Saturday, December 31, 2011

Just You Wait

It’s amazing how, when you have time off with very little planned, a small herd of horses can team up to fill your leisure time with grueling work in the worst of weather.

That’s what happened to me this week, and I had a funny feeling it was coming.  I had moved Dee over to stay on Hudson’s half of the stable.  Dee was being a bully to DeCato and Stormkite, so I teamed her with Hudson to let the others get a chance to eat in peace.  However, I was worried that Hudson would trap her and she’d escape out through the electric fence, which has not been very electric since the cold weather set in.
A view of Hudson, through the weeds at the fenceline.

The pair had been housed together amicably for a few days, and I was fairly pleased with the arrangement.  Then, I happened to be gazing at the barn from the house window, when all of a sudden Dee appeared in the entrance to the barn.   So, what I feared had come true.  Unfortunately, something I wasn’t fearing also came true: DeCato, Stormkite and Starlight also appeared in the barn door. 

With my husband recovering from back surgery, I had to try to round up the critters on my own.  He was able to help by keeping the fence up where they had busted through, as I nervously collected them, one by one, and plopped them back where they belonged.  Only my steadfast Hudson had stayed back, too afraid of the fence to dare step over it.

This was one of those times when I was glad to be on friendly terms with all our horses.  If one had been peeved at me, we could have gone on a long and merry chase across the vast expanses of land up in these parts.

This was occurring on our coldest day so far this December, with constant, high winds from the north, their steady blowing interrupted only by an occasional, hurricane-force burst.  

Unfortunately, I had to improve the electric fence, and doing it meant pounding in new grounding rods.  While this has been part of our horse-owning life right along, it’s a part that usually falls to the broad shoulders of my husband.  Well, his broad shoulders are healing at the moment, so it fell to my weenie shoulders.   I also had to clamor around on a ladder in the roof rafters, not being satisfied with the current position of the fence charger.  Wiring the barn is one of my normal pasttimes, but I don’t normally do it at times when the wind could blow the ladder out from under me.

When it was all said and done, that cold night, the charger still wasn’t producing a satisfactory jolt.  I came in, warmed up and did some googling, and was reminded that electric fences often perform poorly in the winter, especially in dry, rocky ground.  We don’t naturally have dry, rocky ground, but after hiring a contractor to make the pad around the barn dry, instead of muddy, we now do have dry, rocky ground where the fence charger is.

So, over the course of the next few days, I drove in more grounding rods and cleared the fence line of all weeds and miscellaneous electricity grabbers, including a small round bale of hay that had rolled against it, a very heavy wooden stump that was pressing on the lowest wire, and even an old, rusty round bale feeder that was intermittently touching the wire from outside the fence.  It’s enlightening to walk the fence line with purpose, I’ll tell you.

I also repaired a few areas where the insulators had broken, allowing the hot wire to rest on the wood posts. 

After all this, and after pouring water over the grounding rods, I finally felt a jolt in the fence.  Not a strong one, not a knock-you-on-your-butt one, but enough to perhaps keep the mares off of it.  Sure enough, I was fiendishly happy to see Dee feel the jolt and jump back quickly, but Stormkite, the little brat, was still reaching over it to nibble loose hay, pressing his neck on it.  I couldn’t believe it.  I tried touching him and the fence at the same time, and the jolt was too annoying for me to keep holding on, but he was oblivious.  Finally, he must have felt it, because he jumped back grumpily. 

Phew!  Between the fence, some barricades and housing them all in one large area again, instead of two smaller areas, they should stay put until my new Horseguard bi-polar, no-ground-rod-required fencing arrives.  I have been wanting to try it, being a big Horseguard fan from way back, and this is exactly the right opportunity.  I will re-tape the stable area with it, and then stand back and watch.

I’m not a mean person, but, just you wait, Stormkite.

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