Newsletter May 2016
Dear Horse lover,
As an independent horse nutritionist I am interested in seeing how people feed their horses. I have been lucky enough to receive a feature by writer Gina McKnight, telling me how she lives with her horses in rural Ohio, USA.
In the next mailing I will answer nutrition-related questions. If you have any nutrition-related questions that you feel could be answered in the newsletter, please send them in and they might feature!
You can view previous editions of the newsletter by clicking 'View this email in your browser' at the top and go to the archive.
Have a wonderful time,
Horses Are Spiritual:
Life with horses in rural Ohio, USA
By: Gina McKnight – Author, Blogger, Equestrian, Poet and Freelancer, gmcknight.com
Living in rural southeastern Ohio, in the heart of Wayne National Forest, our farm is surrounded by riding trails. We like to ride in the dense forest canopy through the deep wooded valleys and hills. The terrain can be rugged at times, but as they say, ‘the horse knows the way.’
If you visit my barn, you will find my Quarter Horse Paint, 12-year old mare Zubedia waiting for you. January 27 of this year, we lost our prize Bashkir Curly – Quarter Horse cross gelding, Cherokee, to complications of Cushing’s disease. It has been a difficult time, at best, and we mourn his loss daily.
Our barn is not the ordinary layout of fancy horse stalls you would find in the city or nearby riding academies. Years ago, when I was a child, my father was a cattleman. We had a herd of 100 Hereford cows and one bull, Johnny, who could jump a fence just to find his favorite cow. On our 80+ acres, along with the cattle, we had pigs, goats, horses, chickens, ducks, coonhounds, cats, and a family dog. I learned to ride a horse at an early age, and, along with my brother, found joy and accomplishment in trail riding. Now, as my father has retired, we have one barn cat, Bake, and my mare Zubedia.
Bake (left) and Zubedia (right)
The barn has been converted, somewhat, to stall horses; however, I stall my horses together. They do not have separate stalls. They are herd animals after all, and my barn is large enough to hold three to four horses easily in one large stall. The key, of course, is to be careful what you mix. Two geldings and two mares are a bad mix when stalling together. I would prefer to have all geldings, or all mares, or one gelding, and the rest mares. Two geldings can cause dissension in the herd, even though they are castrated, they still have male hormones, and sometimes forget they are gelded. And I should mention that when I have mares, my herd does not manure in the barn in the warmer months, they always manure outside, which means less barn work and more riding time.
I like easy keepers – horses who have been trained, are congenial, and get along well with others. Easy keepers do not fight over daily grain rations and they know their boundaries. They are guest-friendly and like connecting with people. I don’t approve of drama or chaos in the barn; my methods are quiet, firm, and all horses know that I am the herd leader.
Since we have acreage, we are able to bale our own hay. Usually, large round bales, and with two barns, we have plenty of storage space, usually selling what hay we can’t use. Our fields are a mix of timothy, clover, and alfalfa. The weather in Ohio can be extreme. Monday it was 60 degrees, yesterday it was at the freezing point 32 degrees. During the winter months, I keep an electric heater in my 100 gallon water tank to avoid freezing. The horses are allowed hay only in the winter, with plenty of green pasture in the spring/summer/fall months. In the winter, I feed two to three pounds of horse feed daily, and in the summertime, depending upon the work required of the horse, I reduce the amount to one pound.
The horses get to roam outdoors and the acreage allows for hay harvest
The horses have open turn-out at all times to pasture. That is they can come and go out of the barn as they like, even in winter. They are predictable; in the morning they lounge in the barn, then out to graze, back to the barn for rations by noon, then spending nights outside (on their own reconnaissance). I do not blanket/rug my horses, as my horses have been acclimated and have a nice winter coat to keep them warm. If the temperature gets really cold, below 10 degrees, the horses are smart enough to stay in the barn where they have as much hay as they can eat and they stay together to keep warm.
Like all herds, my horses connect with one another. Since we have lost Cherokee, Zubedia is sad and mopes. She is trying hard to overcome the loss, but, I believe, animals grieve just like humans. Cherokee had been ill for about a year or so. The first signs of Cushing’s’ was his heavy coat, which I trimmed four times last summer, then his excessive drinking, breathing difficulties, and lethargic stance. He acquired periodontal disease (a sign of Cushing’s) and had two teeth removed. After many, many vet visits, prescription drugs, restless nights, and days of worry, he began losing weight, even though he was eating all of his grain. The week before he died, he dropped weight quickly and there was nothing we could do to save him. The night before he died, he stopped eating. I stayed with him as long as I could, but it was difficult to admit that there was nothing to be done and that he was dying. The morning of January 27, at 5:00 a.m., I called the vet to have Cherokee euthanized. He was buried the same day, along the fence line of his favorite meadow. I can see his grave from my home. Tears flow easy just thinking of him.
Cherokee (left) suffering from Cushings disease, with Zubedia (right) keeping him company
When we love our horses, they love us. They are our family. Horses have a keen spirituality that, when you listen, has profound health and healing. Their intense willingness to please should always be revered. No matter where you are in the world, you can find life in the presence of a horse.
Zubedia and I will continue to mourn Cherokee, but together we will keep our memories. A new mare (or two) will be coming to my barn this spring, but, please, don’t tell my non-horsey husband…let’s keep it between us.
The memory of Cherokee, ready for adventure
Living in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains promotes inspiration and passion for creative writing; children's literature, poetry, freelance, and much more. Gina is a graduate of the Institute of Children's Literature, West Redding, Connecticut, and Leadership Scholar/BA, Franklin University, Columbus, Ohio USA. Writing at an early age, an avid reader and lover of words, Gina continues to be encouraged by her horses, neighbors, family and friends.
In the next mailing:
- Question and Answer about horse nutrition.