Wednesday, November 18, 2020

how to not zap my horse with static....

There are two main ways I know winter is arriving. Well, ok, there are other ways too.... but really, these are my biggies:

1) The skin on the back of my hands transitions nearly overnight into the texture of crepe paper. Dry chapped knuckles, and an overall appearance more befitting an octogenarian, vs yours truly (still only in my 30s despite how it might seem!).

And, more to today's point:

2) Suddenly, I'm accidentally zapping the ever loving fuck out of Charlie's poor sweet smooshy nose with static constantly. Which, he naturally finds extremely distressing....

Seriously, tho. Charlie reeeeally hates getting zapped. And I'm not even talking big shocks, either. Even just the littlest *snap!* will send him through the roof, eyes all astonishment at my apparent betrayal.... 

what even is life without petting pony noses anyway?!?
I think it's because he doesn't really understand what just happened, but is extremely uncomfortable and distrusting of the surprise factor -- the unpredictability of the zaps. And naturally, Charlie holds me directly responsible for this abuse. 

After an accidental static discharge on his fuzzy muzzle, he'll snort accusingly at me, with the whites of his eyes showing and head cocked in anguished confusion... And will stay that way -- skeptical of any hand I extend (even if it's literally filled with cookies) -- for the rest of our grooming session. 

Notably, his suspicion does not extend to any other humans. I could hand over those cookies to literally anybody else in the barn and he'll gobble them up. But me?? No no, my hands are clearly instruments of the static underlords and he wants nothing to do with them. 

Which is obviously very very sad for me, since petting my pony's nose is one of the primary pursuits of my lengthy barn commute in the first place... So obviously I feel very heartbroken and guilty, and yet still manage to continue zapping the poor creature. 

Did I ever tell you about the first time it happened? I just patted his nose in passing, which discharged a shock that about sent him through the roof... I obviously immediately went to apologize by fussing and cooing over him, and planted a big ol' kiss on his nose as amends. At which point.... I zapped him again... UGH. There's really no coming back from that....

resistance is futile
And now, after having been victimized by micro-electrocution one too many times during a grooming session, Charlie will sometimes spook and startle even when there isn't a shock

Obviously, something has to be done about this. The abuse must end!! 

So, naturally, I asked the google to please advise on Charlie's plight. 

Most of the results had to do with the static introduced into homes through heating systems -- that can thus be alleviated by using humidifiers. That's.... obviously not really applicable in an open-air barn setting. 

Other results were maybe more helpful, in discussing how different fabrics and textiles tend to hold higher levels of static charges. Woolens, fleeces, etc. Definitely good to keep in mind to be more careful whenever I might be wearing a fleece jacket -- or when Charlie's wearing his fleece cooler.*

(*Notably: he suffers much less sadness when shocked elsewhere on his body. It's the Nose Zaps he finds most agonizing!!) 

Still, tho, none of that really gets to the core issue of wanting to pet my pony's nose mindlessly and without fear of undermining his trust in me. So what else did the google say I could do? 

Here were a couple good ideas that I'm running with for now: 

leather and leather-like materials are low-conductors, so these sorts of riding or work gloves are a good bet
1. Gloves. The idea here is to create a non-conductive barrier between my hand and Charlie's skin. Basically a static shock is the passage of an electrical charge through conductive material to the ground. The soles of most of my shoes are not conductive, so any charge stored up in my clothing or on me will always be looking somewhere to go -- like to Charlie, who is grounded via steel fucking shoes haha. 

But if I wear non-conductive gloves -- which could be like your typical riding gloves, leather or leather-like (but nothing fuzzy, fleecey or wool etc) -- they'll block the passage of the shock. 

So it may be that I just need to wear gloves through our grooming sessions. Something that... Honestly sounds pretty good for when things get really cold!

srsly tho, just look at that ridiculously smooshy nose
2. Hand Lotion. The google tells me that it's the very dry conditions that exacerbate this static problem. Water conducts electric charges, and when there's a lot of moisture in the air (like during our very humid summers), the charges dissipate more freely via the atmosphere. 

In the dry, tho, the static is stuck literally clinging to us until it can find passage to ground -- like directly through a very unwilling and nonconsenting Charlie. 

Apparently, tho, according to my (very unscientific) research, frequent use of hand lotion helps keep the skin more moist and less likely to accumulate enough of a static charge to share that special zap unwittingly. 

Assuming you read my earlier observation about crepe paper skin and chapped knuckles, you can see why this type of solution seems attractive. Jury's still out on how effective it is, but it seems reasonable to add a little container of hand lotion in the tack locker, right next to the other recent denizen: hand sanitizer.

he loves making ridiculous faces
3. Moisture, generally speaking. The final finding from the internet (which would never, ever lie to me) was that any sort of moisture will help. One article about static in dogs' coats suggested using some sort of spray on them. Which... Reminded me that, oh yea, I have all sorts of grooming sprays for Charlie too. 

Apparently a lot of the static charges come from the act of grooming -- all that friction in running hands and fibrous brushes across the animal's fur coat in dry conditions create basically the perfect recipe for maximum zappage. 

Applying grooming sprays (like shine sprays or the like) reduces the build up of a static charge. Presumably, going over your horse's coat with a damp rag likewise does the same. Helpfully, this same damp rag technique is absolutely perfect for getting rid of that gross dusty sheen that also likes to accumulate in winter (bc of the exact same static forces...). 

Obviously, there's a limit to how much moisture we might realistically want to handle during freezing temperatures.... And my locker is not in a heated section of the barn so some of my supplies actually freeze in the winter too. But.... I guess if/when that happens, I'll just go with the gloves approach haha. 

needs more of this in my life haha <3 <3 <3
So ya know. That's my plan of attack for solving this very weirdly specific problem. And who knows, maybe you don't think static electricity is really that big of a deal anyway... Tho.... if you could see Charlie's pained expression every time I zap him, maybe you'd come to understand lol. 

Or... maybe alternatively, you also have a horse who is deeply deeply offended whenever you accidentally shock them -- and have already figured out tips and tricks for avoiding it? If so, please do tell.... And in the meantime, #Pray4Charlie lol....


26 comments:

  1. OMG poor Charlie. Thanks for the reminder for static season - my friend's horse that is here now loves nose pets and kisses and I wouldn't want to shock him, but inadvertently will at some point, I'm sure. Spencer was horribly offended if shocked and Fred just looks at you with these big brown eyes filled with confusion, which is pretty much his normal look. lol

    I find a couple of my horse hair dandy/body brushes also get static-y this time of year. I wonder if the synthetic ones are better in the winter? They are great for getting rid of winter dust, but not if they also zap! I can't really use sprays in the winter as everything freezes on me.

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    1. hm, i know there's definitely something to the natural vs synthetic fiber approach... but damn i am so so SO attached to my natural bristle grooming brushes lol. could be worth some experimentation, tho. last night i tried spritzing a natural bristle brush with some silicon-based cowboy magic and.... there was definitely some zappage happening. hm...

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  2. Poor Charlie! One of the few things that freaks Phoenix out is static! I put on o'keeffe's working hands twice a day which is a great help but not slimy lol. I also spray my brush with moisturizer before I brush him.
    Honestly though the biggest culprit is my blanket liners which get horrible static. I always have the static spray handy for those.
    I'm not ready for winter and static and cold and dry hands but it's already here. :(

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    1. do you just use normal fabric static spray for the brushes, like you can find at any store? and do you spray it before you put the blanket on the horse, before you take the blanket off, or basically all the time? also curious about the spray moisturize you use on the brushes....

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    2. sorry, that should say, *static spray for the blankets... unless you've used it for brushes too?? (not sure if that stuff is non toxic??)

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    3. The fabric static spray I put on the blankets only. Sometimes I end up spraying some while it's on the horse because I know I'm about to zap him badly taking it off though. Often even spraying the outside is helpful enough to reduce the static as you pull it off.
      For my brushes I just spray healthy haircare moisturizer on them before I start and then usually spray the horse too as I go (P also gets dry winter skin anyways). It doesn't freeze until it's fairly cold out which is a bonus because my barn at home doesn't have heat lol.

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    4. hmmmmm i'll have to check out the haircare aisle next time i'm at the pharmacy!! i tried using cowboy magic last night but idk if it's the silicone or whatever in it that holds a charge but it didn't help as much as i wanted. plus i don't like using that stuff so often anyway. something with a different base might help better....

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  3. The struggle is real! Just the other day my husband reached out to touch my arm as I walked by and shocked the shit out of me! I made a face very similar to Charlie's LOL

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    1. omg haha.... that's so relatable tho.... ugh. winter, the absolute worst!

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  4. Oh no poor Charlie, Lush feels his pain. She gets extra snorty and offended when I zap her, maybe a throw back to when she touched the electric while I was holding her and she thought I was the one that did it.
    I get super staticy when I wear my favorite winter fleece hoodie. I resolved it a few years ago by adding a safety pin to the sleeve, and that cut down some of the shocks I gave via my love of fleece layers. I catch them most when I take blankets on and off for the most part, but the safety pin helped with the fleece. I feel you on the dry hands, mine are the worst this time of year.

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    1. yea fleeces really are the worst, which is a shame bc there are so many cute jackets and they're so warm!! i have one that i always want to pull out for those sorta in-between days, and i'm always like, 'why don't i wear this more often??' and then, 'oh yea, bc i zap the ever loving shit out of my horse when i wear it....' curious to hear more about the safety pin tho --- like, where on your sleeve do you put it, does it have to touch skin or anything? does it have to be a big pin or does it not really matter?

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    2. I usually pin it like an inch in from the edge of my sleeve on the underside of my sleeve, and use a smaller pin to make sure nothing catches. I would think a larger pin would probably help more, but I got so paranoid about it catching somewhere I don't want to go any bigger. It touches mine just from where it is and how often I end up pushing my sleeves up, but from what I've heard from other people it doesn't have to touch skin.

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    3. hmmm very interesting. i've never heard of this hack before, but also always have safety pins lying around, and will be curious if it works as well on other material than fleece. bc hey, anything is worth a shot -- for poor charlie's sake!

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  5. Used dryer sheets for fabric things! That's what I've had to do on a few items around the house to keep static under control. Also, kiiind of love the Mane and Tail Hoofmaker for human hand lotion - I'm picky about scents because of allergies, but that stuff doesn't bother me, and hey... double-purpose, right?

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    1. ooooh ya know i have always really liked mane and tail products, now that you mention it. i dropped off an old half empty bottle of a so-so lotion at the barn already, but once that's gone maybe i'll go with the hoofmaker stuff!!

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    2. Pro tip on the hoofmaker... you do not need much if you don't want to either have super-greasy hands or basically lotion everything from the shoulder down. Ask me how I know, lol.

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  6. A few years ago a friend and I witnessed Monty Roberts' first failure to start a young horse during one of his demonstrations - because of static! We were watching his incredible demonstration when he reached out to touch this unbacked youngster's nose and ZAP! The poor horse lost his mind. He danced around like a crazy thing and they ended up canceling that part of the demonstration. You're not alone!

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    1. ohhhhhh my goodness.... that must have been a shocker to watch (lol i got puns). for real tho, it actually does make me feel a bit better to hear that... yea it happens. and yea, horses really don't like it. also makes me feel not quite so guilty about charlie blaming me for it, sigh...

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  7. Poor smooshy snoot. I hope the gloves, lotions, and/or spray help!

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    1. me too, poor suffering charlie can't take much more!! lol...

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  8. Rio used to go through the roof when I shocked him too. Delicate boys! I spray everything with microtek all winter long as a preventative. Works pretty well.

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    1. good to know about the microtek working for this! i'll keep that in mind, since charlie's been dealing with hella skin funk lately too (probably for a future post, sigh)... in the meantime, i found some static-specific spray designed for kids that i'm going to try too. we'll see if it helps!

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  9. I use static spray sometimes too, but mostly, I'm a walking static disaster, so I'm always touching something else before I touch the horses. I'll either zap myself by touching metal, or keep my hand on them to act as a ground. If just brushing the brush creates static I'll spray a coat conditioner on them to help with the static.

    Poor Sir Charles tho! Whisper hates the static too and gets so offended. Amber just gives me the stink eye LOL

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    1. ugh yea.... everything in our barn is wood, basically, so it's hard to find something to touch the discharge the shock. usually i try to pet charlie's shoulder *first* and then pet his nose, since he doesn't mind the shoulder zap nearly as much.... but still.... definitely interested in alternative solutions haha.

      last night tho i tried a combination of the things in the post above and suggested in these here comments, and had an entire night of ZERO ZAPS!! even tho i was wearing fleece!!

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  10. The lotion is clearly a win-win for your hands and Charlie's nose, but have you ever considered option 4) Moving to a hut with chicken legs in the woods, because clearly to Charlie you are dabbling in black magic and are a witch.

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    1. i gotta admit, i'm like one or two catastrophes away from that vodoo hut with the chicken legs lol.... for now, tho, i'm sticking with the lotion -- and actually it seems to be working!! two days in a row with ZERO ZAPS!!!!!!

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