Less is best is my driving mantra when it comes to my horses well being. As I discussed in Part I Secrets to Healthy Yet Simple Horse keeping SIMPLICITY is the key to a healthy and happy horse. Now for the horse keeping to hoof care, vaccines to worming, Part II is the completion of my horse stewardship that has made having horses far more affordable.
- Indoor/Outdoor: At my barn horses have 24/7 access from their stalls to the outdoors. There are 100+’ paddocks from their stalls so they can come and go providing movement and exposure to the elements.
- Paddocks: The paddocks have 6’ No Climb Equine fending with a single strand electric wire across the top. I have not had a horse incident or accident yet!! I believe the No Climb fence has kept our horses safe from hurting themselves yet allows them to play with each other by racing, charging and kicking at one another without incident.
- Pasture: I have 2+ acres of pasture that provides some limited grazing, but most important body movement. Horses are designed to be in motion. I supplement the pasture with hay so the horses maintain good health and do not eat noxious weeds. Depending on the weather they may spend several days on the pasture before rotating them for another herd to have their turn.
- Herd Life: I always make sure horses get along with one another before putting a herd together. I carefully observe behavior between horses by letting one to two horses out in the arena where they can meet a new horse that is still behind their gate in their stall, but are able to put their noses together for greetings.
- Blanketing: I avoid blanketing as it interrupts a horse’s thermal physiology. Instead I feed the horses more food in the winter – food is fuel. If a horse is shivering I will put a blanket on them, load them up with hay and pull the blanket off once they are dry, warm and satiated. If we have an icy snowfall I may blanket the lighter coated horses like a Thoroughbred, but for the most part horses will grow enough coat to meet their needs.
- Sheath cleaning: I use apple cider vinegar for sheath cleaning. Often excessive discharge geldings have can be a result of an overgrowth of yeast due to the use of wormers and antibiotics so you want to boost the probiotics and add Diatomaceous Earth (DE) to their vitamin regime for 20 days if you are not all ready doing that (see the section on WORMING). The apple cider vinegar is helpful in maintaining the PH balance of the sheath. Never use soap!! Soap is drying and can cause itching and irritation (this include Murphy’s Oil Soap that is often recommended by veterinarians). My rule of thumb is would I use this on most delicate parts of my body. If the answer is no than don’t use it on your horse.
- Flies: I began making my own products out of frustration when I could only find toxic products that were being passed off as “all natural” giving the impression the products were safe and non-toxic. Pyrethrum was the common ingredient in the “all natural” products, but Pyrethrum and Pyrethroid based ingredients are now linked to tumors, cancers and interruption of the endocrine system. Arsenic is natural too, but it is not safe so in 2010 the government organization, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), held hearings about labeling. The outcome of the hearings is the makers of insect control products are not to mislead the public with “all natural” claims anymore. My hope is full disclosure of ALL ingredients, but it’s not the law yet. Companies that care about the wellbeing of you, your family, your pets and the planet will fully disclose ALL the ingredients – You Have the Right to Know. The following is what I use and do to control flies.
- Use a Fly Mask every day when the flies are out and remove it at night. Horses are limited in their vision at night with a fly mask so be mindful to remove it at dusk
- Apply natural fly control products or your own homemade products that are essential oil based, Grapeseed, jojoba and/or aloe vera gel. Avoid Pyrethrum, Pyrethroid products and when in doubt research the ingredients. Natural fly control recipes are available in my Fly Control eBook.
- Manure Management: clean/remove the fecal matter daily if not every time you feed your horse from both the stall and paddock. I also remove a large portion from the pasture too since it is only 2+ acres. Some people say don’t spread your manure because you are spreading the worms. If you are feeding Diatomaceous Earth (see Diatomaceous Earth under Worming below) it won’t matter. Just do the best you can removing the poop.
- Compost the manure if it’s legal in your area & use fly predators. I buy fly predators from March Biological which sends me the right amount every month starting April thru September. You can learn more about fly control, manure management, & fly predators in my Fly Control eBook on my website MissyWryn.com.
- You’ve heard the term “no hoof no horse” well it’s true. Horses have five hearts, one in their chest and four on the ground. The hoof is a heart pump in the frog creating negative pressure that draws blood into the hoof capsule with each step creating a shock absorber for each foot and the body, and then pumping the blood back up into the leg and throughout the body. Shoes interrupt this process plain and simple so I’m a barefoot advocate and my horses wear boots when we ride. I’m not dismissing shoes all together since my farrier will remind me that corrective shoes are sometimes necessary and not all horses are barefoot rehabilitation candidates, especially if they’ve been in shoes most of their life. I recommend finding a Certified Barefoot Trimmer and Certified Farrier who, like my farrier, continues their education as research continues to develop with the availability of CT scans and MRI’s. My farrier has been working with me since 2001 and I’ve had the delight in continuing my education every time he comes back from a dissection workshop or a new certification class. He is a Certified Barefoot Trimmer and Balanced Shoer who understands in-depth the structure and mechanics of a horse, not just the hoof. A good farrier is worth every penny and being on a waiting list for. Once you get your first appointment make sure you schedule your next three visits before they leave.
- Horses need hard ground and gravel, gravel, gravel. If you are in a wet climate you gotta have lots of gravel. At my facility horses have to walk from their stalls over a large gravel section to get to their water which is outside in their paddocks. This forces them to walk on the gravel which toughens their souls and helps dry out their hooves along with ensuring blood pumping. I always get people commenting “you don’t have mud, why?” Gravel Gravel Gravel.
- Stalls: In each stall there are hard rubber stall mats on top of 4 inches of gravel. This provides good drainage, a place for the horse to lie down out of the elements and a surface free from fecal matter, sand or mud to eat from. Besides feeding four times a day I clean stalls with every feeding.
- Some may call me irresponsible, but I do not vaccinate my horses. I haven’t vaccinated since 2005. A veterinarian told me it was a waste of money vaccinating my horses especially since they don’t go to shows. This same vet asked me a good question “do we as humans get booster shots every 3-6 months? NO, so why do we vaccinate our horses? MONEY” that was his answer.
- Vaccines weaken the immune system, which is my opinion based on my personal research. And I can tell you I’ve rehabbed many horses who arrived sick just after being vaccinated. I’ve cared for a lot of horses with abscesses which I believe were directly related to toxicity of vaccines.
- It’s a personal choice – you must research for yourself. My experience is I don’t have sick horses and I believe it’s partly due to the fact that I don’t vaccinate.
- There’s a symbiotic relationship between parasites and horses so you don’t want to wipe out ALL the parasites with paste wormers.
- Paste wormers are now experiencing a tolerance issue in horses due to the over-use of wormers.
- I use Diatomaceous Earth (DE) in my horse’s vitamin regime for 20 days every 3 months.
- I take a fecal sample twice a year to check the level of parasites. If the fecal count is over 100 I will use a paste wormer that is recommended for that time of year. However I have not had to use a paste wormer in several years.
- If my horse’s withers are sensitive in-between taking fecal counts and treating with DE I will take another fecal sample. I have found for my horses their withers get sensitive when they have an overgrowth of parasites. However I haven’t had this problem since using the DE
“Less is Best” guides my horse care program from feed to supplements, hoof care and exercise. Keep it simple and keep it low stress which has proven to be a healthy lifestyle for my horses.