Longtime readers of this blog know that I’m a firm advocate in the slow feeding process when it comes to my horses, and Mitch in particular. It’s a journey that began waaaaay back in 2010 and continues to this day. Because self-care has offered me a lot of flexibility in the type of hay I feed, and allows me to properly weigh my hay instead of feeding just “X number of flakes”, I’ve really made the need for extending the hay availability to my horses into a driving force in my care of them.
Sadly, I have to report that Mitch, the Freedom Feeder Killer has struck again. He left the victim with a gaping wound in it’s side and bottom….
…at least this one lasted a whole month this time. Which is some kind of record considering how quickly he destroyed the first Freedom Feeder I bought for him last year, and then the replacement that was sent. Hence why I ended up having to buy the Busy Horse Grande because it was tougher. But that’s Mitch for you, just a wacky personality of a horse who can’t be trusted with anything that’s not tied down. He’s very mouthy, and likes to chew, he’s got lots of toys, but I guess it’s the Haflinger personality, can’t stop eating for anything, even if it means eating something inedible like lead ropes and rope halters and that black screen mesh that was supposed to block wind and rain from your shelter, Mitch. Haflingers … the billy goats of the horse world.
On the other hand, I also bought a Freedom Feeder at Equine Affaire for Jet, and she’s absolutely wonderfully doing fabulous with it. I started her using it right after Equine Affaire, and fed half of her Bermuda hay in it, and half in her tub so she eventually got used to using it. It looks almost as new as the day we got it. She’s not aggressive at eating the way Mitch is, she’ll push against the net, get some hay to pop up, and pull it out with her lips, not her teeth. She now gets most of her hay in the mini net now, and will readily choose to eat from the net over free-choice hay in her tub. She was a notorious cribber at one point, but now that she’s eating almost all the time, she’s really doing well and doesn’t crib anymore. She still has to wear a collar because that’s barn policy, but because she’s “grazing” (as my dad put it) she has hay to buffer her stomach acid all the time. In fact, I talked to one of my barn mates today who ordered Freedom Feeders for her horses because she says she’d come out to unblanket/feed early in the morning, and Jet still has hay in the net, and is still nibbling away. It’s brought a definite change for her, she used to be out in pasture, and was anxious about eating, now she can take her time, and enjoy her meal.
Well, we’ve had a little bit of April rain. We’re supposed to have more tomorrow night, although I’m hoping it holds off until late late late afternoon or sometime later at night because of the awesomeness that will be happening tomorrow. A trail ride and a BBQ. Whoohoo! So it better not be a washout because it’s gonna be awesome! Mitch and I are ready to go!!!!
In fact, getting Mitch ready for this thing was kind of like getting ready to ride in a CTR or endurance ride. I’m not sure how long we’ll be out. I’ve heard 2 hours, and the whole trail loop is 12 miles, but I’m not sure if we’ll be riding it as it’s a trail council festival thing and there’ll be hikers and walkers and trail runners and mountain bikers as well. But anyway, I’ve been getting Mitch worked plenty to build up his stamina (and maybe try and wear out his energy a little, heh) I’ve been riding every day and today we went out on the barn trail loop, and then did some trot work in the dressage arena. I’m sure Mitch is still bursting with energy though. I’m probably gonna run him in the round pen in the morning before we leave.
So I guess it’s time for me to crash! There’s a lot I need to do tomorrow, and do it early. I’ve got to figure out what I’m going to do about Mitch’s hay so he’s got something to nibble while we’re at the BBQ. He’s got a Busy Horse Busy Grande Slow Feeder now, instead of his Freedom Feeder because he was just beating the crap out of that thing. Now, his slow feed hay bag is a little tougher, and a little harder to try and toss around. I could bring that, or I could put his hay in the Freedom Feeder bag and let him nibble on that one. I’ll see in the morning, I guess.
On Friday while I was handwalking him, I could sense that he was really really needing to move, so I took him to the round pen and just let him run and buck and do all the things he wanted to do by himself. Tacked him up yesterday and did a little bit of trotting with him in the dressage arena. He’s moving so much better now.
Today I’m going to give him a bath since he hasn’t had one in months.
Today was a simply gorgeous day! It was sunny, and beautiful and the weather was at least 70 degrees (yeah! yeah, I have to rub it in *winkwink*) and what did we do! Pony went in a trailer! We went trail riding — yaaaaaaaay! It’s our first time off the ranch in almost 9 months but it was a gorgeous and perfect day for it!!! I am soooo happy. I just knew somehow things would work out.
I went to a tack sale today, didn’t buy anything since I’d just bought the saddle, but it was nice meeting up with people I know, and having a little social life. And looking at stuff I didn’t really have money for (well, I would, if I hadn’t bought this saddle, but I needed the saddle for riding, so … problematical dilemma, eh?)
So, I went out to Ellwood with Dona today and had an awesome time! It’s still a little muddy, but it was wonderful and warm and sunny. Quite the contrast from the snowstorms back East. We met all sorts of interesting people, including some Asian tourists who wanted to get pictures of the horses (and pictures of them standing with the horses which Mitch and Red were most obliging) and a guy from the Netherlands who knew what a Haflinger was. 😀
Super fun day! And now… pictures!!
Being a boarded horse can be a rather rough life sometimes. While I know Mitch gets excellent care, he still only gets fed twice a day, and while he gets plenty of hay at each feeding, he stills eats far too quickly for my liking. It’s not anyone’s fault, but horses were designed to eat for long periods of the day — up to 20 hours of grazing, although they probably don’t spend all 20 hours actually eating, but they can nom nom nom most of the time as they choose. It’s hard to make that work in a boarded setting, unless of course the barn is feeding unlimited hay, and few boarding barns can afford to do that unless they grow their own, and even then, it can be costly. So the norm is to feed horses twice, or three times a day, even though it really isn’t their natural lifestyle.
Since Mitch has grass hay, he gets very generous portions of it, and I’ve been searching for a way to slow down his hay consumption — I still want him to get lots of hay, but I want him to spend more time eating it rather than hoovering it up and standing around bored as heck for the rest of his day until evening feed. I looked and looked, since I liked both the Busy Horse Busy Buffet and the Nibble Nets, but they seemed like an extra step or two with opening the bag and putting the hay in. And then we found the Freedom Feeder which can be rigged up so the back is open and hay can just be dumped into the net. I went to my barn owners, presented them with the liturature and got their approval. Set it up the other day, and already, Mitch is picking up the hang of using it. And it’s taking him a long time to eat his hay. In fact, when I got to the barn at 12 pm today, he still had maybe a couple inches out of the bottom of the bag to eat from the morning feeding at 6 or so. Full of win that! And by the time we got back, evening feed was already in the hay net. At this point, he’s getting nearly 24 hours worth of hay instead of bolting it all down and plotting nerfariously in the meantime.