Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Done Signal

When I was a child, my mother used to get annoyed with my father for signaling that he was done eating his meal by shoving his plate aside.  Usually, the rest of us were still eating, and my mother felt pressured to interrupt her own meal to get up, remove his plate, rinse it in the sink and put it in the dishwasher.

That behavior never really bothered me, probably because I was a kid and didn't have the job of washing the dishes.  I still think it's better than what I experience now, which is waiters and waitresses interrupting me every other minute to ask if I'm done eating and trying to snatch my half-full plate right out from underneath me.  Apparently, I'm a slow eater who passes some unspoken time limit in restaurants.

Anyway, I've noticed that my horses have the habit of shoving their plates aside when they are done eating too.  Their plates are these low, long sheep feeders that just barely fit underneath the lowest railing of the barn.  So, in the mornings before sunrise I walk outside all stiff and sore, still half asleep, and already sweating, anxious to get back inside into the air conditioning, only to find all the food troughs shoved under the railing on the outside of the barn.  It takes an extra few minutes to unlock the gate, go inside each stall and pull each feeder back into the barn.  Usually, I break a fingernail or two through my gloves and pull a muscle in the process.

You see, I used to prevent the horses from shoving feeders around by loading them up with rocks, however the rocks here in Arizona seem to be a lot louder when they clack together than the rocks in Nevada were.  I was embarrassed that my horses were keeping everyone in the neighborhood up at night with all their rock banging, so I had to remove the rocks and use one cinder block to weigh down each feeder.  Obviously, the cinder blocks weigh enough to keep the feeders from blowing away in a storm, but not enough to prevent the horses from pushing them around.

I'm not really interested in spending more money on different types of feeders, so I'm trying a little behavior modification on the horses.  I dump the hay into the feeders from the outside of the barn and just push a little bit of the feeder from the outside to the inside of the barn.  It then becomes the horses' job to pull the feeder back under the railing if they want to eat, and they do.  Unfortunately, they still shove it back under the fence when they are done.  It kind of reminds me of those slots that prisoners and guards pass trays of food through in isolation cells.

I've thought about chaining the feeders to the bottom railing, but that means having screws sticking out where they put their faces.  Not good since the flies make the horses seek out protruding objects to rub their eyes on.  All of the horses have rubbed off much of their manes, tails, and skin on their faces this summer -- something that never happened in Nevada.  We only had one type of biting fly in Nevada, and the fly population in general wasn't too bad.

I've thought about attaching plywood to the bottom railing with metal brackets, but then the horses would just chew the wood.  I've thought about a lot of solutions, all of which create new problems. So, I guess I'll just keep feeding them on the outside of the barn.  It's weird, but it works in a somewhat stupid way.  And for the first time in my life, I'm learning why shoving one's plate aside can be such an annoying behavior.  (I guess I had better say "LOL" here since it never seems to be clear that I'm using humor in my writing.)


Mikey said...

I bet that's LOUD. My suggestion is to look at the feed store or ask around for those blue or white plastic 55 gal barrels. Some feed stores carry them cut in half for you already. I feed out of those. Mine are simply the half barrel with a hole in the bottom, or you can drill some, and tie them with twine to the fence. Since my horses are always doing bad things, I make sure it's tied up tight, so no one can get a foot in the twine. It eventually breaks, and I retie them (when I get around to it).
But these plastic half barrels are durable, easy to clean, and have lasted for me. You can also buy them direct from Morton Salt plant here in Phx, last I heard. Might be worth looking into.
I have to get down there and see you soon! I haven't forgotten!!

aurora said...

Interesting, guess I've never noticed the done signal (other then little kids). Our horses just walk away from their grain pans, and the hay bunk is too big to move around. Different setting tho. I would think there is something that would work to block the opening/secure the pans, but most everything requires spending money.

Cut-N-Jump said...

Why worry about it? They are shoving them out of the stall, out of their way. If the feed pan is out of the stall- the horses 1) have a little more room to move around and 2) can't step in them, kick them around and bang up the feeder or themselves. Win-win.

If the feed pans are outside the fence, the horses can't be pushy with you about getting their hay at feeding time. They can't invade your space. Again- its a Win. I wouldn't worry so much about it. They are actually helping you if anything.

Camryn said...

My mare's done signal is picking up her feed pan and handing it to me if I'm nearby when she's finished. I'm guessing she's saying "more please"! A friends gelding says he's done by taking a dump in it! I like my mare's signal much better :) Oh, and the LOL was a nice touch!

fernvalley01 said...

I like the idea of putting it only part way under, less stress and strain on you and if they are going to just push it away when they are done. Are the feeders plastic? maybe Mikey's idea would work on them?

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

We keep twine as far away from the horses as possible, because a friend had to have her horse's gut cut open to remove a blockage of twine. My horses eat it too, and I have had to reach down their throats and pull it out.

I know about the blue barrels. They used them at the boarding facility and I park in front of them every time I go to the feed store. My horses cut their faces up on the sharp edges of the cutouts while trying wipe flies off their faces.

What I've got happening now is the lesser of the evils. Feeding them from the outside of the barn works... unless you get three inches of rain and the feeders fill up with water like they did last night. Then the added work comes from having to empty all of them.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

I'm giggling at the image of you dressed like the prison warden, with your horses dressed in bright prison orange as they shove their plates through the prison door slots. lol!

Apache likes to flip her bowl upside down after she's finished licking out the grain and supplements. :)


achieve1dream said...

I drill holes in the bottoms of all of my feeders to let the water drain out. I was using plastic bins that are about the size of those 55 gallon drums when cut in half, but the horses always managed to crack the bottoms from kicking them or throwing them around, so I'm seriously considering those big black rubber bins. Dunno. I hope it works lol. :D