What do you do when you reach a seemingly insurmountable hurdle?
It does not have to be anything major, not in the category of overcoming adversity, it can be something as trivial as getting a new computer programme or smart phone app installed properly. I know that I have wasted hours repeating the same steps with no success until suddenly the “penny drops” to use an old English expression and I realise that I have missed something so simple that a 10-year-old would have seen it immediately.
At other times, I have been stuck trying to take a piece of equipment to pieces because it will not come apart the way I think it should. Sometimes the solution is to walk away from it for a while, switch the mind to a totally different activity. Returning to the original problem after a break often allows the solution to present itself almost magically.
That works with writing too, if I am stuck for the right word, or a name, I forget about it, carry on writing and it will generally pop into my mind before I have finished the article or blog post. It is a good system for finding answers to word games and crossword puzzles.
My horses reminded me of another effective system this week.
Bear with me while I give you the background.
Up until last year, we were paying 5c a lb for hay. At $30 for a 600 lb round bale it was not a huge expense. We dumped a big round bale in the feeder in the yard near their shelter and they helped themselves. When the bale was finished after a week or 10 days, I would replace it using the tractor, a 15 minute job.
The dry summer created a shortage of hay, the price went to 10c a lb then nearly 17c by this fall. We do not have enough storage space in our barn to store enough hay for a full year. At that price we are not going to risk storing it outside and getting wet, which prevented us buying enough for the whole winter before the price went up.
Now that hay has tripled in price and become an expensive commodity, we no longer put a whole bale in the feeder. The horses eat more than they need and toss a lot out onto the ground where it gets trodden into the snow or mud, expensive mulch at 17c a lb.
We open a bale upstairs in the barn. Each morning and evening, we slide enough for a ration for 3 horses down a chute onto a sheet of canvas on the lower floor, then carry it out to the feeder. Fairly easy with two of us, but good exercise for me on my own for the last 5 weeks.
The horses get hard food as well as their hay, they are getting enough nutrition to keep them well covered, not a rib in sight. They are not getting much work because the ground has been either too muddy or frozen without any snow cover until Boxing Day. The problem is, horses like to eat until they think they are full, not just until the morning or evening ration is finished.
There is a small area about the size of a garbage can lid in the middle of the feeder that none of the horses can reach. For months after we started rationing the hay, this small area would have a cone of untouched hay sitting there. The last unreachable remnants of the previous meal. As mesmerizing and impossible to reach for the horses as the mythical pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is to us.
The feeder is not fixed to the ground, but as you can see from the photo, it is fairly heavy and with first the mud and then the snow, not easy to move. The feeder does not have a bottom or base, the hay inside sits on the ground.
About two weeks ago, I noticed that the cone of untouched hay was smaller each day, I also noticed that the feeder was being moved a little after each feed time. As the days passed, the cone got smaller and the feeder further away from the barn.
The horses had learned that if they pushed on the feeder it moved, if they persisted they could push it far enough to reach the little cone of hay. I haven’t had time to stay and watch them to find out which of the three is the smart one who discovered this solution or if it is a combined effort. To see if it was purely an accidental effect of them randomly stretching their necks towards the hay and pushing the feeder with their chests, I spread the hay all around the perimeter for a few days. It did not matter, next feed time, the feeder had moved in the same direction as before.
Whether by accident or design, the horses discovered an important truth:
If you can’t get around, over, under or through the hurdle,just move it out of the way. Instead of trying and failing to stretch their necks far enough to pull the hay towards them, they just moved the feeder towards the hay.
A simple, brilliant solution to overcome what had appeared an insurmountable hurdle for weeks.
How often do we focus on the hurdles in life and not on creative ways to stop them being hurdles? To turn them into opportunities.
What unusual solutions do you have for overcoming hurdles?