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Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

Six Reasons Workshops and Farm Tours are Worth Attending

Alayne Blickle

Like many people these days you probably struggle to weave chores, work, riding and family time into your life's fabric, leaving leisure activities behind in the dust. This month, we're making a case for attending an equine class or event—why it can be worth the effort, and why so many people have thanked us after they made time to attend one.

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Looking to Make Your Horse Farm Profitable?

Alayne Blickle

Have you wondered if there’s something more you can do with your farm or small acreage, something innovative and fun, that might help with a little extra income? If so, then you might be interested in agritourism, ecotourism or geotourism, a key focus of a Horses for Clean Water event in early May in Snoqualmie, WA.

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Turn Average Pastures into Awesome Pastures

Alayne Blickle

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.

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Dealing with Ice in Horse Paddocks

Alayne Blickle

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.

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Mustang Magic

Alayne Blickle

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.

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Let it Snow! Tips for Keeping Your Horses Happy and Healthy this Winter

Alayne Blickle

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.

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Goodbye Flies! Nine Strategies to Keep your Horse from Getting Bugged

Alayne Blickle

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:

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July News: Bits and Tips for Summer

Alayne Blickle

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”

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Just Do It!

Alayne Blickle

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.

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When Horses Meet Cattle

Alayne Blickle

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.