Monday, March 24, 2014

Overseeding Pastures This Week

I started overseeding our pastures and hay fields over the weekend and should finish by the end of the week.

Over the years I have had really good like revitalizing our fields by overseeding in early spring.  Some people like to overseed on the snow; I wait until the snow has melted.  It's ideal when daytime temperatures get above 32 and the ground is soft (almost muddy) and nighttime temperatures drop below 25 degrees.  The colder it gets at night the better because the extreme thawing and freezing pulls the seed into the grown.  This process eliminates the need to cover seed or roll your fields.

I've had my best luck overseeding orchard grass, brome, timothy and clover.  The seeds vary in size and weight so I buy them separately from a hay seed supplier.  Pre-mix hay/pasture seed is OK, but there tends to be more of the grasses I really don't want as well as fillers.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Pick Up Manure & Old Hay To Reduce Spring Mud

Mud season is well underway with all of the snow melt and spring rains.  One of the best things you can do is pick up your pens and stay on top of manure and any uneaten hay. On really rainy days it also helps if you refrain from feeding hay outside in pens.  More mud prevention tips at

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Thursday, January 16, 2014

Be Careful For What You Wish For - The Neverending Winter

I wished for this: winter.  Last fall, my friends who know I'm not fond of winter, thought I was crazy when I kept saying I was looking forward to winter . . . .  My reason was so I wouldn't feel like there were still things to paint: fence, gates, etc., and weeds to pull in the hay fields and pastures.

"I'm going to clean (my house) and read," I said. 

Well, I got what I wished for early when around the 5th of November we got our first snow- not hat unusual for Michigan.  What was, was that it didn't go away.  And now we are some 3 months later and we are already at 69 inches of snow for the season (this is usually what we get the entire winter).

I did pretty well with all of this snow, days of sub-zero temps and winds, until I couldn't ride.  We don't have an indoor . . . .and I'm usually pretty dedicated about outdoor winter riding as long as the footing is OK and it's at least in the mid-20s.  Well the two feet of snow we got in early January, followed by a brief thaw and an inch of rain pretty well ruined the footing . . . . probably until spring.

Anyhow, next time . . . I will think twice about wishing for winter!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

We Almost Lost A Horse Last Night From Choke . . .

Choke in horses is a very scarey thing . . . .

I have done my best to prevent choking in my horses by making sure that their hay flakes are always shook out, that they always have fresh water, and that any treats I feed (including baby carrots) are broken in pieces small enough to prevent choking.  I'm also a nut about checking hay for any foreign bodies like paper, plastic, and even the little chopped pieces of baler twine that falls onto bales after the knotter has tied off.

Despite my precautions I almost lost Joey, are 7-year-old AQHA gelding.  If I had it would I have blamed myself for feeding him a handful of alfalfa pellets . . . .

I have never been an advocate for feeding hay alternatives like cubes for the simple fact of the choking hazard they pose . . . even if you soak them like you should ALWAYS do.  I have felt pretty comfortable feeding pelleted timothy and alfalfa and do so usually in a handful amount in outdoor feeders when I don't want my horses dropping hay in their dry lots after a hard rain.  I have also mixed them in with a couple of handfuls of senior feed for our 24-year-old gelding . . . on days when it's really cold out . . . for a mid-day snack along with his hay. 

So when I decided to give Joey a handful of these last night, instead of a new low-carb grain I had been feeding him (which despite claiming to be low carb/starch smelled very sweet and had made Joey - who's already a high-strung animal, very hyper), I wasn't concerned about there being a problem.  He usually gets a handful or two a day in his stall or run-in, anyway, and I had never had any issues with him eating pelleted feed.

I thought hay pellets were a good idea instead of grain and in the interim while I looked for another grain alternative for him.  I added his regular 1/4 oz of biotin, 1 oz scoop of bran, and 2 oz of ground flax and added a little warm water to get the supplements to stick to the pellets.

You can only image my horror when 5 minutes later he was thrashing around the stall and appeared to not be breathing very well.  I knew it couldn't be colic . . . . Fortunately I have read about choke and did what I could.  I aggressively massaged Joey's throatlatch and upper neck area where the esophagus is located.  I did this for about 5-6 minutes.  When I saw some relief and he started to breathe more normally and chewed some, I administered a full dose of Banamine.

Within 10 minutes Joey was back to normal and resumed eating his evening hay.

Lesson Learned:  You can never be too careful.  I fault wetting the pellets, however, this is what you are supposed to do when feeding them to horses that have poor teeth.  I would now warn anyone who wets their pelleted hay pellets to make sure they have fully dissolved, which could take up to 20 minutes when soaked in warm water.

For me . . . I will probably NEVER feed anything more then a handful of pellets at a time and will scatter them in a feeder . . . . . NEVER again wetting them.

I was lucky and Joey was lucky that I always check my horses after they've been grained to make sure everything's OK and that they are eating a drinking normally.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Prepare Now For Winter Mud

We just got three inches of rain in 24- hours.  You would think my pens would be mud pits, but they're not.  I attribute this to my being diligent about picking up manure daily and raking up any uneaten hay.

I've also learned that if you don't stay on top of these two tasks you'll regret it once we get into the winter.
Here are some other tips for keeping mud under control in your pens:

  • Don't feed hay in pens, or if you do: feed only your best hay.  When horses eat all of the hay it won't get mixed in the dirt, which contributes to mud.
  • Consider feeding hay pellets in pens; horses don't waste these.
  • Position your feeders on the highest spot possible in a pen (this will help drainage away from the spot) and move periodically (this will give the spot a rest).
  • Pick up manure daily.  Manure mixed with dirt instantly creates mud when it rains.
  • Clean up hay and other bedding that gets drug out of run-in stalls into outdoor lots.
  • Create drainage pits in your pens and fill with sand in any other low spots (in front of doors and gates).
  • Monitor eating patterns.  We have a horse that likes to push his hay to the run-in opening and then outside.  Moving his hay to another spot in the run-in shed prevents him from rolling it outside and into the lot where it mixes with the dirt.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Distaste For Clinics . . . . .

I was recently reminded why I’m not fond of clinics.  Don’t get me wrong, I think there are a handful of good trainer clinicians out there .  . . ones that keep their training in context, consider each horse as an individual, and put the safety of the horse and rider first and foremost.  Julie Goodnight, Craig Cameron, and Chris Cox are among the clinicians that I believe meet all three of these criteria.

Others, I sometimes have to chuckle (although it’s not really funny) at what they present at their clinics . . . Usually my first question is WHY?  Are some of these exercises valid, and really something a horse and rider can add to their exercise regimen, or are they just something new to try to wow a tired audience that may have been coming to see them for years.  Or maybe it’s more for the clinician groupies who have attended every clinic with a particular clinician  . . . so that they feel like they’ve done something new – assurance that they will continue to return and pay big bucks for yet another weekend clinic. 

Unfortunately I suspect that several of these clinicians have crossed the line from being a horse trainer to acting like a guru.

My first bad taste of clinic came while attending a session at a large national equine expo.  I wished the presentation came with disclaimers as I worried how many green horse owners would go home with the clinician’s training stick (of course they were being sold at his booth) and try to teach their green or untrained horse how to disengage their hindquarters.  I could only image how few people would be successful, and the larger number that would get run over by their horse. 

My best advice regarding clinics is to save your money and put it toward lessons with a good, reputable horse trainer in your area.  One-on-one training, rather then being in the ring with a dozen or more other riders, is the best, and safest way to learn good horsemanship!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Back To School School Mean Putting Your Horse :Out To Pasture" Till Next year

It's that time of year . . . back to school for both K-12 and college.  For many of us it also means the end of our show season . . .

Although it's hard to find time to ride and condition your show horse when the fall school routine kicks in, it's beneficial to both you and your horse to continue with some sort of exercise and grooming regimen.

Maybe you don't have time to ride for an hour, but you can probably squeeze 15 minutes in on a lunge line or handwalking.  Maintaining muscle tone is crucial for performance  . . . .and it isn't fair to your horse to wait until one week before your first show next year to ride.

Grooming, especially for halter and showmanship horses is something that should be main-round if you want to have a good healthy coat and bloom.  Horses should still be groomed at least 2-3 times a week during the non-show season.