Thursday, October 8, 2015

Pondering Waste Management

This morning I intended to get up at the crack of dawn to feed the horses, so that they would finish their meal sooner and I could ride, but each time I opened my eyes, it was dark outside.  Our floodlight is still broken, and it's hard to feed and clean up manure by flashlight.  My husband's alarm went off, and it was still dark outside.  Then Midge woke me up and the sun was blazing.  I missed my window of time.

I took the dogs out and Midge kept pooping and pooping and pooping.  Her diabetic diet has a lot of roughage.  One point of consternation I have with her is that she has to walk while she's pooping, so instead of making one neat pile for me to clean up in one fell swoop, she drops turds in a string all over the yard.  It takes at least ten times longer to clean that up.  That's a big time waster for me.

To add to my challenges, during the night and this morning the dogs all managed to poop along the perimeter of the dog yard.  The only way I could get to the middle of the yard without stepping in poop was to take the walkway.  However, Midge managed to poop on the walkway too, so I had to step out of my normal morning routine and postpone other activities in order to clear that blockage of dog poop out of our way so that the next time someone had to go, we didn't have to step in it or go out on the rocks where it's super difficult to pick up poop with a scooper.

We have a few people who run businesses picking up dog poop, and I was considering hiring one.  My only hesitation is that having strangers coming around every day will probably cause other problems like getting my dogs barking.  Then I'll waste just as much time trying in vain to train the dogs not to bark, and I may as well just spend that time cleaning it up myself rather than wasting more money and time.

The reason why I don't create a space for the dogs to poop in the house or garage is because of the stench.  The garage is attached to our kitchen, and when I simply bring the covered trash can into the garage that holds the dog poop during storms so that it doesn't blow over and spill, the stench fills the garage and comes right into our kitchen.  It takes days for the smell to dissipate after I move the can back outside once the storm has passed.  The garage is my husband's space.  He has to spend a lot of time in there using the workshop to fix things that are broken around our place.  I cover the poop in the can with sand, and it really doesn't help to cover up the smell.  Besides being allergic to cats, I won't own cats because I can't stand the smell of litter boxes.

After dealing with the dogs, I went down to feed the horses.  I had been locking everyone in their stalls before feeding them so that fights didn't break out.  However, the horses are impatient and pace circles in their stalls while waiting for me to finish locking up and getting the hay divided up.  By pacing, they kick the manure in their stalls all over the place and mash it into the ground, making it ten times harder for me to clean up than just scooping up the nice, neat piles. Raking together and picking up spread and mashed manure is another huge time waster for me.

I've tried running into the barn and closing all the gates to keep the horses out while I sneak in to one stall at a time to clean up the piles, but the horses just learned that the second they hear me coming outside before a meal time, they should run into their stalls and wait to be fed.  I then have to herd them out of their stalls to lock them out so I can clean, and by then it's too late anyway because they've already kicked the poop around and mashed it into the ground.  I can't lock them out of their stalls all night because I have to keep their water troughs in there.  Keeping troughs in the sun causes too much algae build up and then I have to scrub the troughs every day, which is another time waster.  Plus the ravens drop their kill into the water troughs if I keep them outside of the stalls, which puts the horses at risk of getting botulism.

So, the technique I'm using now is just to start throwing hay into the feed barrels as fast as possible to stop them from pacing.  If they hold still while eating, less manure gets spread and mashed.  Then I only have to deal with whatever they destroyed when walking into their stalls, but I don't have to deal with those crop circles they create out of their own manure when pacing.

It's working for the time being, but behavior problems go in cycles and Gabbrielle usually figures out that if she goes into Bombay's stall instead of her own, she gets her hay sooner.  However, I won't let her do that, so I have to take more time to herd her out of his stall into hers and him into his and lock them up to prevent other problems, and by then Rock and Lostine have made crop circles.  I won't let Gabbrielle have Bombay's stall, because of a problem with one of the gates not being able to stay open and the order of how I have to open the gates in order to secure the one that wants to swing closed.  It's important that I let Gabbrielle out last so that she doesn't attack other horses over dregs of hay.

The reason why Bombay gets fed sooner than Gabbrielle, thus making her want to run into his stall, is that I have to pull flakes from the ends of the hay bale, and the ends fall down and loosen up during the day and night due to wind and rabbits tearing at them.  So, when I pick up the end flakes first, they are so loose that they start falling apart as I carry them to barn.  In order to prevent more work for me by having to pick up all the chunks of hay that fell out of my arms, I have to dump the loose flakes in the closest feed barrels.  Those are in Lostine and Bombay's stalls.

I could use a wheelbarrow or carrying cloth to deliver the hay, but I've found that those are even more time consuming.  Fussing with the carrying cloth to get it laid out and wrapped around each flake, especially in the wind, is a pain, and pushing the wheelbarrow over rocks and having to keep moving it out of my way to that I don't keep getting stabbed by the handles is a pain.  Usually, the wagon is full of manure, so I can't use that to deliver hay, and even the wagon has its own challenges with the handle coming loose and smashing my foot and the locking mechanism getting jammed and preventing me from dumping it.  Suffice it to say that carrying one or two flakes of hay at a time in my arms is the fastest, most pain-free method of feeding.

Then when the horses are done eating, I have to clean up manure again, because Gabbrielle is in the habit of lining the opening to her stall with manure to keep the other horses out.  The other horses picked up on that behavior and have started doing it too.  Lostine will actually poop right in the hay that fell on the ground underneath her food barrel just to prevent others from eating it, even though that action prevents her from eating it too.  Then the other horses go into her stall and mash it down while they sniff around in her feed barrel to see if there's anything she missed.  They also kick right through the wall of manure each horse has dropped at the gate openings.

So, that means that before I can let any horse out of its stall, I have to clean the stalls.  Then I have to clean a third time before dinner when the pacing begins.  I probably spend about 45 minutes per cleaning, which is a grand total of one and half hours throughout the day.  Some days, like in the heat of summer, I just throw my hands in the air and say I don't care.  I let them mash manure into the ground all day and night until I have the energy to clean whatever is left.  The downside of that is the horses get thrush and hoof abscesses from walking on manure instead of sand.

It just seems like I'm always having to choose between the lesser of two evils when it comes to horse management.  I think owning a lot of horses is best for people who have natural water sources so that they don't have to keep cleaning and filling water troughs, people who have pastures so that they don't have to keep delivering hay two to three times a day, and people who have lots of space in their pastures so that the manure just serves as fertilizer for the grass and doesn't have to be cleaned up by a human with a fork.

I used to tell people that I like to have more than one horse so that if one goes lame, I can always ride another.  However, the reality has been that if one goes lame, I spend the majority of my free time doctoring the lame horse, and I don't get to ride anyway.  Also, just the day to day chores needed to care for more than one horse prevents me from riding.  I think I'll ride more once I get a couple of horses sold.

In the meantime, getting a chance to ride today isn't looking good due to me waking up later than I planned, having to catch up on laundry, having the vet appointment, and a variety of other must-dos that cropped up last night.  I recently saw that a neighbor put out an ad to sell her horse, saying she didn't have time for it anymore between work and school.  Then I saw her out riding on the bridle trails yesterday morning.  Then my husband came home from work at night and said that he saw her on her horse getting ready to cross the road in the dark.  So, despite her job and schoolwork, she was able to ride twice within a 24 hour period on a weekday.  I wish I knew her secret.


A couple of things just happened to shed light on why the poop situation aggravates me so much.  I was trying to wash some pans that had been soaking overnight, and the dogs kept hassling me to take them outside.  This was at least the fifth time I attempted to wash those pots and pans, and my temper was getting short.  If I left them in the sink much longer, they'd rust.

Since I had just taken the dogs outside a few minutes before, I decided it was time to leave them outside in the outdoor kennel since someone obviously had the shits.  Of course, as soon as I left them in the kennel, Midge just barked non-stop.  I ignored her and washed the pots and pans, thinking that at least my barking dog wasn't bothering anyone but me since none of my neighbors were home today.

Wrong.  I went outside to bring in the trash can from the street, and saw that my next door neighbor had come home, so I had to bring the dogs in.  I didn't want to have to deal with being asked to take them outside every five minutes, so I went down to the barn to escape the dog drama.

My intention was to lunge Gabbrielle in the round pen while the other horses finished eating.  She's a pig and usually finishes her meals an hour or two before the other horses.  However, there was so much manure in the alleyway of the barn and blocking Gabbrielle's gate, that I couldn't get her to the round pen without her kicking and mashing up the manure.  I know it sounds like I never clean with the massive manure build up I have to deal with, but I clean up manure three times a day now that it has cooled down outside.  These horses just can't stop pooping for two minutes.

So, I shoveled a pathway to get Gabbrielle out of her stall to the round pen, and she was crapping and peeing in her stall up against the gate every time I cleaned that area.  I couldn't get her out of her stall fast enough before all that manure came right back.  I said, "F it!" and let her walk in the manure just to get her out of my way.  As soon as I released her in the round pen, she started crapping and pissing there.  How much can these horses' intestines and bladders hold?

So, I went back to the barn to clean all the other stalls, and some horse would always go to the spot I just cleaned and poop or pee there.  I was literally going in circles cleaning the same areas repeatedly.  I spent 45 minutes just cleaning four stalls in the barn.  I didn't even get to clean the manure out of the dry lot.  I could feel my energy waning, and I knew that if I didn't put down that manure fork I wouldn't have enough energy to lunge Gabbrielle.

So, I gave up on cleaning the barn and lunged Gabbrielle, but she kept stopping to poop!!!  I got so mad that I cracked the whip really hard to keep her going.  She uses pooping as an excuse to get out of work.  Whenever someone is riding her, she has to make a grand performance out of stopping the entire string of horses so that she can grunt loudly and relieve herself in front of everyone.  It's like she's an exhibitionist.  And she literally can poop on demand whenever she feels the need to get out of work or mark her territory.

That horse had to have pooped in front of me six times within a ten minute period.  I was so exasperated that I was cursing at her for being manipulative, and I looked up to see a neighbor on the cliff observing me.  I'm sure he could hear everything I was saying.  This is one of those things where someone would just have to walk a mile in my boots to understand why I'm such a nutcase.  I'm sure other people think I'm being unreasonable for not letting my horse poop while she's in school, but she truly does use the act of defecating as a manipulative behavior.  If teachers can have rules saying that children must use the restroom at recess and not during learning time, then it's not unreasonable for me to make the same demands on my horses.  They should be able to either hold it or keep working while they are pooping.

And then as far as the dogs go, I'm truly astounded by the sheer number of times they have to relieve themselves throughout the day and night, especially around meal times.  I mean, if you set how much kibble Midge eats in a day on a table, and then you set how much food a human eats in a day on a table, and then you pile up all the poop that the dog produces in a 24 hour period next to the dog food, and do the same with the people poop next to the people food, the dog poop would not only surpass the kibble pile in size, but it would surpass the size of both the human food and the human poop.  In fact, most people don't even poop every day, so there might actually be no poop for the human.  I just don't get it.  Don't the dogs' bodies absorb any of what they eat?  They definitely create more waste than they have fuel going in.  Same thing with the horses.  People are different, though.  We eat one thing and it goes straight to our belly, butt and thighs.


achieve1dream said...

Storm used to do the walking pooping thing too!! It was so annoying!!!!

I hadn't thought about the smell in the garage. I've always wondered how people can stand paper training dogs because of the smell. I also won't have an inside cat because I can't stand litter boxes. That smell is so nasty!!

Ground up poop piles in the stalls are very annoying!!

I know I keep saying this, but I really think your horses would be happier if they had hay all day.... I know it causes more poop, but it's how their digestive systems were designed to work. Having empty bellies creates so many problems like stress, ulcers, anxiety, aggression. Didn't you try the hay nets? Were they detroying them? I can't remember. Another option is this The only problem is you would need one in each stall since they won't share.... that would get extremely expensive (and time consuming if you decided to make them yourself). Sadly nothing is an easy answer, but that's life huh? :\ One bonus with these boxes is you would only have to put out hay once a day (some take a whole square bale!!) and they could eat all day instead of having to feed three times a day... That would save time in the long run I guess.

My best friend used to say that about having more than one horse in case one goes lame, but she had to sell a bunch of horses for financial reasons and she's realized it's SO much better! She has more time to ride and she has a better bond with the couple of horses she has now because her time isn't split between all of them. Oh and she's one of the lucky ones with a pond and pasture so she doesn't spend nearly as much time on horse care as you do. She still noticed a huge difference having less horses though. As hard as it is to sell them, hopefully that is encouraging.

The girl selling her horse because she doesn't have time... I bet she's selling it for a different reason and is just saying that... maybe I'm being pessimistic though?

That sounds so frustrating on the poop situation!!! I don't understand why they poop that much!! I can be out with my horse for hours and only see him poop once if at all.... maybe mine poop at night?? I'm lucky that Chrome and Zep pile theirs up though... makes for easier clean up. Rocky poops wherever he's standing... annoying!

The reason dogs poop so much is because dog food is full of so much filler!!!! The more protein (meat protein) in dog food the less they are going to poop. When I was feeding Storm and Jackal the raw diet they pooped once a day and it was tiny and it decomposed rapidly (turned white and chalky and just disappeared because of the bones). It's amazing the difference when they are on dog food. You might want to check into a different kind of dog food with a higher protein (just remember to switch to a new higher protein food very slowly or they will have diarrhea!!). A great website I use is I love it!! I was able to find two five star dog foods available in my tiny hick town. :)

I hope my suggestions don't bother you. I try not to have that "Mr. Fix It" attitude with people because I know it can be really irritating (especially since they've usually already tried everything), but I so want you to be able to enjoy your animals!! :( I keep hoping I'll suggest something you haven't tried yet.... but you've tried practically everything so that's probably a vain hope. Anyway I hope I'm not bothering you.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

achieve1dream - You are not bothering me. I know you read all of my posts before coming up with ideas, and a lot of your ideas have worked for me in the past. Sometimes I get snippy when someone who doesn't read my blog regularly blurts out some obvious solution in a know-it-all tone, but you don't come across that way at all. I'll check out that website. There's a bit of a racket going on in the dog food world where I live. It appears that the prescription dog food companies cut deals with vets, so every vet we take our dogs to has to prescribe either Hills or Royal Canin, depending on which company is giving the vet incentives. I've been thinking about going rogue and finding something on my own that would be appropriate for Midge's diabetes and Scrappy's bladder stones.

There were several reasons why I stopped offering free choice hay to the horses. One is that Gabbrielle is insulin resistant, so she gets fat really easily. As a result, I have to monitor her intake. Another reason is that hay around here is $15 a bale, and the free choice hay was going right through them. There was a tremendous amount of manure to clean up, but the senior horses were still ribby, not putting on any weight. So, I talked it over with my vet, and she said I was better off separating them, feeding them twice a day, and supplementing the hay with pellets and grain. They all look great since I started that routine. It's just a pain, because I have to lock them up while they eat, let them out when they are done, and I have to make sure that every morsel is eaten before cutting them loose or they will get into fights.

Also, you would think that free choice hay would prevent fights, but Gabbrielle is such a pig that she will run from hay net to hay net chasing the other horses off so that she can have it all for herself. I still do occasionally use the hay nets, but not when it is windy and not when Gabbrielle is loose. Having one of those boxes in each stall would be nice.

achieve1dream said...

Oh good! I don't want to be annoying hehe.

I didn't know Gabrielle is insulin resistant!! Or if I did I completely forgot... That does complicate things. Maybe when you find her a good home it will make things easier with the feeding. I also forget how expensive hay is there. I don't think I would be able to afford that either. We pay $35 for a round roll here and one roll lasts at least two weeks sometimes longer. I never realized how lucky I am to have a source of really good quality fertilized barn kept pure Bermuda round rolls! Of course they are easy too far though.... If they were insulin resistant that could cause a problem.... Hmm..........

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Yeah, I've got a lot of special needs "children". If the hay were nutritious and actually made the horses healthier, I wouldn't mind feeding free choice at that high price, but it's like junk food.