Thursday, February 4, 2016

Free Loader

For the past few weeks, I have been noticing a rather unpleasant smell around the wood/hay shed.  The cat food has been disappearing at an alarming rate as well.  I knew I had some kind of visitor of the predator variety, but wasn't sure what is was.  A few days ago, I got my answer.

I was bringing firewood in and just happened to look out across the pasture.  Bold and calm as you please, comes this fellow marching across the field.

I was trying to get some decent pictures of him when I realized that he had not seen me at all and was just about to head right up my leg.  I had to stamp my foot at him and he veered off under the wall and behind the firewood instead.  A few minutes later, he sneaked out under the back wall and around the barn, probably very disappointed that I had kept him from his free meal.

I told Kipper that she had better eat all she wants while I am around, because I have locked the food up.  Mink are rather cute and I might even prefer them to the rabbit invasion I had last year, but if mink are happy to come visit, the Fisher I have seen nearby might visit as well.  A mink is one thing, but Fishers like to eat cats and are big enough cause trouble.

No more free-choice food for fat cats as I doubt the fat cat would like to become free-choice food.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Where We Are Now

After my experiments with nailing on EasyShoes the summer of 2014, I was a bit more prepared to deal with the crisis that Hawkeye found himself in last summer.  He was much healthier after being treated for Lyme disease, but his feet had degraded so much by that point that he was constantly sore on all four feet, especially the fronts.

We had x-rays taken to see if we were dealing with bone loss or rotation (I don't have copies of those x-rays or I would post them).  Fortunately, they didn't show anything like that.  However, he only had 5-7mm of sole depth (it should be at least 12-15) and he had severe white line separation that involved nearly 4/5 of both front feet and about half in the hind feet.  The separation went nearly up to his coronet band.  He also has badly contracted heels, with a very weak, poorly developed frogs.  Basically, there was just nothing holding this poor horse up.  Any one of these things causes problems, but having all of them together just put him into a no-win downward spiral that we were desperate to stop.

The glue-on shoes had not worked well for us and Hawkeye had such huge crevices in his white line that I was afraid the glue would work up into them and cause lameness all on it's own.  You can fill those holes with Keratex mixed with copper sulfate (which I did), but they were so bad in this case that I wasn't sure that would be good enough.  I was really afraid to nail into those crevices as well, but finally deemed it to be the lesser evil.  I was dubious as to whether the hoof wall would even hold up to nails, but we tried it anyway.  We didn't have much to lose at this point.

The x-rays had shown that his break-over point (the toe) needed to come back a full cm so I brought his toes back as far as I dared in one trim.  You have to be careful doing this on a horse with so little sole and poor wall connection as it is very easy to invade the sole and further lame the horse. Do NOT do this to a horse unless you have a good plan to provide protection afterward.  Everything I did here was done with veterinary involvement and approval.

I've added some of my infamous scribbles to this photo showing where I was trying to get the toe (the lines aren't as straight as they should be, my drawing skills aren't that great).  The wall separation caused by white line disease that I outlined here was on both sides of both feet. 

Unfortunately, I was so worried about getting the shoes right that I forgot to take pictures of the soles the way I usually do so this is the best I can do.

If you think these feet look really small for the size of the horse - they are.  There just isn't enough foot here to support a 16 hand, 1300 lb horse. 

This isn't something you can trim your way out of.  It's like that old carpenter's cliche: you can cut and cut, but the board still won't get any longer.  Aside from bringing the toe back, I did not cut anything off these feet.

There are lots of barefoot trimming advocates who might criticize my methods and be cringing at putting shoes on this horse.  To an extent, they may even be right.  If I could take this horse somewhere where he could be turned out on a large, DRY acreage with plenty of varied terrain that he had to cover to get his low sugar/low starch hay, his feet would heal themselves.  Unfortunately, that is not an option.

We talked a lot about taking Hawkeye to Cornell or to a specialized trimmer down in PA (who would have glued on a set of Easyshoes).  Given my experiences with the new farrier at Cornell, I think he would have told us to put him down.  The PA farrier is a long way away and there are no local farriers who could (or would?) help Hawkeye, so he is stuck with me. 

I cleaned out those crevices as best I could, treated them with Tea Tree oil and then packed them with a mixture of Keratex and copper sulfate granules to kill the bacteria that had set up house in there.  I set the shoe way back under his foot to bring the break-over back where it should be, give him full support in the back of the foot and get him using that part of the hoof.  This was in the beginning of August.

I wasn't sure if the shoes would move around too much so I left parts of the gluing tabs on to help stabilize things.

I know RB was hoping for instantaneous results when we put these on, but that is not quite what we got.  About 3 days after putting the shoes on, I got a call from her.  She said he was still the same and we should just pull the shoes off because he was still sore.  She would go back to trying to keep boots on him 24/7.  That had not worked before and I really felt that we were running out of options.  I thought we should give it just a bit more time so I talked her out of it.

We had nailed shoes onto a lame horse after all.  We had also made a lot of very sudden changes to a lame horse who had not been able to move well for months.  It would have been nice if he had walked off sound right away, but that was too much to hope for. 

Three days later though, I got another call - he was moving a lot better.  A week after that, RB starting riding him lightly.  By Fall, Hawkeye was doing 10-15 mile rides and RB was complaining that she was having a hard time keeping him to a pace that wouldn't kill the other horses.

The shoe you see in the photo below was one of the shoes we tried to glue on the previous year.  You can still see some remnants of the glue on the tabs.  I chiseled the glue off and reused the shoes.
If you were to draw a line down the front of this foot, from the coronet band to the toe, you would see that the breakover point is where it would be if this were a healthy foot.  The toe may look like it is hanging way over the shoe, but that toe is really like scar tissue.  I could have rasped it off to make things look prettier, but that would have just thinned the scar tissue and left him more vulnerable to bruising when he hits one of the 4 trillion rock in his pasture.

This was taken about 4 weeks after the first shoeing - not a pretty job, but he was 100% sound at this point. 
That high nail right in the center of the foot is higher than I would usually like to see.  However, that wall separation that I mentioned earlier extended nearly half an inch above that point.  The nail was nowhere near live tissue when I put it on so I left it.

In the above picture, Hawkeye is wearing a size two EasyShoe with half the toe rasped off.  Hawkeye is 16 hands tall and weighs about 1300 pounds. He is now wearing size 3 Easyshoes with none of the toe rasped off.

Within 12 weeks of his first shoeing, his feet grew so much that the white line separation had diminished by half.  After six months, it is now completely GONE and he has good tight wall connection all  the way around.  His sole depth has at least doubled and his heels are a 1/2 inch wider than they were.  He runs around in the pasture and he does not think about his feet anymore.  He goes on trial rides and easily tromps over shale and gravel. He is happy.  He is sound.

Hawkeye might eventually grow enough healthy hoof that he can transition back to barefoot.  He might wear Easyshoes every day for the rest of his life.  As long as he stays sound, either is fine with me. 


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Saga - part 3

Since Glue-on shoes weren't working out all that well, that left the nail-on version of EasyShoes.

A lot of bare-foot advocates hate horseshoes because of the nails, but this really makes no sense.  It is not the nails that are the problem with steel shoes. The problem is that steel shoes are inflexible and place all of the burden of supporting the horse onto just one part of the hoof while also preventing the rest of the foot from developing and doing its job.

I know that there are horses who have thin, brittle hoof walls that don't hold up to nails well and there are certainly times when nails are not possible or will do more harm than good.  However, thin, weak hoof walls that can't hold a nail are most often a nutritional problem.  Fix the nutrition issues, and the hoof wall will strengthen and maybe won't need shoes anyway. 

There are certainly many therapeutic reasons for using glue-ons over nails (we would've had to use glue on Lakota), but nails have been doing a good job of holding horseshoes on since some time in the 6th or 7th century. I don't believe in doing something just because that is the way it "has always been done", but neither do I believe in throwing out a good idea just because it was thought up a thousand years ago.

The big hurdle in nailing on the Easyshoes was me, the would-be farrier.  I drove a horseshoe nail once about 25 years ago in college.  I know the principles of shoeing, but I had never done it.  The idea of driving nails into a living hoof is a bit terrifying.

This is not something I would have been brave enough to do ten years ago.  However, as an inveterate DIY'er and having now built my own house, barn, shed, windows, etc, I have learned that the hardest part of most jobs is starting the job in the first place.

So, I studied up, practiced driving nails into blocks of firewood, gave myself a stern lecture, took a deep breath, and put a set of shoes on Tessa.  She didn't actually need shoes, but got to be my guinea pig because it is easier to learn on a healthy hoof and because she is my horse.  I would feel awful for laming my own horse, but even more awful for laming my friend's horse, so poor Tess got to be my test dummy.

It didn't hurt her any.  Not the best shoeing job, but not bad for a first time either...

I left parts of the glue tabs on to add more stability to the shoe.  After having used the shoes a lot more, I am not sure that those tabs do any good and I cut them all off the most recent set of shoes I nailed on.

That little bit of green stuff you can see around the edges of those tabs is Keratex hoof putty, which is very sticky, waxy stuff that contains disinfectants....

....I increased the disinfectant capabilities with copper sulfate powder sprinkled over and mixed in it.

I have mentioned how wet and acidic the soil is here - it tends to eat away at the white line and I was concerned about bacteria working its way into the nail holes.  This was what I came up with to prevent that.  It worked very well and there were still traces of Keratex and CS under the shoes when I pulled them off.
  
Tessa wore these shoes for six weeks and the hardest part of the job proved to be getting them off.  During that six weeks, Tessa never took a lame step and did a lot of riding over some really tough terrain. She is prone to thin soles and weak frogs like all the horses around here.  After six weeks in the Easyshoes, her soles and frogs had improved so much that I was able to ride her barefoot for the rest of that year, even out on the gravel roads.  Her feet were healthier after shoeing than they had been before.  That seldom happens with steel shoes.

This same pair of shoes will show up again in the next post.....

(I promise, we are getting back to Hawkeye soon.  I did warn you that it was a saga.  I hope some of you are finding it interesting:)




The Saga - Part 2

Before I go on with part two of Hawkeye's tale, I need to back up to summer of 2014.  We had been watching for the release of a new type of plastic/rubber horseshoe that we had been hoping might work out for Lakota.  We had a pair on order for him, unfortunately, he had a major, incurable crisis just days before those new shoes arrived in the mail and we had to let him go. 

Because of Lakota, we had been dabbling with the EasyShoes (which are basically like sneakers for horses) and wanted to try them out more even though he was gone.  They are very flexible in all directions and provide most of the benefits of going barefoot, while still offering protection.

The shoes are somewhat similar to the Easyboots that RB had been using on Hawkeye for several years.  The boots work well most of the time, but do sometimes fall off, don't always fit perfectly and can be a bit of a hassle.  We liked the idea of the Easyshoes because they seemed like they might offer the benefits of going barefoot with the protection and convenience of a shoe.  We wanted to see if they would work.

This is one of the shoes just slipped on the hoof to check for fit...

Easycare offers a "fit-kit" for a nominal price.  Basically, you measure the hoof to find the closet size and then they will send you samples of that size plus one smaller and one larger size.  I definitely recommend doing this if you are going to try these shoes.

The Easyshoes come in several versions and we chose the Easyshoe Performance.  We liked this shoe because it provides support and stimulation to the whole hoof, including the frog, rather than just the outer walls.  This shoe comes in either a glue-on only version or one that can be glued or nailed.  Initially, we wanted to use these as a glue-on shoe.

We tried them out on both Tessa and Hawkeye with so-so results.  There are several types of glue used for these shoes, all of which are two-part urethane/cyano-acrilate type things that are very expensive and totally unforgiving.  In my normal obsessive way, I did tons of research and learned way more than I ever really wanted to about glue.  The two most common glues used with these shoes are Adhere, a urethane glue and EasyShoe Bond, the cyano-acrilate glue.  The latter is considered to be the better choice for wet environments, so that is what we tried.

The trouble with these glues is that they have a very steep learning curve and the tiniest misstep ruins the glue along with the shoe you are trying to glue on.  That wouldn't be a big issue except that, at $65 per tube of glue plus $45 per pair for shoes, that learning curve can add up to a LOT of money in a very short time.

The gluing process requires extensive prep and extreme attention to detail (Easycare has several excellent videos on their webpage detailing how to put these on and I strongly recommend them for anyone interested in the shoes). I wasn't put off by the process, because attention to detail is one of my strengths.

The hoof has to be totally clean, prepped for glue and DRY.  That last was a huge hurdle for us given that our pasture conditions are wet in the best of times and it rained incessantly that summer.  We used a moisture meter and small butane torch to get the hoof wall dry, but moisture still ended up being our biggest problem.  A wet environment causes the hoof to swell and then contract when it dries.  Since the pasture is wet and the barn is dry, we have a constant wet/dry cycle that is a challenge to any adhesive.

Temperature is also a huge factor in dealing with the glue.  It does not like to be either too hot or too cold, nor dose it like excess humidity.  It was about 85 degrees with 95% humidity when we did this and the glue did not like that at all (neither did we).  We kept the glue in a cooler until we were ready to use it, but that first tube of glue we used had gotten very hot in transit before it got to us.  It had the consistency of cottage cheese when it came out of the tube and did not get us off to a good start.

This was my second ever attempt at glue-on shoes, after Hawkeye pulled one off after the first week.  The other shoe stayed on 4-5 weeks if I remember right.  It's not pretty, but they did work. 

In addition to the shoe, I added "Blue Stuff", as we call it.  It is Dental Impression Material.  It is another two-part material that sets up when mixed.  Unlike the glue, this stuff comes in tubs and is rather fun to play with.  It has two components that are just like silly putty, you mix them together and squish the stuff into whatever shape or crevice you want.  It will set up into a flexible, cushiony silicone pad that gives the foot more support and stimulation.

Despite the rain, mud and humidity, we did have some success with the glue-ons.  After some trial and error, replacing the first tube of over-heated glue and much persistence, I was getting pretty good at gluing on shoes.  However, with Lakota gone, we didn't need them so much, the cost and prep time were rather onerous and the boots we had been using for years still worked.  We ultimately gave up on the glue-on shoes.

I think there is a real place for glue-ons and I am glad to have had some experience with them.  I am not convinced, though, that they are a good option in the kind of wet environment we have.  That doesn't mean that they aren't a good product and I would try them again if the circumstances warranted it.  I do think that the price of glue needs to come way down for this to be truly viable for the average horse owner.

***

I have to add here that I do have some personal pet peeves about the glue, or the marketing of it I should say, that really got under my skin.  It is extra costly and difficult to experiment with the glue because each type of glue requires its very own dispensing gun, which won't work for any other type of glue.  At $75-100 per gun, that can add up fast.  The glue we chose can be used without a gun (which is what we did), but it definitely adds to the difficulty in an already difficult process.

The guns are basically fancy caulk guns, but they are purposely designed to lock you into buying only the glue that fits that gun. This kind of marketing scheme just bugs me and turns me off the products.  If any one of these companies ever develops a gun that works with all the different glue cartridges now on the market, I would immediately become a loyal and devoted costumer.  Better yet (and easier) would be to make the glue cartridges work with a regular caulk gun, which I already have or can buy at any hardware store.

Some manufacturers do offer some small, single-use tubes that you can use without a gun.  However, "single-use" is optimistic.  They are such a huge pain in the a** to use that they end up being more of a waste than a help.  Fighting with those suckers could easily drive a saint into a fit of rage. 

If you are a professional farrier who is going to be charging $200-500 for a set of these shoes, then spending $500 to gain proficiency and another $500 to stock up on glue and dispensing guns is a good investment and that extra $100 bucks is no big deal.  For me and RB, the cost of glue-on was a hard pill to swallow.

Despite my annoyance with the manufacturers of these products, I am also very glad that they are there.  There are so many more (and better) options for helping horses with foot problems now than there used to be thanks to companies like EasyCare and Vettec.  Glue-on shoes are only a small, recent part of what they offer and those are only just beginning to come into their own.  The glue-ons have come a long way from where they were  a few years ago and I expect that they will continue to improve and adapt in the coming years.

***
Since the glue on shoes weren't quite right for us, that left the other option in EasyShoes.

To be continued....







Friday, January 29, 2016

A Long Saga

I've been meaning to write about Hawkeye for ages now.  Long time readers will remember that he is Riding Buddy's horse and he has had issues with his feet for many years.  He has a long history of white line disease, hoof-wall separation, thin soles, long toes and severely contracted heels.  He is also highly sensitive to sugar an we treat him as insulin resistant.

The first year that I worked on his feet, we saw huge improvement.  Although we never did get the really robust foot we hoped for, he did grow in a comparatively healthy foot with good wall connection and decent sole depth.  He was sound in the pasture, but still needed hoof boots for riding on stony ground, which is about the best you can hope given the soil conditions in the area..  He was in good shape given where he had started and the limitations we have to work with.

The environment that hawkeye lives in is incurably wet, stony and extremely acidic.  It is basically an old bog filled in with rocks and it is a very tough, hostile place for hooves despite the effort and care RB puts into it. There is only so much that can be done to improve the fundamental geology of the place so we work with what we have.  There is pea gravel outside the barn, copious drainage ditches and a beautiful, immaculate barn.  Despite the environmental issues, Hawkeye went form being chronically sore, aloof and unhappy to sound, outgoing and content.

Last year, all that fell apart.

It started as a very subtle thing.  The first I remember noticing, is saying to RB that Hawkeye seemed withdrawn and unhappy again.  He never showed any specific lameness, but I could always see pain and tension in his carriage and affect.  Sometimes it seemed like his knees, other times, I swore it was in his hip.  And, every day, his feet got a little worse.  No matter what I did, the toes got longer, the soles thinner and the white line disintegrated to the point that he could barely walk.

We scratched our heads, tweaked his already tightly controlled and balanced diet, studied his gait and added up his years -we came up with more than we had thought - Hawkeye is about 20 years old.  We figured arthritis was getting the best of him and started having very bleak discussions about quality of life.  Hawkeye retired and RB went out and bought a new horse (which is a whole other story).

Every time I saw Hawkeye though, something nagged at me about him.  It just didn't add up.  Twenty isn't all that old and I could just see that something wasn't right. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I could feel the wrongness.  Finally, last Fall, he was tested for Lyme disease and he was off-the-charts positive.  We finally had an answer to everything and all of his vague, shifting symptoms suddenly made a lot of sense.

I had long suspected that Lyme disease could have been a problem, but there is so much controversy and misinformation about it, that, up until the past couple of years, when it has reached epidemic stage in this area, it was difficult to get any kind of diagnosis.  Even with a diagnosis, most vets used to be reluctant to treat it.  Many horses test positive without showing signs (or the signs go unnoticed or are misinterpreted) so it used to be considered not worth treating.  Lyme tends to fall into a Catch 22 type of hole, many of the subtle symptoms of Lyme go unnoticed until the horse is treated and because the symptoms go unnoticed, they don't ever get treatment. 

Hawkeye was our first definitive encounter with Lyme Disease.  He is why I knew to take action when I saw the same subtle wrongness in my herd this past Spring.  In retrospect, I strongly suspect that Lakota probably suffered from chronic Lyme.  His vague, but devastating symptoms were similar.

Hawkeye was put on 4 days of I.V. Oxytetracycline followed by 30 days of Minocycline, which is now considered to be THE drug of choice for treating Lyme in horses.  We chose Minocycline because Doxycycline was not available at the time.  However, since then, it has proven to be much more effective than the doxy, with a 100% cure rate - so far.

According to several veterinary sources, Minocycline is the better choice because it passes through the blood-brain barrier. The hardest part of treating Lyme is that the spirochetes which cause the disease burrow into tissues where neither antibiotics nor the body's own immune system cannot reach.  It is this nasty little fact that makes Lyme so difficult to treat and also why it causes such diverse symptoms.  In an attempt rid itself of the disease, the victims own body turns against itself, often causing symptoms that mimic autoimmune diseases.  Some researchers believe that "chronic Lyme" is actually an autoimmune problem triggered by Lyme.  The most successful treatment options are to either use multiple, pulsed doses of antibiotic or use a drug that can reach more areas of the body, such as Minocycline.

Treatment helped Hawkeye immensely, but it wasn't the immediate cure for his feet that we would have liked because no amount of antibiotics can regrow a healthy hoof for him.  His feet had degraded to the point that he was stuck in another sort of Catch 22, negative feedback loop.

His feet hurt so he did not move well.  Exercise and normal movement are what is needed to stimulate healthy hoof growth, but his feet hurt so he didn't move.  Added to that, he does have some genuine osteoarthritis issues, aside from the lameness and muscle soreness caused by Lyme.  His sore feet made the arthritis worse, which made him reluctant to move, which made his feet worse, which made the arthritis worse.........  We needed a way to break the cycle, and that is where my experiments with Easyshoes that I did last year come in.

To be continued....




Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Nothing But Net

I know I have talked about this before,  but I have had several people ask me for more info about the hay nets that I use.  Since answering those was all I had time to do, I figured it could be a blog post....

Over the past few years, I've tried out several different kinds of small-mesh haynets.  There are now quite a few of them out there to suit a variety of needs.  The ones that I always come back to and use the most are the CinchChix nets with one-inch holes (or HayChix now, I think they changed their name).  I have no relationship to them, their nets are just the ones that I like the best so far.  If you happen to be in Canada and want to avoid exorbitant shipping costs, there is a similar net that I have heard good things about called NagBags.

These nets are a bit pricey, but I am still using the first two that I bought used from a friend. They must be at least five years old now and are still in decent condition. I've been very impressed with how well they hold up, which makes the price more reasonable as far as I am concerned.

As for whether they have trouble eating out of them....nope.  In fact, they will often choose the nets over loose hay.  I think it is more fun for them. As you can see, my crew have no trouble emptying a hay net.

I was given a couple of nets by a friend and I bought some of the smaller sized nets earlier this year.  I now have enough nets so that I can fill them all up on the weekend and have enough to get through most of the week, which I find extremely helpful.  It is a huge time saver and helps reduce my exposure to hay, which I am allergic to.

The bale-sized nets fit nicely over one tightly baled 50 lb bale of hay.  The mini sized nets will hold up to half a bale, but I generally put about a third of a bale in each small net, depending on conditions at the time. 

My big concern when I fist started using nets was safety and durability.  I was highly dubious at first because I come from the era of nylon hay nets with large 5-6 inch holes that are just the perfect size for a horse to get a hoof stuck in.  The small holes on these nets mean that not even the smallest hoof can get stuck in the net.

As for durability, my big worry there was how well the nets would hold together and whether or not the donkeys would chew on them. These nets do hold together very well.  My oldest net does have a small hole in it now, about the size of my fist, but it is still usable and it wasn't caused by wear.  One of the wild rabbits I was plagued with last year chewed through it - a whole barn full of hay and the darned rabbit had to eat that bale.  As for the donkeys chewing, the only part of the net that anyone has ever chewed on is the nylon draw-string rope that closes the end, these do seem irresistible.

This chewing damage does make the little closer gadget that secures the opening hard to deal with. 

However, on newer nets these gadgets have been replaced with a different system and I find that they work better.  Instead of that metal doohickey, the new nets now have these rubber "hoggles" and poly rope instead of nylon.

I was skeptical about these at first as well, but I find they are much easier to deal with and, unlike the nylon, no one has ever chewed on the green poly rope.  There is no accounting for donkey taste.

The rubber handle just slides down....

...and then I tie up the end.

These smaller nets come with a carabiner clip on the other end for easy hanging, or I can just toss them on the ground.  I like that I can feed them at ground level, which is healthier for the animals,  without having to worry about anyone getting tangled in a net.  I would only do that with barefoot horses though.  If your critter wears shoes, hang the net up or put in a box.  I also clip the nets into the bottom of my hay boxes when conditions are muddy and I want to keep the nets and the feed clean and off the ground. I guess that is why I keep coming back to these nets, I like their versatility.

This year, I am feeding the giant square bales.  They are 3x3x8 feet long and weigh about 900 pounds.  There is no stuffing one of those suckers in a net unless you have big equipment.  Instaed I peel off one flake at a time, which is the equivalent of one small bale, and fill the net this way....

It took a bit of practice, but I have a system now and it is not bad.  The garbage can makes all the difference.

The nets require little maintenance, but do need occasional cleaning.  I bring them in periodically and wash them by soaking them in the sink.  In really cold weather, I suggest having more than one net so that you can hang them up to dry thoroughly between uses.  They do get damp from all the constant nibbling and will get stiff with frost in sub-zero temps.  I just like to make sure that my nets are always clean and dry because who'd want to eat out of a soggy, smelly, icky net?

The nets do take a fair amount of abuse and do get tossed around and trampled.

I like the nets because they really do slow down consumption.  The large nets provide just about 24 hours of hay during a winter day.  This means that I can put them out once a day and know that my herd always has food available, even when I am gone to work for long periods.  This was one of my primary concerns because I have to be able to leave for long periods of time and still feel confident that everyone is happy and content at home.  For equines, happy and content means grazing for many hours a day and the nets provide that.

In my mind, good fences are more a matter of keeping animals happy where they are rather than building impenetrable barriers.  If animals are hungry and unhappy, they will find a way to challenge a fence no matter how stoutly built.  A hungry horse is a horse looking for trouble.  A horse with a full hay net is a happy horse. It doesn't take much to contain happy, well fed critters and keep them out of trouble.  I need that peace of mind when I am far away and unavailable.

Once my animals got used to the nets, they genuinely seemed to like them better than loose hay.  I think the challenge of getting the hay out provides some mental stimulation and it gives them the hours of "grazing" time that equines need to be healthy and happy.  

And the last plug for small-mesh hay nets...I never waste a speck of hay.


The Little Green Man

A couple of years ago, I bought a 4-wheeler from a neighbor whose health was failing and had no need of it anymore.

I was ambivalent about it at first because I have never had any interest in ATV's and was not sure it would be useful.  I had wanted more of a utility vehicle, but the price tag attached to those things is far more than I can manage.

I nearly re-sold the 4-wheeler as it does have some serious limitations.  However, with a sled/trailer/cart/etc behind it, I started finding more and more uses for it.

 Recently, I have started wondering how I managed for so long without it.  There are still many times when I think a utility vehicle might work better for me, but I have found ways to make this do everything they can and maybe a bit more as I think it has more power.


Several people wanted to know where I was leading my little herd off to when I posted this video:

Whenever the weather allows, I use the 4-wheeler, which I have taken to calling the Little Green Man, to take hay far out into the pasture.  I scatter it all over and the equines spend their day wondering around looking for it.  It gets them out moving around and helps keep them entertained.  

I have tried to use the ATV to lead them around, which does work, but it is very hard to get the speed right and I had visions of disaster if something went wrong.  We gave up on that.  However, they all have a fascination for the ATV, especially Ramsey.

I sometimes wish they had a least a small smidgen of fear for it, but they do not.  If I ride it around the pasture, they all follow as if I were the Pied Piper.  Ramsey likes to try to chase it down and bite the back of it.  If I want everyone to get a bit more exercise, I go zoom around the pasture a few times and it invariably leads to a high speed free-for-all.