Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Wildlife and Cow Junk

Last post from the Como trip!

I know there's a lot of deer down there - I see their tracks in the dirt all the time. Deer tracks are blase to me now though. (Live deer still leave me breathless with their wildness and beauty.) No deer track pictures for yall.

I do like raccoons though. They're pretty cute. I hear they're annoying as hell if you live in the suburbs, or I suppose if you're in the country and you don't keep your stuff secured. But really now, coon tracks are nothing but cute out in the wild. Little bitty hands!
Raccoon track

And the Mystery Burrow! I don't know what lives there. I have yet to see any tracks (other than cow and deer tracks) in the dirt near the burrow, but something keeps the grass beaten back near the hole.

The barbed wire and the creosote fence post in the picture give a pretty good sense of scale.
Can you see the burrow?

Here's a close-up of the burrow. Fox? Rabbit? It's too small for a coyote.
I guess it's a rabbit hole?

Cow Junk.
It's got "Old Scratch" barely visible on the nameplate on the cylinder. That gave me something to google, and I discovered it's a cattle oiler. Apparently one fills it up with insecticidal oil and the cows ... walk into or under it. I think the diagonal things are like backscratchers that dispense the oil. I'm not sure how you convince the cows to go near such a strange looking thing - just further proof that horses are not remotely like cows, I guess. I'm going to make some inquiries and if I figure out how this thing works, I'll update the post.

Anyway, the antique cow equipment!
Mystery thing!

The other thing I wanted to point out about this picture - and this is going to be a big long horsey observation / rant - this is a prosperous, well kept "hobby" farm in Mississippi. That's what fences LOOK like down here. There's scrap metal propped up against the fence, and there's a giant (broken? off-season? yard art?) cattle oiler sitting out in the open. That's all perfectly normal for me.

I read and love FHOTD. I totally agree with her about 80% of the time, and I think maybe there's some possible excuse for the horrible horses she showcases the other 20% of the time. I think she, like any other really popular author, has an agenda and it's noble and she's mostly right. I just think that just about any time you make a blanket statement, you're wrong for some small percentage of cases.

I don't mean that FHOTD should stop publicly humiliating people for keeping horses in junkyards, or breaking out yearlings, or (ESPECIALLY) running your old horses through an auction because you can't afford to feed them and can't bear to put them to sleep.

But what you see in the background of the Cow Thing is not officially approved horse-safe fencing. Except - it is reasonably safe. Yeah, it's crappy wire that could slice my beloved horses' tendons. But it's a HUGE FRIGGIN PASTURE, with a herd of adult horses who know each other. The smaller the pasture, the safer the fences need to be.

And besides, I'm pretty sure a horse bent on self-destruction (or maxing out his owner's credit cards) could hurt himself in a padded stall. You can't prevent all possible bad outcomes. Everybody has to do his or her own cost/benefit analysis on life, all the time.

This is rather jumbled up in my head, and I don't think it's coming out right. What I mean is that you, each individual person, has to find a balance between infinite safety and pointless cruelty.


  1. It might be a rabbit hole. We see lots of rabbit holes looking like that, in fact there are places where one has to take care riding because of them.

    A good native type of horse probably could live in that field for years and not come to harm. A highly strung horse might fare less well. I like horses with common sense, it's handy in the field and on the trail. However, Sod's Law being what it is, one day a sensible horse will get caught out. A line of electric fence tape might just be a useful precaution.

    I haven't forgiven FHOTD and her baying pack for their vile - and completely misplaced - attack on Mikey. There are better ways to clean up the equestrian industry than engage in ignorant, carelessly directed ad hominem attacks. Looking at the facts might be a good start. What does FHOTD want - a socialist nanny state that tells us all what to do?

  2. Thanks for the rabbit hole guess!

    She's deliberately being provocative. People like you and me are not the people she hopes to change - we at least think about the risks we take, and we think about the welfare of our horses.

    Hoarders and BYBs exist, and "normal" people buy and sell from them all the time because there's no stigma against it. I'm sure that there are plenty of horse people in America who think that because that slaughterhouse in Illinois closed, there IS no more slaughter and it's perfectly FINE to take your old horses to the auction! People like that are who she's trying to educate.

    And I suspect she writes provocatively because it gets more attention than writing well-reasoned discourses on the pros and cons of board fencing vs. wire, or the possible reasons someone put up a picture of a yearling with a 50 lb kid on its back.

    I suppose I could write opinion pieces like that if I had a similar persona... but IRL, I overthink both sides of an issue. And here on my blog I tend to do the same.

    (In general, the things I put online are only things that I wouldn't mind having attached to my name 20 years from now. No mocking of people I know, no drunken pictures, no pictures of my dirty clothes pile...)

  3. I have seen cow oilers in the old fields around here, and wondered what they are -- thanks for the explanation!

    And I agree about Fugly fencing. We have page wire with a wooden top rail and a strand of barbed wired above that. I know it's not ideal, but it's what we could afford to the replace the 5-strand barb that was on the property when we bought it. Tonka has cut his nose on the barbs once, and Raven never gets near the fence. It works for us!

  4. Well, my fence is far from perfect. And it's the best I can afford. Our Andalusian did have a run in with it several years ago, which was not pretty. But due to her high level of sensibility, she managed to not do to herself what a lot of horses I've seen over the years would have done. Of course, my Percheron has made a long-term career of destroying my fence. We feel like we follow him around fixing it back up. He likes to push at it with his big hooves, just because. Just because it's there and he can. But he's never gotten hurt in it. He just hurts the fence.


  5. I'm just posting a comparative photo of an English rabbit hole.

    I still think that, if you agree with 80% of what she says, that's still blog carpet bombing. 20% collateral damage is a lot. Why not concentrate 100% on the real slaughterers, neglecters, and abusers, not just pick on easy targets. The fact that Mikey (who did nothing wrong) received hate mail and threatening phone calls says a lot about her pack of hounds. The word fascist comes to mind. In Europe, she would be shut down.

    We just saw some pretty ropey fencing whilst out walking. Seems to keep the sheep and cows in.

  6. dp - I have an inquiry in to another blogger about how those cow oilers really work. If I get a response, I'll share it. I don't know what motivation a cow would have for going near that thing!

    i gallop on - Yep, Percherons are mighty destroyers of fences. Poppy has taken out two fences with nary a scratch. I'm very glad he's mostly content to stay with his friends and he doesn't go out of his way to challenge them!

    WHP - Oh no, I can't see your picture of Watership Down. (I loved that book, and when you talk about the chalk downs I always think about Hazel.) Maybe you could link to it?

    I do wish FHOTD did NOT "out the asshats" or make them otherwise identifiable. Sometimes I'll click over to the original site and snicker at the bad grammar, but I never actually harass the site owners. I think it's morally irresponsible to gather up a huge following and then sic them on the "bad" sites.

    I know if I were selling a horse and I advertised it as, oh, "ready to run barrels" at 2 yo, I would get incredibly defensive if a horde of anonymous goons started hate mailing me. I might, however, actually reconsider my training practice if I had informed buyers come to look at my horse and then say "Wait, it's had how many days on it already? I'm not going to buy that horse because I have serious doubts about its future soundness."

    It's that whole trite "educate not alienate" thing. In my life, I've done a lot of stupid and reprehensible things IN IGNORANCE. I feel guilty now about them, and I don't do them anymore, but that's because I was educated, not cussed by strangers. :)

  7. I never do anything stupid. ;)

    wow, that cattle oiler is really interesting. I'll have to keep my eyes out. There are lots of interesting fencing materials around here, too. :)


  8. Nice post. I have to agree with you on the FHOTD business. It is pretty arrogant to snatch a picture and make a blanket statement without knowing the truth or story behind it. And anyone who owns horses that can claim they've never ever had an injury are lying. It happens.


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