Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hills Like Grey and Brown Elephants

The title is a reference to one of my favorite Hemingway stories, "Hills Like White Elephants".

I've been having problems with the barn flooding during thunderstorms.  If you ever build a barn of your own, I recommend that you have someone build up the ground beforehand.  Most companies just level an area before building, which essentially takes ground and elevation away from the build site, making it a natural reservoir for water.  Then once you have horses in the barn, they naturally dig the hole even deeper.  I have friend who recently relocated her horse to a different boarding facility because she was fed up with him always getting thrush while standing around in mud.  I told her that if I ever sell a horse, she can board her horse at my place in partial exchange for her helping to shovel manure, but now I don't think she would even want to do that because of the condition of my barn during the rainy seasons.

I wanted some sand to build up a dam at the corner of my arena where the water comes in from my neighbor's property and to fill in the areas where rain naturally wants to flow.  I also wanted some decomposed granite to build up the base of the barn.  I called one company and was a bit shocked by what they wanted to charge me for two truckloads.  They were having a hard time fitting me into their schedule, so I called a different company and discovered that they could save me a couple of hundred dollars.  I had more confidence in the receptionist at the second place, because she and I were on the same wavelength and I knew she was listening to me, so I went with them.  I explained that I have horses that I must relocate before they bring in the dump trucks, so she made sure that the truck driver called before driving over.  She had horses herself, so she understood.  The driver gave me 45 minutes advance notice, which allowed me the perfect amount of time to move all four horses out of the barn to the round pen, and get my dogs outside to do their business.

I showed the driver the various hazards around the route that would affect the trajectory of his truck, and showed him where I needed each pile to be dumped.  He was spot on.  It was the smoothest business transaction I've ever experienced.  I gave them a five-star review.  I doubt that 15 tons of sand and 15 tons of decomposed granite will be enough, but it will take a while for me to spread it where I need it.  Then I plan to order another load or two.

The driver was worried about me shoveling all that stuff and told me to be careful and take it easy.  I laughed, and said I would.  He said, "No, seriously, that's a lot of work.  Be careful."

I have no doubt that I will throw out my back and re-injure my arm doing this, so I'm planning on just doing a little bit off work each day.

Below is the view from my porch. You can see the sand pile in the left corner of the arena.  I had already put a dent in spreading it.  The D.G. pile is next to the barn.  I'll have to shovel it into the wagon, pull the wagon into the stalls, dump it, and spread it.  You can see the horses on the far right side in the distance...

One time when I worked with a different trucking company, the trucks showed up before I could move the horses out of the barn, so I just locked them in their stalls.  However, they were so panicked over this huge dump truck dumping sand right next to them that Gabbrielle injured her leg kicking out and hitting the metal railing.  This time there were no injuries.  The horses were far enough away that they were actually interested in the process.

When I first put the horses all together in the round pen, Rock decided to throw his weight around, and Lostine started pecking at Gabbrielle to get her to straighten out Rock.  I had to supervise them to stop any kicking and biting, but within a few minutes they settled down.  Here Bombay and Lostine are playing in the water trough...

Gabbrielle is playing with a ball...

Rock is getting comfy on the soft spot...

In this next picture, you can see that I had been building up a dam with manure around the edges of the barn.  Then I dug trenches so that when I dumped old water out of the water troughs, it would flow outside of the barn instead of making the stall floors muddy.

Leading the horses back to the barn from the round pen after the truck left was tricky.  As soon as I left one horse by itself in any location, it galloped around screaming for its herd mates, which got everybody riled up.  I took Lostine to the barn first, because I knew she would not freak out over the piles of sand.  She did, however, freak out about being left alone.

I caught Gabbrielle to take her to Lostine, but Bombay and Rock wanted to barge through the gate with us, so I had to chase them away with the whip.  But they kept running right back to the gate.  I contemplated calling someone to see if she could come over and help hold the other horses at bay while I led one horse at a time through the gates, but getting help seemed like more of a fiasco than me trying to act like I had three arms.  I managed to get each anxious horse relocated by being creative.

Gabbrielle took off running through the gate when I gave her the nod to go through.  I stopped her, and backed her all the way from the round pen to the hay barn.  The problem was that as soon as we rounded the hay barn, the dirt piles would come into the horse's view, and the horse would most likely jump into me to get away from them.  So, I didn't want to be next to the horse when coming around the hay barn.  What I did was get in front of the horse facing it, and I walked backwards while leading her.  That way the horse could see the mounds in clear view, and I could snake the rope at her if she jumped toward me, but it was unlikely that she would jump toward me, because that would be like jumping toward the mounds.  That tactic worked out well and I made it another day without broken feet.

The boys were the first to inspect the fresh sand.  Here Bombay is rubbing his face on it...

And digging...

Gabbrielle's terrified, but curious look...

She got over her fear pretty quick and tried to climb to the top of one while eyeballing the other in case it tried to sneak up behind her and bite her on the butt, cause we all know that mounds of sand can do that...

Then she came over and clung to me like a toddler hiding behind her mother's apron...

When I wouldn't let her eat my shoe, she wiggled her muzzle back and forth in the sand...

I encouraged her to check out the other pile too.  She was scared of a dark spot behind it, and took off running at first, but then went back when she realized that the shadow wasn't chasing her...

Right now everyone is like kids at the beach for the first time, burying their hooves in the sand and saying, "Ahhhhh, that feels nice."

Now I have to get back to work with my snow shovel.

3 comments:

Linda said...

Looks like they're enjoying their new sand. That will be a lot of work for you. Can you rent or borrow a tractor?

Crystal said...

Haha they are like kids with a new toy in the sand.
My horses are bad at the gate trying to take one out too. I usually halter and tie them all then lead them out without chaos. Takes more time but way less frustrating for me

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Linda - The problem is that the majority of it needs to go into the barn where a tractor won't fit. A Bobcat might, but I don't think it could take the tight corners into stalls without hitting the structure.

Crystal - I'd tie them if I had something sturdy to tie them to, but those round pen railings can come right down. If I rattle one panel, the entire pen shakes and makes loud noises, so that would probably scare the horses and cause panic if they pulled back.