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Sometimes, even the right thing to do is a very hard thing.
We realized months – no, make that years – ago that we had too many horses. Only two of us ride, and our herd had grown to four. For people who can barely find the time for the basics of horse ownership, having two extra horses to keep in shape is just not practical. Besides, one of them was just beyond our abilities to ride: Moonshine.
I have probably mentioned in the past that I work for a veterinary clinic. One of our clients just happens to own a rodeo business. My best friend and co-worker, Shari, thought he might be interested in another bucking horse. You might also recall that bucking is kind of a specialty of Moonshine’s. After a few weeks of trying to get our heads (and hearts) around the idea, we finally called the rodeo guy and he was indeed interested in a good bucking horse, particularly a pretty mare with papers. He just happens to specialize in paints, and Moonshine is a solid-bred paint. So one Saturday in July, we brought her over to his huge, beautiful farm. It was so hard to do, but it made it easier that she went to a place that loves horses and cares for all of them. We also learned that they are just like us, and keep horses pretty much forever, whether they need them or not.
Three months later, we are happy to report that Moonshine has successfully fulfilled her role as a rodeo bucking horse. At the farm, she joined a herd of three other horses that had never let anyone else into their group, and the four are inseparable. Strangely enough, she isn’t the boss of her new little group!
The boys missed her for a couple of days…or at least missed the familiarity of her being around. They seemed to adjust very quickly to her absence. Cash took the opportunity to declare himself herd leader, but I suspect that’s only the case in his own mind. I’m sure the real leader is Romeo, but he’s the quiet tyrant type. He lets Cash think he’s boss, but slaps him down now and again when Cash gets too overbearing. Valentine and Jazzy just try not to get in the way, as usual.
So that’s where our herd stands for now. We are planning to make one more cut – Cash – but we are in no hurry. The only way we can part with a horse (or dog, cat, goat, chicken, etc.) is for the new place to be a perfect fit. If that comes along, we’ll let him go. Otherwise, he’s here for life, with the rest of the misfits.
We’ve written about Valentine’s unique ability to sneak around our pasture (The Invisible Horse). At 16.2 HH he’s the biggest horse we have and a little lanky when he walks (though his TWH gait is beautiful). Well one night he didn’t come to the barn so Mikki and I went out looking for him. Actually this happened on multiple occasions, which leads me to think that he does it on purpose. With flashlights in hand we walked the pasture, called him and went to all the places the horses usually hang out, eventually covering the entire pasture. Valentine was nowhere to be found. We listened for ruffling leaves, clanking hooves or any other sign of movement and detected nothing. We mentioned last time how he sometimes meets us at the barn after these search walks but we can see the barn from part of the pasture and he wasn’t there. Now we were worried. We called again as we walked back towards the barn when all of the sudden something gently brushed up against me. It was dark so it was difficult to see just how high I jumped but when I finally landed and turned around, there was this giant horse standing behind us. I have no idea how he does it but as I said, he seems to thoroughly enjoy it. I’m adding “horse toy” to my list of job titles.
Do you have a ninja of your own? How has your horse used you as a toy?
Once a month or so, we hook up our flat trailer and head to our local hay supplier to get a month’s worth of round bales. All summer we’ve been greeted in our supplier’s hay yard by the sweetest little mule we’ve ever met. Jazzy would come and greet us and if our windows were open, would stick her whole head in the truck to say hi. She let us pet her all over, never biting, and if we allowed her, she enjoyed hanging out with the humans while the hay was being loaded and the fat was being chewed. Jazzy, her owner explained, was bottle-fed, raised by humans and made to feel like one of their herd. But Jazzy’s owner didn’t want her anymore and was talking about sending her to the sale barn where she’d probably fetch $25 and end up who knows where. Jazzy’s owner liked her well enough but didn’t really need her. Animals to him are livestock, meant to be bought and sold at will. I respect that, even though to us these animals are pets at worst and members of the family at best. Given the poor market for equines in Tennessee due to oversupply and under demand, we think we knew where Jazzy was headed.
Ever since moving to Tennessee, Pops (Mikki’s dad) has talked about getting his own mule or donkey/burro. After months of scratching her behind the ears and telling her how pretty she is, Pops decided he wanted this mule. A few days ago, she was loaded into our horse trailer for the short trip to our barn. Little 500 pound Jazzy was dwarfed but our seemingly huge trailer, the size of which was selected to fit 1300 pound Valentine. I wasn’t there when it happened but I’m told she didn’t want to get into the trailer. It was a new, scary experience for her but she made it without any serious issues.
Jazzy has been with us for a few days now and things are mostly fine. She’s adapting. Herd introduction was a little challenging and I’ll discuss that in another post.
So what are we going to do with a mule? In short, nothing. We don’t plan to ride her or work her. We’ve learned by observing her over the past months that she enjoys eating weeds along with hay. I think we can accommodate that. She won’t eat much and might be effective in keeping the coyotes out of our pasture. But to us she’s a pet and a member of our family herd.
On Monday, we had to say goodbye to Jack, our loyal Jack Russell terrier. My parents and I bought him as a birthday gift for Bill in 1998. He was, as we liked to fondly call him, “the worst birthday present ever.” Being a Jack Russell, he liked to bark at anything and everything. To be expected, but so annoying! As a bonus, for his first few months with us, he peed in the house and would not stop, culminating with an incident during a move from one house to another when he peed on our bed right before we fell into it, exhausted. Believe it or not, he survived that night, and that was the last time he ever peed in the house until his final illness.
He turned into a pretty good dog, though, and we loved him a lot. He was our only dog when we moved here to Tennessee in 2005. He adapted from city dog to farm dog quite well – he LOVED it here. His favorite place, other than on the couch in the air-conditioned house, was the barn. He had a thing for horse apples and hoof trimmings.
Last January we took him to the vet because we were afraid the Buddha belly he’d developed was more than just fat. Alas, we were right. It was fluid buildup due to liver failure. The vet thought he probably had liver cancer. We started him on diuretic medication to make him more comfortable and began to wait for the inevitable.
A year later, he was still plugging along, but he had developed diarrhea and started peeing in the house. Took him back to the vet and discovered that he was now also in kidney failure. We put him on SQ fluids and a special diet and waited for the inevitable.
The diuretic stopped working a couple of months later so we stopped giving it. His breathing got to be more labored but the tough little dog hung in there. He started having problems eating too, and after a really tough couple of weeks, he virtually stopped eating altogether last week. We reluctantly agreed that the time had come. So on Monday, July 25, we had to say goodbye for good. Jack was 14 years old and we’d had him for more than 13 years. Wow, was that hard. Knowing it’s coming doesn’t make it any easier.
RIP little Jack buddy. We’ll miss you.
Bill was out of town and Cash turned up lame (more on that later) so I had to do some horse stuff, and I didn’t want to do it in my tennies. So I thought I’d give the boots a try, and I got them on! More importantly, I got them off again later, with no pain. I wouldn’t call them “comfortable” quite yet, but I’m not going to complain.
One of these days I’m going to keep track of the hay twine we go through and weigh it. We put out around two large round bales of hay a week for our four horses and end up with a handful of twine like you see in this picture. The big round bales where we live are usually secured with a plastic poly twine like this and the smaller square bales use a biodegradable sisal fiber (from an agave plant). Every square bale of hay we open gives us two more pieces, about 16 feet total. I could throw it away but I can’t help but thinking there is a good use for all this leftover twine. In our old forum discussion about uses for hay bale string, we got some great suggestions, especially from user shellz9 who quoted an article by Amy K. Habak called “30 Hay Twine Uses”. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Dora Renee Wilkerson, a visitor to our horse blog, has another great use for hay twine – rugs. Dora makes really nice looking, useful and durable rugs by knitting the discarded hay twine:
She even has a great how-to article for making your own hay twine rug.
Mikki came up with another use that’s especially handy in the muddy winter months: disposable boot scraper. Here’s a short video that explains:
What kind of things do you use hay twine for? Anyone built a giant hay twine ball yet?
A friend of ours had a scary near-miss with a horse trailer yesterday. Driving down an interstate highway headed back home from a barrel race, she was suddenly shocked to see a car racing towards her truck at a high rate of speed…on the wrong side of the highway. Luckily there wasn’t a car in the next lane. She was able to swerve out of the way just in time. She said it seemed like the car barely missed hitting her horse trailer. Later it was reported that the highway was shut down to apprehend the driver, who at times was driving at an estimated 90 mph. Unfortunately no further details were available. Can you imagine? Things can happen so fast! For sure, no one was expecting a wrong-way driver on the interstate that day.
I’m not sure what to take away from this as a learning experience other than to try to always pay attention to your surroundings and to always think of a way out, just in case.
Have any harrowing horse hauling stories to share?
I bet many of you experienced some winter snow these past few weeks. In east Tennessee where we’re not accustomed to much snow, we enjoyed a rare white Christmas, with about 5 inches of snow falling and then sticking for a few days. We’ve mentioned before how much our horses love snow (January 2009 horse play) and of course our horses played and rolled in it like a bunch of very big kids. We brought them in at night since they were wet by then and the temps were in the mid 20s and it seemed like a good idea to keep their feet out of snow and ice for part of the day. Of course when we finally let them out the next morning, they bolted from the barn.
The picture above is of Cash. It’s HDR so the colors are blown out a little but it illustrates nicely how dirty he gets. That reddish white you see is supposed to be as white as the snow in the background but if you have white horses, you probably know how that goes.
Did you see any horses playing in the snow?
By the way, happy new year!
I’ve often wondered if our horses would play with one of these horse exerciser balls. We’ve tried the giant hanging apple with a treat in it and no one seemed to care about it. But here’s a video of one little horse who seems to like his exercise ball. I bet he was sore after this session.
What toys have you used that your horse(s) seem to enjoy?