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What type of hay do you feed your horse?

Big alfalfa signI had to laugh when we drove by this sign “May Heaven be as green as alfalfa.”

One of the interesting things about traveling around the country is seeing the differences in horse keeping, including differences in hay. It makes sense that climate differences would change what grows well which in turn changes what is available. It also changes the price.

Alfalfa hay likes heat and does well with irrigation. Right now we are in southern California and alfalfa hay is less expensive than grass hay. I have spent most of my life in the east where grass hays grow best and, in turn, usually costs less.

The alfalfa bales have been ranging anywhere between $14-$18 per bale BUT they are also tied either with wire or three strands of twine because they weigh around 100 pounds each. The grass hay is even more with a 100 pound bale of Timothy or Orchard Grass ranging between $25-$28 dollars!  Thankfully we still have a few bales of grass with us to mix. Not that the horses are eating it because given the choice they are picking out the alfalfa.

The interesting thing to me is this: we are spending about the same amount on hay now as we were in the east based on the amount they are consuming free choice both then and now.

I don’t intend this blog to be about the nutritional needs of specific horses, or the pros and cons of certain hays, but I am curious about where you live and what type of hay is easiest to obtain. I am also curious of the weight of the bales and the local price.

zoom alfalfa

 
39 Comments

Posted by on February 16, 2015 in Life

 

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I love the idea of a big open barn or run in for shelter but how do you feed if they chase each other?

During the huge response to yesterdays blog titled Where do you live and what shelter do your horses have? Cindy asked the following question.

“I love the idea of a big open barn or run in for shelter but how do you feed? I have a piggie who will chase the others off if I try to feed together. Having the stalls lets me separate them.”-Cindy

I have done several things in this situation but I would also love to hear how others have handled this.

When I have had horses turned out I tried to put them in similar groups. I often had two pastures, one for the ‘easy’ keepers and one for the young and growing who required more calories. In those pastures I often fed different types of hay due to the calorie needs and also different amounts of ration balancer (a type of grain) or fat supplement if needed.Feeding horses with similar needs together makes things easier.

I fed the horses far enough apart that it was not very effective for the horses to move each other. If fed too close together one horse could ‘guard’ more than one feed pile but with more distance they would maybe switch once or twice but frequent switching wasn’t worth it. On the occasion that one horse was a real trouble maker we have also stood and guarded the horses that were being pushed during the grain feeding time, which is the only time this was an issue. I feed a low volume ration balancer so standing guard doesn’t take that long.

Another thing I have done is to tie the horse that pushed the others during feeding time. While tied I could then do other chores such as cleaning and then untie them when the feeding time is over. Most of our horses have free choice hay and share it well. The few easy keepers we have had were feed together and if they tried to guard the hay we just spread it out further…and they got more exercise moving around.

Unfortunately, I have seen horses in situations where people have ‘let them work it out’ and the ‘low’ horse in the pecking order didn’t get enough to eat. It is especially easy for people to over look this during the winter when the horses are very fuzzy and the human doesn’t realize how much weight the horse may be losing. Be sure to run your hands over the horses frequently to feel, rather than see, what their weight is under all that hair.

How would you answer Cindy’s question? Do you have one horse that will chase others? How did you handle it?

 
34 Comments

Posted by on January 4, 2015 in Life, Members Question

 

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What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is too cold to let them out in pasture?

“What is your input on blanketing a horse or not in the winter and also how cold is to cold to let them out in pasture?”-Kimberly M.

I think that there are valid reasons both for and against blanketing horses and each person needs to evaluate what is best for their horse.

StacyWestfall'sfirsthorseI grew up in Maine and we never blanketed our horses. Sometimes the thermometer, without windchill, would go as low as -40…below zero. It got cold. Thankfully the wind didn’t blow when it was that cold and our horses grew thick coats and never shivered. All was good.

My mom still lives in Maine but she has different horses. One horse is in his 20’s and is a hard keeper. He grows a thick hair coat and doesn’t shiver but putting a rain sheet or waterproof blanket on him when it is extremely cold helps him to conserve energy and hold his weight better.

The other is a middle aged mare who is an easy keeper but naturally doesn’t grow much hair. I know because she lived with me for years and we kept her in a pasture with a run-in shed. Each year everyone else in the pasture grew enough hair to stay warm but this mare would only grow an average hair coat and then would shiver. Some people have told me that shivering is ‘natural’, which is obvious in one sense of the word, but whenever I have personally experienced shivering I have found it to be very unpleasant. I am convinced that some horses are ‘naturally’ given to growing more or less hair and as the mare can’t migrate south…I sent my mom a rain sheet and a waterproof blanket.

When I have horses in training that I am riding multiple times per week I keep them blanketed. I do this because if I don’t then they tend to overheat when working…imagine dressing in your best winter overalls and coat and then shoveling snow for an hour straight. Heavy winter wear is not the best when you’re doing heavy work. Every time I make that mistake I end up needing to remove layers, something my horse cannot choose to do if it is hair. By blanketing my horses that I am working I can help them regulate their temperature plus I can help them cool out quicker. A horse with a heavy hair coat that does get soaking wet from a workout can take hours to cool out and dry properly. A horse that has been blanketed can be cooled out in thirty minutes or less with a wool cooler.Luke, I am your father!

The choice to blanket also comes with the responsibility to check and maintain the horses regularly. If I have horses that I am blanketing it is a lot of extra work in the fall and the spring. I have to pay attention to the daytime and nighttime temperatures and change their layers accordingly. For a fully blanketed show horse it is normal to change their layers every ten degrees. I do not choose to blanket horses just for the fun of it…it is far too much work if that is the only reason.

If you don’t need a short hair coat because you are working the horse regularly but want to blanket sometimes then consider only adding below a certain temperature. If you choose to only blanket when the temperature is below ten degrees then your horse will still grow a pretty thick hair coat. Plus by selecting a low temperature like zero or ten degrees you won’t have all of the extra work in the spring and fall.

I prefer to leave horses that aren’t working regularly without blankets and allow them to grow as much hair as possible. I also recognize that some times blanketing can be either helpful, as in the training situation, or best, such as with the hard keeper.

As far as how cold is too cold I think there are different factors to look at. How healthy the horse is, what type of shelter or wind break is available, and how much forage is available are all part of the equation. Keep in mind that a great source of internal heat for horses in the winter is digesting hay and fresh, unfrozen, water is always a must.Mini horses in snow

Each situation will be a little different and I’m sure that many people will leave comments about the temperatures their horses have successfully lived in. Here is a comment following my blog on “How cold is too cold to ride a horse.” 

“Up here in Canada if we don’t ride when it’s “too cold” – we wouldn’t ride for half the year! 😉 At our barn we just make sure we ride the horses according to the temperature. On the really cold days we might just play with some trail obstacles or do ground work in order to not sweat the horses up. Oh, and I’ve discovered that “hot paws” are a girl’s best friend in the winter! They are little heated pads that go inside your gloves and boots. Life savers! (or should I say “digit savers”!)”-Kim

I have more often kept my horses in because of ice or poor footing instead of the weather being too cold. Unfortunately, someone will leave a comment saying that it is totally natural for horses to endure any weather. While it is true that horses live in the wild, they also can suffer in the wild. I have personally seen horses with half their ears because the tops were frozen off…natural, yes, but not something I’m interested in.

While googling for info I found a great article on Discoverhorses.com quoting Dr. Joyce Harman, “There is no temperature where it is too cold for a horse to be ridden or to go outside if they are adapted to it.”

I think each person needs to evaluate their situation. Some places are going to get extreme wind, others extreme snow or ice and still others extreme cold, each brings its own challenges. Keep in mind that sudden or unusual weather won’t allow the horses time to adapt.

Often I have to laugh when I go out in the cold with my horses. Some of my best memories are with my horses in the winter. They tend to be fresh and full of energy and for the most part they seem to handle the cold weather much better than I do.

 
25 Comments

Posted by on December 22, 2014 in Life, Members Question

 

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Stacy’s Video Diary: Jac Episode 39- Horse’s mouth irritated by plant material; foxtail, etc.

Jac ran into another physical issue; he ate some form of plant that caused sores in his mouth. The first suspect was foxtail, which is a grass that can get baled into hay.

The vet biopsied the sores and confirmed that the sores were caused by plant material although they were unable to determine if it was foxtail or one of several other plants that can cause the same issue.

Getting all of the small particles out of a horses mouth is not easy. Some could be removed by the vet but others had embedded like little splinters. The vet removed some of the embedded plant material. He also recommended washing his mouth out daily for awhile and we switched the hay.

The healing had to run its course and I ended up losing about a month of training time while allowing Jac’s mouth to heal. I have been planning on showing Jac at some of the bigger shows at the end of the year but a set back like this could change the plan.

I already know that I am unwilling to add extra pressure to Jac for him to ‘catch up’ in his training. I will still allow Jac to set the pace of the training and things will either come easy for him or they will not and I will scratch from the shows.

Issues and decisions like this one are part of the process I was hoping to show by following Jac. The training, just like life, always has its ups and downs.

 

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2014 in Stacy's Video Diary: Jac, Training, Video

 

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Traveling with horses, hay, meeting nice people

Moving around the country with horses is a challenge. Without horses we could stop at any gas station, any restaurant or any coffee shop. With horses we are limited on our parking, we must find diesel fuel and at night the horses need a place to stay.

There are other things to consider such as how much hay we can carry with us as well. We keep our grain the same and when we get new hay we mix it with what we are carrying.  I have learned to carry alfalfa cubes along because they are consistent and they take up less space. I add water to them and Newt loves the game of trying to catch them much like bobbing for apples. It only lasts a bit because then the cubes absorb the water and fall apart but he still enjoys the bobbing while it lasts.

Hay in pickups

One horse person to another; this lady brought me hay!

During this trip I had a full load of horses when I headed east which limited the hay I could carry. I had heard about the compressed bales that can be bought at farm stores and thought I might give them a try.

At the store I wasn’t impressed with the way they looked on the outside. Maybe it was just that batch but I actually confused the alfalfa for straw when approaching the isle! On closer inspection I could see it was hay…but it wasn’t a good first impression. The young lady working at the store asked if she could help me and I asked if there were any other options for hay. After exploring what the store had (I passed) she also showed me the community bulletin board and introduced me to someone who had a farm and horses.

The lady with horses said she had extra hay. She also said she was going to be passing by where I was and even offered to drop the hay off to me…now that’s service! Again I am reminded of how friendly and helpful most people are.

Even gas station stops are more interesting with horses. Some people, like this young lady, recognize the trailer and stop to talk (she made her mom turn around and drive back) and others just want to see the horses. All are positive and friendly.

This is good news for us as Joshua and I will be heading back to Texas tomorrow. We are also talking about moving to Pennsylvania for July and August which would mean yet another big trip just around the corner and meeting even more people.

Traveling with horses can be a challenge but on the positive side, my gelding, Newt has finally stopped pawing in the trailer after being hauled about 5,000 miles this spring!

 
16 Comments

Posted by on May 15, 2014 in Life

 

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What happens to all those nurse mare foals from Last Chance Corral?

Maddie's senior picture with her, now grown, nurse mare foal from Last Chance Corral.

Maddie’s senior picture with her, now grown, nurse mare foal from Last Chance Corral.

What happens to all those nurse mare foals? I wondered this myself and when I saw a photo posted on The Last Chance Corral Facebook page I asked if they would share their story.

The story starts sad – my daughter lost her first horse to placental abruption in her last few weeks of pregnancy.  I didn’t know if she would ever ride again, or have another horse.  We had gone to LCC as our community service project with our 4H club, and really loved the work they do there.  After not finding a horse Maddie bonded with (as all things would be forever compared to her first horse), she decided she wanted a foal to raise as her own.  We went to LCC on a cold Monday night in February 2011 and “Pickle” (as we call her in the barn) was their last foal.  We sat in the hay and hung out with her for probably an hour, and Maddie said “look at her eyes – this is my horse.”  She came home with us 2 days later.
My daughter loves music so she named the foal “That Sweet Sound” and had intended for her barn name to be “Musique.”  But, whenever she would misbehave, Maddie would say “what’s your dill, pickle?”  And, the name stuck.  So, Pickle it is!
Maddie has worked with her every day in some capacity, and as a result she has a

Maddie with her nurse mare foal, Pickle, the first week at home...compare to the senior photo above!

Maddie with her nurse mare foal, Pickle, the first week at home…compare to the senior photo above!

virtually spook-free, gentle (albeit at times contrary) little filly.  At about 16 mos old she took her in a halter class and place 3rd (out of about a dozen horses); since then, she’s placed in Showmanship 2-3 times in fun shows and county fair; and a junior horse class (walk/trot) at the county fair.  With the vet’s go-ahead, she put her under saddle at 2 1/2…the horse never even bucked.  She is stubborn and smart, though!

Maddie has done all the training herself (longeing, ground-driving, showmanship, under-saddle) – she has a trainer for guidance but no one else has ridden or handled the horse (other than turnout, and I have longed her).  Pickle is now 3 years old and Maddie has her cantering, not yet pretty – but she’s responding to the cues and is on the correct lead about 99% of the time.  We expect great things from her; Maddie wanted her to be a reiner, but right now she moves like an English horse, so we’ll see how she continues to evolve.
LCC does great things and these little foals that are “thrown away” have SO much potential…Pickle is proof of that.  We love her and are SO blessed to have her in our lives, and she has had a powerful impact on my daughter’s life.
Michelle S.
The Last Chance Corral does amazing rescue work with horses, both foals and adults. There are many ways that you can help.
  • ‘Like’ them on Facebook-Spread the word-it could save a life!
  • They accept volunteers to work at the barn
  • they have a list of supplies (including foal blankets and how to order them) on their website http://lastchancecorral.org
  • hay donation
  • sawdust donation
  • the website can accept cash donations
  • they will be at Equine Affaire in Columbus, Ohio in April if you want to stop and talk, donate….or adopt:)
Victoria Goss with a nurse mare foal, one of the hundreds she has rescued over the years.

Victoria Goss with a nurse mare foal, one of the hundreds she has rescued over the years.

Last Chance Corral foal wrapped to keep warm.

Last Chance Corral foal wrapped to keep warm.

 
12 Comments

Posted by on March 9, 2014 in Inspiring, Life, Thought provoking

 

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It is cold…and getting colder, are you and your horses ready?

My mom posted on Facebook about a recent heatwave in Maine….when she woke up it was -23.8 but in only a few hours had warmed up to -21.6! Brrr….Mini's in the snow, horses in the cold

It is said that horses are well developed to handle the cold. When I look at my mini’s…I completely agree.

With the other horses at my place I have noticed they tend to be individuals even when it comes to hair growth.  Same feed, same stalls or pasture…but still they don’t all grow the same hair coats. Some are thick (none as thick as the mini’s) and some make me wonder how they would survive!

Horses with naturally short hair coats can seem easier but when it gets cold I step in to help. For example it is predicted to be colder in the next two days than I have seen in the last 14 years I have lived here. If that comes true then several of my horses will be sporting blankets or extra blankets.

It is important to remember also that when horses digest roughage (hay) they produce heat. Extra hay anyone?

But my real pet peeve is water. Summer, winter, I don’t care…water, water, water is important. And in the winter when it freezes so fast water is more work and I fear is neglected. The heated water troughs are popular with my horses. Have you ever noticed that if you dump a water bucket that is starting to freeze and refill it with fresh water that they horses often drink. Coming out of the ground it is warm enough to steam and they appreciate it.

If it is going to get cold where you are get prepared….and prepare for your horses. How do you prepare?

cold weather and horses

 
42 Comments

Posted by on January 5, 2014 in Life

 

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