet’s parking lot just fine. Then the horse started acting up, the trailer rocked badly, and the horse made quite a bit of noise banging on the trailer. After a few minutes, she somehow got herself up and over the chest bar in our Brenderup Baron TC. I never realized this was a common scenario until I googled it after it happened to us. I was surprised at the numerous stories I found on the Internet where this happened. It almost makes me want to get a stock trailer with no chest bar. I wonder if because the horse was 3-legged lame, the movement of trailering caused her enough pain that she reared up over the chest bar. But that is total speculation.

Somehow the mare extricated herself from on top of the chest bar and fell to the floor underneath it. Everytime she tried to get up she ran into the chest bar and was knocked back down to the floor. She struggled quite a bit and was kicking everything in sight. I’m amazed she didn’t put a hoof through the side of the Brenderup. She even kicked open one of the escape doors and broke off the latch.

A couple times the mare tried to exit out the escape door. I had heard stories of horses doing this, but I didn’t ever think it would actually happen. I always figured a horse knew better than to try to squeeze through such a small opening. Yet again I’m amazed at how horses can hurt themselves and how, when panicked, lose all common sense.

The owner jumped into the trailer trying to calm her horse. She ended up getting kicked in the keg, cut her hand, and banged up on the side of her face. Boy, when a downed horse kicks, it kicks hard and fast.

We didn’t know how to remove the chest bar since the older Brenderups do not have quick release pins. The mare’s owner called fire and rescue hoping they could cut the chest bar from the trailer. My wife was able to call Brenderup and they told us how to remove the chest bar by unscrewing the eye bolts which hold it in. Now I know why Clinton Anderson says that every piece of a trailer has to be removable.

Unfortunately, by the time we removed the chest bar, the horse lay on the trailer floor and had given up trying to get up. She had a pretty severe 4″ long cut on her hind fetlock down to the tendon, had a cut on the top of her head, and most likely had lots of other minor bruises and lacerations.

(The rest of this story continues in the next post.)

Posted by: Realist | January 6, 2009

Why Are Trailer Tires Always Low on Air?

It seems I’m always hearing stories of fellow horse owners who find their trailer tires low on air and have to loop by the gas station on their way to a horse show, becoming even later than they already were, and feeling more stress than they were already feeling. For me, my trailer tires always seem low as well, but I’m really happy I invested in a $40 air compressor. That way I can top off the tires at home, usually the night before I have to trailer somewhere. (Did I ever tell you I prep the trailer the day before?)

Let me tell you, that $40 air compressor has been a major convenience tool. I use it almost every time I have to trailer. And now I’m better about keeping my commuter car tires filled up, since when I have it out for the trailer, I top off the car tires. I’ve been known to end up with tires worn all around the edges because I didn’t fill them up for, oh, two years or so.

I also finally got a decent tire gauge for about $10-$15. It has a dial with needle and a button which resets it. I used to use those cheap gauges where the pressure is read off a square white rod that sticks out the end of the gauge. I never could get consistent readings. One day I noticed that the square white rod would shoot out of the gauge beyond the actual pressure reading. If you push the white rod back in while the gauge is attached to the tire stem, you’ll feel where there is pressure and where this isn’t. I realized then that those gauges were too inconsistent to be worthwhile. I compared two side-by-side on the same tire and they were off by 5 psi.

At one time I researched these tire stem caps that would turn green or red depending on the pressure.  They sounded like a fantastic idea.  No more unscrewing the cap and checking the pressure, only to find it was fine.  I almost bought a set but found some scary reviews on epinions.  Apparently if these caps fail, they will release all the air, and you’ll have 4 flat tires.  I think I’ll pass.

A few years ago I got about 6-8 flats in a short period of time. Maybe there was construction in the area, maybe I had bad luck, maybe someone was sabotaging me, who knows. All I know was I got lots of flat, including one on the horse trailer. In fact, it got so frequent that I started worrying about getting a second flat while I was using the spare. So I got a tire repair kit (string plug) for about $10 and learned how to use it. Although not recommended by the pros as a permanent fix, I went ahead and used the string plug and it held just fine. So much for them being “temporary”. Once I pushed the string plug all the way into the tire by accident and so it’s probably rolling around in there to this day. By the way, make sure you get the T-handle for pushing in the plug. It takes quite a bit of force and if you get the cheapo handle you won’t be able to push the plug into the tire.

I also got a $40 inverter to convert from 12V DC to 120V AC to power the air compressor off the truck battery. A plug kit is no good if you can’t fill the tire after it’s been repaired. I’m pretty sure I tested this setup, but it’s been so long I can’t remember. I can just imagine that when I need this setup in the middle of nowhere at midnight, I’ll discover that the battery cables don’t have enough capacity to power the air compressor. Fortunately I’ve never had a need to repair a tire on the road, but I really should test this soon.

Oh yeah, although not related to trailering specifically, I also have quick-attach tire chains, tow strap, folding shovel, and high intensity light sticks (instead of flares) in the truck. And I’ve had a need for all of them at one time or another.

It’s funny, some people will see all the stuff I have for my tires in my truck and ask why it’s necessary and whether I’m being paranoid. I didn’t start out with all this gear. Rather, it was a response to all the various things that went wrong over the years. I guess that’s just learning from experience. So take it from me, there are a lot of things that can break on a truck or trailer and you can still limp home OK or make do with duct tape or baling twine. But if you don’t have tires, you’re not going anywhere.

Posted by: Realist | December 21, 2008

Tore Off Easyboot Gaiters

I wrote in my previous post that Montana was misbehaving today.  At one point we lunged him in our riding ring and he raced around the ring for a while.  He was wearing 4 Easyboot Epics with gaiters.  Surprisingly, he somehow ripped off both hind Easyboots and tore the gaiters.  In fact, the top half of the gaiters with the velcro straps were left around his pasterns.

I have no idea how he could have done this.  Perhaps the Easyboots on both hind legs somehow touched and caused one to be ripped off?  I can imagine how a front Easyboot could be ripped off, but not the hind.  I’m a bit amazed that this happened since endurance riders use Easyboots on really long, tough rides.

I know Montana previously ripped a gaiter off an Easyboot, but I don’t know if it was on the front or hinds, because I wasn’t there.  I also don’t know what he was doing at the time.

Posted by: Realist | December 6, 2008

Skunk Over For Dinner

We have a skunk living on our property, and now he enters the horse paddock at night and eats out of Montana’s dinner bowl. We’ve been trying to fatten up Montana since he loses weight over the winter, so we give him a large bowl of grain each night. It usually takes him a couple hours to finish eating, and often he leaves food in his bowl. Elizabeth had told me about the skunk, but I finally spotted him. He was eating out of the food bowl right next to Montana’s feet. I don’t know if both were eating at the same time, but neither seemed afraid of the other. I can’t believe Montana hasn’t stepped on the skunk, because he always seems to step on my toes when I’m around his feet. If he ever does step on the skunk, I’m sure the skunk will spray him, and that’ll be fun to clean up.

I ran inside to get the camera but the skunk was gone when I came back.

I asked a few friends if skunks carry rabies or anything that might be harmful to the horses. No one really knew, so I’ll let him be. Once we accidentally caught him in a live trap (intended for rats), and I let him go using a 10-foot PVC pipe to open the latch. I can’t imagine trying to capture, relocate, and release a skunk without getting sprayed. Over the years, we’ve relocated a number of animals, including a possum, a ground hog, a wild cat, and rats.

Posted by: Realist | December 6, 2008

Montana Tricked Me = Loose Horse!

I’m usually pretty good about always having some sort of rope on my horses to prevent him from running off. Sometimes the horses lull me into a sense of security because they’re well behaved, but even then, I usually won’t give in to laziness.

The other day we got back from a trail ride and Elizabeth put Cedar away in the front field. I continued to work Montana in the ring and brought him back up to the garage when finished so I could untack. He was still in his bridle with the reins looped over his neck, and I briefly for 1/2 of a second needed both hands to open up my jacket pocket. Instead of keeping the reins looped over my elbow so I could have both hands free, I let go of them because Montana was standing there so nicely. (Normally if Cedar is there, Montana won’t go anywhere anyway, but that’s no excuse.)

Montana immediately realized he was loose and ran off in an instant, reins still around his neck, saddle still on his back, bucking and running all the way to Cedar. (Montana’s quite buddy sour.) I had visions of him stepping on his reins and ripping his bridle or injuring his mouth from the bit. Aargh! I knew better, I really did, and I thought about this as I let go of the reins, and darned if what I thought might happen actually did.

He tricked me, because normally when I’m holding the lead rope or reigns is he so good. I mean, I think his eyes were even half closed, but the half open part was watching for an opening!

When working with Cedar, it’s really easy to get lulled into a sense of security. Once Elizabeth asked me to move him from one paddock to the other when I got home from work. It was late, I was tired, so I walked over in my dress shoes and laptop bag over my shoulder. I didn’t even have a lead rope. (Normally I’m the King of safety and have a lead rope, steel-toed boots, knife, and gloves before I even go near the horses.) So I opened the first gate and let Cedar out. He politely and slowly walked over to the second gate and waited for me to open it. After I caught up with him and opened it, he politely and slowly walked over to the sacrifice lot entrance and again waited for me. After I opened that one, he walked in. What a good boy! But bad me for not following good handling practices.

Oh well, what happened with Montana was a good lesson, and once again I’m reminded that a horse is always looking to take advantage of you. Fortunately no one was hurt and he didn’t run out into the road. (The same lesson can be applied to gates, doors, and feed bins left open, even for a brief second.)

Posted by: Realist | November 30, 2008

Spooking at Deer Entrails

It’s deer hunting season, and today on a trail ride we ran across fresh entrails from dressed deer.  Of course, Montana spooked and would have nothing to do with them.  Cedar walked right up to them like it was no big deal.  I tell you, Cedar is worth his weight in gold.

A few months ago, Elizabeth ran across a dead animal while riding Montana, and spent quite a while (over 1 hour?) using Clinton Anderson groundwork techniques, similar to Parelli’s squeeze game.  It didn’t work.  My experience with my two high-strung horses is that the strong Clinton Anderson techniques don’t seem to work well, as they upset the horse even more.

Today, I instead kept Montana very calm and used very gentle approach/retreat methods.  We spent about a half hour, and Montana was able to at least approach the pile of guts, whereas originally he spooked about 10 feet away at the smell.

On the way back home, we ran into another fresh pile of entrails and Montana was able to go right up to them and sniff them.

It’s amazing at the number of things on a trail ride horses can be scared of.  A bomb-proof trail horse (like Cedar) is really tough to find.

Posted by: Realist | November 30, 2008

Allergic to Horses

It’s tough being a horse owner when you’re allergic to horses. I’m allergic to them. Actually, according to my allergy tests, I’m allergic to grass and mold, but for some reason dust on horses really triggers my allergies. Probably because they’re rolling in hay, eating hay, etc. Who knows, all I know is that after I work with the horses, for 3 days afterwards I’m miserable and taking Clariton, Zyrtec, and using up boxes of Puffs Plus.

I started wearing an N95 dust mask when I work with the horses, and it’s fantastic! I no longer have my allergies heavily triggered. I don’t wear the mask when riding, and it seems to be OK. It’s only grooming, tacking up, trimming, and other dust-creating activities that seem to give me problems. I also wear the mask when I have to go deal with the hay, like rolling out a new round bale, etc.

The 3M masks that I use are only about $1-$2 each, so I have them everywhere and within reach. I order them online by the dozen. I’m always careful to get N95 (or even N100) rated masks, and not just generic dust masks. Great stuff!

For a while I was using prescription nasal steroids (Nasacort) to control my allergies, since I was congested whether or not I was around horses. It worked great, but I don’t like using medicine. After I switched my diet to no-gluten and low-card, my allergies seemed to abate (if I didn’t get around horses). So I was able to stop the medicine. The only problem was horses, which was only on weekends, and sometimes every other weekend. Dust mask: problem solved.

In response to the comment on which brand/model I prefer, I use 3M 9211 masks.  Why?  Well, I read a review on a bird flu forum that said they were the most comfortable model, then I bought a couple boxes which I’m still working through.  Are they my favorite?  Not really.  They’re pretty flimsy so they take 2 hands to put on, and you have to pull the bottom part under your chin.  I’ve tried other 3M masks that are firm and in the shape of a half sphere, and they’re easier to put on and off.  I do like the “flap” on the 9211, which opens as you exhale, but other models also have the flap.  At $1-$2 each, N95 masks are cheap enough to try different models.  The only problem is if you order them online, you typically need to order them by the dozen.  To be honest, there isn’t enough of a difference between the ones I like and the ones I dislike for me to have a strong opinion.  I won’t buy the ones that are $5-$15/each, as I’ve tried them, and they’re no better than the cheap ones.  I also won’t buy regular dust masks that are not N95 rated, as the N95 ones are the same price.  I’ve tried N100, and I haven’t noticed any difference to my allergies.  I’ve also tried masks made for oil, and though they seemed a tad thicker, they also didn’t seem to make a difference.  As for the brand, I use 3M simply because it’s a recognized brand.  I guess advertising really does make a difference.

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