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In Loving Memory...
~ Gogo Fatale ~

6/2/01 - 10/11/11
~ Forever the Marest of Them All ~

Thursday, December 23, 2010

From D-Block to B-Rock

Texas continues to be a completely new and wonderful experience on all ends of the spectrum for me. Coming from a suburb outside of New York City, my new little town of 80 residents is quite a dramatic change. My biggest complaint so far is that I am constantly parched. The local residents all complain about the humidity here but I think they must clearly be insane. Back in New England, I was terrible about drinking enough water, and if I had a glass a day I was doing very well for myself; I never felt thirsty. Here, I am probably going to dessicate and die if I don't really start drinking normal amounts of water. It's been in the 80's every day this week, except for today, when it dropped to a measly 65. I think I could get used to a Texas winter.

Gogo, on the other hand, is not drinking nearly as much as I expected she would in the dry Texas heat, but she is drinking a reasonable amount if you compare it to the drinking patterns of the other horses on the property, and factor in both her wet grain and soaked hay. She has bewitched all of the neighbor's horses with her ravishing good looks, and they spent a large part of their day fighting over who will get to stand closest to her. (The biggest, fattest dark bay gelding wins every time.) Gogo is coming out of heat, and is now playing kissy face over the double fence line instead of nonstop peeing. Unfortunately for me, this means that she is reaching over her safe pipe fencing into the dangerous territory of the neighbor's barbed wire, which is definitely within her reach. She has so far managed to keep all of her eyes and limbs intact, but I can only hope that she will stop being in heat shortly and will lose interest in that side of the paddock. She has been staying out for 8 hours every day, even though there isn't much to eat in terms of grass anymore. She is delighted to be out there, and oddly enough, her legs look great. Surprisingly great. Better than they've looked since this new reinjury. They even look great in the early morning when we first arrive, and she has been standing in a stall all night. I would be lying if I didn't say I was more than a little bit shocked and relieved. Some days, it is even quite cool to the touch.

For all that she is sound at the walk, though, I forget that it doesn't mean that she's actually sound. I watched her trot away from me the other morning when I turned her out, and she is by no means sound. She is not dead toe-dragging lame, but she's lame. Time will tell how much this improves, but I have to keep reminding myself that we're only just a few weeks out from this new injury. All in all, concerning how the leg looks, how much the general swelling in the actual tendon has decreased all by itself, and how good her general attitude is, I don't think I could ask for better at the moment, barring a total miracle.

At the moment, my mind is consumed with the massive barn renovation project. Actually, it's not THAT massive, but it is a bit complicated on more than one end. My main concern is that this piece of land is not my property. I'm technically not even paying a cent for it, as it comes with the job package. Realistically I know that at any moment, something could happen and I could lose the whole thing. (I mean let's hope not, but you never know!) It would be silly of me to put any sort of serious money into this project. My landlord is very cool about these things, so I stand a good chance of him reimbursing me at least in part, but he has other more important projects to tackle (like fixing my washing machine!) and it's the holidays, so I want to get a headstart and fix up all the solo projects I can find.

There are two areas of fix-uppance that need to be addressed before any animal that isn't a cow can move onto the property: fencing and the barn/shed area. In terms of fencing, we have 5 acres that need to be safely fenced. A large portion of the fencline is already safely fenced with diamond mesh and smooth twist high-tensile wire, the lower portions with the diamond mesh and the higher portions with three strands of the thick smooth wire. As a rule, I don't REALLY want my horse in any sort of wire fence that isn't mesh or weave made specifically for horses, but in terms of safety, this is specifically made for horses and is strong, tall and sturdy. The three top strands are high up and quite close together, and there is little chance of her being able to get a foot tangled anywhere. She's never had a problem with fencing of any sort before, but those are famous last words. She's been out in about every type of fencing you can imagine - pipe, post and rail, board, reenforced electric wire, electric tape, PVC board, top board chain link - and the only thing she has ever done was get a foot tangled in a poorly placed stand of electric tape when tapping a hind foot at a horse across a shared fenceline. It was going to happen at some point given the location of the electric tape, it just was Gogo that it happened to. And all she very sensibly did was carefully walk away out of it while getting shocked to death.
Anyway, most of the fencing is horse-safe already, although a few strands of the top wire are sagging and need to be tightened. Part of the fence is pipe, which is very smooth and safe despite how unforgiving it is. It is bright white and highly visible, and is right behind my house (pretty!). The only problem I have at this point with the fencing is that a small section of the house-side fence and one of the side fences are barbed wire.


Not safe:

I don't care that this is the Southwest and EVERYBODY keeps their horses in barbed wire pastures. They're cattle fences and they're NOT SAFE. Gogo is currently in a pipe fence, but can reach the neighbor's perimeter fence (barbed wire) when his horses come over to visit. She has neither sliced herself nor taken out an eye yet, but I think luck will only take us so far there. All fences can potentially be dangerous, but barbed wire is especially so. It has to go.
There are already T-posts in place, obviously, so I think what needs to be done is remove the barbed wire and scraggly saggy perfectly-hoof-capturing-sized woven wire (again, cheap cattle fence) and refence with a horse safe mesh like diamond mesh and something overtop, like a strand of electric braid for visibility. I think electrifying the whole 5 acres isn't going to really be worth my while, but it might be. Pyscholigically, Gogo has been shocked to death by electric before, so she has learned to stay VERY clear of anything like it.

I think that is what I'd like to do: keep the t-posts up where they are, cap the tops of all of them (they are all uncapped, which = lethal spears), tear down the barbed wire and cheap crappy weave wire, install diamond mesh and a string of visibile electric braid across the top, and there you have it! POSSIBLY will be worth it to run a string of electric around the entire perimeter fence, but I dunno. The rest of the fences are VERY visible and there isn't anything tasty or anyone to play with on the other side of the fence. Again though, you just never know with horses.

The other project, which is going to be slightly less major but possibly more complex, is to fix up the barn area and make it horse-friendly. The family that lived here before me kept cattle here, so there is a labyrinth of pens around the barn area that is both complicated and in serious need of repair. It took me a bit of time to figure out exactly what I had available, and even more time to figure out how exactly to make it usable, but I have a plan now that I've looked it over.

At first glance, all you can hope is that you have an up to date Tetanus shot when you go fishing around:

Well that won't do.

There are five useable pens in all, which are pens that can be completely shut in with working gates, and a chute that looks sized for loading sheep onto a truck (possibly what it was originally built for). I toyed with the idea of tearing down all the unusable fence (old and damaged chain link) and redoing all of it, but that seems silly. Also, I really don't want Gogo to be weaving through a maze of pens nonstop... that just seems like an accident waiting to happen. I had to step back and take a better look at the whole picture in order to figure out what I needed to do.

First, view from the outside:

Not good with those rusty old gates. BUT, picture this:

Rusty old gates totally removed, ratty chain link removed from the pipe fence and new chain link installed where need be, other pens closed off and not used, and tada! You have one main pen-area that had shelter access, and don't have to worry about your animal getting tangled in any of the other pens which may or may not ever be usable.

And if I need to lock her in anywhere, there is one pen which will be quite safe with a little bit of refencing that also has a working gate and shelter access. I don't think I even want to think about tackling the interior barn area... there is WAY too much in there that would need to be done to ever become horse-friendly. Having a good shelter to stand under (or be locked into) is perfectly acceptable for an outdoor-living horse.

Some of the current chain link in the pen area is perfectly fine:

And some is not:

I went to Lowe's the other night while out Christmas shopping, just to see what is there, and actually I think this is going to be fairly inexpensive in the end. There's not THAT much to do. Like I said earlier, I am fairly certain that my landlord will reinburse me for a fair part of this project if not all. I can't guarantee that, but it can't hurt to ask.

The winter soltice has come and gone, and now the days are only going to get longer and sweeter. More daylight = more time to play outside!!

I am off to Florida for a few days to visit family for Christmas. I hope you all are having a good Holiday season. Give your ponies lots of hugs and kisses!


Jo Belasco said...

Andrea, I went from an advanced-level eventing barn to Texas. Barbed wire is everywhere because of the expense of using other fencing on such large areas. Horses get used to it. What you need to never have together is barbed wire and a mesh together. I had a mare get injured in that. She had been in barbed wire with NO problem, but the mesh meant her hoof got caught in it and then the barbed wire did damage.

Have a fantastic time in Texas!

Dom said...

Ugh... barbed wire!!! I've seen so many horses with career ending injuries from that stuff. Often times, all it takes is one strand. Horses can be ok for years and years, then get accidentally stuck and rip their limbs to shreds. Terrifying. I agree. It's cattle fencing.

I do think the other horses fighting over GoGo privileges was adorable. Got a big grin out of me.

Good luck with the renovations and good luck getting used to the heat. :) This is quite an adventure for you both.

Alighieri said...

Good for you with replacing the barbed wire! I will never think it's okay for horses to go out in barbed wire, and I'm from Texas and live there now. My current trainer has the pipe fencing with just the one pipe on top, with the rest of the fence being the diamond mesh. I personally think it's even safer than board fencing, seeing as I've seen a horse both crash through board fencing and tear his chest wide open, and also a horse get cast next to board fencing and proceed to get his legs very tangled in the boards. That was fun.

Have fun in FL!

Funder said...

If you run short on money or time or helpers, remember that you can run hot wire/tape 5-10' inside the barbed wire. It's not perfect, but she'll respect it. Woven / diamond wire is just breathtakingly expensive once you start really adding it up.

jenj said...

A thought on creating some safer fencing - you might consider purchasing some used t-posts off Craigslist, driving them in maybe 10 feet from the existing fence line, and then running 2 or 3 strands of wide hot tape on the new fence line. Oh, and of course cap the t-posts. Super-safe, visible, quick to put up, and quite inexpensive.

manymisadventures said...

Those last two comments had some good ideas.

Good for you for making sure it's SAFE. We need to buy a couple bags of T-post caps, too - there's a few out at our barn that are uncapped.

Dressager said...

I agree with Jenj and Funder, as I have seen it work (and it can look quite fabulous, actually, almost like white wooden fences).

Also, even though this is Texas, every horse barn I've been to or worked at either had horse-safe fencing (i.e. where Greta is at now it is pipe fencing with a pipe on top and three thick wire rope strands stretched taut beneath) or didn't have it and replaced it (i.e. where Greta was at before, The super-thin wire strands that had almost succeeded in slicing and dicing a couple of horses before was replaced with wooden posts or capped t-posts and horse-safe mesh wire that not even a little foal hoofie could get caught in and stretched taut between posts and topped with a strip of electric tape, and it looked quite dandy). Expensive and a stretch of a stretch for starters, but I'm just saying that not even Texans stand for ponies and barbed wire.

But the safe part you showed definitely looked really nice! And the "labyrinth", if some fences are taken down and the layout really simplified, would make a really nice paddock area, as the shelter itself looks like it's in good condition.

Get 'er done!

Andrea said...

Actually, I vaguely had that idea and somehow didn't think I could make it work - but maybe I can! I'd still like to remove the barbed wire, but running electric instead is probably my best bet. I still don't want the barbed wire anywhere near her... if she runs through the fence for ANY reason at all, she'll be sliced to bits!

And yes, I do agree about the cost... somehow I thought it would be cheaper. I think a good solid chain link is also a perfectly acceptable option, especially if we're not talking a forever 20+ years fence.

Louise McGillivray said...

I would be far more concerned about the small hoof-sized mesh than the barbed wire.

I don't like barb much either, but only because it shreds rugs. There are good arguments that it's actually safer then plain wire, but I guess you can never really prove that.

That mesh though... it screams danger to me! Here in Australia we have what's called "Cyclone" in common usage (I'm in a sheep area) and it's not horse friendly at all, despite being the most common type of fence used.

I'm looking forward to your new adventures in a new home.

DressageIsToDance said...

Agh, barbed wire.

My opinion on it is pretty much, you'd be better off to just shoot your horse on the spot.

I've seen a horse rip the crap out of his leg on even electrobraid, supposedly the safest fencing (or so I read in some magazine) why the hell would anyone use barbed wire for a horse?

It's awesome that Gogo can have so much turnout...I think you'll find it will do wonders for her soundness.

Jennifer said...

Welcome to TX...
Cows have no respect for mesh or electric tape...
They barely respect barbed wire. So before you re-fence the place, check the other side of the fence line, and see who the neighbors are..

My fence has one side barbed, with cows on the other side. No injuries here, the horses have enough to eat that they don't need to try the other pastures...

Two cents' opinion from a local yokel