Saturday, April 9, 2011

Simple Horsekeeping

Since I've joined Equestrian Ink, I have enjoyed everyone's terrific horse stories. My blogs have been more writing-oriented basically because my horse experiences these days are not interesting, challenging nor exciting. As I got older and life got more complicated with kids, teaching and writing, my horse-life got simpler. Fortunately, I pared it down so it was doable. I have many other 'mom' friends who had to give up their horses when family, careers and sheer economics made owning horses impossible. This even happened to friends who promised themselves they "would never be without horses."

Since I take total care of the horses (neither of my kids caught the horse bug), 'doable' means I am down to two horses, one a babysitter and one that I ride as often as weather and time allow. Care is streamlined so their needs are totally met, yet there are no frills. In winter, Relish and Belle have a huge run-in shed (one whole side of a barn) with dry footing. Their hay is local amd fresh, compliments of our neighbor's field. They have a running stream that never freezes, grain, supplements, mineral salt and four acres to graze on winter grass. I feed twice a day, check them over carefully, and groom as needed. Riding is reduced to Relish and I ambling in a hayfield (groundhog holes marked)with some schooling (there is one flat area) when the ground isn't too hard or too soft. Memories of organized trail rides, showing, lessons and fox hunting are long past.

In the spring, Belle and Relish come back home (across the street) to our fields, which are divided so we can rotate them for grazing. Work is more intensive during these hot days. During the day, I'll start bringing them in the barn, which has big fans for fly control, so I have to muck stalls. Without a running stream, I need to keep a tub full and clean (I'm thinking of trying Linda Benson's nifty idea to capture rain water), put on fly spray and masks, mow pastures, spread manure and vigilantly keep an eye on Belle who like most ponies, overeats on the rich grass. Riding stays about the same--we have a few tiny trails but until the farmer cuts the hay in the field, I don't have many places to ride nor anyone nearby to ride with. Still, I have decided that this very pared down and uneventful horse life suits me just fine. I am blessed to be able to still have horses, keep them in great health, and love and enjoy them.

What about you? Has your horse life changed? Are there ways that you manage horses, job and family that might work for others?


Linda Benson said...

Alison - it sounds like you've got your horsekeeping down to a manageable task, for sure. One of the things you mentioned really hit home for me, and that's not having anyone to ride with. When I was younger I thought nothing of taking off cross-country on my horse and often covered miles and miles by myself, trusting my horse to find the way back if I got lost.

But getting older means becoming more cautious, and I don't like to go exploring by myself on horseback anymore, especially into rough country. A really good, adventuresome riding friend (my neighbor) moved away, and gosh I miss her. We had the best time together breaking trail and finding new routes through the hills. It's not near as much fun riding by yourself!

Francesca Prescott said...

I know what you mean about not having anyone to ride with. It's not fun going out for trail rides along; I also have become way more cautious than I used to be (when I think of the crazy things I'd do...!!) and am not comfortable going into the "wild" alone. Now that I have a new horse I'll be even more cautious and won't be taking any chances. It's just not worth it. I'm lucky in that my friend who owns the stable tends to feel the same way, so we like to go out together. Thing is, she's a cross country rider and therefore a bit more gutsy than me! Her canters always tends to be a little more uptempo than mine!!

Alison said...

Linda, I, too, grew up riding wildly with friends and then later with a group who went out. Now alone is really alone. My husband keeps telling me to take my cell phone just in case, but I always forget. Fortunately, I don't go far. Wish we could meet up! You on your donkey and me on Relish.

Francesca, you have to keep us up on every experience with Qrac. What does the name mean, anyway? And I hope it sounds beautiful with a Spanish accent.(Trying to read it in English is not poetic.)

Linda Benson said...

Francesca and Alison - we need to write a blog post about taking a cell phone with you when you ride. For me, riding and hiking has always been my way to get away from all that stuff - technology, people, etc. and get my head clear. Now, it seems like you're encouraged to take cell phones with you everywhere. One woman I know rides with her cell phone turned on, and calls her husband every so often to tell him where she is. While I can see the safety issue here, for me it defeats the whole purpose of getting away on your horse!

I suppose the prudent thing to do would be carry a cell phone with you, but have it turned off (because what if your horse spooked when it rang? - let's not even go into weird ringtones here ;))

One of the things I love about horses, though, is how riding encourages responsibility and clear thinking and even path finding skills. What next - bring your GPS with you while riding? LOL

Laura Crum said...

Alison--I actually like going out on the trails alone--but I do bring my cell phone and I tell my husband where I'm going and what route I'll take. I mostly ride with my young son, which I find way more anxiety provoking than going alone. In case of trouble I must keep two horses and one child calm and safe. Its a lot to be in charge of. Thus the two solid older horses that I brag on so much. I have to admit, when I go out with my little boy, I'm always happy when our friend/boarder can go with us.

My horse life is also pared down to what might seem uneventful to others, but like you, Alison, I enjoy it very much and don't need it to be any more exciting. Some days its just enough to turn all the horses loose to graze. I'm quite content with my simple horsekeeping, too. Good post.

horsegenes said...

I love to ride alone. I have gone out 3 times in the last 2 weeks for a ride by myself and I find myself looking forward to doing it again. I did take my cell phone along on the first two but only to capture some pictures of wildlife and scenery. Yesterday I left it in the horse trailer. I do tell my husband where I am going and what time to start to worry if I am not home.

What I would love is to have all my horses at home. I have them scattered in 3 locations and it makes it a part time job in of itself checking on them. Thank goodness Hubby goes and checks on one group everyday for me. If he didn't I wouldn't be able to ride as much.

Alison said...

Kel, how do you have your horses all over? That sounds like an interesting topic.

Linda and Laura--I am so bad about even telling anyone where/when I am going to ride. If I ever did fall off, I think my husband might notice when there was no one to fix dinner!

Occasionally, though, I do hear some horror story that makes me think for emergencies a cell phone is a must. What if Relish stepped in a ground hog hole and broke a leg? That scenario gives me the shivers!

horsegenes said...


We have property at my mother-in-laws ranch that we keep the older retired brood mares. It is a lush green pasture and they just eat and poop there. I have two babies at home with me. I like to keep the babies on pasture, but at home so I can get to know them and they get to know me. It gives us some time to work on leading, brushing, picking up the feet, and even sometimes a little lunging. Then I keep the horses I ride and show at a boarding facility. The problem is the ranch is 15 miles west of my house and the boarding facility is 15 east of my house! My husband checks on all the old girls - mother-in-law included every day. :) And then to throw a curve in, in the spring and summer my husband likes to bale the pasture. So we move the old girls - horses only - to two separate pastures to graze. One close to home and one not so close to home. The good thing about those pastures is that the owners live on the property and they have had horses before so we don't have to be a deligent about getting there every day. It helps the land owners out so they don't have to mow and it gives them some prudy horses to look at. :)

Laura Crum said...

Alison and kel--I, too, keep my old, retired horses at a pasture fifteen minutes from my home. They must be checked every day and the two oldest ones get equine senior every day. Fortunately my friend/boarder usually does this chore since he lives five minutes from their pasture. But during the periods where I must do it I totally struggle with the time issue, as the pasture is the opposite direction from my son's homeschool program and most of the other things I must do. Half an hour travel time and fifteen minutes of horse time adds up to forty-five minutes, and in a life that's already over-scheduled, that's a lot. So I hear you, kel. But it does seem worthwhile when you look at those happy oldsters, doesn't it?

And Alison, I only use my cell phone for emergencies, so its not like I have to worry about anyone calling me. I just put in my pocket when I head out. I put my little camera in the other pocket. I have never once had to use the cell phone, but yes, I knew a woman whose horse broke a leg and she used the phone to call a vet. Not something I hope to ever deal with, but better to have the phone than not.