First frost

Yesterday morning I came out to find our first frost.


Thoughts of the approaching winter came and with it memories of last year’s winter: a month of torrential rain followed by an unusually hard freeze and snow that lasted for weeks. There was very little riding, and some quite hard work catering for ponies in the winter. During the rain, the front of the track poached very badly so that pushing a wheelbarrow through it became impossible. During the frost the water froze in the pipe to the yard, so filling watering cans in the house became a morning routine.

Clipping and rugging was also a consideration: I missed clipping Ben before the rain came so for four weeks he was too wet to clip. When I did clip I gave a chaser clip and he wore a rug for the rest of the winter. I was also advised to give Rosie one too, given her age. She had suffered from rain scald in November and wore a rug after that for the rest of the winter.

This year will be my second winter keeping ponies at home. It is reassuring to know that we all survived a winter that threw every kind of weather at us. In fact, they thrived. They emerged looking healthy, (very) well-fed and, in Ben’s case, very fresh. I have hopefully solved the problem of the front of the track poaching. Time will tell as we have had a dry autumn so far. Now that they are barefoot, I am changing my mind about rugging. Ben’s work, weather permitting, will consist of hacking. He probably needs at most a bib clip. So no rug for him. I have a new hay shed so I can clear the second stable for Rosie to use, if she chooses, over the winter. So she should not need a rug. The only exception will be if we get very heavy rain like last year. For those times I will give them a light rug each, for protection from rain scald.

Later yesterday I took Ben and Rosie to Sandra’s where we bravely faced a trimming session, with photos to be taken for Dermot to inspect. It is such hard work! We need to get a hoof jack before the next session. If someone took a photo of us trimming, on some occasions with one holding a hoof and the other rasping, it could have been entitled “girls trimming hooves”.

Ben was quite tense for the duration, but demostrated release from tension regularly with sighs and licking and chewing.  Rosie did not like it and struggled with her hind leg dropping it on my foot and not moving it.  She may be small but that was an “ouch” moment.  Released into a field with the others, she rolled and then galloped and bucked.  Lovely to see and reassuring us that she was still well able to move following our ministrations.



Filed under hoof care, stable management, track system

21 responses to “First frost

  1. June

    Hate carrying buckets from the house! Our yard hydrant never freezes, even in below zero fahrenheit weather, but the hose freezes and it freezes onto the hydrant, making it impossible to get water out. But … I discovered you can buy heated water hoses! They cost around $90, but it’s probably worth it. Here’s the catch – one of our dogs likes to chew hoses.

  2. June

    Rosie was probably even better able to move after your ministrations!

  3. We just had our trimmer here and everyone’s feet are looking better with some increased effort on my part. Sigh of relief. Now we are having him come back at the mid-point (in 3 weeks) to show us (me for the second time!) how to do some touch-up trimming to keep things in good shape.

    I realized recently that one of our issues is that the horses are all on balanced diets now and getting what they need to grow hoof – and they are growing it fast! Which means the six-week trim cycle is not keeping up with that wall, which starts to self-trim and gets rough looking. If we can do mid-trim touching up, I think we’ll be in much better shape.

    I hope you’ll share your trimming efforts here – it is so inspiring to read.

    (and we have over the past two years gravitated to blanketing only when the temp goes below freezing, or during periods of cold rain – and with sheets only. I do use Whinny Warmers on Salina’s knees to keep the joints warm and mobile, but have found they all do better without all the layering up of blankets. I feed a lot of hay on cold nights, keep them moving, and life is good.

    • June

      What are they getting for hoof growth, Billie?

    • We trimmed at 10 days after the shoes came off, but barely touched any of them except for Rosie. So Sunday was three and a half weeks after shoes off and there was observable hoof growth with a need for trimming.

      We have been told to keep on top of it. If we do it every two weeks we should only need to rasp lightly. In particular I have been warned to keep Rosie’s heels low and toe back and not to allow any tug on her white line. I panic a bit. I am anxious that Rosie should finally have a chance to recover from her previous laminitic bouts by correct trimming although having shoes off her is not controversial here as she is laminitic.

      But as regards Ben, I have been given awful warnings of concussion laminitis. There is this cob I admired who was barefoot and did a lot of roadwork. My farrier told me that he now had concussion laminitis. I was able to discuss this with Dermot, who is providing great support. I am really keen to maintain hoof balance so that no part becomes too load bearing (toes in particular).

  4. Nothing specific – I have our hay tested and then balance their diets (beet pulp, alfalfa pellets) to 150% of the NRC equine nutrition requirements, with the exception of iron and selenium, which are balanced to 100%. Calcium and phosphorus are balanced to a specific ratio, and copper and zinc are balanced to either iron or manganese, depending on which is higher in the overall diet.

    I add fresh ground flax seed for omegas, iodized salt and a little Source to get their iodine correct, and use vit. E gelcaps (vit. E with soybean oil) so they can utilize the E.

    There are 3 B-vitamins I add in via a custom mix, and the seniors get glucosamine and chondroitin plus some extra lysine.

    QH gets something for his PSSM symptoms.

    It is a lot of math calculation but after you go through it a few times, you get better at it! Dr. Eleanor Kellon’s online classes are incredible. I highly recommend them if you want to learn more about equine nutrition.

    • June

      Thanks – I’ll look into the online classes.

      Do you soak your alfalfa pellets?

      • Yes – we use beet pulp pellets too – those are rinsed, soaked, and rinsed again to help reduce the sugar and iron. The alfalfa pellets go into tubs first in the feed room and I add water and let them sit while I get other stuff ready to mix in.

        At this point I have all my minerals (I have to add copper, zinc, and magnesium, plus a little bit of manganese) in our laundry room. I have jars labeled for each horse and I do the mineral mix into the jars, then carry those out with the beet pulp.

        Getting their diets balanced has made a big difference in a lot of minor issues. None of them were in bad health but nagging little things you think are “normal” have cleared, and hoof health is one of the biggies. I knew over the summer things were out of whack due to all the grass – it was obvious as coat colors began to fade/bleach and hooves deteriorated some.

        Getting the trace minerals balanced to iron or manganese makes a huge difference in all of the above.

  5. Billie, it is interesting how you are balancing the minerals. It is too easy just to pick a supplement off the shelf and add it without thought to the overall balance. I am thinking of getting my soil analysed as well as my hay.

    • June

      When you say balanced “to” iron or manganese, does that mean you give the other minerals in a ratio to iron or manganese, rather than as a certain prescribed amount?

      • June, yes, exactly – there is a ratio for copper, zinc, iron, and manganese, so after getting my hay tested (and next year I will also test our pasture forage) I do current weights on each equine, determine how many lbs. of hay each needs for their various levels of work, look at their concentrated feed and get those numbers ready, and then work it out so that I add what I need to in order to get the entire diet balanced to the standard ratios.

        Horses that have no issues such as insulin resistance can do well w/o a very tight balance – but I have found that with all my easy keepers, balancing it tightly has made a big difference. And amazingly, my cost for feed and supplements has gone down, as each now gets exactly what he/she need and I’m not throwing things in, guessing.

        My vet initially thought I was insane to do this, but when she saw the horses after a few months on a balanced diet, she said “Keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.”

        Re: soil analysis – it’s a good idea to know what’s in your soil, but in terms of balancing you would get the forage they are eating tested – trying to mimic their grazing pattern so you’re testing as close to what they eat as possible. What’s in the soil does not always uptake in predictable ways to the forage – a lot of factors play into that.

  6. That’s interesting. Billie, you have stimulated my interest now. I must do some reading.

  7. In the US, I get most of my vit/minerals from HorseTech, who are incredible about their willingness to sell the individual minerals and/or do a custom mix for you. They have decent prices, free shipping (with cookies!) and their customer service is beyond reproach.

    I’m not sure if it’s this easy in England/Ireland – but there is an email list you can join after taking Dr. Kellon’s basic nutrition class (and she usually gives the info during the class too) for folks in other countries who have developed lists of places local to them to get the minerals. The NRC-grad list is a wonderful resource – continuing discussion, help with the math and balancing as you get up and running, and lots of support in making the change to “doing it yourself” rather than relying on guesswork or a feed company’s formula.

    It was overwhelming the first year, but I stuck with it and did what I could as I could do it – even making the change from feed to whole products made a difference. Once you balance a few times you get much better at it and it’s not as intimidating. (math is not my specialty – if you’re good at math and think that way anyway, it probably won’t be a big deal at all!)

    • June

      Thanks – I’m going to go have a look at Horse Tech! I think I might try the pendulum rather than the math.

    • Billie, thanks for all your input on this. There is a lot for me to learn, obviously.

      • June

        Yes, seconded – thank you Billie for taking the time to explain so much.

        I went to the Horse Tech site – I guess they don’t advertise individual minerals, but I’ve emailed them to ask.

  8. June

    This probably all applies to humans too, eh?