Contact Us

Use the form on the right to contact us.

           

123 Street Avenue, City Town, 99999

(123) 555-6789

email@address.com

 

You can set your address, phone number, email and site description in the settings tab.
Link to read me page with more information.

Blog

Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

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:

Read More

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”

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Looking Up from Down Under

Alayne Blickle

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Alayne

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness
—Mark Twain

 

I Am Who I Am Because of You

Alayne Blickle

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!

Alayne
 

Spring Pasture Tips: Let The Grazing Begin!

Alayne Blickle

Your neighbors enjoy their view of your place: horses frolicking on green fields and eating healthy forage from the pasture grass swaying in the breeze. You’re pleased too, because you know your pocketbook is benefiting from reduced hay bills. The environment is happy; abundant pasture plants are putting the nutrients from horse manure to good use, nutrients that might otherwise wash off your property and possibly cause contamination issues.

That’s your farm, right? Or, does your pasture resemble a weedy confinement area, one that turns into mud from the lightest rain?

Read More

Natural Pest Control with The Birds of Sweet Pepper Ranch

Alayne Blickle

I can’t help but feel reinvigorated every spring with the return of birds to Sweet Pepper Ranch, our horse motel in Nampa, Idaho. Actually, some birds, like western meadowlarks and robins are here all winter. We just don’t always notice them as much because we don’t see or hear them as we do in the spring, when they become more active entering breeding season and begin territorial calling.

I have been hearing the lovely meadowlark’s solitary call, watching them on fence posts as I ride in my outdoor arena. And as I ride I watch American kestrels check out the assortment of nest boxes on our property while hunting field mice.

Over the winter, in preparation for spring, we put up a couple of new nest boxes. The most exciting was for barn owls, which do a great job with rodent control. So much so that our county actually installs barn owl nest boxes on private property as a natural rodent control method.

Read More

Gimme Shelter: Pearl's Place

Alayne Blickle

Late last fall at our place, Sweet Pepper Ranch in Idaho, we began working on a new project.

We were fortunate enough to sell a nice horse that Matt had finished training who was ready for a new home. Pearl, or Parnelli’s Black Pearl, was a beautiful, true black mare with only a small white spot on her forehead and a BIG personality. That girl could untie a knot, ANY knot, in no time flat. She could and would open latches and stall doors, undo hoses (which were filling water troughs) and play with anything in her reach. She had a BIG personality and a lot of enthusiasm for life. Talented, beautiful, personable - and ready for a home where all that fit in place.

Read More

Providing Shelter for Your Horse

Alayne Blickle

Providing shelter for your horse can mean anything from a tree in a pasture to a nice, big barn. If you are in the market for a horse shelter, or would like to add one to your pasture, consider a horse’s basic requirements when reviewing design options.

Healthy horses can withstand cold temperatures, but when it’s windy as well, they can lose a considerable amount of body heat. This situation worsens when a horse is wet from rain or snow. Horses should be provided with a place where they can get out of extreme heat, driving rain and wind, and severe cold temperatures. This can be anything from a basic run-in shed to larger structure.

Read More

Message from Alayne: Mud on My Mind!

Alayne Blickle

Those of you who follow me on Facebook saw that I posted my annual Winter Solstice test on chore efficiency in mid-December. I have an admission: this year I flunked my winter solstice test. My place was NOT chore efficient on Winter Solstice. My horse’s paddocks were a muddy, mucky mess. About that time they were alternating between being frozen hard and not draining (which mean urine and snow melt were pooling on top and freezing - yuck!) or partially thawed out and muddy, making it difficult to pick up manure.

Read More

Is Mud Always on Your Mind?

Alayne Blickle

Footing choices are just one weapon in a horse owner’s arsenal of tools to combat and win the battle against mud and dust. To learn how to make sure that your footing investment is money well spent, and lasts you more than a few months, check out our tip sheet: Say Goodbye to Mud and Dust. Better yet, come see in person what others are doing to combat mud; consider attending one of the many upcoming workshops, tours and events listed above that are offered this spring from Horses for Clean Water and our partners!

Here's a 'reader's choice' list of footing materials, plus some advantages and disadvantages for each:

Read More

Message from Alayne: Equitation Science Meets Equine Welfare

Alayne Blickle

One of the bonuses of my job is the interesting, innovative new people I get to meet and learn from. One such person is Mariette van den Berg, BAppSc., MSc. (Equine Nutrition), RAnNutr, a registered equine nutritionist working on her PhD in equine nutrition and foraging behavior at the University of New England in Armidale, Australia. Originally I met Marietta in fall of 2012 when I was in Australia participating in a national conference on horses and land management. I was the keynote speaker sharing my American experiences in horse keeping. Marietta was at the same conference speaking on her current research with nutrition and pasture.

Read More