Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Horses and Computers = Instant Addict

I need parental controls for my computer!

No, it’s not what you think- I don’t have a young child who I want to protect from pornography sites or Internet predators. I need parental controls for ME. I need a program designed to block me every time I surf on over to HorseChitChat, “just to look”. Something that will prevent me from being able to browse the rescue websites, ripe with statements like “these broodmares must be rescued in three days or they will go to slaughter!”

You see, I’m a sucker. I don’t fall for pyramid schemes, and I never buy anything unless I know what it costs, what it should cost, and what it costs at three other places. But when it comes to horses, I am weak.

It all started about 10 years ago, when I innocently started looking at horse rescues in my area. I already had a perfectly nice, sound, competitive horse at the time- but I was bored, and wanted a project. It seemed simple enough- rescue a nice horse that is going to be killed, put some time and training on it, sell it to a good home, and rescue another one.

Simple, right? It sounded like a good plan to me, so I found a flashy bay Thoroughbred type mare that was going to slaughter, and brought her home. She was three, and not even broke to the halter, but she was cute and athletic, and had lots of potential. In the beginning, things went OK. She was headstrong, but smart, and within about 6 months she was broke to ride and going like an average young horse, but with a few more surprises in store.

She had a way of making you think that you were totally in control and everything was going great- until she changed her mind, and left you sitting in mid air, wondering where the horse that was just under you had gone. She was difficult to read, and when she was good, you never trusted it completely, and waited for the other shoe to drop.

After a good foundation in dressage, we started doing some small jumping, and she showed a natural talent, and looked to be a nice little amateur hunter. But despite continued training, lessons, clinics, she still had the tendency to be unpredictable. Ok, looking back, I now see that she was often really, really bad… but the times when she was good, she was so very good that she could string you along, and I put up with the many bad times for those few times when she showed such promise. I kept thinking she would grow out of it…

Throughout this time, she began showing signs of foot soreness- subtle at first, and easily controlled with shoeing. We started to show a bit, and while we didn’t win any championships, we didn’t embarrass ourselves either. She’d have a bout of lameness, we’d take a few weeks off for shoeing changes, injections or whatever else seemed to help for a short time. Then she’d come back for a few weeks, get ready to show again- and go lame again.

This continued for about 4 years, until the lameness began getting worse, and the riding times were well shorter than the lame times. She hadn’t grown out of her bouts of temper tantrums or occasional bad behavior- if anything, they got worse the older she got.

At this point, I had put so much money into training and vet care, and so much of myself into bringing her along, that I was devastated. I found a pasture where she could live, and turned her out- and she’s never been happier.

As for myself, despite my experience with this mare, I’ve fallen for the same “scheme” of horses a few more times since. A lovely mare with an injury, who just needed a place to recuperate for a while before she was going to be a great show prospect… that one keeps the first mare company in the pasture. And another, a gelding rescued as a weanling who required several surgeries to fix the infirmities inherited to him by poor genetics- the jury is still out on him, but I’m not holding my breath… oh well, I guess the mares won’t mind a gelding to keep them company.

Yes, I need parental controls on my computer. Something that will never let me look at another picture of a horse headed to slaughter, or one that has been abandoned and needs just “one surgery to be 100%”. I can’t look- and if I do, I’ll bring it home- and there is definitely no room at this inn. Despite the best intentions, lots of hard work, and too much money, all I’ve got to show for it are three very happy, fat pasture ornaments, who I am sure will live with me forever, blissfully ignorant of my now-antiquated desire to save their lives, then find them good homes.

And my original horse, the one I was bored with when I decided to get my first rescue? Yep, he’s still going. I have to have at least one to ride, don’t I?

I also have a big issue with horse forums they are such a great to talk about horses and get answers to any questions I may have. The problem lies with how many hours I spend on them! Especially when they are as friendly as horsechitchat's forum.

Well enough for now I have to go look at some horses! :)



Tuesday, January 6, 2009

How to Size a Horse Blanket

Mid - Winter is a great time to purchase blankets for your horse, as many tack shops put them on sale to get rid of their pre-winter inventory. If you know how to size your horse blankets before you go shopping it is much easier on you and your gas bill rather than making multiple trips to the tack store trying to get the right fit. This knowledge is also helpful if you are ordering a custom blanket online.

Begin by standing your horse up squarely. If he won’t cooperate have someone else assist you with either the holding or the measuring. If you don’t have help have him tied up and try to get him to stand as square as possible.

Stand on your horse’s left and place the end of your measuring tape in your left hand and place it where the horse’s neck meets the center of his chest. With your right hand, draw the tape along the side as far as you can. Be sure that the tape crosses the widest part of his shoulder. If you measure too low then the chest blanket will be too small. The tape needs to be level and taut as well or you will end up adding extra inches and end up with a blanket that is too long lengthwise.

Once you have reached as far as you can, hold your thumb on that spot of the horse and note your measurement. Then measure from your thumb across the point of his hindquarters, about 10 or 12 inches below where the horse’s tail meets the body. Note your measurement at the edge of his tail.

Add your two measurements to get the horse’s blanket size. Blankets tend to come in even sizes as small as 30 inches for foals and as long as 88 for large breeds. If you come out with an odd measurement, then round up to the next even number. If you are having a custom blanket made you may be able to get the exact measurement, but a couple extra inches will make sure that the blanket fits with a little space for movement as well.

By measuring your horse you will be able to have a good idea of what to shop for when you are hitting up all of the great summer sales at the local tack shop or online. These measurements will also work for other blankets such as fly sheets and coolers.

Have a fun winter ride and keep our friends nice and toasty!

Stop by our expanded and improved equine network at equineinterent.com & visit our horse forum and say hello we love horses as much as you.

Thanks again


Friday, January 2, 2009

Save on your Horse Feed Bill!

5 Ways To Save On Your Feed Bill

Horse people are always eager to save money, especially if it can be done without sacrificing care for their horses. Few consider ways they're losing money on feed.

Storing and feeding of hay is a major expense. Improper storage wastes hay due to mold, broken bales and pests. Where possible keep hay off the ground - dampness often leads to losing most of the bottom layer of hay. If this can't be done - invest in cheap stuff to lose to make up that bottom layer. This keeps your good hay from getting bad on the bottom. Be sure to watch also for leaks in the roof or moisture on the walls where it can make contact with the hay.

Feed hay wisely.

In areas where hay has been hard to find many have taken to stretching their hay budget with other sources of fiber. Shredded beet pulp, hay cubes and more turnout are just a few ways. Be sure to soak the beet pulp and drain, and many advise the same for hay cubes. Smaller horses especially and those with bad teeth have a hard time eating the cubes. Read the package directions - for an average horse only three pounds of cubes are needed! This is not very much..and much less than many feed. Using a couple pounds of cubes, a little beet pulp and *good* hay might be a ticket to a better conditioned horse. Feed hay in a corner or, if outside, in a clean dry place. Some use old tubs with holes drilled in the bottom so they don't collect water. Keep the hay out of the mud and off of sandy areas, which can eventually lead to sand colic.
Storing and feeding grain is another way many lose money. A pile of bags is mouse and rat buffet! Keep grain supplies stored in containers to keep bugs, mice, rats, cats and anything else out of the grain. Keep it dry and invest in good quality. Avoiding water eliminates moldy spots on the bottom that have to be tossed.

Don't overfeed!

Most moderately active geldings do not need a 16% grain and alfalfa. Instead, consider the above hay regiment and a lower protein 10-11% which often is up to $5/bag cheaper. More importantly, the extra nutrition is wasted on horses that don't need it to maintain themselves. Bred mares, working performance horses, breeding stallions and other hard working animals can use a higher level of nutrition but for the average pleasure horse the lower protein better suits their needs.

Measure and weigh your feed.

Don't just toss a flake in - is that flake 8 pounds, 10 pounds or 20 pounds? That coffee can might hold 3 pounds of one feed or another feed 8 pounds - either of these cases it's a huge difference and can be a big waste of money as well as unhealthy for your horse. Weigh it - don't guess. If your feed calls for three pounds, measure three pounds then find a container that holds what you've measure...this can save you time because you know then that one container of it is three pounds.

Supplements are often much overdone. A good quality feeding program most of the time means many supplements aren't needed. However, there are areas that are low selenium, horses with joint issues, show or sale horses being conditioned and other situations where supplements are needed. Keep them stored dry and cool near the feed. Keep the containers up off the ground to eliminate getting tipped over and wasted. MEASURE! Those that come with a scoop and advise feeding one scoop per day follow that advice. Feeding two scoops doesn't give twice the benefit and in many cases is simply flushed through the horse's system unused and, thus, a waste of money.

Consider pastures a new feed source. Seed them with nutritious grasses or a grass/legume mix. Soil test, fertilize, use weed control practices and *use* those fields. A couple hours in a good pasture can do a horse wonders, save on the feed you need to buy and provide a forage that you know for sure what is in it. Avoid turning horses out when it is very muddy, when frozen or when the weight of feet can tear up fields. Limit horses with caulks or other shoes that can damage fields to just an hour or so per day. By making use of the turnout pastures you can contribute positively to the horse's diet and reduce your feed bill.

Purchase good quality hay and grain.

Discounted feed that is riddled with bugs or contaminated is not a bargain! Hay with trash, weeds and sticks in it is not a bargain. If there's a choice between clean grass hay and trashy alfalfa, go with the clean grass. You can supplement, as above, with hay cubes (alfalfa), pellets and other sources. Look closely at your feed. Evaluate if the horses are doing well on it.
If you're not happy with how your horses look, if they have health issues or are less than efficient, make some changes in your feeding program. Consider that if you have Feed A that recommends feeding 10 pounds per day and is $5.75 per 50# bag that's costing you $1.15/day. Feed B recommends feeding 3 pounds per day and is $10.95 per bag costs you would cost you relatively 66 cents per day to feed...and in the long run is cheaper! It will also last you longer per bag.

Use your feed dollars wisely. Fat is not healthy. Obesity is as much a health risk as starvation...it shortens your horse's life, it predisposes them to health issues and it's killing them with kindness. Feed a good quality program on a regular schedule. Make the most of your feed dollars!

Hope you enjoy this weeks rant

Ron Petracek