Thursday, February 2, 2023

DIY: Chopped Hay

I think I mentioned it in one of last month's posts (but who knows lol), but we started chopping hay for Trigger. In 2020, he lost some molars, and ever since then, we've noticed increasing issues with quidding hay. He's always been pretty messy in a stall, but it got significantly worse, with him spreading hay EVERYWHERE and then peeing/pooping in it #horsesaregreat

Unrelated dog photo because no one likes text walls.

This is also compounded by the fact that he has been having intermittent issues with Fecal Water Syndrome and I wasn't happy with his weight last spring - I talked to the vet about it, and she advised that most cases (of FWS) are idiopathic and a cause can't be found, but that she thought he might improve once the spring grass came in. His weight did get better, but the FWS seemed to come and go with no rhyme or reason. And then winter rolled around, and he started to drop weight again. 

Another unrelated photo. 

I happened to be browsing CoTH one day last fall and noticed a thread questioning whether or not FWS could be exacerbated by stemmy hay, which then led me down a rabbit hole about stemmy hay/older horses missing molars/chopping hay. Our brome is quite soft and lovely, but when he picked through the alfalfa (which I was feeding him to help with the weight), he seemed to leave mostly stems. I started poking around to read more about chopped hay, and also browsed the feed aisle at our local Tractor Supply. Chopped hay seems to run about $20-25/bag, and since I am still a state employee in the state leading the nation in lowest pay for state workers (🙃), I started researching whether or not it was feasible to chop my own hay. I already DIY so much! Lol. There are some helpful threads on CoTH, and fellow blogger Stampy+the Brain also wrote about chopping hay for one of her lovely senior citizens :)

Example of the chunks of hay I would regularly pull out of Trigger's stall prior to the chopping.

It seemed to be universally agreed that wood chippers/mulchers worked, but as with anything, I could spend a little, or I could spend A LOT on this experiment. I decided to start small. 

Well, not THAT small, it still cost $100. 

We picked up a small electric chipper/shredder from Harbor Freight (I think it's this one? We had  25% off coupon so didn't pay full price) to experiment with. I didn't want to throw money at something bigger until I was sure Trigger would eat the hay, as historically he is very suspicious of anything new or different. This was no exception. 

The first night we gave him chopped hay he very intentionally shit in the bucket 🙃
he hasn't done it since, so I know it was intentional, lol. 

Jack and Trigger are in my old foaling stall with a homemade divider (it's janky, I know lol) and Trigger has a penchant for yanking Jack's hay under the divider and making a massive mess with it. Sooooooo DH spent some time putting a stop to that. 

Lots of scrap wood on the farm thankfully lol. 

Eventually Trigger resigned himself to his fate and started eating the chopped hay. Then he started DEVOURING every scrap - yay! Meanwhile, the small chipper we bought was verrrrrrry annoying to use to chop the quantities of hay we needed on a daily basis. It has a very small hole to feed the hay through, and jammed up pretty easily, especially when I tried to chop the finer/softer brome to mix in with the alfalfa. So we started casually looking for something bigger. We had a couple of promising leads on FB marketplace, including one we arranged to buy and 5 minutes away from meeting the guy (AFTER DRIVING AN HOUR) he gave us a lame excuse and completely ghosted us, which was annoying AF. Finally after giving myself tennis elbow and a very sore wrist, I rage bought a SunJoe mulcher off Amazon with a much bigger hole, to see if that improved the time/effort we were spending on chopping hay.

DH was actually really impressed with it when he assembled it, lol. 

It arrived earlier this week, and luckily it seems to be doing the trick! Chopping hay is SOOOOOOO much faster/easier now - instead of spending 30-40 minutes chopping hay for just Trigger, last night I chopped enough for both Trigger and gave some to Jack (since he is also missing plenty of teeth), and also chopped enough extra to fill half a feed bag for tonight's feeding - all in about 15 minutes!

It is dusty, so eye/nose/mouth/hair protection is warranted unless you want to look/sound like you just ran a marathon through a dust storm lol. 

An example of chopping hay with the original shredder

And with the new one - don't worry, now we do it outside to cut down on the dust lol

Chowing down 

So - does it help? Tentatively yes - I am getting more hay into Trigger than I have in YEARS, and I haven't had to drag hot water out ot the barn to wash manure off him since we started chopping the hay. He's still eating off a round bale outside because there is no feasible way for me to feed him the chopped hay outside, but knock on wood, his stall has been WORLD'S easier to clean and the manure looks well formed (and isn't surrounded by sopping wet shavings like it used to be). Still a bit annoying (and messy) to have to chop the hay, but what the king wants, the king gets, lol. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Lesson Recap: Pushing Into the Half Halt

Man I know I sound like a broken record but DAMN it feels good to be back on the weekly lesson schedule :) last Saturday I had another lesson, and Ruby was all business. She's such a good egg <3 we keep chipping away at those first level pieces, and Saturday's lesson had a good focus on my body position (aka stop curling into the fetal position) and also some good tips on the canter departs (and how to make them less... explosive... lol). It's so nice to have photos and videos from the lesson, because at the canter I literally felt like I was leaning so far back I was going to fall off, but reviewing footage indicates I was.... barely sitting up straight? Your body LIES to you. I distinctly remember that being a takeaway from a Centered Riding clinic I audited AGES ago lol. 

Just sitting up straight. Not falling off the back lol. 
Also need to remember to not leave the door completely open when I'm asking for a leg yield - if we're leg yielding right, my right leg does in fact still need to stay on the horse... haha. 

And one of the more important bits that stuck in my brain was to push Ruby up into the half halt in my canter departs, instead of making the trot so small before the transition that she has nowhere to go with the energy but explode - and that bit of wisdom was caught on video, so I can watch the footage over and over with InstructorB's voice in my brain, lol. 

A little work on making the trot smaller...

...then a little bigger, but still under control. 

We do track right also, lol. 

....still feeling like I'm going to fall off the back. Still just barely sitting up straight haha. 

I'm doing.... something with my arms. No idea what lol. 

also not sure what's going on here but Ruby looks good so let's ignore whatever it is that I'm doing haha. 

Still a lot of work to be done on consistency in the canter - with the current level of fitness she'd much prefer to just zoom around vs the really lovely adjustable nice canter we had before when we were in regular work, but it'll come back. 

So grateful for friends who are willing to give up chunks of their day to come hang out and help me get media - not only do I get so much value out of the lessons, but sitting down and going through photos and watching the videos really helps solidify the concepts in my brain so I can keep working on them :) 

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Trail Adventures: Katy Trail/Rudolf Bennitt

This one is going to be a two-fer, because they were both reasonably short rides and I don't have a ton of media lol. It was a three-day weekend last weekend, and weirdly enough the weather was pretty cooperative for riding each day! The weather forecast for Monday looked dicey all weekend, but it cleared up that morning and I'm SO GLAD we went. Anyway, I'll start with Sunday. 

Me, dragging the horses away from their mud naps to get on the trailer lol. 

The first outing was to the Katy Trail. It was intentionally very low-key, as a friend wanted to put the first trail ride on her OTTB mare. I brought Trigger for another friend, and the fourth horse is in our quartet was our favorite pinto gaited guy who is just such a superstar. The OTTB mare was a complete rockstar - meanwhile my VERY VERY BROKE TRAIL HORSE got spooked by a building and had to walk past it snorting and blowing. Sigh. Trigger added another member of his fan club by being his sweet little self, if a little on the disgusting muddy side haha. We did a little under 4 miles in about an hour. 

We intentionally picked the "boring" direction, since there would be less external stimuli (traffic, houses, dogs, etc), although it had the downside of having to cross the INCREDIBLY SKETCHY BRIDGE. Luckily aside from giving it the hairy eyeball, none of the horses reacted too much. And we lucked out and didn't see a single bicyclist or hiker!

I opted to go very Spanish for this ride lol. 

Our trail group starting pinging Sunday night, but my forecast looked pretty garbage. Thankfully, as happens often in the Midwest, the forecast was suuuuper wrong. So with about an hours notice, five of us tossed horses on various trailers and met up on a spring-like 66 degree and sunny afternoon!

We've been working diligently on Trigger's weight this winter, and apparently the secret to getting him to eat hay is chopping it first. I need to post about my DIY hay chopper (its a mulcher/chipper thing and a complete PITA but the horses love the hay sooooo I suffer), but this was the first time I offered Trigger chopped hay at a trail ride. He absolutely DOVE into the bucket and didn't come up for air until we started riding. Duly noted bud, duly noted. But for a 26-year old who almost knocked me over trying to get on the trailer and then cantered merrily down the trail, I think he's feeling pretty good!

They appear to be clearing/adding new trails at Rudolf Bennitt, which is awesome!

Trigger feeling peppy enough to challenge the leader to walk first, haha. 

Again, rode for about an hour, but we did some stretches of cantering (or in Ruby's case, bucking and leaping over imaginary items on the ground lol), and logged a little closer to 4.5 miles. Unfortunately when we were trying to avoid the gun range in this park, we picked a trail that dead ended in a parking lot, so after doing the loop available and ending up back at our trailers, we opted to just hang out and chat in the sunshine instead of trying to start a new loop. The weather and company were superb <3 I just love our local horse community, we have such a good time no matter what we do, and it's so supportive!

Hauling out every day of the 3-day weekend was a little tiring, but I figured we don't get weather that nice in winter THAT often, so it would be a shame to waste it!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023

Lesson Recap: Picking Back Up

I had another lesson last weekend, and I'm thrilled to be getting back into the swing of things! I was lucky enough to have two friends offer to ride along, so there is MEDIA! Yay! I also set up my Pivo, but there was a persistent "wag" in the video, so didn't get much useful out of that. I got some tips from more reliable Pivo users on swapping back to a different app (where there must be multiple Pivo apps, I truly do not know), so hopefully at my lesson this weekend it's more useful. 

Ruby showed up all business to this lesson - decided she wasn't scared of the interior arena wall (probably helped there were no shenanigans in the cross ties during my lesson this week, lol), and she kept her llama-ing to a minimum, so we were actually able to just... work! Amazing :) love this horse and her brain. 

Nothing particularly earth-shattering in this lesson, just chipping away at the fitness and the relaxation - Ruby continues to think she knows better than I do what I want, so it was a matter of letting her make mistakes and then correcting them, until she chilled out enough to take more direction. The canter departs were noticeably better than they are at home (don't understand what's up with that, sigh), but she definitely offerent it way more than I asked for - overachiever! ha. We worked a bit on adding and removing power in the trot, and her being able to really get through without powering up and running away with me. 

The new arena is so well insulated that even without being heated, I quickly got too warm for my vest, lol. Annnnnd lessoning in a clingy sunshirt in the dead of winter will very quickly remind you how unkind the holidays were to your waistline and that you need to resume your diet/exercise plan ASAP... sigh. 

There's a schooling show at the end of the month that TrainerB is taking some clients to, but between fitness and finances I think we'll skip this one, but we're discussing another one at the end of February. And there are randomly twice as many recognized shows as usual at our "home" venue, so hopefully plenty of chances to get out there and give it the ol' college try! I told TrainerB my goal is to be able to do a credible First-Three by the end of the year, so we'll see if that happens, haha. Would also love to snag my other bronze score at First. My expectations are a bit more realistic this year than last year, lol. 

Hoping that in a few months the lesson recaps will be less about fitness and more about fun things ;)

Friday, January 6, 2023

Lesson Photos: Matchy Matchy on Point

Well, I did finally get the memory card reader I needed to transfer the photos off my fancy camera, so enjoy! Still tweaking the settings, so far from perfect, but it was still fun to see a snapshot of where we are starting over from! (and again, for reasons unknown, Blogger inserted all the photos backward, which I thought we were done with, SIGH)