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Providing winning solutions for horse management and the environment since 1997

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.

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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: 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.

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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:

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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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Horses Get Winter Blues Too

Alayne Blickle

Yes, the weather can be frightful as increasing darkness and cold temperatures descend upon many of us around the country. We thought this might be a good time to revisit some of the different ways that you and your horses can beat the winter blues, before boredom (and possibly vices) take hold.

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Take Winter by Storm: A Checklist for November

Alayne Blickle

Review your horse health routine with your veterinarian. Good dental care, a vaccination program and regular parasite control are important components of a regular horse care routine, but with the start of cold weather when your horse may have trouble maintaining body weight or condition, they are even more important.

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A New Job!

Alayne Blickle

I'd like to share something new I've taken on that I hope will benefit both you and Horses for Clean Water; I recently accepted a position as a regular contributing writer for The Horse magazine. I am very excited about this association as this is a reputable and prestigious publication with a lot of great resource and educational material for horse owners.

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Conserving Water On Your Farm

Alayne Blickle

Boy, it’s dry! If you live in the Western US, you are most likely looking at ways to help curb your water usage. Maybe you’ve had a well run dry, or are on restricted water use, or are worried about resources for fire season. In any case, conserving our precious drinking water is always a good idea, whether you live in a drought stricken area or not. Below is a look at some ideas to help conserve water on your farm.

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Three Steps to Being Firewise

Alayne Blickle

It’s easy to think fires only happen to other people, but unfortunately, this kind of thinking can lead to tragic consequences.

When horses or livestock are involved in a fire event, action needs to be taken quickly to save the lives of animals and to reduce property damage.

Being proactive is the safest firewise plan; late evacuation, or waiting until emergency responders can get to you is often a deadly choice. Once fire is close, visibility may be poor and travel hazardous. Fallen trees, power lines, abandoned cars and firefighting vehicles can easily block roads. Even quiet horses may panic in a trailer filled with smoke or surrounded by sirens.

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Message from Alayne: Have Horse, Will Travel

Alayne Blickle

It’s July and summertime is in full swing – yay! That means vacations and horse shows among other fun things.

If your plans include traveling with horses this summer, be sure to keep Sweet Pepper Ranch in mind. For those of you who don’t know, we have a guest ranch and horse motel in Nampa, which is in Southwestern Idaho: http://www.sweetpepperranch.com/

For ten years we were among the many who: 'had horse, will travel.' We went to shows and on vacations with our horses, traveling from Puget Sound, WA to Scottsdale, AZ; Kalispell, MT; Las Vegas, NV; and points in-between. It was always a concern where to stay.

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Message from Alayne: It’s What I Do…

Alayne Blickle

Every month I am lucky enough to talk and work with horse people from all over the country – all over the world, actually. I love what I do, and I am grateful for the cool horse people I get to work with. Take Katie and Dan Gillis who recently purchased 40 acres of land which includes a barn and alfalfa field in nearby Kuna, ID.

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Picture Perfect Pastures

Alayne Blickle

Do you crave the satisfaction of seeing your horses frolic and graze on lush, green pastures?

May is an optimum growing month around North America, especially for grasses. A quick assessment of your pastures now can ensure they are healthy, productive and beautiful throughout summer and fall.

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Creating a Sacrifice Area for Your Horse

Alayne Blickle

Probably the most important aspect of managing pastures is the time when you take your horses off your pasture. You can greatly improve the health and productivity of your pasture plants by creating and using a paddock, or “sacrifice area” to confine your horses for when pasture plants need to grow. A sacrifice area becomes your horses outdoor living space when they aren’t on the pasture. Here are a few tips on creating a sacrifice area:

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Spring Cleaning Tips

Alayne Blickle

Getting Ready for the Busy Season Ahead

Spring is just around the corner, in some parts of the country daffodils are poking their heads up and may even be blooming. That means now is the time to get things done around your horse property so you will be ready for the upcoming growing season. Here are a few tips to get you started:

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Climate Change and Horse Keeping : Managing the Uncertainty

Alayne Blickle

A little more than a year ago I was invited to travel to Australia to be the keynote speaker at a conference on horses and land management. One of the other speakers at that event presented material that changed some of my thinking on horse care. His presentation was on the link between climate change and infectious disease risk for horses. Dr. Gary Muscatello, a microbiologist and faculty at the University of Sydney Veterinary Science Department, was the presenter. Let me summarize key points from his presentation.

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