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And the view out our front door is this……….

 

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Hi Cherry,

We moved with our ponies onto a five acre hobby farm which was previously a dairy operation.  There is a large cement yard around the barns causing a lot of wasted space. It would be a perfect winter/sacrifice area for spring though, the barn shelters the north and west sides. I was wondering if there would be anyway to cover this? A base layer of gravel with sand on top? How deep? Ripping it out is not an option, and I don’t like the idea of horses on concrete.  Wondering if you have any suggestions? Thanks,

Allison

Hi Allison,

Well of course I have to go on the record that my suggestion would be removing the concrete but I realize the effort, expense it would take and that you said removal is not an option.

By the way, what you have are concrete pads, not cement. Concrete is comprised of cement (a fine powder), aggregate (sand, stones) and water. It is sometimes reinforced with steel mesh or bars (rebar). When concrete is poured it is agitated and worked so the large pieces of aggregate settle somewhat leaving a sand/cement mixture on top to form a smooth surface. Concrete is one of man’s most durable building materials and it can be a major undertaking to remove it, especially if it is reinforced with steel.

So here are some other things you probably have already considered or have even done by now.

Using the concrete as is for eating areas would be OK, but if the ponies would also be required to use them as loafing areas, standing for long periods of time and/or laying down or rolling, then concrete pads would not be good for the long term for obvious reasons of abrasion and discomfort. However, concrete covered with rubber mats might make a super nice feeding area which would be more comfortable than bare concrete and easy to keep sanitary (as long as the ponies don’t urinate there).

If the areas will be used for loafing, then covering the concrete pads with rubber mats or rolled rubber flooring could work. Another option would be covering the concrete with road base, which is a mixture of gravel and dirt and then a layer of a well-draining fine gravel such as decomposed granite (which is what I would use here in the western US) could work.  Note that if your ponies use the area as a toilet (which they most likely will do) then you will have to diligently manage moisture, odor and sanitation. With a situation like this, whether it is in stalls or outdoor pads, you should plan on an annual overhaul. Perhaps this is something you can do if you only use it seasonally.

You asked about gravel and sand. Gravel on concrete could be like walking on ball bearings and would be tough on hooves and not much more comfortable than plain concrete. It would allow somewhat for drainage of urine, especially if the pads are sloped away from the barn which I imagine they are.

Sand is also a risky choice if the area would be a place you would feed the ponies as sand colic would be a problem if they ingested sand with any hay that fell out of their feeders, for example.

No easy answer. Please reply to this blog and let us know what you have done or are planning to try.

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When shown a bale of premium hay and one of poor quality, most horsemen would have little difficulty deciding which bale they would like to take home and feed to their horses.  But since the average bale of hay has one or more defects and because the hay-buyer’s budget enters into the picture, choosing hay, in actuality, is often not so easy.  The many factors which should be considered when selecting hay all relate directly to the growing and harvesting of the hay.  Understanding the hay-making process from the ground up can help you make wise decisions when it comes to buying your winter supply of hay.

Choosing Good Quality Hay

    Good quality hay should be leafy, fine-stemmed, and adequately but not overly dry.  Since two-thirds of the plant nutrients are in the leaves, the leaf-to-stem ratio should be high.  The hay should not be brittle but instead soft to the touch, with little shattering of the leaves.  Lost leaves mean lost nutrition.  There should be no excessive moisture that could cause overheating and spoilage.

     Good quality hay should be free of mold, dust, and weeds and have a bright green color and a fresh smell.  In some instances, placing too much emphasis on color may be misleading in hay selection.  Although the bright green color indicates a high vitamin A (beta carotene) content,  some hays might be somewhat pale due to bleaching and may still be of good quality.  Bleaching is caused by the interaction of dew or other moisture, the rays of the sun, and high ambient temperatures.  Brown hay, however, indicates a loss of nutrients due to excess water or heat damage and should be avoided.

     Hay which is dusty, moldy, or musty smelling is not suitable for horses.  Not only is it unpalatable, but it can contribute to respiratory diseases.  Moldy hay can also be toxic to horses and may cause colic or abortion.  Bales should not contain undesirable objects or noxious weeds.  Check for sticks, wire, blister beetles, poisonous plants, thistle, or plants with barbed awns such as foxtail or cheat grass.

     Making premium horse hay involves a valuable balance of knowledge and skill.  From a horseman’s standpoint, there’s nothing like snipping the strings on a bale mid-winter and finding soft, green, leafy hay inside.  Horses thrive on such hay and require little, if any, grain supplementation. 


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Hi Cherry,

In your almanac, you say that the repeated wet/dry cycle can damage the quality of a horse’s hooves.

My horses and I are avid swimmers in the summer…  I usually take them out every day to relieve them from the heat… they love it!  Splashing and swishing and dunking… we have a blast!

They are both young (6 & 7) geldings on 24/7 turnout with free choice grass hay and twice daily grain (1/2 cup hi fat hi fibre).

Am I doing them more harm than their fun is worth?

Christena

Hi Christena,

It depends on where you live, the temperature and humidity, the condition of your horses’ hooves and skin, and your management.

For example, if you live in a hot, humid climate, although the swim might feel good, it might take hours (or maybe never) for the horse’s coat, skin and hooves to thoroughly dry out. That can set the stage for skin problems, fungus and hoof deterioration.

A daily swim here in semi-arid Colorado would be fine – it would be refreshing and the horse would dry quickly.

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My friend has a 5 year old filly.  When he puts her out in the pasture she will stay by the back door unless another horse or even one of the llamas is out.  When he tries to walk her out in the pasture she goes in circles and tires him out by pushing on him to get him to go back to the barn. Daryl

Hi Daryl,

Horses are herd animals so seek comfort and security in numbers. This filly lacks confidence so just for safety sake, she would benefit from a companion animal (llama or another horse) when out on pasture.

To build her confidence, your friend could hold her training and riding sessions out in the pasture, building a strong bond with her out there. It sounds like she needs a thorough ground training review if she whirls or pushes when he tries to lead her. There are many articles on this blog (use the search tool in the right hand column) and my website horsekeeping.com related to behavior and ground training.

 

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Dear Cherry

Do older horses require the same vaccines as the younger ones. Mine is at a boarding stable and has been immunized every year. I had the vet come out and do a physical on both of my horses (both mares, one is 7 the other is 31). He said that the older mare could do without a couple of the shots (Strangles, Potomac, and rabies). But the barn owner said he requires that all the horses have the same shots as long as they are boarded at his barn. I’m wondering if mine and others are being over vaccinated? What are your thoughts? I also had the vet do fecal tests for parasites, which came out normal on both. I’m afraid he’s going to tell me I have to give them dewormer. The vet suggested doing the fecals first and I agree with him. I’ve always given the wormer before, but again the vet is suggesting that they can be overmedicated on dewormer. Both my mares are very healthy. You’d never know that the 31 year old was that old!

Thanks for you input.  Mary

Hi Mary,

Generally I would follow the recommendations of your veterinarian. What you vaccinate for and how often you deworm and with what should be based on an individual horse’s situation and needs. There is no sense deworming a horse with a negative fecal exam.

However, whether right or wrong, the owner of the barn where you board may have the legal right to require you to vaccinate and deworm according to his farm’s guidelines. I hope the barn’s program has been developed in consultation with a veterinarian.

If it becomes a point of contention, it would be best to have your veterinarian discuss the health program requirements with the barn owner and his veterinarian so they can come to an agreeable solution for all.

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I am hoping to connect with Cherry Hill about the definition of the basic keeping of horses.  I live in Massachusetts and recently purchased a 12+ acre parcel for the purpose of building a barn and both indoor and outdoor riding rings.  We are living on the property.  I have obtained my Animal Keeping Permit and Building Permit from the Town.

One of the abutters in not pleased with the prospect of my project and is objecting through various means.  I am trying to connect with experts in the care and keeping of horses to help confirm that horses are “kept” in stables/barns and paddocks (turnout) and the indoor riding ring is not where horses are “kept”.

I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

Regards, Lisa


Hi Lisa,

The definition of horsekeeping, I’m afraid, has about as many definitions as there are horsekeepers ! It can range from a bare bones dirt lot to deluxe accommodations and hand-on care. Sadly some poor horsekeeers do make a bad impression on non-horse people and it is no wonder why problems arise.

Responsible, conscientous, mindful horsekeeping does indeed include barns, pens, paddocks, turnout areas and daily care. However, many times when time and money constraints arise, horsekeepers cut corners and those shortcuts can result in unsightly changes to the property and possible sanitation and health issues for neighbors.

In terms of a legal definition, I’ve been contacted over the years by various townships, cities, and counties as they try to establish legal parameters for keeping horses. Number of horses per acre, types of fencing, the distance buildings and horses must be from adjacent properties, fugitive dust that is churned up in paddocks and outdoor arenas and much much more.

Each locale has its own laws and wording so it would be best for you to work your appeal within the wording of your specific laws. Stating things appropriately for Larimer County Colorado for example might be inappropriate for your location and  might cause an unintended issue to arise. 

If you care to write more specifics, please feel free. In the meantime, be sure to use my book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage as a reference guide. And browse the articles on my website horsekeeping.com

Best of luck,


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Hi Cherry,

This past fall with the start of the dry weather I started shocking my horse when I would touch him or brush, which caused him to jump and me to jump as well.  It even happened one day when I kissed him on the nose.
When I started to blanket him during the cold weather in December, every time I took/ take his blanket off there is a large amount of static electricity, so he now jumps from his blanket being taken off also.  I have resorted to rubbing him with dryer sheets, as I slowly peel off his blanket and use Static Guard on his blanket right after I remove it.
This is a wonderful horse, who is now jumpy when I touch or give him treats with my open hand and to date we have not shocked one another in about 6 weeks, any suggestions on how to get his confidence back?
Thank you, Bridget

Hi Bridget

During dry weather, when you vigorously groom a horse or remove his blanket, static electricity can make a loud snap and cause a stinging zap that can make a horse blanket shy or spooky to your touch.

When a horse’s hair coat is very dry and fluffy, it is more likely to zap. Natural oils insulate the hair shafts and cut down on zapping – that’s one reason I minimizing bathing (which removes natural oils) and why I emphasize currying which stimulates the production of oil and distributes it to the ends of the hairs.

I’ve also found that various blanket and sheet materials work differently in different climates. Here in semi-arid Colorado, certain nylon sheets and blankets with nylon or fleece linings generate more static electricity than cotton sheets or blankets with wool linings. But this can vary according to the temperature and humidity in YOUR barn.

No matter what blanket or sheet I use, when removing it, I DON’T slide it across the horse’s hair coat, which could create static electricity. Instead, I lift the blanket UP and off. To avoid a zap at the moment I separate the blanket from the horse – I do it one handed. I remove the blanket with one hand and keep my other hand free of the horse’s body and the blanket. That way, I don’t complete an electrical circuit and my horse doesn’t get zapped.

I have a short video clip on my DVD “101 Horsekeeping Tips” that shows that.

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G’day Cherry!

I was curious if you could tell me about breeding, especially when to seperate the mare and foal as I have heard a lot of conflicting things and am no longer sure who to believe! Can you help me?
Cheers Steph

Hi Steph,

I usually wean foals at 4 months. There is no harm or advantage waiting until 6 months but it is good to do it at a time when the weather doesn’t add to the stress of separation. So here in Colorado, the foals are often born in March or April and weaned in July or August. This gives them time to settle into their new routines before winter.

I leave the foal in the pasture, pen or stall where it has been living with its dam. Make sure the fences and facilities are safe. Remove the dam from the foal and be sure you put the dam in a safe place too – it’s best if the dam is out of sight and sound of the foal. Keep the mare and foal separate from each other until the foal is a yearling.

There are exceptions to every suggestion but this is a starting point for you.

Best of luck !

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Hi Cherry,

Thanks for your great website! I lease an aged (18?) purebred Arabian gelding as a trail horse.  (He’s an ex endurance horse, now semi retired) Boy is lovely, forward moving and full of personality. I am thinking of buying him off his owner, however his canter is quite rough and hurts my back. Is there any way of changing this gait in an aged horse, or should I simply accept he is what he is?

Thanks heaps! Melissa (Australia)

Hi Melissa,

You can always “teach old dogs new tricks” but at 18 and with the wear and tear of his previous life, Boy’s rough canter might be a result of arthritis more than training. Perhaps he has lost flexion in some part of his body, lumbar/loin area, hocks, stifle………I first am targeting the areas at the rear of the horse that are usually responsible for a smooth, flowing canter. But the problem could also be in the front end – wear and tear (arthritis) in the pasterns, fetlocks and knees.

I’d suggest asking your veterinarian to give the horse a specific pre-purchase exam – that is, one that would evaluate his movement and to determine if he is suffering from arthritis or another lameness or unsoundness that causes his rough movement.

Here are some related articles on my website:

The Pre-Purchase Contract

Unsoundness

Veterinary Tests and Exams

Horse for Sale: How to Buy a Horse or Sell the One You Have

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