Category Archives: Product Reviews

Reviews of horse, barn and pasture products, accessories and tack

Who Was That (Fly) Masked Horse?

Fly maskWe are battling the flies again. In some ways, I don’t think they’re as bad as they were last year – probably because of a late frost that killed off a bunch of our normal pests – but the ones that are deviling our horses are really bad. Last year, we had a three-pronged approach to fly control: Equispot on the horses, feed-through fly control in the horses, and fly parasites in the horses’ environment. This year, we just weren’t prepared. Between the weird weather (One day, “It’s spring!” Then, “Wait, it’s winter again.” A week later, “I think it’s summer already!” The next day, “Nope, winter again…”) and our traveling, the flies kind of got the jump on us. Our poor horses are really suffering.

We are in fact using the fly parasites again this year, and I think they work really well. Unfortunately, without investing in a really big supply of them, we can only effectively treat the barn area. So the barn is virtually fly-free, but the pasture, where the horses spend most of their time, is still pretty fly-infested. That’s where the feed-through fly control would work. (Both the fly parasites and the feed-through fly control work by stopping fly larvae where they are laid – in the manure.) We like to get ours from a local feed store because it’s very economical, but haven’t had a chance to get over there (“local” for us means within 75 miles; this place is about 50 miles away). In the meantime, we’ve been using fly spray, which our horses hate and which doesn’t seem to work all that well anyway. We’ve also applied SWAT to their bellies again, which is very nasty and messy but does seem to help.

Since the flies seem to bother their faces the most, we decided we’d give fly masks a try. We got just one yesterday to see if they would even consent to wear it. We bought a SuperMask II without ears. Since my horse is was a fancy show horse and therefore seems to be more open to weird things being done to him, we thought we’d try him first. We put him in the stall, got out the mask and brought it over to show him. He backed away like I was holding a snake! Not a good start. But after letting him sniff it all over and giving him lots of reassurance, he did actually let me put it on with no trouble. He wore it for a couple of hours out in the pasture and didn’t seem to care at all.

One reason we didn’t try the mask last year is that we were concerned that it would affect their vision. All the fly mask companies claim that their masks don’t obstruct vision, but since “keeping an eye on things” is so important to a horse, we didn’t want to impede their sight in any way. So we tested it on the way home to make sure you really can see through – Bill wore it while driving. 🙂 He says he could see just fine. So I don’t think there’s anything to worry about there. Isn’t he a devoted horse owner?

On the down side…it sure looks goofy. On the horse, not Bill. Well, okay, on Bill too. It’s a hard look to pull off.

Book Review: Beautiful Jim Key

While I was visiting the kids/grandkids in Arizona last month, I read 5 books. I love to read! One of the books I read, which I highly recommend, is Beautiful Jim Key by Mim Eichler Rivas. I had never heard of this horse, and apparently not many people these days have, but after reading this book, I can’t believe he’s being forgotten.

I don’t want to give away the whole story, in case you want to read the book yourself, but here’s a synopsis: Jim Key was a Arabian-Hambletonian colt bred by a former slave, Dr. William Key, in 1889. His dam was “Lauretta, Queen of Horses,” a purebred Arabian said to have been owned by (and stolen from) an Arab sheik. His sire, the Hambletonian, was a very successful pacer, and that’s what Jim was bred to be as well. Pacing (a form of racing where the horse pulls a small cart) was very big at the time. Jim was very sickly when he was born, and not expected to live. With tender loving care by Dr. Key, who was a self-taught veterinarian, he not only lived but turned out to be a very special horse. He showed an unusual aptitude for learning, and Dr. Key ended up teaching him to read, spell, do arithmetic, file letters in a filing cabinet, memorize Bible verses, and give political opinions, among other amazing feats. He ended up on tour, showing millions of Americans his amazing talents at fairs and expositions around the country.

The biggest contribution Jim Key made, though, was to the animal rights cause. Animal abuse was rampant and accepted at the time, and by showing people how intelligent animals can be, he raised awareness in people and became a kind of ambassador for organizations that were the forerunners of today’s ASPCA and Humane Society.

Beautiful Jim Key retired in 1906 and lived a peaceful retirement until he died of natural causes in 1912. He’s buried in Shelbyville, Tennessee. We’re going to visit the memorial someday, when we go to that mecca of Tennessee Walking Horses.

The book was well-written, though in my opinion a tad on the political side, and it dwelt far too much on the relationship between their promoter, A.R. Rogers, and the humane societies. I also wish that there were more pictures, but of course it was just at the turn of the 20th century, so photography wasn’t nearly as common then. But on the whole, it was a very interesting, moving book and definitely worth reading.

My trusty barn gloves

My barn glovesI’m about to retire the best light-work gloves I have ever owned. I’m not afraid to get my hands dirty but last year I bought a pair of Justin light leather gloves from Tractor Supply. I’ve used these gloves nearly every day for a year and the only reason I’m retiring them is due to some holes they’ve developed. It’s time. I used these gloves exclusively for barn work and riding, etc. No working on cars, no gardening. I like them so much because of the way they feel, tight enough for me to easily grip whatever I’m grabbing but not too tight to be comfortable. I think I paid $20 for them and they’ve been worth every penny. They will be replaced with the same exact Justin glove model, if I can find them. Definitely a “buy” recommendation from me.

Neither Justin nor Tractor Supply paid me anything to say nice things about these gloves. 🙂

Stall Fork Preferences

Manure ForksIt doesn’t take long to figure out what products and procedures work well for horse chores. Last night while shoveling horse stalls (it’s more like forking horse stalls), Mikki grabbed the manure fork I normally use and I in turn took hers. After a few minutes, we happily swapped back again. Neither of us found it easy to work with a manure fork weren’t familiar with using. That might sound silly but we each use a different size and style fork and that makes more of a difference than I would have thought. Mikki uses a smaller fork purchased at a tack shop for around $20. It’s the typical style you see for manure duties, with a nice smooth aluminum handle. We bought the fork I use specifically for use with pellet bedding such as Woody Pet and Equine Pine. In fact, I think it’s actually manufactured by the Woody Pet people (I think they call it their “Fine Tines Fork” – around $26 at Tractor Supply). It’s tines are closer together for catching small manure pieces. It’s also quite a bit larger than the one Mikki uses and as a result picks up a LOT of horse manure, which makes it quite heavy to use. For those who use sawdust or pine pellets, cleaning stalls is part scooping big chunks of horse manure and part sifting to separate the good bedding from the little pieces of manure. The larger fork does a great job as a “sifter”, since it’s deep and the sides adequately keep the payload from prematurely escaping the fork. The smaller fork Mikki uses doesn’t work as well as a sifter because the payload keeps falling off the sides. At least it does for me. Mikki has it down, though and much prefers it over the larger stall fork.

Here’s what they look like. Even though the larger one looks like it’s carrying less horse manure, remember it’s deeper. You just can’t see the depth in the photo.

Small Manure Fork Large Manure Fork

On the left is the smaller fork, with the larger Woody Pet fork on the right. While shooting these pictures, I lost some of the horse manure from fork on the left.

Incidentally, we’ve been using both stall forks for at least 6 months without any of the tines breaking. They’ve fallen down in the barn and used as rakes and shovels (not recommended) and have proven to be durable, despite being plastic. The bolt holding the fork onto the aluminum handle of the smaller one needed tightening once.

Review – Energizer 6 LED Headlamp

Energizer 6 LED Head lightPart of our evening routine is for Mikki and I to feed the goats, clean horse stalls and feed our horses. Ever since daylight savings time ended in early November, its been dark while we’re doing this so we’ve had to bring out a flashlight. The barn has pretty good light and we’re going to expand our lighting system someday but for now Moonshine’s stall requires supplemental lighting so I can see to scoop. Until last month I had been using a portable fluorescent light that came with a Craftsmen tool set. It works really well for the most part and with a 19.2 volt power pack, it does last a long time. However, I found myself stepping in front of the light often which defeated the purpose. Then I got the idea to try this headband light I bought for camping and working on my Jeep. It’s an LED light that’s attached to a head band so you can use it hands-free. By strapping it to your head, the light follows wherever you look, which is just perfect for stall cleaning at night. This particular model, the Energizer 6 LED Headlamp, has 4 light modes but I really only use the first one, which powers only two LEDs through a magnifier to produce remarkable amount of light for such a little thing. Three AAA batteries are supposed to keep it running for 50 hours. I’m still on the original batteries after a month so that seems pretty economical. Oh and the light tilts down at the base so you can easily adjust it to shine wherever you want. The only downside is how it looks on your head. We’ve kind of taken to calling it my “geek light” because it makes me look (more) geeky. Because it uses multiple lights, you will find yourself looking less like a coal miner and more light a robot with this on. But it does the job. And the horses don’t mind it either.

So where do you get this? Aha! You knew there was a catch with this recommendation, right? Actually there isn’t. Just go to Walmart. I think I paid $10 for it. No affiliate links and this isn’t a sponsored review. I just really like the product and want to recommend it for nighttime horse duties.
Energizer LED Headlight packaging