Feb 26

Of Fitbits and horse spits

Death of a FitbitThe object in the photo is my recent Fitbit.

If you aren’t familiar with the self-tracking craze that’s sweeping the nation, and I sincerely hope you aren’t, the word “Fitbit” will mean nothing to you. I regret to say that Fitbit is a little electronic pedometer that you put in your pocket, whereupon it tracks the number of steps you take, the number of “floors” you climb, how many miles you’ve traversed, etc. It wirelessly uploads this useless information to your computer, where your overall degree of sloth is calculated and, if you wish, saved for posterity, or even (although I never went this far myself) posted to the Fitbit social network. Fitbit also sends you annoying little inspirational messages on your smartphone during the day, such as “Almost there! Just 9568 more steps to meet your goal of 10,000!”

10,000 daily steps is the default goal Fitbit sets for you. I don’t know why. I usually hit that mark around tea time, after which it starts sending me messages accusing me of being an “overachiever.” I shit you not. That Fitbit, much like my mother, is never satisfied.

A couple of weeks ago I decided to get one of these Fitbits because I noticed that I am on my feet, schlepping hay and horse shit and whatnot, more or less from dawn til dusk, and was curious to know how sanctimonious I should be about it. It turns out I can be moderately sanctimonious. However fascinating it may be, though, my stunning feats of daily caloric expenditure in the line of farm duty are not the subject of today’s post. The subject of today’s post is the utter unsuitability of the Fitbit for even the mildest of rural environmental conditions. To wit:

Like any rational horseman — or, if you prefer (though I sincerely hope you don’t), “horsewomyn” — I believe wholeheartedly in the efficacy of bribery as it relates to favorable outcomes in equine encounters. Thus it is incumbent upon me to keep diagonally sliced carrots in my left pocket; it is so written in the Code of the Crones. So this morning, pocket stocked, I schlepped out to the paddock to remove the heavy winter blankets with which yesterday’s gale-force winds had compelled me to outfit the horses last night.

That wind was no joke, by the way. Things that should never be airborne, like wheelbarrows, garbage dumpsters full of foul-smelling cat food cans, and thick clouds of pulverized horse manure (you’ve heard of white-outs? Imagine a poop-out, and you’ll have a pretty accurate picture of my day yesterday), were flying hither and yon as though gravity were just a figment of some 17th century boffin’s imagination. At one point I saw Elmira Gulch hurtling over my hay barn on a bicycle.

Anyway, when I went to pull her rug off, Ginger Rogers stood like a marble statue despite taking several unnerving static shocks from the satiny blanket lining. To reward this saintlike behavior I gave her a couple of carrot slices. I was just about to move on to the next horse when I noticed old Ginge chewing weirdly and making the “this tastes gross I’m gonna spit it out” face. It was almost like she had just been fed, oh I don’t know, an Ikea meatball. Or, it dawned on me, a tiny electronic pedometer that was suddenly not in my pocket anymore.

I don’t know if there are data to support the hypothesis that Fitbit ingestion may adversely affect equine digestion, but I didn’t wait around to Google it. I pried open Ginger Rogers’ face and extracted, sure enough, the Fitbit. A Fitbit, it turns out, is exactly the size and weight of a diagonal carrot slice, such that it had been indistinguishable from same by my gloved hand.

As you can see in the photo, the Fitbit was only minimally gnawed and salivated upon, yet its brief excursion into the dainty maw of my little 1200-pound horse has rendered the thing completely inoperable. Unacceptable! If their pedometer can’t survive a little horse chomp every now and then, how will it fare when I get bucked off, or when a tractor flips over on it? Fitbit should announce that their product is defective and issue a recall.

Cheese and WasaMeanwhile, now that I’m Fitbit-free, I discover that I had become strangely obsessed with knowing how many steps it takes to get from the bathroom to the well house, or the distance I travel when mucking out a paddock. There’s an emptiness now, an auto-cataloguing void that I suspect can only be filled by posting pictures of everything I eat on Flickr.


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  1. Val

    I am compulsive about logging all my physical activity on dailymiles.com… It helps keep me “honest” when I claim to be a reasonably fit & active person.
    My equines tend to sniff suspiciously at any treats offered (unless it’s a Little Debbie oatmeal creme pie, then Qubie will take your hand off like a rabid pit bull 😉 – but I did discover that the mule enjoys stale tortilla chips!

  2. ew_nc

    You still have the cat, I see.

    Elmira Gulch!

  3. Pinko Punko

    Haha. Reminds me of the time I through the camp van keys into an outhouse toilet when disposing of some picnic trash because they were in the same hand. Oy.

  4. Hermionemone

    Goddess bless you, Ambivalent Crone of the South-Central; even your so endearingly reported, smallest adventures are like enduring heartwarming eternities in a single hour.

    In these modern times many people use their smartphones as pedometers. Imagine explaining to the service rep, “I was feeding treats to my horses and one chewed up my BlackBerry, thinking it was an Apple.”

  5. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Ha! That’s what you get for walking around with a pocketful of electronic junk. Wouldn’t a regular pedometer measure your steps just as well?

    Penny makes that “ew, gross” face if I try to feed her vegetables. Her tastes are strangely discriminating for a street stray from Mansfield, OH.

  6. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Antoinette, the inspirational messages, I tell you. They make all the difference. This morning I got one that said “Your Fitbit battery is low.” Ha! You got that right, Fitbit. Anyway, now that I have demonstrated what I am capable of, inanimate-object-in-animal-mouth-wise, what’s to keep me from accidentally feeding a “regular” pedometer to the cat?

  7. pheenobarbidoll

    I was blown to the ground when I attempted to close by back fence that had blown open despite being reinforced with cinder blocks and stakes. The wind blew those rollers over the cinder blocks and up over the stakes like they weren’t even there. I discovered this when I pulled up in my driveway and found my Catahoula prancing around the front yard. Fortunately, all dogs were accounted for and I got the damned gate shut. Trees were uprooted, roofs were blown off , 2 18 wheelers were blown off the road, and people on the road had to dodge flying signs and billboards. I’m pretty certain I saw New Mexico blow by. The wind clocked in at between 65-70 gusting to 80’s . All I could do was thank Bob I no longer live in Lamesa, where winds like that mean total dirt blackout because the town is surrounded by cotton/peanut farms.

    Glad to hear Dreadful Acres is still standing and no one/thing got blown to the Gulf.

  8. Ron Sullivan

    OK, so that’s not a sort of equine dental retainer. Now I know.

    Some wind, hey?

  9. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    Holy shit, Pheeno. Glad you made it though. And your little dog, too.

  10. Niki

    Counting calories? Dreadful acres is perhaps doing odd things to your mind. Next you’ll be buying a loom and weaving yourself pink bikinis, no doubt.

  11. Rebekah

    I once dropped my ancient iPhone in the stall of a halter-bred Quarter horse mare. Fortunately, it was safely ensconced in an Otter box when her tiny hoof smooshed it into the shavings. The holster broke. The case and phone were unharmed.

    Ps. I’ve always meant to comment and don’t think I ever have. I added your previous blog to my feed at approximately the same time that you left it and started this one. It was a fortunate coincidence as I love the horses, too.

  12. The Crone of Cottonmouth County

    I’m not counting calories. I’m counting footsteps, out of curiosity. Or at least I was. I don’t need to count the calories. My daily diet consists entirely of nuts, cheese, fish, beans, wine, and broccoli; it’s about a gajillion calories, give or take. Of course, that doesn’t rule out a pink bikini. No doubt!

  13. copykatparis

    IS *that* where the wind is coming from?
    (sorry, sorry sorry! Couldn’t resist!)

  14. stacey

    Ain’t nothing wrong with looms. When the revolution comes, everyone will run to the weavers for nice warm toasty blankets.

  15. Mary caulkins

    “At one point I saw Elmira Gulch hurtling over my hay barn on a bicycle.” Sooooo funny!
    I think she showed up over Victoria next…

  16. Mary caulkins

    I have a Body Bug. Same theory only tracks how many calories one burns in a day. It hasn’t made it into any of the mouths of horses instead it sits in my brief case. All In have to do is strap it on my upper arm. I just seam to never get that far.
    Its on my to do list.
    Maybe I dont care a flying fig how many calories I eat!

  17. tuckova

    The fitbit people are (I have been told) really good about replacing the one you accidentally left in your pocket and ran through the washer –this was a factor in my purchase of one, since it’s just a matter of *when* that happens for me, with electronics. I expect they’ll be grateful for an interesting story, especially from an overachiever like you.

  18. Sue

    If you have not chucked the damaged Fitbit your should e-mail your tale of woe to Fitbit customer service. I’d be willing to bet they will send you a new one at no charge. They did when my old one went for a spin in the washing machine.

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