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CHERRY HILL'S HORSEKEEPING NEWSLETTER

June 2001

Your Horse Barn - DVD
Horsekeeping
on a Small Acreage
Horse Housing
  Stablekeeping
Your Horse Barn DVD
Horsekeeping On A Small Acreage
Horse Housing
Stablekeeping

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

What is Balance?

Weeds, Weeds, and More Weeds

Your Exercise Buddy

Zipper's Day

Grazing Pen

Ambidexterity

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WHAT IS BALANCE?

    You don't have to own a halter horse to appreciate a balanced horse.  Whether you are looking for a horse to buy or evaluating your current horse to understand why he moves the way he does, you are assessing balance.  

    When a judge examines your horse in a halter class, he or she is looking for balance. When your trainer or instructor says a particular horse is "balanced", what does it mean? Balance refers to the relationship between the forehand and hindquarters, between the limbs and the trunk of the body, and between the right and the left sides of the horse. A well-balanced horse has a better chance of moving efficiently with less stress.  To read more, go here.

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Weeds, Weeds, and More Weeds

     I've spent a number of hours on my tractor this month mowing the first crop of weeds that appeared in our pastures.  With a wetter than normal May EVERYTHING grew well and that included the weeds that had been dormant after last year's drought.  But our usual toxic culprits - wooly loco, larkspur and lupine are back along with many others I don't recognize. This is a good time to mow because the taller, broad-leafed weeds are taller than the grass so you can lop off their tops.  With certain weeds in our climate, that is enough to stop them for the summer.  Those that try to regrow will be mowed again later in the summer.  I am ever vigilant for weeds that look like they are going to seed.   

     In addition to the poisonous plants I mentioned above, I suspect there must be plants in my pastures that cause my horses to sometimes get a skin irritation in the fall.  To learn which plants might be causing this, I recently obtained a copy of A Guide to Plant Poisoning  of Animals in North America by Anthony P. Knight, BVSc, MS and Richard O. Walter, MA Botany.  This book on poisonous plants is different than the field guides I've seen before in that the material is organized by the
symptom that an animal is expressing.  That saves a lot of time.  You don't have to leaf through a hundred poisonous plants that aren't pertinent to your horse's situation. 

     Each chapter covers the weeds for a specific category of symptoms such as: mammary gland, kidney failure, digestive system, skin, reproductive failure, blood and so on. Each chapter includes
high quality color photos on glossy paper, maps showing plant occurrence, and charts organizing the groups of plants that give the scientific and common names.  For each weed group or specific weed, you'll read a description of the plant and its principal toxin, its habitat, clinical signs, treatment, post mortem findings.  There are references at the end of each chapter, a glossary, alphabetical weed list in the appendix, and an index.

     You can get more information about the book, see an excerpt and order it here


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Your Exercise Buddy

    I've read a number of articles recently that extol the virtues of having an exercise buddy to walk with, jog with, work weights with and more.  That's a good idea......and we horseowners are lucky - we have exercise buddies just waiting for us in the barn.  Here are some of the things we riders and horsekeepers can do with and for our horses that can give us a healthy work out:


Active riding in the arena or cross country.
Posting trot.
Ride standing in your stirrups.
Practice mounting.
Groom, groom, and groom using a soft rubber curry over every inch of your horse.
Bathe your horse.
Vacuum your horse.
Clean tack.
Stack hay, sacks of grain, or bags of bedding.
Sweep the barn aisle.
Clean pens and stalls twice a day.
Bend down and clean those hooves daily.
Conduct regular in-hand sessions at a brisk walk with some trotting, honing maneuvers
and mastering obstacles.

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Zipper's Day

     If you have more than one or two horses, you might find that certain horses get most of the work while others stand idle.  You might find that to keep all of your horses in shape (mentally and physically), you only have time to work each of them 45 minutes every day or so and never seem to get caught up or move ahead. 

     You might want to try giving each of your horses a private day as often as you can schedule it.  For that day, devote all your time to that horse exclusively.  Give him an extra special grooming, saddle him up and ride for an hour or so in the arena, working on specific form and maneuvers.  Don't forget to take the time to stop your horse and just sit still for a few minutes every now and then.  This breeds patience and gives both you and your horse a chance to collect your thoughts.

     After the arena work, loosen the cinch and tie him in a shady place for a hour or so.  After you freshen up his stall or pen and take a short break yourself, take him for a drink, tighten the cinch and mount up again but this time for a pasture, road, or trail ride - your goal is to cover distance and get your horse moving forward. 

     When you get back, give him a good rub down, do some extra grooming tasks like trimming the bridle path, fetlocks, ergots or chestnuts or conditioning his tail or mane.  Then give him a light hay snack and an hour or so off. 

     Then, halter him again and work on some in-hand exercises, either positioning, personal space, specific maneuvers, or obstacles.  You could also work on some simple longeing or long lining exercises, but those that focus on form rather than aerobic exercise. 

     After the ground work, turn him out for a short time for grazing or if that is not an option, just hold him on a long line and let him graze in-hand. 

     Then saddle him up once more for a short evening ride - this time your goal is just moseying.  If you give your horse this varied, individual attention for a whole day every couple of weeks, you'll see a tremendous benefit.  You will become partners!

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Grazing Pen

     I have a pen set up on our "front lawn" (do they have such a thing in the Colorado mountains?) which is comprised of 8 twelve foot panels and a gate.  In order to get my horses accustomed to green feed in the spring, I put them in the grazing pen for an increasing longer time every day. 

     I usually start them out with 10 minutes in the grazing pen although I know that some of my horses can go longer with no problem.  I increase by 5 minutes a day until by the end of 2 weeks, the horses can be out for an hour or more. 

     I keep a close eye on each horse for subtle signs of intestinal discomfort or hoof tenderness, both which can be signs of impending laminitis.  Here in the semi-arid Colorado foothills, we don't ever really have lush grass, not like we did back in Iowa, for example.  So the risk for laminitis is relatively low.  BUT, I still don't take any chances.  Having seen some real sad cases over the 17 years that Richard was a farrier, I urge you to really be careful with how long you let your horse be on pasture.  Watch your horse's weight carefully - an overweight horse is much more likely to founder.

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Ambidexterity

     After many hours at the keyboard and using a mouse, my right wrist and thumb are sore.  So much so, that for the last several weeks I've been wearing a wrist brace and taping my thumb to my index and middle fingers to keep me from using it.  What does this have to do with horses?  Well I never realized how many things I depend on my right hand for from haltering to grooming to leading, mounting, holding the reins, and mounting and dismounting.  So now I am greatly decreasing the amount of time I spend at the keyboard (like down to 2 hours per week) and I've moved my mouse to the left side of the keyboard.  Besides training a new mouse hand, I am trying to do many other things with my left hand. 

     As you know, I've always encouraged you to work you horse from both sides to be sure he is supple and confident being worked from both sides.  Well, I strongly suggest that you develop your own ambidexterity NOW before you need it!  Mount on the off side, hold your reins in the hand you normally don't use, sweep the barn aisle by holding the broom the opposite way you normally do.  At the house, brush your teeth and comb your hair with the opposite hand, pour milk, squeeze ketchup and eat spaghetti from the other side.  But hold off on slicing those bagels until you are truly ambidextrous!

That's it for this month.  Remember to take the time to enjoy your horse.  After all, that's the reason most of us got into horses in the first place! 

        Keep your mind in the middle and a leg on each side.

                                                      

 

" Riding: the art of keeping a horse between you and the ground."
                    -The London Times

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