Friday, October 11, 2013

In the spirit of giving...

The barn cats presented me with the back half of a rat yesterday morning.

So thoughtful.  Now that I know they give a rat's a--, if I could just convince them that coffee is a MUCH better way to wake up... lol!

Off to feed the ponies.

Shoo Fly!

While I haven't been riding, the ponies have been enjoying their pasture time. So have the flies.

Maybe this is normal for KS, but the flies have been really miserable this summer. Poor short-tailed Rufus is particularly plagued. And for whatever reason, he more so than the others was getting crusty, fly-irritated eyes. I had a couple fly masks left over from when I tried using them up in SD, so I thought I'd at least see if one would fit him, and if so, if it would help.

Unfortunately, both were sized for slim-headed Arabs, and didn't span his broader face well. (No, I did not just call him a fathead - lol! Although... There have been occasions!) At any rate, I ordered a two more in horse size, not being entirely sure what he would be comfortable in, and figuring if he was going to wear one I might as well torture them - er, that is to say, make them all comfortable.

After two months of wear, here's what I learned:

 Fly Masks
Models left to right: Rufus, Sunny, Thunder, Amyra

Arab-sized Farnum without ears: Sunny and Amyra
Price: $14.99 and up

The two I have are the older style, with the soft fuzzy binding around the nose part, but the single hole for the horses' ears is made from a stiffer cloth. (The ones they sell now look to be about the same, with the exception of the softer binding around the ears.) They have a broad elastic band that runs under the jaw about where the throatlatch on a bridle would hang and velcro closed on the lefthand side.

Sunny wears one very comfortably and doesn't object at all. It fits him well, and he's only rubbed it off once. Amyra is less pleased about hers. She tolerates it being put on, but I think the binding around the ears chafes. She's learned she can roll and rub her head on the ground and scrape it off, and quite often, she does. (And I spend the evening wandering through the pasture playing "find-it".)

What I like: the mesh is semi-opaque from the exterior which helps it double as a sun shade, and they seem pretty durable. I've hand-washed them a couple of times and nothing has come apart. I also like the single, broad hole for ears & forelock. It makes putting them on in the dark much easier.  What I like less:  On both horses, they gap around the nose, which means sneakier bugs like mosquitoes just fly right up underneath.

The verdict: I'd buy one of these again for Sunny, but not for Amyra - although I think the newer style with the fuzzy ear-hole binding might be an improvement she'd find more comfortable.

Horse-size Cashel Fly Mask, Standard without Ears: Rufus
Price: $19 and up

This is a softer mask than the Farnums, with smaller, lighter mesh and a soft felt-like binding at the noseband, around ear and forelock openings,and around the jaw line. I ordered horse size, and it's plenty big.

Rufus has a wider head than the other three, but not a long one. Length-wise, the mask comes further down his face than the Farnam's do on Sunny and Amyra, which is fine. Width-wise, the mask is a little large; it would comfortably fit a much wider-headed horse, but I don't think it would adjust down any more for one with a narrower head. It doesn't have an elastic closure like the Farnums. Instead, the two sides overlap under his jaw, with an overlapping velcro closure. It would still pull off easily if he snagged it on something, so no worries there.

Rufus doesn't appear to have any objections to the fit, and his eyes are MUCH better now that he has some protection from the flies. What I like: The forelock hole and the softer mesh.

What I don't like: I'm not completely crazy about the closure design. While it sits in the right spot, when it's adjusted to fit him correctly, the velcro tab overlaps poorly, and Sunny has grabbed it and provided hands-free assistance in removing it a couple of times. The verdict: Despite the closure, I've ordered a cob-size with bright orange mesh inserts for Amyra from Smith Brothers. (At $21.99 it was a tad more expensive, but I wanted something in a different color so that I could tell the masks apart easily in dim light, especially since she'd take a smaller size.)

Professional's Choise Fly Mask without Ears: Thunder
Price: $17.95 and up

With soft, breathable mesh panels across the top of the nose and forehead area, and the attractive black piping around the lighter, gold & black flecked mesh, this mask takes "most attractive" hands down.

He still looks bug-like, but at least he's a prettier bug-headed horse - lol Thunder hasn't managed to lose it once, either. Like the Cashel, it closes by wrapping under the jaw, with a single wide velcro tab that overlaps and sticks to the loop-pad sewn to the left cheek side.

Initially I really liked this mask - the label said machine-washable (although I haven't tried that and probably won't). And from the outside looking in, it appears to provide really good visibility (I can see Thunder's eyes well), and he seems to find it comfortable. He hasn't managed to lose it or knock it askew yet. What I don't like: It has a two ear-hole design, but no opening for a forelock to go. I generally tuck Thunder's out one of the ear holes, but it's not an ideal solution.

Repellents & other stuff:

I've been using Pyranha spray, for the last couple years, but may investigate other options next summer. I think Rufus may be getting sensitive to one of the ingredients :( I don't like putting it on their faces, either.

Which brings me to Mug Balm Face Shield, by Mane Tamers, it's a horse-specific sun screen and bug repellent in one. Since I've been slathering Water Babies SPF 50 waterproof sunblock on Amyra and Rufus's noses almost all summer (is it sad that I've used almost three bottles on what's really a very small area of two horses, and haven't yet gone through 3/4 of one on me?), and it does nothing for flies, I was excited to run across this product, and decided to give it a try. At under $9 a bottle, it's actually cheaper than the Water Babies stuff, too.

The bad news is, they (all) strongly dislike it. I think because of the smell. I think it smells pretty good - very fresh, but strongly peppermint/citronella-y. Personally, I'd happily wear it rather than the human stuff since it's not sticky or tacky after it's rubbed in. It does, however, have a somewhat gritty feel. At first I thought I was just picking up dirt off of their muzzles, but it's actually something in the lotion itself. It also has a much lower SPF.

I've been applying it liberally to all four, given it's purported fly-repelling properties, and I've noticed that both of the pink-nosed ponies are pinker nosed than usual at the end of the day. Sigh.

As long as I'm hitting the highlights of fly deterrents, I might as well cover the Fly Predators, too. I placed an order for 5 months worth, with the first order to arrive in April. (It arrived just in time for the last snow of the year - lol!)

Anyway, in a nutshell, while they might work really well if I ONLY had four horses, but the 75+ head of cows that share a fenceline also have to be contended with.  No way can I afford Fly Predators to cover that number of critters, so I can't really say how effective it was using them. They probably made a dent in the face/heel fly problem, but I didn't notice a substantial uptick in the fly presence after the last shipment.

Much more visibly effective (and economical - T says they use them around all the dining facilities on the bases in Kuwait to keep the bugs down, too) are insecticide-free fly traps - the kind where you add attractant & water?  Those suckers really stink, but they sure do fill up with flies quick. I started with a handful of the disposable ones, but ended up picking up the refillable kind and a bottle of bait at Orschlen's, and I sure haven't been sorry.

Would love to hear what you all do for fly problems where you are - do you fly sheet?  Use feed through products?  What works & what really doesn't?

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Seeing Stars

Wow! Can't believe it was the first week of August I posted last.

Not much that's exciting has occurred in the meantime - which is good from the perspective that excitement isn't always a good thing, I suppose. The ponies have been enjoying the last days of summer winding down. The nights are getting earlier, and the mornings are definitely getting darker. I'm dishing out cat food, grain and morning supplements in the granary with the help of a light, and on moonless mornings my headlamp sure comes in handy. Then it's out among the beasties in the dimness, distributing feed pans and velcroing on their fly masks.

Thankfully, the fly masks do fit under their halters so I can get those on while they eat.

Our morning parade is now made by the light of the moon - some days it's bright enough to cast shadows and Squeak looks almost yellow when springs out to attack my feet and risk squashing as I trip my way back to the barn. Not sure why, but I never seem to fall over anything on my way TO the pasture with my hooved escorts.  So far the morning trips have been mostly uneventful. One morning we spooked several deer and sent them careering off into the brush. Another morning it was a cow and a brand new, still wobbly calf. We gave her a wide berth, but she was surprisingly unconcerned.  The horses had all the native wildlife spotted before we started, apparently, because other than pricked ears they didn't bother reacting.

They aren't quite so blase about the newest potentially encounterable obstacle though, perhaps because it's of the equid persuasion. The cow folks have four small donkeys, which until very recently they've kept up at their home barn. For whatever reason, possibly because the (this year's) baby is getting bigger, they've decided to turn them out with the cows.

"Egad!  I think it's moving - what in the world is it?"
The initial spotting of the new "holy crap, that's not a cow!" critters occurred on a bright, windy afternoon. Mutual snorting and retreat on both sides of the fence. So far, we haven't met them in the dark, but we did encounter them coming up to drink last night as I brought the ponies back down. Again, much with the snorting. Thunder particularly grew about a foot. He's the only one that hasn't seen a donkey up close and personal prior to, and he was NOT impressed.

Small, but incredibly cute
 I'm not too concerned about them interacting through the fence, but am hopeful the "run away!" mindset continues, at least on the little guys' part - meeting them up close coming or going  might be slide over into the bad kind of eventful, as I suspect one's an uncut jack - didn't investigate personal bits to determine for sure yet, though. (Only two of them are really interested in being friendly, but they do know about treats - lol!)

No riding to speak of - I keep resolving to do better, but so far it's been less riding and more other chores that need to get done.  Fingers crossed that Mother Nature continues to provide us with a long fall, and maybe I'll get my list of have-to-do knocked down and get back to the fun priorities!