Midlife Crisis: The adventures of a thirtysomething first-time horse owner

After a gazillion weeks of stall rest, it was unclear who was going crazy faster: Amanda Smith, or her horse Alfie. It didn’t take long, though, for Amanda to realize that Alfie had probably been dealt the shorter end of the stick–at least she could go crazy outside a 12×12 box. So she decided to do something to make him feel a little better, or at least less bored.

From Amanda:

Setbacks and Redneck Engineering

Alfie had a follow up ultrasound on May 25th, and he had been up to no good the week prior. I was horrified when, upon removing the standing wrap, his leg was just enormous. The ultrasound didn’t look so hot, either, but Dr. N (bless her heart… I love her so) assured me his tendon damage wasn’t worse–there was just a lot of edema, and possibly a bandage bow from being wrapped for so long. But what else can you do if you’re trying to keep a deep wound clean?

Alfie was sadly put back on a couple weeks of strict stall rest and I was assigned 12-hour sweat wrap rotation over the Memorial Day weekend. Much to my and Dr. N’s approval, Alfie’s leg looked MUCH better by Monday, and now we’re doing cold therapy and applying Surpass twice a day, and only hand grazing for about 15 minutes… no real walking and no turn out.

I was initially crushed that we had a setback and felt like it was my doing. It was a tough weekend, mentally and physically;  being at the barn every 12 hours to fight with Mr. Fidgety and having him glare at me (swear… he can actually do this) with disapproval–it was less than fun. I also refused to give up my plan of painting my bedroom, so I did that in between barn visits, too. What did I write about last time… something about reasonable expectations for myself? When I did hit the wall of exhaustion and wanted to just cry and give up (“I can’t possibly be a horse owner! I’m not strong enough to deal with these kids of setbacks!”), I had to remind myself of that last column and put my big girl pants on. It’s only  for a few days.

For me. What about Alfie?

Once I realized that he got the short end of the stick and was back on stall rest for a few weeks, I vowed I had to do something for him… without spending much of my already-strained bank account. After Alfie ate one Lik-its in three days (!!!), I decided that something else would be more appropriate…

Enter, Lowe’s Home Horse Improvement Center!

Buy yourself a two-gallon plastic paint bucket with a tight (and I mean TIGHT) fitting, snap-on lid, some duct tape a double-end snap or similar and some twine. I only had to buy the bucket and lid, since, as a horse owner, the other two are on hand. Everything but the baling twine is at Lowes (unless you need/buy some pine straw, too).

Remove the metal handle from the bucket and drill some holes randomly in the bucket. Mine probably looks a little more like Swiss cheese than is optimal, but whatever.

(Forgot to get a pic of the bucket brand new, but this is what we’re going for… lots of holes.)

(And, I used this type of drill bit and a sander attachment to make and smooth out the holes. This is a one-inch bit, and with the sanding they were made a bit bigger.)

Thread some ubiquitous baling twine (I used two pieces) through the holes…

And tie in a knot

You want to take into account how you’ll attach the bucket, and to what when you’re making the knot. Alfie has a metal stall guard, and that’s where I elected to hang the bucket. I’d say my hanging string is about 18” long from bucket to knot, so that there’s enough slack so that Alfie can knock it around some. That’s part of the entertainment! Snip off any long ends.

Then grab some treats of appropriate size (I have Alfie’s fave… soft peppermints, plus Dumore’s that easily break into thirds that come through the holes in the bucket perfectly.

Toss some hay into the bucket along with the treats (the hay makes it a little harder for the treats to fall out)

Then snap that lid on tight. I mean TIGHT!!!! I actually had to kneel on mine to get it to “snap” shut like its supposed to. And then I duct-taped for good measure (no redneck engineering project is complete without duct tape and baling twine.)

Then get yourself a double-ended snap, or other effective attachment hardware. Depending on how/where you’re putting this gadget, your attachment configuration may be different. I wrapped the twine around the stall front a few times (with Alfie’s help and supervision… can you see his nose?) and put the tied end of the twine in one end of the snap.

And then went under the stall guard and snapped the “anchor” portions of the twine through the other end of the snap:

Then I let Alfie got to town!

As a responsible person, I will say that you should know your horse before doing something homemade like this. Obviously a paint bucket isn’t classified as a horse toy.  I’ve done my best to make this as safe as possible for my horse so that he has something to occupy his time and stimulate his brain a bit while he is on stall rest (without eating a sugary Lik-it every three days!). I asked my barn manager to make sure that the bucket is always *securely* attached to the front of the stall, and if it’s not secure, or not attached at all, to please remove it and set it aside with my things.

The first bucket set-up lasted three days, and then the twine wore through (Alfie picks the whole thing up by the string, so it was basically chewed through) and the barn manager took the bucket away. This morning I re-rigged everything and took all the pictures. LUCKY YOU!

I have to say, Alfie’s demeanor seems much better since he’s had an interactive toy in his stall, so I’m glad I took the time to figure something out for him. There’s a tin can of treat “refills”  on my trunk in front of the stall, so when Alfie’s got the thing emptied, my barn buds have been told they can pop a few more treats through the holes for Alfie.

So one more week of stall rest and hand grazing… then we get to add walking for five minutes a day to the routine! We’re taking the whole thing a lot slower this time around, so he won’t be back out in the little paddock for a while, but he’s got an awesome new toy to keep him busy!

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