Monday, January 24, 2011

You Can't Buy Common Sense

But you can find a friend who has it, and stick to her like glue!

With horses, time is not often on your side when you face a delimma--especially something as important as water. So, when we saw Red licking his water, we knew enough to take it serious.

From the window or backyard, I could see these things. 1.) He looked healthy, 2.) He was drinking from a full metal stock tank, 3.) This tank had been sitting in the same place, at the corner of the pasture, for the two months we'd had the horses there.

Now, some background: We'd only lived in this house for six months and when we bought it, it was just a half finished house in a large, empty field. We had to string hot-wire, mow the pastures, run hoses out to stock tanks and put up corrals with panels until our barn and permanent fences were built. We refer to those days as living in shanty town because that's the only way to describe how it looked. Ah, those were the BAD 'ol days!

On closer inspection, there weren't any bees in the water and Red had not been stung on the tongue, as I had guessed. Something else I should add here, because Red is very old, we're always quick to wrongly assume that any issue which comes up is related to him. This bias on our part has made fools out of us. Like the time I looked out in the pasture and saw Red with all four feet up in the air and assumed he was dead. (More on that later) At the time this happened, he was about 26-27 years old.

So, I phoned a friend--that smart, horse friend I'm always talking about. I might be dense, but at least I know who to call! I related the situation to her--Red is licking his water and there doesn't appear to be anything wrong with his tongue or throat. That's all I told her.

She thought about it for a second--quietly. I began to doubt calling her. What was she going to say that I couldn't figure out for myself, me being the one that was here?

Finally, the wise one spoke. I've only see a horse do that one time. It was drinking out of an automatic waterer and the waterer had a pulsing short. The horse was taking licks of water in between shocks.


I told my husband and both of our eyes lit up! Could it be? Could that metal stock tank be connecting with one of the hot wires from our fence?

Um, yes. We went out to the pasture and sure enough, the metal tank had been shoved just close enough that a low wire was making contact. Metal and water are conductors of electricity. The electric fence charger is on a pulse so that if you were to accidentally grab it, you'd have a second to get your bearings back and release it before the next shock is delivered. It was, in fact, the case, that Red was taking licks of water in between pulses of shock.

The lesson from this--don't set metal tanks near hot-wire fence. Which leads to yet another mystery and lesson involving water tanks...the case of the disappearing water.

Once upon a time, my husband I had drug a hose to a large stock tank and filled it up to overflowing. The next morning we went out and it was bone dry and the horses were asking for water. Huh? What? Why were they drinking so fast? We filled it up again. The same thing happened. Filled it up again. The same thing happened. This was a big tank, and the water should have lasted the horses for at least 2-3 days, maybe more.

I bet you guys can figure this one out--just another lesson in the annals of what not to do.


  1. Wow, that seems really smart of Red to be tuned in to the electric pulse, and match his drinking to the safe moments. Sometimes I think animals are so much smarter, or wiser, than we readily admit! Did the other horses have any reaction, or do the same thing?

    As for the disappearing water, I'm clueless :(

  2. Interesting to know about the tank being too close to the electric fence. We don't use electric, as our ground is so dry we have trouble keeping it working properly.

    As for the disappearing water, we've had this happen too. Wayne says that the deer must have come into the pasture and drank it all, but I think it was the fact that I left the hose in it, and the water siphoned out during the night.

  3. Joanne--it does seem strange, doesn't it? But once we pulled the tank away from the fence, he drank normally again. We never saw the other horses try to drink from it, just Red. We did have a pathetic charger at that time. I believe we were using the solar charged one until the electric was brought out to the barn, but I'm not 100% on that. But if it was a weak charge, it may have just been slightly sensive to his lips and tongue.

  4. Laura--I believe you're right on that one!

    And as for the charger, our fence runs pretty weak in the late summer, too--dryness. The month that happened was August and, I believe, it was the solar charger--so it would have been a very weak shock. Oddly enough, my horses respect even the smallest shock--but then again, they don't seem to want out.

  5. We had a similar issue last winter with a large snowfall and the feeder. The feeder wasn't touching the hot wire, but the snow had drifted enough to touch the wire and when the horses tried to break through the snow to the feeder, they were getting shocked.

    Can't believe I didn't think about it when you said Red was licking the water. *facepalm*

  6. GunDiva--very weird about the snow conducting to the feeder! Crazy. And, who woud think a horse would be licking his water to the pulse of the charger--you'd have to see it to believe it.

  7. I should have thought of that but I didn't know you had hot fencing near the trough. We have automatic waterers and it happened to us in the barn once. The electrician has a tester (we've got to get one from the hardware store) and while it was a very mild pulsing shock of electricity they could certainly feel it. Thankfully, it was only one horses stall that was affected. Glad it was something easily fixable.

  8. GHM--Did the horse in that stall stop drinking..did he do the lick/stop routine?

  9. LOL That's one intellegent horse you have there!

    I had a "discussion" with a college professor when she told me how "dumb" horses are.

    The proof is in the pudding!

    We own 2 mustangs ourselves, our mare is 19 (plus or minus,) and her son is now 15. Also have an arabian mare (rules them all) also 19.

    Our horses are trail horses also, and very willing to please.

  10. Mel--You're right--it is intelligent, and Old Red is nothing if not the smartest horse we've ever known.

    That is so interesting about what your college prof said. From my experience, people who say that about horses usually have had some bad incident in their past with them. Usually, as an inexperienced rider, they're put on or by a horse, something bad happens, and they walk away from horses forever assuming they're "stupid" when, in fact, the horse was probably just frightened.

    Two mustangs? Wow. And sounds like your horses are in their prime for the trails--hopefully, they'll be around for many more years!


Please feel welcome to join our discussion by telling us about your own thoughts and experiences.