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Blog

Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

Filtering by Category: confinement innovations

Tip of the Month: Pee Spots and Mud Management in Paddocks

Alayne Blickle

Recently, we have tried different options to deal with areas in one particular paddock that have gotten really soupy. We’ve used all the usual techniques for dealing with mud: daily manure management, gravel footing, diverting rainwater, etc. Yet the soupy messes remained. 

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Gates Make for Better Chore Efficiency

Alayne Blickle

Gates are a farm or ranch girl’s analogy for options. When you live on a horse property you almost can’t have too many gates, as they end up making so many things in horse property management that much simpler. When I am on the road doing consultations, one of the first assessments I make is to look at gates. Here are some of my basic considerations for gate access on any horse property:

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Prepare Now for a Chore Efficient Winter  

Alayne Blickle

For a horse person it’s hard to get excited about winter unless you are ready and set up for a chore-efficient season for you and your horse. As it is with almost everything, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are a few key tips for things you can do now to help ease you through those tough times ahead when you least want to deal with winter’s little (and big) surprises. 

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Summertime Fun

Alayne Blickle

Horses for Clean Water has many wonderful educational opportunities available throughout the Pacific Northwest this summer and fall. I hope you’ll plan to come join in on the fun, learning, and horse’n around! 

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Rotational Grazing on Spring Pastures

Alayne Blickle

Horses are picky eaters: they like to eat the short grass because it is sweeter and more tender than the tall grass. If horses keep returning to the short grass and eating it down to the ground, the grass will eventually die out. Rotational grazing is one technique you can use to keep your horses from overgrazing.  Here’s how you can implement a rotational grazing system in your own pastures.

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Online Workshops Help Prepare Horse Owners for a Chore-Efficient, Fun Summer Ahead!

Alayne Blickle

We just had a great online class series, Horses and Land Management, during the month of January that was well received—and fun! During February, and again in May, we are offering a few more online workshops, this time covering specific topics, such as: building a small scale trail course, the least toxic ways to keep pests at bay, equine enrichment using track paddocks & slow feeders, and more ...

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Last Call For Winter Chore Efficiency

Alayne Blickle

On a horse property, winter can mean different things for us horse owners: less riding, difficulty doing daily chores, perhaps more indoor time to clean tack or plan for special outdoor projects next summer. In a year like the last, it can also mean record mud to deal with during spring break-up (the time-period in between winter and early spring, when things begin to thaw).  

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Managing the Mud

Alayne Blickle

Trying to create an enriched confinement area for your horse is frustrating when battling mud issues. Mud is nobody’s friend; it creates an unhealthy environment for horses by harboring bacteria, fungal organisms and other pathogens that cause abscesses, scratches, rain scald and thrush. Plus it’s a breeding ground for annoying, disease-carrying insects such as filth flies and mosquitoes.

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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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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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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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