Monday, June 16, 2008

Ok, I admit it, cows scare me.

I got a reasonable amount of studying done today, and my uncle told me that the horseflies were tormenting my horses, so I drove down to Como early this evening to see them. I stopped on the way and picked up a jar of Swat and a bag of oats. The oats were to keep the wild beasts placated as I smeared goo all over them.

(Oats - JESUS CHRIST - are up to $15 a bag at Tractor Supply. And "cheap" horse-n-cattle sweet feed is $8, up from $5-6 this time last year.)

They looked quite good, overall. They're still shiny and in good weight. I swear I think Silky pulled something in her leg doing her Wild Horse Imitation when I got there. They were back in the back corner of their 40 acres, so I had to drive into the pasture, windows down, yelling for them. Of course the mares decided the truck was a monster come to kill them and they all galloped away. I drove alongside hollering til I got the boys' attention. Poppy was finally like "oh hey HEY HEY IT'S THE FOOD LADY!" and once he came charging over they all came to me. Silly beasts. Anyway, Silky wasn't remotely lame as she went flying away across the pasture but she limped coming up to get her oats. Sigh.

I got halters on everybody and checked them each over for ticks. Just a few small deer ticks on each, but I put on a new dose of that two-week fly/tick repellant just in case. Champ's and Silky's ears were just horrible, all crusted over with fly bites. The other two, oddly, were fine. I smeared Swat all over the bays' ears. Champ rolled his eyes and tried to get away, but Silky was quite the lady about me messing with her ears. I think hers itched. She was quite sweet tonight - after everybody else wandered away, she hung out at the truck with me and begged for scritches. She's so quiet and standoffish that it really delights me when she "asks" for scritches.

I checked everybody's feet. They're longish, but they seem to be self-trimming too. If I had any kind of amenities out there I'd rasp everybody, but tying a horse to a tree and trying to trim outdoors doesn't sound like fun. If I need to, I'll do it, but hopefully their feet will take care of themselves.

Quinn was ragingly in heat. Squatting and squealing and kicking at the boys. I decided discretion was the better part of valor and didn't even try to ride her in that kind of mood.

I did ride Champ though. I saddled him up, then went to put the bridle on, and he pitched a HUGE hissy fit about it. His ears really are bothering him, poor guy. :( Well, if there's one horse I can ride anywhere with a halter, it's Champ, so I snapped some roping reins on his halter and we took off.

Riding through the other horses to get to the gate made me really nervous. Nobody kicks Champ (NOBODY puts Baby in a corner!) but like I said, Quinn was in heat and very kicky. I gave her a wide berth.

Champ was a perfect gentle-horse. He was polite about me getting off, leading him through gates, and re-hooking them. He listened to me as we rode! We rode through two empty fields and into a field of cows. I was planning on riding up to my uncle's house, but when we got to the cow pasture Champ decided we'd gone plenty far and started trying to convince me to turn around. Then the cows got curious.

I don't have a lot of cattle experience. I know they taste good, they're herd animals, and they like to butt instead of kick. And momma cows are protective of their calves. And bulls are irritable bastards. My uncle has two bulls that run with his cows, and all the mommas have babies, ranging from one last little wee baby calf to half-grown adolescent cows.

One cow was all MRRROOOOOO and wandered toward us. I did what I usually do when a dog comes up to us - I spun Champ towards the cow and kicked him up to a canter for a second. The cow jumped and ran away a few feet. We stopped and the cow stopped and I remembered point #3 about cows. What if that bastard cow decided it wanted to headbutt us? Shit. Maybe charging it wasn't such a good plan. But the cows in those cutting videos on Youtube never try to butt the cowhorses. What if that cow was one of the bulls? Bulls will chase you. Maybe I shouldn't antagonize the cow.

We turned back around and headed over to the cow pond for Cersei to jump in and cool off. Then I made the executive decision to turn the expedition around, so we circled around the pond to head back the way we'd come.

All the cows were staring at me and the horse and the dog. And wandering toward us. And MRROOOOO-ing. It was a very tense moment. Where was the bull? Were the momma cows feeling like their babies were threatened? Had these cows ever seen a horse before, or did they think we were just a deformed cow? Did they expect me to pull a sack of Horse'n'Cattle out of my ass and offer it to them?

I pointed Champ to the left of the cow herd, hoped he wouldn't get nervous too and bolt, and kicked him up to a trot. As we headed to pass the mass of MRRROOOOOO, I waved my arms and hollered for them to git. Amazingly enough, they did! We went left, the cows ambled right, and Cersei kept Champ between her and the cows. Whew.

I'll need to go back this weekend and check the bays' ears. Might be time to deworm everybody too - I need to check back and see when I did it last. With gas at $3.82 a gallon, it's a $15 round trip. I need a job! I need to pass the bar and get a job and get a new place to live in Mississippi and move my horses back somewhere I can see them every day! Argh!


  1. I've seen some useful if silly-looking fly hoods for horses. They have pointy sections that cover the ears and well as a fringe that supplements the forelock. Maybe something like that would help your horses when the flies are bad?

    Try thinking of The Far Side when you see cows! It will help you feel superior and keep your spirits up. Gary Larson had to be on to something.

  2. Well, the reason I haven't tried fly sheets or even those dorky fly masks is because they're unsupervised most of the time. Their field is about a mile from the house on dirt roads, and it's surrounded by other fields with cows. I'm worried that if I put masks on, they'd hurt themselves and it'd be hours before somebody went to check on them.

    My uncle is a softy for animals under a very gruff exterior. I know he drives out every day and checks on his cows and my horses. That's how I knew the flies were after them last week - he told me. But he's in his early 70s, with Parkinson's, and I just can't ask him to do any more than he does. The geldings are pocket ponies, but the mares are mare-ish and distrustful of people and standoffish at the best of times.

    I think my best choice is to just go more often. The two-week fly and tick repellent worked pretty well.. for about 10 days. I don't want to overdose them, but it's better than them being eaten alive!

    Far Side cows! Man, I haven't thought about them in years. What a good call. My Far Side books are all in storage - I'm off to see what I can find on the internet. :)

  3. Hey, funder... you are a very funny and articulate writer. :) I sure enjoyed your post (and other prior ones). I haven't ridden horses except on stupid rental trail rides where they had some serious issues, but when I see horses in pastures around here I think that perhaps they aren't so bad. Like most animals, one just has to better understand them to see how unique and special they are - assuming that all intelligence and will to live has not been completely bred out of them. :)

    There are quite a few Amish around here, and they use their horses for everything. Makes me think I need to learn a bunch about those big draft horses. Maybe not practical. Maybe a lot of fun. :)


  4. Thanks for the compliments!

    Obviously, I adore my horses, but they're not for everyone. You could be good with a horse - you don't mind reading a lot to learn the "background" on a subject and then putting in the time and effort to learn to do it. But it's a LOT of effort, and they're not cheap to maintain. A draft horse would run you probably $5 a day to feed. (It'd be a wonderful source of manure though!)

    If your land wasn't so wooded, it'd be a different story. A horse who feeds himself while keeping your pasture mowed - ahh, now that's a dream come true!

    But yeah, I've read a lot about drafts. Aside from plowing and pulling wagons, they're unbeatable for sustainable forestry. You can actually harvest a tree or two without hurting the surrounding trees - no heavy machinery squishing the tree roots or disturbing the soil!


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