Sunday, July 11, 2010

Food Fight

Murray eats a lot of grain. Well, I give him a lot of grain, how much he actually eats is debatable. Anyone who's watched him dig-in to his dinner knows that much of feed ends up on the ground. It gets there in one of two ways:

First, Murray is fussy. He gets a variety of grains-- high fat/high fibre pellets to keep his weight up, beet pulp to keep his weight up, sweet feed to make it all more appetizing, plus a vitamin supplement, a hoof supplement, corn oil and a dollop of molasses. Murray likes some aspects of his meal better than others. So, he sifts through his feed and eats his favourite parts first. This process of selection generally entails him tossing half his grain on the ground.

Secondly, Murray's mom must never have told him not to chew with his mouth open. Unlike most horses, when Murray's eating, food is not the only thing on his mind. He tends to want to look out the window, to check on Maggie, to see what we're doing. This means he snatches a few bites of grain, then lifts his head from his tub to look around. Sometimes he'll even walk around his stall with his mouth full. Inevitably, as he chews, much of what's in his mouth falls on the ground and ends up scattered amongst his bedding. And yes, he does have his teeth checked regularly-- there's nothing wrong with them, he's just sloppy.

Sunday July 10th

Tonight, Dave offers to feed the horses while I muck the stalls. I happen to be in Murray's stall when Dave brings in his prepared buckets of grain. He empties the buckets into the narrow tub in the corner of Murray's stall-- the less-appealing beet pulp first, then grain on top.
As I empty a pitchfork full of manure into the wheelbarrow, I hear Dave exclaim: "Wow, that's a huge mouthful of grain". I turn to see what he's talking about. I miss Murray's "big bite", but what I see next makes me double over with laughter.

Dave is standing to the left of Murray, about a foot from his neck. He's still holding the empty buckets out in front of him. He leans forward and peers into Murray's feed tub. Murray, clearly unhappy with what's at the top of his pile of grain, shoves his head in his bucket up to his eyeballs. He tilts his nose to the right, then violently shoves it back to the left. Grain, and wet beet pulp, fly through the air. Some of it lands directly on Dave, but most miraculously manages to fall into the buckets in his outstretched arms.

Two stalls over, Maggie is startled by my screech of laughter. She lets out a high-pitched shriek of her own. That, in turn, distracts Murray and his head, complete with a mouth stuffed with grain, shoots up out of his tub. He turns to the left to see what's happening. Forgetting his food, his jaws go slack, and without missing a beat, Dave reaches out with his bucket to catch the grain falling from Murray's overflowing muzzle. I am now laughing so hard that I have to lean on my pitchfork for support.

During the rest of Murray's meal, Dave stands in his stall. Every time Murray lifts his head, Dave follows his movement with his bucket, and manages to catch most of the falling feed. When Murray's just about finished, Dave empties his buckets back into his feed tub. It's probably the closest Murray has ever come to actually eating an entire meal.