Five Tips For Caring For Your Older Horse

He’s been your equine partner for years now. You’ve perhaps ridden in
shows, through trails or even relocated across the country with your
horse. You’ve been friends a long time, and it may be hard to admit, but
you’ve noticed your horse is slowing down.

Don’t lose heart. Just like with people, advances in health care and
nutrition are helping horses live longer, more productive lives, well into
their senior years. But older horses do take a little extra care. Here’s a
few ways to keep your aging buddy doing his best.

1. Give him light, consistent work. Your horse may not be able to keep
up a workout routine for competitions, but he’s probably not ready to
retire either. Keep him at a reasonable fitness level and he’ll feel and
perform like a younger horse. The worst thing to do is let him get out of
shape and then ride him hard some weekend when he hasn’t been
ridden for months. That’s not fair to him and may spell trouble for you
later.

2. Make sure your horse has regular vet check-ups. Don’t neglect the vet
check-up even if your horse isn’t around many other horses anymore.
Keep him up-to-date on vaccinations, like any horse, and make sure
your vet begins looking for signs of arthritis or soundness issues.
Sometimes cortisone shots given early can not only provide relief for
aching joints, but can prevent further inflammation and stiffness later on.

Continued deworming is also important for the older horse. Horses more
than 20 years old may have intestinal scarring from worm damage that
occurred before modern larvicidal dewormers were available.

Have your veterinarian check your horse’s teeth at least once a year.
The older a horse gets, the more likely his teeth will be worn into sharp
points. They may even be wearing out completely.

3. Consider a senior feed. Older horses do not absorb as many
nutrients from their food as younger horses. Couple that with worn-out,
missing or damaged teeth, and many older horses have difficulty
keeping weight on, especially through the winter months. Several senior
feeds on the market today offer alfalfa-based pellets that are easy for
older horses to chew, swallow and digest.

Many times older horses choose to eat very little hay. The senior feed is
designed to cover all roughage requirements for the horse as well as
provide the ideal vitamin and mineral balance for the older horse. Also,
don’t feed your senior buddy with a younger, more aggressive horse.
You want to make sure he doesn’t have to fight for his fair share.

4. Consider feed supplements. If you’ve never used a feed supplement,
now may be the time. Talk to your veterinarian about what kind of
supplement might be best for your horse. Biotin is great for hooves and
coat. Other supplements can help with energy. Of course, glucosiamine
is the standard supplement to keep joints healthy and lubricated.

5. Give him attention. It’s easy to forget about a horse you can’t use as
much anymore, but if you can’t use him, maybe you should loan his
services to someone who can. Many older, experienced show horses
are great lesson horses. He could give a neighbor’s child a few lessons
a week or stand still while you teach children how to properly groom a
horse. He might be a great mount for a beginner rider, or an adult who
doesn’t want any surprises. You could still take him on the occasional
leisurely ride. Just don’t leave him untouched in a stall for days. At the
very least, give him a buddy and plenty of turnout time.

It may take a little extra time and money to care for your older horse, but
when you think back to all the years he’s given, you’ll probably agree
he’s worth it. With the proper care, many horses are living sound,
productive lives well into their 20s.

Learning Horse Riding

It is like nothing you have ever tried in the past. Picture yourself racing up and down hills, though woods, across fields and back. The breeze in your face and pulling at your hair, the sun beats down, and all you can hear, bedsides the sound of yourself laughing and screaming with joy, is the sound of hooves pounding down on hard soil. The speed, the independence, the sense of adventure, few activities in the world can rival horseback riding for real excitement.

Learning how to ride a horse can be loads of fun. Whether you wish to ride for the sense of freedom or you are just a horse lover, it can be very rewarding. With just some essential gear and a good teacher you can be on the way to having hours of fun. There are many different styles of horseback riding. The primary styles are Western and English. Western style is easier to learn and not as strict as the English style. If you are just riding for fun, look for a trainer that will train in the Western style. Although, if you think you might be attracted in riding for show, it might be significant to learn the English style.

When taking horseback riding lessons make certain you let your trainer know that you are a beginner. This way they will put you on a horse that is slower and properly trained. It is important that you get a horse that is effortless to ride for your safety and your confidence.

Numerous books have been written on the subject of horseback riding, but so many of them have gone into such depth, that the novice or the hopeful rider very soon gets bogged down in the technicality.

There is no substitute for appropriate instructions by an expert. If your son or daughter is nagging you into having riding lessons, there are many books on the subject that will get them started, but bear in mind there is no substitute for proper instruction.

When looking for an instructor, it is best to ask around and see who people prefer, do not just respond an advertisement. Many professional instructors will have teaching certifications and first aid experience. Other instructors have just learned themselves and are willing to attempt to teach you. No matter who you choose make sure they have a temperament that you get along with. Also make sure that they teach the style you want to learn.

The equipment you require for the horse is called tack. This includes everything from the saddle to the reins and stirrups. This can be costly to buy on your own. Usually the instructor can provide the equipment. It is important that you check over the saddle and reins before each ride for signs of wear and for a proper fit.

Safety should be your number one concern when learning to ride. Always be sure to wear a helmet and long pants in case you fall. Many people don’t wear a helmet when riding, but it should be required attire for anyone riding a horse.

Learning to ride a horse can bring a enormous sense of freedom. By finding a good instructor and a caring horse you are well on your way. Remember horses are very strong animals so always be sure to wear your helmet and ride with friends. Accidents can take place when you least anticipate them.

Horse Manure Management–What are Your Options?

You need a strategy for using or disposing of your horse’s manure. The proper management of manure is important to the health of your horse and your family. Needless to say, it may also be important in order to comply with state or county regulations. And if you have neighbors nearby, you will want to avoid any controversy with them.

An average 1,000-pound horse can produce 9 tons of manure waste each year. This is roughly 50 pounds per day. If you’re going to store it, this translates to about 2-cubic feet per day or 730-cubic feet per year–just from one horse.

How the manure is stored and treated will have an impact on its value. A composition of manure and bedding is rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. These nutrients can be returned to the soil and made available to pasture, lawns, landscaping, crops, and gardens.

The Importance of Manure Management

Stalls and paddocks need manure removed regularly to prevent surface water contamination and to assist with parasite control and fly breeding. Stable flies commonly breed in the moist horse manure. So it makes sense if you want to keep the fly population down, manage your horse’s manure.

The lifecycle of horse parasites also begins with eggs in the manure, which develop into infective larvae that later exist in your horse’s pasture. Consuming grass, feed, or water contaminated with infective larvae will infect your horse. Parasites are one of the most significant threats to the health of a horse kept in small acreage areas and can cause irreparable internal damage. Manure management is an important part of controlling parasites.

So What Are Your Options for Managing Manure?

Essentially, your choices are to use it on-site, give it away, or haul it off-site.

If you don’t plan to use the manure yourself, you should develop a plan so that other people can make use of it. You may be able to make arrangements with landscapers, nursery or garden centers, parks and neighbors to either buy your unprocessed or composted manure or take it off your hands for free. You may need to deliver the manure yourself.

Manure Collection

Typical management of horse manure consists of removing daily and stockpiling for later use or spreading on cropland.

Manure that is spread daily should be thinly distributed and chain harrowed (dragged) to breakup larger manure piles and to expose parasite eggs to the elements, and to encourage rapid drying. Don’t spread on pastureland that will be grazed by horses during the current year.

Alternatively, manure may be stockpiled and allowed to accumulate until it can be disposed, or composted for later use. A large storage area will allow for better flexibility in timing of manure use.

A 144 square foot enclosed space will contain the manure from one horse for a year. Over time, manure shrinks from decomposition and may accumulate to 3-to-5 feet in deep. Your storage area should be easily accessible for loading and unloading.

The location for the storage area is important in order to safeguard against surface and groundwater contamination. The storage area should be at least 150 feet away from surface water (creeks and ponds) and wells. A perimeter ditch dug around the storage area may be needed to prevent runoff. Covering the storage with either a roof or tarp can help prevent the contamination of both groundwater and surface water.

Some of the newer bedding products are more absorbent allowing you to use less bedding than traditional straw. Using less bedding means you have less waste to manage. Also, don’t use too much bedding and only use the amount necessary to soak up urine and moisture in order to reduce the amount you have to manage.

Composting

Composting manure for 6 months to a year will yield a relatively dry product that is easily handled and reduces the volume of the manure by as much as 40 to 60 percent. This also kills fly eggs, larvae, pathogens and weed seeds.

Aeration will speed the composting process. The rate of decomposition is dependent on how often the pile is turned. An alternative to turning the pile is to insert perforated PVC pipes into the pile to provide aeration. The composting process will take a little longer, but is much less labor intensive. A slow decomposition rate is usually due to a lack of aeration.

The compost pile should remain moist. It may need to be watered or covered to maintain moisture. If small moisture droplets appear when squeezing it in your hand, then the moisture content is sufficient. Compost should be sweet smelling. If an unpleasant odor is coming from the pile, it is too wet and should be kept under a cover to help keep the moisture out.

Composted manure acts as a slow release fertilizer and is a great soil supplement that can be spread on pastures. Manure that has not been composted should be spread only on cropland or other ungrazed, vegetated areas.

Hauling Off-Site

Landfills should only be used if no other option exists. And note, not all landfills will accept manure. Remember, your horse’s manure is a valuable resource and is best used for recycling as opposed to disposing.

There are some refuse/waste companies who specialize in hauling away manure as well as recycle it. This is a good alternative for people who do not have adequate land where manure can be stored or spread. These refuse companies will provide a dumpster and will schedule regular pickups based on your needs.