We ignored the advice from our farm friends about buying a two wheel drive tractor for our small horse farm. To this day, they still tell us it’s a waste of money but we think otherwise. Our east Tennessee land gets pretty muddy and it only takes a little bit of rain to make it slick. If we planned on using this tractor any time other than when it was completely dry, we would have been out of luck with 2wd. 4wd isn’t a luxury, it’s a necessity where we live and our 4WD Kubota with locking rear differential is serving us well. Here’s a short video (1:24 minutes) showing some examples of why we needed a 4wd tractor:
When it rains, it pours here in East Tennessee. To make winters even less pleasant, the frequent rain (January is our second rainiest month) is causing us work and making the lives of our horses a little less fun. Even though it was warm Sunday when I shot this little video, I decided to let the horses in to dry off and they seemed to appreciate it. I can’t wait until we have a few dry days to move some dirt. We knew we had some new drainage issues but the big rain storm Sunday made it seem a lot worse. I made this quick 2 minute, 26 second video to show you how muddy our place is right now. Now with voice overs! LOL. Once you get past the first few dizzy seconds, the rest of the video is pretty smooth.
So does your barn and pasture look like this right now, too?
Unlike regular TV, I usually don’t fast-forward the commercials when I watch horse shows on RFD-TV . If something relates to or interests me, I’m happy to watch. Horse products interest me. One of those commercials showed a truck driving towards a fence and at the last minute the driver jumped out while the truck headed towards the fence. They had my attention. The fence flexed under the force of the low speed impact and appeared to repel the truck before returning to its previous shape. I know nothing about the horse fence manufacturer Centaur HTP, but that TV commercial really impressed me. If the price is reasonable and I find some good feedback on the Internet, I’ll consider their product.
This version isn’t exactly the same as the one I saw on RFD-TV but it’s similar:
Have you heard anything about Centaur HTP fencing?
In 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:
- There is an abundance of yummy green grass on the other side of our fence.
- 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?
Been a little while since we talked about this but I have an update. Since we last wrote about our round bale experiment in February 2007 (yikes – over two years ago!), we bought a round bale feeder with cutouts for horses. We were told we could just buy the cow version but we liked how the horse version seemed to do a better job of keeping the horses separated and that’s important when four horses are eating off of the same bale. Whoever suggested to us that the round bale feeder would save us money in hay was absolutely right. After about a year I can honestly say this thing has probably paid for itself. The old method was to drop a round bale out in the pasture to let the horses feed freely on it. But they ended up walking and pooping all over the hay and of course they wanted nothing to do with it then. We’d lose about 20% of every bale this way. With the round bale feeder we lose almost nothing. I believe we paid about $100 for the galvanized version which came in three pieces we needed to bolt together. It’s surprisingly light, though it’s size makes it a little hard to maneuver. We usually flip it on it’s side and roll it to the next location (it’s muddy in the photo above because we rolled it through the mud) and then flop it down onto it’s legs over a round bale. I can do it myself but prefer having the help of another person.
As you know, we don’t have a tractor so moving round bales has been a challenge. What seems to be working for us it to load up our flat car-hauler trailer with four round bales and then as needed we back the trailer into the pasture and roll one off by hand. Surprisingly I can move one myself but I don’t have complete control because there is a bit of elevation where we feed hay. What’s worse, though, is when we need to drop a new round bale after it’s been raining. Our clay is slippery when wet. Backing a heavy car hauler and a heavy truck over wet clay is a great way to get stuck. And that’s just what happened last week. Understand that our truck is four wheel drive and supercharged but there was no moving that trailer once it was stuck in the mud. Fortunately for us, there were no more bales on the trailer so we just disconnected and left it there. I barely got out of there in the truck. So that’s our big challenge right now with this method of round bale delivery. What we really need is a 4×4 tractor. I’ve had lots of people tell me I don’t need 4 wheel drive on a tractor but a tractor I can only use when it hasn’t rained in the past 3 days is of little use. We get 70 or so inches of rain a year here.
In summary, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND a round bale feeder!
The round bale hay experiment – Part 1
The round bale hay experiment – Part 2
The round bale hay experiment – Part 3
The round bale hay experiment – Part 4 (you are here)
The round bale hay experiment – Part 5
That’s the good news. The bad news is that one of our frisky horses broke through the fence…AGAIN. This is the third time this has happened at this spot and the second time the break resulted in an escaped horse. Apparently, horses can’t read signs. Not an exit…NOT AN EXIT! Fortunately, I work from home and my office is close enough to this section of fence for me to have heard a loud noise. I went to investigate and found Cash eating grass in our backyard. The other horses were chasing each other nowhere near the fence. It’s cooler today and raining and it seems to have made them frisky. Our backyard has some yummy grass so it was hard to incent Cash into leaving it. Oats did the trick, along with a lead rope but given our last escapee incident with Cash, I expected him to bolt at any second.
This time Cash broke through a double fence board. I image he must have kicked it because he has no marks on him. That section of fence is a little low so perhaps it was tempting to him. When we get an electric fence, we’re going to bypass this peninsula. In the meantime, I replaced the broken boards with a 2×6 and added a riser to make it seem higher. It’s not the most attractive fence section but hopefully it will do the trick until the electric fence is installed.
When we first arrived here at the farm, there was wiring for an electric fence but it wasn’t hooked up to anything. Eventually we removed the wiring because it simply didn’t look good and we didn’t really need it. Now we think it’s probably time to reconsider. We decided to barbecue so I headed outside around 6, just in time to see Moonshine stepping over a section of fence near the barn. She was the third horse to do so. Cash and Romeo were already enjoying the irresistible grass on the other side of the fence. In this case, the grass really is greener on the other side. Valentine, our huge (to us) Walking Horse is the likely culprit for knocking down the fence. He’s always reaching his giraffe neck over to nibble on grass and at almost 1300 pounds, it doesn’t take much leaning to push out nails. I don’t know why the person who built the fence didn’t put the boards on the inside but Valentine has been known to snap boards in half, too. But for all of his brute strength and fence mischief, he’s never escaped after knocking boards down and this time he was far away from the other horses as if to disassociate himself with the escapees.
So I grabbed a bucket with some feed and Mikki grabbed a halter and lead rope and we headed up to coax the horses back onto the correct side of the fence. Mikki headed for Cash first because of that last incident where we chased him through the woods for four hours. He started to walk away but Mikki was able to get the lead rope around his neck, after which he was compliant. Next, I tempted Moonshine with some feed but with a mouth full of yummy green grass, she turned and walked away. Romeo, who lives to eat (and love) came over and happily snarfled the feed without competition. That is, until Moonshine noticed. Once she knew someone else wanted it, she wanted it too and I was able to walk them over the fence again. We led them all to the barn and fed them their evening rations while we went about fixing the fence.
Wooden fences are nice but they require a lot of upkeep. Ours is aging and in need of new paint. Several of the boards are warped and should probably be replaced. Each time this kind of thing has happened (the horses rarely escape but board do occasionally come down), we replace the boards using screws instead of nails. This time we did that and added some extra braces over where the boards meet at the posts.
So that brings us to electric fences. We could go cheap and get the basic electric livestock wire or we could spend a little more and go for something like Electrobraid. We intend to replace the barbed wire with something like Electrobraid so provided the system is expandable, perhaps that’s the way we’ll go. I still like the look of the wooden fence, so we’d probably use it on the inside to keep the horses off of the fence. And because wiring to our breaker box would be difficult, solar is probably our best power source choice.
Have you caught your horses on the wrong side of the fence? Are any of you using Electrobraid or some other electric fence?`
I think I mentioned a few posts ago that our neighbor had recently fenced the property across from us to give his cows more pasture, and that Moonshine really doesn’t like them. It’s hard to tell exactly what she’s thinking, but it’s pretty obvious that she doesn’t approve of their presence. The first day they were there, they didn’t come close enough for us to see them, but I guess she could smell them. She spent a good part of that day facing toward the field with her ears pricked forward, snorting. The next day was our big ride in the round pen, and she could see them then. Every time she got to that spot in the arena, she’d stop and stare.
Well, it’s been over a week now, and she seems to have gotten a little more used to them. It’s a good thing, too, because she got a good dose of cow socializing over the weekend when we camped at a cow farm. Valentine and Moonshine were penned right next to the cow pasture; the cows could, and did, put their faces right up to the horse pen. She seemed okay with that. Whew.
So Moonshine’s not spooked by the cows anymore. Valentine never cared about them at all. Our dogs, on the other hand…we’re sure one of them (and we’re pretty sure which one of them) is gonna get kicked in the head. And there’s a better than average chance that one of us, or someone who visits us, will at some point back into the cow fence. Moonshine’s not the only one that’s put out by the new neighbors.
A few weeks ago, our horse friends, the Watsons, told us they had a source for hay. We were pretty excited because east Tennessee and everywhere around it has been in the grip of a major drought for months, so hay is getting to be alarmingly scarce, and expensive when you can find it. Jeff Watson knew someone at work who was cutting hay for the first time (the VERY first time) and would let us pick it up in the field for $2 a bale! There were wildly varying estimates of how much hay would be available, from about 250 bales to about 1,000 bales. The fact that the hayfield owner couldn’t narrow it down to within 750 bales should have been a red flag, I guess. Shari asked Jeff to make sure that the hay was good stuff; Jeff was assured that it was. So after a couple of weeks of scheduling problems, we finally made it out there about a month ago.
It was about an hour from our house. We brought 3 trailers in case the 1,000-bale estimate was closest. When we got to the field, it was about half the size of, and as hilly as, our own pasture. That is to say, maybe 3 acres with very rolling hills. What we could see looked to be about 150 bales. And the parts that weren’t mowed yet were just as brushy and weedy as our pasture, too.
An hour later, we had 189 bales and were glad there weren’t more. This hay is full of goodness-knows-what. There’s some good hay in there, but there are sticks and twigs and spiky stuff too. And something that we guess is poison ivy, because poor Bill ended up with a rash wherever he wasn’t covered, and I didn’t – it seems that I’m one of those lucky people who aren’t sensitive to poison oak or poison ivy, because whenever Bill, the Kid and I have accidentally blundered into a patch of either one, only Bill suffers (a little bit of trivia: we’re told that Native Americans are naturally resistant to poison oak and poison ivy, and I’m part Cherokee and Osage – as is the Kid, since he’s my…kid).
Anyway…so we have 99 bales of $2 hay, and we may have overpaid. Our barn is full (of hay that only I can touch), and the horses have been eating it for about a month now with no ill effects, but we are definitely going to look elsewhere for good hay for the winter, when their nutritional needs are so dependent on the forage we provide.
I just want to be clear, though – we are VERY glad to have this hay, despite the problems, and relieved that we have some when so many people are having to sell their horses because they can’t find or buy hay. But, as is the case most of the time, you get what you pay for.
As you probably know, we don’t own a tractor (yet) so we need to call someone to bush hog our pasture occasionally. I haven’t done that in a while and as a result, the pasture is kind of overgrown at the moment. The good news is that our pasture is some kind of haven for wild blackberry bushes. Our neighbor told us that he and the previous owners used to pick baskets of blackberries out there each summer for making jam. Although we’ve never done this, we thought we’d give it a try. Curious creatures that they are, Moonshine and Valentine came over to see what all the fuss was about and immediately took a liking to our basket of blackberries. Mikki and I picked while the kid ran circles around us, being chased by our horses. One those guys had a taste of blackberries, there was no going back. The blackberry bushes didn’t have many berries on the outside; all of the berries were deep inside the thorn-covered bushes. I’m sure the birds and bunnies enjoyed them but I wonder if our horses stuck their noses in any of the bushes for a snack.
I’ll have to write an update on our garden soon. The watermelons are almost ready and I’ve heard horses love watermelons, too.