Today's Quote

“If people let government decide what foods they eat and what medicines they take, their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.” Thomas Jefferson

Monday, June 17, 2013

Economical Horse Keeping

So you now have your horse and you want to make sure that this very large animal doesn't break the bank. Horses can be an expensive hobby and an even more expensive livelihood. But we are talking about the general pleasure horse, not a career in horses. Horses can be kept relatively economically. Here are my tips on inexpensive horse keeping. First a horse doesn't need a 5 star barn with all the bells and whistles. Yes, we all want one of those barns but in most climates they aren't really necessary. A three sided run in will do in many climates, but if you have harsh winters you might want to add a fourth side with a doorway to provide more shelter from the wind. Horses tolerate cold very well, but wind will kill a horse. Provide shelter from the winter wind and the horse is good. A three sided shelter will also protect against thunderstorms. Second is food. You will spend more on a good feeding program than you do anything else, but if you spend less then you Then you will spend more in vet, farrier and other costs to compensate for the poor health of your horses. Buy a good quality feed. It doesn't have to be a top of the line feed, but it does have to be a good quality. You feed less of it and your horses receive better nutrition so stay in better shape. I have gone the route of buying the cheapest feed available and believe me you will pay for it in the long run because the health of your horse will decline and you will find yourself with underweight unthrifty horses that need lots of supplements and vet care. Spend some time looking at feed tags. Buy the best quality hay you can find. It doesn't have to be a high protein hay like alfalfa, but a good quality grass hay. If it is real stemmy the horses will waste a lot of it. If it is poor quality or been stored for a long time then they will get nothing from it other than roughage. Many horses can be kept on just good hay and pasture without extra feed if the quality is good. Pastures should be kept and maintained. Spend the money to have it bushhogged a couple times a year (or use your own tractor). Overseed for extra forage. I like to overseed in the late summer with annual rye grass as it will grow most of the winter in our climate providing much needed nutrition. Fertilize your pasture at least once a year preferably twice. We fertilize with compost and it has improved our pastures tremendously. Rotate pastures so that they are not grazed below 3". If you don't have enough room to rotate properly (every couple days depending on the size of the pasture) then consider adding a dry lot around the barn to rotate into and just feed hay in the drylot. Next, learn how to take care of minor vet care yourself. Vaccines are easy to get and to give and will cost you much less in the long run. If I paid my vet to come out and do vaccines it would cost me roughly 120.00. Yet I can do it myself for about 20.00. For the farrier, keep your horses barefoot if at all possible. Learn how to take of minor sprains, scratches, and other issues instead of calling the vet out for every little bump and scrape. A good place to start is to learn what you can from your vet and to ready a good horse health book. Barefoot horses built tougher and better hooves anyway and unless they are working on heavy rocky trails or in heavy work or sport then they there is really no need for shoes. A healthy horse has healthy hooves, poor hooves are a sign that your horse is missing something or has always worn shoes. When I was eventing we would pull shoes for the down season when the horses were allowed to just be horses. At first their hooves were fragile but by the end of the season when it was time to shoe them again the farrier was cussing because their hooves were so hard and strong. A trim job is much cheaper than a shoe job every 8 weeks. And lastly, take care of your equipment. Tack is expensive and not cheap to replace. If you take care of it, it will last for a good long time. I didn't heed my own advice and since I wasn't using it I didn't think about my tack. I recently threw out every girth I had and some other tack that had dry-rotted and weakened by being neglected. It hurt to throw all that away even though most of it I have had for years I still remember how hard it was to pay for it and how much money just went in the garbage. It hurt believe me it hurt. I know there are many things on this list that are causing you to think that you are spending more money than you should, but in the long run believe me it will be worth it. Blessings, Kat

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