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

 

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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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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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My two sisters live in Texas and even though neither of them are riders, they both have used the phrase “rode hard and put up wet” when they are describing someone who is working too hard and not taking enough time off.

The urban definition has me picturing some overworked city dweller commuting an hour or more to her job, putting in 8-10 hours of repetitious work, then the long commute home during rush hour traffic. Too exhausted to cook or eat, she collapses in her recliner still in the clothes she wore to work.


The phrase, as we horsemen know, was borrowed from the negative description of a rider working a horse to near exhaustion, then jerking the saddle off and turning the sweaty horse out with no grooming. Of course none of us do that but we might be guilty of not taking the time necessary to cool down a horse properly after work.

A cool down is especially important in the cold weather that seems to be blanketing the entire country. I’m hearing 4 degrees in Florida tonight?

When a horse that has grown any sort of winter hair coat is worked hard, he sweats more, has trouble cooling out and drying off so and is set up for chills, muscle stiffness, and overall blahs.

Some things to think about:

Use a quarter sheet to protect the hindquarters during work.

Consider a body clip and blanketing.

Use a body wash or brace to remove sweat before cooling and grooming.

Use a cooler when hand walking a horse to cool him out.

Have a great ride and take care of that good horse,

 

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Winter Blanketing
©  2011 Cherry Hill
www.horsekeeping.com

Most horses begin shedding their summer hair in August and start growing thicker winter coats. In order to produce a dense, healthy coat, a horse’s diet should provide an adequate quantity and quality of protein. A normal winter coat has as much insulating capacity as most top-of-the-line blankets. The downward growth of the hair coupled with the stepped-up production of body oils makes the winter coat shed water and keeps moisture away from the skin. A dry horse has a much better chance of remaining a healthy horse.

A fuzzy winter coat can be deceiving if a visual inspection alone is used to assess condition. The round teddy-bear look can fool one into thinking a horse is in proper flesh. Feel the rib area for its flesh covering at least once every 30 days throughout the winter to monitor a horse’s condition.

Some horses may require the use of a blanket throughout the winter: the show horse, the clipped horse, the southern horse that moves north during the winter, the old horse, and the horse in severe weather with no shelter. Blanketing is a more expensive and labor-intensive alternative to winter care than the au natural approach but affords some benefits as well.

Miller's Haversham USET Stable Blanket

Good quality blankets are costly and often several must be purchased for each horse. Generally a quilted nylon type is used in the barn. The waterproof canvas-type with wool lining is one of the traditional turnout rugs as it is weatherproof and durable, but is very heavy. There are many tough turnout blanket available today that are lighter weight and easy care.

Rambo Classic Midweight Turnout Blanket

Blankets must be cleaned at least twice during the winter by washing in cold water with a mild soap. Dry cleaning solvents will destroy waterproofing and can shrink the bindings. Blanketed horses must be meticulously groomed on a regular basis to minimize rubbing and rolling. Horses are notorious for inflicting damages to their blankets. Some exterior shells are not tough enough to withstand rubbing, rolling and roughhousing from herdmates. Blanket repair is just a fact of ownership.

Proper blanket fit is paramount. Blankets that are too small can cause rub marks and sore spots on the withers, shoulder, chest, and hips. Extra large blankets have the reputation of slipping and twisting, possibly upside down which can cause the horse to become dangerously tangled. Blanket linings must be of a smooth material to prevent damage to hair, especially the mane near the withers and the shoulder points.

Overheating can be a real problem with blanketed horses. Often horses are turned out to exercise in the same blanket which they wore all night. What is appropriate for low night-time temperatures in a barn is not necessarily desirable for a sunny paddock, even though there still may be snow on the ground. An unblanketed dark horse has the capacity to absorb much of the sun’s energy.

Water-proof blankets do not allow for heat escape from normal body respiration unless they are also breathable. Too many layers can cause the horse to sweat, then chill which lowers the horse’s resistance by sapping the horse’s energy. This is an open invitation for respiratory infections. Check for over-heating by slipping a hand under the blanket at the heart girth area. To allow perspiration to evaporate, choose a breathable blanket for your horse. If he lives outdoors, make sure it is waterproof and  breathable.

Horses that have been body-clipped or trace-clipped must be blanketed. Clipping allows a horse to be more easily worked, cooled out, and groomed in the winter months. The first clip may occur in October and may need to be repeated five to six times throughout the winter and early spring. This will depend on the horse’s work, blanketing, and housing.

If a horse is not clipped and/or blanketed, but is allowed to grow a natural winter coat, a different set of rules comes into play. Grooming a long coat often consists of a minimal “dusting” of the hair ends, or no grooming at all. Vigorously currying a winter coat can disrupt the natural protective layer of oils which is essential for protection from moisture. After riding, rub the coat dry with a cloth or gunny sack or allow the horse to roll in sand or dry snow.

Winter presents unique problems for the horse. Paying attention to the horse’s needs will result in a healthier horse in the spring.

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