Grit Blogs > Domestic Episodes of a Rodeo Princess

The Horse Feeder vs. Rodeo: Picture a Ferris Wheel

A photo of Shirley Rodeo VanScoykHorses love playing with their food. I feed our horses round bales of hay – if you are familiar with previous domestic episodes, you know the nature of those. Anyway, the citizens of our barn love unwrapping the hay from the bale – much like playful kittens with a toliet paper roll. Once they get it unrolled, they roll in it, pee in it, poop in it and make it inedible. I’ve been so thrilled at the cost difference between the round and square bales, this hasn’t really bothered me until lately, when the effects of this long hot dry summer have impacted the cost of the bales negatively.

Horse in the barnNow, like all problems, there is a solution to this situation and it involves tools, a trip to the Farm/Tractor Store and lifting something awkward and heavy all by myself. It’s called a round bale feeder and looks (when put together) a lot like an 8-foot Ferris wheel made out of 16 gauge tubular steel (about as thick as your wrist) welded together that slips over the top of the bale. The idea is that the horses will put their heads through the spaces in the feeder (where the seats would be if it were truly a Ferris wheel) and eat, but be unable to stand on the bale and crush it, strew it and mess it up. This saves you money and hay and according to the people who make bale feeders, enough money to pay for the bale feeder in two or three bales. Oh, the other reason I didn’t buy a bale feeder before was because the guy who sells me the hay said I didn’t need one. Of course. 

So, last night, C. and I went to pick up the feeder which comes in three convenient (if you are 5’10” man) sections, each weighting about 80 pounds. These sections fit easily into the back of the truck and in no time we are on our way to Bob Evan’s to get a nice meal. (It makes us feel good to eat there because it’s the reverse of eating at Pizza Hut – instead of being the oldest we are usually the youngest in the restaurant.) To C.’s credit, he did ask if I would need help getting the bale feeder out of the truck when we got home, and I said, “Oh, no! I don’t think so! I’ll just drag it out.”

Actually that was pretty simple. Once I drove the truck into the pasture, I was able to flip those sections right out on to the ground pretty close to where I thought the feeder would end up. 

I’m excited to notice that the feeder actually has the hardware required to put it together – 6 carriage bolts and nuts – already in the holes. All I have to do is undo them, slide the next section into place and do them back up. Easy! 

The first five go fine. They were only finger tightened. The sixth and last bolt has paint spilled on the threads, and the nut is now fouled with the paint. I need a tool. 

I know everyone has a thing, a permanent short cut in their brain which causes them to make the same mistakes over and over. Mine is an infantile need to avoid using the actual tool best designed for a job and make something that is completely inappropriate work. It starts like this in my brain: “I could use a tool for this. The tools are in the tool room. All the way over there. BUT I have a high heel, a roll of duct tape, a bottle opener, a dog leash, a tire iron, a bungee cord and a burned out halogen bulb within reach. Perhaps one of those will work?”

I try using the dog leash to improve my grip on the nut. I jam the bottle opener against the carriage bolt to keep it from rolling. I use a piece of duct tape on the dog leash to make it tighter around the nut. I pound the whole mess with the high heel just because I’m frustrated and can’t reach the tire iron. I can’t think of anything to use the halogen bulb for. Whew! The bolt and nut are finally free after 30 minutes. At least I didn’t have to take five minutes and walk to the tool room for a wrench or pliers! 

Now it’s time to put the feeder together. The first two sections go together easily: in fact after the first section, I’m proud of my short learning curve – I get the idea it’s better to put both bolts through the holes and then tighten them, rather than one at a time.. I am so good at this! 

In fact, my brain is really cooking now. It occurs to me that if I stand the feeder up, I won’t have to seit in the peed in, pooped in hay to do the last nut!!! It’s fairly easy to rock it into position on its edge. Now it really does look like a Ferris wheel! Whew! It’s eight feet in diameter. I’m … five feet. The last section with the loose bolt is now three feet over my head. But, hey it’s round and I can just roll it over until the section is within easy reach. I get it rolling and of course, down the hill it goes. 

It comes to rest against a tree finally, and it doesn’t really look all that banged up. For some reason it doesn’t roll back up the hill as easily (with the one part still not fastened) as it rolled down, so after about three tries I figure out that I better get that one last bolt done. It’s the fouled bolt and there are no dog leashes, high heels, duct tape or bottle openers within reach! Heck, I can’t even SEE the halogen bulb if I wanted it. I use a stick from the tree to poke out most of the paint and then manage to get the nut on the bolt, most of the way up. I roll the feeder back up the hill. 

Once in position, all I have to do is flip it back down and I’m ready to go. Now, it is an immutable law of physics that a 5-foot person with a reach of about 5-foot-6-inches cannot get to a point on an 8-foot circle where you can become a human fulcrum and pull it over. I wedge the thing against the fence, sprint for the truck for that bungee cord and before you can say, “You could have had C. do this really easily last night, and all it would have cost you is kissing him tenderly in appreciation,” I’ve got it that bungee cord up and over the top. One yank and (although all 180 pounds narrowly miss hitting me in the head) it’s over! It’s even over a pile of hay!

I let the horses out of their stalls and eagerly wait for them to see it and use it. The first four walk past it toward the field where the grass is, never even noticing the new toy. Number five, Mr. Doc-who-has-issues, braces himself against the barn wall and screams at it as if he’s just seen a shark in the pasture. After a few days, I am sure he will take right to it.

rodeo princess
2/9/2010 2:43:28 PM

Lori, It's my turn to laugh! Everybody here has had 'the wet yucky spot' usually the front pocket on a hooded sweatshirt because we had forgotten we put eggs in there! It's gross!

2/9/2010 6:43:32 AM

What a great story! I have a problem with trying to do to many things at once. Back in the fall, I needed to clean off our front porch, and get it ready for winter, (we don't have a roof over our porch). I was walking back from feeding the chickens and gathering the eggs, when I looked at the porch and thought "I'm going to clear that porch off right now"! I walked directly to the porch and went to work. We have a porch swing on a frame, and 4 plastic chairs on the porch. I stacked the chairs on top of each other, and took the swing off of the frame. You know, you wouldn't want to make any unnecessary trips, so I thought "I can take this stuff all at once". I hooked my right arm through the back of the swing, and my left arm through the whole stack of plastic chairs, and away I waddled with my arms full. I'm glad nobody was there to watch. I'm sure my dear hubby would have had a sarcastic comment for me! I finally made it to the basement, and set down my load. It was only then that I remembered I had put all the eggs I collected in my coat pocket. I felt a funny wet spot on my side. Scrambled eggs anyone?

rodeo princess
2/7/2010 6:52:55 PM

You are both so kind to comment! Nebraska, it's always good to see that you read my posts! And Oz Girl, I would rather do almost anything than pitch hay!

nebraska dave
2/6/2010 11:04:22 AM

Rodeo, it truly is amazing how in our mind we think that the five minutes to get the right tool can be eliminated by finding a totally inept tool close at hand. Then to spend many times longer trying to make that tool under designed for the job at hand work is unexplainable. Even though my mind still wants me to do the “let’s find something near to fix this” thing, I have learned to sit down take a deep breath and then go get the right tool. All the while my mind is going through the process of if I get this tool I’m just going to have to put it back again when I’m done. Can’t I just find something close to use. My friend with the Arabian horses has round hay feeders, but when I watch the horses for him, the square bales of hay go into the round feeder for the mares. I guess a square peg can go into a round hole when hay is concerned. Of course I had to cut the strings and break up the hay in chunks. Now the stallions were a different story. Because of being in separate pens, they only got flakes (chunk about 6 inches thick) of hay bales. The biggest issue I see with round feeders is the animals can’t reach the center when eating. Another great story. I hope all your future assembly projects will be sealed with a kiss and not hammered with a high heal.

oz girl
2/6/2010 8:53:10 AM

Oh Shirley, I love your humorous take on the ole round bale feeder! :-D We have one also... it sits unused. We decided to feed square bales this winter, simply because of the amount of hay that gets wasted in a round bale. I think the cost difference works itself out, since we feed them a couple of flakes from the square bales and less gets wasted! (Hubby had me pitchforking hay from the round bales last winter, which we kept in his shop... ugh. I'd rather feed flakes than pitch hay!!!)