Tuesday, May 03, 2011

horses, baths, and field maintenance

It seems like every time I go out to ride lately I end up bathing a horse. Or two. That's what happened yesterday when I went out to ride. Salina came and stood by me, I looked her over, she seemed itchy, and since it was a warm day with a warm evening predicted, I shifted gears and bathed her.

She stood and stretched her nose forward, enjoying every moment of her bath. I used a very soft-pronged curry in one hand, soapy sponge in the other, and ended up removing about another half-pound of shedding hair. The bathing part is actually not what takes the time - it's the rinsing. I'm not sure why, but she seems especially hard to rinse - the shampoo seems to really cling to her coat and skin. Fortunately she loves being rinsed, so after a moment's difficulty when Keil Bay sauntered down the grass paddock and she was determined to go with him, I just dragged the hose and finished her rinse under the holly tree.

We got into it together, the sound of the water, the flow of suds off her back and down her legs, the cooling. Even when Keil got bored and led the herd back up to the barn, through the aisle, and across to the big barnyard, Salina and I stood entranced and connected by that stream of cool water.

I was still planning to ride, but when I got to Keil Bay, he too seemed itchy. In his case, he had a few ticks attached in the groin area, and he was fussing (by walking away) each time I tried to get them off. So I got his halter and a lead rope and we went to the bathing area for his first real bath of the year. Keil likes being bathed too but he is very nudgy as he tries to pull my arm with the hose to different parts of his body - do this part, do that part - mostly he just wants me to hose right beneath his jaw, but carefully so he doesn't get sprayed in the face.

Yesterday, though, he stood nicely while I sponged and did tick removal (easier with soapy hands and skin), rinsed him thoroughly, which took about 1/4 the time it takes to rinse Salina. You're done, I told him, but he followed me to the barn where he clearly expected to be treated for his time. You can see with Keil Bay how the expressive horse gets rewarded for being expressive, and thus it blooms into even more expression.

All through his bath he kept presenting his muzzle to me to be kissed, and when he comes along to the feed/tack room and stands patiently, it's absolutely impossible for me to not give him a handful of something. Yesterday he got a handful of alfalfa pellets for my interrupting his grazing to get bathed, and then he got a handful of oats because... well, just because he asked and I love saying yes to the Big Bay.

By this time it was dusk and I still hadn't checked and refilled water troughs.

With springtime and growing season there are many more chores to be done.

The week before last I cleaned and dragged the arena, last week I mowed buttercups, this week it's rotating/dragging fields, and the next big thing to do is weed-eat.

And grooming gets more detailed. Brushing, bathing, checking for ticks, dealing with biting pests, and managing the heat... all this is partly why spring is NOT my favorite season. But right now it's still more my favorite than this long, cold, wet winter we just came through!

On another note, we have a certain kind of cicada emerging right now by the dozens. They are everywhere, and anywhere there isn't a live cicada, there is the shell of one. These are like no cicada I've ever seen - they have golden wings and red eyes, and resemble little insect demons. Is it a coincidence that the leaves, every single leaf, on the squash and cucumber plants are now simply gone? All that remain are stems and blossoms.

May! I can't quite believe it but it's here.

18 comments:

Calm, Forward, Straight said...

Oooh - scary insect demons...

I love your Keil Bay tales - he's so smooth! ;)

Kate said...

If those really are cicadas, and it sounds like they are, I don't think they're responsible for the plant damage - I believe they don't eat once they emerge from the ground.

Not anywhere near warm enough here to bath - yesterday wind chills were in the 30s (again) - but I can't wait.

Grey Horse Matters said...

Those insects sound annoying and destructive. Maybe they will migrate to somewhere else soon.

Keil and Salina must feel much less itchy and look beautiful after their baths.

You are right too about there being so much extra work to be done. But after last winter I swore I wouldn't complain and I'm going to try and stick to that resolution.

billie said...

C, he's the King! :)

billie said...

Kate, definitely cicadas - we're sort of identification geeks around here.

You're right about the leaves, but I can't find evidence of anything else. For all I know a certain Corgi bear did it. He's eating the echinacea!

billie said...

Arlene, I know, re: complaining. I'm still feeling grateful enough that winter ended to complain outright about spring! I suspect sometime in midsummer I'll hit that place. :)

Máire said...

Love the bath descriptions. You have a different Spring to ours.

billie said...

Maire, what is yours like? We had a very cool day yesterday and a low last night of 40 - just a little warmer today and another low of 41 tonight - it's a bit up and down this year!

ponymaid said...

billie, I hear your tales of horse bathing with equal parts horror and interest. Like a terrifying story - I will enjoy it from afar. Herself is on spring mode too, referring to it as multi-tasking but in fact it looks like utter chaos. I like your routine better - it features lots of rewards. However, I don't care for the sound of the insect demons...

billie said...

Sheaffer, that is just about R&R's response - equal parts horror and interest. They seem somewhat appalled that the horses willingly submit to such a nightmare.

And they show their opinion by marching off to a dust circle and doing a nice donkey roll. :)

The cicadas are truly something. It's quite a sound during the heat of the day.

Victoria Cummings said...

We had frost last night, so there will be no bathing around here yet. The only good thing about it is that the gnats disappeared when it got that cold. I love the description of bathing your horses. It's one of the things that SIlk and I love to do together. Can't wait until it's warm enough here!

Máire said...

We had a hot, dry April. BBQs were out, suncream on: quite possibly we have had our summer already. Now in May, rain and wind have come in, with bursts of sunshine and colder temperatures. And return of flies suddenly.

I think Ben's coat shedding is confused: he was nearly there and now suddenly needs more coat again.

Anonymous said...

And I did get to bath them both in the hot weather. Rosie just about tolerated it, but she looked - and felt - so much better afterwards. All scurfiness gone and her coat very shiny and soft.

billie said...

Victoria, over the winter I forget how much fun it is to bathe them. They do seem to enjoy it on warm days. Hope you get sunshine and warm weather soon!

billie said...

Maire, it's crazy when the weather does those double-takes... we have had nights in the 40s this week which seems like we're going backwards!

billie said...

Salina is feeling so much better too - glad Rosie got her warm weather and her bath! The mares seem to need it this time of year.

Michelle said...

Billie, are you like me? Anytime I give little Tiny a bath, I end up every bit as wet as she does! I can't imagine rinsing a 17.3H horse! After 20 years, I still haven't perfected the art of washing a horse..

billie said...

Michelle, any time I do just about ANYthing at the barn I end up a mess. I have no idea where the women riders in catalogs come from or how they stay so clean while being around horses.

Giving a horse bath is only fun if you get at least a quarter as wet as the horse does! :)

(and just for the record - Keil Bay is only 17.3 when he is on full alert - it's an illusion but it feels accurate in the moment!)