TODAY WAS HAYDAY!
I was thrilled to receive my newest load of hay today from my favorite grower!
What is pictured here is a squeeze-full of orchard grass. It is rich, green, moist, fragrant and I go through the effort to buy from this grower direct because my horses have looked great on his hay for the last two years. To be totally fair, I do supplement this hay with 3-Grain or some other winterkeeper forage, but for the mostpart, I feel fortunate and do a little jig whenever the truck arrives.
Here is another photo of my new pile of hay. Yup, they dumped it like that on purpose so it is easier to stack in my inefficient (by squeeze standards) hay barn.
(time lapse… hay in barn, time to feed)
SERVING UP THE NEW HAY!
La-Laaa-Laadeeedah-La! I’m singing as I serve up the first bale of lovely hay to all the milling about horses who were anxiously awaiting their first nibble as well.
“Here you go, Babies! Eat up! Look how much Momma loves you… Fresh, lovely hay for all you spoiled-rotten, fatty arbuckles!” They love it when I coo to them… ;)
The barn horses got all the hay that was littering the aisle that the hay stackers kindly made into a pile (thank you). Now… which bale to open for the first taste for the rest of the horses? Hmmmm. Well, there is a very convenient bale sitting out here in front of the barn. I tell myself that is is unusual for them to leave a bale outside the barn but they probably did that because it is missing a string and a bit loose – too tough to stack. The bale does look a bit out of whack with its missing string but it is green and lovely so I decide to start with this single, lonely, in-front-of-the-barn bale..
(I’m so stoopid sometimes… but more about that later.)
I cut the strings and serve the lovely green flakes to Remi, Bodhi and the ponies. Mmmmmmmm. Yummy Yummy. The horses are nickering their approval of their dining experience this evening. Then, I go back to the barn and get two more lonely-bale flakes for Finn and Hayley.
I then trot off back to the barn to feed the dogs. Once done, I follow my routine like Rainman and drone back up to Finn’s pasture to turn off their water. It was then that I noticed the most peculiar behavior.
He was dunking his hay.
Huh? I had never, ever seen him do this. Why? I sat there in awe as he systematically grabbed a bite, shook it, walked over to his personal waterer and dunked the bejeesus out of it. Then, he’d slurp up the bits and swallow. After a few times, he realized that he could be much more efficient and he brought over a huge clump and set it down next to his bucket. Then, he picked up a clump, dunked, picked up another, dunked and then swished it all around before he started munching with his face down in the water. Hmmmmmmm. I looked at his flake to see if I missed something brown or odd. Nope. I smelled it. Nothing. I even picked at it to see if it had some sticks or a weed in there or some odd field plant. It looked OK to me. In fact, it looked really good to me.
I ran inside to get my camera. On the way out, I checked everyone else who had a flake from Finn’s bale. No one was dunking or shaking it or having trouble with it or any other sign that would indicate something unforeseen was happening. All the hay looked perfectly fine. Hmmmmm. Again. No light is dinging in my brain. Nothing. Nothing was telling me to actually check the REST OF THE BALE that was still sitting in front of the barn. Nothing was telling me to think about this in sequence. “I opened the bale and fed who first… where was Finn in the order?” It didn’t occur to me because I was trusting my human eyes and nose. It all looked fine and smelled great to me.
I then took these photos of Finn and his procedure figuring this was a good blog topic. Snap, clickityclick. I took a bunch of photos and started off, la-de-dah, to google this behavior and write about it. But as I was motoring back to the office, I kinda Scoobydo’d to myself. RutRow. There has to be a reason, doesn’t there?
WHY DO HORSES DUNK?
Why do horses dunk their food?
Of course, the obvious suspects… dry hay, stemmy hay, brittle hay, dry weather, scratchy throat, moldy hay, mouth issues, teeth issues, thirst, wanting more fragrant aroma … and that water hydrates the leaves so it is more like grass and therefore more palatable.
There was one new internet theory that I thought was very interesting. Horses can dunk hay if there is too much sugar in it. It is suspected that the dunking dilutes the sugar. You can test this if the water is brown instead of green. Hmmm.
All of that made perfect sense. Sure, I could understand why Finn would be doing this if I had dry, stemmy, dusty, moldy or brittle hay. But, this hay was brand new and it was gorgeous, green and fragrant. He has had his teeth done recently. It is hot out but not that hot and besides, he has never soaked his hay before. I did ride him today but not very hard. And, I went out to check the color of the water in his personal bucket and it was greenish, not brownish. Hmmmmm.
WHY FINN WAS DUNKING ACCORDING TO ME…
The only reason for this dunking behavior that I could surmise was this: I had ridden him today and put him in the Bribe pasture after his trailer ride. The Bribe pasture is the pasture I save for any horse who trailered that day. He/She gets to spend time in there after the ride. It is a reward of sorts. The pasture has stuff to forage, is fun and no one else is in there so the entire place is open for whatever that horse wants to do. There is plenty of fresh water and bonus of bonuses, it is higher than all other pastures so any horse in there can see all and lord over the entire ranch.
Finn had spent the afternoon in the Bribe pasture. However, at dinner time, the Bribe Pasture switches instantly to the Punishment pasture because anyone up there gets released last and therefore fed last. OOhhh. This creates massive hollering and bellowing from the upper deck. Almost all of the gifted horses who play in the Bribe pasture by day become hysterical wrecks at the dinner bell.
Finn is the worst of them all. He cannot stand when anyone else is having dinner before his royal highness. So, he runs and bucks and snakes his neck until someone gets his poor, miserable soul out of the Punishment pasture and back to his dinner. Oh how the tides turn… only moments before he was sniggering at the others and lording over the roost. But, the instant he hears hay barn doors opening, Finn throws the baby out with the bathwater and cries his heart out to be one of the herd again.
So, Finn had done an awful lot of hollering and carrying on before I rescued him and brought him to his regular pasture for his fabulous new hay dinner. It was then that I surmised that perhaps he had run himself dry and just wasn’t in the mood for dry hay.
He needed to rehydrate his grass…
Hmmmm, he thought… I could add that bucket of water to this dry grass and Voila! Moist salad!
My Finn is one smart boy… why should he eat dry grass when he could plump it up?!
Atta boy, Finn, atta boy!
HORSE AND MAN is a blog in growth… if you like this, please pass it around!
PS Just so you know, I finally got horses again when we were stationed at Ft. Benning. Last September, I adopted a BLM mustang. My first horse was a mustang that I bought at a killer auction in 1967. She was a creamello I named Misty. My life has come full circle.
I met my husband while I was a Russian student at the Presidio in Monterrey and he was a pre Ranger instructor at Ft. Ord. We were married at the Presidio Post Chapel 24 May, 1986. We rented an apartment on Casa Nova Avenue while we waited for our quarters assignment. After over a year of waiting, we finally got quarters, 720 Williams Circle. We already had our first baby and a second one on the way. Our first daughter’s godfather, Sgt. Jeff York, followed my husband to the Light Fighter Cadre at Ft. Ord from 1st Ranger Bn. in Savannah, Ga. Jeff was also a horse nut, like me. He decided to take riding lessons at the Ord stables. He was a great student and learned quickly. We were all assigned there for a few more years. My husband was reassigned to 1st Ranger Bn. and we got there just in time for him to rejoin the Regiment for Just Cause in Panama. Jeff got out of the Army and became a police officer. He never lost his love of horses and rides nearly every day as a mounted patrol officer! I never had a chance to ride at Ft. Ord, so never had the honor of meeting Comanche. I will be certain to let Sgt. York know about this site. I’m thinking we should have a little Ft. Ord reunion. Thanks for the lovely memories!
Finn is a TWH!
Did I read that Finn was a Morgan? My two Morgans dunk their hay all of the time. Drives me crazy.
My boyfriend’s Saddlebred and Fox Trotter never do it. Maybe it’s a Morgan thing. They are too darn smart.
Love your blog.
I have an Appy that does this!