Pasture rotation and having a sacrifice area is one of the best ways to combat ’happy horses’ on damp ground or mud in a pasture. Cross fencing your pasture allows you to let one or two pastures rest while you turn your horses out in a sacrifice area.
This area does not have to be especially large but big enough to accommodate the number of horses you are turning out with adequate room for horses to freely move away from each other. The key to this area is drainage. Be sure your sacrifice area is either on high ground or has drainage tile installed to eliminate standing water.
Remember to provide a grass hay (roughage) so that your horses can ‘graze’ as this area will most likely be a dirt and/or sand mix.
Once your pastures begin to dry, you can rotate your horses between pastures and your sacrifice area allowing pastures to rest. When it is wet in the spring or you have standing water from inclement weather, move to the sacrifice area. This should help to alleviate mud issues and give your horses firmer and stronger ground for pasturing.
- In the spring, drag your pastures to knock down manure piles and seed resting areas with a pasture mix that you can get from your local seed company. They can advise you on the best mixes for your horses and your area. Be sure to wait long enough for strong grass growth before turning out horses.
- aeration can help pastures in spring along with seeding consult local farmers or seed experts
- Fertilize pastures before a good rain. Ask your local seed company how many days you need to keep horses off after rain. It usually is only one or two days.
- Tile and adding a sand/dirt mix to low areas will help to keep standing water at bay. This is important to discourage bugs and mosquitoes that can infect horses.
Want more tips from Debbie? Visit our “Ask Debbie” section, or submit your own question.
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As the horse industry continues to “boom”, more and more people are owning horses for the first time, or finally bringing them home from boarding. With that comes the task of fencing, building or renovating a barn, and many other things that go along with horse care.
While every fencing situation is unique, there are some general guidelines that first-time fencers should follow:
TIP 1: Planning is key for any project.
Allow yourself enough time to choose a fence system and then complete the job properly. Finding a knowledgeable source for help can mean the difference between a fence that will last for years, and a system that needs to be replaced after a few years.
TIP 2: Remember that you get what you pay for. Fence posts are the backbone of any fence system!
Trying to save money by not using bracing and concrete, or buying posts that are not pressure treated often costs you more in the long run. Proper structure is crucial to the life of your fence.
TIP 3: So many times, the difference between a good fence and a bad fence is one vet bill.
Think about this when determining your budget and ask yourself, “Am I allowing enough in my budget to purchase a system that will provide my horses with a safer pasture?” Consider the long-term maintenance of your system as well. A cheaper alternative may cost you more down the road because of maintenance and replacement costs.
TIP 4: Choose fencing that is made for horses.
While this may sound simple, so many people choose a fence just because they are familiar with it, not because it is the best fence for their horse. Barbed wire and bare high-tensile wire may work for some livestock, but these fences were not designed for horses. The material is hard for horses to see, and if a horse runs into the fence, it can cause nasty cuts and gashes. While PVC fencing looks pretty, it was not designed to contain livestock. The material can become brittle in cold temperatures, and should your horse kick or run into it, the fence can shatter and leave sharp pieces. PVC is best when used as a decorative fence, but if you do decide to use it for horses, adding electric fence with it can help keep your horse from contacting the fence.
TIP 5: There are many factors that determine which fence system will get the job done for you.
The size, breed and temperament of your horses, whether they are mares or stallions, your soil conditions, if the area is grassy or a dry lot, how much time the horses will spend in pasture, dimensions of the area you want to fence and many other things all come into play. Give as much information as you can so the right recommendation can be made.
When planning your fencing project, it’s important to work with a reputable company that is concerned about you and your horses. A true professional will take the time to help you put together a project that will get the job done right, the first time. Contact us today and let us help you through your project, from planning to completion.
Copyright 2010 Ramm Fence Systems, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Some areas on your farm will have higher horse traffic, therefore will be more prone to mud.
Many areas of our country are experiencing a winter that brought colder than normal temperatures and higher than normal snowfall totals. For more than a month, Michigan has remained below freezing temperatures and the snow has kept piling up–many of us are literally running out of places to put the snow! This means when things begin to thaw out in the coming weeks, we will be faced with a muddy mess!
Since we know this mess is inevitable, what can we do to prepare? Below are some tips to help you mange the mud!
Suit up! Be sure you are properly outfitted for a trip to the barn.
- So I can be prepared for a trip to the barn whenever the chance arises, I keep a pair of insulated muck boots at the barn during the springtime. A great tip to help your older boots last longer is to put large plastic bags over your socks. This will eliminate that terrible moment when you “find” the hole in your boot. Wet socks are no fun!
- Have you ever found yourself walking through mud when suddenly your foot comes up with no boot attached? A great tip is to NOT pull your foot straight up, which is likely to cause your boot to stay with the mud. Pull heel first, and you’re much more likely to keep foot and boot attached.
Protect your horse! In addition to mud, spring brings with it many difficulties for the horses themselves.
- Read this Michigan State University (MSU) Extension article on common springtime woes for Michigan horses to brush up on ailments such as colic, thrush and laminitis. (Good article for non-Michigan horse owners, too!)
- Beware of rain rot as spring rains commence.
- Here’s information to help you understand scratches, the equine ailment found often in wet environments.
- Additionally, you may have some questions on what your horse should be wearing. When considering blanketing or not, it is most important to provide your horse an opportunity to stay dry. Wet horses are more susceptible to hypothermia in cold temperatures and dermatologic issues (such as rain rot).
Prep the farm! To best answer the question of how to prepare your farm for mud management, I reached out to some of my horse-owning friends to see how they cope. Their useful tips are listed below!
- It’s best to recognize that whether or not we like it, parts of our horses’ turnout may be destroyed during the springtime. The soft footing that leads to mud will likely kill any vegetation growing where traffic patterns are high. To minimize the damaged ground, designate a sacrifice lot.
- You’ll also want to eliminate low-lying areas as best you can, especially if these are in high traffic areas. This can be done in a variety of ways. Bringing in sand, wood bark, sawdust, gravel or crushed asphalt are all ways to help prevent mud at gates and entries to barns and arenas.
- Another unfortunate side effect of mud is ruts and holes in the ground. It’s a good idea to smooth out these ruts as best you can when the weather is above freezing and the soil is still pliable. As temperatures fluctuate, which they tend to do in Michigan, these deep ruts will freeze when temperatures drop, leaving dangerous holes and uneven ground.
Feed wisely! These tips can help you minimize waste of feed.
- If you’re feeding hay on the ground outside, there are several ways to prevent waste. Feeding on a rubber mat can keep hay from being lost in the mud or water. Additionally, it can minimize the amount of dirt or sand the horses will ingest. Eating sand can potentially lead to sand colic.
- Another way to minimize mud is to encourage horses to change their traffic patterns. Feeding in a different location of the turn out lot each day can help prevent high traffic areas.
While we can’t eliminate the problem of mud altogether, using these tips can help us cope with the inevitable mess of springtime!
This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit http://www.msue.msu.edu.
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Four Ways to Get Ready for Spring ~ From My Farm to Yours
In Ohio, we have had our share of snow this year! I know that spring will be here soon because the birds have started to sing their full songs and my chickens have started to lay again! The snow comes and the sun melts it into the lifeless looking grass. Soon all of those puddles of mud and pastures will be turning lush and green. That’s when I know its high time to get busy and evaluate pastures, fence lines, gates, water areas and out-door sheds.
1. Walk or ride your fence lines
I know that this is a subject that I have talked about before, however, it is worth addressing again. After seeing many accidents that could have been avoided, this takes the number one slot of things to check on before spring weather approaches. Our horses spend most of their time in their pastures. It is their natural home, and I feel that too many of us forget this. We can spend our money on all the latest gadgets for our horses, the newest boots and accessories, but without safer and big enough pastures, we hurt our best investment, our horses well being. Ride or walk you fence lines and look for any protruding nails, screws, or loose brackets. If you have wood fence be very sure all rails meet end to end, and do not extend outward (this would be the place where your horse is getting cut, and you could not figure out where it happened). If you have PVC, be sure that all rails are in the routings and be sure that your electric is working to full capacity. Take a note book along and jot down notes of what material you may need to do any repairs.
Also take a hammer, small crow bar, and extra nails for quick repairs, if needed. Using some bright plastic tape at repair spots will help save time in re-finding the spot that needs repair. If you see any high traffic areas where your horses are starting to push or lean on your fence, (maybe they found the grass is good on the other side, or a tree that has grown large enough to reach the leaves) take measures to stop the abuse. Consider cutting natural boundary lines far enough away from a leaning (average size) 1200 lb horse, perhaps consider adding more rails to that area (coated wire, or 1″ flex), or the use of electric.
Lastly, is the size of your pasture large enough to let your horse get the exercise that is needed? Is it large enough to handle regular grazing? If not, you may want to consider cross fencing to use one area as a dry lot and allow the other area to rest. Damp wet ground can turn into a rutted, muddy mess from happy horses that smell “spring” in the air! Cross fencing with rotational grazing can help to save your needed pastures.
Additionally, as the ground dries out, you can knock down manure piles and help to prevent worm problems in the resting pasture. The best option may be to build an additional pasture with an isle between your pastures. The isle helps to eliminate the wear on a common fence line (cross fence), and makes turnout easier with ornery horses!
2. Check your gates and pass through areas
Winter weather has mysterious way of “moving” some of our most perfect and leveled gates! Frost and thaw naturally create damp and frozen ground that “moves” as the weather changes. It is just a fact of nature. After some amount of time or wear, gates must be re-leveled and checked to be sure that spaces between posts are no more than aprox. 3 inches. If spaces get larger this could be a potentially dangerous spot for ponies and horses heads or legs. The problem occurs when horses push through the space, and pull back quickly from its “flight instinct”. Needless to say, neck and leg injuries can be fatal. It is our responsibility to check these areas (not to mention this can happen with stall doors as well) for the safety of our horses. Adjust “J” bolts at gate hinges for proper spacing. Also make sure that the long end of the bolt does not protrude too far out on the other side of the post. If cutting the bolt is needed consider using washers and a heavy nut to cover the remaining end of the J-bolt.
Be sure that the space where your gate opens remains small. Chain closures leave room for a gate to have some movement. A good alternative is to install a gat latch the does not allow the gate to have movement. We use a two way locking gate latch which not only keeps the gate from moving, but also has a built in ledge that the gate sits on to keep it from sagging. If your gate is long and has a drastic sagging problem, you can install a gate wheel and it will help to keep the gate level. Additionally, using a fine stone screening at your walk through areas will help to keep the opening in good shape. It will also save you and your horse from walking in puddles of mud during turn-outs!
Double check “people pass through” areas as well. Make sure that posts are not leaning or have not moved. If you’re not familiar with this walk area, it is formed with 3 posts close to a barn or solid wall. Three posts are positioned in a triangle pattern allowing enough “squeeze” room for a person to walk through but not a horse. The space is wide enough that horse cannot get legs hurt in the spaces.* Beware with ponies however. I have heard and seen (with my own eyes) the magic that they posses! They seem to get out of the smallest of areas at times!
3. Check watering areas.
This is an area that you should always keep an eye on throughout the year. Water is one of the most important things that your horse consumes. Especially after the winter thaw, it is good to do a close evaluation of you water station. If you have tubs and they are metal, check rusted and dented areas. Slow leaks can create a loss of water for your horse and wet areas that will attract bugs, mosquitoes, and not to mention wet soggy mud. If you have plastic tubs, check for cracking. Automatic waterers should be checked frequently for proper filling. All water containers should be cleaned, bleached, rinsed thoroughly and kept clean. If you have a big problem with horses that like to play in your water tub, consider using fine stone screenings under and around your water station. The additional use of stall mats in this area helps to eliminate frequent maintenance around the waterer.
4. Outdoor sheds and outdoor coverings.
If your horses are outdoors all or most of the time, it’s important to their health to have an area where they can get out of inclement weather, wind, snow and sun. A 3 sided shed provides a place for horses to get relief form the weather. Be sure to check sheds for any areas of abuse. Split wood, broken pipe, or broken siding can be areas waiting for an accident to occur. Make repairs and you will be saving your horse from injury, not to mention a hefty vet bill. If your horses have “nested” and made large impressions in the ground, refill in those areas with dirt and consider using some sawdust or straw in nap areas. It will be more comfortable for your horse, and will help to avoid spaces under the frame of the shed.
Be sure, in windy areas, that your shed has not moved….it does happen…and that the back of the shed faces the predominate wind flow direction. Also in windy areas, be sure to anchor your sheds in the ground. They can blow over. Once again this could create an accident with your horses.
Get your chores done, and be ready for the beautiful weather to come! Ride and spend time with your horse. It’s the best medicine in the world for you and your equine friend!! Be ready for spring, and have a great ride; I will talk with you next month!
Debbie Disbrow, President
RAMM Horse Fencing & Stalls
This article was written by Debbie Disbrow, president of RAMM Fencing & Stalls. Debbie has over 40 years of experience with horses and equine-related businesses. RAMM Fencing and Stalls is one of the leading farm and barn equipment providers in the equine industry. RAMM is committed to customer service, quality products and thorough follow-up. Contact Debbie directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or for more information, visit www.rammfence.com or call 1.800.434.8455.