horse care



I don’t know about you, but, I’ve been stunned at the amount of damage that was done this week by Harvey. I feel so sad when I see pictures of the horses, cattle, and other animals who cannot make it to high land and the ones who do but may not be able to recover from the damage they sustained in the flood waters. I feel the pain of the people who don’t know if they will ever see their furry companion again. Most did not expect this type of devastation from Harvey.

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September is National Preparedness Month and in the aftermath of Harvey, I thought it would be good to dedicate today’s blog to being prepared for whatever might happen.

Be aware

Be aware of what is happening and what could happen.

Having a NOAA Weather Radio is one step. We keep one both in our house and in our barn. Storms can hit suddenly and when I’m giving lessons I need to know if a storm or tornado is approaching.

Also be aware of dangerous situations. Fire is the most feared disaster for most horse owners. We just attended a fire safety meeting held by a local horse organization. Are you aware that the box fans that so many of us use in our barns can cause a fire? The back of the fans, where the motor is located, is not enclosed. Hay and dust can get in and if the motor over heats – that’s a fire.

Know what to do

If you have to evacuate, could you move all your animals? A two or three horse trailer will save some of the horses but not all if you have more horses to move than room in your trailer.

Do you know where you would go? Often there are some facilities available but will they be accessible? I know the Fairgrounds are only two miles from my farm but they have a limited number of stalls. What is your plan B and C?

What if disaster hits and you are not home? Do you have a trusted friend or family member that could help in this situation?

A lot will depend on the severity of the disaster. But having a plan for most conceivable disasters could save you and your animals. Moreover, if you have a plan and an alternate plan, you will not hit panic mode.

Identification and paper work

Do your animals have some identifiable markings? Our dog is micro-shipped, our cattle are branded and tagged, our horses – well, let’s look at this one.

If your animals are registered, do you have those papers in a safe and secure location? Our horse registration papers do show each horse’s unique identifying markings. And, like finger prints, no two are alike.

Here’s a tip that I thought was very worthwhile. Take a picture – selfies, anyone – of you and your pet. Keep them on file or on a cloud. You may be able to use them to claim your animal if you get separated.

No one expects a disaster to happen. But being prepared and taking some steps now could save heartaches in the future.

For more tips and information on steps you may want to take to be prepared, download this handy preparedness checklist from FEMA. Preparing Your Pets for Emergencies

Linda Watson-Call 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.
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Without milkweed, the monarch butterfly would become extinct as this is the only plant that the monarch caterpillars eat. But, what about other animals, birds or insects? Is this a plant we want in our pastures or hay fields?

More -> Milkweed and Your Hay


It’s that time of the year again, when the days are getting shorter and the horses’ coats are changing colors as they shed once again.

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Parents ask about the changes in the colors and the shedding. They are confused because they know about the BIG shed out in the spring, but are surprised when the horses start shedding at the end of summer. Not sure about other mammals but, horses have two distinct coats – one for winter and one for summer. And they typically shed about the same time every year.

Shedding triggers

More than we realize the change in season is governed by two elements in nature – sunlight and temperature. As the days get longer, the temperatures rise. Some of us would like it to get warmer sooner, but, the fact is, more sunlight = warmer air.

It’s the amount of sunlight that tells the horses when to start shedding. I’ve been out in the barn many a February or March, shivering as my horse’s winter coat blankets my feet while grooming her. Likewise, come August, the summer coat is shedding out for the new growth for the winter.

Indicator of the future?

I hear this all the time. If they are shedding out this early, does that mean that we will get an early winter? If the horses are getting a heavy winter coat, that that mean that we are in for a bitter winter? No! Well, I really wish the horses or other animals could predict the future with more accuracy than the weather station, but, the truth is, they can’t. But, what they can do is “remember” the past weather. People who purchase horses from a warmer climate often say that the first winter is brutal. The horse doesn’t get a good winter coat. But wait until the second and third winter – they certainly grow a coat after that first cold experience!

Change in colors

The horse’s coat often lightens in the summer depending on how often the horse is outside and in the sunlight. The sun lightens most colors, even the horse’s coat. Once the days shorten and the amount of sunlight lessens, the coat goes back to a darker color.

Dapples are not dependent on the amount of sunlight. The circular areas on the horse’s body that change in shade are caused by nutrition as well as genetics. Horses on high quality hay tend to have more dapples. All horses do not dapple. Gray horses tend to be dappled as well as bays and chestnuts.

It seems the horses, like many animals are in tune with Mather Nature and the change of seasons. But even so, they cannot predict weather any more than we can.

Linda Watson-Call 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.


Several times a year, before we worm our horses, we weigh them. The vet comes twice a year – and weighs them. Even if we weigh our horses the day before, there is usually a discrepancy between our weight and the vet’s weight. Sometimes a few pounds, sometimes quite a few pounds.

Buttercup's weight using the weight tape

Buttercup’s weight using the weight tape

I have never been comfortable with the “weight tape” because even if you think you are putting it around the heart girth, it can slip. It can be at a different angle every time it is used. It can be tighter or looser than the last time. And what about the thickness of the horse’s coat?

Problem solved. We purchased a livestock scale! Okay, we got it to weigh our cattle to make sure they were market ready, but, horses can stand on it too. And so they did.

In my scientific study of the horse’s weight, I used the weight tape on the horse to get the tape weight.

Buttercup taped out at 1001 pounds. A respectable weight for this mare.

Buttercup getting weighed.

Buttercup getting weighed.

We walked her onto the scale, and, oh my! She gained 113 pounds between the time we taped her and she walked onto the scale!

Buttercup's weight using the livestock scale

Buttercup’s weight using the livestock scale

This held true for EVERY horse. Some of the horses varied by only 50 pounds, which is the acceptable range for the tape, but most weight in with a 100 pound or greater difference between the tape and the scale.

So, which do I believe? The horses claim the scale if off, but we checked it with our weight and it was only a few pounds more – but considering we had our boots and winter coats on, it was within two or three pounds of our scale in the house.

Looks like it will be exercise time in the arena for both the horses and me this spring!

 

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.

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We’ve entered a new era at our farm – I’ve been promising this for years, yes, years. And this year we are doing it!

One aspect of our lessons is about the horse. You can call it horsemanship – although that has several different meanings, or stewardship, or just plain knowing more about horses that riding.

We’ve always taught things like – grooming, safety, parts of the horse, horse nutrition, etc. as part of our lessons, in our scout events, and in the Hooked on Horsessm summer program. Now, everyone, whether they ride here or not, can participate in our virtual learning center and access our videos and interactive programs.

Our first interactive program was Part of the Horse. We have had rave reviews from several of parents who said their child loves to play this program.

Our second was Daily Grooming. Yes, there is a difference between the way you groom your horse every day and how you would groom your horse for a show. Show Grooming is on the list – probably this summer.

Daily Grooming is part of our Parent Boot Campsm program. Every spring and fall we invite the parents of new riders to attend our Parent Boot Campsm to learn more about horses, their care, and what we expect their rider to do. Many times schedules don’t allow for parents to attend and we’ve been asked if we could do a video. So, here is an interactive program on grooming for both parents, riders, and new horse owners where ever they may be. This will be followed by Horse Safety in and around the Barn, Saddling Your Horse, and How to Lead (Your Horse, of Course).

We will also show different aspects of how we train and desensitize our horses before they are put into our programs.

Join us – we will post our releases here, on our blog, and on our release site.

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.