Thursday, May 22, 2008

random horse tips

Victoria over at Teachings of the Horse gave me a "Great Horse Tips" award this week. I highly recommend following the link and reading comments and following more links because there are some really wonderful tips floating around cyberspace as a result of this award.

I have a few to share:

diatomaceous earth (DE) for tick control:

We use Permagard brand food-grade DE here at our farm. While it has many uses (fire ants, general insect control, ants inside the house, flies, deworming cats/dogs/horses) one of its most impressive feats is getting through tick season without toxic chemicals. We buy it by the 50-lb. bag from Dirtworks or Shadow Ridge Donkeys and it lasts us about a year. I bought a "puffer" which is basically an old-fashioned restaurant ketchup bottle and use it to "puff" the horses. I apply the white powder beneath the "armpits," in the groin area, on the legs up to the knees, and on top of the base of the tail. Rafer Johnson gets a little up between his ears as well.

You have to apply it daily for best results, but I have been keeping tabs and the total number of ticks found on horses decreased from around 20 the day I DIDN'T use DE to 0-1 the days I do. You can apply fly spray right over top of the DE. It does not reduce the effectiveness.

dried lavender buds for turn-out blanket storage:

After washing turn-out blankets I layer them in their storage bins with dried lavender buds. Lavender deters insects and it also has a soothing, calming effect on horses. Mine stop and breathe in the scent that first cold night in late fall when I pull their nice clean blankets out.

two home and barn first aid essentials - homeopathic Arnica and Rescue Remedy

I keep both items in the house and barn. Arnica is very effective in helping the body (human, equine, feline, canine, etc.) minimize soreness and bruising after bumps, scrapes, and other accidents. Rescue Remedy is a blend of a number of flower essences and has a calming, healing effect on both people and animals in shock, after an accident, etc. I often put a drop in each water bucket if we're expecting intense weather, or if something "big" is on the docket - travel for animals, etc. When the baby barn swallows fell out of the nest we gave them water and RR and they did wonderfully.

great cleaning solution for the barn - Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap:

I use this for washing hands, swiping down stall walls, rinsing bits, etc. It is totally organic, safe enough to brush your teeth with, smells heavenly, and repels insects. I love it.

enhancing fly predator success:

The first few weeks or whenever you see a new "bloom" of flies (we're having lots this year due to all the rain) try a few plastic fly traps with the fly attractant liquid. I have two of the plastic container ones that I move from one end of the barn to the other - in the morning the sunny side has flies, and in the afternoon it shifts to the other end. They seem to fly around the doors to the barn aisle so I close the barn doors at the sunny end, set the fly traps outside, and they catch the existing adult flies that the fly predators can't touch. It is making a big difference for us this year.

treat external things from within:

I've discovered that if I take the money I used to spend on hoof ointments, skin ointments, etc. and put it toward a truly balanced diet, I treat the problems at the root instead of treating the symptoms. For us, this means free choice quality hay, minimal processed feed, and a custom mix of supplements that I have researched and continue to tweak as needed to keep each horse in balance. A few examples: Keil Bay had the white plaque stuff inside his ears when I bought him. Adding ground flax to his diet took care of that. When we got Cody he was extremely vulnerable to every insect bite that came along, and he was itchy and sweated profusely in the summer heat, causing some hair loss. I added a really good trace mineral/sea kelp mix to all the diets, and used a quality no-sugar-added electrolyte during the hottest months. The problem resolved entirely.

I'm not recommending specific supplements or feedstuff here b/c I feel that each horse owner needs to evaluate the big picture for his/her specific horse(s) to make the best decisions. But I've become dedicated to looking for the "internal" solution to "external" problems. For people too!

serve your horses hay the way they'd find it in the wild:

Instead of making a big pile of hay so that horses stand and eat in one spot, spread it out in many small piles so they walk and forage and keep things flowing. Horses are built to cover many miles in a day searching for food. I found that when I spread the hay in a long, meandering "trail" the horses spend many hours walking and eating bits at a time, just as they would if they were in the wild.

ride or spend quality time with your horses FIRST, do chores SECOND:

When we first bought our farm and suddenly everything was my responsibility when it came to horse/farm care, I lost control. My "save dessert for last" upbringing kicked in and I religiously did all the barn chores before riding. At some point I figured it out. RIDE FIRST. The chores will get done. I'm never going to let the sun go down on a dirty stall or an empty water bucket. Those things will get done. But if I do the chores first, I can easily exhaust myself without getting in the ride or the quality time with my horses. I forget my own tip at times - but when I remember to do it, it works.

I could go on and on, but this is enough for now!


Grey Horse Matters said...

All great tips. I like the ride first, chores second one best though. I am guilty of chores first, ride if I'm not too tired from chores first. There is a lot to be said for spending time with our horses and riding first. After all that is what it is all about and what makes us happy. You are right the chores will get done no matter what.
I'm also going to try the lavender in the blankets.

billie said...

Thanks, Arlene. Sometimes when I get too caught up in chores first, Keil Bay will let me know by coming in to his stall and banging the door. He likes to be first on the list. Food, and attention/ride, in that order. :)

Heidi the Hick said...

Excellent advice!

The last one is something we tend to forget easily. The work will always be there. The quality time needs to be taken.

(I love summer because our horses don't go into the barn anymore, except to eat their grain in the evening. I just go out with the wheelbarrow every now and then to pick up the poops in the corral where they spend the night. Less pickin', more riding!)

the7msn said...

I love your use of all the natural remedies. And like you and Arlene, "save dessert for last" is in my DNA. I'm really going to work on eating dessert first this summer. Thanks for reminding me.

billie said...

Heidi, our work seems easier in summer as well. However, if I don't close the stall doors, all of mine will go in the stalls and leave me plenty of mucking work, just in case I might be lost without it. :)

billie said...

Linda, I agree - dessert first for summer '08. :)

Victoria Cummings said...

Billie - These are wonderful tips - You certainly deserved this award! I'm going to try the DE on my horses, since we live in the land of ticks. I agree about riding before chores - otherwise, you never have the time or energy. And now, before it gets too hot, it's really time to ride.

billie said...

Thanks, Victoria! The DE works really well for us. We often use it for dusting the cats and dogs as well, and I mix a tablespoon into the dogs' vitamin/mineral raw egg mixture they get several times/week. The DE taken internally helps with parasite control.

I am listening to the most amazing birdsong conversation out my garret window this morning - makes me think of you!