Thursday, February 20, 2014


Uh, Sherm got fat in January!

Three things happened last month to contribute to Sherm's ridiculous winter weight gain.

First, we switched from the home-grown, weak timothy hay we had filled the barn with in August to the rich timothy hay grown by our hay suppliers. It's all timothy, but theirs is about 50% richer and better quality than the scrubby stuff we grow in our sandy soil.  We always have to feed our own out first because once the connoisseurs have had a taste of it, well, they turn their noses up at our stuff. Then they pee in it, poop on it, and generally waste a lot of it while banging down the doors to get something else. So, scrubby hay first, then the yummy stuff. We made the switch to yummy the day after ringing in the New Year.

The second thing that happened was the wicked cold spell. With overnight temperatures of -15 to -20,  I was going down at midnight to give the kids a snack to keep them warm through the night for stretches of 5-10 days. While it wasn't a lot of extra hay, it was extra rich hay, so it was calorie-dense.

And third, of course, is the secondary problem with the weather-- limited turnout hours and absolutely no training work. Lots of standing around, not much moving.

Eat rich, eat more, move less? Yes, recipe for chubbiness... And then some.

So, time to start weighing Sherm's hay intake. And, um, wow, was that an eye-opener! He was getting a good 20-25% too much hay by weight! He should be getting about 1.5% of his ideal body weight-- which is about 950-- so, around 14.25 lbs per day.  I was measuring by flake and tossing more like 17-19 lbs/day! I know, I know, you have to weigh it, but I'd gotten cocky and complacent.  On top of that, I think my ability to estimate weight has been compromised by my increased upper body strength-- stuff that used to weigh x-amount now feels really light.  Good for my upper-body conditioning, bad for pony!

Five pounds, am & pm! +/- 4 additional pounds in pasture/snacktime.
So, now that Sherm's going to be getting a good bit less hay to eat, he's going to start shredding his stall out of boredom.  He's demonstrated this tendency before, and these long, long nights (and sometimes days as well) of this winter from hell promised complete devastation of both his stall and his teeth if I didn't do something to make the hay last.

Thus, a haynet.  I was pretty skeptical, and I actually bought four of them because I was pretty sure he'd shred an empty haynet out of the same pique that drives him to tear his stall apart.  He also chews any rope/ropelike object within reach, so, hell, I figured a haynet wouldn't last two weeks.  But I had to give it a try.  Besides, weighing the portions is so much easier in the net!

The new routine...

Much to my surprise, Sherm hasn't chewed the net!  I accidentally left the tie strings accessible, and he chewed them up good, but the net itself is, thus far, free of chew-damage.  Imagine.  Perhaps he's so tired of working for his hay by the time the bag is empty that he's lost the urge to grap, grib, and gnaw with his teeth.  Dunno, but I'm glad of it so far.

Hitting the bag

This week, he managed to let himself out of his stall twice, mostly out of boredom, and probably a little bit out of his absolute insistence that he's being starved.  This is not new behavior; he's had a snap on his door since he was two, but it hasn't been necessary since he got started under saddle.  Being a working horse kept him busy enough, but right now he's bored-bored-bored.  So, the snap gets snapped now.  And I elected to make the haynet just a little more challenging/entertaining/confounding by hanging it in the space above his stall door, so there's no resistance to pin it against, forcing him to work just that much harder to get his hay out.  He's handling that like a champ, of course.  Looks at me annoyed, but gets the job done.

Yum-yum chaff

Lastly, I have also started shaking out his hay flakes into a large Rubbermaid container before stuffing the haynet so that all the yummy chaff and seedheads fall out.  BBW is getting nothing but roughage in his hay; all the delicious high-cal stuff is falling into the box and being fed out to Sherm's Uncle Celby, who turns 29 this year and has only 2 grinding surfaces left in his old mouth.  The Celbster is on complete feed and limited hay access due to concerns about choke, but he's loving the yum-yum trimmings!

Bring on the Yum-Yums!

Sherm has been on the diet for about three weeks now, and I'm seeing some difference already.  He's still a bit heavier than I like, but I think we're on the right path.  Don't ask me what we'll do come grass season...

Monday, February 17, 2014

Making Lemonade

Since today started out at -9 degrees, I got started repurposing the never-used guest room as my new office. With arguably the best view of the most pastures, this room allows me the opportunity to watch the BBW and his friends while I wait for our world to thaw.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Enduring the Winter

So last month when I made jokes about that crazy cold spell we had, I was thinking (like probably everyone else) that it was an anomaly, a difficult and slightly-scary episode in below-normal temperatures that would serve to remind us that we are fortunate to live in a part of the country where we get lovely winters, with a dash of picturesque snowfall, but generally don't have to deal with the difficulties and stresses of long spells of extreme cold.
For a month, things have looked like this...

Ah, yes, back when we were naive...

The last full month has seen one day over freezing here at the farm (where we keep records for the National Weather Service, and the equipment they have us use is pretty accurate). One day!  And beyond that, most of the days have struggled to reach 20 degrees, while the nights have hovered around 0 as the straight-up air temperature, with windchills far below.

The riding arena looks like this... that's a 4-step mounting block out there...

This isn't news to anyone, and we aren't the only ones.  The snowbirds who fled to Aiken have had their own stretch of misery the last 10 days.  Their experience of ice storms, snowfall, and, yes, even an earthquake in a region of the country not designed to handle such extreme weather has reminded us that we're fortunate to live in a part of the country that can handle extreme cold and constant snowfall, even if we don't like it much.  Small comfort that, but I suppose it is a comfort.

Amazing hubby out there doing this... 4th time in 10 days right now...

A month ago, I was eager to get to work with the BBW, eager to get started trying to gain back the ground we lost with almost three months off in the fall.  Bwaaahahahaha... again, back when we were naive.  These days I mostly focus on keeping the herd alive and well until the weather breaks, which I now expect around May.

These days I mostly engage with Sherm from the ground like this...
Of course, I know what's coming next.  We will, at some point, see thaw.  And melt.  And mud.  So, mud will come before anything else.  Makes one wonder whether we really want all this freeze to end.  At least the snow is white and clean.

It is time, however.  Out there in knee-deep snow, my sporthorse's banged tail is dragging out behind him on top of the snow like some saddleseat peacock's pampered monstrosity.  That's distracting.

I see a lot of this, too...