Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

Horses eating hay

Keep your horse well fed during the winter.

It’s almost here again and we look into the barn and wonder if we have enough hay to last our animals.

How do you figure out how much hay you need? Do you track how many bales you used from year to year? What if you increase or decrease your herd? Did you switch your hay supplier? Are the bales heavier or (gasp!) lighter than the previous years?

Depending on the age and activity level of your horse, he will consume between 1.5% and 2.5% of his weight in hay/grain.

For the sake of simplicity, let’s say our horse weighs 1,000 pounds and is lightly worked, even in the winter. So, that horse would eat about 2% of his weight or 20 pounds of hay/grain every day. If your hay bales average 40 pounds, you would feed this horse a ½ bale of hay a day. We are making the assumption that the horse is not getting any grain. The amount of hay would, of course, be decreased based on the amount of grain fed daily.

Now the question is, is your horse on hay all year or do you pasture you horse during the warmer months. This is critical in figuring out how much hay you will need.

If you feed hay all year, and you feed a half bale a day, you would need 183 bales of hay per horse. However, this does not take into account cold winters nor other factors like wind chill or the winter coat your horse may or may not have.

Using 400 as a base temperature, we would add about one pound of hay for every 10 degrees below this base temperature. So at 300, you may want to add one or two pounds of hay, depending on the winter coat. But, if it’s raining, you may need to add three to six pounds of hay and if the wind is at 10 to 15 miles per hour, you might want to think about adding 10 to 14 pounds of hay!

So now, how do you figure out how much hay you really need?

Since we have determined that a 1,000 pound horse would need 183 bales of hay if the horse was not on pasture, we now need to calculate how many days of cold our region has. Again, to make the math simple, let’s say we could have 100 days of temps at or below 300. Of those days, 30 would be at or below 00.

Coat 70 days at 300 – 00 30 days below 00 Total pounds
Heavy 70 x 3 pounds = 210 pounds 30 x 8 pounds = 240 pounds 450 pounds = 11.25 bales
Light 70 x 6 pounds = 420 pounds 30 x 14 pounds = 420 pounds 840 pounds = 21 bales

If your horses are stalled and out of the elements, you may be able to give them less hay, but, always do a check of your horse’s weight during the harsh winter months. Winter coat can be deceiving, so feel for your horse’s ribs as well as a visual inspection to see how he is wintering.

Linda Watson is the owner and head riding instructor at Pretty Pony Pastures. Visit the website for details on all the lessons and activities at this facility.

to our barn.

Those of you who knew Tom, are familiar with his way of welcoming everyone who entered our barn.  Sometimes I still hear him greeting the riders when they come in for their lessons, even though it’s just in my mind.   So I wanted a way to have his presence felt, even for those who never knew him.

While I was going through some stuff, I saw his boots…they’re old boots…I think he wore them every day for years.  The sides are sagging, one boot can hardly stay upright, but, they’re his boots.  Scuffed, well-used, and comfortable.  Perfect!

Fall arrangement

Christmas arrangement

I decided to put them in the corner by the entrance from the barn to the arena and fill them with flowers as the seasons change.  Look at them as you enter the arena and tell me if you don’t feel that warm welcome in your heart.

One of the things we teach our horses is to stop if the rider falls or shifts weight too much.

Now I now of some trainers who will actually fall of the horse when teaching it to stop.  But at my age, I don’t want to chance a broken bone, plus, I’m not that fond of falling.  So, I devised the next best thing,  balancing a pool noodle on the horse’s back. 

This is Poppie.  She is new to our program, so on the few somewhat balmy days that we had over the winter, I worked with her in our “Horse Boot Camp”.  Here I am making sure that she will stop if the rider comes off.

Pool noodle on Poppie’s backThe first thing I do is put the pool noodle on the horse’s back in the saddle area. 

Walking with a pool noodleOnce the pool noodle is balanced, I lead the horse around the arena.  Usually we start with a nice slow walk.  I lead in the normal position, but try to watch the pool noodle as it wiggles on the horse’s back.  How the horse walks and its back movement will determine how long the pool noodle will stay on the horse’s back.

Pool noodle fallsSooner or later, the pool noodle will fall off.  When I see it slide, I immediately stop walking and ask the horse to stop.

Surprisingly, it only takes two or three falls of the pool noodle before I see the horse “trying” to keep the pool noodle on its back and stopping on its own when the pool noodle falls.

Does it work?  Last summer I had a child pass out on the horse.  The horse was standing still at the time and I was giving instructions on the next exercise when I saw the young boy fall forward.  He did not fall off, and looked like he was hugging the horse.  The horse did not move, did not get startled from the sudden forward movement.  She just stood there.  She didn’t even move when three of us adults were taking him off. 

I feel fairly confident that if a rider came off, our horses would stop in their tracks.

NOTE:  I just saw an ad for a video teaching this technique with a deflated inner tube.  The inner tube sits on the horse’s croup and hangs down the tail.  In my opinion, this is not quite as effective as the pool noodle technique because the inner tube is not in the area where the rider would sit.  BTW, the cost of the video (with other tips, I’m sure) was only $59.95.

If you liked this training tip, and would like to see more of my methods of kid-proofing horses, drop me a line, and I’ll be happy to add them.