Summertime and the living is easy, or at least that’s how the George Gershwin song goes. If you’re a horse person, summertime can be a very demanding and exhausting time--at least that’s how it is at our place right now. Besides the fact that we’re always trying to get as much quality ride time in and prepare for reining shows, we’re also trying to do as many projects as possible to set up for a more chore-efficient winter. This year we have additional new projects since we recently moved our entire horse operation from the emerald green Seattle area to sunny southern Idaho. In our new location, where we have little experience with what to expect weather-wise, we have everything ahead of us to prepare ourselves and our horses for a winter of uncertainties.
In this new blog I hope to help you with ideas for caring for your horse in an environmentally friendly manner while being chore-efficient and budget-minded. My 18 years of teaching horse keeping via www.HorsesforCleanWater.com has helped prepare me, but there’s no learning like doing it yourself or sharing with others. So I look forward to your comments and questions.
Would you like to see my laundry list of farm projects we hope to have done by the time the winter winds blow? Here’s our top ten:
- Improve our outdoor arena so it will be as useful as possible for year-round riding–so important for training our horses, keeping them exercised, and keeping me sane!
- Improve the footing in our round pen so we can use it year-round, too.
- Research types and benefits of available gravel footing products to lay down on all exposed clay soil, i.e. in the driveway and along walkways to the barn (to reduce mud and make those areas easily accessible by vehicles like the farrier, vets, delivery trucks, etc.)
- Investigate cost-sharing programs available through the federal and local government agencies that might help solve leaking problems (and help with water conservation) in our pasture irrigation system.
- Determine what type of pasture management needs to be done to improve our pasture and hay fields–corrugating fields (putting grooves in the soil) to improve irrigation flow, overseeding to increase stand density, hand spraying to get rid of noxious weeds, spreading compost, etc.
- Learn more about weed control. This is a biggie in our area. Last week we sent a whopping nine garbage cans full of noxious weeds to the landfill. I plan to look up classes on invasive species so I can get a handle on the weed situation here and use recommended control methods. Maybe there are biological or mechanical controls we can use to reduce or even eliminate herbicide use?
- Look at our paddock situation. Do we need different footing in our paddocks? Will the sand footing (with the clay soil underneath) work OK when the rainy season sets in or the winter freezes hit?
- Check gutters and downspouts. Are they in working order? Do they divert clean rainwater away from the confinement areas? Good working gutters and downspouts are the No. 1 mud reducers.
- Find some horsey neighbor kids to clean stalls and take care of the horses and animals so we can get away once in a while.
- Locate wintertime places to ride including nearby indoor arenas, trail systems suitable for fall/winter riding, and horse organizations that promote trail riding.
What projects do you have in mind to complete this summer? Do you have questions you’d like to share on how to get your property ready for winter? What horse keeping challenges await you and your horsey neighbors in your region? Maybe you have other horse-keeping issues on your mind? Or, if you have suggestions for me on how to deal with my gooey clay soils, I’m all ears!
I look forward to sharing and learning together!
About the Author
Alayne Renée Blickle, a life-long equestrian and reining competitor, is the creator/director of Horses for Clean Water, an award winning, nationally acclaimed environmental education program. Well known for her enthusiastic, down-to-earth approaches, Alayne is an educator and photojournalist who has worked with horse and livestock owners for over 15 years teaching manure composting, pasture management, mud and dust control, water conservation, chemical use reduction and wildlife enhancement. She teaches and travels North America and writes for horse publications. Alayne and her husband raise and train their reining horses at their ranch in sunny Nampa, Idaho.