Nov 02

Of fences and anxiety attacks

Stella and Pearl

Dreadful Acres has a handy 20-acre hay field. Of course this field has lain fallow for decades, and since I haven’t the faintest idea how to grow hay, it will probably lie fallow for decades more.

“Lie fallow” is not a phrase I ever had occasion to use before I moved out here.

Anyway, some pretty decent grass manages to survive there despite my depraved indifference. For years I’ve been wanting to turn the mares out on it; as former show horses, it’s possible they’ve never seen 20 contiguous acres in their entire tragic lives. Unfortunately, the fence surrounding the field has until recently consisted of a few strands of ancient rusted barbed wire (or as they say here in Cottonmouth County, “bobwire”) sagging between some rotting cedar twigs and the occasional bent T-post.

Bobwar FinceAll fences are potentially fatal to horses, but you can’t put a horse within 17 miles of a strand of barbed wire. That’s because its first and most overwhelming instinct is to seek out the barbed wire and get tangled in it and mangle itself and die of sepsis. Here is a really horrific photo of what happens when horses and bobwire meet.

So last month, while in an extravagant humor, I finally hired some dudes — it’s always dudes — to take down the old “fence” and put a new one up. You can just make out a bit of it in the photo. I am in ecstasy over this fence. It will fascinate you to learn that it’s 8-inch diameter cedar posts sunk in concrete at 10 foot intervals with 5-foot 4×2 wire mesh. The main way a horse can cripple itself on this fence would be to get a hoof between the ground and the mesh in an effort to self-amputate at the pastern.

Crap, I’m really sorry that I just had that thought, because now whenever I look at this fence with which until seconds ago I was deeply in love, I’ll be able to think of nothing else.

The herd, meanwhile, is not sure what to make of the new pasture. You might imagine that the first thing they’d do, upon being turned out on so large an acreage for the first time in maybe forever, would be to gallop and cavort and perform caprioles of happiness like magic faerie freedom ponies. However, since they’re actual horses, what they actually did was take two steps, start stuffing their faces with grass, and remain within a couple hundred feet of the gate the entire time.

Remind me to tell you of their delightful herd-bound panic attacks when it’s time to lead them back (one or at most two at a time; I’m only one crone) into captivity at the end of the day. They all think they’re gonna die when they’re separated for even three minutes. Horses suck.

Edited to correct unholy lay/lie usage error per TwissB’s grammar policement. Thanks, TwissB!


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  1. TwissB

    Were you referring to bobwahr? As for “lay fallow,” there’s no need to join the headlong rush to kill two perfectly good verbs by mashing them together. Be brave and hold out for “lie fallow.” Grammar aside, that is one beautiful hay field and the horses must think that they have ambled into heaven.

  2. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Dear god, you’re right! Holy moly I’m totally losin’ it!

  3. shopstewardess

    In my (English) neck of the pastures, the way to grow hay is to leave your hay meadow ungrazed from winter until early summer, and then find a few fine days in which the hay is mown, left to dry for two or three days and then baled and stacked.

    The one thing you need to look out for is that the meadow grows no poisonous plants. This is a step up from the meadow being safe for horses to graze, because there are some poisonous plants (ragwort is the biggy round here) which horses will naturally avoid when green and growing but scarf down when cut and dried in a pile of hay. If you can find someone knowledgeable to cast an eye over Dreadful Acres with a view its being safe to make hay next year, you will be doing your horses and your bank balance a good deed.

  4. Nolabelfits

    Are there no handydykes in Cottonmouth County?

  5. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Not many. Funny thing I’ve noticed the past few years: either my gaydar is broken or there are a shit-ton of burly ladies in major denial living out here. Don’t none of’em ever cop to being queer.


    If their families are Fundamentalist, the burly ladies know full well the penalty for even saying it out loud. Doesn’t make them straight, but it does make them discreet. I know a lady who despite being a stereotypical burly lady who lived with her life companion for thirty years (!) (who was also a lady, of course) was STILL never acknowledged by her rural, Fundamentalist parents to be gay, and indeed it was NEVER DISCUSSED. NEVER. NEVER EVER.

    The Denial was as colossal as…the Grand Teton. Or something else really colossal.

    I find is disheartening and strange that rural America has become so hostile to and irreconcilable to urban and suburban America. I lived in a small town for a little while and I did get the feeling that if the chips were down, the locals might sacrifice us a la Shirley Jackson to purify the community. A creepy feeling that sent me running back to the comparative safety of Groovy Blue Austin.

  7. tinfoil hattie

    I freaking love this new blog. And I love that you take such good care of your horses! It sounds even more expensive than rearimg two kids to adulthood. And no less time-consuming.

  8. Abra

    How many horses do you have? (referring to being able to only lead max 2 at a time, and I only see 2, and don’t remember hearing about any others….)

  9. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    I have three horses at the moment. The pet Arabians are in the photo. Not pictured is my fancy hunter Ginger Rogers. They are all horrible.

  10. Abra

    Good thing they’re so pretty, then!

    I know nothing from nothing about horses, never even been up on one, so I’ll have to take your word for the horribleness. Unless the next time my friend hosts Drunkapalooza in Austin, you don’t mind if a bunch of drunk women appear on your doorstep demanding to pet some horses.

  11. Faith

    Love the Fugly blog almost as much as this one! I haven’t been on a horse since I was 12 but I suspect I am more edumacated about them than many who own them. Another one I like is Horse and Man. Aside from the MAN part of the blog title, she writes some interesting information about horses. All this knowledge about horses has definitely given me absolutely no desire to own one. I’ll stick with my 2 dogs and 5 indoor-only cats thank you very much.

  12. TwissB

    Perhaps if you were to just show them how: http://www.abt.org/education/dictionary/terms/cabriole.html

  13. wonderin

    If they have separation anxiety, why not lead the 2 quietest ones and let the third follow? Then it is only 1 trip.

  14. ew_nc

    It’s been enjoyable getting to know your horses and their delightful quirks. That is what their quirks are, aren’t they? Delightful?

    I’d love to get an update on your dogs. Fran the yeller lab must be all grown up now. Hopefully the other one, whose name escapes me at the moment, isn’t still doing mischief to you that makes your orthopod rich.

    It’s sad that you’ve hung up your blaming stick. There is an interview on Feminsting with fashion designer Norma Kamali that is screaming for the jaundiced eye. But before anyone reads it, let me recommend eating a few Saltines first to keep the stomach settled. In this fairly short interview, forms of the word “empower” are used no less than 8 times. One could easily create an empowerfulness bingo card from it.

    Oh, and I now have a case of fence envy.

  15. tarr

    My elderly holsteiner moose stuck her foot into some woven wire a few days ago and did exactly what you fear – a fetlock surgery. This re-injured and re-lamed her, because she had done that very thing in September at another location. <a href=http://www.flickr.com/photos/50468270@N00/8021431409/in/photostream

    Perhaps I am the fool here, because as an invalid, she doesn’t pull the carriage and gets all sorts of brushing, treats and massages.

    Fence wire can get caught between hoof and shoe. If your horses are unshod, this might not be too much to worry about.

    I am thinking of putting a short electric fence inside the perimeter of her pasture to keep her away from the fence. Solar powered.. An option to think about if this causes you to worry about your beasts.

  16. M.K. Hajdin

    ew_nc, I can’t bring myself to read either Jezebel or Feministing. I suspect both merely exist to lure in women who are interested in feminism with what may well be occasionally serious pieces about feminist issues, but once they are hooked on the site, sell them beauty ‘n’ fashion ‘n’ pr0n videos ‘n’ kink-supplies – either straight from their advertisers, or indirectly promoted in articles.

    In other words, they exist to trap, contain and neutralize us.

  17. M.K. Hajdin

    I feel I should add something cheery on the patriarchy-blaming front, so I’ll say that the two posts on my blog which have astronomically high hits are a critique of the rapeyness in the new James Bond movie, and a critique of a misogynist magazine editor who wants to keep topless women in UK tabloids.

    I suspect there is more interest in patriarchy blaming, and perhaps even in feminist revolt, than some former spinster aunts may realize.

  18. Bushfire

    It’s quite heartwarming to hear your tales of animals and animal care.

  19. Jezebella

    M.K., you’ve seen the new James Bond? And it’s rapey? Goddammit. I really wanted to go see the deliciousness of Daniel Craig on the big screen.

  20. M.K. Hajdin

    Jezebella, it’s rapey all right. There is a female character who has been abused and prostituted, and Bond rapes her in the shower.

    I blogged about it here .

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