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About Our Barn

About Our Barn

We moved to Tennessee from Arizona. It’s not that we didn’t like Arizona but there were some things in Tennessee Mikki in particular wanted to experience. She wanted to be surrounded by greenery, have a garden (for the first time ever!), experience rivers with actual water in them…and to possibly own her own horse. We had been traveling to east Tennessee for years to visit family and on our final trip as visitors, we looked at some property with Mikki’s parents who were looking to retire soon. We happened upon the property where we live now and loved it from the start. Almost 8.5 acres, mostly fenced for horses with two barns, including a mostly new barn with three finished horse stalls, room for hay storage, a tack room and a covered port for storing a horse trailer. Perfect! Honestly, I think the barn is what sold the place. Nine months later, Valentine showed up and the rest we’ve been blogging about since February 2006.

After more than seven years of blogging about our horse experience, I realize I’ve never gone into much detail about the barn. And since I have some things I want to do to the barn and I’ll want to write about those things, it seems like you need to know the basics.

Our Barn

Our barn has three finished horse stalls, one semi-finished stall with room for five total. We initially used two unfinished stalls for storage and had no intention on having more than three horses but then Romeo and Cash came along so we cleaned out one of the storage stalls. Romeo occupied that stall  for a while but now it belongs to Jazzy the mule. We plan to replace the metal gate (which Romeo got his head stuck in years ago) we use as a wall with a full wooden wall. The barn is open in the center aisle and the aisle is big enough to drive a truck, hay wagon or tractor through. At this point we don’t have doors on the ends but it’s an addition we’re planning. In the winter it’s darn cold in there and it would be nice to close up the barn during bad storms.  Except for Jazzy’s, each stall has an inside door and an outside door/window combo. The roof is metal and boy does it make a racket during rain storms. The horse stalls are 12×12 with a dirt floor.

We love our barn but have some ideas for improvement and we’ll be writing about these as we accomplish them. This list isn’t in order of importance:

  1. Paved center aisle
  2. Outside lean-to for covered feeding
  3. Hay loft over the storage stall (done! I’ll write about this soon)
  4. Barn doors – each end. Either sliding or hinged
  5. Water piping with quick disconnect
  6. Horse shower capability
  7. Stall flooring with drainage
  8. Reinforced security door for tack room
  9. Covered front “porch”
  10. Paved parking area
  11. Camera security system with remote monitoring
  12. Rainwater collection system
  13. Aerated composting system
  14. Hay elevator for lofts (not as expensive as it sounds)
  15. Slide pole for exiting lofts 🙂
  16. Lights over every stall
  17. Barn speakers/radio
  18. Pneumatic pipes with quick-connects (for filling tires and running air tools)
  19. Fans

Some of those are clearly luxury items, such as the paved center aisle and barn speakers but if you spend a lot of time in a barn, why not make it more enjoyable and easier to clean?

We’ve put most of these projects off all these years but we’re finally starting to catch up on projects. More later.

What’s on your list of horse-related projects this year?

Not So Impressive

Not So Impressive

ImpressiveA very handsome horse caught our eye the other day (no, not as a prospective addition to our herd – we’ve reached our limit) – a big, muscled, Quarter Horse stallion. He was something else. Bill wondered why he wasn’t gelded, and if he might be used as a stud someday. I told him that the owner might go ahead and geld him, because he comes from the “Impressive” line. Bill, naturally, was confused by that: “Well, if he’s from an impressive line, why wouldn’t you breed him?” But unfortunately, it’s not an impressive line, it’s the Impressive line, as in “Impressive,” AQHA stallion and halter champion, famous for siring 2,250 foals. He is also considered to be the beginning of a bloodline carrying a debilitating and often fatal genetic mutation known as HYPP, for Hyperkalemic Periodic Paralysis. Sounds scary, huh? It really is.

I had to look up “hyperkalemic.” “Hyperkalemia” is an abnormally high concentration of potassium in the blood. This condition is caused in HYPP horses because their potassium regulation system is messed up. The controls get out of whack every once in a while (“periodically”) and cause a big surge of potassium. This causes the “paralysis” part of the name: potassium controls the voltage currents in muscle cells, so the potassium influx is sort of a “power surge” like the kind that can fry your electronics. The horse loses muscle control to some degree; the severity varies quite a bit, from little twitches to a fatal heart attack (the heart is a muscle too). Scary enough for you?

There are a few important things to know about HYPP. One is, it’s a genetic defect, so your horse cannot “catch” it; they are born with it. Also, the gene is a dominant one – only one parent has to carry the gene for it to be passed on to the offspring. Horses can have HYPP and show no signs of it; only a DNA test can tell whether your horse has it or not. As I said, HYPP is believed to have come from the Impressive line (the most recent count of his living descendants was 55,000 in 2003), so it’s most common in Quarter Horses, but is also found in the closely-related Paint Horse and Appaloosa lines, and of course can be found in other breeds if they have been cross-bred to Quarter Horses.

HYPP can be manageable, depending on the severity. Since it is a potassium issue, diet is very important. Also, stress can trigger an episode, so the horse’s environment and lifestyle are important factors. There are also medications that can ease symptoms and help prevent episodes.

A critical thing to consider if you or someone you know has an HYPP horse is that an attack can occur at any time, including when you are riding the horse. Any rider should be very experienced and always alert for signs, because your horse could literally collapse underneath you.

Now for the controversial stuff. How can HYPP be prevented or even wiped out? Obviously, since it’s an issue of genetics, if HYPP-positive horses don’t breed, the mutation can’t be passed on. That sounds simple, but while the downsides of HYPP are scary, the flip side of the Impressive line is that the horses bred from that line are highly muscled, very strong, show-winning horses. That’s how Impressive came to sire 2,250 foals – he was, indeed, impressive. So there will always be breeders willing to take that gamble for a desirably conformed horse. For now, the only control to prevent HYPP-positive foals is that when a horse is registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), its HYPP status is included in that registration. Any potential breeder will know if the horse is a risk or not.

Well, there’s my very unprofessional, Internet-educated opinion of Impressive and HYPP. If this issue might affect you, I encourage you to do your own research. I, for one, may look into having Romeo (Appaloosa) and perhaps even Moonshine (part Quarter Horse) tested. Even though they surely would have shown signs by now, my web research has once again made me paranoid.

Four hooves in the air

Four hooves in the air

We’ve been very horse-busy these past few weeks. I don’t know if a day went by without us spending time with our horses or going somewhere “horsey”. This weekend we went to a local horse show and watched our new horse, Romeo, compete in the barrels. He came in second in one class so we’re very proud of him and his rider (Dangerous D). I can’t wait to barrel race! I managed to capture a few cool photos at the event. It was VERY hot and humid but my camera appreciated the extra light. Normally these events are in the evening or after dark and it’s hard to get good photos from a distance.

The photo below is one of several where I caught all four hooves off of the ground. This reminded me of a controversy 150 years ago where people wondered whether or not all four horse hooves are ever in the air at the same time. It happens so fast, the human eye can’t tell without some technological assistance. In the late 1800’s, a photographer named Eadweard Muybridge rigged up a series or cameras and tripwires to capture a horse at gallop in sequence. The result was the closest thing to a movie ever produced at that time. I’m sure some money was wagered and won by some because Muybridge’s photos prooved there are times with all four hooves are in the air. Below is one of my photos followed by a still shot from a Muybridge sequence. If you click the title of this post, it will take you to a page that shows the sequence in motion. It’s 566k so I didn’t want to clog up our front page. Incidentally, the sequence in motion is one of the very earliest “movies” ever created. He produced several.

Horse Galloping

Muybridge still

The still version is above. View this full post to see the animated version.

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