Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Get Off the Poop!

My latest training efforts involve getting the horses to stay off the poop.  Imagine waking up as early as 4:30 AM to beat the sunrise in order to feed the horses before it gets unbearably hot.  The horses see you coming and all walk into their appointed stalls to wait for you to bring them their hay.  As you close each stall gate, you note all these nice, neat piles of manure and think, "If I grab a fork and wheelbarrow right now, I could probably scoop those up and be done with it in five minutes."

However, the second you start to walk out of the barn to gather your supplies, the horses begin pacing and circling their stalls, kicking those nice, neat piles of manure around, and stomping them to bits.  In the blink of an eye, your five minute manure clean up job just turned into a half hour clean up job, because now you have to rake all those tiny crushed pieces that are scattered all over the stall floor into piles again and scoop them up the best you can while all the shredded pieces precipitate through the tongs of your fork back onto the stall floor, where they sit and attract flies.  You now also have to pick out all the horses' feet since every crevice within their hooves is packed with bacteria-ridden manure.

But the sun is rising and you will soon be sweating from head to toe.  Your heart can't handle the exertion of shoveling manure once the temperatures get above 100 degrees, so you are in a race against time to get all this work done.  Somehow this has to be easier.  Yes, you can close the horses out of the stalls during the night so that they won't poop in them, but then they won't have access to their food and water.  What do you do?

Some days I try to sneak up on the horses and before they see me coming, run into the barn and shut them out of the stalls so I can clean before they enter them.  My other approach has been to teach the horses to walk around poop instead of on top of it.  How do I do that?  First off, I do it one horse at a time.  So far, I have succeeded in training Lostine to stay off the poop.  If she forgets herself and starts to slip up, I point my finger at the poop and say, "Eh eh eh!"

The tough one to train is Rock, because all the horses use his stall as the main outhouse.  Some days I'm lucky if there is a space within his stall that a horse can stand in without standing in poop.  It's worse now that I got the slow feeder hay bags.  The two horses that need to gain weight are now eating all day and pooping five times as much, but I can still see their ribs.  At best, they are getting rounder bellies, but no meat over the ribs.  Gotta love those fast metabolisms.

Still, I try to keep Rock from creating a bigger mess.  Each time he approaches a pile of poop, I jump toward him to push him back with my energy while pumping the palms of my hands in the air.  Rock steps backward, I point at the nice, neat manure pile and say, "Get off the poop!"

It takes time and patience, and unfortunately, I probably spend just as much time training the horses to get off the poop as I do actually cleaning up the crushed and spread out mess, but I know it will pay off in the long run.  Hopefully, by July, the horses should be respecting the space of the poop, and my time.

I've been trying to convince myself to go riding in the early mornings despite the heat, but so far I have been glad that I didn't.  Remember those big spray-painted red X's by the telephone poles out in the desert where I ride my horses?  Well, the past few mornings, a low flying helicopter has been buzzing up and down those telephone lines in front of my house.  It's extremely loud and I can feel the wind from the rotors.  There are men hanging out the side of it taking pictures and filming.  I don't know what's going on, but I hope they wrap up this project soon.  I'd like to restore the peace and quiet in that space.


BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

When horses get a hay belly, but are not gaining weight, they usually need more of a concentrated fat and possibly more protein added to their diet. There are quite a few high fat concentrated feeds on the market now that don't require a horse to be fed a large portion of grain but provide the extra fat/protein and nutrients they need to gain properly.

Products like Amplify, Renew Gold or HealthyGlo nuggets can provide what a horse needs to gain without a lot of extra starch and sugars and only require about 1 pound a day (max) to be fed to achieve the desired result.

In all actuality it's a much healthier way to go than simply providing more hay, particularly when you are seeing a hay belly develop and a noticeable increase in poop, but no overall body weigh gain. Those indicators tell me that your horses are eating an extra-ordinary amount of hay to try to achieve a sense of satisfaction and the extra bulk in their hind-gut can lead to problems; colic, colonic acidosis, etc.

Crystal said...

Haha I was just talking with a friend today about how nice it would be if I could train my horse to pee right before I caught her to ride. But it would also be nice to keep them out of the poop.

achieve1dream said...

I wish I could teach mine not to poop in the barn at all! They have five acres and will walk all the way inside the barn to poop.... Grr!

Yeah I was going to say the same thing about the ribs. If they are getting hat bellies but are still ribby it's a lack of protein. Especially if their top line is sticking out. It could be fat too, but I was always told protein. I really liked the amplify and the empower boost that I used last winter. I switched to the empower because I didn't have to go as far to get it. Both worked great though. My ration balancer provides the protein but the fat supplements provide some too.