Beyond anything else, as trainers and guardians of these horses we are so privileged to work with, it is our responsibility to put their welfare above all else. And as Owners and Amateur riders it is YOUR responsibility to “vet” the professionals you entrust your horses to. I have had too many horses come into my program that have been failed by their people. Sometimes out of ignorance but sometimes it comes from a place that has no excuse- greed, impatience, anger and vindictiveness. If you are considering sending your horse to a trainer, a sales barn, etc….please do your homework. I’ve compiled a list of seven things to consider but there are probably(definitely) more. Continue reading
Fly Season!!!!!! Yes, it is here. Every year I read articles and blogs about what to do to protect your horses from flies so I thought I would list a few of the hints I found to be the most helpful. In our 24 horse training barn we see horses of all types, ages, breeds which also goes to say they all have different types of skin sensitivities, allergies, tolerances, etc…. Continue reading →
So it’s that time of year again. Winter. If your not one of the blessed- to have a covered arena or the funds to be bon voyaging to a sunny and mild climate- winter can seriously mess with your regular training regime. If you live North you deal with snow and ice, if you live South you deal with rain and mud. But no matter where you live there are some ways to get the most out of your riding time. Continue reading →
Maybe you don’t have a million dollar horse, but if you are like me, every horse in your barn is worth way more to you than you could really put a price tag on. So what is best for your horse: To Turnout or Not To Turnout? Ask this question to 10 different horse people and you’ll get 10 different answers, with footnotes and references attached.
Horses are Made to Move
The bottom line about horses is that they are animals that are made to move. We can justify how we keep them – our convenience, their safety. Because if you live in arid, ground-critter living climates or rain bogged muddy climates it can be risky. And if you live where the price of your zip code makes extra space impossible it can be, well, impossible.
A Labor of Love
Horse people are a culture of sacrifice; I say be true to our nature! Horses are not meant to be confined. We designed a horse rotation program which requires huge sacrifices of our time to provide a sense of normalcy for our horses. And it still isn’t good enough.
Yes, our zip code does make it difficult to afford space. It also puts us in a situation where we choose space over proximity to a larger client base. And we still have the ground critter problem! We have learned to be at constant war with all kinds of hole-making nuisances. Not to mention the four-year drought we are in. And the labor it takes to rotate all of the horses daily into appropriate turnouts.
Staying Stretched and Social
Let’s talk about why we choose. Not only is it better for a horse’s mental state to be able to be turned out even for short periods of time, it is really important for them to be socialized. Keeping horses confined and depriving them of the integral ability to interact within a herd, even if it is only with one other pasture buddy and the ability to visit across fences or observe other groups in nearby areas, is, for a herd animal, natural. Add to that the ability to graze, or mimic grazing, helps keep the horse stretching its neck and back muscles like nature intended. If you do have access to natural, native grass, that is best. But even irrigated grass, provided it is not too rich, is good in small doses.
Dry lot turnouts with natural free choice feeders installed around them on a walking path gives horses something to do. The movement is great for older, arthritic horses, sometimes making the difference of one being able to continue a useful career instead of an early retirement.
It is not always practical or possible to provide 24/7 turnout, but consider a few hours to let your horse be what they are meant to be: a horse.
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!
Fly season! Yes, it is here. Every year I read articles and blogs about what to do to protect horses from flies. Here are several of the tips I have found to be the most helpful. In our 24-horse training barn we see horses of all types, ages, breeds. This also means they all have different types of skin sensitivities, allergies, tolerances, etc. These tips should help serve horses of all kinds.
1. SPRAY IT ON
Fly spray sounds obvious, right? However, the types of fly sprays available need consideration. If your horse is sensitive to fly sprays – think dandruff looking skin, scaly looking parts on neck, loss of hair around face or other body areas – you may need to consider a more holistic, chemical-free spray or one that contains aloe or an added sunscreen.
Don’t be fooled by non-chemical sprays, either. Saying something is “all-natural” doesn’t necessarily make it more gentle. Pyretherin, an ingredient in most chemical fly sprays, is technically a “natural” ingredient derived from the chrysanthemum flower, and while it is deemed “safe” in small amounts, often it is mixed with other chemicals to increase its effect. It also can be made synthetically.
There are plenty of natural fly sprays for horses on the market, but if you think homemade or holistic, all-natural is the route you would like to go, read this article by Liv Gude from Pro Equine Grooms on how to make your own fly spray. You may even want to try adding some essential oils to your homemade mix. Oils like lavender, peppermint, lemon, geranium, or eucalyptus, along with vinegars and citruses that work really well together. You and your horse will smell so nice, and say goodbye to flies!
By the way, overhead systems can be very costly and require maintenance, and then you risk the constant chemical infiltration of lungs and on skin. Some barns use these overhead systems on timers. I shut mine off in my barn, as I don’t want to be breathing those chemicals in all day, nor do I wish for my horses to either.
2. GEAR ‘EM UP
You all know what I am talking about – dressing your horse like they are going into a medieval battle. There are sheets. There are boots. There are neck wraps. Belly bands. Masks, with ears, with nose guards, or without. Masks with painted on faces, bug eyes or trendy trims. Do not forget masks for riding.
My advice? Find the material that is A) comfortable to your horse, 2) durable, as you will not want to go through three per season, and C) please folks, color coordinate. What an eyesore to see a chestnut horse wearing red. Or having blue plaid boots mixed with a pink fly sheet.
Kidding. (Sort of)
3. APPLY SOME SALVES
From the all time favorite pink goo to the holistic versions with tea tree oil, aloe, and soothing herbs, these salves can protect sensitive areas of your horse. Some horses will not keep a mask on, so I find these salves or even roll-on salve products to be very helpful around eyes, ears and muzzles. Horses with open wounds are especially susceptible to fly-borne illnesses, so coating around these areas with salves after applying medication is a really good idea in the event they can not be bandaged. I have also found the underline “itch” spots to respond well to the herbal salves as they act to treat and protect.
4. KEEP IT CLEAN
Flies like stink! The stinkier the better. Daily cleaning of stalls, paddocks and pastures, and removal or composting of manure is key. Keep stall walls washed down and floors disinfected, or spread with a product to cut odor or moisture like PDZ or lime. (Just make sure it doesn’t make contact with horse’s skin. It’s best to move horses out while you do this!) Keep muck buckets, tools, wash racks, grooming areas cleaned and disinfected regularly. I even spray these areas with my holistic blend of spray and it really seems to help.
5. SET YOUR TRAPS
I asked Liv Gude of Pro Equine Grooms on how effective are fly traps around the barn. Here’s her anser:
“Well, in a nutshell they are awesome. I have never hung a flytrap and had it remain empty for long. Downside is the smell, and they are not so appealing to look at. But – fly control at the horse barn is a multi pronged approach – you need to attack all stages of the fly life cycle.”
– Liv Gude, Pro Equine Grooms
There is some question whether this works or just attracts more flies. I am told that if you keep the traps away and downwind from the actual barn, it does help. They must be kept maintained and checked regularly for replacement.
I know others who swear by those little fly larvae-eating pests, but the trick is that you have to have an established place where manure is kept so they may feed on the larvae. For a farm like ours, where we have our manure hauled off daily, I have not been able to get these little guys to thrive anywhere. Some people still say to shake them out on pasture fence lines and you will have luck.
There are also people who swear by hanging plastic bags with water in them with a coin, and then claim the reflective properties when the sun hits them disorients the flies and keeps them away. It has worked on my patio, so maybe? I am certain, however, that given even the slightest chance of reaching these, my horses would make short work of them!
#6 FEED IT THROUGH
As I am sure you can tell by now, I am not a fan of heavy chemicals. But there are products that are marketed to add to feeds that claim they will inhibit larval development and greatly reduce adult fly populations in four to six weeks. There are several brands on the market and they claim to be safe. There are also many products that contain ingredients that are holistic such as garlic, apple cider vinegar and diatomaceous earth.
#7 SUPPORT THEIR SYSTEMS
I find feeding a well-rounded supplement designed to support the skin, coat and immune system and a properly pH balanced digestive tract to be critical to ward off any problems from fly bites or other insects. A horse with a strong immune system will be less susceptible to fly born diseases such as the dreaded Dry Land Distemper (also known as Pigeon Fever).
While there are many products on the market, to keep it simple I like to feed an all-in-one supplement like Grand Premium Plus. I have also used Grand Coat which is excellent for targeting their skin and coats. One of the reasons we love Grand Premium Plus is because it also contains the complete Grand Coat formulas along with six other top formulas in one product – makes it easy for a large barn like ours to feed.
Do you have a favorite fly-prevention technique for your horses? Post it in the comments!