The holidays are over and the first week of January has been frigid, below zero temperatures. The first Saturday of the month was a high of 3F and the farrior was at the barn doing 7 of our horses. As hard as winter can get, it’s harder when you have livestock because you have to be out in it, no matter how cold. So you learn to buy the warmest jackets and hats, and figure out which gloves and boots keep your hands and feet the warmest.
We’ve had frozen water spickets and hoses. We did learn a woman’s hair dryer comes in very handy in trying to thaw a water spicket. As long as it’s not too frozen.
Closed barn doors are essential and lots of hay for the horses to eat. It’s not a cheap season as we buy more hay and more oats and beet pulp to keep horses warm.
Our horses have been taking it all in stride though. Just another day. They have been hanging mostly in the small paddock where the shelter is. That’s where the hay is thrown in the a.m. and p.m. So the already hard ground is littered with hard poop balls, like walking on pool table balls.
We still manage to take a little time to have fun. It helps that we have a 12-year old that comes out to ride. She makes me stop and just spend time with the horses instead of always working, picking hooves, cleaning shelters, filling water troughs.
And next week, the weather is supposed to change and bring some warm temps!
At one end of our pasture is a big shelter and water troughs. The horses hang out around the shelter in between jaunts out to eat grass. They go there when the weather is super rainy and they get fed hay around there all winter, so they pretty much stay up in that area all winter. So, what was once grass is now dirt and during a rainy spring or fall it’s mud. And then when it gets cold, sometimes the bumpy mud turns frozen and hard. Grass won’t stay there because the horses walk on it too much. In past years, we’ve tried to lay limestone screenings, which don’t drain well, so we ended up with a patch of limestone and then little ponds of water surrounding them.
So, this year, I decided to try pea gravel. Having had experience hauling limestone screenings in my trailer and having to shovel it all out, I also decided to rent a dump truck. A 3-yard dump truck. Definitely made it easier on my back.
I found a place near our barn where you can get pea gravel and ended up getting about seven loads and dumping them in the paddock. It was a little tricky getting the hang of spreading it while I was dumping so that it didn’t just end up in one big pile. I did pretty good in some places and not so good in others. So I have some long trails of gravel and then other big piles.
In some ways though, the big piles have worked out as the horses have spread them out some and now that we’ve gotten some consistent rain, they are like little islands for the horses to get away from the mud. I didn’t have enough money to cover the whole paddock area, so having some areas that are mud free is going to have to work for this year.
This week was the annual Halloween party. I did not dress up. I was not in the mood to put on tights or masks or feathers. It was raining, a little chilly. We had some super heros and some zoo animals and it was a good turnout.
This week, Belle, our Bay colored Arabian, got very lame. She’s been lame on and off this summer and we thought it was laminitis. She’s an Arabian with a small frame, and a lot of fat surrounding that small frame. In short, she gets way too much grass.
We’d put a muzzle on her and she seemed to get better, but now it’s Fall, and the weather is up and down and angry and nice and the grass is desperately trying to cope by producing lots of sugar. So Belle went very lame, was in tons of pain. So, into a stall she went. Emergency vet was called, ultrasound was done and the prognosis was a torn suspensory ligament and six months stall rest. Shit!
Three days later, our regular vet came out and did another short ultrasound and didn’t see a tear but felt high pulses and thought laminitis with maybe an inflamed ligament, but no tear. So, she blocked her (numbed) first her feet and when they were numb, she walked perfectly sound, which indicates no tear in said ligament. She is also 100 lbs overweight which is the crux of the whole problem.
So, now she is in a small paddock with no grass and a hay pillow/net so she eats slow and steady. And she’s doing pretty good. Walking pretty normal, being a brat now and then. I’m glad. She will be in there until the grass is completely dead.
Here she is with Evie, her best friend. She’s holding up the bad leg (conveniently for the picture). she’s really just taking a step.
She is a little plump isn’t she? So, she will be muzzled forever now when she’s on pasture which is typically 24/7 – once her feet are recovered completely.
This is Misty. She’s a 13 year old Thoroughbred we started taking care of when her owner moved to Michigan. She has a club foot and as a result gets horrible cracks running vertically down both front hooves from her coronet band.
About a year or so ago, our farrier suggested putting glue-on rubber boots on her to try to stabilize the cracks and heel them.
This is a picture of the good hoof with the boot on. As time went on with these boots, the cracks kept coming back and then started getting worse. Then she started getting abscesses within about a week of her getting a trim almost every single month. This last trim was too much. She got a horrible abscess and her club foot started dishing inward. She is normally on pasture 24/7 but we brought her in to a small paddock. I was terrified that her coffin bone was being affected and she might founder.
We researched and called numerous farriers trying to figure out what to do. None of them had any experience with this except one, so we chose him. He recommended a backwards shoe to get the pressure off her toe. He also cut back her heel so she’d walk more flat footed.
This is a picture right after he cut away the glued on rubber boot. It’s terrifying to me.
This is what the bottom looks like.
He put the backwards shoe on. He did pound two nails into each side, which made me and her owner a little nauseous. I try very hard not to put shoes on horses and seeing it done makes me cringe.
Then he rasped down the front of her foot (after trimming it and her heel).
He did leave a little of the plastic boot on the sides, just to hold things together. You can see the tips of the shoe peaking out, so that it cushions her toe when she walks.
Are we doing the right thing? I don’t know? I worry every day. She is still inside in a small paddock with one other horse instead of going out on pasture with the herd. She limps when she walks.
I have been putting tea tree essential oil diluted in coconut oil on her coronet band most nights to try to keep abscesses from forming. And I have been painting on a mixture of aloe vera oil mixed with carrot seed essential oil and palmarosa oil and distilled water to promote hoof growth.
And I pray – that we are doing the right thing. That her hoof will heal. That she will be alright.
This is Misty’s owner just after the trim. And that’s Liberty in the stall. He is our 30 something, gelding, who loves Misty very much. They are never far apart out in the pasture.
After her trim, we put her out for a short time with the herd, but she decided it was time for a rest.
And then Liberty decided to join her.
You couldn’t blame her, she’d been through a lot.
The grass is growing like crazy and so are the weeds. Our horses are pasture boarded on about 30 acres of land. Sometimes it gets mowed, but it’s hard to keep up.
I waffle back and forth as to whether it’s good to mow or not? I think horses need some of the weeds and the short, mowed grass has more sugar which leads to fat, sometimes laminitic horses.
Of course, if you don’t mow, will the weeds just eventually take over completely? Because once mowed, the grass grows faster than the weeds.
A healthy horse wants a mixture of different kinds of grasses, legumes, weeds, bark. All kinds of things. So the more diverse a pasture, the better. Of course, getting a diverse pasture is hard.
You don’t want lush, green pasture for horses. You want patchy, not-so-nice looking pastures. With lots of choices. The horses will find what they need if what they need is there. We do give them supplements, minerals and salt also as I don’t think they get everything they need from the pasture they are on or the hay they get in winter. Our pasture is too lush for them sometimes, especially Spring and Fall and they get fatter than they should be.
They’re happy though. And we keep trying to balance everything out.
For the most part, I hate grazing muzzles. I feel horrible putting them on the horse. The horses hate them and I feel guilty. But. . .our horses live on about 30 or 40 acres of grass. It only goes away in the winter – about November to April in Illinois. Even then, it’s still there, but it’s dead so the sugar is minimal. We have one horse (Princess) that is insulin resistant and as a result when she gets too much sugar she gets laminitic and is in a lot of pain. So, in Spring and Fall she must wear a muzzle to minimize her sugar intake from the grass.
This fall we also muzzled our Arabian, Belle, because she is super overweight and it worries us from time to time.
Here’s a picture of her. She’s a little chunky. Super cute though.
So, muzzles, which is the best to use? We’ve tried three different kinds.
This one. It’s called Best Friend Grazing Muzzle. It’s the first one we got and it’s very tough and covers a lot of their nose and mouth. It allows the horse to eat some grass, but not too much. It stays on well and we haven’t yet lost it in the pasture.
This one. It’s called Tough 1 Easy Breathe Grazing Muzzle. We got this one new this year. It’s much more open and works well especially when the weather is hot. The hole to eat from is a little bigger and they can get a little more grass on the sides as well. We have lost this one in the pasture from time to time though.
We also tried this one a few years ago on Princess. It’s called a Harmony muzzle and we wanted it to work because it’s so much more open and comfortable, but by the end of one day it was all twisted and half way off. Maybe we just didn’t get the right size, but it didn’t work for us at all.
Our horses live in the pasture 24/7 and have their muzzle on the whole time. We’ve never had any trouble with that – except they sometimes get the muzzles off. We go out every day to give all our horses supplements, so Princess and Belle get to graze on grass and hay for somewhere between 1 to 2 hours while we are there each day.
Princess is doing very well this year. She hasn’t become laminitic at all and is happy being with her herd and moving around instead of being kept away at night on a dry lot (what we tried last year). Belle – well – she’s still overweight and honestly she kept getting the muzzle off (the Tough 1 Easy Breathe one) and so we sort of gave up. Winter is around the corner and the grass will be dead, so hopefully she’ll lose some weight then.
Once the grass is brown we take the muzzle off Princess too. She only wears it Spring and Fall. She does fine in summer once the grass is established and not growing too much and in winter when it’s dead.