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Category: Horse Ownership Costs

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

Caught in the act – part 1

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…

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 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.

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.

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

Farnam Coupons and Rebates

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

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.

Damage from runaway horses

Damage from runaway horses

A few days after our horses got loose, we were talking with some friends and discovered that the little runaway scene the other night did actually cause some property damage. The friends that caught our horses for us had a suspicious break in their electric fence. Now there are other ways this can happen but it’s likely our horses ran into it, probably got the shock of their lives and scooted off, wide-eyed and wide awake. They ended up in the front lawn of the house and that was the beginning of them being captured. It’s a good thing our friend’s cows weren’t in that pasture or it could have been a bigger problem. We, of course, offered to pay for the fence repair and it caused no ill-will but it goes to show you horses getting loose can turn out to be a big deal. At least here in Tennessee property damage caused by loose animals in the responsibility of the animal owner. Even car insurance companies will sue animal owners to recoup damage expenses.

We have learned quite a lesson here. Of course we didn’t let them out intentionally and have always been concerned about leaving a gate open but now we triple check!

2007 Southeast Hay Outlook is Bleak

2007 Southeast Hay Outlook is Bleak

Speaking of hay, the word from the hay farmers in east Tennessee is that 2007 is shaping up to be a very bad year for hay. The first harvest of the year was about half it’s normal size and the lack of rain since the first harvest could mean there is no second harvest. In Tennessee, we had a hard freeze well into spring that seems to have slowed the growth of just about everything this season. That’s probably the culprit of the smaller-than-normal first harvest. Local farmers say we’re in the drought end of a 10 year moisture cycle in these parts.

What all of this means for those of us buying hay in east Tennessee is high prices and low availability. Last year feed stores were selling 30-40 pound square bales for up to $5.50 each last winter. I wonder what the price will be this year. If these farmers are correct, the best time to purchase hay is right now. As long as we keep them away from moisture, the bales will easily last and we have the room for it now. We’re planning on stocking up on round bales for winter and square bales for daily roughage. Worse-case scenario, we’ll supplement this winter with bagged alfalfa but I’d rather not do that. If you live in the southeast, this might be a good year to consider building some hay storage.

Luckily the midwest seems to be having a wet summer so you horse owners out there are probably in good shape. Heck, we might be importing hay from you guys this year!

Horse Expense List Updated

Horse Expense List Updated

I just got caught up on our year-to-date horse expense list and chart. 2007 is shaping up to be more expensive for us as horse owners. It looks like the biggest reason for that is because we’re just coming off of the cold months and winter is definitely more expensive for maintaining horses. Last years expense list started in summer. Now that the grass is growing and our horses are spending less time in the barn, our expenses are going down. If it wasn’t for farrier expense in April, our monthly total would have been only $74. But horses (usually) need shoeing!

Here are some expense changes implemented recently:

  • We find ourselves using more wood pellets these days, as it makes our job cleaning stalls each day much easier.
  • We got some good deals on more expensive feed from Purina and now we’re hooked. We really like Omolene and Strategy. I think we’ll stick with Strategy for now, which sells for about $3 more per bag than local feed-store sweet oats. We’ll also be cutting back slightly on the amount of feed we use.
  • We’ll start buying fly parasites again this month (May). We tried them last year and they worked. Today I noticed TONS of flies in the barn. We should have ordered the parasites a little earlier.

On an administrative note, the horse expense list page is looking cluttered to me so I’ll be redesigning it. The information is good, it’s just getting hard to read.

Here’s the updated graph:

2006-2007 Horse Expenses chart

Our 11 month average is $157.

Purina Horse Owners Workshop

Purina Horse Owners Workshop

Last week we attended a Purina Horse Owners Workshop presentation at one of our local feed stores here in east Tennessee. Purina seems to put these on annually and we attended a similar presentation last year at a different feed store. The objective for Purina is obvious: convince us to buy Purina brand horse feed. Even though we expected part of the event to be a sales presentation, we were interested in the opportunity to listen in on a question-and-answer session by cowboy and “horse whisperer” Sam Powell.

Sam has been the speaker for both presentations we’ve been to so far and I’m always impressed with his common-sense approach to horses. He advocates observing how horses deal with leadership in nature as an effective means of communicating to your horse that you are the herd leader. His most important point is that with horses, there is always a leader. Every time you meet, a leader is decided. If it’s just you and your horse, and you don’t take the leadership role, he will. There are many ways to subtly show him you’re in charge. For example, Sam suggests that you never just let your horses in and out of the barn – as we do (he says “they’re not cows”). He says to halter your horse each time and lead him in and out. When you’re letting him out, lead him out, remove the halter, then walk away. Your horse should not walk away until you do. When you let him in, lead him to the stall, stop at the door and allow him to walk in while still holding the lead rope. He will turn around to face you; then you can remove the halter and lead rope. (An added benefit to this method is that it makes it much easier to trailer a horse if he’s used to entering a space alone after you’ve stopped in the doorway.)

Sam offers lots of good advice every year. If you have the opportunity to hear him speak, we highly advise it. Check out his schedule at www.asksampowell.com.

Purina Horse Owners WorkshopOh, and an excellent barbecue dinner was provided at no charge to participants but you have to RSVP. This year supper included barbecued chicken and all the fixings, as well as a delicious desert. Tasty and filling (thanks Purina, Critter Country and other sponsors!). Product samples and literature were available and enough door prizes were given out that it seems almost everyone won something. Purina handed out special buy-two-get-one-free coupons and other discounts to entice us to buy their brand of feed. So when next year rolls around, if we get news of another Horse Owners Workshop, we’ll definitely be signing up again. It was time well spent.

We’ll write later about how we’ve been using Omolene 100, Purina’s sweet oat blend for “active pleasure horses”. For now, I’ll say we’ve been very pleased with it, even though it is a tad more expensive than the feed store mix. More about all that later.

Have you been to one of these presentations yet? What was your impression?

By the way, we have no connection with Purina or Critter Country and were not paid anything to say nice things about them.

For more information and to see if they have a Horse Owners Workshop near you, visit the Purina website.

The round bale hay experiment – Part 3

The round bale hay experiment – Part 3

Round bale by the treeGone. That’s how I’d explain the round bale I mentioned in Part 1 (October 13) and Part 2 (November 21). Our horses totally decimated it and seem offended they actually needed to forage for grass again. But as the weather got colder and the grass in our pasture became less and less, I started realizing that supplemental forage seems like a necessity. We seemed to “get away with it” last year because we bought Valentine in mid-February and prior to that only had a single boarding horse on our 5+ acre pasture. This year is different. We have two permanent horses sharing one pasture of dead or missing grass. So here at the end of the “experiment” I can tell you it has been a total success. $20 worth of hay supplemented our horses forage needs for almost three months (October-January). I don’t expect to get nearly as much time out of the next round bale because our natural forage supply is almost gone.

Based on our experience these past few months, here are some notes I’ve made on round bales:

  • I’m a little concerned that our horses stand in one small area and eat from it all day. Will they get fat this way? I thought horses always wanted to keep moving for safety.
  • I came across an interesting report concerning round bale hay spoilage. The government of Alberta, BC, Canada funded a study of how round bale storage techniques affect spoilage. Although the report was conducted in 1988, the data remains relevant today. The results showed that, with the exception of round bales stored inside, there were no differences in hay spoilage where round bales were stored outside in rows versus wrapped in plastic. Round bales stored outside, according to the study, may lose up to 10% of the hay to spoilage, after 16 months, amazingly. Round bales stored away from the weather experienced no spoilage. For more information, visit the Round Bale Storage Techniques report at the Alberta government website.
  • Although I purchased this last round bale for $20, delivered straight off of the hay baler wagon, I wonder how much price will fluctuate in winter. Supply and demand and all.
  • Delivery was great but there is no hay cutting going on these days so I can’t count on free delivery. I’m sure I could pay for delivery but I have a car hauler trailer and am inclined to save a few bucks and pick it up myself. I wonder if this is a good idea. At 1,000 pounds, how difficult will each be to move around at home, since we don’t have a tractor?
  • Location – the spoilage report mentioned above notwithstanding, I’m still considering putting the new round bale in our old barn out in the pasture. I wonder if I’ll be able to get it in there without the aforementioned uncontrollable 1,000 round bale rolling through our barn and knocking it down. Sure, it would be funny later but barns aren’t cheap.

I made some calls to try and get another round bale, as the grass in our east Tennessee pasture becomes less and less with colder weather. Fortunately I have a friend who was willing to sell me 2 round bales for $30 total, provided we pick them up. So we picked up two round bales from an open field on 1/12/07 with our F150 and a 16 foot car hauler, which worked nicely. I think we could have pulled three round bales home if we wanted to. “Picked up” means we went to the field and my friend loaded both round bales onto our trailer with a tractor and hay spear.

We brought the round bales home and figured since our pasture is hilly, we’d use that to our advantage. I backed the trailer up with the rear facing downhill next to a tree and Mikki and I were able to roll off one of the round bales. The horses found this whole process quite interesting!

Horses like trucks

Next, I backed our trailer up to the barn to unload the second round bale. This proved much more difficult. I keep calling these “round” bales but in reality they’re flat on the bottom from sitting for 6 months. We also didn’t have the downhill advantage. But eventually we unloaded it. Man I wish we had a tractor.

Round bale on the trailer

So now our horses have their faces in the “new” hay every day for most of the day, though they do roam the pasture in between “meals”. The quality of these round bales looked pretty poor on the outside, with lots of visible mold. Since the bales are in layers (think pecan swirls), the moldy layer was easily unwrapped to reveal the good hay. The inside looked much better. The outside peeled off as we rolled the bale into place. Our horses are picky about their hay and forage so we don’t expect they’ll be interested in any of the moldy hay, as long as there is good hay to be had.

As of today, February 2nd, the first bale in the pasture is almost entirely gone. That’s 3 weeks for $20 ($15 plus gas to get it here). Not bad for winter forage, I suppose. The horses don’t seem to have touched the bale in the old barn for some reason. We might have to push it out.

Knowing how well round bales are working for us, we have a plan for later this year. This summer/early fall when the round bales are plentiful, cheap and not moldy, we’re going to stock up, putting them in the old barn protected from the elements. I’m sold on round bales!

Thanks to David who commented in The round bale hay experiment – Part 2 about using a hay ring, specifically a horse hay ring. Apparently one of these devices reduces the amount of wasted hay by keeping the round bale contained. Horses simply reach their necks over and feed out of the middle. We’re doing some more research on price, etc. and will bring it up in a later post. David says it extends the life of the bale up to a week or more. Sounds good to me, provided the price is reasonable.

Related Posts:
The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5