Lessons for the week

It’s finally June in Kentucky. After a couple of weeks with April rainfall and August temperatures, we finally had a pleasant weekend that wasn’t sweltering or soaking. Of course, any such lucky break in the weather is largely devoted to serious defoliation of the jungle which has sprung up as a result of the rainfall which both feeds its growth and impedes any effort to control it. But, among all the toil with an array of mutilating devices ranging from weedeaters to bushhogs, I managed to set aside some time Sunday morning to spend quality time with Arthur, for the first time since a trail ride two weeks ago. And, as proof that life is a constant opportunity for continuing education, I learned a couple of important lessons.

Navigating the homestead on horseback has recently become a little more challenging. When you’re in the saddle, the optimal route between two points is not necessarily the shortest distance; it’s the route with the fewest closed gates. And plotting such a route has become a little more complicated. A lot of new fencing has sprung up as a result of a government cost-share program to keep livestock out of streams. Buffer zones around the streams have been planted with hundreds of nut trees and fenced to keep cattle out.

As long as I’ve been dealing with electric fences, one might think I’ve learned all I need to know about them. But one would be wrong, as I found today when I learned a couple of new lessons.

Lesson 1:
When a gate in a hot fence has an insulated wire running across the top of it, with a disconnect at one end to allow the gate to be opened, don’t make any assumptions about which direction the wire is fed. The gate wire is not necessarily cold after being unhooked. Touching the bare end of it is not a good idea.

Years ago, when I worked for a power company on the wrong side of the Ohio River, they had an educational program which encouraged people to “Think Hot”, assume every wire was hot, and treat it with the utmost respect. It was an informative and amusing program with combined showmanship with vital information. Years later, I guess my “Think Hot” training has worn off.

Lesson 2:
After forgetting to “think hot”, and learning the hard way that the wire you just unhooked is indeed still hot, don’t leave it lying on the ground where your horse can touch it with his nose while you’re latching the gate. You will not be able to hang onto the reins. Walking is healthy, but there are better ways to get an aerobic workout than having your heart rate elevated by watching your horse galloping around wildly and hoping the dingbat comes to his senses before inflicting any serious harm.

Somehow, Arthur managed not to break himself or anything else, even after getting a leg caught in the reins. Eventually, his little walnut-sized brain processed the idea that he wasn’t going to get home by himself, and he decided to let me catch up with him.

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