Thursday, August 23, 2007

Adventures in Horsekeeping

Aaaaah, I am a glutton for punishment.

If you remember from my last blog, I injured my heels (“Your last thought before darkness... and other tales”). Since you cannot wear any real type of shoes when your heels back and blue and feet swollen, you must find other things to occupy your time (besides house keeping, yuck!). If you can't work with (a.k.a. torture) your horses with your human agenda, then you must re-direct your energy to something else. Which in today’s case would be the Beanie the sheep.

One may wonder why a mild mannered sheep would need a torture session and what this may have to do with horses. Last weeks adventure in horse keeping was the direct result of a horse in need of a friend. Molly, my mustang mare’s poor behavior had to do with her not having a "herd" with which to mingle. Now that Dutch, the Handsome, Smart and Really Busy Quarter Horse Gelding ™ is home having his newly unplanned notched ear doctored, I decided to house the pygmy goat, Frito and the sheep, Bean Dip (Beanie) with him to keep him company. In the past, Dutch has been none to excited to have the sheep housed in his paddock, but this time the sheep is his life long friend.

This would be a fine and dandy arrangement, except for the fact that Dutch is eating Beanies wool (?!?). Since I'm reasonably sure that wool is not good for horses, I decided to remove Frito and Beanie from Dutch's paddock only to realize that he immediately became depressed.

I bought Beanie to keep Frito company, which works after a fashion. Beanie loves Frito but Frito only tolerates Beanie and is rather mean to her when I am or other "scratchful" humans are around. Frito is a very jealous and self-centered animal. The *only* reason I bought Beanie is because I was told that because she was a Barbados sheep that she would shed and since I was not interested in learning to shear, shearing a sheep, or finding someone to shear a sheep, I thought this would be a viable alternative to acquiring Another Goat. If you have not ever had A Goat, you may not understand the impact of Another Goat, but one goat is a real threat to sanity, let me tell you. Two goats would be unthinkable.

I had always marveled at the "fact" that sheep don't shed. I mean really, how practical is it to have big mounds of wool that never fall off? You'd get bugs in it and parasites on your skin. I've recently begun to consider that maybe typical domestic sheep do shed and that we shear them prior to their shedding. This would explain why they shear sheep in the early, early spring before they shed. I have ready memories of newly shorn sheep grazing in early spring snowstorms and have thought, “Oh poor sheepies, it’s soOooo cold.”

Anyway, Barbados sheep do shed but IT TAKES A REALLY LONG TIME. It's near the middle of July and Beanie has most of her wool that, I'm lead to assume, tastes good to Handsome, Smart and Really Busy Quarter Horse Geldings™. I decide that today, Beanie will get sheared. Which is where the "torture" reference comes in. Beanie, unlike my other animal partners is not a willing volunteer for anything having to do with me. She will eat oats from my hand but beyond that, she turns into a sheepy pogo stick. Her ability to jump straight up into the air is practically pre-natural. NASA has nothing on her when it comes to a launch event. I figure, however, that it must be natural predator escape behavior for a sheep. I often imagine how well we'd be able to handle a horse that jumped proportionally as high... just think the stadium jumps.

I catch Beanie and put on her sheepy halter. For those of you who do not know, sheep halters are not really like a horse halters. It slips over the ears and has a nose piece that is adjusted by a slip lead that tightens up on the chin (which will become important later). I tie Beanie to the hitching post so that she's barely able to stand naturally but if she moves more than four or five inches her head will be raised. I grab the scissors and start trimming. She moves about a bit and I studiously ignore her bad behavior and randomly allow her minute amounts of grain for good behavior.

As I move more towards her stinky bits she gets more and more agitated. Obviously, if you are a sheep (prey) you don't won't someone (a predator) around your tender stinky bits with scissors (teeth), but believe me her stinky bits need the most trimming. This is when she slipped her halter.

Now I've got a frantic sheep running around for dear life. So I grab Frito out of her pen to lead Beanie back where I can catch her again (and hence the origin of Judas Goat). But by this time, Frito is A Very Angry Goat, because Beanie has been getting Attention and Grain. This is very frustrating for a smart goat. So every time I'm about to nab Beanie, Frito starts butting and goring her (Note to self: Get Frito's horns cut). Now I'm focused goat torture (must keep goat from sheep), which involves a riding crop ( sorry to all you pacifists).

Since the sheep halter is not perfect restraining aid for a non-compliant sheep, I use a dog collar and a lead rope. This also turns out to be a bad idea, because when Beanie fights, she hits the end of her lead and the collar is hard on her neck. Besides starting a choking event, I'm afraid that she'll break her windpipe. So I put her halter back on, tie it close and tie the lead rope and collar loose so that if she slips her halter, she'll still be tied.

After a lot more bad behavior on Beanie’s part, which includes a hopelessly entwined lead rope and sheep halter lead and many a sheep launching event, Beanie has significantly less wool than before (although her stinky bits need a bit more help). Therefore Dutch no longer has his alternate food source.

This was even more bizarre than the time I shaved a cat... What we do for our horses...

1 comment:

forthefutureofthebreed said...

LOL! This was a funny read for me. I have a friend in Gardnerville who has sheep (for her working dogs), and they do the same thing (the sheep launching thing). Ha. Too funny.