Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Feeding Frenzy Fiasco

I love the rain.

That is, I love the rain when I don't have horses in my life.

When I have horses in my life, I hate the rain. That's because, as all you horse-people out there know:

Rain = Mud



Still, I don't think I'll ever have it as bad as I did when I worked at the Morgan/Warmblood ranch up in Northern California.

Northern California is a beautiful bit of country, with gorgeous rolling hills, and lots of green grass.

I know it's stupid of me, but I never put together the fact that green hills are really only green because of lots of rain. But I digress.

Feeding was an interesting fiasco at this place because the horses kind of ran free, and I had to hand-walk the flakes out to the feeders (it was too far to throw them.) I'm not going to badmouth the owner, because in a certain way I still respect her greatly, but she definitely had WAAAY too many animals. There were, at any given time, approximately 60-70 head on her place at any time, most of whom were running free. You definitely had to be on your toes and make sure ALL of the horses understood you were INCREDIBLY ALPHA, and that they had to be MUCH MORE SCARED OF YOU THAN ANY OF THE OTHER ALPHA HORSES. This process involves a lot of hand-flapping and angry hollering. In fact, in order to do it right, you had to basically pretend that you were an angry howler monkey on crack, and that any horse that got within arms reach of you would instantly be digested. Until I had enough of the feeders filled that the horses could group around them comfortably, there was always a chance that one of the alpha mares would drive a lesser-ranking horse away from her... and into me.

So, whenever I would feed, I would start by sacrificing one flake into the mud/ground, and then engage in my angry monkey dance to drive the mares away, buying myself some time to make a decent escape.

I'd get about 20 feet away, throw another flake into the snarling mass of horses, and do my angry monkey dance again.

Rinse, Repeat. Rinse, Repeat. Eventually, I would make it to a feeder and be able to fill it with a full bale, and the pressure would ease.

Did I mention I hated feeding time? Well, I did.

Feeding horses can be a fun, bonding experience---- when it's a fun, bonding kind of a day. Feeding 60 hungry horses in 30 degree weather while it pelts down icy rain on you is not fun at all. It's a damp, itchy, soggy version of hell, and it always makes for one of those introspective moments when you start wondering why you don't just get into dancing, drinking, and boys like all the other sensible young women out there.

When it rained, the process became way, waaaaay worse. This was because of MUD. This wasn't just any mud, either. This was the Aston Martin of mud... this mud was the kind of mud that other little bits of mud aspired to be. If you're a horse person reading this, this was MANURE MUD. I think you know what I mean.

Anyways, on the night in question I was grumpy as it was, because I expected the feeding to be finished by the time I came home, and it wasn’t. Not only was I angry that the horses had been left hungry, but I was also angry that I had to be tromping about in the dark, sloshing about through the icy rain. I expected the ranch truck to be working, and of course it wasn’t. Of course my truck decided to die again. This mean that I had the joy of hauling 10+ bales of alfalfa in a tiny little wheelbarrow all around the 16 acres in order to get everyone fed.

I loaded up the first wheelbarrow, and headed down into the melee of waiting, hungry horses. I managed to get the first few sacrificial flakes down, when I took a step back and sank into the mud until it reached the top of my mud boots. That's what... a foot? Foot and a half? Whatever it was, it was a hell of a lot of mud.

The fun part was that I was walking rather fast, trying to escape the ravenous bunch of were-horses that were snarling angrily behind me. When my boot sank in, I was mid stride, and I faceplanted in the mud. It wasn't any graceful kind of a fall, either. I went down, face-first into layers of that sticky, slimy mess. I couldn't even get my hands out in time to brace my fall, either. I suppose I should be happy that it was muddy--- under normal circumstances a fall like that would have broken my nose. The hay flew out of my arms, and I could hear the horses drawing near. I had a real moment of fear when I realized my position, but managed to spring up in time to drive them back again in enough time to make my escape.. I went back to the wheelbarrow and grabbed it, pushing it onto the next destination. I grabbed another few flakes of hay, and headed off for the next feeder.

This time I only made it about fifteen feet in before my boot got stuck in the mud. I managed to save myself from falling completely face-first this time, catchign myself on my hands and knees. Still--- I wasn't exactly singing Disney tunes when it happened. Bracing my foot beneath me to stand up, I realized that I had lost my boot in the mud. Seriously--- I really lost it. I had to crawl around on my hands and knees looking for it. If it weren't for the hazard of a horse stepping in it and injuring themselves, I would have given up. As it was raining and dark, there was little light, so even after I did find the boot, all I could see was a slightly dark hole where the boot had sunk. It was totally and completely stuck--- I couldn't even grasp the smooth tops of it as it was level with the muddy ground. I poked my squishy, muddy toe in (I lost my sock. To this day, I have no idea where it went to), but the problem was I couldn't figure out which way the toe of the boot was. To make it even more interesting, the entire time I was doing this, I had to continue my angry monkey dance to keep the horses at bay.

So there I am, hooting and hollering at the horses, waving my hands above my head to scare them away, hopping in a little circle, pivoting around my boot, trying to find the toe. I must have done it for a full minute before my foot finally slid in. I finished feeding with a minimum amount of fuss (which is probably a good thing---if I had fallen again, I probably would have been angry enough to actually make good on my threats and eat a horse.) The shower felt good, but it took days to get the smell of that mud out of my skin. Sometimes I swear I can still catch a whiff now and again. Did I mention that I hated feeding time? Well, I did.

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Blogger Veronica said...

Over from Mugwump and bookmarking you now.

Feeding time is the bane of my life and I've only got 2 horses to feed! They've not yet cottoned on to the fact that dammit, I am alpha and I will BITE you, but they're getting there. Tonight I shall try an angry monkey dance and see how I go.

November 3, 2009 at 3:57 PM  
Blogger Heila said...

Hahaha. Loved your story and as I lost my boots a couple of times this past winter I can relate. I also found your blog from Mugwump.

November 3, 2009 at 9:24 PM  
Blogger Veronica said...

Now that I've read your entire archives I have a few comments.

1) Please write more. You're hilarious.

2) I had a really hard time not commenting on every 3rd post of yours. Fangirling: I'm doing it.

Also, angry monkey dance. It works. Ta.

November 4, 2009 at 1:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Becky:
I can barely see my keyboard cause my eyes are watering from laughing so hard!!! Not good cause I've got a delivery guy coming in about 10 minutes and I don't want him to think I've got issues, well ya, I have issues but not that he needs to know it :o)
Up in southwester Ontario we have boot sucking mud too. What's even better is trying to convince a 1200lb horse that yes he does need to follow you through the mud and it would help muchly if he would do more walking (squelching) and less leaning waaaaaayyyyy back on the lead!!!
Mugwumps is right you are hilarious, glad to have book marked you!

November 4, 2009 at 6:11 AM  
Blogger Whywudyabreedit said...

Awesome story. I currently live in coastal northern ca, and I am thanking my lucky stars that I only have 2 horses to care for. I also purchased $300 of gravel over the summer to prevent that horrid mud bog at the front of the paddocks that make it nearly impossible to get in and out with a wheelbarrow during the rainy season. Sure hope that gravel works out like I think it will...

November 4, 2009 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger AareneX said...

A new transfer from Mugwump, and now I'm laughing my BUTT OFF, the only problem is I'm reading this at the LIBRARY, and everyone else is staring at me, the only other problem is that I'm the LIBRARIAN.

Thanks. I needed that.

November 4, 2009 at 4:14 PM  
Blogger phaedra96 said...

Hooo, when you make librarians behave badly.....will bookmark you(came over from Mugs) and read the rest when I need a laugh. Good writing and keeeep dancing!

November 4, 2009 at 5:16 PM  
Blogger mugwump said...

Told you guys.

November 5, 2009 at 1:53 PM  
Blogger Half Dozen Farm said...

Hi: I found you through Mugwump too. This post had me laughing so hard, the person in the office next to me probably thinks I finally lost it! I've been right there with you (well, not with 60+ horses...)! Manure mud smells the WORST!

Anyway, I had to read all of your other posts too and you must fill in your blog family on what happened during the intervening months of boyfriend Jeff (I think?) and husband Bean... I'm dying of curiosity! There was such a gap where you went from a "carefree", pennyless college student to a wife/mother. Do tell!! :)

November 5, 2009 at 3:24 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

To everyone: THANK YOU for your wonderful words. :) I've been blogging mainly for my husband for the past year... it feels weird to actually have people read my site. :) I'm working on several posts so that I can update this site on a regular basis.

Mommyrides--- in moments like that, don't you question your sanity? I mean, isn't that why we domesticated horses in the first place... so we can avoid slogging through mud and not have to walk everywhere?

Whywudya--- Mmmm. GRAVEL. I don't even own horses right now and I still find the thought of DG and gravel kind of sexy. I bet we could make lots of money selling naughty calendars to horsepeople... we could take sexy close-up photos of stalls with fresh shavings, new fencing that hasn't been chewed on.... heated indoor arenas.... MmmmmmMMM!!!!

Veronica--- I don't know whether to thank you or yell at you. I"m now doing NaNoWriMo. :P

Aerene? I'm not sure I wanna talk to you...... The only times (yes. PLURAL. TIMES) I've been to collections have been because of my library fines. You guys don't mess around or give ANY grace periods. I had to cut up my library card like I was some shopaholic housewife addicted to QVC. :( I can't be trusted with responsibility like that :(

November 5, 2009 at 3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Author blogofbecky.blogspot.com !
Yes, I understand you.

December 18, 2009 at 8:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I want to quote your post in my blog. It can?
And you et an account on Twitter?

December 25, 2009 at 8:46 AM  

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