Tuesday, February 22, 2011

More late winter at Back Acres Farm

Let’s see - what’s new. Alas, not much - unless more snow counts. I wish we had gotten even more, actually, since it would cover the ice better. And speaking of snow, one of the adopted horses went down in the snow last week. He is a very old, very large draft cross who has little strength left in his hind quarters and a blown-out hock and continuous trouble getting to his feet once he goes down to roll.  He is usually pretty smart about this - choosing to roll so that his hind end is uphill such that he gets a gravity assist in getting back up.

This time, however, he rolled into the deep snow pack at the bottom of the hill, and could not get up. I first observed this situation out the kitchen window while noticing my house mate with a shovel busily working around a horse head located much lower to the ground than usual. I went out to see, and he was trying to lower the horse’s front end to help him up, but to no avail. A number of us gathered to try and push the old guy’s body at least over his hind feet (which were out to the side) but this also did not work since he seemingly weighs as much as a small car. And he was now swivelled against the fencing with his front feet sunk deeply into the snow bank, and getting more and more exhausted from his efforts.

I think this is one of the hardest things about winter and horses - an exhausted horse down outside, late in the day, with the temperature dropping. The last time this happened (to this same horse) it was two winters ago and he was down on a sheet of ice. We piled manure around him to try to give him traction, we pulled, we pushed, it was late Sunday afternoon with a blizzard on the way. I drove around the town trying to find someone with a large enough tractor to lift him up from his ribcage, and finally found a neighbor who was willing to come over.  Hours later, via industrial strapping around his mid-section chained to the tractor bucket, he was up. It was a very upsetting experience for everyone, even though the good outcome prevailed.

This time, I thought I would try using my own tractor before tugging on the neighbor’s sleeve again - it’s a fair distance through freezing cold air to ask him to come. God bless my little John Deere - even though it’s only 23 horse I was able to dig out the snow bank to reach the horse, and then gently snug the padded bucket edge under the horse’s hind end - and then lift the bucket. Hallelujah - it worked - the front legs were so buried he couldn’t slide forward off the bucket, and then he was up. Shaky, but up. My house mate and I actually raised our hands and eyes to heaven in thanksgiving, and I gave my heroic little tractor a lot of pats as well.  I love that thing.

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