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Hello Cherry,

I recently put up a 36 x36 pen and shelter for my horse.  I live here in Golden Colorado where the soil is VERY much Clay.  We had a several inches of rain this past week, which is a considerable amount for our parts.  The pen got very muddy.  I spent several hours today mucking it and now doing research on what I should do for a better fix.  I saw your article on 3/8 minus pea gravel.  A couple of questions:

1. Some horse friends of mine suggest I use Granite Crusher Fines to aide in the drainage.   Is this suitable?

2. Whether I use Pea Gravel or Granite Crusher Fines, what is the recommended depth of the material I should go with?  2, 3 or 4 inches? 

BTW:  I’m also going to install a french drainage system as well. 

Many Thanks! 

Shawn

Hi Shawn,

The French Drain is a good idea. Sloping the pens slightly away from the barn is helpful to manage drainage too.

I’m not personally familiar with Granite Crusher Fines but think they might be something like decomposed granite which we use here in northern Colorado.

We use decomposed granite under our stall mats and also under the 3/8- pea gravel in turnout pens.

So my answer would be yes and yes ! A tamped crushed granite base with 2-3 inches of 3/8- pea gravel on top.

Please feel free to post your results here. Thanks ! Cherry Hill

To read more about French Drains, pen footing and much more, refer to these books and DVD.

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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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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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This time of year when we have brought the horses in from winter pasture and they are enjoying full service pen life, we give them a taste of alfalfa every day. I think of it more as a top-dressing on their native grass hay.

I feed each horse 1 pound of high quality alfalfa per day. I figure that’s like giving them a tonic, a vitamin pill, some extra protein and calcium without inviting problems.

Here’s a question I got from a reader that you might find interesting.

Hi Cherry,

I have an ex-reiner now roping horse, he gets bored very easily. He is constantly playing in his water (even when I work him EVERY DAY). He plays in his water and pees constantly. I do not have a pasture to put him in but I can transfer him from my arena to stall daily. He is always ruining his stall by peeing and making it a lake…what is the best bedding that lasts the longest and stays dry for a continuous pee’er?? ANY info would be appreciated…

Cheri


Dear Cheri,

As always, it is good to get your veterinarian involved in such a conversation since frequent urination is a symptom of some serious health concerns. However, I’ll try to head you in the right direction with the information you provided.

First of all, a bored horse playing in his water won’t necessarily urinate excessively. It is a horse that drinks excessively that urinates excessively. So we need to figure out why he is drinking so much.

Frequent urination in horses can be caused by many factors. Here are a few:

  • A sign of a mare being in heat. But since you say “he”, then this is not the reason.
  • A horse that has colic. But since this is a continuous symptom, it is unlikely to be colic every day !
  • A reaction to a pasture plant or weed. There are so many that could cause a horse to drink more water than normal to rid his body of toxins or other chemical compounds. I don’t have any details about your pasture but this is one area that is suspect.
  • A symptom of Cushing’s Disease or kidney or liver problems, most often in older horses. You do say this is an ex-reiner, which may mean he is older so this could also be a possibility.
  • A glucose intolerance in an older horses who after eating have increased thirst and urination. Again, if he is a senior horse, this could be an explanation.
  • A symptom of blister beetle poisoning. Horses that ingest blister beetles in their alfalfa hay and suffer toxicity show behavioral signs of repeated splashing of the muzzle in water and frequent urination, among other symptoms. However, since you say your horse does this all the time, it is unlikely that this is the cause, but for sake of completeness, I wanted to include it. But it does lead me to the final item which is most likely the culprit.
  • A symptom of a horse that is fed alfalfa hay. Alfalfa hay is very high protein feed, up to 20% protein. An adult horse does not require that much protein. And in order to convert protein into an energy fuel, a horse’s digestive system has to work hard and as a result his metabolic rate and temperature rise. That means, in most cases, a loose, watery stool and a warm horse. Already I am getting thirsty.

Also, alfalfa is very high in calcium, too high to meet the ideal 2:1 Calcium:Phosphorus ratio unless you feed the horse a lot of grain (grain is high in phosphorus) to balance it out. But that would not be good.

Excess protein can lead to kidney problems and frequent urination to get rid of the excess protein in the diet. And excess calcium can lead to kidney stones.

And speaking of stones, enteroliths (intestinal stones) are directly linked to an alfalfa diet. I wonder if you live in one of these states which have a higher incidence of enteroliths and which are states where alfalfa is a common horse feed?

        • California
        • New Mexico
        • Texas
        • Florida
        • Utah
        • Arizona
        • Nevada
        • and others

Well, you can tell I am not a big fan of feeding horses alfalfa hay. Is that what you have been feeding your horse? If so, it could explain his abnormal thirst and frequent urination. If you change to a grass hay, his stall will probably no longer be a lake and you won’t have to search for that super absorbent bedding.

Best of luck,   Cherry Hill

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Here in the Colorado foothills, we are way behind in snowfall for the Winter 2010-11 season. (Thankfully the mountains above us are above average, sending good moisture down to our creek.) The wildfire season has already begun in Colorado.

But even without moisture, the pastures started greening up last week and we saw the horses micro-grazing, nipping 1/8″ bits of green grass, which of course is very hard on drought-stricken emerging grass.

Nipper Micro Grazing

So we brought all the horses in and they are now in sacrifice pens and back on full hay rations.

Hoping for rain or even snow !

Take care of your land and that good horse.

 

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Hi Cherry,

My old guys (Teddy is 22 and Brighty is “not yet 25” according to my vet) are getting up there in years and I want to be sure I’m doing everything I can to keep them feeling good as long as possible. Any general tips?

Briana

Hello Briana,

You’ve got a couple oldies but goodies ! Well here is some general information about older horses and some guidelines for their care. Let me know if you have more specific questions.

Cherry

Senior Horse Care

©  2011 Cherry Hill

Time flies and soon that good horse is a little gray around the muzzle. Even if your horse is over 20, you still can continue using and enjoying him or her. You just need to give some special attention to his care.

Value of a Seasoned Senior

Many folks say old horses make good teachers. Old is not necessarily synonymous with good. But if a senior horse had thorough training and a wide range of experience, he can be a valuable mentor. Seasoned seniors are usually calm and stable. They’ve been there and done that…and then some. There’s nothing like an old timer to take a kid for her first lope or to give confidence to a novice adult rider.

Seniors are valuable role models for young horses too. A good pony horse makes the tag-along yearling obedient and confident. When trailering, a senior can exude “What’s the big deal?” and soon the colt in the next stall relaxes and starts munching. On the trail, an unflappable veteran shows the way past rock monsters and through creeks. And for just plain osmosis, there’s nothing better than having a good old horse around to show junior the ropes. It’s just too bad our good horses can’t last forever, but at least today, they are lasting longer.

Many of today’s horses get high quality care and, like humans, they are living to ripe old ages. In the past a horse in its late teens was approaching the end of his life but now the average lifespan is the mid-twenties with many ponies and Arabians in their thirties.

Signs of Aging

A 20-year-old horse is the approximate equivalent of a 60-year-old person but when and how a horse ages is extremely variable. Some senior horses are raring to go while others prefer to vegetate. Horses can reproduce later in life than humans can. Healthy mares kept on a regular breeding program can foal well into their twenties and semen can be viable in stallions as old as 30.

Seniors often grow thicker, longer winter coats and might hold onto them past spring. Just as we gray around the temples at varying ages and degrees, some horses gray around the muzzle, lower jaw and eye sockets. Other cosmetic changes include hollow depressions above the eyes, a hanging lower lip and loss of skin and muscle tone. Common problems of aging are arthritis, colic, heaves, laminitis, lameness, general stiffness, poor digestion, decreased kidney function, and an overall lack of energy.

When an older horse starts slowing down, you can call it lazy, laid-back or just plain exhausted – but the fact is, time does take its toll. Fortunately you can increase a senior’s energy level and prevent many ailments through proper management and exercise.

Shelter

Provide the veteran with comfortable accommodations. On our place, the Luxury Senior Suite is a 12′ x 50′ south facing pen with a 32-foot long wrap around wind wall. The barn roof extends over 1/3 of the pen and half of the covered area is rubber-matted for feeding. It’s an ideal combination of indoor/outdoor living which suits most horses to a T. The pen is adjacent to an indoor stall for bitter cold weather and it’s ten steps away from a 10-acre turnout pasture.

In my estimation, life in a stall takes its toll on any horse, but especially a senior. The small space and lack of regular exercise just spells STIFFNESS! If a senior horse must live indoors, he needs regular exercise. In addition, dust and ammonia in the barn must be eliminated. Dusty bedding, moldy feed, dust raised from aisle sweepers and other airborne debris can contribute to the respiratory disorder heaves (COPD, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). Ammonia fumes, which are generated from decomposing manure, urine and bedding, are caustic to the respiratory tract of both horses and humans. Keep stalls clean and be sure the barn is well ventilated.

Many horses are happiest living on pasture. For free-minded old timers, choose a pasture that has enough room to roam but not so much lush grazing that it leads to an unhealthy weight gain. No matter where a senior lives, provide a soft place for him to lie down for at least a portion of the day.

As horses get older, they have less tolerance for temperature extremes so your horsekeeping practices might need to be re-evaluated year round. For protection from winter wind and snow, an in-and-out shed is ideal. But oddly, many horses choose to stand out in a blizzard so you may need to provide a stall or storm blanket. A waterproof-breathable winter blanket with long sides, tail flap, and neck protection can function as a mobile horse house and keep your senior toasty.

During the summer, provide shade, ventilation and fly protection. A roof strategically located where it takes advantage of natural breezes is ideal. Add a PVC mesh fly sheet and a pasture horse will have UV and fly protection. Large barn fans can be used to cool stalled horses and chase flies.

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Hi Cherry,

I have 8 year old Appaloosa mare which I owned for 4 years. She is a willing, easy going mare but a little on the spooky side though. I have just moved her from the farm she has lived on since birth (paid to board her there) to my place. I also have my friend’s horse stabled with her who was also from the same farm and was stalled beside her.

My problem is she is kicking her stall. I’m at a lost at the cause. I thought the cause is out of frustration but not sure. She did kick her stall some at the farm too but not at this degree. I’m afraid she is going to hurt herself if I don’t figure out the cause. I can watch her go right into it. She will pin her ears back and tuck in her chin, back up to the stall wall then kick repeatedly. It can progressive get worse if left on her own vice until she’s satisifed.

I’ve had to do repairs to her stall I know. I can prevent her from kicking if I catch her at the right moment. It takes several corrections but she will stop except I can’t be there everytime. If she allowed do it, she will kick up to 5ft to 6ft up the stall wall.

I thought the cause was from frustration at being stalled at night but she does it when she allow to run in/out of her stall too. I haven’t been feeding her very much grain about 1/2lb a day but has free access to hay. I haven’t been working her too much to allow her to settle in. She has a acre paddock that she and the other horse to run in which she out in it at least 1/2 the day.

Have any suggestions what I can do?

KC

Dear KC,

A behavior like this is a stall vice since it is occurs in the horse’s living environment irrespective of the presence of people or handling. It is usually a response to management or confinement. With all such vices, you need to eliminate all potential causes some of which you have already mentioned and it sounds like you are aware of, but for sake of completeness, here is a checklist:

Be sure the horse is getting ample exercise in the form of purposeful work.

Be sure the horse is getting ample turnout time alone and with other horses if compatible and safe.

Make sure the horse’s ration is appropriate for the level of work.

Check to see if there is an issue with neighboring horses, that is, if the kicking occurs when a particular horse is nearby.

Since this is a mare, observe the occurrence of stall kicking in relation to her estrous cycle.

Once you’ve evaluated the above and taken necessary measures, I’d suggest getting the mare back into her normal work schedule.

I’ve posted an article on stall kicking on my website that might give you some more insight and ideas, but most of these repetitive behaviors disappear once a horse is given enough exercise and something else to occupy them.

Best of luck. I’d like to hear how things progress with your mare and I welcome comments and suggestions from readers – just click on Leave a Comment at the end of this post.

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Dear Cherry,
We might be getting 2 more horses. They are sound and calm.  We already have two horses male and female they are mean to other horses. Should we put them in their stalls and leave them there for a few days with the new horses?
Emma

Hi Emma,

Not knowing your facilities options and how mean your current horses are, I’ll give you some general advice and ideas.

First of all, many horses appear mean when actually they are just establishing their pecking order – the social order in a herd – who is top horse and who is next and so on. But some horses ARE mean – they are grouchy and aggressive. I don’t know which yours are but will refer to them as the mean horses as you did.

When the new horses arrive, if they are used to living together, you can house them together, such as in a large covered pen while they get used to the sights and sounds of their new home.

Their pen should not have a common fence line or panel line or wall with your current “mean” horses. But they should all be able to see each other.

Let them live this way for as long as it takes for everyone to settle in.

Then depending on your facilities, you can either start housing the horses closer to each other or begin mixing them. I don’t know how safe your fencing is, but if it is tall, strong and safe, you could put the least mean of your horses in a pen next to the two new ones. As long as the new horses’ pen is large enough that they can avoid being next to the mean horse if they want, eventually the 3 horses will work out some sort of agreement. It might takes several days.

Then you could return the first mean horse to his regular pen and bring the other one over to live next to the two new ones.  Once all the horses have had a chance to get used to each other, you could consider adding one of the mean horses to the group of two new horses. Be sure the area you do this in is large enough so that all three horses have enough room so as not to get cornered.

The main thing is to take the time it takes to let the horses get used to each other.

You might find that one of the mean horses isn’t really mean and shows that he prefers to live calmly with the two new horses while the other mean horse truly is mean and needs to be housed alone.

Enjoy the opportunity to observe horse behavior and be safe !

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Here’s a handy way to keep your stall mats in place, excerpted from the book Stablekeeping, by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh, who designed the anchors.

Do your stall mats shift and bulge? Here’s a simple way to make horse-proof anchors that will help keep even a four-corner junction in place.

Illustration from Stablekeeping

by Cherry Hill & Richard Klimesh

Why they’re handy:
Stall mats, especially those thinner than 3/4 inch, have a tendency to bulge along seams and intersections of corners. Bulging corners can be chewed or pawed by horses, and the uneven surface makes cleaning the mats more difficult. With their rounded stake heads, these anchors sit tightly against a mat, allowing a broom, shovel or hoof to slide over them without catching the edge of the mat.

Materials:

  • 1/4-inch diameter steel rod approximately 12 to 18 inches long (the softer the soil, the longer the rod)
  • 1/4-inch steel washer
  • 1 1/2-inch diameter fender washer with a 5/16-inch center hole. (Fender washers are relatively thin and have a large outer diameter compared to a small center hole; available at hardware and auto stores.)
  • 1-inch-diameter pipe (See step 2).

Instructions:
1. Weld the 1/4-inch washer flush with the end of the rod and then weld the fender washer on top of the smaller washer. Weld the center hole of the fender washer and two or three spots around the smaller washer on the underside.

2. To round the head, insert the stake through a piece of 1-inch diameter pipe so the head of the stake sits flat on the pipe. Bend the perimeter of the large washer down over the edge of the pipe using light taps with a hammer. (Always wear eye protection whenever striking metal with a hammer.) Remove the stake from the pipe.

3. Clean out debris from under the corners of the mats so they lie flat and even. Insert the mat stake between the corners of the mats and use a hammer to drive it to the surface of the mats. Keep the stake vertical so the head will sit level.

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I’m new to horses, my 8 year old daughter has always been fascinated with horses and I’ve finally decided to get started. we are visiting some stables now to pick one for her to begin riding lessons before we purchase a horse. I’m currently building a barn and working on the stalls. I was reading in your book, Horsekeeping on Small Acreage, that you used a moving wall to allow you have a larger stall if needed. Could you provide me with some additional information on how you built the wall to move? My stalls are 10′ wide by 12′ deep. It will be the 12′ that needs to move, since I’m only 10′ wide that would be all that could swing to the back wall. Do I leave a 2′ section permanent on the from wall or does it need to hinge back to give the full opening? Just curious how you built yours to help me with my design.

Also had a question about the pen for daily turnout and bad weather, I plan to have approximately 30 x 30 pen at the back of my barn to use for this, the book mentions that this could be graveled. What would be your preference for the gravel type? Are there any con’s to having them turned out on the gravel?

The book has been great, Thanks for your help….Kevin

Hi Kevin,

So glad you found my book helpful ! You sound like you are approaching horse ownership and your daughter’s experience in a logical way. Bravo to that.

First to the swinging stall wall. One of our stalls was set up like yours, with the 12′ side being the swinging side, we left the extra 2 feet as a solid wall. Actually this makes for a nice nook for a water pail or grain bucket. And having a solid wall portion there adds stability for fastening the swinging panel when it is closed to make two stalls. Our 2″ wall portion is on the aisle side and the hinged partition is on the exterior wall side of the barn if that makes sense.

Since you have my book Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage, look on page 108. The short wall where the turquoise bucket is is the 2 foot wall on the aisle side of the stall and if you look over at the right hand side of the photo, you’ll see the 10 foot hinged wall fastened on the back wall of the stall.

There is detailed coverage of the swinging wall construction in our How-To video Your Horse Barn.

Your Horse Barn DVD by Cherry Hill and Richard Klimesh

Then for the pen gravel question, if you look on page 42 there is a photo of a handful of pen gravel which is 3/8- pea gravel. You can read more about it here on my website Horsekeeping. There is also detailed coverage of pen gravel in the 2-DVD set Your Horse Barn mentioned above.

Pea Gravel for Pens

Turnout Pen Gravel

Best of luck with your new venture !

 

Horsekeeping on a Small Acreage by Cherry Hill

 

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