Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Dead Horses

I was eating lunch with a close friend and she told me a story about a local horse farm. This is a 100% true story that just happened here in Washington County, in the year 2016.

The people who own a horse farm were inside, it being a winter day well after chores. Someone drove by and stopped to look at their horses in the field. It was around 1PM and all the horses were laying down on areas of piled up hay from round bales, on their sides, enjoying the winter sun, having a nap on the dry hay. The farmers saw the woman get out of her car and expected her to take a picture. A lot of people stop by their road and take pictures of their magnificent draft horses, so they shrugged and went back to their tasks. An hour later they looked outside and the woman was still there, watching the horses. So the farmer inside shook his head, put on a hat and coat, and walked down to greet their new voyeur.

"Can I help you?" He asked.

The woman looked at him with concern. "I'm worried about your horses. They have been lying down for a long time. I have been watching them. They might be dead." She pointed to the napping animals.

The farmer smiled and whistled, then yelled to the "dead horses" by their names. A few heads of annoyed equines looked up for a moment, blinked, and then laid back down. "See!" He told her. "They aren't dead or sick, they're just sleeping. They always sleep around this time of day after a morning of eating."

The woman crossed her arms and said, "Well, I have horses too and if I ever see one of mine lay down in the pastures I walk right over to it and get it up."

The farmer replied. "They must be exhausted."

A funny story, I suppose, if it didn't show the absolute ignorance well meaning people have about animals and their care. So many people see another species and assume if that animal, be it a chicken,  deer, dog, or horse - anything! — that if it isn't living in conditions that would make a human being content it is an act of cruelty, or at the very least - incorrect. It's not.

Pigs out on pasture or in the woods spend hours and hours with their noses in the dirt and mud rooting through it, looking for bugs and acorns and other goodies you might not like to eat. Then they waddle right over to their water stations and don't even wipe the mud off their faces before they plunge in for a long drink. Unless you are at my farm for the ten seconds after the twice-daily water refills you will find muddy drinking water. It isn't abuse. It isn't neglect. Pigs root with the same part of the body that drinks.

Chickens have a pack mentality, a literal pecking order. If you go to a friend's house with cooped chickens in a pen you might see backs void of feathers, some with scabs even. This is because they peck each other for dominance in confined spaces. Roosters mount, remount, and remount some more on the same ten hens. Back feathers only exist in birds either entirely void of community or void of fencing. They are not abused, neglected, or being beaten by their owners - they are just governing themselves. The fence is to keep them safe from predators and that is a price fenced birds pay in vanity.

People with barn cats lose their cats. They die all the time. They get ran over. They get killed by coyotes and foxes and bobcats. They get sick and die alone under the stairs. They are working animals living a life outdoors and while some of us get very attached to our barn cats (in this case my "barn cats" are spayed and neutered house cats who get regular vet care and share my bed at night when they feel like it) but they go outside every day, kill vermin, climb trees, cross roads. I know they might die any day. It's not cruel or neglect to let a farm cat live the life of a farm cat. It's just the reality of living on a farm with working cats.

Goats shed in the spring and it isn't pretty. Their hair comes off in clumps and they rub against barns. In the spring Bonita looks like a homeless woman who just came out from under a bridge. Ida doesn't look much better. They are also dairy animals, who always have prominent hip bones and concave sides behind their ribs in the prime of their health. Click here to see a picture of a prize winning Alpine dairy goat. A champion goat - the picture of perfection - has jutting hip bones and a concave area behind the ribs. This is okay. The animal is not abused or starving or injured.

I was accused in the same week of Gibson being too thin and too fat. A customer at the hardware store told me I wasn't feeding him right and he was far too thin. At a sheepdog trial a trainer pinched his side and grabbed a pile of fat from the ribs and said it could slow him down or even injure him in the field. The man at the store had no idea what a working dog looked like. They are so rare these days and obese dogs are so normal, a healthy animal looks sick to us...

These are just some examples of other "dead horses". The ignorance about livestock is massive, and only matched by the arrogance and righteousness of those out there kind enough to save them from us awful farmers.

Do you guys have any dead horse stories? Let's get some education out there!


Blogger mdoe37 said...

I feed some local stray cats. Buster has been coming around for a couple of years, he does not live here but almost a 1/2 mile away. He is not tame and hisses at me every day. And he eats well here, but I know someday he simply won't come back. I even managed once to doctor him with antibiotics for a respiratory thing.....he bounced right back, certainly no vet would see him....and he ain't going in a cage.

The husband called in a panic the other morning saying that Buster must have got hit and was laying in the road. So I get in the car and go over there to pick him up and give him a decent burial. No cat. So I park my car and walk the edges and scan the fields. No cat. This is the second time this has happened.

I think the cat just plays dead in the middle of the road to screw with him.

February 10, 2016 at 2:16 PM  
Blogger Rain said...

I don't have a homestead, but I guess I could apply that idea to when I walk my dogs. I have 2 huskies and a spaniel-hound mix. The huskies are pullers and wear pinch collars. Those are the collars that ignorant people think are torture devices. It's the only collar that pinches enough when they pull that they don't pull me over with their 110 pounds combined. My little spaniel-hound looks like a playful little mutt but he will take a stranger's fingers off.

I warn people, especially those with children, that they shouldn't come near, I use excuses like they are in training, but the general ignoramus people never listen. I'm "cruel" to use pinch collars on my "poor" dogs. And my spaniel-hound "must be" treated badly at home to be so "vicious".

Whatever...I'm heading to the hermit life where I don't have to deal with the fools of society.

February 10, 2016 at 2:41 PM  
Blogger Chelsea Tarver said...

This is some real talk. People don't need to coddle their animals. The same bullshit helicopter parenting is ruining children right now, and animals and children seem to get a lot of the same DON'T YOU DARE HARM MY PRECIOUS SNOWFLAKE IF MY PUMPKIN EVER GOT A SCRAPE OR A SCRATCH I WOULD JUST DIIIIIEEEEEE sort of mentality.

We love our animals just as much as people who obsess over pampering their pets with almost deific reverence... we just are more inclined to let the animals BE animals, rather than trying to make them like little humans.

February 10, 2016 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Chelsea Tarver said...

This is some real talk. People don't need to coddle their animals. The same bullshit helicopter parenting is ruining children right now, and animals and children seem to get a lot of the same DON'T YOU DARE HARM MY PRECIOUS SNOWFLAKE IF MY PUMPKIN EVER GOT A SCRAPE OR A SCRATCH I WOULD JUST DIIIIIEEEEEE sort of mentality.

We love our animals just as much as people who obsess over pampering their pets with almost deific reverence... we just are more inclined to let the animals BE animals, rather than trying to make them like little humans.

February 10, 2016 at 2:49 PM  
Blogger Kim Smith said...

By the same token, there are far too many out there who do not understand their farm animals, but who believe that their animals are fit, healthy, 'just taking a nap', when they are indeed very thin, neglected, ill, but they grab onto information such as this and try to say that all is well. I commend people caring enough to say something, to show concern. Yes, concern CAN be taken too far. But, worse, there is often not enough concern, or enough personal accountability. Education, and the willingness to be educated (and where needed, corrected) is what is lacking.

February 10, 2016 at 2:57 PM  
Blogger stylin40s said...

Making your living as a farmer/homesteader is 80% education on why you do things the way you do & why it is more natural than a sterilized living environment & 20% of actually making a living.

By the way I wanted to thank you Jenna. After reading your blog for several months and a couple of your books I have been inspired to take more action on our homestead. Reading about how you take on any task whether it is baking bread or fixing your truck, no matter the "gender association". I had my husband teach me how to rewire an outdoor light. My next project is disassembling our rabbit building & using the metal to make raised beds for a larger growing area this summer. You are truly an inspiration.

February 10, 2016 at 3:06 PM  
Blogger Sam Sheehan said...

I joined a Fido fitness class at our vet's clinic because my dog got fat while I wasn't walking her while pregnant. I like her at 37 lbs when she's working, I let her get to 39 lbs in off season. She got all the way up to 45 on me so it was time for action and I acted. The other owners in the class had rotund, grossly obese, dysplastic animals, and they all thought I was there just to share a success story from a previous session. Their dogs will likely never be as trim as Kaylee got at her fattest

February 10, 2016 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Mdoe - May Buster live on forever!

Rain - Sorry you had to deal with that. I have zero experience with those collars, but I never had to walk three dogs at a time either.

40's - shucks

Sam- viva la sexy working dogs!

Kim - while no one should let an animal be abused and stay silent - these are people that don't know livestock 101 and destroy reputations, bother authorities, waste taxpayer's money, and it could all be avoided if they simply knocked on the person's door and told them what their concerns were. If you think a horse is dead, say so to the owner not the police. If you think a goat is starving because you just moved the country and don't know what dairy goats look like - call the people up - or another group like the dairy goat association. Don't assume the worst with the least amount of experience. That was the point of all this.

February 10, 2016 at 4:02 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Chels -I agree that people pad their animals and their heads a little too much

February 10, 2016 at 4:03 PM  
Blogger Renee M. said...

There is a saying in Iceland (where my senior-most horse is from) "The horses wear their barns. And for people: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes". Tough people Icelanders, who are also very practical and allow their animals to be, well, animals. I love their outlook on life. My Mangalitsa pigs (native of Hungary) didn't make it into the barn this winter due to an addition building fiasco (horrendous contractor), but they are coping so far with the winter in their summer "pasture" with calf hutches. And speaking of barncats: One of ours lived to 17 years old. He came to us as a yearling, kicked out of his former home for pooping behind the sofa. We had him for 16 more years and he THRIVED being an outdoor-only cat. I've seen horses kept in heated barns over the winter all come down with upper respiratory infections. That isn't to say some older animals don't need a little more TLC than their younger peers. Or every breed of animal handles differing environments the same. It all comes down to knowing what you have, what would do best in that situation, and, of course, common sense. Unfortunately, that last one seems to be ever in short supply.

February 10, 2016 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Sarah said...

We always get a kick out of some of the crazy things non-horse people say.
I've lost track of the times someone has asked, "what's wrong with your horse's legs?" because they wear splint boots. I smile and gently explain the preventative function of the boots. But the best was the time I had my big Friesian Sport Horse mare up one of the mountain trails. We crossed paths with a hiker and she informed me, her voice edging toward panic, that my horse's leg was broken. Again I smiled and told her they were just protective boots. She replied, pointing, "No! I can see the bone sticking out!"
I just blinked at her.
And then I understood. This mare has unusually thick, long chestnuts. This woman had seen them and assumed that my perfectly sound mount had a compound fracture.
You try to educate, but sometimes you just have to laugh.

February 10, 2016 at 5:52 PM  
Blogger DarcC said...

I had a former neighbor call my mother to get my phone number to call me at work because my horse was laying down sunbathing/napping on a beautiful spring day.

February 10, 2016 at 6:05 PM  
Blogger Kris said...

Great post. More bloggers need to post about this. I think I might.

A friend of mine posted a picture of some very ugly sheep, with wool hanging all over them. They did look bad, really. And she said people should not keep animals if they can't take care of them. These sheep looked neglected and horrible, she said. Well, I had to tell my friend that these sheep almost always look like this. They were likely Katahdin or St. Croix. They don't have wool, they have hair, that sheds in spring and summer and sometimes doesn't come all the way off til fall. I've had these sheep before and they look like a Viking. I had to actually shear a few because it bugged me that they looked like that. So, people really need to be educated about farm animals.

February 10, 2016 at 6:53 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

My biggest pet concern is the people who think that they need to blanket their outdoor horses, 24-7. The natural hair coat is all a horse needs. The blankets become soaked with water and do cause an animal to get cold. The blankets that are left on horses all the time will cause the horse to develop rain rot on the back, and will require vet care. I want to educate horses lovers that blankets are not an outdoor horses' friend. A horse can and probably will get snagged with it, or entangled in the straps. In my opinion, here in Oregon, too many people use blankets on their outdoor horses. A run-in shed with 2 or 3 sides on it is the best option.

February 10, 2016 at 7:39 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Oh Jenna, so many. :) Our farm is a stone's throw from the suburbs - literally, as neighboring farms are coverted to 55 and over housing developments every day. Our CSA members are great, and if they don't understand the why or how of something will ask about it. Others? Not so much. We have a local lady - she's never been polite enough to introduce herself - who we finally had to firmly request to not trespass on our property anymore, as she was constantly walking up to us while we were working and telling us our Shetland sheep in particular had inadequate shelter - because they were not hanging out in their perfectly lovely calf hutches, and instead opting to lie in the fields, One of many....

February 10, 2016 at 10:00 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

A few stories:

One time (let's hear it....'at band camp').... I was taking pictures. I was making cards with envelopes and selling them to local shops. One gal told me if I'd get pics of horses, the cards would sell well in her shop. On the 20 mile drive home, I stopped to take pics of horses and then took a pic of the tire swing in the yard. From a different direction, a man came out asking me what I was doing. When I explained; he told me the horses weren't his and they weren't well-fed and weren't well-cared for. OH. (he mistook me for a (valid) animal cruelty person). Nope, just a photographer....then, he asked why I took a pic of his house. ????!!! I replied, "I was taking a pic of the tire swing hanging from the tree." JENNA, I am not kidding here, the next time I drove down the road, the tire swing was GONE; he took it down.....can-you-believe it??? I wasn't investigating!! I was JUST taking pictures!! lol (and he felt threatened) (oh-sh*t-maybe-I-was-onto something!)

Once, I walked my cocker spaniel. When I came to the corner I asked the little kid walking his dog if my dog could say hello. He said, 'yes'. Quickly his dog pounced on my dog and ripped his face. Immediately, I took my dog to the vet where I got to watch them sew his face back up. OR ON!! Grrrr.....

My sibling has a traumatic brain injury. S/he couldn't understand why her/his puppies kept pooping. S/he said, "I keep feeding them, and they keep pooping." S/he was trying stop feeding them so they wouldn't poop so much. OMG. AND in the basement. Yes, there was poop everywhere in a concrete-floor-unfinished basement. (true story)My future looks hectic, yes/no?

Sometimes we can't fill other people's shoes. Or even understand, but if we knew more about each person (like the lady who was announcing there were dead horses) to the owner who knew better......but I if but a dream sweetheart.....

Here is a song I heard today for the first time today...........a good matter what we think we know or are good at- It applies--be kind even if we or others don't know. It is us sometimes. We each get to be on the other side of the coin. Ignorance is bliss. (and but it is good to laugh at the situation or person to make us feel better and find humor)

This is the first time I'm seeing the video.

February 10, 2016 at 10:17 PM  
Blogger Goose Goose said...

OH, and my neighbor, he's Italian-the real deal, from the Italian Alps. He finds it horrid that cows are left outside in the snow. He feels they should have a barn. (*If I had a farm, I'd have a barn with a dairy cow inside in the winter....a girl can dream......) :) (*I could be an Italian Dairy Farmer!)

February 10, 2016 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Kate said...

well I wont go on a rant about the state of animal welfare and noisy people at the moment. Sigh.
But I have my own "hes dead" story. I had ponies from the beginning, they lived mostly in the pasture with a barn if they wanted it. One spring I was about 7 and after school ran out to see my fat welsh pony that I had just gotten. He was out flat in the sun and I freaked! Id never seen my other ponies do that and he wouldn't get up when I tugged at him, so I was sure he was dying. I put a blanket over him and my old lady baby sitter sat in a lawn chair next to him to keep and eye out, and I sat with his head in my lap for an hour. After a while the brat was good and ready to get up and eat, so he did. I talked to my riding teacher the next day and she told me they love to do that on warm spring days. I felt like a dope but never freaked again when any of my horses played dead, I think they liked giving us vapors.
The sad thing is that there are so many truly abandoned, staving and abused animals out there, I wish the people who want to help got educated first so their energy went to the animals that really need it.

February 10, 2016 at 10:25 PM  
Blogger KirstenJL said...

I don't have horses of my own, but I know a bit about them and I see plenty in my rural neighborhood. A horse lying on it's side always gets my attention. Sometimes they're sleeping, but one I saw WAS dead and another was in labor. People shouldn't be obnoxious about it, but it doesn't hurt to check.

February 11, 2016 at 11:42 AM  
Blogger Mel Baker said...

I've just sent this post to The Husband at work. EVERY single time we see horses lying down, he gets all upset that they are sick or dying. I have tried to explain that isn't the case, but of course, he is an expert, even though he has never been near a horse in his life. This ought to shut him up once and for all!!

February 11, 2016 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger Robin Follette said...

Every winter people tell me that my English shepherd is too fat. She is. She's obese, way too fat. I know. I live with her. She's my shadow. There's no missing the fact that she's fat. When I explain that she's heavily medicated for epilepsy and it made her gain 20 pounds over four years, and that she has a winter coat worthy of 8-10 hours a day outside a working farm dog in winter, they look at me like I have no idea what I'm talking about. No, I can't "just take her off her medicine" because being dead isn't better than being fat. I know they mean well. I wish they'd listen.

February 11, 2016 at 1:39 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

You might have already seen this story on the news. A man near Ottawa, Ontario, was put in jail for not buying tags for the feral cat that was hanging around their home. He and his GF felt sorry for it and put some food down.
When I was a girl, we were going to visit my grandmother in a village far out in the countryside. I noticed a couple of horses laying on a hillside and made up my mind that they were dead. My father humored me and stopped so I could check them out. My family still ribbed me about that years later!

February 11, 2016 at 2:18 PM  
Blogger Karen said...

Living in the city, I have cats (and my illegal backyard chickens). I admit I have a few too many (7), but I have space, I can afford to feed and litter them, and they were all taken in off the street, spayed/neutered and are now prevented from dying out there and leaving behind litters and litters of descendants. You'd think that would be a good thing, right? That it would be enough?

The local "cat rescue" group has said - to my face and to others, including my vet - that they would refuse to adopt to me, because I provide "inadequate" vet care (yearly exams, shots, etc.) They're indoor-only cats, and they get vet care when they need it, but I don't do yearly checkups for myself, and I'm far less stressed about going to the doctor than any of my cats would be, since I don't have to be manhandled into a carrier.

There's a lot of compassion being turned into judgment because people can't keep their opinions about others' care of their animals to themselves, and don't bother to question whether what they're seeing is actual abuse. And yes, there is REAL abuse out there, but a lot of it is getting ignored because people worry about healthy cats not getting rabies shots, dogs wearing the wrong collars or horses deciding to take a nap in the sun.

February 12, 2016 at 12:08 PM  
Blogger Heather-Anne said...

When the television show Fringe first aired on the FOX network it was met controversy. It was not because of its alternative universe storyline but rather because the cow featured in the series, Gene(a dairy cow), looked too skinny. FOX was slammed with a flurry of complaints because "you could see the cow's hips". The had to release statements and educate people on dairy cows.

February 13, 2016 at 3:54 AM  

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