Spring is such an exciting time. The natural world is bursting into life and colour. I can’t help but feel the buzz and pull of the outdoors. I’m excited about riding again and getting back into my garden.
As the days get longer, horses’ coats naturally begin to shed. I’m looking forward to the sleek summer look that they’ll get. In the meantime, they are itchy and need some help shedding out their winter coat.
There’s no two ways about it, over the next few weeks, I have my work cut out for me. I’ll need a bit of elbow grease and the right tools to make the job easier.
After spending a small fortune on trial and error, I’ve found a three indispensable items for my grooming kit.
The metal curry is excellent for scraping off dried mud and shedding hair, especially for thick coats. Just bump it on a nearby rail to quickly clean the fur that accumulates.
The grooming gloves are most efficient when used with one on each hand. They easily disintegrate caked-on mud and shed out thinner coats. Clap these together to loosen the fur they collect. My mare Indra gets so excited when when hears the velcro open. She can hardly wait for me to get started. I like how I can use them on the entire body, including face and legs and even on the mane. It is like stroking the horse and my hand can mold to the horses body.
For manes and tails, this is the best mane/tail brush. It detangles with ease and without pulling too much. This brush is also useful for ponies with really thick winter coats. It reaches down past the fur and massages the skin underneath.
The best part about these tools is that they are useful all year round. Just add a stiff body brush and a soft brush for sensitive faces and you are set.
By the time the job is done, I look a bit scruffy and the ponies look great. It reminds me of this Thelwell drawing.
The right tools make the job easier. In the text above, I’ve included links to amazon.com where you can view these items. If you do purchase these items, thank you, I will receive a small commission.
OK, I’m supposed to be finishing a blog post on shedding out a spring coat…
And, I am trying to work into my already busy schedule, an ambitious training plan for my horse to get ready for an endurance ride, but….
I found this book at the library whilst doing research on endurance and I’m enthralled.
At first I thought, “what could such a young woman have to say that would interest someone who is twice her age?” I’m so glad that I took the chance. Hers is a hero’s journey, lyrically interwoven with poetry, history, a taste of the culture of Mongols and Brits, and deep reflections that come about when you ride over 100km/day in the vastness that is Mongolia.
The book is Rough Magic, by Lara Prior-Palmer. She was the first woman, and youngest competitor to ever enter, much less, win the grueling 1,000km Mongol Derby. This book is her memoir.
Her journey will come to an end, and we know the outcome. But this doesn’t detract from the savouring her story. It is written in such a way as to be consumed in bite-sized pieces snatched throughout the day or indulged for a longer, delightful period at the end of the day. I plan to return to this story again and will be adding this one to my library in hardcover and on audiobook.
She has inspired me to get back in the saddle after the winter off. Soon, I’ll be sharing my journey of getting my barefoot horse fit (and me, too!) for our first endurance ride. If only I could put the book down!
Daffodils, lambs and slightly longer days quietly herald the promise of Spring. In the southern hemisphere, where I live in New Zealand, we are celebrating the end of winter, with the official Spring start on September 1st.
This time of year means a change to our horse management. We are lucky to be able to have our horses living a natural life where they free to roam, in a herd, and graze 24/7. As ideal as it seems, managing grazing becomes a priority in times of high grass growth. We act early, monitor and make changes as needed.
Spring grass flushes can very quickly provide too much tender sweet grass for the horses to glut on. For northern hemisphere readers, this applies to the Autumn flush that occurs in areas with hot, dry summers, once the rains begin.
So before we have a problem, we begin to reduce the time the horses spend on the pasture. Over the years, we have developed a track system and refined our process (outlined below). Our track system reduces access to pasture without restricting movement (a very important consideration for horse health).
At the moment, the horses are spending about 4 hours grazing on a paddock that is approximately 2ha (4 acres). They go on the paddock very early in the morning, before sugars have a chance to build in the plant, and come off again before lunch. They spend the next 20 hours in the track (aka the laneway) with access to high quality hay.
It doesn’t end there though. We will continue to make changes to the time spent grazing as the grass growth really speeds up. At some stage we will fence off sections destined for hay, and this will further reduce the area they have to graze. In previous years, we have restricted the grazing time to 1-2 hours/day. Always supplementing with hay on the track.
To guide us, we monitor three main things: 1) the growth rate of the grass, 2) the output (manure) from each horse, and 3) the horses’ condition.
Grass growth is the earliest sign and most critical to monitor. We gauge the grass growth in areas where there isn’t stock grazing. This way it is clear to see the amount of leaf. As I look out the window, I see that the lawn has grown since it was last mown a few weeks ago. If you monitor an area where stock is grazing, it is possible to be fooled into thinking that there has been no significant growth.
Since the horses are on the track, it is easy to monitor manure. We have to remove it daily, and five hooved friends produce a bit of manure! As we interact with the horses, it doesn’t take long for one of them to poo and we can see what each individually produces. We are on the lookout for changes to the manure. If instead of being well-formed horse apples, they are loose, cow-pat-like and foul smelling, we know we need to act. This is a sign of gut disturbances that come from an increase in sugars. Our personal challenge is to never see this but when we do, we act immediately as it is a sign that the horses are getting too much fresh grass.
The horse’s condition is the slowest to change. By the time one notices that a horse has gained unwanted weight, it has already been overfeeding for some time. Best to learn from the experience and recognize that grazing restriction needed to happen earlier in the season. All is not lost though, take action to reduce the feed intake and increase movement to help keep your horse healthy.
Spring whilst bringing grazing management challenges also means better weather conditions for horse adventures. Increasing movement through activities like walking, riding and playing with your horses will help to reduce the effects of an increase in feed. I know I plan to put all that green grass energy into good use! Let me know in the comments how you manage your horses when there is too much grass.