Monday, July 21, 2008

Horsework before Housework

I spent Saturday morning rebedding Ace's stall. Since the shavings aren't put in as regularly as I supposedly pay for them, the bedding was getting sparse and broken down to dust. I'm particularly fond of a product called DryNest because the shavings are very fluffy and soft. It also seems to break down to dust more slowly than other pine shavings. It is incredibly absorbent as well. DryNest comes compacted to 3 cubic feet which expands to 12 cubic feet. By comparison, the American Shavings the barn uses comes compacted to 4 cubic feet and claims to expand to 12. I don't believe it.

Gina came out to let me into the locked shavings room and saw that I had swept Ace's stall. "Wow. You really did mean clean." I put my two bags of DryNest in and then added the two bags of American Shavings from the barn's supply. I knew Ace would have the high pile moved to all corners of the stall by the time I visited again. I was tempted to lay down in the new clean bed myself.

I also spent time cleaning up the feed room and I went out and bought two bushel totes for his hay. I marked one A.M., the other P.M., and added his name, stall number, the kind of hay, the amount of hay and that the totes were for hay only in large letters. Then I weighed and filled them for his next two meals. That left an unopened bale of hay, which I expected I would break open on Sunday afternoon when I refilled the totes.

I also told Gina that it takes two flakes of the three-way to make 10 pounds. She had a look of shock on her face because they've only been feeding one flake at a time. Which is, of course, why the poor horse always has an empty manger when I arrive at 5 and he's been fed at 4:30. It is also why Gayle and I have been throwing in snack flakes. The one advantage to paying for your own hay is that you don't have to feel like you are stealing to make sure your horse is getting enough to eat.

I shouldn't be, but I am always surprised when people act stunned that horses should be fed by weight 2-3% of their body weight a day at minimum, depending on their work load. For Ace, who weighs about 940 pounds, that's 18-20 pounds of hay a day. Also, different kinds of hay flakes can weigh different amounts at different times of the year. "One flake" is a lousy way to determine proper feed. It should be weighed at least once a bale to be reasonably accurate. At least, that's what I learned in Ron Weschler's and Dr. Betsy Connelly's lectures at Pierce College.

On Sunday I found the P.M. tote was empty but the A.M. tote was filled--and the bale was hacked open and only about a single flake gone. No wonder Ace was so vocal when he saw me. There was not a morsel of hay in his stall to be found. He's never been a fast eater, he likes to take his time and will walk away from his food frequently and go back and eat at his leisure. It lasts longer and keeps him out of trouble.

I gave him his snack of Safe Choice with vinegar and carrots and a small amount of hay for nibbling. Then I went back to the feed room, weighed out his hay for the P.M. bucket, and did my best to confine my three-way to a folded up tarp secured with bungee cords. I'm hoping I will lose less hay to waste (or other people's horses) this way. Finally, I put both totes on top of the remaining baled hay, with the hope that the morning feeder will read the friggin' bucket and get the right idea. Starting this three days before I go away to San Diego is probably not the best timing, but I hope it will mean he gets enough to eat while I am gone.


Grey Horse Matters said...

It's amazing they don't feed him enough hay even though you are buying it. Our horses get morning and evening hay and if they have to be in during the day lunch hay. It keeps them busy and out of trouble. Horses naturally graze all day and it keeps them happy. I would be annoyed too if I were you.You're a good mom for taking such good care of your boy.

M. C. Valada said...

What can I say? I sure don't know what the problem was. I think I've finally gotten through to them by weighing the hay with their scale. It's pretty obvious that way.