Composting at the Barn

While you might think of the topic of composting at the barn to be a bit stinky, it’s actually a  a pretty sweet deal for the environment. Not only is Composting something that you can do to help create a “greener” environment, but you can also save some serious money by not paying to have your manure hauled away (That means more treats for me, right?!). And, let’s face it, your veggie growing neighbors and friends will be lining up down the yard to take your horse poo off your hands (pretty sweet deal!).

So here lies the million dollar question, how can you get started?

You need to start with a good location:  High ground is best, but just make sure that when it rains your your pile is not sitting in a puddle of water.  You also need to figure out how you are going to contain the compost; you can use piles but many people find that bins works better and are easier to turn. But piles work just fine if you can manage the width – if the compost piles of manure get so wide and thin, they won’t compost as much as just dry out.

Consider having a few composting sections going at once: You can have a place for fresh manure, composting manure, and compost that is ready to go.  That means that you can continue filling a section as you let the other piles or bins “do their thing.” Cover your piles, but still let it remain aerated (read this: DON’T let the cover be air tight).

Make sure that you keep those piles moving! Turning the piles can be done a few ways, you can stir it by hand (ok, ok, not really by hand… let’s say by SHOVEL) or use the tractor.

Don’t think that your compost pile is just for manure! Its totally cool to throw in some egg shells, coffee grounds, banana peels, whatever you can think of! Just no meat, oils, or yummy horse treats and you’ll be all set! -The point of doing all of this (turning weekly, keeping damp, covering the compost) is to create that great environment for all of the microbes to eat the organic matter and break it down.  This creates the heat, and the really nice fertilizer in the end.

I want to hear your “dirty” composting secrets, what do ya got for me?
Signing Out Now!
Sweet Pea

No More Stinky Feet!

Do you have the ability to clear a room when you take off your socks? Because let me tell you, my human has a thing or two coming to her the next time that she tells me that I’m a bit, ummmm, “Fragrant” per-say. My occasional thrushy hooves don’t have anything on her  sweaty feet.

Want to cut down on the stench? Check these out!

Want to cut down on the stench? Check these out!

Then, there was a revolution.. a real lifesaver really. She came to the barn wearing a pair of  Tredstep Pure UltraCool Socks. While they may not have solved all of the world’s problems, they kept me around long enough to give her a quick thank you snuggle after our evening ride. Apparently, they are made to promote all day freshness and comfort, imagine that!

The socks are made with “Pearl Cotton” which, according to Tredstep, is an ultra fine, sheer natural fabric that has a high absorbency, strength and luster… In my terms? That translates to no more stinky feet!

My human kept talking about the perks of the socks: Lyra blends, blah, blah, anatomically designed fit, blah, blah, and how they where perfect for use with boots and half chaps. What I took in? The sweet relief of breathing in fresh air… I mean, I haven’t felt such relief of the stinky since I discovered the amazing-ness that is Sweet PDZ!

Ta-Ta For Now!
Sweet Pea

Sweet (Family) Success

Talk about one seriously sweet family! The Matutes may have just broken a record by qualifying for The Nations Cup CDIO3* in Dressage (held in Wellington on April 13-15, 2013) as a FAMILY. Juan Matute, the father of all the other riders on the team representing Spain, is no stranger to International Competition having represented Spain in Three Olympic Games.

Paula is the oldest of the children at 17 and Juan Jr. is the second child at 15.  Their younger brother Gonzalo is also a dressage rider but too young to compete. The children would like to best their father in the competition!

Paula is the oldest of the children at 17 and Juan Jr. is the second child at 15. Their younger brother Gonzalo is also a dressage rider but too young to compete. The children would like to best their father in the competition!

However, what makes this story seriously sweet is the fact that he is joined by two of his three talented children and his wife Maria who rounds out the team as Chef d’equipe, What do you think? I am betting that Juan and his family will most certainly make Spain the most popular team at the event. It is believed to be the first time any family has represented their country in a Nations Cup Dressage competition.

I wish the Matutes the best of luck! (Is is bad to be cheering against the USA?!)

So stay tuned, I’ll keep you updated on their “sweet” journey!
– Sweet Pea

Healthy Hooves, Healthy Horses!

No Hoof, No Horse. We’ve all heard the saying; we all know that hooves are important, but what does it take to keep them healthy and strong? Today, I talked to knowledgeable farriers and hoof specialists to learn just what it takes to keep our footies looking and feeling their best.

1. The best secret to healthy hooves is no secret at all! All of our experts were emphatic about picking out horses’ hooves at least once a day, more if necessary. Be sure to pick hooves before and after riding your horse, as well as when you bring them in from the pasture to keep them free of damaging stones and mud.

2. When you pick your horse’s hooves, check them for new problems, foreign objects or bent shoes. This early detection will allow you and your farrier to work together to solve issues before they become large and difficult to deal with.

3. Budget for farrier visits along with your other horse expenses, so you don’t neglect your horse’s hoof care due to budget constraints. Trying to stretch out the intervals between farrier visits in an effort to save money can end up being a more expensive venture as you start to deal with unhealthy hooves and injuries that could have been prevented. According to Mike Stine, a Registered Journeyman Farrier and Certified Natural Balance Farrier and Trimmer, stretching the interval between farrier visits can lead to hoof distortions, which strain the horse’s tendons and ligaments and could lead to lameness or other problems in the future.

4. Try to maintain a regular schedule with your farrier for trimming or shoeing. The interval between hoof care visits may vary due to the time of year, activity level, or the horse’s needs, but try to book your next appointment when the farrier is there. Most busy farriers find it difficult to fit in last minute appointments, so guarantee yourself a spot in the farrier’s schedule by booking ahead.

5. A common hoof care mistake made by horse owners is listening to advice about a specific horse that is given by someone who has not seen the horse or the hooves (such as on the Internet). There are many variables that can affect a horse’s hooves, such as environment, past history, how recently trimmed or shod, the hoof quality, feeding program and riding/activity level. A professional farrier or veterinarian who has actually seen your horse will best be able to consider all the different factors affecting your horse’s hooves and give you educated advice.

6. Following that same train of thought, some horse owners may instruct their farrier to follow the latest fad or opinion about hoof care or horse shoes. If you have questions about how your horse’s hooves are trimmed or shod, discuss it with your farrier, and your veterinarian if necessary. They may recommend something new, or there may be reasons why the trim method or the new design in horseshoes would not work for your horse. Insisting that a certain method is followed may force your farrier to do his or her job in a way that will be detrimental to your horse’s hoof or performance.

7. Eric Nygaard, the Immediate Past President of the American Farrier’s Association™, urges horse owners to take a look at paddock conditions before turning your horse out for the day. “Many people do not take environment into consideration; for example, you need to ask yourself: ‘Is it too wet or too muddy to turn out a shod horse?’” Use common sense when turning your horse out in inclement weather.

8. If you are considering hoof supplements or hoof dressings, make sure to ask your farrier and/or veterinarian’s opinion. Using these tools properly can be very beneficial to the health of your horse’s hooves. However, Monetta Farrier Specialties points out that applying hoof dressing too frequently may actually provide the hooves with too much moisture, making the hooves softer than they should be, and therefore, more prone to injuries.

9. Don’t think that you need to put shoes on your horse. If your horse does not have a specific need to wear shoes, letting a horse go barefoot is perfectly acceptable if it can continue to perform and stay sound without shoes. Remember to continue to have horses trimmed regularly.

10. Mike Stine offers this last tip for horse owners. “In order for your farrier to do the best possible job on your horse’s hooves, be sure he is trained to stand quietly for trimming and shoeing. The owner should be responsible for making sure this training is done and that someone is present to handle the horse for the farrier. How would you feel if your unruly horse caused your farrier to sustain a career-ending injury? A horse that is well-behaved, clean, dry, and not distracted by feeding or other activities is ideal. Your farrier will appreciate it and keep coming back!”

Give Me Something Sweet to Eat!

Do you treat your horse? ‘Cause you should! Not that I love my carrots… and my apples… and my sugar cubes and all that jazz :)
Today we talked to Jean McCarthy, as the founder of North Woods Animal Treats she’s kind of an expert. And well, anyone who is an expert on treats is my kind of lady!
Let’s see what this lovely lady had to say! “First, it’s important to determine if you should treat your horse at all.  There are two ways of thinking about why a person would treat a horse.  One is to use the treat as motivation in the training process and the other is simply to give a  reward to our friend.   And, lets admit it, to make ourselves feel good.  How can that be a bad thing?  It is win-win.  The horse gets a treat and we feel good.
I have it on good authority that these treats are worth eating!

I have it on good authority that these treats are worth eating!

Certainly can’t complain with her logic… so come on, make yourself feel good and hand over the treats!
Second, when should you treat your horse?  If you are using it as part of your training program, when the horse has done the action that you are using the treat to motivate him with, treat him.  If you are doing it as a finishing touch for the day, for example, or as a greeting when you first approach him, treat him.
How should you treat him?  Should you feed it to him out of your hand, or in his feed bucket?  That depends on the horse.  If feeding him treats out of your hand encourages him to invade your personal space, it is the bucket for his treats.  If it is a horse who is shy, and you would like him to approach you more confidently, try feeding him his treat out of your hand.
And then the all important information… I know that I love my treats but did you know that some human treats are poisonous to us horses? *cough* chocolate *cough*  Jean weighed in on great things to look for when buying man-made treats for your four-legged friend.
What kind of treat should you feed?  First, realize whatever brand you choose, it is a treat, not meant to be the main portion of his diet. At North Woods Animal Treats we like a treat that is made out of human grade ingredients.  Why feed anything less than the best ingredients?  We also look for ingredients that are all sourced in the United States.  The USA has the strictest laws about food ingredients and ingredients sourced here again provides our animals with the best.  We look for a flavor that may be a little unusual, why not?  We happen to use real maple syrup, very tasty!
Well, now Jean has me seriously hungry and ready for something sweet to eat! Do you give your horse treats? What are their favorites?
TaTa For Now!
Sweet Pea

That Girl’s Got Some Sweet Breeches…

Ever wanted to be THAT girl? The “it” girl with the fun and trendy new products BEFORE they become cool? Well, in that case, pick yourself up a pair of the new Tredstep Ireland Symphony breeches because sooner or later they’ll be listed on the “must-have” list for every equestrian.

Have you added the Tredstep Symphony breeches to your wishlist yet?

Have you added the Tredstep Symphony breeches to your wishlist yet?

These are high-performance breeches at a reasonable price point… can you ask for anything better? When my human wore these to the barn, I was impressed! I mean, the fabric is super flattering and the no-gap waistband kept me from seeing wayyyy more then ever wanted to (it made leg wrapping a much more pleasant experience). The articulated knee-pad now only looks like a super-cool detail out of a futuristic fashion magazine, but apparently it is functional as well… how cool is that?

The shaping in the lower leg and the sock-like fit meant that she spent a bit more time in the saddle and a bit less time complaining about her boots, and her socks, and…, and… and… It was a relief to have her focusing on RIDING and less on her clothes for once. These breeches were serious performance with serious style, the trendy Euro-seat is gives a polished look, while all the ladies at the barn were squealing over the super cute ribbon inside the waist band and precious pink buttons.

I mean, seriously, did you ever think a BUTTON could be cute?

I mean, seriously, did you ever think a BUTTON could be cute?

Just when you thought these breeches could get any better, let me introduce you to “NanoSphere,” the naturally self-cleaning, water repelling finish that kept me out of trouble and my momma a whole lot happier when tried to steal a few treats from her pocket…

These “Sweet” new breeches are worth adding to your wardrobe, my human is confident you’ll find yourself reaching for them over and over and over again.

Get your style on… tell me, what are YOUR favorite breeches?

Spring is in the Air!

Spring is in the air! You know what that means… in addition to the mud, you’ll be looking for ways to keep your horse outside in the fresh air a bit more. With the days getting longer, there is nothing better then gazing out and seeing happy horses left out in their pasture, enjoying the sunshine. (Hint, hint… that’s what this mare is hoping for!)

Consider using a run-in shed to let your horse spend more time out of the stall.

Consider using a run-in shed to let your horse spend more time out of the stall.

To let your horse  maximize their time enjoying the most beautiful time of the year, consider a run-in shed. This form of shelter allows your horse the choice to come in out of the weather while still enjoying the great outdoors.

While a run-in shed can be a great addition to the pasture, it’s important to think about a few key components before you “run-out” and build one (hehehe, sometimes I make even myself giggle :) )

Make sure that the shed is built to be sturdy, with no projections and things to catch on. Know that horses occasionally chew on these structures, so consider metal reinforcements or at least check out the shed periodically to make sure that nothing is going wrong. Make sure that the size of the shed is appropriate to the number of horses in the pasture and the the door is large enough to keep another horse from trapping a horse inside the shed.

Make sure that your shed has ample ventilation. While you might not think that a three sided shed would need additional ventilation, ammonia is a nasty thing and can still accumulate in a three-sided shed. Consider the use of Sweet PDZ to cut down on the ammonia fumes and keep your horse healthy. Make sure that your run-in has ample bedding to keep horses comfortable, while you may choose not to clean the run-in daily know that it will required to be cleaned at regular intervals.

What are your run-in shed tips and tricks?