Monday, June 29, 2015

Focus, fitness, and other F-words

I got to ride both ponies last weekend (Frosty on Friday evening and Speck on Sunday evening), and the theme of this weekends rides was pretty much the title of this post.

Frosty got ridden on the trails at Spring Valley park on Friday. In a rush to get to the park and have time to ride while there was still plenty of daylight I forgot my martingale and apparently my brain as well. I was spacey and unfocused, my riding was lackluster and her performance reflected that, including spooking at (apparently) nothing and refusing a small jump we have done several times before (she did fine on the second try). She still looks cute as hell with her mohawk though.

Speck and I traveled to the final Andrew's Bridge Hunt trail ride on Sunday evening. The weather was great, no bugs, perfect temperature and Speck did amazing, he even saw Amish buggies for the first time and didn't really mind! I, however, rode like absolute shit, which was evident in seeing pictures afterwards. I am disappointed in myself for not keeping up with my own fitness during the past year, my first full year in an office job. I have zero core strength or endurance, I am essentially a marshmallow. I think the best shape I have ever been in was during undergrad when I was riding 1 or more horses 3 times a week plus taking yoga classes which I loved and really improved my riding as well. I had to share this picture of Speck because I think it is such a cool shot of his gait. My position in the photo was a definite NOPE.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Coat color fun!

"A good horse is never a bad color"

The reason I titled my blog "Trail horses of a different color" is because I am lucky to have four horses in my life that are good horses and have great coloring. I love horses with unique markings and interesting coloration, so I thought I would share the four horses on my blog today!

Speck (grey paint): 

Photo by Kit Abeldt 
Speck is SO unique, many people think he is just grey but when you look closely he is actually a paint. He has black skin under the darker grey and pink skin under the white areas. He also has four white stockings and a black streak in his mane. His color shows up more in the summer when he has a shorter coat and is most obvious when he is wet and you can see the color of his skin through his coat (I need to take a picture of this). I have seen very few horses with Speck's coloration, he really is one of a kind!

Frosty (bay roan):

Frosty is a bay roan, and one of the nicest examples of this coat color I have seen. She has lots of white "ticking" over her back and sides and a nice bold bay color everywhere else. Her roan pattern really shows up when she has her winter coat. She has a steel grey mane and her tail is white at the top with white streaks throughout. She has four white socks and a small star. 

Winchester "Winnie" (grey) and Dakota Dude "Nuppy"(bay): 

Photo by Gifford Studios

These two are John's horses and are PMU babies out of South Dakota. Winnie is a rose grey, he was a buckskin when brought home as a baby and has turned grey over the years, he is actually even a bit lighter now than in these photos! Nuppy is a bay with a narrow stripe and 2 white hind socks.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

My basic horse feeding plan

Some of the best advice I have heard on feeding horses comes from one of the mills I worked with in Lancaster county:

"Feeding your horse can be like driving through Lancaster County; there are many different ways to get to the same place and many different ways to get lost."-RH Rohrer

This post is about what I feed my individual horses, I'm not trying to say that this is right for your horse or that it is what you should be doing, just sharing what has been working for me.

1. Fresh water always, no matter what
The most important (and sometimes overlooked) nutrient for horses is water, they can't survive without it! My rule for water troughs is that if I wouldn't drink it they probably won't either. If water is scummy, warm, etc. it gets changed. I only fill my troughs (100 gallons) about 1/4 or so full in the Summer so it is easy to dump water every few days to keep it fresh. If the tank gets green I scrub and rinse with a small amount of bleach. I use stock tank heaters in the winter to keep the tanks from freezing and horses drinking.

2. Forage first
The pasture my horses are in is crap (will probably do a post about this later) so they got hay year round this year. My horses do better on good quality forage than on any grain or supplement out there. Right now they are getting some (not so good) pasture and our own meadow grass hay.
This is a great link for easy to use advice on pasture and forage for horses: PSU pasture and hay for horses.

3. Balancer and salt
If my horses are on good quality pasture they don't get any supplemental fortified grain. However, stored forage sources (hay) can be low in certain nutrients, particularly vitamins A, D, and E which are abundant in fresh pasture. Since my horses are fairly easy keepers I don't feel the need to keep them on a full fortified grain ration but still want to provide some supplemental nutrition which is why I chose a ration balancer. A ration balancer is designed to be fed at a low feed rate and provide protein, vitamins, and minerals without adding a lot of calories to the diet. I feed by the directions on the bag and weigh my feed with a small kitchen scale for accuracy. My horses also have 24/7 access to a plain white salt block which they particularly enjoy in the summer.

And that's it! The take home message from me here is that high quality forage is the cornerstone of a healthy diet for horses. I don't use any additional supplements for joints, calming etc. because I have not seen convincing peer reviewed research that these products would benefit my horses. I work in the animal feed industry so my education and work experience up to this point is the basis for the decisions I have made for feeding my horses.

Ponies on pasture last year

Monday, June 22, 2015

Last week horse things

I did not get a whole lot done on the farm or with the horses last week. It stormed pretty much every night and some of the equipment is needing repair. We are awaiting several days with dry enough weather for first cutting hay...this does not appear to be that week based on the forecast. 
Here is a quick catch up/rundown of what was going on in no particular order: 

Farm projects:
Got quote to put in more fence in reclaimed pasture area cleared by John and his friend Buddy Young
Sprayed *some* weeds in reclaimed area, this area has not been used for pasture in who knows how long...maybe never? 
Planted some grass/red clover seed 

Horse projects
Frosty got ridden at Spring Valley park
Speck and Frosty both got baths (Speck got bathed twice since he laid in poop)
Picked up one of those slow feed hay bags...we will see, the last one I tried Speck just chewed through the mesh so he could grab big chunks of hay like before 
John's horse got his mane roached  
Worked overnight shift on foal watch at Nandi Farm
Worked morning shift at Shady Dell Stables 

 Highlight of the week/weekend was taking Speck to the Andrew's Bridge hunt trail ride at Fair Hill, I grew up riding in this country and had not been back in ages. It was a long drive but totally worth it (especially since I wasn't driving). Speck did fantastic and it was a beautiful day. 

Photo credit-Andrew's Bridge Foxhounds

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Horses and working full time *summer edition*

I have horses at home and I work a full time job, plus some part time hours on the weekends to keep things interesting.

It's summer so the horse's routine is pretty simple. If it is very warm and the flies are out my horses come in in the morning and have hay and water set up in their stalls from the night before, if they are staying out I put their fly masks on for the day. John's horses get a few flakes of hay in their field and I check water before I leave for work. When I get home I feed grain and hay and turn my horses out if they are in. I clean stalls or the run in shed and set up stalls for the next day if needed I also check and fill water. Then there are usually extra chores such as weed whacking, mowing, or spraying weeds, or things to do in the house. If I am lucky I get time to groom my horses, if I am really lucky (and motivated) I get to ride.

Yesterday was one of those days when I was both lucky and motivated. The weather was excellent so John and I were able to enjoy a weekday ride at Spring Valley Park. I rode Speck, he did great and was super calm. He enjoyed some grazing along the trail and a drink from the creek. We even met some friendly and courteous cyclists (if only there were more like them!)

Sunset on the trail

My riding and horse goals have changed a lot over the past year with the horses moving home. From actively competing, then doing some training for others in college, to foxhunting and frequent trail rides. My goals for the horses now include providing the best care for them that I can and continuing to improve their environment. Even though I do ride a little less now than when I was boarding I feel I appreciate and enjoy my rides more. I also have learned to value simply spending time with my horses in the form of grooming or bathing or just getting to watch them eat for a few minutes in the morning or evening.

I just love his ears!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Monday, June 8, 2015

Property transformation so far (w/ pictures!)

When we moved to the farm John knew what we were getting into, I did not. 

What we were getting into was a lot of this: 

 And some of this:

Many bonfires consisting of multiple piles of trees and brush, A LOT of diesel fuel, and several replaced hydraulic hoses later, the property looks completely different. Although there is still work to do I think the farm has made an amazing transformation! 

Before and Afters: (all before pictures from property listing) 

Banks in front of house had various trees and plants removed and dirt added to improve grade. Note adorable ponies in the "after" picture. 

Area around house was cleared to let in more light

Overall view of buildings from large pasture, now much brighter and more open!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Ticks on horses *FYI-this is gross*

I really hate this subject and think ticks are the ABSOLUTE WORST but I also think it's important to share some of the things I have done to (somewhat) successfully combat this problem.

We live in SE Pennsylvania and our horse pastures border the woods, so ticks are a given and I got really sick of constantly finding them on my horses (and myself). Here are some of the things I did:

1. Remove trees and brush-If it hasn't been obvious from previous posts our property was very overgrown when we first got it. An important way to reduce ticks is to reduce tick habitat, this involved the removal of trees, brush, and hedgerows in and around the pastures.

2.Create a 10' buffer zone- It was not possible to remove all the trees and plants around the pastures, so the next step was to create a 10 foot area between any remaining sections of woods or brush and pasture edges. I maintain these 'buffer' areas by weed whacking (a lot) or mowing to keep the vegetation height down and tick habitat to a minimum.

3. Clean up!-Piles of dead leaves, branches, firewood, etc. are all great tick habitat. We store all firewood far away from the horse pastures and areas frequented by us or the dogs.

4. Spray- I spray the edges of brush/tree areas with an insecticide labeled for killing ticks on grass/trees. I also spray my horses with an oil-based fly spray labeled to repel ticks. The oil based sprays stick to the hair better and last longer than water based repellents. If you are using a fly spray concentrate be sure to check the label and mix at the dilution recommended for ticks (it is sometimes stronger than the dilution for repelling flies only). **Always read the label directions for insecticides/repellents you are spraying**
5. Check horses often-I check my horses daily in the evening. the most common places I seem to find ticks are: under the chin, in/under the mane, the tailhead, and between the front legs (these are also the areas I focus on when applying repellent). If you find a tick on your horse don't freak out...just grasp it firmly near the head and pull it off...then you can light it on fire! and continue checking. 

So there you have it, my tips for battling ticks on horses. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Tack and equipment list

I love tack and equipment for my horses...I saw a similar list on another horse blog ( and wanted to make my own. Plus I am thinking about doing some reviews in the future so may use this list to keep track of things I want to review.

Saddle Speck-Dixieland gaited saddle, Frosty- Stubben 

Bridle Speck-Winner's Circle walking horse bridle, Frosty-Bartville Harness
Bits - Speck- Happy Mouth mullen kimberwick, Frosty- JP curved full cheek

Pads – Wilker's or Tokalt
Half Pad – Thinline
Breastplate Speck-Australian Stock Saddle Co. 3 point, Frosty-Perfect Sit of Sweden 3 point w/ running attachment
Girth Speck-Professional's Choice, Frosty-Lettia CoolMax
Stirrups Speck- Trail stirrups, Frosty-Compositi (pink!)

Stirrup leathersSpeck's Saddle-Dixieland trooper fenders, Frosty's saddle-Bartville Harness
Boots – Equi-fit T boots
Blankets – Horseware or Jeffer's Equine

Coolers – Weatherbeeta fleece
Halters – SmartPak brand with nameplates 
Grooming supplies – I have a lot of random ones but I like the Oster stuff
Clippers – I hate clipping...I have an older set of Osters for touch-ups and bridle paths
Helmet – Charles Owen
Breeches – Irideon, Kerrits, but prefer jeans!
Coat – Mountain Horse
Shirts – Irideon, Joules
Boots – Ariat and Mountain Horse
Gloves – I don't usually wear them but I have Heritage

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Dairy month!!

June is dairy month so be sure to enjoy some delicious dairy products this month and thank a dairy farmer!  
I am so proud to be a part of the dairy industry. The farmers I work with are some of the most hardworking and resourceful people I have ever met, they go the extra mile everyday to care for their animals and provide a quality product for consumers.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Grow where you're planted

The 1 year anniversary of making settlement on the farm is rapidly approaching (June 13). The first few weeks were a whirlwind of activity (mostly on John’s part) as we got fence installed and ready to bring our horses home.

Summer passed quickly and our goals for the property began to take shape. We received some old photos of the farm which gave some guidance on how we wanted it to look.  During Fall we converted the barn back over to horse stalls and the feeling of  home grew stronger. 

Winter was a lot of trial and error on caring for the animals and trying not to freeze or get stuck in our own driveway, but it was ok…because we have a backhoe…and also a tractor…and a skid steer.

Now as Spring draws to a close and Summer is starting once again it feels good to look back on all we have accomplished with our barn and our land (ok, the pastures are still a “work in progress"…but whatever). It is easy to forget all you have done when so much still lies ahead but I think it is important to look back and feel proud about previous accomplishments instead of only focusing on “what’s next”.  

The most important thing I learned from this property in the past year is that home is not so much a place as a state of mind, something you create for yourself and those you love. That’s what we are doing, making what we want out of what we have for ourselves, each other, and the animals that make our lives whole.

At the end of the day, we all have to play the hands we are dealt, and my hand, so far, has been a pretty damn "lucky draw".