SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 




We Are Flying Solo

March 14, 2020

Update On Disaster Horse

Maybe that should be his new name...

Echo's shoulder has improved some this week.  I'm leaning heavily towards it being a kick & have absolutely no doubt that he was asking for it (he basically always is).  Reason being, he has shown no protest to me extending the leg & he did a big "downward dog" stretch himself this morning, which I don't think he'd be that in to if he had pulled those muscles.

He still has a lump there, although it's reduced a bit, which I'll continue to SoreNoMore, but plan on tapering back the bute & seeing what happens.  He's moving much better, I don't see any more tightness in his walk & he trotted up for his late-night snack last night.

I briefly got on him bareback this morning, just to walk him around & get a feel for things, as that can often give me a lot of information.  I didn't feel anything from that bruised foot (granted, he was still on bute, but that doesn't hide everything), which is good, & got no real resistance from the shoulder.

On Thursday, farrier removed the glue-on boots & put him back in the flip flop pads.  So far, he's looking pretty comfortable in them, which confirms that his initial discomfort with them last time was in fact that it was a suddenly firm surface under that bruise.  He's made enough healing progress now that it no longer bothers him.  We did use race nails (thinner/lighter) in the shoes this time, just for cautious bet-hedging. 
They're back (altho this weird-angle pic is from the first round)
Thanks to the commenter on that post who gave us a perfectly timed tip:  the EasyCare flip flop boots CAN be reused!  We pried them off intact with a screwdriver (by the way, the Adhere glue worked perfectly for 5 weeks).  The adhesive stayed stuck to the hoof, so the boots came off clean & ready to go if I ever want to use them again.  If adhesive does stick to the boot, it can be easily dremel-ed off.  This at least made the price slightly less painful -- if you get two cycles out of them, that's $30 a cycle, which is still a bit high, but much closer with other plastic/rubber/polyurethane footwear.

I am happy with the boots' performance overall:  they stayed on (always critical), tread still looks good, horse moved normally (you know, for a creature with 3 functional legs).  I would definitely add the pour-in material in the toe in the future, as there is just no way to get gunk out of there & there was some moisture trapped in there when we pulled them (we've been in a rainy period).  Echo's feet were healthy when they went on, so no harm done, but pad material would help prevent that buildup.  Alternatively, you could probably cut out some sole "windows," the way we've done with the pads, because the material is pretty sturdy (caveat, I haven't tried this, but I bet someone has).  

Please, Echo, can we just be boring for a while?
Discovering spring grass a couple weeks ago

March 10, 2020

Unlucky People Shouldn't Own Unlucky Horses

Echo insists on continuing to demonstrate his talent...for misfortune.  Combined with my own terrible luck, I feel like we are stuck on a moebius strip of exasperation.

You know his left front leg, the one with the bruised coffin bone at the end of it?  Well, it had been showing some improvement...until yesterday.

I came home from work to find him limping anew.  I initially thought we had somehow aggravated the foot on the short, walking trail ride I ponied him along on Sunday.  Oh no -- now he has done something to the shoulder ON THE SAME LEG!

I found a big, hard lump just behind his scapula that foamed up white as soon as I put SoreNoMore on it (which can be an indication of elevated temperatures which go along with inflammation/spasm in the muscles, which arnica reacts to).  At this point, my hypotheses are either:

  1. Solo kicked him.  Which I have absolutely no doubt Echo deserved, so I couldn't even be irritated at Solo.  If you get kicked by Solo, it's only after you have ignored countless warnings, which are not subtle.  Echo is not one to take warnings seriously if he feels entertained.  There wasn't a mark, but Solo is barefoot. 
  2. Echo torqued the shoulder playing Wild Rearing Plunging Mustang games.  Equally possible.
He didn't react at all when I poked it.  I've seen him roll & get up just fine & he's weight-bearing.  He had no problem with me lifting the leg, extending it in front of him, rolling the shoulder around in its joint.  Which is a little baffling, but at least tells me he didn't break a rib (or anything else) & he didn't dislocate the shoulder.
At least one piece of my tack is getting some use
I'll give him a few days with bute & rest -- oh wait, he was already resting, gahhhh.  If he doesn't improve much with that, then I'll call my poor, harassed vet again.  I'm cautiously hopeful it looks like nothing too major right now, as the lump had softened when I got home from work today.  I put some ice on it this afternoon, although I'm not sure it can penetrate much in an area with so much body mass.

Hopefully he will decide to quit all this nonsense before I forget how to ride a horse.  The key to preventing this kind of stuff is strengthening soft tissues through fitness -- which is a little hard to do when you can't work them.  That hollow, thumping sound you hear is just my skull hitting the table repeatedly.  I'm thinking it would be smarter to trade him in for a pet turtle -- it takes some serious effort to break a turtle. 

Can someone just pat my head & possibly pour some libations down my throat??

March 8, 2020

Two Suppling Exercises For Any Gait

Echo & I are just doing sporadic walking with occasional short trot spurts (less than 10-15 steps) currently, as I wait oh-so-impatiently for his foot to heal.  It bores both of us, but there are endless opportunities to work on important basics.  Things like lateral cues, contact & balance in transitions, responsiveness to aids.  We learned some new simple schooling exercises from Trainer Neighbour last fall -- here are two of them that I have been using very frequently.  Both can be done at any gait.

Exercise 1:  Stretchy Turn On Haunches

I just made up that name for it.  This one has been excellent for Echo's devotion to curling behind the bit.  Prerequisites:  you need control of your horse's shoulders such that you can move them sideways.

Walk on a long or loose rein.  When you are ready to turn on the haunches (TOH), shorten your reins up.  Then ask the horse to move his shoulders around to reverse direction.  I'm calling it TOH, but it doesn't have to be a perfect, hind feet immobile, thing.  The important part is mobilizing the shoulders & feeling them step around.

When direction is reversed, immediately slip your reins back out & if the horse has actually used himself, he should stretch over his topline, reaching down & out.  I was amazed that this worked immediately with Echo.  I had never done or tried to do TOH with him before, just taught him to move his shoulders around at the walk.

The words aren't exactly in the right place, but you get the idea
Repeat the exercise as desired.  You are looking for the shoulder motion in the turn & then for the stretch when you slip the rein.  I find this very effective in warm up.

At the trot or canter, I use an abbreviated version, without the rein slipping, if Echo starts to curl again. Just bring the shoulders sideways for a step or two, which shifts his balance & uncurls him.  You could probably also encourage a stretch this way, but I haven't had a chance to try it yet.

Exercise 2:  Spiral Circles

This is a variant on the classic spiral that I find helps keep the horse moving better so they don't get "stuck" in a circle.  Simply incorporate small circles (whatever is appropriate for your horse) all around your work area.  But as you get to the last 1/3 of the circle, cut in a little, then leg yield back out to your track.  Diagram, because words are confusing:

Arrows are where you leg-yield out, I just failed to angle them enough
I also like to incorporate transitions within a gait in these.  For example, if posting the trot, compress the horse into a sitting trot for the circle.  Or just half the circle.  Or just the leg yield.  Alternate.  You get lateral & longitudinal suppling this way, along with balance & strength work.

You can also add in shoulder mobilization to these circles, a couple steps here & there.  Keep them separate from the leg yields, so your aids are distinct (unless your horse is wayyyy more advanced than mine, in which case you probably don't need this post, ha).

Tell me about your favourite exercises -- especially if you have uncurling tricks!
Evidence from last fall: uncurling after some spirals

February 29, 2020

My Horse Is Wearing Flip-Flops In Winter

We've yet to nail down the exact footwear type that optimizes Echo the Baby Monster, but I feel like I'm getting closer.  I've been trying some "new" technology & there is a lot to like -- this post covers two alternatives.  As I've mentioned before, Echo dislikes anything that he feels pinches his heels; this can include a plain horseshoe, so I devoted some focused brain effort towards exploring options that still allowed me to protect the bottom of his foot while he heals.

Behind Door #1:  Flip Flop Boots
 
Right now, he is still wearing the EasyCare flip flop boots I brought up in the last post.  They are still working pretty well:  the epoxy is holding firm in the rain/mud/frozen/unfrozen roller coaster of conditions that is a Carolina February.  Traction remains good.  He seems to be moving comfortably in them (i.e. definitely doesn't prevent him from cantering & bucking across the field for dinner) & I've seen no signs of over-reaching (I am using bell boots with them because, well, it's a horse owned by me, therefore bad luck is probable, heh).  And the rubber is very sturdy -- vet commented on the radiographs that the sole of the boot was nearly the same density as the coffin bone. 
Solar view, complete with mud for "natural" look
As far as application, they truly ARE easy.  If your horse already had a good trim, you could definitely glue these on yourself.  I didn't get any pictures of farrier putting them on because it was dark & I was busy holding extra lights, but it went like this:
  1. Trim foot & rasp wall to roughen for maximum epoxy bonding.
  2. Set foot in boot (without epoxy) & mark (sharpie works) where you want to trim excess length off the back (if needed).  Trim with hoof nippers.
  3. Smear entire inside of boot cuff liberally with expoxy of choice (we used the black Adhere this time since that's what EasyCare recommended, but farrier commented that wasn't his favourite).
  4. Place boot on hoof, making sure it's snugged up against toe.  Hold long enough for intial setting, then place foot carefully on ground for the rest of the set time.
Left front (bruised foot) with boot
EasyCare has an excellent video with detailed instructions here, which is what I sent to my farrier since he had not used these before.  You can also squirt some pour-in pad material into the toe to help keep dirt out -- I would have liked to have done this, but we were worried about creating too much pressure on a sore foot & at the time of application, I still thought it was a bruise more towards the toe.  So we skipped it. 

Since nothing is perfect, the things I don't like:
  • These are rather stupidly expensive, at $32 for EACH ONE.  So a pair is $64 & they are not designed to be reusable -- according to the instructions, you have to cut the boot to get them off.  As a result, I will not be using these again barring emergency, because that is way too pricey for a single cycle (since total price with farrier labour is obviously more than that).  
  •  They do get junk in them.  However, not as much as I expected & I think it would be even less if we weren't in the middle of rainy, muddy paddock time.  When it has been drier & Echo has been in the upper field, he doesn't get anything in there.  
    • It's not too hard to pick out the back of the collateral grooves around the heels, but you can't reach the toe at all.  You could flush it out with a hose pretty easily though.
    • I got the flip flop model because I didn't have time to do a bunch of size exchanges & I figured they had the most flexiblity in terms of fit.  The trade-off is this:  a boot that glues around the whole foot will probably keep more junk out but then you also lose air circulation to the bottom of the foot.  Pick your poison.
Behind Door #2:  Flip Flop Pads

A couple of weeks from now, when the boots come off, we'll switch Echo to something I think is even more promising:  true flip flop pads.  I'd been wanting to try these for him ever since I read about them in this article.  My farrier had never used these either, but was willing to give it a shot. 

We actually tried a set about a month ago & they looked great.  However, Echo was pretty sore in them & again, I wasn't sure what the problem was yet.  We thought that one of the nails might be putting pressure on the hypothesized bruise, so we pulled the shoes/pads after a week.  I know now that he was sore because these pads are VERY firm, they are made to be reset & that sudden change from barefoot was too much for him at that phase of his healing.
Solar view of flip flop pads & half shoe
As a result, I don't yet know exactly how they will work out long term.  But my initial impression, on the foot that wasn't sore, was that these could be good for him.  The concept was designed by farriers & they've been in use for a long time in Standardbred racing (we used the Grand Circuit pads to match the thickness of an eventer shoe).  The pad itself covers the whole foot, providing even support across the entire width of the heels without any restriction on heel motion.  It's then held in place by a regular horseshoe which is cut in half. 
Shoe & pad thickness must match to create level surface for foot
The niche these pads particularly address are horses that need more/better heel growth, whether they are underrun or low or just weak.  The pads work by distributing pressure across the entire back of the foot, spreading out the forces that would otherwise be focused on the heels by a regular metal shoe.   

I like that this provides protection for toe wear, the area where Echo tends to get separation on his right front (in above pic).  It checks the box of "no heel squeezing," as per his majesty, Pony Princess Feet.  The pads come with pre-stamped holes in the toe, but we cut out bigger openings so I could keep things clean more easily (this worked great).  Farrier was a little hesitant at first that cutting might compromise pad integrity, but he stopped worrying about that as soon as he tried to actually cut them -- all his normal tools (pad cutter, hoof nippers) wouldn't do it, it took a lot of muscle & hacking with a very sharp hoof knife & that barely cut it.
You do need a chop saw to cut the shoes
I'll definitely share more info when I've had a chance to collect more data.  I've seen good reports from other users online.  They are much more reasonably priced than the boots, with the pads themselves around $16 a pair & can be reused.  The concept seems solid -- we'll see what the princess has to say about it. 

February 18, 2020

It's Not An Abscess

Echo decides to prove yet again that my paranoia is not unfounded.

We finally made it to the vet today for spring shots & the planned radiograph I mentioned previously.  It was supposed to be last week, but the rain prevented the machine from coming out to play & it was so wet, I couldn't get the trailer hooked up & out without tearing up half my property.

Turns out, Echo's prolonged on again/off again soreness on his left front is in fact due to some bone bruising on the medial wing of that coffin bone.  Which Dr. Bob also referred to as "crushing" & "micro-fractures."  Which I did not really appreciate because I don't care what the vet-land rules are, but these words do not all mean the same thing to me & shave several years off my life!  I am just going to call it bone smooshing because that is descriptive without being quite so terrifying-sounding.
Smooshing is right where the #4 is on this coffin bone
This type of injury happens when a horse's heel impacts something hard, such as a rock or a hard piece of ground, with too much force or just the right angle or it's Tuesday.  Fortunately for Echo & I, his smooshing is right at the tip of the bone.  Which means it will heal, is already healing, & he should be fine.  If you get smooshing farther forward on the bone (like by 3 or 5) or extending up into the joint, that is when it becomes a Really Bad Thing.  I am hopeful I never have to learn any further detail about that.

Since this has been going on since early December, Echo is already a "fur piece" down the healing road.  Having had a gnarly bone bruise, I am familiar with their slowness; Dr. Bob said this type of thing can range from 6-8 weeks for a mild one (like Echo's) up to 6 months for something more severe.  So we should be on the "improving" side of the curve & we should see continued gradual progress over the next month or so.

Also fortunately, my gut management instincts (& repetitive haunting of Dr. Bob's phone line) guided the correct course of action over the winter, even though I wasn't certain of the cause.  He's done very little work, which consisted entirely of walking & an occasional short trot for feels on soft ground.  He's been able to move freely in the pasture, which is what needed to happen for circulation which then fuels healing. 

And for the last month or so, as he's moving more & when we get more frozen ground cycles, both front feet have been protected with full support across the heels & frogs.  The exact devices will get their own post, because farrier & I have been learning about new technology, but right now, he's wearing a pair of EasyCare's flip flop boots & they are working pretty well.
One of his expensive slippers
These allow his heels full lateral freedom (which is his particular Princess Pony Foot demand), but provide a thick, sturdy pad under his entire foot while still providing good traction in mud or frosty grass.  All the details will come in the next post.

Until then, he has been cleared commanded to go back into more consistent work under saddle on the flat (with bute as needed) to use that 5-yr-old energy most constructively (although I am sure he will still engage in many spring frolics) & help the rebuilding process.  I am sure I will be ultra paranoid conservative about it, but I suspect I shall receive no arguments from Echo other than "SO WHYYYY IS ALL-CANTERZ A BAD IDEA????"

Definitely not as "benign" as the abscess I was voting for, but on the upside, it involves no wrapping & will be far less messy.  Another plus:  this was the only foot I didn't have radiographs of yet, so now I have images of all four (yes, horse owners celebrate weird things).  Joint spaces were clean & lovely, navicular bone was fine, soft tissue had no issues, & all the other pieces were where they were supposed to be.  And while it's been frustrating to watch his muscling disappear, I'm just glad that it's not permanent (at least not this time).

Answers bring a great deal of peace of mind, even more so when they are not catastrophic.  We'll see how the next 30 days go, but I'll be thrilled if they are completely uneventful...  
I know he's just hatching his next plot...but at least he will do it shini-ly

February 13, 2020

Winning The Thrush War

Solo's feet hate moisture & they've definitely gotten more finicky with age.  I've never had a case of full-blown thrush in the past, it's mostly just been a "things are looking mushy & threatening" kind of vibe.  I was usually able to clear things up with a short course of Thrushbuster.  In the past year or so, however, I've been losing the battle.

His front feet are the problem children & he developed some pretty deep sulcus splits in both frogs, out of which I started getting some smelly not-goodness.  The Thrushbuster was having little to no effect & Dr. Bob told me that all those thrushy micro-organisms can & do develop a resistance to iodine.  It was time to set out on a quest for something new.
Solo's big crack.  Yeah, I crack myself up.  TWO CRACK JOKES!
I proceeded to read the ingredient list & reviews of every thrush product ever formulated, searching for something non-iodine, but demonstrating real effectiveness without requiring long soaking or specialized boots.  Funny side story & spoiler alert:  I ended up at one of the same conclusions as L. Williams, who wrote up a great account of her experience recently!

The Winner

After extensive reading, I decided to try Pure Sole Hoof Mud.  I'm always a little hesitant about things that scream "ALL NATURAL FROOFY" or whatnot, that sound like someone just concocts it in their basement & then sells their placebo for a bunch of money.  However, one of the primary ingredients is apple cider vinegar, which is an acid with well-documented effectiveness against thrush, along with zinc oxide, which is a good moisture barrier.
It's extremely easy to use.  I love that I don't need gloves & it doesn't make me all sticky or dye me purple.  It has a perfect, dry clay consistency so you can pack it in to cracks & crevices easily.  I kneaded it deep into those sulci, where it generally stayed for about 24 hours or so.  I've been using it in nasty mud & wetness with no issues.  When the horse puts his foot down, the clay just gets shoved deeper in there.
Just brushes off my fingers when I'm done
Even better, IT WORKED.  I applied it daily for a few weeks, although that may have been overkill with the acid, because I did see a little frog degradation.  But no more stinky funk.  I backed off to using it once every few days, more often if it's rainy, just in the crevices as a preventative.
After packing
I bought the smaller tub & have used probably 95% of it in 1.5 months, but it will take a little while to use up the last 5% now that I'm using less of it less often.  I did already get a new big tub, so now I'm prepared for the microbial apocalypse.  The clay itself seems very stable, the consistency has been the same whether it's warm or cold & it's definitely been out in the shed when it's 20F.

The only thing it didn't succeed at was sticking to the outside of the hoof wall or white line.  I wanted to see if it would help Echo's toe that is prone to separation, but the clay won't stick to that by itself, it falls off or gets rubbed off in about 4 seconds.  But for areas in & around the frog, worked great.

Two hooves up from us (technically eight, because I did put it on some other spots on Echo's feet too).  

February 2, 2020

Bruise Purgatory

This is where I've been with Echo for the last too-many-weeks.  A lurking bruise in a front foot that just won't commit to action.  At least I hope it's a bruise, because a worse alternative is...much worse.

He bruised something inside that foot in November, taking a bad step in a field (I saw it, fortunately, he was essentially standing still, so not a ton of force, he just vastly over-reacted to moving out of Solo's way).  Vet checked it out with a basic exam, wasn't overly concerned, we rested.

It lingered.  In early December, Echo was still sore at times & I had worked myself up into an over-anxious state by drawing many parallels with Solo's DDFT injury.  So we went back to vet & he said still just a bruise & after watching the exam, I returned to normal baseline paranoia.

It still lingers, as bruises can sometimes do as they shift around & laugh at me, which Encore expertly taught me.  I am getting twitchy again, because my brain loves to gnaw on things & also does not know how to process time, so I often struggle with temporal perspective.  We have spring shots scheduled in 10 days, so if it's not better by then, we'll shoot a radiograph to see if there's anything bizarre we missed (surely not in a horse that I own *sarcasm*).

Like all things horse, it's complicated.  We did put some super-cool fancy pads on his front feet, which will get their own post, as I thought that would help him bridge the last gap of healing (he's been barefoot for over a year).  Unfortunately, it appeared that one nail, while not a "hot" nail, did put pressure next to the bruise, so we had to pull the shoes after a week & will try some glue-on boots instead.
Thank goodness for Gorilla Tape, my booties now last 3 days
He was much better within an hour of pulling the shoes, but is still a bit sore a week later, so that nail may have aggravated it a little.  Not horrible, just enough that I can see it on harder ground, definitely in his foot, around the medial side of his toe.  Not sore enough that he won't frolic around in his paddock, so I did sit on him today (almost all walking & it just rained so the ground is soft).  I didn't give him any bute beforehand because I wanted an honest feel & while I could still feel the lingerer, I think he did seem a bit better?

Sigh, these subtle things are so confusing & frustrating.  Especially when you don't own imaging devices.  I'm trying to shame Echo by reminding him that his almost-24-yr-old "brother" with arthritis is currently sounder than him.  I'm fairly certain, though, that Echo was standing behind the door when they handed out guilt.
Shame not installed

January 26, 2020

What Happens When Scientists Own Farms

We can't help ourselves.  We do this:

Why yes, that's a box plot of hay consumption from the past six years on Flying Solo Farm.  For the non-scientists, each box represents summary statistics for that month.  The t-shaped lines extending up & down represent maximum & minimum values.  The boxes themselves show the distribution of the data in quartiles (25/50/75 percentiles), with a horizontal line in the middle for the median. 

For example, in May I always have grass, so rarely feed any hay.  That box is very narrow, showing that the range of values over six years is very small (i.e. they're all about the same).  In February, though, generally our nastiest, coldest, most unpredictable month, you can see the long box, indicating there's a wide range of values.  One year I fed 17 bales, one year I fed over 40 bales that month.

I also plotted the deviation from overall average of the last three years.  This interested me because I changed hay suppliers in January of 2019.  The new hay does cost more but it is MUCH nicer & I felt like I was feeding less of it, justifying the cost, but I needed to see the data.  As soon as I plotted it, it was immediately apparent that yes, every single bar after the switch was below the average.  Win!

Some of this is just geek gratification, but I do find that tracking my hay use is VERY helpful in planning how much to buy & whether I need to resupply.  I have a paper planner that I use for everything (work & farm) & I just note for each feeding how much hay I fed.  It's an estimate, such as 0.3 bale.  Then I add up each week in a little chart, which goes into a spreadsheet.  I also include any notes of unusual things, like when Solo was on pen rest for his tendon injury in 2016 & ate up a bunch of my winter hay in fall (which is what is skewing the average up in Aug-Oct).
2019 planner chart of hay nommed
Weight would be a more accurate way to measure it, as the variation in bale sizes does introduce slop in the data, but I just keep that caveat in mind when I interpret the numbers.  Less work.

Those aren't even the only charts I have...     

January 23, 2020

How We Hay (Net)

It's that dark, cold time of year where the hay burners practice their money hay burning best.  Now that I know exactly how much hay costs, I'm always looking for ways to stretch it out & hay nets can play a big role in that.

The tradeoff of course is that, as anyone who has ever used a hay net can tell you, hay nets can be devices of human torture, seemingly designed to cause the maximum amount of rage & failure when it comes to getting hay inside of said net.  When you finally achieve this, you are now faced with the contradictory goal of convincing the horse to remove the hay from its hard-won net as slowly as possible.

*pausing for a moment to wonder why we do this to ourselves*

After much rage practice over the years, here is what is currently working for us:

Horze Slow Feeder Hay Net

I'm amazed this thing is still alive!  I first wrote about it when it was sent to me to try here in 2014 (awww, my shed didn't even have walls yet!).  Initially, it seemed like the mesh might not hold up to regular use, but I was wrong.  While I have patched it a time or two with hay string, that bugger is still holding hay, even though it gets violently snatched at by a Baby Monster. 
Encore remains the champion of "doing it HIS way"
It has stayed out both of the last two winters.  Recently I have had to fix the hanging corners, as the  material finally dry-rotted from UV bombardment, but it was just the binding tape.  The  netting itself is still mostly functional.  The holes are definitely small enough to slow a horse down considerably.  This might be its last winter, but six years is pretty darn good, I think.  I would totally buy another one.
Technically still alive

SmartPak Slow Feed Hay Bag

Since Solo hates the Horze net (he says the holes are too small & it's way too effective), he monopolizes this one.  I have mixed feelings about it, but I think overall it has done decently.  I got the larger size & yes, it is very large. 

Pros:
  • Durable - material is heavy-duty, no sign of stitching fails or wear after a year
  • Holds a lot of hay -- flake size is variable, but you could easily fit 3 fat flakes in here
  • Easy to load - big opening holds itself open with two metal bands, well-covered in fabric so no poking
Cons:
  • There is velcro closure at the top.  Who combines hay & velcro?  The velcro is still holding, but I'm constantly picking hay out of it, it annoys me.
  • I doubt the single ring hanger would survive as sole support on its own.  Fortunately, some helpful person had posted an additional support idea in the reviews & I adapted that.  I used some old leg snap clips & wove a rope out of hay string to create a weight distribution system that has kept that ring from tearing out.
  • I wish it was wider rather than longer.  I would wish this even more if I was a short person, because you have to hang it high enough to keep it off the ground, but still need to reach it to load it.  And because the hanger is in the center, it swings like crazy.
SP net plus my engineered supports
The size I got (2") is also not really a slow feed -- Solo can clean it out relatively quickly, pulling fat chunks of hay out of the gaps.  I bought this bag with a coupon & while I would not pay full price for it (although it appears it's on sale right now), I appreciate that it hasn't disintegrated & it works for now.

I'm always on the lookout for better options, though.  Have you found a hay net you love that doesn't make you want to throw it in the woods?  Unless it's $100, at which point I don't care, I'm never buying it, ha. 

January 12, 2020

Fun With Balls: Equine Edition

Yeah, have fun with that title, google. I'm generally not one to spend money on a bunch of animal "toys."  I never saw a big need with my horses -- after all, they can play with each other.  However, recently, Echo has been particularly dedicated at chewing up everything that can't outrun him & Solo tires of being harrassed (as do I).

I have a $5 horse ball hanging on Echo's side of the shed, which is daisy-chained to an empty apple cider vinegar jug.  Those occasionally get chomped, as the jug does make a fun noise, which is an Echo prerequisite, but they don't keep a Baby Monster busy for long.  I needed a motivating puzzle for his over-active face.
Pic from 2018 - Ball & jug on a string
I decided to try the Shires Ball Feeder.  I liked that you can use your own bait in it & the angled sides meant I could put it out in my paddocks without it rolling down to the creek after the first nose shove.  Sadly, the blaze orange (which I wanted for visibility) was constantly on backorder so I went for purple & figure I can always paint it or orange-tape it later.

What I Thought Would Happen

Solo has never been food-motivated, my attempts to clicker train him long ago ended quickly when he shrugged & said, Give me the treat or don't, lady, whatever.  So I assumed he might give said ball a sniff & a bump or two, but since it wouldn't constantly pour treats, he probably wouldn't be that interested.  I was sure Echo, on the other hand, my problem-solver who no longer gets treats because he will devour your arm, would be all over this device.

What Actually Happened

I loaded it with a handful or two of the Manna Pro apple nuggets, which both horses like.  I kept a couple in my hand for "training."  When Solo approached it first & gave it a nudge, I dropped a treat under it for him to discover, explaining the concept.  Treats don't come out the hole as easily as you'd expect.

My treat-ambivalent Solo figured that thing out in about three minutes & set to work.  He systematically rolled it, then paused to survey the ground around & beneath it for tasty morsels.  If none came out, he started over.

Echo observed his Solo-boss with a noisy thing.  Then walked over to me & stuck his nose in my face, exclaiming, HAI MOM, UR HANDZ SMELL LIKE NOMS!!!!  GIVESZ!!  As you can see about 15 seconds into the video...


I tried to tempt him with ground treats but he could not be convinced that they were more interesting than me.  I think they both just revel in doing the opposite of whatever I think they should.

After a little while, I took the ball out because it was going to be bitterly cold that night & it's plastic.  I put it back out when I was at work a couple days later.  I came home to find said ball had fallen victim to Echo's plan to get the treats out HIS way.
Once again...this is why we can't have nice things
It was only a flesh wound, though.  Fortunately, Ball had escaped under the fence before an internal injuries occurred.  Ball was still functional, so I added a handful of the larger, heavier treats from our Secret Santa box, in addition to the apple nuggets still in there.  The smaller nuggets were expert at falling into the valley around the hole -- good for stretching out the entertainment, but I wanted Echo to enjoy some instant gratification so he would use Ball appropriately instead of gnawing it like an obsessive beaver.

It worked!  Yesterday, he put his nose to the task with enthusiasm & I could see him chewing periodically, then going back for more.  Solo, meanwhile, didn't even glance at the thing.
NOW you're doing it right
I guess they eventually ended up where I expected them to, heh.

Do your horses have any boredom busting toys they love?  Homemade ones count!