Use Your Smartphone For More Than Selfies

horse on cell phone THESALEHORSESmartphones can be used for everything these days – listening to music, reading emails, surfing the internet, watching movies and, of course, taking pictures and videos.  But you can also use your phone for more than taking selfies.  Here are some ideas on how to use the camera on your phone with your equestrian life.

If you are looking at a new horse, snap a picture of it with your phone.  Save it with as much info as possible.  Ex. Brownie HappyBarnStable 010117.  After looking at 3 or 4 brown horses, you won’t be able to remember if “Brownie” was the one with the white star at Joe’s Barn or the one with the white blaze at Happy Barn Stable.  Taking a picture can help you remember who is who. And if you’re phone allows you to video the test ride as well. 

If you see something you like on the internet, but want to see it in person at your local HBG with phonetack store, save the picture to the phone.  Since tack styles are often similar with one or two small differences, having the picture can help you be sure the one you’re looking at in the store is the same one you liked online.

Conversely, if you see something you like in a store, but think you can get it cheaper online.  Take a picture of the store item and save with as much info a possible.  Ex. Wintec Isabell Saddle Bob’s Tack

One of the hardest things to do is to keep track of something on your horse.  For example, it’s October and you want to be sure your horse stays at the same weight in January.  Or you notice a lump and your veterinarian says “keep an eye on it” and let him know if there are any changes.  When you see your horse nearly every day, it’s hard to remember if it really looked like THAT the last time you checked.  Taking a picture to refer to can help to compare.  Use a body condition guide to document your horse’s weight.  Photo the lump with a ruler in the picture to indicate the size at the time.

Photographing or videoing your horse is a great help to your veterinarian in case you have to call him.  What may look like an emergency gash to you may look like a medium cut to your veterinarian if he can see it before he comes out.  With a picture, he may be able to instruct you how to care for it yourself and save the vet call.

The say a picture if worth a thousand words and if your horse is exhibiting odd or unusual behavior, it’ often better to show the veterinarian a video rather than try to describe it in words.  A horse that is “shaking” vs. “trembling” can mean different things to a vet.  So eliminate any confusion and send a video.

All of us want the perfect barn or pasture.  If you are visiting somewhere and see am idea on how to improve your barn, ex. a different style of window or how to handle winter turnout, ex. a gravel sacrifice area, snap a picture so that you’ll remember just what you’d like to do at your barn.

See it, snap it, remember it.  Use your phone to document what’s important in your equine life.

photo credit: The Sale Horse
Advertisements

Retirement Option For Your Horse

IMG_0491Your horse has been your partner and your friend for many years.  But now, for whatever reason, you have to find a new home for him.  You may have outgrown him.  Or it may be for financial reasons.  Or his age is catching up to him.  But don’t despair.  There are a lot of great homes and options out there for your equine friend.  Here are a few you can consider.

  1. If your horse is still sound, you may want to consider leasing him, especially to someone at your barn.  They will take care of the expenses and care, but you still retain ownership and are the ultimate decision maker.  If you think you’ve found a good home for your horse, you can lease him out for six months or so to make sure that it’s a good fit all the way around.
  2. Of course you can sell him to another rider. It may be a pony you’ve outgrown who’ll make the perfect first horse for a child.  Or you may be switching disciplines and your hunter/jumper doesn’t share your interest in dressage.  He’ll be much happier with an owner who jumps.
  3. You can donate him to a therapeutic riding program. These programs help at risk kids or children with disabilities by introducing them to horses and riding.  Your horse must be sound and totally calm.  But if he makes it as a therapy horse, you can be assured that he will have lots of brushing and tons of carrots.
  4. You can move him to a lower rent section of your barn. Many stables have stalls and pasture board.  If you’ve had your horse in a stall, consider moving him to one of the pastures for board.  This will cost you less and will let him walk around and hang out with his horse friends.   Or if your barn has daily turnout and if you can afford it, you can leave him right where he is.  As long as he gets out on a regular basis, many horses are happy in stalls.
  5. You may want to consider boarding at a retirement facility. As horses are living longer lives, many boarding stables are seeing the benefit of offering boarding of retired horses – no matter what their age.   Most often, they will offer a pasture with shelters where several horses live.   In this case, the barn manager assumes the majority of the responsibility for the care of your horse.  They will make sure that they are groomed and that they are up-to-date on shots, dewormed and have their feet done.  All of this, of course, will be billed to you in addition to your monthly board and feed.   They can also provide additional services such as blanketing, bathing and giving supplements.  Be sure to check with the barn manager on the cost of everything.KellyBrennaChelsea 112010

Also discuss with the barn manager how involved you want to be in the care of your horse.   Do you plan come out weekly?  Are you comfortable with the barn’s vet and farrier or do you prefer someone you’ve had as a vet care for your horse.? These are all things that should be negotiated before moving your horse.

If it’s an older horse you are retiring, be sure that the retirement barn is prepared to take care of senior horses.  Often, barns buy hay and feed in bulk and they are usually geared towards younger or active horses.  Older horses can require special senior feed and hay may need to be soaked before feeding to help older horses chew.   

Older horses may have special medical need such as joint medicine or may need extra blanketing in the winter.  Be sure anyone taking care of your retired horse is aware of any special needs.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners has a great publication, “AAEP Care Guidelines for Equine Rescue and Retirement Facilities.” This will help  you know what questions to ask and what services you should expect. Click HERE to download a copy.

Photo credit: GreenGate Farm

Keep Your Barn Environmentally Friendly

Making your barn more environmentally friendly makes good business sense.  The U.S. Department of Agriculture has Cooperative Extension programs across the country.  Congress created the Extension system nearly a century ago to address exclusively rural, agricultural issues. At that time, more than 50 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, and 30 percent of the workforce was engaged in farming. Today, fewer than 2 percent of Americans farm for a living today, and only 17 percent of Americans now live in rural areas.  But Extension agents still serve a purpose by helping farmers grow crops and small farm owners plan and maintain their acreage.

mudd and manure HorsesForCleanWaterMany states have an Extension programs and can provide a wealth of information to barn managers.  Two of the ways that can help keep your farm environmentally friendly are through mud and manure management.  The first thing they suggested is to put gutters on your barn or any outbuildings.  Rain can make a waterfall off the sides and front and rapidly turn the openings into mud.  With this easy fix of gutters directing water away from the openings, going in and out of the barn is a much easier process.  Another option is to collect the water from the gutters and store it in a rain barrel to irrigate your garden or pasture in the summer.

Remember that Classic Equine Equipment’s collection of rubber stall mats and it innovative Stable-ity grid system can also options to keeping your farm mud-free.

The second suggestion is to establish a sacrifice area for the horses during the wet, winter months.  By keeping them off most of the pasture when the grass is easily destroyed by hoofs, it allows them to have much more useable pasture the following summer.   To keep pastures healthy during the summer, they also suggest rotational grazing.  Using simple temporary fencing, horses are moved around the pasture each week, never allowing them to graze down more than 4 inches.  Once the horses are moved off that pasture, it is given a chance to rest and regrow before the horses are put back on.  To keep the horses and pasture healthy, manure is picked up every day in the stalls, paddocks and sacrifice area, and the pastures are dragged weekly to break up and spread the manure for fertilizer. 

A horse can produce over 50 pounds of manure each day.  One of the best ways to turn manure after composting MillCreekSpreadersmanure into a valuable commodity is to compost it.  Compost, a combination of manure and other materials, is an excellent natural fertilizer.  Once composted, you can give it away to friends who want to naturally fertilize their gardens, sell it to nurseries, or keep it yourself for your own garden.   By taking what can be a nuisance around the farm and turning it into an income producing resource, you are literally “taking lemons and making lemonade!”

Photo credit: Horses for Clean Water, Mill Creek Spreader

Fall Pasture Management Practices

barn with rolling hills propertyA sustainable pasture depends on proper management of both the fertility needs of the soil and good management of grazing animals.  One of the most critical periods is fall.  Management decisions made at this time can have a strong effect on the plant’s ability to overwinter, which then determines when new growth begins in the spring and how much total growth will be produced over the entire season. 

Overgrazing of pastures in the fall is one of the most damaging think you can do to help support to the root system’s ability to rebuild and the formation of new grass shoots for spring growth.  This is also a time when plant root systems are rebuilding from summer shedding.  Growing points are developing in the fall to provide next spring’s growth.  These young grass shoots, or tillers, are much like babies.  Both need a steady supply of nutrients and protection from overgrazing.  In the fall, nutrients are supplied from the previous season’s tillers.  If pastures are grazed or mowed lower than 3-4 inches in the fall, these reserves are reduced and the new tillers are starved.  Usually root formation will slow or stop and the tillers will grow slower and have fewer roots in the next spring.

Allowing animals to graze throughout the fall without pasture management results in horse sacrifice area HorsesForCleanWaterincreased bare areas that are prone to the encroachment of weeds.  Keeping animals off wet pastures is another way to keep pastures healthy.  Livestock on wet pastures kill grass, compact soils and create mud.  A better idea is to create a sacrifice area for your livestock during the winter. Create an enclosure such as a paddock or pen during wet months, thereby sacrificing a small portion of your pasture for the benefit of the remaining pasture.  Installing mud-free footing, e.g. sand or gravel,  in your sacrifice area will keep your animals happier and healthier than standing in mud.  Be sure to remove manure every 1-3 days to keep footing materials from becoming contaminated.

Fall is also a great time to take soil samples to test the fertility of the pasture soil.  Soil test should be taken during the same month each month for consistency.  Early fall is also a good time to apply nutrients based on your soil test.  Manure or other sources of nitrogen can be applied. But take care not to apply too much nitrogen – it can cause grass to grow too vigorously in the fall, making them more susceptible to winter damage. 

Post summer is a tough time to turn horses out on pasture if don’t want to have to have to renovate in the spring.  But a few simple adjustments in the fall can keep your pastures lush and healthy for next spring.

photo credits: Classic Equine Equipment, Horses For Clean Water

Feeding Your Horse With Less Hay

 

hay-balesThe most basic of feeds for your horse (forage) is sometimes the hardest to find available.  Recent high temperatures and little rain, sometimes followed by too much rain, play havoc with farmers and their crops.  These crops especially include corn, oats and, most importantly, hay.  When a tough growing season hits, horse owners can expect hay prices to rise and continue rising over the next year.  Hay may also become scarce and of lower quality.

Forage hay and pasture is necessary to provide fiber to help keep the horse’s gut health intact. Forage should represent 1.5% to 2% of a horse’s bodyweight in roughage.  If hay becomes scarce, a fiber alternative such as beet pulp can be used.  Bridgett McIntosh, PhD, assistant professor and horse extension specialist at the University of Tennessee, says beet pulp is widely available and nutritious. “The nutrient content of beet pulp is similar to good quality forage and one pound of beet pulp has the same amount of calories as one pound of oats.”

McIntosh also feels that soybean hulls are another option. A soybean processing by-product, soybean hull pellets have a similar nutrient composition as good quality hay and can be used to replace up to 75% of hay in a horse’s diet.  She goes on to caution that any changes to your horse’s diet should be made gradually.forage-cubes

Sarah Ralston, VMD, PhD, Dipl. ACVN, associate professor in the Rutgers University Department of Animal Sciences, suggests that horse owners also consider hay-based cubes as an alternate source of forage.

To ensure that your horse is receiving all his daily nutrients that he may have normally obtained from hay or pasture, Carey Williams, PhD, extension specialist in equine management at Rutgers University recommends adding a grain supplement with concentrated levels of protein, vitamins, and minerals.  Some “complete feeds” are meant to be fed WITH forage so be sure to check the labels and find one that is a “stand alone” product.

Remember, too, this winter that horses, especially older horses who may not move around as much, use the digestion of hay to help them keep warm.  You may want to consider blanketing this winter if forage is in short supply.

In addition, if you keep your horses on pasture, be sure to use good pasture management practices.  Routine mowing and harrowing of the pastures to keep pastures nutritious and parasite free are important.  Using rotational grazing (moving horses from pasture to pasture when the grass gets overgrazed) will also keep your pastures healthy.  Remember to set up a sacrifice area this winter to keep horses from trampling your pasture when it is wet.  Hoofs can do a lot of damage to wet ground and next spring you may end up with more weeds than pasture.

Finally, if you find that the quality of hay in your area isn’t what your horse is used to, you may want to consider having your veterinarian do a dental exam and possible teeth floating on your horse.  If you end up having to feed your horse more “stemmy” hay, your horse may have difficulty chewing and digesting it and this can lead to colic.hay-storage

If you find a good supply of hay in your area and have room to store it, it’s not too early to start stockpiling hay for winter feeding.  One of the best ways to avoid worrying about having enough hay is to plan ahead.