By dividing a pasture into smaller portions and rotating livestock through each section, you encourage even grazing and keep plants from becoming overgrazed. This technique guarantees fresh forage for a longer period of time during the growing season, saving you money on feed bills, and keeping your horses happily grazing.Read More
Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997
In January, I mentioned I was going to send a hair sample from Stellar, the mustang I adopted, for DNA testing, and I did. Well, I received a surprise - the cavalry has arrived!Read More
Boot-sucking goo makes chores a pain and can make horses' lives miserable as well, setting up conditions for serious health issues along with a dust bath for you every time you brush your horse.
Here’s four combat tactics you can do right now:
Dealing with snow and ice on horse properties is worrisome, especially if you have older horses, horses shod all the way around, or reining horses with slide plates – of which we have some in each category. The other complicating issue is accomplishing chores while skating around with a manure cart in tow. Or picking up frozen-to-the-ground manure. Even things like getting the farrier’s truck in or negotiating a hay delivery is a production in a winter like this with all thick ice everywhere.Read More
If wintery weather is keeping you indoors, maybe instead of riding and horse’n around we can talk horses instead! One of my favorite horse topics is MUSTANGS. Last fall I introduced you to Stellar, my Mustang that I started on my own over the summer and fall. I thought you all might like hearing a bit more about two other Mustangs in our lives: JoDee and Stevie.
Winter weather can create wildly varied scenarios, some of which leave you with more work than you can possibly handle. Save moving, there are some ‘weather fixes’ that can help keep wind and snow at bay and make life more comfortable for you and your animals, as well as make your farm more productive.Read More
Winter Solstice this year is Wednesday, December 21, and being an outdoors girl, I am not keen on the cold and dark leading up to it. But I can’t wait for the brighter days afterwards. Perhaps you feel the same way? With the Holidays around the corner and the elections behind us, ‘tis the season to ponder our wants and needs.
Exercise is always a challenge during the winter. Just having a good place for horses to roll (snow, an indoor arena, a round pen, a soft paddock) can help. Rolling alleviates boredom, relieves tension, is a social behavior, and can stretch and align the muscles of a horse's back and hindquarters.Read More
At Sweet Pepper Ranch, that’s what we’re doing: building an indoor arena. While it’s very exciting, the ‘go-ahead’ decision was not something we took lightly. It required a lot of penciling out and some tough decision making.
Fall is a great time for planning ahead for projects and events. Whether you are purchasing your dream horse property or are putting on a large land management conference, we're here to help.
I have a story to share with you if you’ve not already been following it on my Facebook site. It’s about me and a horse, a Mustang to be specific, who picked me out of a crowd. And it’s about how YOU helped me bring her home!Read More
Horses can expend a tremendous amount of energy stomping and swishing at irritating pests that can harbor disease, cause eye infections and inflict painful bites. Since our domestic horses can't roam and escape insects like their wild counterparts, here’s a few strategies to help keep them fly-free and happier this summer:Read More
At the Xerces workshops in June, I noted two big things that we horse owners can do to help out with the world-wide pollinator decline:
Traveling with Your Horse?
Check out our blog on horse lodging resources, and if you’re
in the Nampa/Boise ID area, come visit us at Sweet Pepper Ranch!
Plus: West Nile Virus Update, Trying to beat those weeds?, Why Wildlife Don’t Usually Need “Rescuing”Read More
Here are some facts Abbe shared about the use of plastics in our modern world:
- In the US alone we consume plastic bags at the rate of 60,000 every 5 seconds.
- Plastic bags never go away, they photo-degrade into tiny particles, which get integrated into many, if not all, aspects of the ecosystem.
- On average, one person uses 500 plastic bags a year.
- We use 12 million barrels of oil annually to produce plastic bags, which is enough oil to fuel almost 1 million cars for a whole year.
The way I see it, we have three choices from this reality: be overwhelmed and stymied by these depressing facts, do denial, or get busy. I am voting for the fact that most HCW readers will vote to get busy and do what they can, plus help by spreading the word about single-use plastics.
Rotational grazing is key to keeping your pastures productive and your horses happily munching away through the dry summer months. And it’s pretty easy to do, with a little planning and the right tools.Read More
Pasture management. I think it’s one of the hardest things for horse owners to get their minds around. It doesn’t matter where I go—Idaho, Washington State, Australia—I think it’s the number one question horse owners have.Read More
It’s gratifying when our readers share their stories. What’s working on their farm? What are their goals? What tidbits have they learned along the way and what issues are they currently facing? Hearing their stories can be a great way to view our own experiences, both our successes and our failures. Sometimes from a different vantage point we can assimilate fresh ideas to help out on the farm.
This month we travel to Urban Cattle in Thurston County, Washington, a farm whose owner has been attending Horses for Clean Water classes and tours for over ten years now. Here’s what she shared with us:
HCW: Can you tell us why you initially set up your farm, and what your current objective is?
This farm has served to recharge me from a demanding career. I work to raise seed stock Herefords cattle that pose desirable genetic traits that can be measured by DNA testing and expected progeny difference (EPD’s), which is based on ancestry. It is fun to choose from the array of Hereford bulls with leading genetics and then see how the offspring turn out.
HCW: What new skills have you enjoyed learning?
Working to be a good steward of the land and my animals has taught me a lot, from carpentry skills and rumen function to dung beetles and birthing calves. Horses for Clean Water got me launched into best practices with their great practical information, especially dealing with the rain and manure issues that come with raising livestock in the Pacific Northwest.
HCW: Can you tell us some of the improvements you’ve made that have helped you manage your cattle and your land?
I have implemented a number of practices. One of the main improvements has been constructing a winter confinement area that is free of mud. Manure is collected daily; I have also constructed a manure composting building that is conveniently located nearby it for chore efficiency. For the composting system, I pipe forced air into the bins and occasionally turn it with the tractor to augment the rate of decomposition. In addition, I use a lightweight rototiller to break the drier, composting manure into smaller pieces to further speed the process. Often I have paid people who have done some small job for me with organic compost at their request.
Another improvement is that I now utilize both pasture rotation and strip grazing via portable electric poly wire fencing and step-in posts. By setting the electrically charged wires high, the calves can pass underneath and graze the best grasses, with the cows to follow when the fence line is moved. Most cattle people will tell you, they are really grass farmers.
Additionally I add nutrients to my pastures as needed, and it seems that liming is always necessary for my soil type. Dung beetles break up the manure enough such that I have not used my harrow for a few years now. I stay away from worming medication and fly control methods that could hurt the dung beetles.
Flies are controlled with wasp predators and Rescue® brand fly attractant bag traps. I also use a fly spray for the horn flies - different types of flies are killed or trapped by different methods. No one method kills all species.
I have enhanced the property for wildlife by providing plants, water sources and shelter for a variety of animals. A progression of native pollinator plants have been planted and provide nectar and pollen for bees, from when they first emerge all the way through fall. I have purchased plants at Conservation District and Native Plant Society sales.
Also, I have installed about a dozen bird houses that are usually inhabited by tree swallows. Snakes have rock warming areas and the rough skin newts have logs and other woody debris in the forest to utilize. The list goes on - this year I am going to try a moist mineral container for butterflies.
HCW: Any last comments or achievements you’d like to share with our readers?
Realize that making your place the best it can be is a process that takes time. As much as we want it to happen overnight it doesn’t, but there are benefits to going slower. I think you will make a better choice on your upgrades when you have the time to think them through. Attend farm tours so you can get ideas about what might work for you. I encourage everyone to get the infrastructure done first before purchasing your animals. Then when you have the animals you will have more time to enjoy them.
Recently I have been awarded a Pollinator Habitat Enhancement Grant from The Natural Resources Conservation Service, part of the US Department of Agriculture. I would recommend and encourage others to check out this program.
You can read more about Urban Cattle in our photo corral.
My friend Denise Harris of Triple J Ranch in Issaquah, WA made an interesting proposal to me earlier this spring. She said she and others are interested in Horses for Clean Water offering trips to other countries, kind of like taking horse farm tours to another level. Since I always like to hear my audience’s ideas and perspectives on things, I listened to her suggestion and have been pondering it.
As some of you may know, earlier this month I was in Australia for three weeks. I was fortunate enough to be there for work; I taught classes for two different natural resource organizations, one in New South Wales and the other in Victoria. Thanks to the combined efforts of many, many friends who took care of our place while we were gone, Matt was even able to come with me - and he actually taught a Ranch Riding clinic there too.
Anytime I teach, but particularly in another country, it's an opportunity to learn new things, either about the world around us or how we can become better horse keepers. In many ways, Australia is ahead of us as far as its care for the environment; they almost have to be, as they are really at the forefront of climate change.
Australia is a country the size of the United States, with a population the size of California. The majority of the country gets very scarce rainfall so fresh water is precious and they are aware of conserving natural resources. It is a very outdoorsy, wild place with unique animals and plants - and such wonderful people. I was told by several Australians that Australia is referred to as “Horse-stralia,” in reference to how horsey the country is. It is fun to visit a country that is noticeably interested in, and in tune with, horses.
While I was there I kept Denise Harris's idea in mind and began researching it, thinking that Horse-stralia might be a good first tour for a Horses for Clean Water International Adventure. Brainstorming with my Aussie counterparts Down Under, we came up with these ideas:
Horses for Clean Water International Adventures, farm tour extravaganza ideas:
- Victoria Horse Tour – discover the horse industry in and around Melbourne, Australia. This tour would include attending the famous Melbourne Cup thoroughbred race held in October, which is spring in the southern hemisphere. Some of the sights and horse place we could possibly see would include members of the Australian horse industry and colleges or universities with equine science programs. Then we would visit on-the ground horse properties: boarding facilities (called agistments in Australia), training facilities and others.
- Tasmania Tour – Would you like to see a Tasmanian Devil in person? Visit some amazing horse properties, tour the Healthy Horse Healthy Land Expo held each year in April, and see the rugged wilderness of this Australian island state.
- New Zealand Tour - New Zealand’s sheep industry is where our American methods for rotational grazing were derived from. Meet some sensational, talented young horsewomen who have become rock stars in New Zealand and learn about New Zealand’s wild horse population.
- Kangaroo Island and South Australia - take a ferry ride to visit a remote island off the south of Australia to see amazing wildlife, as well as island horse life. Visit several large horse operations there. Return to Adelaide to tour Australia’s wine region and learn about Horses SA, a vibrant and innovative horse organization which is changing the way Australian horse owners think about horse keeping.
Let me know your thoughts! I would love to hear whether this would be something you'd be interested in, or if you have other suggestions or ideas on how to formulate such adventures. In the meantime happy spring - I am sure we're all looking forward to going full swing into our horsey-season ahead!
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness—Mark Twain
If Horses for Clean Water has achieved anything it's because of you. I am reminded of this constantly in so many ways and so many things that I do with my life. I am grateful for all of you who attend my classes, for how you have shaped HCW and therefore me and my life. I don't think there's a day that goes by when I don't reflect with joy and appreciation on some aspect of one of you in one of my classes. I think about your horse keeping learning journeys, what you've accomplished, what you've created with materials given to you, your adventures you’ve shared with me and different ways you’ve protected the Earth around you...it's been brilliant.
I’ve decided I want to share you with all of you. Starting next month I am going to feature occasional interviews with different horse owners I have worked with over the years who’ve influenced Horses for Clean Water in some way. I am excited to share your stories.
And while I am feeling nostalgic, I also want to acknowledge and thank two of the very first to people who shaped Horses for Clean Water: Susie Kalhorn and Claire Dyckman. These two environmental education co-workers carefully and kindly sat with me for hours helping me write my first grant back in 1997, which eventually funded Horses for Clean Water and helped jump start HCW down the path that it’s still on today. I thank them both silently each day for the career I enjoy so much, the one I enjoy sharing with all of you.
On another note: Next month will be an exciting one. I am traveling (once again!) to the fascinating Land Down Under to be a speaker at a national conference on horse keeping and sustainability. I look forward to sharing with you when I return!