Fat horses have motivated us to shift our summertime horse routine. Since Cash foundered last month, we noticed all of our horses were on the heavy side. It’s been very hot and humid so they’re not getting much exercise. We didn’t want to put grazing muzzles on all of them. Our solution has been to put them into the barn at night to reduce access to hay and grass. A nice side benefit is that we’re sure to see them twice a day to check for irregularities.
So an average day looks like this:
- Change stall water. I didn’t do this one day and the next night saw tiny little worms swimming in the water. I make sure they get fresh water in their stalls every day now.
- Incentive feed. I get a full scoop of Purina Strategy and sprinkle it slowly in each feed bucket so that the noise of the falling pellets alerts the horses that it’s time to start heading to the barn. It’s not much volume because they’re on a diet but enough to pique their interest.
- Stall check. I try to do this late at night so our horses aren’t inside more than 10 hours or so, I carry a powerful flashlight that makes it easy to do a quick cursory check of stalls. We haven’t seen a snake in a while but this time of year we often see new wasp nests that need destroying before horses come in. I can also quickly see exposed nails, broken boards, etc.
- Let the horses in. By now there is a line at the barn entry gate that reminds me of airplanes lined up to land at an airport. There is a particular order to entry and ignoring it causes problems. Every once in a while the line gets out of order and everyone cops an attitude while they’re eating. Snorting, pawing, ears back as they chew dinner while looking through the aisle window. No, Moonshine goes first, followed by Cash, then Valentine and finally Romeo. This follows herd hierarchy except for Romeo being last. He takes the whole lazy Appaloosa thing very seriously. Stall doors are closed after each entry so there is no confusion about what stall to use. We could and maybe should halter and lead the horses in one at a time but we have a routine that’s quick and efficient and easier if only one of us is doing it.
Pet the barn kitty. Daisy keeps mice down in the barn but is given supplemental cat food. I climb a ladder to the loft where she is fed and by now she’s waiting for me on the ladder. Before I’m allowed up, I have to scratch her behind the ears. When I’m half way up she rubs her face on mine and meows and purrs. Food in the dish comes third. We do this every night.
- Check water trough. We have an automatic filler on the trough but I monitor it frequently to make sure it’s not leaking, to remove leaves and floating hay and to see when the trough needs a more thorough cleaning. Water moves a lot in there but it does sit still for hours at a time and algae loves to grow in sunny wet spots. Some trees are poisonous to horses so we have to be careful of leaves that might taint the water.
- Check gate latches and turn off lights. I’ve accidentally left gates open before and the next day was missing horses so I do redundant checks. Some of our barn lights stay on from dusk to dawn and some I turn off, like those in the tack room.
- Let horses out. Like the entry process, the exit process is done in a specific order. Up first is Cash. He’s the one impatiently pawing at the door. After being in the barn all night, I usually don’t have to encourage any of our horses to leave. After Cash comes Valentine. He’s a little slow walking out, checking the barn floor for pieces of leftover hay. Next comes Romeo, slowly but surely. He gently pushes Valentine out if needed. Lastly is Moonshine. By now if any of our horses are trying to get back into the barn, she turns them around. No one challenges the mare…no one.
- Lock gate. I have to carefully lock the pasture gate because Cash is an expert at unlocking/unlatching. I’ve mentioned this before but he’ll stand around and watch how you do it and when you leave he’ll try to undo it. He has a good record of figuring stuff out so everything is double-latched.
- Pet and feed the barn kitty. This is new but I discovered leaving a dish full of cat food in the loft attracts other, larger cats. So I feed our kitty half at night and half in the morning. Of course, after the proper amount of petting has been administered.
So that’s our horse routine these days. It looks like a lot but it takes about 10-15 minutes each night and 5 minutes in the morning. Does your look anything like this?