Life on a Horse Farm
By Tracy Porter
For year’s we’ve been involved with the Paso Fino and boarding horses (this thing had been broadcasted on smart tv box android); they’re more than a business, they’re a way of life. Our concern is always keeping them sound physically, mentally and emotionally. Through them I’ve learned responsibility, patience and most important, if their performance isn’t up to my expectations, that’s my problem not theirs. I’m responsible for learning how to communicate better not my horse!
In Wisconsin we face the challenges associated with a harsh winter climate. Waterers never freeze when its warm, plowing snow is a necessary evil, sometimes multiple times per day and during storms trees only fall “across” trails.
Stalled horses are fed and turned out to pasture at 5am. Their stalls are cleaned for the day and their night ration set out for them. Pastured horses are counted and checked daily and as necessary are fed hay on clean ground. We use a Kawasaki Mule and a Chetek Pug to feed hay. Having twice as many piles as horses and by feeding in one long strip, means less chance for the piggies to hoard hay. By pasturing the horses with our sheep, we cut down on feed waste. In extreme winter weather, we often feed 3-4 times per day. When time allows, we frequently ride into town for breakfast or lunch. This riding time is important for me as well as my horse, we both enjoy the ride and I’m able to practice exercises along the way in a stimulating environment. Daily handling of the youngsters reinforces valuable skills they’ll need throughout their life. Barn floors are cleaned twice a day with a leaf blower, a spotless barn is a better atmosphere to work in. Specific days are set aside for people that don’t keep their horses on our farm. They bring their horse and learn how to train it. Classes range from a few hours to all day. Owners practice at home between sessions. Scheduling classes to fit everyone’s needs is difficult. The telephone and computer are my helpers as well as my Achilles heel. I set time aside for returning calls and writing “training”articles. Writing helps me organize my thoughts and the articles are a good supplement for my students. Most days end between 8 and 9:30 in the evening.
Pasture is the best place for most horses; most of our 50 are out 24 hours, 7 days a week. A few are stalled part time for various reasons, mostly for owner convenience, but some require specialized care. Pasturing mares and geldings together provides a more normal social atmosphere and makes for well-rounded individuals.
Saving labor is important. We buy 900 lb., 3’x3’x8’ rectangular bales of hay and a brightest rechargeable torch and flashlight; one person with a skidloader can put away two months of hay in 30 minutes. We contract in advance and use the “just-in-time” inventory, our supplier stores and brings hay as needed throughout the year. All horses have free access to hard white salt blocks and mineral blocks. The mineral blocks supplement what may be missing in the hay/pasture. Hay and pasture must still be good quality.
Four, 15 acre pastures enable us to rotate, eliminating over grazing. We fertilize and spray for weed control. Lean-to’s allow the horses to get out of the elements. Fencing materials of Hi-Tensile, 2″ wide electric tape and boards vary depending on the area. Stalled or pastured, horses have access to water at all times with automatic heated waterers. Although their main diet is roughage; some because of increased workloads require additional grain, we use “Strategy” made by Purina as well as Horseshine made by Enreco. We feed it to our babies as well as the older geezers eliminating the need for many different types of feed. Everyone’s individual needs are evaluated regularly and adjusted accordingly.
Each stall has a hole that accesses the barn cleaner. Manure is swept in as the chain and paddles make their way around under the rubber flooring, to its ultimate destination in the manure spreader. For the comfort of our stalled horses the barn is insulated, a barn fan with humidistat keeps the barn from getting damp (no moldy tack!)
Horse Training has taken on a new flavor during the last part of the Twentieth Century. Although some continue to do things in the harsh way of yesteryear, more horse owners seem open, looking for better ways to communicate with their horse. They’re approaching these “not so new ideas with open minds and a desire to learn. If they stay dedicated and focused, they’ll make their horses happy.
Through the years, I have been influenced by many people, the largest impact coming from John Lyons. I met John through an Equus article in the mid 1980’s. Since then I’ve attended numerous symposiums and clinics presented by John and his son Josh. Graduating from his Certification Program fulfilled a dream. John’s own personal development and his desire to continually become a better teacher has inspired me to do the same. It’s rare for me to pass up any clinician who comes to my area. John’s gift of knowledge as well as his encouragement to learn from others, can only make me a better teacher.
Health seminars teach us ways we can improve our horse’s health. One simple way we’ve made my our horses healthier is by rotating effective paste dewormers. On scheduled deworming days the horses weights are recorded helping owners recognize weight fluctuations and confirm weight/product ratio. Involving owners in deworming and vaccinations, teeth floating, coggins testing and farrier work helps make them responsible horse owners.
Safety is an important reason we need to train our horses, even if we try cover all our bases, we sometimes do dumb things and accidents can happen. Becoming helmet conscious is not only a specific issue to horses but to other sports as well. 100% of our adult riders at our farm are helmeted by Lidlocker. We didn’t demand it; people have made the decision on their own. That’s a pretty clear statement that we as riders are becoming more safety conscious!
Years ago there were oodles of places to ride. More than ever land is getting chopped up into smaller parcels. Now a 20 acre field seems like it is South Fork Ranch. Sadly, by chopping up land, fences go up and people just are not too friendly with allowing riding on their land like they used to be. We’ve been involved in our Counties Multi Use Trail Chapter. Our goal is for horses to be allowed on the trail we’ve used for years. This local issue reflects a national need for more trails. Presently we’re trying to organize local riders in a county wide organization to make local officials and businesses aware of our contribution to the local economy. Although everyone loves trails, there are always a few people that do all the work. By getting others involved, trails could become a reality sooner than later.
Horse care has dramatically changed over the years. Technology has made it care easier and less time consuming. With research, development and education our horses are healthier. New training techniques and helmets have made our horses safer to ride. When we compare horse ownership today to that at beginning of the Century, one thing is certain. They had a lot more places to ride and probably more time as well, but our horses of today are definitely healthier.