Crazy Cow Country Farm

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Everything I’ve learned about horses, in a nutshell

October 18th, 2007 · 5 Comments · Uncategorized

This one’s for you Kelli.  First, I’ll answer your question direct and then I’ll tell you how I learned everything I have about horses because it’s pretty much exactly what you shouldn’t do.   Just keeping it real folks.  I’m not sure if you’re asking about training or keeping so I’ll just ramble on about both.  I tend to do that anyway.

storeys.jpg This is Storey’s Guide To Feeding Horses and it’s one to buy.  In this book you’ll learn everything you need to know for maintaining their weight, adding weight, food nutrition, and most importantly, how to balance a ration.  This book thoroughly describes each whole ingredient and leaves out the marketing information for one of my pet peeves – complete feeds.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  I’ve learned how to mix a weight builder and how to address different situations with each individual horse.  It’s fantastic.  The only thing is doesn’t show you is how to weigh them so you’ll need to ask your vet to show you or do a google search for using a weight tape. 

There are SO many products in the catalogs and at your feed store that choosing the right one becomes overwhelming to me and certainly cost prohibitive.  I prefer to learn what each ingredient does and then mix my own from whole ingredients.  Take Strategy for example – it’s a wonderfully formulated complete feed and it’s recommended at 4 lbs per horse per day so a 50 lb bag will last one horse about 12 days at the price of about $1.75 or more each day.  With hay costing $130/ton plus delivery that’s going to add up quickly if you go that route.  After researching I found that most complete feeds like that are either based with hay, alfalfa, or beet pulp.  Well why on earth would you pay for a feed with 30% hay when you’ve got hay in your barn?  By learning to balance a ration I can create virtually the same feed but, in my opinion, better because it’s mixed fresh for less than $.30/day, I know exactly what’s in it, and I can customize it for each horse.  Same with a weight builder.  Those are beet pulp based with flax seeds, rice bran, omega oils, and then vitamins/minerals.  I have all of that already in my grain room and can mix a ration for less than $.45 plus it will have the fiber from whole ingredients.   I have several spreadsheets with each ingredient listed along with the cost per ounce and properties – yes, I really AM this anal.   Don’t get me wrong, there’s a time for those expensive feeds but again, I’m just sharing my experience.  If you’d ever want recipes, just drop me an email. 🙂

Other than the Storey book I recommend going to your library’s section for horsekeeping and just reading every book they have.  There’s one or two others that I would purchase if I came across a good deal but only because of the training information.  To be perfectly honest, I’ve learned more from the internet and just talking to people because if there’s one thing horsey people like to do it’s talk about horses!  I highly recommend the forums at The Chronicle of the Horse as the Horse Care forum is a well of information.    I try to attend local horse auctions and have visited all the neighboring stables just to talk with people about their horses and I ask a ton of questions for the whys of doing things.   Just keep in mind that my thing is the pastured/natural horse kept for a couple hours of western pleasure each week so nothing I say is geared for the show or english crowd at all.

In my case I’d ridden as a youngster but never kept horses and so I was basically learning at ground zero.  The quickest (and what I DON’T recommend) way to learn about horsekeeping is put out a sign for boarding only to have sick horses and the boarders from hell arrive at your farm – which is exactly what happened to us.  On the one hand, having to close our farm to deal with strangles and getting taken advantage of really sucked but on the other hand, I am so grateful for the education.  Man, did I learn a lot this past year thanks to boarders!  I had no choice but to learn about hay and it’s analysis, hay stretchers, nutrition, administering shots, diseases, cleaning wounds, you name it.  Ideally, I would have preferred to learn this while volunteering at a stable or working with a trainer, but hindsight’s always 20/20 isn’t it?

There are wonderful sites with articles on horse training and I lean towards the ones with Cherry Hill – she’s also written several great books.  I love watching RFD TV with all the horse shows but I get very put off by the Parelli’s of the training world who seem to market their videos for only $799 or such nonsense.  I’m sure they have great training information in them but there’s only so much you can learn from a video and investing that much money for one particular method limits you, in my opinion.  They all claim to be Natural Horsemanship Trainers but then again, I’ve seen one of those hit horses, so be leery of such a claim.  The general thinking, as I understand it, for natural training is to teach the horse to give to pressure.  Tying is a great example.  When you tie a horse he’s probably going to pull back and realize he can’t move which in some cases will result in a panic.  Once he learns that giving in to the pressure and walking a step forward releases that tight feeling, you’ve got a foundation.  Annoyance is another method.  When Silver would just walk right over me as we came out of the barn I got my crop and would lightly tap her chest while saying “back, back”.  She learned quickly that the annoying tap stopped when she stepped away – now every horse on our property is trained to back away like that.  Virtually every further step in training is based on that simple principal.  Watching Anne with the horses has been a wonderful experience and I just love the way she thinks and makes that principal work.

The other thing you’ll learn as you get into horses is that every horse is different and every owner as well so you’ll talk with 10 people and get 10 different opinions.  It’s just the name of the game and can be frustrating.  I prefer to get all 10 different opinions and then do my own research to see what makes the most sense to me, then try it out.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. 

So there you have it.  Once again I’ve been able to take a simple straightforward question and ramble on forever about it.  I tend to do that don’t I?

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