Not having owned a horse before, I’m not claiming to be an expert at interpreting equine behavior. Nonetheless, I have to say that I was pretty sure that this one wasn’t acting just right the other day.
Tango’s "grazing pasture" is larger than the one that adjoins the round pen and the shed/stall. Part of the routine since he grazed down the small pasture has been leading him over each morning and turning him loose into the larger pasture. "Larger" here is quite the relative term since it’s not more than an acre; nonetheless, it’s three or four times the size of the smaller one.
Since we don’t have water piped across the driveway yet, I take a bucket or two of water over and set it just inside the fence so he can get a drink during the day. If I happen to forget, he’ll usually remind me in his subtle horse way. All I hear is a nickering but I suspect if I truly understood horse talk it would be something like, "Hey, Dummy! You trying to kill me slowly or do you just like watching a thousand pound animal beg for the necessities?" At any rate, when I see him standing by the fence up toward the horse during the time that he’s usually standing at the opposite corner with his face buried in the grass, I’ll run a bucket of water and take that over to him. He will drain that five-gallon bucket in about thirty seconds or so. Then he’ll do the second one in about the same amount of time.
The other day, I took him a bucket of water. He came up to it, stretched his neck over and set his nose down carefully near the top of the bucket. Then, just before his nose touched the water, he jerked away, kind of like the way you jerk your hand back when you’ve just discovered that a pan you thought wasn’t hot is actually quite hot. Then, he’d step away and circle, come back to the bucket and repeat the process of nearly touching the water with his nose but then jerking away. Even though it was the same bucket he’d been drinking out of for two months, suddenly, it wasn’t a proper means of presenting his hydration supply.
So, I took that bucket away and filled another one. Same response. "Oh, well," I thought, "you can bring a horse some water…" So, I left the bucket setting there and went about my day’s remodeling project. Later, Randa called me over to the window. The horse had expanded his repertoire; he’d go over to the bucket, sniff, jerk away and then take off in a trot along the fence. That escalated to a gallop a little later. Finally, after a few hours of acting like a crazy Arabian horse, he took a drink. Drained the bucket, then knocked it over. I took him another and he gulped it down.
When I took him back to the pen that night, I noticed that he hadn’t been drinking out of his big black plastic watering trough. "Dude," I said out loud, "No wonder you’re so thirsty, you bozo. You haven’t been drinking out of your big black plastic watering trough. Even after I put in a heater to keep your water from freezing." Horses are a bit of a mystery to me and I figure that’s mostly owing to the fact that I know almost nothing about them.
I wondered if there was a short in the heater. I leaned over and swirled my hand through the water. No shock, no jolt, not even a tingle.
The next morning, it was obvious Tango hadn’t taken a drink from the trough. I ran a bucket of water and carried that with me when I led him over to the other pasture. As soon as I let him loose, he turned to the bucket and emptied it. I re-filled it and carried it back over.
Later in the day, I began thinking about his bizarre water-ingesting behavior. There had to be an explanation. I decided to repeat my check of the water trough. This time, instead of just reaching in while leaning over, I decided to bypass the insulation protection afforded by my rubber-soled shoes. I squatted down beside the trough and pressed my left hand against the frozen ground. Then, I flicked the top of the water in the trough with the back of my right hand.
It’s amazing how quickly some mysteries can be solved, once you use the right means of investigation.
That trough water heater is in the dumpster and the tingling in my hands has finally gone away. I can’t help but wonder if the reason some folks don’t go back to church much is due to some similar experience. Might be that the very thing we thought would help had just the opposite effect. Due to the method of delivery, perhaps.