Category Archives: Horse Ownership Costs

See how the cost adds up. Summary and detailed month-by-month horse expenses listed and discussed.

Fly control for horses and barns

Now that the weather is warm in east Tennessee, the flies are coming out in a big way. One afternoon recently I happened to catch Valentine coming in for a drink and noticed his face (mostly his eyes) were covered in flies. We probably waited a little too long to begin our fly control routine but the good news is, we can catch up. Flies and horses go together but our fly control system works very well. We use a combination of the following things:

  • Fly masks
  • Feed-through fly control
  • Equi-Spot on-horse
  • Liquid fly traps
  • Mr. Sticky Roll Fly tape
  • Fly spray (as needed)
  • Fly predators
  • Aerated manure composting – coming soon
  • Chickens

Wow, that seems like a lot, but let me explain. Flies come in cycles with adults living from 3-4 weeks. But before the adult stage they move from egg to larva to pupa stage in 9-25 days (feeding on organic material) for house flies and 23-52 days (feeding on blood) for stable flies. So any kind of fly control you implement today won’t be noticeable for several weeks, which is why you need to get started as soon as possible. There are so many ways to control flies but not all of them target the same part of the life cycle. So let’s explore my list in more detail, with prices:

Fly Masks – we use fly masks (our current favorite is the Farnam SuperMask II) because they have an immediate impact. I noticed flies on my horses’ eyes and was immediately able to rectify the problem. The first time we ever used a fly mask, our horses didn’t particularly like the velcro ripping sound but eventually got used to it and give us no trouble at all putting them on in the morning or removing them in the evening. Yes, that’s right, you need to put them on and take them off daily. Although the masks have the added benefit of cutting down on light (kinda like horsey sunglasses!), this obviously isn’t a good thing at night. And even though the screen of the masks make it look like horses wouldn’t be able to see out of them, I’ve actually strapped one on and driven down our street to prove a point. You can see fine through the screen mesh, as long as it’s day. Cost is $15-$20 each but they last a long time if you take care of them.

Feed-through fly control – I was initially concerned with feeding insecticide to my horses but it’s a very small dose for them and has proven effective and safe in horses and cows for many years. Feed-through fly control works well because it keeps the flies from hatching in manure. You won’t notice the benefit for weeks but this method works very well if you stick with it all summer. Some feed stores sell it in 2 pound tubs and higher, some feed stores actually sell it in bulk so you can buy a small bag for less than $10. I’d recommend sticking with a well known brand, though and do some research before selecting which brand you’re going to trust.

Equi-Spot on-horse – Equispot is applied directly to the body of your horse, mostly down their spine and on their legs. It’s effective for a couple of weeks at repelling and killing “house, stable, face and horse flies, plus eye gnats and ticks on horses”. This is the only method we use to treat against ticks, so it’s pretty important. It needs to be applied every 2 weeks or so but the benefits are worth it and it takes affect immediately. Oh and it has a nice citronella smell and is water resistant. The price is around $11 for a package of three applicators (one applicator per horse, per application). Sometimes Jeffers has a deal where you get one free if you buy 3 or 4 packages.

Liquid fly traps – I saw these at my local country hardware store one day and decided to give them a try. These are clear plastic bowls with a funnel underneath that the flies use to enter the trap. They’re attracted by fly stink bait (trust me on this – WEAR GLOVES to mix it. The smell stays on you for days otherwise.) and can’t escape, eventually drowning. These are cheap (around $5 each) and easy to setup. You open up the stink bait, add water, swirl it around a little, turn it upside down and hang it somewhere. In weeks you’ll have a disgusting pool of dead flies. It’s gross but it works. Since it uses a fly attractant, don’t hang in the barn.

Mr. Sticky Roll Fly tape – I saw this at Tractor Supply one day and had to try it. It’s a new take on the idea of fly tape. Instead of those cylinders handing from the ceiling with yellow tape on them, the Mr. Stick fly tape is more of a thick string on a set of rollers you can string above your stalls. The tape is long – 81 feet. Flies are attracted to it, stick and die. When the tape is full, you turn the roller to reveal more. Much faster than the old fashioned fly tape and the price is low. Less than $10 for 81 feet.

Fly spray (as needed) – Our horses HATE this stuff but probably because it comes in a spray bottle. It’s not very water resistant and needs re-applying often. But where fly spray makes sense is for as-needed situations, such as around (not on) a healing wound or on the legs. To minimize the spray bottle effect, we spray onto a cloth and them rub the cloth on the horses. This works especially well on their faces. This stuff is pretty expensive, running $10-$25 per bottle, so we use it sparingly.

Fly parasites – Fly parasites (really gnat-sized parasitic wasps) remind me of alien science fiction movies where the alien hatches from it’s prey. That’s pretty much how it works with fly predators, too. And gross as that may be, these have been effective at fly treatment for us for years now. You subscribe to receive regular shipments throughout the fly season and every 3-4 weeks a shipment comes in a padded yellow envelop. You have a few days before the parasites hatch. Once they begin hatching (they look like little gnats), you spread them around where flies are likely to be, such as a manure pile. And although I at first was concerned with introducing a parasite near my horses, they are only interested in pillaging the flies. Price is around $15-$20 per shipment.

Aerated manure composting – I’ve been talking about this for a while now but ultimately we need to do something about our manure. That’s what seems to attract flies the most and we have plenty of it. Of course you should endeavor to keep manure away from the barn as much as possible but the reality is, this isn’t always possible. We’ve been looking into aerated composting as a way to not only deal with the fly problem but also to ensure that manure is fully composted, killing weed seeds and harmful bacteria before we spread it in the pasture. Composting is a pain, normally, but aerated composting uses perforated pipe, a fan and timer to inject oxygen into the manure pile periodically, stimulating bacterial breakdown. It’s said you can convert manure to safe compost in 30 days using this method, without manually turning the pile. We haven’t done it yet but we’ve scoped out a location and made some napkin drawings of what it would look like. Cost is around $1,000-$2,000 so we’ve been putting it off. There are a few companies selling aerated composting systems and we’re hoping to doing a review in an upcoming series of posts.

Chickens – We were given some chickens last year and have enjoyed almost everything about having them. One bonus is that chickens seem to love eating fly larvae, so I have to include them in our fly management routine. They need very little care, don’t smell (unless you have a lot of them) and skip the rooster and you won’t have to worry about baby chickens. The eggs are great, too. The biggest problems we have with chickens are what to do with all of the eggs (one per hen per day most of the year) and since we free-range our chickens, predators. We’ve been pretty lucky so far but there is little we could do to save them if a wandering dog went into to predator mode.

As with anything relating to chemicals and your horses, make sure you do research before pursuing any of the insecticide options in particular. Some don’t mix well with others and your safety and your horse’s safety should be the first concern.

So that’s what we do to handle the annual fly problem. Are you doing anything different?

05-20-2010 Update: added chickens to the list!

The grass is greener on the other side

Broken FenceIn the past couple of weeks we’ve been traveling quite a bit. At one point there was no one home for about 7 days. During that time our horse friend Shari kept an eye on the place and fed our outside animals (the dogs were at a kennel). Several days into our vacation, we got a voice message from an older neighbor saying our horses were out and were roaming the neighborhood and highway and they didn’t know what to do since they weren’t horse people. In fact I think they thought we were still home because we often arrange to have cars in our driveway so it doesn’t appear as though the house is empty. We immediately began dialing through our list of horse rescue contacts to ask for help. We were about 2,000 miles away from home at this point. Unfortunately, almost all of our horse contacts were off doing weekend things, far from home. We finally reached a vet friend and the girl we bought Romeo from (thanks guys!) and they quickly led the horses back into the pasture. The fence was down in one section. To make a long story short, although the fence was repaired each time, this has happened a total of four times in the past two weeks. Our horses have learned two lessons:

1) There is an abundance of yummy green grass on the other side of our fence.
2) It doesn’t take much for a 1,000+ pound horse to knock down a wooden fence.

As soon as we got home, I bought a bunch of new fence boards and have been replacing weak boards. Each time, they find a new section to push on. Often it’s Cash, scratching his bottom on the fence. Sometimes it’s Valentine, giraffing over the top to get to the grass just beyond. Whoever the culprit, it needs to stop! The most recent time was last night and fortunately we were home to resolve it. When you see headlights in your driveway at 11:30 PM, you have to know something is wrong. It was feeding time so rounding them up was easy but these escaping episodes are at best annoying and at worst dangerous. We spoke about the need for an electric fence last year but when the grass stopped growing, the horses stopped pushing the fence down. This time we’re going to do it. We’ve got some rough measurements and I’m calling Electrobraid to place my order. We spent hours today (60 holes drilled, 60 screws) adding inside boards to the top row so each section has two rails on top. We’ll run a strand of electric fence along the top to keep them off of the fence. Unfortunately it looks like it takes 10 days or so for shipping. We’re paranoid every time we hear a car nearby and are afraid to leave the house for fear they’ll get out while we gone!

I need to verify this with Electrobraid but the price for the rope and accessories, plus shipping, comes to a reasonable $900 or so (1,200 foot section). With this system, not only will we be able to help fix this wooden fence issue, we’ll also have a system we can use to replace our barbed wire sections, something we’ve been meaning to do since we got here. It looks like this project doesn’t want to wait anymore.

Any of you had trouble keeping your horses on the right side of the fence?

Caught in the act – part 1

Photographic proof of one of my fence vandals is below. This is Moonshine checking out the grass on the wrong side of the fence. Valentine and Cash do it too, though Valentine is such a giraffe, he goes over the top of the fence instead of through it. The fence posts are starting to loosen from all of that horse weight pushing against them. Electrifying is in our future, I think.

 

And the winner is…

If you’ve been faithfully reading our blog you know which horse we’ve selected. Mikki mentioned it in her last post. In case you missed it, here’s a recap.

Ever since Sinbad left, we’ve been looking for a replacement horse. We needed one anyone could ride and this new horse would become my regular every day horse while I work with Moonshine. Over the course of the last month or so we’ve checked out a total of four candidates: 1) Snowball, a cremello Tennessee Walking Horse, 2) Misty, a spotted Tennesse Walking Horse, 3) Romeo, an Appaloosa and 4) Cash, a spotted Tennessee walking horse. Misty was eliminated early due to inexperience and Cash and Romeo quickly emerged as the front runners. After vet and farrier checks, short rides, long rides, pacing the floor and scratching our heads, we decided we’re ready to make a selection.

Cash…AND Romeo!

A while ago, Shari told us that if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself collecting horses. This seems to be true and here we are with FOUR horses. Here’s why we selected both: Cash makes an excellent gaited horse pair for Valentine, plus he has the paint markings I prefer. He’s a handsome fellow, easy to ride and not as tall as Valentine. But Romeo has barrel racing experience, is also easy to ride and gentle (he’s also handsome). I can learn how to barrel race on Romeo and he’s reserved and gentle enough for the Kid, who we’ve decided will be taking lessons soon.

So now we have a few new challenges:

1) The expense of feeding four horses
2) We just bought a two horse trailer. Since Valentine is so big, we’d need a new truck to get a bigger trailer.
3) We only have 3 horse stalls. We need to convert a storage stall.
4) Introducing two new horses to the herd. Romeo apparently is the herd boss in his current pasture.

So meet our two new horses:



I’ll get some better pictures of them without riders.

Our horse world has just expanded! I think we have enough now, though. And on a side-note, our horse friend Shari just bought a big Tennessee Walking Horse that looks a lot of Valentine so it looks like we’ll be riding gaited a lot. More soon.

Our first horse trailer!

Our New Horse TrailerWe’ve been mooching off of our horse friends for too long! This weekend we made one of our regular trips to the big city (Atlanta in this case) for provisions and while we were down in Georgia we thought we’d check out some horse trailers. We’ve looked at horse trailers before but we were looking in the $1,000 – $1,500 range and to be honest, most trailers we saw in that range were rusty and worn out. We made some calls and ended up driving almost to Alabama to look at a trailer owned by Kim at the Prancing Pony Equestrian Center. The price was right so we ended up towing home a beautiful gold-colored 2004 CM two horse trailer. It’s extra-tall and extra wide for Valentine, who stands at 16.2 HH. While we would like to have a three horse trailer, our F150 isn’t cut out for that much hauling and we weren’t prepared to buy a 3/4 or one ton tow rig. Thanks to Kim and her husband (whose name escapes me) for making this such an easy transaction. Kim also showed us around her farm and introduced us to her horses, her mini-horses, goats, chickens and puppies. We wished we lived closer so we could ride with her. The Prancing Pony near Carrollton, Georgia also does birthday parties and camps for kids interested in farm animals, especially horses.

The new trailer pics are below. Finally! Now we can load up and head out to our local trails without asking our friends for a ride. We’re thankful for generous friends but are happy we can haul our own horses.

 

Now we just need to peel off the stickers and come up with our own logo vinyl.

Farnam Coupons and Rebates

If you have horses, it’s likely you’ve used Farnam horse products at one point or another. Many of the products you see at feed stores and Tractor Supply come from Farnam such as fly masks, fly sprays, horse soaps, shampoos and conditioners, feed supplements, etc. I received a marketing email from Farnam recently that had a link to coupons and rebates you can print for discounts on Farnam products. Savings range from $1 to $25. If you buy Farnam products, save a few bucks by using one of these:

Farnam Coupons and Rebates

You can also find this list by visiting their website and clicking “Coupons” on the top menu.

Note: Farnam isn’t a sponsor and we’re not affiliated with them in any way.

Horses and the Housing Crisis

A few years ago we lived in Arizona during the height of the big real estate boom. We saw the price of houses in our neighborhood jump from $150k to over $300k and the desert all around Phoenix developed. It seemed even the least attractive homes in the worst neighborhoods were suddenly very expensive. I couldn’t figure out where all the money was coming from. How could people making $40k a year afford a $300k house in need of a new roof? Years later we have our answer and the “housing crisis” continues. I feel bad for those who had to pay twice what homes were worth, only to have their mortgage payments skyrocket and the value of their houses plummet. But I hadn’t even considered the impact this might have on horses in Arizona until I read an article a few days ago on azcentral.com (the website of the Arizona Republic newspaper).

Though I’m not a fan of E.J. Montini’s controversial political views, his column post “Abandoning houses, horses and history” was well written and eye-opening. Mr. Montini interviewed Holly Marino of the non-profit Horse Rescue of North Scottsdale and discovered that people in the Phoenix area are dropping off and abandoning their horses at an increasing rate. When people can’t pay their mortgages, they can’t pay to feed or board horses. The rescue went from having around a dozen horses to having 60…SIXTY. I know what it costs to feed and maintain three horses but I can’t imagine sixty. They’re struggling to find a way to pay the expenses while looking for good homes for the horses.

The impact of the huge increase in bankruptcies and foreclosures in Arizona extends beyond people to their pets, including horses. I’ll guess it’s a problem in other previously-hot housing markets like Southern California and Florida. It’s sad for the horses and sad for the people, many of whom are probably as close to their horses as we are to ours.

I’ll be traveling to Arizona in the next few months and will try to stop by the Horse Rescue of North Scottsdale to talk with Ms. Marino about it some more.

If you’re close by and would like to help, visit their website (they have a very nice website) for more information. They’re in need of blankets, hay, feed, money and more. Even a small donation of $10 can buy a bag of feed. If you’re not close by, consider helping out your local horse rescue. The housing crisis is impacting communities around the U.S. Most rescues are non-profit and in need of financial and/or physical help.