Monday, June 6, 2011

Plan C for Commander -- It Works!

When last we left our plucky Morgan and his big doofus buddy, I was wondering how the heck to get Ben onto the paddock grass while providing bug-shelter for him, yet keep Commander off the tasty but perilous green stuff. I had a Plan C, but had to run it by the farm owners.

Ran it by; got approval; did it – and it works just fine. How? Here’s how: The run-in structure has two stalls on the right and on the left, divided by a hay/tool storage aisle. In back of the right-hand stalls, a few feet lower, are a small room that can store hay, and a larger room, once a stall called the Mackie House (for its former inhabitant) and currently used for hay storage. The MH has a door on either end and can open to either side of the complex; on my side it opens into the paddock.

So: move the hay bales and the pallets they’ve been resting on from the MH into the old hay storage room; clean out the accumulated cruddy moldy waste hay (four wheelbarrow loads; a task I’d been meaning to get around to sometime in any case), hang water buckets, stock the MH with several flakes of hay, secure the Dutch doors to the MH on my side open, and voila! A bug refuge and watering hole for Ben. And when Commander’s inside the run-in he can see Ben in the MH.

I was going to insert photos in this post to illustrate the new setup, but there were just too many. Here’s a link to my Webshots album showing the whole thing. I’ve put captions as well as titles on each shot to explain what they show.

All the prep work got done yesterday; all was ready to go when I arrived at the barn today. I distracted Commander with a handful of grain (laced with his morning dose of isoxsuprine) while I brought Ben out of the barn first and got him settled in his new digs. I’d worried that my timid TB would be wary of going into the dark recess of the MH, but he walked in with only a slight hesitation, and clearly approved of the joint. With the electric tape gate to the paddock hooked safely in place, I brought Commander out of the barn and into the run-in to see Ben inside the MH. He looked, said “All right then” and dove into his hay. Phew!

Originally I’d left the upper Dutch door between the MH and the hay aisle open so the bay boys could see each other easily. Alas! Ben couldn’t resist reaching in to steal hay – even hay that was just the same, in fact from the same darn bale, as what he had in his new stall; and the upper door had to be shut and latched against his thievery. Commander was unfazed by this new barrier to seeing his buddy, so that was all right then.

I had them out in the new configuration from noon to around 7:00 p.m. – and yes, it was safe to let Ben have paddock access for so long even though I’d taken both boys off the grass three weeks ago when the laminitis struck. Why? Partly because the bugs are annoying enough that he spent far more of his time inside eating hay and schmoozing with Counterpoint than he did outside grazing; partly because for the last week I have been giving him a daily bucketful of grass hand-reaped by me (scissors work surprisingly well; certainly better than a dull scythe, I’ve found), so his belly is well primed for the greenery.

Oddly enough, the diciest moment today was getting Ben off the paddock to bring the boys in for the night. His white friends were out on their field grazing and he got mildly hysterical (abandonment terror? eagerness for supper?) when he saw me enter the run-in apron and approach Commander, started running and bucking. So I haltered Commander and, much to the grass-deprived Morgan’s disgust, held him back from charging into the paddock while I opened the gate. Ben bolted through, still wired. I resecured the tapes; took Commander’s halter off; and let them indulge in a frantic session of grooming until they’d calmed down enough to lead in.

So, success! I’ll continue bringing them in overnight, at least until Ben’s got the paddock grazed down to dry nubbins. Then it should be safe to let the boys stay out 24/7, perhaps even to let Commander out into the paddock for a few hours if not all the time. Of course, by then we’ll probably be getting into greenhead season, when B&C will have to huddle inside during daylight or be eaten alive.

And the field? We’ll see.

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