June 1, 2012
The weather has been odd this year, a bit of warm weather in February then a whole lot more cold right into the end of April. Nevertheless, spring has finally sprung, the flowers are blooming, and knee-high rubber boots are a constant companion. As the snow melts and creates mud fields in some areas of the country, other regions get their mud via deluges of spring rains. Either way, mud on a horse ranch is not a good thing. It’s inevitable, but definitely not good. Pastures become unusable for horses, grasses can’t be fertilized for better growth, which in turn means a gradual degradation of the pasture quality. On top of that, horses can develop serious injuries or diseases from being in a muddy environment.
Let’s first tackle the issue of pasture health and safety. On one of those early days when the sweet scent of spring is in the air, take a walk around all fence lines. Inspect every post for rot or shifting, as long months of snow and moisture can cause issues. Keeping the grassy pastures grassy is as important as keeping the fence posts up, which is why many horse owners choose to fertilize their pastures. Yet it is vital to wait for the ground to dry out before fertilizing, otherwise the effectiveness just drains away with the water into the natural environment. Also, never allow your horses onto a pasture immediately after fertilization. Keep the horses away for as long as the fertilizer manufacturer’s instructions specify.
The horses may be itching to get out into the pasture but if it is still muddy don’t give in! At the very least, the horse hooves will tear up the grass and make a real mess of the pasture. When the ground dries out, those ruts could cause injuries to horses later on. Have you ever stepped in a mud puddle and had your boot suctioned off your foot? It is humorous, and a little messy, but for a horse, it can be painful and damaging to the top the hoof. Horses that are permitted to graze a muddy pasture can also develop the dreaded mud fever, cracked hooves, and Equine Dermatophilosis.
No one can prevent spring rains or run-off from melting snow, but horse owners can work around the mud problem. In watering and shelter areas spread a healthy layer of wood chips or crushed gravel. Rain will drain off the surface and help prevent mud, even in the face of traffic from heavy horse hooves. Check gutters around all stables and outbuildings to ensure water drains far away from the horses. Horses and spring mud do not go well together, but good planning can mean they never meet!
Posted by admin @ 10:56 am
April 23, 2012
Horses have played a key role in various facets of human history. Having been used in situations and scenarios as varied as world wars, travel and exploration, agriculture and industrialization, horses have been a part of many important developments in the history of the human race as humans have relied upon them for servitude for centuries. While horses are one of the strongest and most resilient species of animal life on earth, they still needed a bit of human ingenuity in order to be able to handle the immense amount of physical labor they were often used for; it became apparent very early on that a horse would have more longevity if it’s hooves could be protected from wearing down prematurely – thus the creation of the horse shoe, born of necessity.
Some of the earliest known civilizations on earth had developed methods of preserving a horse’s hoof. Through various archaeological findings over the years, historians have been able to ascertain some rather crude methodology for hoof protection dating back to first century A.D. – animal hides and plants were woven together to form a type of crude boot that could be tied around a horse’s lower leg and protect their hooves in the process. It is believed these ‘horse boots’ were employed only when the terrain dictated the need for them and they were not permanently affixed. The Romans used a saddle shoe that was quite similar to the sandals worn by most people of the era, right down to the crisscrossing straps used to hold them in place.
Although the exact date of when metal shoes were employed is unknown, it is fairly certain that the practice began in the sixth century. Metal shoes – usually iron – were initially affixed to the hooves of horses to preserve their hooves from damage and premature wear from the great distances they walked while in the service of humans; they were also used to prevent slipping and erosion as horses were often pulling their load or carrying their rider across soft, damp ground. By the 12th century iron was a precious metal in short supply and was used to mint coins as well as to make horse shoes, for this reason it was permissible to pay taxes using horses when necessary.
The first farriers – horse shoe makers – appeared in Europe during the early 13th century, likely brought to Europe by William the Conqueror. Not long after, horse shoes became a large production item and an industry unto themselves. It was also during this time that the main use of horse shoes switched from being used primarily by royalty or cavalry to mainly being used by farmers and other trades. Pre-made horse shoes that were relatively easy to apply were now the norm.
Horse shoe makers became organized in the early 14th century. They became publicly and commonly known as ‘farriers’, a term first used to describe horse shoe makers in a trade manual titled “No foot, No horse”, that was published in 1751. Horse shoeing techniques and materials continued to evolve and eventually led to a technique in which the shoes were heated before application, or “hot shoeing” as it was known.
While horses are primarily a hobby and no longer a relied upon method of transportation or labor in most parts of the world, farriers still exist and horse shoeing is still a usable trade. There are schools that offer farrier courses and it is possible to become a professional in the field. Techniques continue to be improved and materials experimented with – for example, lightweight aluminum shoes were discovered to vastly improve the speed of racehorses; dense rubber was found to be more useful for the more sensitive hooves of trail horses, etc.
Posted by admin @ 8:18 pm
June 1, 2011
The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department advises horse owners to be aware of a recent outbreak in the Northwest of Equine Herpes Virus and to assess the health of their own horses before transporting horses or attending shows and rodeos where the disease may be spread. There are no travel restrictions to-date.
EHV-1 is a common strain of a DNA virus that occurs in horse populations worldwide, a respiratory disease that can cause a pregnant mare to lose her foal, according to the American Association of Equine Practitioners.
Prevention is the key to stopping this disease from spreading, so observe these tips to help protect your own horses:
• Ask your local veterinarian to see if there are reported cases in your area, or in the areas you plan to travel to.
• Keep your horses away from other horses, if possible.
• Don’t share tack, barn supplies, or brushes with other people or use on horses other than your own.
• Keep everything as clean as possible. If you frequently handle other horses for training or farrier work, wash your hands and clothing before working with your own horses.
• If you have attended a show or had your horse in contact with other horses, keep your horse away from your other horses for 10 days after returning back home, and take the horse’s temperature twice daily.
• If you’re planning to travel out of state with horses, call ahead and ask a veterinarian in that state if there are any reported cases in your destination area.
Also, horse owners in the Midwest are being advised to be on the lookout for any symptoms of the West Nile Virus. Recent heavy rains and flooding in this region (see map) are creating large bodies of standing water that are ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes that potentially carry the disease.
Common symptoms of the disease in horses include (but are not limited to) loss of appetite, weakness/paralysis of hind limbs, muzzle twitching, impaired vision, loss of coordination, head pressing, aimless wandering, convulsions, inability to swallow, hyper-excitability and coma. Any signs of this disease need to be reported to a licensed veterinarian immediately.
Although vaccination does not prevent horses from contracting the WNV it is a key component in allowing them to fully recover if infected. Primary vaccination of horses involves administration of 2 doses of vaccine 3 to 6 weeks apart. In endemic areas, boosters are required semi-annually or more frequently (every 4 months), depending on risk. Annual revaccination in low-risk areas is best completed in the spring, prior to the onset of peak insect vector season.
By practicing effective mosquito control in your own backyard you can help decrease the potential for spreading the WNV. Regular cleaning of watering troughs, is essential for prevention. Rain barrels and other standing pools of water can be treated with nontoxic, commercially available larvacide dunks that kill mosquito larvae. These can be found at most garden centers.
For more information about West Nile Virus go to this link.
Posted by admin @ 11:38 am
December 29, 2009
We have been buried beneath over two feet of snow in the last month, 15” two weeks ago and 12” last week. Coupled with the other smaller snowstorms and freezing rain episodes, we haven’t really thought too much about riding. So our horses have just been enjoying their shed and hay and haven’t had to tolerate our ideas about moving cows or trail riding. As you (should) know, feeding high quality hay is critically important in these cold winter months and although the chore is certainly more time consuming and a lot less fun in 30” of snow, we owe it to our horses (and all our animals) to be good caretakers.
Of course, when I got back in from feeding one day this weekend, my wife was online looking at a pony she had found that might be suitable for our kids. And later that evening, I found a stud colt that I’m considering purchasing. So as all of you horse owners know, it seems nothing ever diminishes our passion for horses. Horses for sale is truly music to our ears! You can never have just one.
Posted by admin @ 10:09 pm
December 10, 2009
If you frequent many horse forums these days, you will notice a growing trend in the way people think about training horses. Everyone wants their horse to like them, they’re asking how they can form a bond with their horse, and they’re against correcting a horse for almost any reason, but still have questions like “How can I get my horse to let me catch him? When I go into his stall he turns away and won’t let me halter him.”
In response to the question above, which was recently posted on a horse forum, you’ll see advice like: “Always take treats with you.” or “Spend more time brushing your horse and just hanging out with him, that way he won’t think it’s all about work when you go to catch him.” These answers may help you get the halter on the horse. But they do nothing in training your horse to respond positively to you when you approach him with a halter.
The correct answer for the problem at hand would be to use that halter rope in your hand the next time the horse turns his hind end toward you. Swing it, swish it, pop the horse on the tail end with it. But get him to face you and give you the respect you should be demanding from him. But look out if you post that for an answer on today’s horse forum! You are asking for a flaming, because the current trendy horse owner does not want to hear anything about hitting, swatting, or demanding anything from a horse. We’re just a little too politically correct these days to believe in anything close to corporal punishment.
The real misunderstanding here is that it is not punishment to throw a cotton lead rope at the rear end of a horse that is misbehaving. It’s called training. And a horse trainer who knows horses will confirm that a horse is far better rewarded by the release of pressure than by any little sweet treat you might carry in your pocket. This is the way horses learn, they are programmed to react to situations that please or displease them. Bribing them with sugar cubes might put a band-aid over the issue, and the horse might let you catch him. But training the horse to look to you for direction, to give you the attention you deserve, and to respect your wishes as to where his feet are when you are around him will take you miles beyond just getting the halter on the horse.
When you train a horse, you are setting him up to handle situations that come up in the future. Getting him to respond to you when you approach him, and training him to move his feet where you want them is not accomplished by petting him, brushing him, and giving him lots of treats. You have to train him to respect you.
Now, the actual catching part of it goes something like this: You walk into the corral or stall, the horse turns his hind end to you and faces the corner. You say something to the horse, maybe a “ck-ck-ck” sound to signal he should turn around and look at you or else. And then you swing the end of your halter rope at him. The horse will probably spook (if he doesn’t, you need to swing it harder, maybe kick some of the shavings or dirt on the floor in his direction) anything to get the horse moving. When he does move, his head will come up and start to turn towards you. When that happens, you immediately lower your halter rope, put on a “nice face”, speak softly, and encourage him to continue to look at you and come towards you. You are rewarding his good behavior (facing you) with a release of pressure, and he will recognize this instantly. Any sign of him turning his tail towards you, and you repeat the procedure. Consistency and timing are key, you have to become sweet the minute he looks at you, and become scary monster if he turns his heels towards you. And don’t get close enough to his heels to get kicked. If you do it right, you’ll have the horse coming up to you and putting his face into the halter.
This kind of training is just a foundation for everything you want to do with your horse. It prepares a horse’s mind for riding much better than treats in your pocket. When you ask the horse to whoa when riding, you’re going to do it by applying pressure and then releasing it when he obeys, correct? Or would you reach in your pocket for a treat to offer him so he’ll stop and reach back to take it from you? The simple answer is that releasing the horse from pressure puts a lasting mark in his mind that he will adhere to the rest of his life….even when you’re all out of treats.
Posted by admin @ 4:34 am