Thursday, July 23, 2015

Rationing Energy

When activity on the trails is at its busiest, I often find myself looking forward to summer when humans go into hibernation in the desert.  I have this image of having the desert to myself and being able to ride my horses to my heart's content without unwanted surprises caused by the actions of other humans.  Then summer comes and I find that there is a time limit to being outdoors, which gets shorter as the heat and humidity rise.  After just a few minutes in the sun, I find that I can feel my heart flub-flubbing out of my chest, I have sweat pouring out of every pore, sweat gets into my eyes and renders me blind, and just simply being able to move or take one more step is daunting.

It doesn't seem possible to instantly lose weight, but after spending a little time out in the heat, I find that my pants start falling down, and the energy it takes just to keep hiking them up is energy better spent elsewhere.  I could always go into the house to get a belt or change into a fresh pair of jeans, but again, that's energy better spent elsewhere.  Summer in the desert is all about prioritizing and rationing energy.  It's like having only a sliver of gas left in your tank during a gasoline crisis.

If you have to do something outdoors, you either have to do it all around sunrise and sunset when it's cooler, or you have to alternate between going outside to do activities for just a few minutes and going back indoors to get your body temperature back to normal with the help of air conditioning and ice water.  Every once in a while we get a strong breeze or a few refreshing gusts of wind that energize me and make me think I can actually ride a horse, but then by the time I've haltered a horse, the wind stops and I know I won't have the energy to saddle, ride, and unsaddle the horse without the help of some wind.  So, I usually just take the horse for a walk in hand and see how far we get before I start feeling ill.

I've learned to be careful and not wait until I can't take another step before turning around.  If I turn around as soon as I start feeling my energy getting depleted, I usually have enough gas in the tank to get home, but not enough to neatly hang up the halter in the trailer.  I often just toss it somewhere on the ground and stagger back into the house.

I'm  not complaining or asking for advice, but simply recording what summer is like in the desert so that I will remember to ride when I can in the other three seasons.  I've had a lot added to my plate of responsibilities these past few days and have found myself having to break up the tasks into multiple trips.  I've fallen into the job of property manager for my neighbor's place, because things keep getting knocked down and breaking in the wind, and my neighbor needs to keep the place presentable while it is on the market -- something she is incapable of doing herself from the other side of the country.  We discovered that mice and rats have taken over her tack room and kennel, so I laid down some bait.

Her wooden gates started rotting and falling apart, so I had to go pull an existing screw, take it to the hardware store, and buy something fatter and longer since all the holes were stripped.  I waited until sunset to start pulling and replacing screws to reassemble the gates, and tired out pretty fast.  I knew I needed to go back home to rest, but wanted to check on the poison before leaving.  Just after two days, all the poison pellets were gone, and the entire floor was covered in rodent droppings.  I sighed in exasperation, because I knew I had get more poison and sweep up all that poop, but just didn't have it in me.  That's a task for another evening.

After just spending a few minutes in air conditioning, I had to head right back out to feed my horses their dinner before it got dark.  I didn't have enough time to feed them hay, feed them grain, clean up manure, and soak Rock's hoof before it was pitch black, so I chose to feed them hay and clean up half the manure.  Soaking Rock's hoof meant coming out after dark with a flashlight to remove the boot, and I am notorious for falling asleep before doing such things.  I felt it would do more damage to leave his hoof soaking in Epsom Salts overnight than it would to go without one treatment.

By morning I had a lot more manure to clean up, and once again, didn't have the energy to do it all.  To top it all off, several water troughs were almost empty.  I compromised by only cleaning up half the manure, feeding the horses both hay and grain this time, soaking Rock's hoof, and leaving the gates open for the horses who didn't have enough water in their troughs.  I pushed myself to get all that done, and of course, Rock decided not to cooperate by refusing to pick up his hoof.  He kind of looks like he's limping on both front hooves now, which would explain his resistance.  I tried a variety of training techniques, but eventually ended up using all my strength to pull his leg up myself.  I soaked one hoof for a while, and then repeated the process to soak the other hoof for good measure.  Of course, that took two trips.

I'll have to spend the rest of the day making short trips outside to clean and fill water troughs, clean up the rest of the manure, lay out another batch of rat poison, sweep up all the rodent turds, and finish repairing the gates.  We have a construction crew coming in a few weeks to build our new tack room.  They swear they can build it in a day, but I don't know how without them being able to take constant breaks to get into air conditioned shade and drink ice water.  I'll probably open up the house for them so that they don't die.

I don't like hiring people to do outdoor work in the summer, but it's impossible to get help in the winter, because the population explodes and all the businesses are too busy helping snowbirds to respond to my calls.  Whenever I do have to hire people to work here in the summer, I find myself serving as a waitress, making a lot of trips between the kitchen and outside to bring them ice water.  Most people bring their own water, but it gets hot quickly and people really need the ice to cool down their body temperatures.

Oh yeah, and despite us keeping the outdoor lights turned off at night, a poisonous toad still managed to get into our garage in the few minutes we opened it to take the dogs outside.  I put on my gloves and caught it.  I've learned to carry toads way out in front of me, because the first thing they do besides secreting their poison is pee all over me.  This toad did something new-to-me, though.  It began screaming in a really loud, deep voice.  It was scary.  I could see how a predator would let it go after hearing that noise.  I set it down on the driveway sooner than I wanted, and chased it the rest of the way, because I didn't want to know what other tricks it had up its sleeve.

Also, we've got a couple of owls that come out at night.  One of them let me get up close to it, and it was so cute the way it would lean forward and stick its tail feathers up in the air each time it called out to the other owl.  It had to "hoo" with its entire body.


Brenda said...

You know, Nuzz, I've lived in Arizona since 1974 and the heat still gets to me. All you can do when you have to work outside in the heat of the day is drink lots of water and take lots of breaks, as you've already discovered. "They" say try to limit your time outside to early morning and late evening, but that's not always possible, especially when you have horses or other outside animals to take care of. I hope, at least, your neighbor isproviding you with some kind of compensation for doing all that work on her property.

It concerns me that Rock seems to be "ouchy" in his other front leg now, too. Hopefully he's just being a brat and not wanting the soaking boot on.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Brenda - Yes, my neighbor is paying me for expenses and labor. I figure it's better for me to do the small repairs and maintenance myself than it is to have a bunch of trucks and strangers blocking the gate to the bridle trails while they work on the property.

Yeah, I was worried about laminitis, but I've been very careful about what and how much I feed them. This is the hoof abscess time of year, so I figured he just got hit with an abscess in each hoof. He's getting around okay, though.

Cheryl Ann said...

Nuzz, I HEAR YOU about the heat! I run my errands as early in the morning as I can or wait until 6 pm! I take a nap mid-day, since it is too dang hot to go outside! Fortunately the ranch where the horses are gets a nice, cool afternoon breeze (if I get up there in the afternoon)...
~Cheryl Ann~

Cut-N-Jump said...

One small tip that helps and believe me I get a lot of comments about it myself.... Get yourself a pile of bandana's. Wet it down and put it over your head or even just tied around your neck. Sure your shirt might get a little wet, but the water will eventually evaporate. When it does, wet it down again, lather, rinse, repeat. You'd be surprised what it can do for you. Add in a breeze and it's like having a personal evaporative cooler. Believe me, heat stroke and heat exhaustion are nothing to mess around with. Been there a few times myself. It sucks.

I started doing this at the driving events and wear one tied around my head, 'shading' the lower part of my face and neck. It looks like I'm a bandito of sorts but 1) I'm not cooked by the end of the day, 2) it keeps the dust out as well and 3) wetting it down helps me stay cooler. I used to do it when skiing to keep from getting sunburned from the sun's reflection off the snow. It worked there, why not here??? And guess what? It does.

ellie k said...

When I have taken care if a place for someone I find I am taking better care of it then the owners do when they are home

GunDiva said...

The heat kills me too, and I don't live in the desert. Anything above about 85 and I'm drained. Above 90 and I'm sick as a dog.

I'm looking into getting a HyperKewl vest that I can soak in water and wear. As I understand, it's like wearing your own swamp cooler :) As the water evaporates from the vest, it helps cool your body.

achieve1dream said...

I'll vouch for the wet bandanas. They do work!! I'm glad your being careful with the heat. It's scary how quick it can overcome you.

A screaming toad..... Creepy!

I hope Rock recovered quickly!!