April 20, 2016

Slow Feeder Update

Last fall, in an effort to make our lives easier, we purchased plans to build some wood box slow feeders. They were pretty easy to build, but then again Hubs has mad carpentry skills. We put these puppies under the run-in shed to stay dry. It’s not like the horses ever used the run-in for anything anyway. Now they do, at least while they are eating. My hope was that Hugo would get as much hay as he needed, without the other two "fatties" turning into massive free feed hay bellied whales over the winter.
6 months in use and holding up great

The Expected:

It worked! The horses were all a little annoyed at first that it was harder to get their food. After much attempted destruction of the boxes, they accepted their new dining apparatus and learned to live with it. As a result my main goal was achieved. No matter how much hay I put in the boxes, they don't eat any more than if I fed them two meals a day. Somehow, despite this, the fatties got thinner (they almost look like normal horses now) and the giant thoroughbred held his weight beautifully through the winter with no blanketing. I am a fan for life...and no, I didn't get paid for this review. I don't get paid for anything that I blog about.
G-Love....eating SLOWLY!

The Unexpected:

The horses are all more relaxed. Because they have food all day long if they want it, they don't get aggressive toward each other fighting over the five million hay piles I used to throw. They also all just seem to be better friends now. Also, there is no longer the panic frenzy that used to happen whenever the "food lady" shows up. Given that I have a four-year old human running around helping with chores, this is a very good thing for keeping my mommy anxiety levels low.

We can go away for the weekend! What? This is probably the absolutely best aspect of the whole slow feeder thing. I just put a full bale of hay in each box and it is enough to feed three horses for 48-hours. In the summer it lasts even longer because they don't seem to need as much hay to keep warm. I am paranoid though, so I still have someone check on them once a day when we are gone. But now, if I can't manage to get someone to stop by, it's not the end of the world, and no one needs to be there twice a day.

No more hay blowing away in the wind or getting ground into the mud un-eaten! I put the ugly tire feeders on Craigslist, and am no longer wasting any more hay. Hooray.

The Bad:

On the rare occasion, the metal grate gets stuck at an angle against the wood lid, preventing the horses from being able to eat the hay. With two boxes always full, this isn't a big deal, as I check the horses at least twice a day. However, if we were out of town this could be bad news...which is why I still have someone come check on them once a day when we are gone.

Once in a while the horses scrape their foreheads on the inside corner of the lids. They are just superficial wounds where the hair gets scraped off. I think this can be fixed by routering the inside edge of the lids. I plan to do this next time someone I know that owns a router comes to visit us.

The latches suggested in the plans seemed a bit too small to work, and the inside location seemed a bit awkward for easy use. I put regular heavy duty hasp latches with carabineer on the outside of the lids instead. Works great.

The metal grates and the wood lids make a banging sound when the horses pull the hay through. It can be a bit noisy when the hay levels get low.


The pros massively outweigh the cons. I love these slow feeder boxes because they make my life easier and the horses happier. I definitely plan to have them in use for a long time! If you are interested in building some for yourself, the plans we purchased were from Slow Grazer and can be purchased here: http://www.grazingbox.com/DIY%20Kit.htm

April 12, 2016

Feeling Like My Old Self

It's been four (nearly five) years since the last time I did it, but this week I rode my horse five days in a row. The last time I did that was in 2011, during my first trimester. It's funny how a little thing like that seems like a big deal to me now. Having a kid really does change everything. JR is finally at the age that things are really getting easier and we are starting to be able to do the things we used to do again, and in somewhat the same way we used to do them. Hooray!

Back to the riding. Last Thursday was day 1. EB rode with us. The ride was okay, nothing great. Both Gentry and I are out of shape and he generally has a case of the Mondays on day 1.

Day 2 was a great ride. Solo Ride. Gentry got his front shoes put on that morning. Hugo for some reason didn't call at all when we rode out. Gentry was rusty on all things bending, suppeling, and stretching, but he was willing, and we made a lot of progress. By the end of our ride he was completely covered in sweat, so I pulled his tack and let him graze in the arena for a while. Then Hugo called. Gentry called back, jumped straight up in the air, bucked, farted, and proceeded to gallop around the arena five or six times. Apparently, regardless of the frothy sweat, he was not all that tired.

Galloping Fool

Day 3 was terrible. Solo ride. I shouldn't have even ridden, as we hauled and put up four-tons of hay in our barn that morning through mid-day. However, the weather was once again amazing, so I couldn't resist. Seriously, it's been in the 70's and sunny all week. In Montana. You know with weather like that I am going to ride my horse, no matter how tired I am. Well, Hugo called the entire time, so our ride was more or less pointless. I just dealt with trying to calm down Gentry's anxiety issues for an hour and fifteen minutes. The ride would have been much shorter, but darn it, I was ending on a good note and on my terms. We got there eventually.

Day 4 was awesome. EB rode with us and Gentry appeared to have actually learned something from our previous rides. We had the best shoulder in, haunches in, free walk, and canter transitions to date. I also ran him through Training Level Test 1 for the first time. It was pretty good for a first attempt. I feel confident that we will be ready to show training level this summer.

Day 5, yesterday, was equally great. AJ rode with us, and despite Hugo losing his mind being left at home alone and calling non-stop, Gentry didn't care. He may have also been very tired and/or sore. When he saw me walk to the paddock with his halter he turned around and walked away from me. That was a first. I gather it was his attempt at communicating that he did not want to work five days in a row. Regardless, I caught him easy enough and we had a great ride. We ran through Training 1 again, and although not much improved, I am feeling even more confident about it.

Selfie attempt. I have no idea how you gals make these look so good. I am at a loss.
The sun flair greatly helped us out I think.

Today I tortured Gentry with grooming, treats, and half a pulled mane. No riding though, he gets a day off because tonight is date night (speaking of things we used to do). Regardless, G-Love definitely deserves some down time for the next couple of days, then we are back to it on Friday. I put a call in to my trainer today to start up lessons again. I am very excited about that. I haven't had a lesson since I sold Rose, which was just about 3 years ago. The first schooling show is in May and darn it we will be ready for Training Level!

April 6, 2016

Spontaneous Saturday

The horses are currently locked in the, rather spacious, dry-lot. Unfortunately, because we are farming newbies didn't know better, last summer we left them on the pasture 24/7 resulting in them over-grazing it. Lesson learned. Now that the ground has thawed, they are off of it until the grass is 6" tall. Then they will be given limited grazing; only munching it down to 3".

I am not exactly cool with the no turnout situation. As such, our current farm project is the building of a new paddock. There is a large area of our property along the road that we don't use for anything and has never been fenced. Given the location it is pointless to mow it, so we decided to fence it off. This paddock will be handy for so many reasons. Turnout when the pasture is off limits, longing, ground work, and new horse quarantine, etc.

New Paddock Location

In the last year and a half, I have learned that farm projects happen according to the weather, not my schedule. This does not exactly work well for my overly organized self, but I am learning to adapt. Last Saturday we were outside enjoying the delicious sunny 60 degree weather, while I loaded the horses to haul to the vet for spring shots and coggins. I randomly ask Hubs when he thinks the timing would be good to dig post holes for the paddock. Things were moist but not muddy, and the permafrost finally melted. He looked at the ground and said "now".

By the time the horses and I got home from the vet, there was a bright yellow one-man auger sitting in the driveway, and an ecstatic JR begging to run the thing. However, we had friends arriving for a barbecue that afternoon and couldn't start the project until Sunday.

The one man auger. It worked better with two people though.

JR insisting on standing in the hole

Sunday morning came bright and early, and we spent the whole day measuring and digging post holes. Thankfully EB came out to ride that afternoon and then generously offered to play with JR until dinner time, allowing us to finish all the holes before having to return the auger. We were however 20 posts short, so the project is ongoing. Hubs is picking up the rest of the posts on Thursday, and then we will get back to work on setting the posts in their holes and installing the equifence wire. I cannot wait to get it done and let the horses have some turnout again!

Post holes all dug, some posts set, some needing to be set, and more needing to be purchased.


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