Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Care and Feeding of Jessie and Dusty

Thought you might be interested in how we keep our horses. Here's a little run down:

We live in Southern California. We have two quarter horses on our 1/2 acre property. Each horse has it's own 40' x 40' pen. Unfortunately, we do not have cover for them yet. Our climate is temperate and our rainfall averages less than 6" a year. Both my wife an I work so we clean pickup the the manure twice a week Thursdays and Sundays. It's taken to the green waste facility. We use Fly Predators to help keep the population down. There are three horses on the property behind us and three more on the property to the west of us. One of them also use the Fly Predators and that helps as well.

We feed baled alfalfa. It can be a rich food so we try to get the third or fourth cutting (We can get five or six cuttings in our area). Last year we bought a stack of third cutting 3-string bales. That's 5 tons or 88 bales.

I keep the big stacked covered and protected from dust and moisture. We bought it last July and just had to get re-supplied in March. We didn't buy a stack though because this year's hay hasn't been harvested. Prices are currently running $9-$10 a bale. Last year we had the stack delivered for about $8.50/bale.

We feed the horses usually between 16-20 lbs of alfalfa split between two meals. On weekends we will usually feed three times just because we like to space out their feeding as much as possible. In the evenings we make them a little bowl that is 1 cup oat bran, 1/2 cup wheat bran, 5 mg biotin, one cup rolled oats, one cup Nutrena Safe Choice, and either a probiotic or Saccharomyces B. (a beneficial yeast called Karbo Combo Plus I get from The Extra Scoop).

I've owned and operated a health food store here in Bakersfield for the last 26 years ( Cay Health Foods) and I believe in the importance of keeping the digestive system healthy. The extra fiber helps the whole system operate more smoothly, prevents the build up of sand, and the beneficial organisms help provide a healthy intestinal environment. The biotin is for their feet and the Safe Choice makes it taste good. Occasionally, Dusty will need some bute or glucosamine for arthritis (he's 14) and the "bowl", as we call it, makes it easier to administer.

We used to worm every four months rotating through the different pastes. Last year we switched to the Fecal Egg Count (FEC) method. We have manure samples tested for egg parasites and worm accordingly. This seems like a much more sensible way of worming. I spent 7 years of my youth working as a veterinary tech and we never wormed a dog or cat unless we tested for parasites first. Their next test is in June. I'm interested to see how this will work out.

We vaccinate once a year for equine flu, and west nile virus, although Jessie has a reaction to the flu shot. She is lethargic and off her feed for three or four days. I didn't give it last year. I'll see what the vet recommends this year. We give the vaccinations ourselves.

Every other year we take them to the vet for dental work and a hands on check. Every eight weeks we have the farrier out for a trim. I do some filing on the feet in between trims working the chips and rough spots smooth. Both horses are barefoot now. Jessie hasn't worn shoes for at least five years. Her feet hold up fairly well. Dusty had some white line disease last winter so we removed his shoes in January and, while he is a little tender from time-to-time, he appears to be doing well.

So, there you have it. I know everyone does it a little bit different and it's good to see how some one else does things in case what we are doing isn't working. So far, it has suited our horses very well.
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