First thing’s first, I apologize for such a long gap between posts! Life has been busy lately. The give away is now over! I want to congratulate fellow dressage blogger Nicola Cranham of diaryofadressagediva. Check out her blog, it’s quite entertaining and informative. I will be doing more cool give aways in the future, so please get in on the fun next time!
It’s finally fall. Shiloh’s winter coat is coming in silky soft and he practically glitters in the sunlight! I like the oncoming fuzz, but I’m not terribly excited about the static and the infamous coat-dulling dust.
We’ve been riding steadily about 4 days a week and schooling some basic movements. I think he’s really getting the hang of the turn on the forehand and starting to understand the leg yield. It’s so tempting to try to round him front to back instead of the correct way of back to front! He tends to be very tense in his neck, so I’ve just been holding my hands as still and close as possible and letting him meet my aids when he tries to go into giraffe mode. Also, I recognize that some of his problem is that he’s not strong enough in his hind quarters in order to really shift back and round over his top line. I plan to bring out my ground poles and do some work trotting and cantering over the poles so he has to really engage his hind quarters.
Now that it’s getting cooler, Shiloh’s been getting into the woods and trying to get as many burrs in his mane as possible. He thinks it’s a fashion statement, but I’m worried that he will slowly lose his forelock from me trying to pull all the burrs out everyday! Maybe I should turn him out with a head sleezy or something?
And we’d been doing some preparation for winter. Shiloh will be moving back to his old pasture due to the limited horse and hay storage space at his current place. So far, I think he may have to spend the winter by himself, which I’m not very happy about. I am working on possibly arranging a lease or borrowing a horse or pony for the few months that he will be living in the far pasture, but that will mean buying more hay. I’ve always wanted to get a buddy for Shiloh that could double as a lesson horse for kids, so I’m looking for a small older horse or pony that has seen and done it all that wouldn’t mind being the underdog in the pasture and trucking kids around occasionally.
In years past, I’ve been really good about buying hay way in advance (usually I buy at the end of August), when hay is copious and decently affordable. This year has been a little different, because I was transitioning to a new job and Shiloh had to move several times. Then I had to wait to buy hay until the owner of the pasture confirmed that it would be okay for me to put hay up in her barn. Since I just have one horse, I only need about 100 bales, so I don’t always buy from the same hay guy every year, though that would be ideal. Luckily, most of the hay in my area is roughly the same make up of mostly bermuda, mixed with some crab grass and native grasses so I’m not terribly worried about shocking his system with vastly different hay types. Right now, Shiloh doesn’t get a speck of concentrates or hay and he gets all his nutrients from grazing and occasionally licking mineral and salt blocks, so his diet mimics what a wild horse might subsist on.
This winter, I plan to slowly transition him onto free choice hay as the pasture grazing starts to die off. Fortunately, some of the grass in the pasture is hardy enough to survive the winter, so he will still have the option of doing a little regular grazing. I bought my first load of hay last weekend and loaded it in the barn. I only have about 85 bales right now, so I might make a second trip, especially if I end of hosting another horse in the pasture for the winter.
I like to buy plenty more hay than I will need, just for peace of mind. In addition to the hay this winter, I will be feeding him his regular supplements (a bit of vitamin supplement for the selenium deficiency in the pasture and some flax seed powder for his coat), as well as a small portion of alfalfa pellets to give him some more protein and calcium in his diet. He’s a hard-to-medium keeper with an energizer bunny metabolism, so he’s tried to lose weight in winters past. I really need to keep on top of him this year!
Also, I will be buying a new tank heater to keep fresh water in front of him constantly. I have an old one from a friend, but I don’t trust it, and I can’t really test it until I need it, so I’d rather just start with a new one. Any suggestions for a good affordable model would be appreciated.
Finally, I’m going through the yearly debate of whether or not I ought to buy him a blanket. I live about 10 minutes away him and work full time, so it would be difficult to be able to change or remove the blanket exactly when it needs to be done.I like being able to leave him all natural and let his thick winter coat come in. We don’t usually have extreme winters here, so the hay and a shelter for him to run into seems to do the trick. The only reason I would buy him a blanket right now is that I worry about the ice storms we have occasionally when it rains and then freezes though. He’s never really been a barn boy and I think he would still prefer to stay outside, even if we were having a meteor shower.
What are your winter horse keeping plans?