Thursday, August 25, 2011

Equine Excerpts- "FREE Horses are NEVER free" Part 1- Basic Care and Costs

If you have owned horses for any length of time then you are already nodding your head or at the very least rolling your eyes because you know "Free horses are never free". Over the years I have seen the changes in the horse industry and it usually booms and declines with our economy as many of you in the horse business know.  I have seen huge horse operations that were showing at the national level shut down due to the decline in client base and people holding onto their money. Large well known operations who are turned into the authorities because their horses have been neglected to point of starvation and death. This is real folks and it is a REAL ISSUE. This particular blog will be a series due to the multiple facets of the "FREE" horse.

I will go on record now as saying there are some really nice "FREE" horses available on the market right now due to the economy. With that being said, if you have never owned a horse, cared for a horse, have only ridden a horse at a hack line stable or at your grandparents in the summer--- STEER CLEAR OF THE FREE HORSE!!!!! unless you have a credible horse savvy person helping you locate one. There now I have said it.


What most people who have never owned a horse don't realize is... HORSES are not DOGS. They are large 1000lbs creatures who require lots of care and maintenance. Horses are not meant to live on a 1/4 acre of land in your back yard, nor can they just live on grass in this 1/4 acre. I know most of you who will read this are already horse owners and have been for years. If you are new to the horse world and wish to own your own horse please I beg you to continue reading this blog.

It might just give you the insight you need to succeed.

One of my dear clients once told me that when he talks to a potential new horse owner he tells them " If you can put $350.00 in a savings account for a year and not dip into this fund for any reason what so ever then you can afford to own a horse" That is $4200.00 for the year.  Now this figure he came up with is in direct relation to what board costs, farrier costs, and routine vet care in his area.  I tend to think if you are boarding a horse this is on the low end of the scale and does not take into account any Emergency Vet care, supplements, or equipment you will need, nor does it take into account if you are keeping your horse at home and the maintenance to your horses living arrangements. This is just for routine monthly care of your horse. There are two ways main ways in which to care for you horse. Board at a facility or Keep your horse at home. I will touch on both of these and give you a brief rundown of what to expect. I say brief because like many horse people who have been in the industry for years I could write a book on each.


1. Paying your horses board bill every month is not optional. It should come second right after your mortgage or rent. If you struggle each month to pay your mortgage and utilities then you can't afford to own a horse. (Farm owners pay their help, grain/hay suppliers, and routine farm maintenance out of your horses BOARD MONEY) They are running a business not a half-way house for horses, nor do they do it "just out of the goodness of their heart".
           - Full board  $250.00- $550.00 or more depending on your geographic location.
               * Generally includes: Grain, Quality Hay, Water, Shelter and or Stall, Turn Out with safe fencing 
               * Full board generally does NOT include: extra feed supplements, worming program, farrier or vet visits. These are separate costs and should be budgeted accordingly.
               * You are also paying for their knowledge about horses and their time. Investigate facilities and get references. Do your homework.

               The above is just a brief look at what the average costs are at a boarding facility. Later in my blog I will give you a range of prices for different items that are part of your horses routine care.


The following will give you an idea of what basics you will need to keep your horse at home. Again this is not the all inclusive list but it will give you an idea of what you will need to get started.

1. BARN AND SHELTER: For every one horse you have at home you should have 1-2 acres of pasture per horse. Preferably 2 acres of pasture with sewn grass and at least a 3 sided shelter if you do not have a barn. If you do not have that much property be prepared to feed hay all year long.

2. FENCING: electric, woven horse fence, wooded fencing, rubber fencing, pvc fencing are all acceptable forms of fence. BARBED WIRE IS NOT SAFE HORSE FENCING!
    - Be prepared to fix fence often. Horses while beautiful creatures will lean on, chew on, kick at, run through, and generally test the boundaries of a fence. "The grass is always greener on the outside of a fence"
    - Be prepared to catch your horse when it escapes. Non-horse neighbors are generally intolerant of your horse trampling their gardens or yard. It is guaranteed that your horse will escape when it is the MOST inconvenient for you.

3. FEEDING- Be prepared to feed your horse in the dark, rain, snow, ice, and extreme weather. They don't care what the weather is. They are hungry.  Even if you are not a morning person your horse still expects to be fed. If you do not feed your horse properly there is a 100% chance you will be catching your horse out of your neighbors garden (reference to 2. Fencing above)
    - Be prepared to provide fresh clean unfrozen water every day. They can't eat ice. If your horse does not stay hydrated they will colic. Horses on average will drink 15-25 gallons of water a day.
    - Be prepared for fluctuating grain and hay prices. These prices can fluctuate drastically even within a months time depending on the weather, gas and grain commodity prices. (see average grain and hay prices below)
    - Be prepared and have a plan to haul your horse to the vet before you need it. Some vets will come to you for routine care, but for greater emergencies you will have to haul your horse to them. HAVE A PLAN BEFORE YOU NEED IT!!! I can't stress this enough.
    -LEARN what trees, bushes and plants are poisoness to your horse. There are many that will be fatal.
    -LEARN horse first aid. If the site of blood or the thought of giving your horse a shot turns your stomach then you shouldn't keep your horse at home. It is not a case of "If it happens, but when". Horses can get hurt on seemingly nothing. Cuts, gashes, abrasions, hives, swelling are all a part of horse ownership.
    -LEARN what is normal for your horse. Every horse is different. If you pay attention to your horses daily routine then you will be able to spot changes in behavior which could mean the difference between a normal vet call and an extremely expensive vet call.

    -Hoof Care: THIS IS NOT OPTIONAL- Horses hooves need to be trimmed every 5-8 weeks as a general rule of thumb. There are exceptions to this of course but this is a good basic average. Find a good farrier. Don't expect your farrier to train your horse to stand still while he tries to trim or shoe. It is your job to pick up, clean and inspect your horses feet every time you ride and several times a week if not everyday even if you are not riding.
    -Worming schedule: Discuss with your vet a good worming rotation that is right for your horse in your geographical location. The rotation can be anywhere from 4 to 12 times a year or even daily depending on your horses needs. CONSULT your vet.
    - Vaccinations and Coggins: If you can't afford vaccinations and a coggins test every year for your horse you should not own one. Consult your vet to see what vaccinations are needed in your area.

6. VACATIONS: This is something people do not think about at all when they think keeping a horse at home will be "NEAT". If you go out of town you must have someone horse savvy and dependable to care for your horse while you are gone.

The above does not cover all the facets of horse ownership but does cover some of the basics. Below is a list of some of the items I have mentioned above that are all apart of routine care.

1. 50lbs bag of grain  $9.00-$20.00 (depending on the needs of your horse this may last a week to two weeks) horses should never eat more than 5lbs of grain at one feeding. Feed at least two meals a day or break the meals down into smaller 3-4 meals a day fed a minimum of 5 hours apart and 10-12 hours if it is just two meals.
2. Bale of Hay  $2.50-$9.00 a bale (depends of type of hay and the quality, you get what you pay for) A  horse can eat 10-20% of it's body weight in roughage a day it needs a minimum of 10%. That's alot of hay per day if you don't have a good pasture source.
3. Farrier visits (the horseshoer guy for those of you who are not familiar with the term farrier)  $35.00-$125.00 per visit depending on the type of trimming and/or shoes you get. Can my horse go barefoot? Can it just get front shoes? Does it have to have shoes all the way around?  Does my horse need special shoes to stay sound? These are questions you need to know the answers to. Ask a professional or very knowledgeable horse person to help or you could end up with a lame horse.
4. Worming. $5.00-$15.00 for each worming depending on the rotation and type of worming.
5. Supplements $20.00- ?? EXPENSIVE  again consult a professional. Good quality hay and feed can prevent some supplements, however there are horses that must have supplements to stay healthy and sound. Do you own one of these horses?
6. Routine Vet Care. This can vary greatly depending on the vet and the area in which you live. Plan on $100.00-$200.00 or more per vet visit. One to two times a year. This does not include emergency visits.

I hope this helps those of you that are considering horse ownership. If you are already a horse person and know people that are considering horse ownership for the first time please feel free to send them my blog.

****Please note this blog does not cover all the facets of horse ownership or the costs associated with it. It is meant as a reference for beginning horse owners who are doing their research to get a basic cost idea of what horse ownership entails.**** 

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Equine Excerpts- The Fever

The Fever
Is it a curse or a gift, one may never know
The passion for horses that forever grows
You thirst for knowledge
To understand this great beast
It’s brain or it’s heart at the very least
This beautiful animal so graceful and kind
With a single whinny they can clear our troubled mind
They put us at peace when our world becomes dark
How did God know we would need such a spark
The smell of it’s muzzle and gleam of it’s coat
Brightens our world with each gentle stroke
This treasure so rare only the privileged understand
The Incredible bond between Horse and man
Nicole Huttar 2004


Monday, August 8, 2011

I Wear Many Shoes..... or Boots

Have you ever heard the phrase " She wears many hats"? Well that would be me I guess except I really don't like the analogy "wears many hats". With the exception of the occasional baseball cap adorning my farm logo or the riding helmet I always wear with any equestrian activity I am just not really a hat person..... Now shoes, everybody can relate to shoes... Man or woman but especially women can relate to shoes. You cannot go anywhere without the appropriate footwear. If you do people will notice. Walk into any office building in a corporate America setting with a chic two piece skirt suit, hair done and makeup applied to perfection, but you are wearing a pair of good ol barn style wellies or muck boots with your ensemble. People will notice. You have to visualize said boots with mud caked on the heel and sole to complete the picture. People will not only stare, the security will chastise you and probably guide you to the service entrance and freight elevator.  On the flip side of this if you walk into a barn any barn, doesn't matter the discipline with a pair of white wedge sandals (as if the sandal part wasn't bad enough) you will stick out like a sore thumb. People will know immediately that A- you have never been to a barn and know nothing about horses, or B- You have a sick horse that you are checking on before work and forgot to throw the afore mentioned muck boots in the car before leaving the house.

 "Where am I going with this?" you ask... WELLLLL the other day as I was straightening my mud room I realized how many pairs of shoes, boots and sandals I really own. Now lets set aside for the moment that I have a shoe and boot fetish and really look at the core (or justification) on my part as to why I need so many pairs.  The below description is only a brief insight. I didn't mention flats , flip flops, tennis shoes or tons of cowboy boots that litter the 5 shelves in my mudroom.

On any given day I change footwear no less than 3 times, it may be four or five times depending on what is planned for the day. Now my horsey friends who lead dual lives will soooooo get this, those of you who are not into horses or better yet those who know only the "Corporate America Nicole" may not understand but it will certainly give you insight as to why I sometimes come to work with the stray piece of hay on my suit or footwear that is a bit muddy around the sole. My favorite is you see me changing out of my muck boots in the parking deck to adorn the appropriate work shoes for the day.

Each morning during the week I wake up and the first thing I do, well besides the side trip to the bathroom, is go feed the horses. I do not change clothes for this particular step (how many times I change clothes a day is for a different blog). Blue Pjs with little green frogs is the attire for this activity. Footwear of choice is my calf high black muck boots. Why muck boots you ask?  I wear these for two reasons; A-you can slip them on with no effort, a must before the first cup of coffee and B- My frog pjs fit nicely inside the boots so the cuffs of my pjs don't get all dirty. I come in from the barn jump in the shower to transform from "Barn Chores Nicole" into "Corporate America Nicole" {da da tadaaaa..  insert super hero theme here}this requires some sort of suit or casual pants and top depending on if I am meeting clients, Hair neatly fixed and styled, along with makeup and the 2nd set of shoes for the day.... dress heels, sensible dress boots or wedge sandals. I go through my work day, come home to change shoes for the 3rd time and transform into "Equestrian Riding/ Instructor Nicole" {the Bonaza theme comes to mind, with the Cartwrights galloping across the open plains.} complete with the riding helmet and appropriate footwear in tow. Now these may be my paddock boots, tall boots, ariat hybrid riding tennis shoe or winter riding boots depending on the season. See just talking about the season and activity at the barn requires me to have at least 4 pairs of riding boots and a pair of muck boots. (again with the justification).  Ok now we are up to 3 times a day changing footwear and I am not done. Come Friday evening or anytime on the weekend there is at least one more changing of the shoes. This is "Bass Players Girlfriend Nicole" (For those of you who don't know me personally my Handsome Hottie boyfriend plays Bass Guitar in a band). This set of shoes generally revolves around the club/bar scene. Funky wedge heels, Platform heels or Knee high heeled boots. These are usually too funky and "out there" to be worn any where but in a club or bar. They are certainly NEVER meant to be worn on uneven ground or rocky terrain. Never Never Never go check on your horses in "Bass Player's Girlfriend" shoes. You run the true risk of twisting an ankle and there is a 100% chance you will not make it out of the barn clean. It is however amusing for everyone around you. Truth be known these shoes are only meant to be worn for a few hours at a time depending on how much dancing is involved :) This type of shoe will be taken off as soon as I cross the threshold into the mudroom if they last that long. I have been known to walk from the car to the house on a few late nights barefoot. The last shoes of the evening is the bedroom slippers which I did not add into my changing count but probably the most important of them all. These in reality are crocs with the fuzzy lining inside that can serve the dual purpose of walking around a house with hardwood floors and stepping out onto the porch without the moisture wicking up through the bottoms. This usually happens in the middle of the night when the dogs have decided chase some poor woodland creature through the front yard or the woods. This activity requires me to threaten the dogs within an inch of their furry little lives so that I can catch a few more hours of that elusive sleep I talked about in an earlier blog.

Hmmmmm... "She wears many shoes" I wonder if it will catch on?  Probably not but it still paints a better visual..     

Friday, August 5, 2011

Equine Excerpts --- And Time Moves On....

This morning was a lovely reminder of why I teach and train instead of "just ride". I had the opportunity to speak with one of my former riding students who I haven't seen in several years. It seemed like just yesterday she was this young teenager just starting  high school who wasn't as outwardly confident in her riding as some of her peers but certainly had the natural talent and drive to learn. She is now in college riding for her school and has continued her equestrian education. I took a moment to watch her as she did some ground work with a particularly overbearing paint mare that is boarded at a client's facility. She has developed her own style, a quiet confidence exudes from her as she quietly without a word spoken gets this horses attention. Her summers are now spent working and training other peoples horses and teaching lessons to young beginners with the same thirst for knowledge she had when we first met. This young lady is one of many former students that have gone to make their mark in the equestrian world.

It has always been my goal as a trainer/instructor to give my students the core skills they need to succeed. To build their confidence in the saddle to help them achieve their goal. It doesn't matter if that goal is being comfortable out of the ring on a trail or competing at the national level. As an instructor I will take a student as far as I can in their training. When they are ready for the next level I will find them an instructor that will help them achieve their ultimate goal. As a trainer nothing brings me more joy than to see a former student go on to further their equestrian career and do well. I will be the first one to cheer them on from the ringside, to say "job well done".  I have had students go on to compete at Regional and National levels, training their own horses, riding with the Royal Lippizzan Troup, and to most importantly pass on what they have learned to the next generation of equestrians.

Students learn so much more in the world of horses than just "how to ride"... They learn core values, compassion, decision making skills, to put something or someone else before yourself, inherent knowledge of what is right and wrong, the camaraderie of others who share their passion, and finally the most important is a Sense of Self. In the horse world you never stop learning. Good and Bad you see and meet people from every walk of life. You take away from each encounter something useful. It may be an new piece of equipment you have never seen before that will be beneficial to you or someone in your circle, or it may be a training method you have never seen. Watch closely and listen carefully, there is huge world of knowledge just waiting to be tapped into.

Every time a person comes to my farm to ask for lessons or training I feel very blessed that in some small way I will be able to share the knowledge I have gained over the last 30+ years that will allow them to safely and confidently learn to ride and be comfortable around horses. It may be the adult rider who has waited all their life to ride or the next generation of equestrians, either way I have shared my passion, this is what drives me to continue. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finding the balance....

I am not sure why the sudden urge has hit me to write again all of a sudden, but it has. This urge has been building like the water behind a poorly built damn with small trickles of water or inspiration in my case struggling to break free and flow across a piece of paper (OK well a computer screen since my penmanship sucks). Strangely enough this sudden urge rushes forward within me to write and it gets in the way of all the other MUST DO things that are on my list. This list I speak of, which I am sure it is the same as most people, includes a litany of things such as; Family, Work, Farm, Daily chores, and the all important holy grail of getting enough Sleep. With all of the things already on my to do list finding the quiet time to write just always seems to be just out of my reach. Some things are not worth putting to paper and there are others, a funny story, poetry, or process and goals that really need to have their place saved for later reference which does not include bouncing around in my already crowded conciseness and daily routine. Walking down the street this week to run some necessary errand, the thought flew through my brain as to how many totally different and unrelated things crossed through my thought process in that short 4 block walk. It was like displaying a PowerPoint presentation in 5 seconds intervals; the project at work that needs finishing, calling Don to see how his day is going, starting a journal as to the slow progress I am making in Murder's training (my horse Murderinthefirst), raging war on the weeds growing under the fence line coming down the driveway, is Genna really interested in showing, don't forget to pick up the chlorine tablets for the pool today, wonder how much it is going to cost to get the patures bush hogged this season, why in the world is the woman I just passed wearing that outfit.... did she not have a full length mirror this morning before she walked out the door? Those are just the ones I remembered off the top of my head, I am sure their were many more equally as absurd and non-related. How is anyone supposed to keep focus with such random thoughts firing through the synapses?? I wonder if I am the only one, I certainly hope not. Historically my inspiration has come out in the form of poetry, some good some bad but all of it from deep recess of my soul that has festered its way to the surface. Festered is such a negative word.... well looking up the synonyms didn't help either, they were all equally as negative and not a bit flowery so we will stick with festered. Circling back around to the whole balancing act that is my life. I have a beautiful family, a daughter that I adore and love, a man that I deeply love and appreciate, and quirky circle of  family and friends that love me even if at times they don't understand me. I tend to divide my life in to quadrants Family (includes Genna, Don, parents, siblings and friends), Career , Farm, Financial, finally and probably the most important is the circle of faith around all 4 of those quadrants. I do exceptionally well if I can keep the balance going between the 4. If one is out of whack well that is OK too because nothing is ever perfect but if two or more of these things get out of whack.... watch out. Of course each quadrant has it's sub-divisions as well but that list is for another day, and certainly more coffee with added time to describe. Maybe this little 15 minute break of typing my thoughts will give my mind the reprieve it needs to keep my eye on the many goals I wish to achieve and give some weight as to the importance of each of those things. However if the dam totally breaks watch out! There is no telling what the overflow and outpouring may be. You have already seen a glimsp of what goes through my mind while walking down the street. Imagine the elaboration on each of those thoughts... it could go on for days. I think I have plugged the hole for now. I don't think Ducttape, baling twine or fencing wire will fix this one though... For those of you who know me these are my three favorite (YOU CAN FIX ANYTHING) must haves...