HORSEPLAY: Taking comfort in our daily routine

CRITICAL TIMES ARE hard to deal with is how the Bible describes the era we’re living in, and believer or not, we’re all feeling the pinch of the COVID-19 pandemic. Some simply because they’ve run out of toilet paper and can’t find it to buy anywhere due to some folks panicking and buying up all they can. Certainly makes me happy I installed a bidet seat on my toilet a few years ago.

Others are feeling the economic squeeze since Gov. Jay Inslee mandated the statewide closing of any business deemed non-essential, such as bars, restaurants (they can remain open for takeout and delivery services) and gyms in an effort to slow down the virus’ rapid growth. Essential businesses, like grocery stores and pharmacies, will remain open.

Naturally, we horse and livestock owners are worried about feed stores closing. I, too, was worried I wouldn’t have enough hay and feed to ride out this time of crisis, so I reached out to Sequim’s Coastal Farms & Ranch store manager Ken Bearly, and I have good news. Feed stores are considered essential and will not be closing.

“As of now, we remain open as usual, with no restrictions,” Bearly said. “With the governor restricting groups to 50 or less in the future, we may have to limit the amount of people entering the store to just 50 at a time.”

Bearly said for those who are uncomfortable going inside the store, they will offer deliveries or curbside pickup. Orders can be placed online at www.coastal or by calling the store at 360-683-2135.

“We’ve started the option of ordering online to have items delivered, or the customer can just drive to the back loading area to pick it up without having to enter the store,” he said. “Our focus is on serving our customers, and we will make any adjustments necessary to still be able to accommodate our community.”

Reassuring words, indeed. I asked friend and assistant store manager Kim Bues if the store had noticed an increase in people buying food supplies for their animals since the outbreak. She said they’ve “definitely seen an uptick with people stocking up on feed for their livestock, but also self-sufficiency items, too.”

She said they’ve been selling lots of vegetable seeds, seed potatoes and onion sets, canning supplies and freeze dryers and that, since the beginning of March, the store’s taken precautionary measures to sanitize the store and carts.

“Thankfully in our community we have a large population base of self-sufficient people that are hobby farmers and hunters, and that’s one reason we live here,” Bues said. “I would say most people treat their animals like they’re part of the family — I know my horses have a better balanced diet than I do!”

The same could be said of my animals, too. Personally, I like buying feed Tuesdays at Coastal because, when I turned 60, I was eligible to receive the 10 percent off senior citizen discount.

Incidentally, all our local feed stores offer delivery and are willing to work with their customers during this time of crisis. I was told both Coastal and Leitz Farm’s deliveries are full at least a week out.

So there’s no need to panic now that we know feed stores will remain open and they are considered by the government to be a “necessity” business. Yet, it does calm the nerves to have a couple of month’s feed on hand.

I think this would be a good time to update and post your animals’ feed chart and what to do in case you become sick, and to double check your animal emergency kit is fully stocked.

Creature comfort

I worry about horses being discarded and abandoned during this time of crisis, so I plead with any who might be contemplating such a thing to reach out for help, and to, above all else, provide it with a safe home even if you are forced to find another home. Learning about the horrors horses face at auctions and being sent to kill pens I hope will add incentive to keeping and caring for your horse.

If you do need help, Olympic Peninsula Equine Network (OPEN) is a wonderful local resource. Call them and leave a message at 360-207-1688.

I like the reminder my friend Ruth Westman gave me regarding the business closures and folks being out of work: “This is temporary. Let’s not panic, let’s remain calm and stick to our routine as much as possible, including being responsible toward our pets. I think the key is to make the smartest financial choices we can at this time by not buying non essentials, with the hope of things improving soon.”

One thing I love about my own horses is how comforting they are to me in my times of stress or despair, and the joy I experience riding. I find talking to them, brushing them and even picking up their manure to be a calming experience. On the flip side, if my feeding routine varies greatly this stresses them out. They show their stress in gestures such as head tossing, pacing, running up to the gate — even pawing at it — then turning and running away again. They might even make a motion to bite me once I do bring their feed. It’s all for show though.

The point is these are ways horses try to communicate with us, and they are social animals who want us, their owners, to help them feel safe and secure in their environment. So I would urge you during this time to try to maintain their same feed and schedule, and to reach out to them for your own comfort. It could be something as simple as talking to them and touching them daily. This in turn builds their loyalty and love for us.

Happy horses

Lacey’s been a beloved member of my family for 17 years now. Now 28, she still thinks of herself as that beautiful champion barrel racer. She runs as gracefully as ever, but much slower of course. She also has arthritic knees that that flare up and give her pain if we’re out too long on a trail ride. I add joint supplements and a low dose of Bute to her daily feed, but the thing she loves most is for me to scratch her belly and give her a light massage all over while she eats.

And then there’s Sunny. She’s about 22 and was given to my niece. During the summer of 2018 they had phenomenal barrel race and pole bending times. But since then Sunny’s been all mine. The horse had gone through several owners before she came to live with me, so when she arrived she was indifferent and lacking in trust. She’s just an unhappy horse. It’s only recently that she’s finally starting to show some signs of trust. I won’t say she’s happy, but she is more relaxed and I think feeling more secure that this is her home. The downside is that I had hoped to find another home for her with someone who could continue racing her, but each time I tried she turned up lame.

In fact she was given to Brooke because, we were told, she had Navicular like symptoms, but she showed no signs of it that summer. So here I am, feeding and caring for a horse I don’t really want nor can really afford, who has lameness issues. But I’m making the sacrifice because she’s now my responsibility and I don’t take that lightly. If her lameness issues become too painful for her I will have her put down, but I’m not going to rush it for my convenience.

Most of the time she shows no sign of lameness, and she still likes to be ridden. She also loves to be groomed and given a light massage, but unlike Lacey she hates for her belly to be scratched. That’s ok, she’s her own gal and we’re bonding — and that gives me joy.


Karen Griffiths’ column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears the second and fourth Sunday of each month.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at [email protected] at least two weeks in advance. You can also call her at 360-460-6299.

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