Sunday, September 25, 2011

Idle thoughts and other things

When I am doing mindless jobs like stalls, sweeping or cleaning I think a lot. The thing I think the most about is horses (duh). Sometimes I have ideas and go "gee this could really help someone" but then before I can put it into a blog post I forget about it.
Sometimes when it is a really good thought I'll mull over it in my mind for a few days before telling anyone. Sometimes I actually get cracking and write it as a blog so you all can read it and put your thoughts together with my thoughts. I like that, it's what blogging is about.

Lately I have been thinking about a number of different things. I started this post a few days ago and I am sure I'll remember them all at 2 am when I am sleeping, not blogging.

Hands. What do hands have to do with horses? Well more on a skeletal or cellular level they are similar. When we use our hands more our skin cell production speeds up. This creates what we know as a callous. A callous is a place of thickened skin cells where we place repeated use; our fingertips and palms for example. If we stopped using these areas they would shed that calloused skin over time and become softer because of decreased need to keep up an excelled skin cell production. Hence our skin produces more or less depending on how much we use them and on what surfaces. A secretary at an office might have a callous on his/her index finger from using a pen. A blacksmith will have a large callous on their thumb from repeated use of a hammer but not on their index finger because they do not spend much time writing like the secretary.

The same has been proven with horses. Their feet are largely a "Use it or lose it" functionality. The more abrasive surfaces they are on the more sole their hoof will produce. The less abrasive surfaces they are on the less sole they produce. Take this into consideration when shoeing a horse. I hear people say "My horse is ouchy on pavement" so I ask where the horse is kept. The answer does not usually surprise me when they say a grass pasture or a stall most of the day with limited work on the pavement the owner is complaining about. Horses feet need to be conditioned slowly to the surface you want them to work on.
Think of horses soles being sensitive like your callouses on your own hands. If I asked you to pick up a hammer and swing away with me all day on an anvil, and you have never previously done it don't you think your hands are going to be raw by the end of the day? If I asked you to come swing hammer for an amount of time, increasing every day, wouldn't you build up more gradually until the time I was working at with much less resistance and pain?
Same goes for your horses hooves. Don't expect them to be on grass all day and to work on the road comfortably without regular work on the road.


I'm saying this because I have seen NUMEROUS horse bloggers complaining about buying hay.. Hay is for horses (and cows and sheep and goats and other ruminants). There are several reasons why people are complaining this year. 1) They cannot get hay. 2) The price of the hay IS TOO DAMN HIGH! (name that youtube video!) 3) Their hay got ruined and now they have to buy it (see 1 and 2). 4) Hay providers are running out and people who buy from them are getting mad.

1) Hay got ruined this year globally it seems. Farmers are being smart and making sure their own families were fed by planting crops such as corn and soybeans that are at an all time high this year in price(See #3). With as much hay that has been ruined this year why should they take a chance on their own families not being fed and cared for when they could plant another crop, cash in the money and buy hay for their animals elsewhere.

2) Do not complain about the price of hay going up. First of all hay has been at the same price in most places for the past 10 and even 20 years!!! If it is not the same price it is within two or three dollars of that price. Do you want to work at wages that were present 10 or 20 years ago? I don't think so.

3) Ruined hay. We have had droughts. Months without rain turning fields of lovely alfalfa into deserts. Rain. It rained sooooooo much that getting a dry moment where your tractor did not get stuck so you could cut and rake and allow the time to cure the hay seemed nearly impossible. A lot of hay was lost. To prevent income loss the farmers who could not take their hay off planted grains instead (See #1).

4) Hay farmers will not usually store hay for buyers unless they pay them ahead of time (or are good friends, return, reputable customers for years and years and years. Depends on the hay seller really). It is a waste of profit, space and time for them. For example the seller could save a few hundred bales for someone who's going to "maybe" come back in a few months at the customers convenience or they can sell it (or ship it to the US where there are states that have no hay whatsoever due to rain/fire/drought) and make the money now. It's a bit less risky to know your money is in your hand than waiting for months and months for that customer to come back at their own convenience when they "need" hay.

I know I am going to make some readers mad with posting this bit on hay but it's what is happening. When you point something out like this a lot of people are complaining about it's going to make someone mad or upset. You cannot please everyone. I understand because I deal with the farmers who sell the hay and the owners who want to buy it.

PS- people are still annoyed at the price this year even if you read this post. Another fact to consider is that farming is directly influenced by mother nature. Hay is one of the most high risk crops and the one with the most manual labor (unless you can afford larger machines that do it all). The only people who fully appreciate that are the farmers directly supplementing their income with hay and other crops. A rise in prices this year can aid the farmer in the chance that this mass loss of income could happen next year. It's their own personal insurance, not farmers being greedy and wanting more money. Your not in farming because you want to make a lot of money, just like your never in horses to make a lot of money. It just doesn't happen that way.

Those of you who are in a severe drought right now COME GET OUR RAIN!!! UGH! It rained the other day and looks like the next 7 days there's going to be rain. The barnyard is a swamp. Areas where it previously was not muddy or deep are now over the tops of my boots. I went to close a gate to a pasture at my one barn and it sucked my boot right off, sock in the mud SPLAT! I cussed for a moment before taking off my sloppy sock and yanking my boot out of the mud.

It's also fall now which means I have to wear a sweater outside in the morning. I hate sweaters because it means winter is coming. It's cold I want summer back with heat that dries this mud and rain up.
It also means apples. I looooove apples. So does Indigo. It's safe to say they are her favorite food ever. When I come with an apple it's generally the only time she will come trotting/cantering to me nickering the whole time. She nickers at me for no reason when I am grooming her, just to see if I'll offer an apple. She nickers at me when I mount to ride her and dismount. I don't feed her an apple every time she nickers (like she wishes) but she does get one every time I go to the fence to get her. She will take apples over grain, carrots or horse treats. She LOVES apples

"Good job loyal human subject. This apple offering pleases the queen Indigo"


juliette said...

Adorable apple-loving nickering

Jeni said...

um... I have to agree on hay. My complaint is - you know you are going to need it, so start buying extra in the spring and store it. I'm lucky I live in an area where hay is available and affordable still. $3.75 and up for a bale but $3.75 is the average for good, dry, heavy bales.

I hope fall takes it time heading into winter. It seems like its here way too fast.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

I have to argue about the price remaining the same for the past 20 years. That may be the case in your area, but 10 years ago I was paying $4 a bale and now the worst case scenario is $20 a bale.

Shirley said...

We are the lucky ones here, the hay crops are good, and the price is the same as last year. And, I can buy it as I need it from both of the suppliers that I use.

Mariah said...

I'm a first time commenter, and I have to jump in and agree with you about the hay. Where we're at we're in a pretty bad drought- we got such little amounts of rain over the summer that our spring went from a decent amount to almost dry. Not to mention our hay, its a pretty much nonexistent fall cutting.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

We're not paying just a few dollar more per bale than we have in the past. We're paying double now. What we paid just $14.00 a bale for 3 string, this year we're paying $26.00 a bale for. And our 2 string bales are going for $15.00, when they went for just $7.00 last year.

I think even you could agree that that's a whole hell of a lot of inflation in just a year.

A lot of the hay in the US, especially in California is being shipped to China and Japan because their buyers are willing to pay the shipping fees directly to the farmer, and are willing to pay higher costs. Many people are frustrated because many of our companies have been outsourced to China and Japan, as well as the majority of the products we buy. Now they are buying most of our hay and costing America much more than lost jobs.

I mostly agree about the hoof situation, but my mare lives 24/7 on a rocky, steep, rugged hillside where she walks over small rocks, larger rocks, and imbedded boulders. Still, when we try to ride on a gravel road, or a rocky trail, she acts tender-footed.

Apache will eat apples, but they aren't her favorite. She prefers carrots.


Jen said...

The first thing that popped into my head when you started talking about feet and callouses? Summertime. When I was growing up, my shoes came off the day that school let out and pretty much stayed off until it started up again in the fall (church and a few other things being small exceptions).

Did a LOT of walking on roads and sidewalks and had some pretty hefty callouses going on: I could stroll over just about anything (once not even noticing tiny bits of broken glass underfoot until my friend yelled EEK! *laugh*) Those days are long since past, and these days I am sure that I would struggle to tiptoe my way anywhere outside with bare feet (owie). Makes total sense to me; and I am the same when it comes to thinking those deep thoughts during so called "mindless" tasks ;o)

Kristen Eleni Shellenbarger said...

Your post is SO very timely. I took Laz on a hand walk and a walk ride for the first time since I switched barns, down the dirt road. So for two weeks, he's been on grass and sand pasture. No rocks, no pea gravel (I wish I could put some in there for some rougher terrain)but I've noticed that his fronts were more 'ouchy' (his rear hooves were in easy boots). Hmmm, I quickly their feet change. I dont think it's diet related, I DO think it's terrain related and with all the rain too softening his tootsies up. I wonder; if I have a goal of walking him for 30 minutes 3-4 times a week on the dirt road, would it help toughen his bare hooves up without it hurting him?? I'm going to ask my trimmer too.

Sydney said...

Nuz- Hay was ruined. A lot of it. The price inflation is due to the fact they need to make up for what is lost or keep up with the prices of the grains on the market so they make it up in hay instead of planting their row crops.

Lisa- I have the same pasture you do more or less. We have TONS of rocks. Indigo walks over them fine. I still had to condition her to the extra added weight of me on her back.

Kristen- I would go for 3 times a week at the least. Every day is the best. Horses hooves are largely a use it or lose it functionality. If a horse has shoes on and their frog/digital cushion is not in contact with the ground it will contract and become less robust and able to absorb such shocks.
The thing is people see their horses are "ouchy" on certain surfaces and they try to avoid them completely and work on a softer surface.

*M said...

Hey Sydney! Thanks for commenting the other day...have been too busy to go back and answer...

Anyway, I have an interesting perspective on the hay thing, as the fiance M does a lot of work cutting and selling hay (a big contract is paying for his purchase of 70 acres...).
**lack of has literally shot to poo our 2nd cut, which is the really beautiful stuff. In some places around here, it even affected the 1st cut too. M is hoping to actually do some later cuts (waay end of Oct) for my brats since we now finally have some rain and growth.
**Fertilizer costs...ZOMFG! I think I threw up a little when I heard how much they are. Enough said!!!!!
**Gas...The diesel for the tractors is really ridiculously expensive. If you think about having to move all the equipment around, you are collecting a lot of operating expenses.

I know I am feeling the crunch of all the above just in costs of sweet feed (which has gone up 2 a 50 lb bag this year) and my beet pulp pellets (shreds have gone up 4 dollars and pellets at least 2).

I don't know anything to offer about how to cut the cost of hay. Perhaps if it is a local guy, maybe you could help by spreading some composted manure for them (if that is what they like to use...)?

With all the overseas shipping of hay, and the overhead costs, the farm guys have got to make ends meet. I can't fault the price, knowing as many farm families as I do, but there has to be something you can do to directly help them that might influence your hay costs...

Sydney said...

Thank you M! I think too many horse owners only buy the hay and do not have any work in making it, paying the help, tractors or other prices. Grain has gone up again this year. I just bought a bag of beet pulp for my mare Annie and it's now at 18$ a bag!!! I bought it 3 years ago for my old horse Naigen and I paid 9-11$ for it! Yes it sucks but everyone's gotta eat.

horse care said...

Commenting from Great Britain, looks like hay prices will probably go the same way this winter as they did last year, reasonable until the weather turns bad then they shoot up. I know some people like to shop around for the cheapest but we prefer to use our usual forage supplier all year round. He delivers to us weekly and as regular customers we are assured that he will supply us 52 weeks of the year and the price isn't going to suddenly shoot up. Some suppliers will have run out by Jan / Feb while others will be holding on hoping to achieve the highest possible price.

Liv said...

haha I love that pic!! it's awesome!

achieve1dream said...

I like the way you explained hands/callouses as it relates to hooves! I think I already knew all of that, but the way you describe it is a fantastic way to for me to explain it to other people, like to my friend who is going barefoot with her horses but complains they are still sore sometimes. Thanks!

LOL I love Indigo's expression!

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