Sunday, August 21, 2011

At some point I'll get it right

Today’s adventures in grazing muzzles:

I sliced the hole in Commander’s muzzle about a quarter to a third larger, muzzled both boys, and turned them loose. Ta-daa! Commander, with some determined muzzle-wriggling, was able to get enough grass to keep him trying. Ben was doing fine. Both boys rolled, then resumed grazing.

Encouraged, and wanting to encourage Commander, I opened the gate from the paddock to the field. They gleefully scurried out there and dove into the forbidden fruit, with some more rolling interspersed. I went back to mucking, checking occasionally. They stayed head-down in the grass, but in a bit returned to the paddock.

Some minutes later Commander trotted in, fed up with measly rewards and mass swarms of bugs. Even with his muzzle removed he chose to stay in the run-in, so okay, just stay out of the side I’m mucking, little guy. Ben stayed out, but now he was galloping about. Was he enjoying his freedom to run, from field to paddock to run-in and back out? Or........

No. No, this wasn’t playful racing; this was Ben whipping himself into a freakout, probably over that THING on his face he couldn’t get off. After a couple of circuits so jazzed that I didn’t dare try to catch him, he rammed into the run-in beside Commander and stood still, sweaty and panting, long enough for me to talk him down a bit, then sidle up and get the muzzle off.

Phew! That was it, all right. He calmed right down. I did a quick adjustment on the straps and put Ben’s on the mighty Morgan, then led the boys back out.

Ta-daaaaaaaaaaaaa!!! They both stayed out grazing, calm and contented, till I’d finished chores and brought their midday mini-mashes to the gate. Well, “calm” – Commander did do a lot of pawing, as if to hurry the reluctant blades into the muzzle hole, but otherwise he seemed much happier. The Ben muzzle has a more open weave on the nose and the hole is an oblong roughly an inch by two inches, so the air-to-nostril flow is better and a vigorous grass-gathering effort is well-rewarded.

So, are we there yet? A lot closer to what will work, anyway. On the way home I picked up a couple of fly masks for the boys:

A Crusader with ears for Ben -- it’s a mask he’s worn before and does well in.

An Absorbine Ultrashield fly bonnet for Commander -- with that design I should be able to put it on over the grazing muzzle, or under it, whichever fits better. I went for the earless because I figure he’s less bothered by flies than Ben and has enough other stuff on his head hassling him without earhats too.

So, tomorrow we’ll try the new configuration and see how it goes. With lower temperatures and humidity, I’m hoping it will go well.

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