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The advice “Call Before Your Haul” horse show organizers often put on a showbill is great advice. There’s nothing worse then hauling a couple of hours and finding out you had last year’s date for the show.
Now that we’re entering into some of the busiest months for horse owners who show and trail ride you also want to make sure that your truck and trailer is ready for the road.
It should be a given to check all of the basics from tires and brakes to lights and engine fluids. In addition, you want to make sure that your spare tires are in good shape and that your wiper blades are working well.
If your trailer has been sitting for a while it’s a good idea to take your rig around the block before hauling to your first show. Have someone follow you and make sure lights are working and tires look OK. A tire may look good while a trailer is sitting, but any wobbling while driving is an indication of a problem like a bearing that may be going bad.
Beyond a pre-haul checklist and maintenance of your truck and trailer you want to make sure you are prepared for a breakdown or road emergency. This includes roadside emergency phone numbers for wreckers, insurance, and even possible stables within the states you’re hauling that might be able to stable your horses during a breakdown. Always have the numbers of your vet, as well as one of two in the area or state you are hauling too. Have health records and Coggins tests with you as well.
Always carry first aid items for your horse including Banamine, Bute, first aid ointment/spray, gauze/wraps, etc. Carry at least 5 gallons of water per horse if you are hauling for more then one hour from home.
Never haul horses with windows dropped down – even if you have screens. I recently interviewed a vet that told me on his first day on the job with his current clinic they had to euthanize a horse that partially severed from having it’s head out of an open window and hitting a passing another vehicle. Also, never NEVER, unload your horses along the road or at a rest stop. Unless your trailer is on fire they are the safest remaining in the trailer.
Thank you to everyone who prayed for my mare, Bees Molly Dolleo (pictured here). After two months of doctoring and after my original vet wanting to put her down twice . . . with the help of another vet she has recovered and we were able to show halter last weekend. She earned 6 ARHA points in her mare’s classes (not bad for an 18-year-old gal). I was just thrilled to have her alive and well enough to go to a show. Always trust your instincts . . . . I finally did, and thank heaven it wasn’t too late for Bees!
God forbid that I should go to any Heaven in which there are no horses. ~R.B. Cunninghame Graham, letter to Theodore Roosevelt, 1917 (quotegarden.com)
Don’t miss Julie Goodnight’s column for this month “Equine Seniors”. Having two aged horses myself I found her advice for caring for equine seniors and the value they can have in our lives very useful. Go to http://good-horsekeeping.com/?page_id=139 to read more . . .
Clean out the storage area. Remove all hay from previous years. If you have a cement floor – sweep the area out. Rake dirt floors and let the area dry/air out for a few days before stacking your new hay.
Prepare the storage area. Always put a barrier between the ground and your hay. Wood skids work best to keep the bottom layer off of the ground while still allowing air circulation under the stack. Allow space in between stacks for air circulation and keep stacks at least six inches away from exterior walls (especially walls that heat up during the hot summer days).
Stack as you feed. Don’t block your hay in . . . .if your feed half first cutting and half second cutting daily make sure you can access both easily.
Separate different cuttings and different kinds of hay. It’s easy to tell first and second cuttings apart when they’re first baled and stacked. When it starts to fade, however, it’s not so easy. Know where you stack each cutting; you can also tie a tag onto the baler twine indicating the cutting or field the hay came off of.
Keep a tally record. It’s easy to forget how much hay you’ve stacked in the barn as the season continues. Write your totals somewhere – either keep a notebook for your farm/stable, or mark it on a barn calendar or note board. This is the only way to know how much hay you have.
Annual Survey - Please participate in this survey. There appears to be an increase in the number of horses having reactions to their vaccines (stocking up, swelling at the injection site, loss of appetite for several days, laminitis, and even death). Good Horsekeeping will be taking the results and presenting them to numerous related equine/veterinarian organizations as a means to have better monitoring and evaluation of recommended vaccine regimen.
Here are the top five ways to keep mud under control:
Keep your pens and pastures picked up – especially during times of transition (when temps are going up and down). Pick of manure and rake up uneaten hay. Sometimes (especially after long periods of snow) you will have to do this daily as manure areas and feeding spots thaw out layer by layer.
Feed your best hay outside and in limited amounts. The less hay horses waste, the less there will be to rake up, or to mix in the ground when the temperature rises, or when it rains. Hay is one of the biggest contributors to deep mud that turns extremely hard when it dries – remember that buildings were once made using mud (made from mixing dirt, water, and straw).
If possible, keep horses inside immediately following a rain. Letting pens dry out a little will lessen the areas that get churned up.
Letting horses eat the bulk of their hay in their stalls and waiting and hour or so before letting them out in pens will reduce the amount of manure in your pens. Horses will pas the majority of their manure within two hours of eating.
Periodically dig out chronically muddy areas and replace the contaminated dirt with new soil – preferably sand. Digging drainage pits is also helpful . . . . locate these in the low areas of your pens and fill with gravel and sand (water will drain from the higher areas of the pen into these and will then drain outward).
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Tack sales are a great way to unload tack and other horse equipment and apparel. Here are some tips to help you get ready for a sale, and to get the most out of the things you are trying to sell:
Clean tack and wash and press clothing, blankets, and other soft goods.
Get your items gathered and organized at least a week before the sale.
Mark sale tags with the size and price of the item. Either purchase tags from an office supply store, or make your own – using small squares of paper. These can be stapled to the clothing tag (located in the collar of a shirt or in the waist band on a pair of pants), or around the browband, cheek piece, etc. of a halter or bridle. Self-adhesive labels should only be used on items where they have a solid surface for adhering to – like on the shank of a bit, or on the cover of a book.
Use rubber bands or string to tie together reins and other strap items like lead ropes and lunge lings.
For large ticket items (like saddles, show halters/bridles, chaps, etc.) make take-away cards for potential buyers that have the item, price, and your phone number on them. These cards can be really helpful at large tack sales – where shoppers may want to look around first, but then forget where your table is at, etc. It also gives them a way to contact you after the sale – should you still have the item and they still want to buy it.
Take at least $20 to make change with (13 singles, one five, and two dollars in quarters).
Use a fanny pack as a moneybox. This way your change and the money you take in are always on you. Have a separate location to keep checks and to put large bills and extra cash once you start to make sales.
Take a variety of bags. Buyers really appreciate having something to carry their purchases in.
Arrive to the sale location early and be ready at least 15 minutes before the start of the sale. There’s nothing worse then trying to set up while people are shopping your table.
Think height when it comes to organizing your table. Take a couple of milk crates (or similar containers) to set on your table. These will give you more display space, and will give buyers somewhere else to look besides your table.
Hang clothing you are trying to sell. It is easier for buyers to look through these things when they are hanging.
Know what your bottom price is before the sale starts. This way you won’t agree to something when caught off guard, or when trying to deal with other customers.
Decide whether or not you will accept checks. If you do check buyers Driver’s License ad make sure a phone number is on the check.
Tack sales can last for several hours so make sure that you have a few snacks – including bottled water with you.
Think twice about holding something for a buyer. Chances are they won’t come back for it and you will lose the sale to someone else. Ask for a deposit (something like $5 or $10). If the potential buyer is serious they’ll give you a deposit – if they’re not and still give you the deposit- they’ll at least come back and tell you they don’t want the item so they can get their deposit back.
It was sad to hear the story on NPR yesterday about hay rustling in several western states including Colorado, California, Nebraska, and Oklahoma. I can only imagine that it will get worse as we get farther into the winter. One rancher interviewed in the NPR story said he is now keeping his gates locked to his property and moving hay from storage locations that were near a road. Another rancher was able to re-coup his stolen hay because he put a GPS in one of his round bales.
Even for those of us who have enough hay it’s going to be a hard winter. Although we went into the fall having the bale count, I’m finding that some of our first cutting is really light in bale weight. In addition, because of a slight drought in early March, some of the grass is also brown. My horses – even through I feed them every couple of hours, appear to be hungry all of the time. I suspect the reason is that this year’s hay may not have it’s normal nutritional value. I’ve already upped their grain to help make up for the deficit in the hay, and I am also feeding some second cutting . . . . . earlier then I normally feed it.
We had beautiful weather this weekend – 50s and sunshine, but I know it won’t last. So yesterday I made sure I went through all of my liquids in our tack room and in my grooming bucket. Leaving these things in the barn when temperatures get below freezing can cause the products to freeze and change the effectiveness of their use next year.
I spent about 15 minutes combining fly spays, washing off containers, and storing would product was left in our heated bathroom. I did the same with the shampoos and grooming products. Leather care products usually overwinter OK in the tack room.
In addition, I remove anything that can freeze from my horse trailer – including hoof polish, etc. I also store my show tack indoors for the winter, as well as any other leather tack I’m not using. Keeping leather items in the barn over the winter can be hard on the items – not just because of the weather change, but also because it makes tack vulnerable to mice (which may turn to chewing on leather if they can’t find anything else to eat).
The heavy frost in the morning is a good reminder that winter is around the corner . . .
For me this is the time of year that I try to get my horses ready for winter. I know, for the most part Mother Nature takes care of getting the horses ready for winter by providing them with a heavy coat; still, I have found a few additional things that help my horses get into the swing of winter more easily. Here they are:
Pull your horse’s shoes early enough to give the sole some time to toughen up before the ground freezes. Doing so will help to lessen the degree of soreness that can occur when a horse that’s worn shoes (and pads) all summer, suddenly goes barefoot. Make sure to apply a good hoof dressing several times a week following the removal of shoes; this will help to keep the nail holes from splitting out.
Trim heavy fetlock hair. This will help keep this area dry and will help prevent a case of scratches.
Ensure an adequate water supply. Even if you don’t use tank or pail heaters you can provide water that stays warmer (and will encourage drinking) by adding warm water to your pails. If you don’t have hot water in your barn, carry it from your house when you go to the barn and add it to your pails.
Consider straw for bedding with older, arthritic horses. Straw offers more cushion for horses with joints that get stiff when the temperature drops.
Warm your bit up before bridling your horse. I keep my bridles in our barn bathroom, which stays at about 55 degrees. I also hold the bit in my hand for a few minutes before bridling.
Keep up with your horse’s exercise. It’s easy to stop riding when show season ends. Even if you don’t have time to ride for an hour, simply doing a few stretching exercises, and/or hand walking your horse up and down the driveway will give them some exercise. Taking a handful of baby carrots and dropping them around their pen, as well as making a couple of small piles of hay, instead of one, will encourage your horse to move around throughout the day.
Monitor big temperature changes. Horses do very well when temperatures change gradually. It’s more difficult in transition seasons when it can be 35 degrees one day and 65 the next. For the first few nights when overnight temperatures drop under freezing, you might want to keep you horses in their stalls overnight. A barn will usually stay about 6-8 degrees warmer then outside temperatures when the horses are inside.
De-worm after a killing frost. Using a good de-wormer that gets all worms – including tapeworms and bots after you’ve had several nights under 30 degrees will help to break the worm cycle within your horse and on your property. Make sure to remove any manure from pens for 48 hours after worming. This will help to prevent re-infestation.
Shame on the equine feed manufacturers for continuing to raise the price of grain to the point that most are getting $17+ for a bag. Even worse is to see that equine senior feeds are $20+ a bag.
We all knew that grain products would go up this fall because of the drought this summer, but to see them jump this high is outrageous. I feel even worse for the owners of senior horses, who are trying to keep their beloved animals going and may only be doing so with a complete feed. I would image many will have to make the tough decision of possibly putting their horse down because they can no longer afford to feed them.
We have just one horse that we feed a senior feed to. When I saw the feed I have been using go over $20 a bag, I said, “ no more”. Fortunately he is in good health and we have good hay and pasture. I will switch him over to another grain by another manufacturer and will simply have to keep an eye on him to see if he does as well on this feed regimen.