More on Horsekeeping

One thing that I hear a lot of yapyap about that doesn't really seem to sink into people is that horses are a 24x7x364 kind of responsibility. It's more appropriate to say that you have to keep up with them 28 hours a day, 10 days a week, 400 days a year. You simply don't take time off without taking a chance.

that doesn't mean you have to keep your peepers on them literally all the time, you take reasonable and calculated risks, because usually they're going to be fine. It's just that when things do go wrong they tend to go horribly wrong. And that tends to increase exponentially by the number of horses.

Yes, I've come home late from a party and found one cold and stiff the next morning. There's no good or easy way to deal with that.

Yes, I've gone casually to the barn and found one standing in a puddle, yes a puddle - horses are big animals, of blood. And that's something that can, usually, be dealt with. Pressure with one hand, cell phone with the other. ... as an aside, blood is not good for cell phones. - and I've stood and watched the vet drain puddles of blood out of a horse's stomach (via nastrogastric tube) when the guts shut down and were refluxing blood and fluids into the stomach.

So with 18 horses, I take calculated risks on a daily basis. I even travel on an irregular basis. Three day weekends are ok. Leave Friday, gone all day Saturday and home on Sunday. Any longer is hard. It's difficult to ask someone to take on, not just the physical difficulty of feeding 18 horses, but the emotional responsibility.

For the RWA National Convention, I left early on Wednesday morning and didn't get home until the next Sunday. My mother and youngest son pulled the load for me, and I have to say they did a good job with it. There was a minor incident, a relapse of a lameness that I that I suspected - Marah had a hoof abscess the previous week and needed to be up for a few more days. She's ok, just still moving slower than I would like.

But the 'biggie' was something that had apparently be going on for some time.

Leah came down from Dallas with me on Sunday and we went for a ride that afternoon. We rode around the back of our property and found where a fence had been washed down at some point during the recent flooding. ...not just down, but pushed down and washed across a popular trail - five strands of rusty barb wire tangled in with branches and flood debris and still attached to the downed fence posts.

No matter how long it had been down - apparently the horses hadn't been to that corner - it had to come up. A mare and a two fillies had followed us on our trail ride and were nosed in to the good flood-fed grazing. They would remember that and come back.

So regardless of the fact that I had a guest, regardless of the fact that I'd been gone for an exhausting week, regardless that I'd spent the last week in the A/C and it was hot as a witches cauldron down in that valley - regardless of anything ... once we got back to the barn, I gathered up my boys and we went back down and cut the downed wire out and brought it up out of the pasture.

Because that's what it takes - you can't be perfect, things are going to happen, but you have to handle the things that you find when you find them and know you've done the best you can.

and/but :) as a writer, it's fertile ground for conflict. Horses will find a way to debilitate themselves in the most innocuous circumstances, and usually when you most need them. You can ask any horseman about the preparation for a high-profile event. You can train for years, feed, condition, make all the lower level training events and the morning that you're packed and ready to leave, your prime athlete will come limping up to the gate, not just with a shoe pulled off, but with a section of hoof missing.

When your hero needs his mighty steed, it's likely that the stud has been kicked in the balls by a fractious mare, the mare will likely have been bitten in the back - where the saddle should go and leave the hero the choice of an elderly plowhorse or a half-trained colt.


Aelfleah Farm said...

Aw, come on. It ain't that bad...

Why my prime athlete waited until a week after the big even to try to kill himself... Of course that means he's still down for the big fall events...

And the filly didn't intend to cut her shoulder on who knows what in such a way as to probably be unable to be shown in the futurity class next month...

And the pair of erstwhile show ponies were real sorry that they mysteriously ended up in the neighbor's field, requiring me to haul my pneumonia laden behind out of bed, fetch them back, and spend the day walking fencelines and still not finding the broken spot.


I mean this isn't "normal" horse keeping, right?

Please tell me it will only get better!

Leah Braemel said...

I was exhausted that day you went out and hauled that fence down - and now I'm wishing I'd gone to help because I'm writing something like that in my latest WIP. I'll be contacting you about that later ...

Your horses are beautiful - especially Gwaihir with his tricks, and Cimmi who was so gentle with me and so responsive when we rode. And I LOVE the pic of Gandalf and his axe. But oh boy, you do have a lot of work to keep the farm going. And I can only imagine the vet bills you must have every month.

I thought my parents had it tough with the dogs and the constant problems - but the horses' problems are huge in comparison. But I still love those horses and want to come back to visit you one day...

Becky Burkheart said...

hehehehe... sorry Aelfleah.

I checked.

According to Ye Olde Booke Of Horsekheepers,
(transcribed by the Ignoble Gertrudick c. 1429 from the ramblings of an aged captain of the guard)
Chapter XXXIII Yea, It Be that Badde,
section VIVALaXIII On the Matters of Weaknesses of the Flesh and Fencing...
Yea, though thee walk, pain-ridden and gasping for breath, through the valley and it seems fenced, the ponies who escaped shall not be contrite.

.... so there you have it.

Leah! Come back anytime. Did you see the cabin behind where you were shooting? It's available for vacationers now!

Aelfleah Farm said...

Oh no! How can I disagree with a quote from the Ignoble Gertrudick transcription of Ye Olde Booke Of Horsekheepers!

You (and Ignoble) are so right. The erstwhile show ponies weren't contrite. And I got poison oak on my arms trugging through the blasted valley...

But I get the last laugh! Well sorta. One of those non-contrite ponies, the little spotted monster, goes to learn to drive this weekend. From show pony to plow horse in one weekend! From a *gasp* Natural Horsemanship Guru!

She and I might not both survive... Pray for me.

Red Garnier said...

Love all this info, Sue!!! =) Wishing you a great weekend.

Red Garnier said...

Just hopping by to say THANK YOU for the support, Sue. I left you a longer reply at SDoS but wanted to come here personally to say what a wonderful friend you are! Big hugs from me. And how are things on your end? =)