Thursday, June 07, 2012

Backfire


S
ometimes it seems as if the best laid plans are the first to go awry. This week my personal backfire was small but annoying.  After fifteen years of battling to stuff the horses' blankets onto racks that were too small and cheap enough to break with regularity, I went for the gusto and bought a whole new set of powder-coated, heavy-duty racks and spent an hour or so removing the old ones and putting up the new.  I'm really good at that now, in case anyone needs advice.

The new racks are super!  They are truly heavy-duty and leave enough room between the rack and the stall door for an assortment of weights and sizes of blankets.  The row of neatly folded horse clothing is stunning.  Looks like someone else's barn.  

That should be past tense.  "Looked" like is more accurate.  I was really excited when several days elapsed without any of the horses dragging blankets off the racks and dumping them in the aisle or stomping them to bits in their stalls.  I truly believed I'd mastered the situation.  But these are horses we're talking about.  

There is no mastering anything when horses are in the picture.  
Before the makeover...yuck!



Post-Makeover, pre-backfire.  Yay!

Last night, with thunderstorms lighting up the sky at feeding time, I opted to leave the horses in their stalls overnight.  Normally, they're okay with that, especially if it's been a while since their last confinement.  But the beautiful day, cool breeze, and blue sky tortured them enough to force them to make a statement against my good intentions, and this morning the barn aisle was littered with fly masks and a random blanket, pulled off the racks and tossed as a demonstration of equine pique.

If there's one thing I've learned from owning horses it's that there's always something else to learn.

I'm not going to change the racks again, but I'll make a mental note (my mental notebook is really frayed around the edges) to make future changes one horse at a time.  I know my horses.  I know who's going to act out first, and I need to apply that knowledge.  As goes Zip, so goes the herd...eventually.  Want to know where the weak spots in the fence line are?  Turn Zip loose for an hour and follow him around with your toolbox in hand.  Are the brackets for the stall fans mounted far enough out of reach?  Ask Zip, then retrieve his fan and move the bracket.   How close is too close to leave the muck bucket to a stall door?  Zip's the one to ask.

This isn't my first backfire.  My first was the brilliant idea that if I put outside doors on two stalls, I could use them as run-ins for the herd during storms while I was busy building the rest of the farm.  It never occurred to me that three horses would cram themselves into one 10 x 10 stall with a fourth poking her head in because that was all that would fit.  That fail led to the plan to close up the stalls and use the center aisle.  Much better as 9 horses fit nicely into a 12 x 90 space.  Worse, however, as the amount of manure splattered on the walls and doors and floor and equipment was epic.  And Zip (naturally) took the opportunity to test the buoyancy of a number of helmets, crops, and other non-floatables I didn't think he'd bother with.  

Those are the key words:  "I didn't think"

To avoid backfires, thinking like a horse is essential.  It's also nearly impossible as I have yet to find two horses that think alike beyond the obvious desire to eat and fear of squirrels.  So guesswork is all we humans have in our defensive arsenal, and we're totally out-gunned.  

On the up side, this is what keeps the job interesting.  It's not too hard to avoid really hazardous situations once we get a grip on the definition of "hazard" where horses are concerned.  But the backfires will always leave us shaking our heads and (mostly) laughing.  

ANOTHER PRODUCT REPORT

I said last post that this was not going to become a product-oriented blog, and I meant it.  But I got a new toy that warrants comment. This is it.

What this is is the One K Defender Pro Gloss Helmet with Retractable Sun Shield, and it deserves that abundance of capital letters if only to highlight the hefty price tag.

Most of my readers know I'm a backyard rider with occasional forays to clinics and lessons, and I gave up showing years ago.  This fancy hat is definitely made with the show rider in mind. 

Why would a non-show person drop a huge chunk of change on a pro-level helmet?  Well, obviously coolness isn't a factor as it's rare that anyone sees me ride.  But do you see that nifty retractable sun shield? That's the draw!

Years ago after a lawn-dart moment that smashed the heck out of the helmet I was wearing, I wound up having to have surgery for a detached retina.  That was not a fun time.  Nine months of incredibly annoying procedures left me very cautious about my eyes, so I never leave the house without sunglasses.  Ever.  Sometimes I forget and leave them on when I get home.  On those days I wonder why it's so cloudy out when it was sunny a minute ago, but that speaks more to the level of dementia I've attained.

Anyway, after many years of experimentation with sunglasses of all styles and equestrian goggles meant to fit neatly under one's helmet (they really don't), I'd reached a level of frustration that made my joy at the advent of this product so overwhelming that I ordered immediately.  It works.  It's a comfy helmet.  It's shiny so Cliff will be able to find me when I'm lying in the snow awaiting rescue.  It's got a sun visor!  And best of all, the visor retracts with a touch and pops back into place just as easily no matter how clumsy your gloves might be.  It's also replaceable by the same color visor or a lovely blue for a very reasonable price, so you don't have to worry that the first branch-smack will ruin it forever.

There is one small caveat.  It's imperative to center the helmet on your head.  If you don't, the first time you pop that visor down it will make sharp contact (not painful, but startling) with the bridge of your nose.  Trust me, it won't leave a bruise or a scar, but you'll notice the impact.  

So if you've got money burning a hole in your breeches pocket, this is a fine place to spend it.  If you're a Person Who Shows, it comes in a matte finish as well for that traditional look.   

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