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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Keeping Horses 101

If you think there is the slightest chance you will ever own your own horse, start collecting these:
Five gallon buckets are priceless on a farm. Fortunately, by building our home, we inherited quite a few in the process. Drywall mud, paint, and numerous other products come packaged in these. We use them for lots of things, but in this case it's a water bucket for Maggie. When I separate her so that she gets her fair share of hay, I must provide 'portable' water.

Water is the most important thing to provide a horse. It must have a continuous supply of good water. Now our definition of good does not necessarily coincide with a horse's definition. They don't want softened, filtered water. They prefer straight-from-the-well nasty smelling stuff with floating things. They are also picky about the color of the bucket. We've found that some pickier drinkers will drink out of a dark colored bucket but not a white one!

The problem with water buckets is that horses knock them over a lot. They also can drink five gallons in the blink of an eye! So for the area where they spend a big chunk of their time, you'll probably prefer one of these:
This small trough holds over twenty-five gallons. On the other side of the wood fence is a pump. I keep it under the fence so that it can be filled by one person on the other side. we have a larger one in the front pasture.

After water, food is next on the must have list. I have a older horse that has special nutrition needs so I use two different kinds of feed. I pour the feed from the fifty-pound bags into these metal trash cans. You can just lean the opened bag on a wall or bale. Maggie gets one pound of each kind twice a day. In the winter she eats more. The other horses each get up to one pound at each feeding depending on how much pasture time they've had.
The blue bucket is for water. It has a flat back to hang up against a wall and has a heater in the bottom. Horses can't drink ice and they won't drink much cold water in the winter. We use these buckets when the horses have to stay in their stalls due to weather. We also have a heater for the trough outside. The green, red, and purple buckets are for their feed. You could use any bucket large enough for a horse to comfortably stick his head in, but these hang over the stall doors or the 2x4s of the wood fence. We use a different color for each horse... Less germ-passing.

Just like people, horses don't always get everything they need from their food source. They need supplements. All horses need salt freely available. I have a place to pour loose salt and mineral salt for them to access anytime they are in the paddock. You can also provide these in block form for the horses to lick. This is a mineral block (minerals combined with salt) sculpted by their tongues:

There are many kinds of feed available for horses, but their main source for their daily caloric intake should always be hay or grass. There are people that feed a complete feed to their stall-kept horses, but these horses are at a higher risk for colic and some other nasty things. I believe that the most natural environment is always the best.

We are fortunate to have some awesome hay supplies right next door... Well, actually a few acres away. We don't have to haul our hay on the road to bring it home. Talk about buying locally! We watched them plant these fields and know the quality. We've already got more than a year's supply stocked up.
I don't like carrying a half bale of hay out to the horses, so I've got this wagon to make things easier. I made the cover out of an old pick-up bed cover to keep the cats out of the loose bales.

Now, if you don't want to mess with storing a lot of hay in your barn, just make sure you have plenty of this:This is our side pasture. We have three pastures that we rotate the horses through. It keeps the grass healthier than letting them use the same pasture over and over. It takes quite a lot of pasture to feed horses. Plus, we don't let them out on the pastures when the ground is wet. Lastly, the grass doesn't grow here in the winter. That's why all the hay.

That should do it, right? Nope. Some horses have other nutritional needs as well. Buddy, our gelding doesn't have the best feet when left alone. They require special attention to stay tip-top. A horses feet are extremely important. The bucket on the left is a hoof supplement. It contains things that help his hooves stay healthy.
The jug in the middle is full of their favorite treats. If they see me pick this one up, they'll follow me anywhere! I keep this scale next to the feed cans. I don't like to guess about their rations. I've found it's really easy to start scooping out a little more and a little more. This way I know just how much they are really getting.

I don't just want my horses to be healthy; I also want them to look good. That requires some special tools. Here are the ones I use most:
The bottle is a mane conditioner for detangling. Also in the bucket are a mane comb and a face brush. It is softer for delicate areas. You can never have too many hoof picks. The black-handled one is convenient for tying on the saddle to take on trails or stick one in spots around the farm where you always seem to need them. The green-handled one also has a brush. These are for picking stones, mud, whatever out of a horses hoof. Extremely important for foot health. The red-handled cutters are for the wire-tied bales. Gotta keep that close by. The blue-handled brush is for manes. The gray & white bristled scrub brush-looking things are for brushing dirt from their coats. One is stiff, the other soft. The oval-toothed thing is a rubber curry brush. I use it first to remove mud or loose hair. It also lifts the dirt to be brushed away. The other red-handled thing is a shedding blade. You wouldn't believe how much hair falls out every spring! This tool is a life saver for removing all that mess. I also use electric trimmers and other tools, but these are my daily needs.

So why so many grooming tools? Because horses love to roll in mud!

Since you can't just let horses roam around the neighborhood, you need to contain them. Horses are very easy to keep in, unlike our goats. We have some regular fencing and sections of wood fence in areas for certain reasons, but most of our pastures and paddock are surrounded by two strands of electric fence. The horses learn fast to stay away from it. Here is the power unit inside the barn:
This unit will take care of one hundred miles of fence. We have a solar unit that will do ten miles. That's not a lot when you consider that each strand counts separately, so the five strands we have for the goats' area adds up really fast. Plus we put it around the garden too.

Horses also need shelter. It doesn't have to be anything fancy... just a place to get out of the wind and sun. Here is our run-in shelter behind the barn in the paddock:
We don't have any shelters in the pastures, so we don't leave then out there in bad weather or for too long on a really hot day.

This is our paddock area around the barn. There is access to the side and back pastures from here. Inside the sliding door are the stalls.

You don't have to have stalls, but if you do, they need to be sturdy. We only have two stalls but three horses, so we have to figure something out before it gets icy outside! Inside the stalls and on the floor in front of the stalls are thick rubber mats. The barn floor is too smooth for horses to walk on and they need cushioning to stand on for very long.
If you have stalls, you have to use some type of bedding material. We tried using the compressed corn cob stuff, but my mares like to eat it! So now we're back to using sawdust. We have a source to get it free. A mold shop saves all their sawdust for us. We have to ask them what kind of wood it is as some woods are not good for horses. If you keep horses in stalls half the time, you'll need quite a large supply. We have a friend that gets it by the dump truck load!
You need to keep the stalls clean. Here is what I use to clean them:
The manure rake or fork allows the clean bedding to fall through so you don't waste it. We used to have a manure spreader to distribute the manure fairly evenly over the pastures. Now we compost all of it. That's all we use in the gardens. The compost pile is by the barn so the wheel barrow is all I need to move it out. Notice the snow shovel behind the wheel barrow? For heavy cleaning.

Not a very good picture, but this is my tack rack. These handy hooks are inexpensive and slide in the gaps between the ridges in the barn siding and the cross boards. My stuff is scattered right now as we're doing a rearranging of the barn, but most of it is here. From left to right are halters and lead ropes, bridles and reins, a spare cinch, and Nekoda's big-headed halted and fly mask.
The fly mask is a see-thru mesh that Velcros around their heads to keep flies off their eyes. Some cover the ears as well.

This is a free-standing saddle rack. It is handy for sitting in an aisle to ready your gear, or to take along.
Another not-so-good picture, but here are 3 of my saddles and a blanket. Different horses require different saddles. I have more, including an English saddle, but we won't go there today.

The one on the top left is Maggie's. She has extremely high withers (shoulder) and average saddles do not fit her. Her saddle does not fit the other horses. An extra expense when you have multiple horses. The one on the right is borrowed to try on Nekoda. Seems to work well, but have only tried it once with Ali riding. Both are part leather and part synthetic. That makes them lighter and easier on my knees. The bottom saddle is all leather, but kid-butt sized. It's for the grands to use. Under the blanket is a really nice vented pad that goes on the horse's back; then comes the blanket, and then the saddle.
These saddles are on a rack that hangs from the stall walls.

This is a cinch. It's what holds the saddle on the horse. Very important!

I have several different styles of whips. I don't whip my horses with them. The shorter one on the right is shown in a hook on the barn door. This is my persuader. When Nekoda wants to rush the door on her stall, I put this across her chest and she waits. When Maggie just stands there, I point with this to indicate where I want her to go. She listens to this stick very well. If they won't back off when they're supposed to, I use this to tap their chests. Just think of it as an extension of my arm. It keeps me at a safe distance from their feet, but still allows me to touch them.

This is my training whip. One of first exercises you do in a round pen is make the horse run in a circle. Sounds simple enough... Some horses do not want to run in circles, in fact, most do not! Simply swinging this cord behind them will encourage them to move, stop, turn, etc.

This whip is several feet long without the cord. I sometimes tie a plastic grocery bad to the end for training. This blog is not going to be long enough to explain why... You'll just have to trust me on that one.

When you buy a horse, the seller can sometimes provide transportation to get your horse home or to a boarding facility. But if you want to travel with your horse, you'll need a towing vehicle with a good hitch.This is called a gooseneck hitch. Notice it's not on the bumper? It's for a gooseneck trailer; not to be confused with a fifth wheel, which is what a semi-truck has.

This is our trailer. There are many styles to choose from. Some fancy ones have living quarters in them. This style is called a stock trailer. This one is a 3-horse slant. It can be opened up inside to haul livestock to market. It has swinging partitians that latch in place to haul 3 horses, diagonally. It's hard to see from the pic, but there is a small door on this side to access the tack area. There are built in racks for saddles, bridles, etc. The front end can be used to haul hay for the horses.

This is a round pen. It is used for training horses. It can also be used for riding lessons or to quarantine a horse.

This is a bootjack. A necessity for me!While standing on the ridged part, you slip the heel of your muddy boot into the fork. It allows you to slide your boots off without getting the yucky stuff all over your hands.


Rae said...

That was a fantastic read and so informative. I knew raising horses was a lot of work but I never realized how much was involved. Plus it has to be expensive with the feed and supplies. Wow. I am impressed with all that you are accomplishing around the farm!

Lynn said...

I had no idea there was that much work to raising horses. We've thought of getting one or two from the equine shelters. However, since we've been in a drought, no grass, hay shortage, and have cows, we haven't done it yet. After reading this, I think I'll stick to cows. lol

But, horses are almost magical, though. I'll be an ardent admirer.

AL said...

Well I think you provided all the information about raising horses, and it's really hardwork when you want to raise them.

I think I just enjoy watching Maggie May, I noticed Sadie's cute smile and the chubby chubby cat which looks like Prudence!


chicamom85 said...

I feel like I should pay you for that lesson. I mean that sincerely, that was incredible. You could write a manual, your information was good, interesting and easy to understand. For someone like me who has never been around horses that is very important. Thank you


chicamom85 said...

I forgot to mention that Sasha is very upset with"Pawpaw" for leaving Sadie out in the barn. I hope she is over her experience and snuggling by Mommy or Ali.


Lily Robinson said...

Rae, We haven't even talked about farm calls from the vet and the farrier for hoof trims... Yeah, it's not cheap, but the thrill of looking out the window and seeing them fly by with tails in the air is priceless! ...unless you're talking to Hubby...

Lynn, The worst is when drought hits, hay prices rise. We paid $3.25/bale for over-sized bales this year. A couple of years back when we were in a drought, we settled for less than quality hay. The decent stuff was up over $6/bale! Horses can't eat the moldy stuff that cows can either. Living in an area prone to drough can make horse keeping quite expensive!

Al, I'll have to make sure to post more videos of them for your enjoyments. Hopefully I'll have time in the near future to add pics of the rest of our critter family on my sidebar.

Anne, I get comments telling me that a lot of my readers want more details about farm life, so I hope I've satisfied them a bit.

And actually I think Sadie enjoyed a bit of unsupervised time in the barn. Do you know how much stuff there is to nibble on in there? It probably took her a while to realize he was gone! She was only out there a couple of hours. We're always out with the horses & chickens after dark. But yes, she's hanging close to me.

Lily Robinson said...

Alvond, You're welcome. I enjoy sharing my wonderful experiences. I feel blessed with this country life. I've always loved animals, and now I can collect them!

Mark Kreider said...

The best post I've read in days! All that work and it's just the beginning. Aside from all the "must dos" I'll bet there are tons of little things you do automatically without thinking about them anymore. Reminds me of the rigor of learning to play a musical instrument. Thanks for the care and effort of the post!

Mama Mel said...

Wow! Great post! My friend has 2 horses and I know it is a lot of work. I would love to have a horse some day, but first we need a horse property... :)

Thanks for stopping by my blog the other day! :) Have a great day!

KrisGC said...

I always knew there was a lot of work involved with having horses, but I didn't realize all of the different kinds of feed and treats and other things to make sure they get all of their nutrition. I know the horses that live next to us do not get the proper care that they should, it makes me sad.

CrazyCris said...

definitely high maintenance critters! but still would love to live a place where I could have one myself!

thanks for such an informative piece!

Sharon McPherson: AUTHOR said...

Wow, a mine of information! What a great post, there's a lot in that.

I would, actually like a horse one day and when that happens I will refer to your blog, especially this post as everything was explained in a way that is easily understood. :)

Though, I have got to say, I never realised how much work there is in keeping horses.

Well done.