Saturday, March 13, 2021

Lazy Slice of Ranch Days

Even though each day has its own list of chores we make a point to enjoy the chores as well as the horse training, riding, and even unmounted relaxing time. 

Today, we got out early and did our morning chores and then went inside for breakfast and spent some time chatting with our family and enjoying hot tea and coffee.

After breakfast we headed back out to work the horses in the cool morning and then inside again for lunch and a few errands we had to run. 

Back home again, we went out and checked each horse's water level and then inside to write for a bit and bake some delicious brownies!

In a little while we will head back out to see the horses and do our evening chores before dinner. 

What is your favorite thing about lazy slice of ranch days? Please comment below and let us know!

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Slice of Ranch Construction Updates

 Now that we are moved in and have gotten used to how things are working on our slice of ranch, we are ready to think about some construction updates. We have installed the round pens for horse training sessions and beginning horseback riding lessons and want to finish them off by tilling up the ground and adding sand to improve the footing. This will keep the ground from being too hard in the summer when it completely dries out and in the winter when the ground will be frozen.

In addition to the round pens, we have room for a riding arena. We are still deciding if we want to put a fence around it or if we just want to put sand down and leave it open. There are pros and cons to both and we are still working through all the ideas there.

Pros to a fence:

  • If a horse gets loose, they will still be contained.
  • It will be a defined space for riding.
  • Sand footing will stay in place better.
  • It can be strung with lights for a beautiful night ride.

Cons to a fence:

  • It will restrict the wagon trail to a specific size and there will be no way to turn the wagon in a circle if necessary.
  • Arena will be smaller to allow room for the fence, round pens, wagon trail, etc that all share space in the field.
  • View of the field and people riding will be somewhat obstructed by the fence.

We will be putting in a wagon trail around the outer rim of the property. It will be wide enough for the horse-drawn wagon with a bit of space on either ride. The trail will have nice wide curves at the corners so the wagon doesn't have a tendency to run off the edge during a turn. Once the wagon trail is in place we will think about details to make it extra special like lining the trail with rocks and string lighting or maybe lanterns.

Whether or not we install arena fencing, we definitely want to get some arena lights. Probably these lights will be up on poles so they can more effectively light the large area. We have neighbors on either side so we want to position the lights so they don't shine in any windows. It is really nice that our neighbors' homes are on the other end of their properties so placement of the arena lights should be pretty simple.

Before too much longer, we want to install hitching posts for our horses. Right now we are tacking them up in their stalls, which works just fine for now. It will be good to have a place to take them to put on their tack so they get used to standing still outside their stalls. This will be especially nice once we are transporting them to trail rides off our property.

The most important construction project right now is replacing one of the fences in the field. This post and wire fence runs between our property and one of our neighbors' property. Unfortunately the wire is too small for the horses to see, so if one of the horses got loose they could run through it without realizing it is there. We always plan that the horses won't get loose, but its important to do what we can to keep them safe in the event that they get away from us.

What construction projects are you working on, or planning, for your slice of ranch? We'd love to hear what you are doing!!!

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Slice of Ranch Food Chain

The other day we discovered a small dead, dark bug/beetle in the hay wheelbarrow after we finished feeding our horses. It startled us, as we always look at the hay carefully before we feed.

After a bit of research, we found that it was a darkling beetle (also called a mealworm beetle). Just one or two of these beetles is not a problem for the horses, but since the darkling beetles are decomposers of dead plant material hay infested with them has likely "gone bad" and should be thrown away. Since we only found one, we decided to keep our eyes open for more but to keep the hay for now.

The next time we went out to feed we pulled back the tarp from the hay and watched a mouse disappear over the edge of the farthest bale.

More research found that mice eat beetles, specifically mealworms as well as other insects, snails, and fungi. We prevent the mice from living in the hay by stacking our bales loosely, with space between them, and in a crisscross fashion so wind can blow through.

Mice droppings are toxic to horses, so we don't want them living in the hay, but the presence of the mice in the area will help keep the beetle population in check.

Then our resident barn cat and horned owls will keep the mice population in check...and we have just described part of our slice of ranch natural food chain.

Write in and let us know about your slice of ranch food chain!

Monday, February 15, 2021

Helpful Glow

During the cold weather, we use electrically heated buckets to keep the horses water from freezing. It doesn't make the water hot, only just warm enough to not freeze. To power these buckets we run electrical cords from the work barn. The electrical cords are yellow, so they show up and we use curved metal hooks to keep the cord on the ground so no one trips over them.
NOTE: We hope to run an underground conduit later on for the electrical cords to run through, but for now this works well.

Our electrical cords have an orange status light that tells us when they are plugged in. This is super helpful, especially since the cords are lying on the ground and can become unplugged. Each morning and evening when we give our horses fresh water, clean up their pens, and feed them, we also check to be sure their electrical is plugged in.

We're all for helpful little things that keep everything working and running properly! What little things do you find helpful? Please share in the comments.

Sunday, February 7, 2021

"It Rained" and now its Muddy

 In these winter months when its muddy outside, we take some time to analyze the situation before just jumping in to change things. 

The other day, after a hard rain we found all the horse pens had several inches of water. Each horse had a small area to stand (about 10 feet square) that stayed pretty dry.

At first we wanted to go right in there and move dirt around, create canals to drain water from the pens and build up the low side so the water didn't sit there. 

However, instead of making any changes right away, we decided to mark the calendar with "It Rained" and then check the ground each of the following days to see how long it took for the water to drain on its own.

As it turned out, the pens dried out fairly quickly without any help from us. Sure we got muddy boots for a few days, but from what we have read the mud and water can actually help keep the horse hooves stronger...as long as they also get a chance to get dry as well.

While we waited for the pens to dry, we continued to check each horses hooves every day to be sure they weren't getting soft or spongy, which can indicate that they are staying too wet.

After several days we found a few places that still needed a little work, but it was a lot less than we had originally thought...and the changes we made were different than those we would have done in the wettest weather. If we had moved dirt too soon, we very well might have caused the water to run into the "dry" area that each horse already had...making it worse before it got better. 

So much better to wait and see first, then make small adjustments.

What are your wet weather suggestions that you use for your slice of ranch? We'd love to hear from you!



Sunday, January 31, 2021

Darkness Can Hide Danger

 In the winter our normal feeding times end up happening in the dark most days. This can present some challenges because even with a flashlight we aren't seeing as well as we would during the light of day.

The other day we almost missed some fox tails in the bales of hay we were feeding our horses. Some animals like cattle (cows) and most goats are fine with fox tails, but horses are pretty "picky" and their mouths are sensitive.

This is a reminder to check over the hay each day before passing the food around. The last bale was fine, but fox tails are extremely difficult to prevent entirely while growing the hay and may be missed during the baling process.

Once the horse gets the fox tails, they may not eat as quickly as usual or they may stop eating all together. The fox tails can prick their gums or tongue causing pain and keep them from wanting to eat at all. An additional issue with this is that even if they only get one serving of hay with fox tails, if the fox tails remain in their gums or tongue (unnoticed by the owner) they might continue not eating for days on end. So keep an eye open.

Here's a picture of the hay we found with fox tails. Can you see them?



Sunday, January 24, 2021

Cleaning Muddy Boots

When we get lots of rain or snow we have mud to deal with while working the horses or cleaning their stalls. In addition to being careful with our footing, so we don't end up sitting in the mud--which we have all done at least once--we also find that it works best to clean the boots before leaving them for the next time.

By cleaning the boots every time we have better traction, the boots last longer, and walking is much more comfortable when we aren't carrying around extra mud with each step. Besides all of these reasons, its always a good idea to get the boots clean before getting into the saddle so less mud gets on the saddle or in the stirrups.

To clean the boots we have tried several things and found that a combination of a few work best for us. Using an extra hoof pick seems to work relatively well, but this means you have to bend over or sit down to scrape the bottom of the boots.

Right now our boots have a rubber bottom and canvas top. To clean the rubber bottom when they are extremely muddy, we are now using a product called The Scrusher (https://www.scrusher.com/). It is made of stiff brushes so you can push and pull your boot through while its still on your foot. The one we chose also has a steel base with room on either side to stand. This helps hold The Scrusher still while we pull our other boot through.

We placed The Scrusher on the back porch and have noticed that the use of it keeps us from tracking too much mud around. Mud from the boots flips a little to the front and back of The Scrusher, so we placed it in a corner where most people won't be walking.

Since The Scrusher is short, it only cleans the bottom of the boots and the sides down near the soles. For the upper part, we have found a stiff brush works well.