Category Archives: horse nutrition

Far from home, but never far from a barn or a horse!

I’ve been lucky enough to travel to many different countries in my life and have had the opportunity to ride on several Caribbean islands; however, when presented with the idea of horseback riding, in many cases, the horses were not in very good condition. Instead of wanting to ride, I wanted to help these horses who were so thin and made to carry riders in the heat of the day. I remember on one trip to the Dominican Republic, I took the horses at the resort some apples from the breakfast buffet and some of the decorative flowers made out of carrots, from the lunch/dinner table. The horses were delighted with their treats and I knew that it was very rare for them to ever get anything like a piece of carrot or apple.

On the case of my recent adventure to the sunny south, I was extremely surprised and delighted to find the horses and pony at Oceanview Farm in Eleuthera, in excellent condition. I was travelling with my daughter, my sister and her family, and the kids all wanted to try a beach horseback ride so we ventured over to the stables at Oceanview one day to check out the facilities.

My first impression was that the horses were in good weight, had grassy paddocks for turnout and at each stall, there was a fan hanging above. Upon talking with the barn staff, we were told that when it is very hot outside (and this would be most afternoons especially during the summer months), the horses are turned out early in the day and brought in during the heat of the afternoon – with fans turned on to keep them cool.

Just like our horses at Foxwood Farm, certain horses have specific dietary requirements and in the Bahamas, all of the feed, hay and barn supplies need to be ordered and shipped by boat, from Miami. I was curious to find out the cost of keeping horses in the Bahamas and the farm owners were more than happy to answer my questions. Although they may pay slightly higher prices for grain, it was the cost of hay that shocked me! On average, here at Foxwood Farm, we pay between $5-5.50 per square bale of timothy/alfalfa mix. At Oceanview Farm, they pay betweeen $34-36 PER BALE for similar quality hay!! The hay is grown in Kentucky and then is shipped to Florida. From there, the hay is loaded onto pallets and sent via boat over to the Bahamas.

Another expense is the vet and farrier who both have to come over from the United States and Oceanview Farm has to pay for their plane ride over to the Bahamas at every visit. Due to the rocky terrain and dry conditions, all of the horses at Oceanview Farm wear front shoes – the cost every 6 weeks for a trim and reset is $150 US…again, a substantial increase over the cost of a farrier visit on the mainland.

Having decided that we definitely want to come for a ride, we returned to the farm a few days later in the morning to go for our beach ride. Our horses had already been groomed and tacked up before we arrived, so they were ready to go. My daughter was assigned LJ, who was a kind Thoroughbred gelding who had been rescued by Oceanview Farm and I was going to ride Major, who had been the personal horse of one of the owners. Because of the salt water in the Bahamas, Oceanview farm uses synthetic saddles so that they can be hosed off easily. These saddles were not similar to the English saddles that we are used to but are Australian saddles which reminded me more of a Western saddle, without the horn at the pommel. They have a deeper seat and were VERY comfortable for a 1 hour trail ride. The bridles used are made from nylon, again, as leather would not hold up to the salt water when venturing down to the ocean.

Starting off, riding around an inland lake, we then came to the glorious beach that beckoned us to ride upon it. I took a deep breath, looked around at the beautiful scenery around me, and enjoyed every minute and every step that Major took. This had been on my bucketlist forever and I couldn’t have wanted to share it with anyone else but my daughter. It was perfect!

Until next time,
Robyn
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Winter care for our Foxwood horses and ponies

4 more days…yes, I am counting down until the end of February. According to the local weather networks, this has been the coldest February on record and for those of you, like me, who have to work outside, we KNOW it is! Even though we have bundled up our horses and ponies this winter in warm blankets and bring most of them into a warm stall at night, they have also had enough of these temperatures! Some of our horses live outside 24/7, but with access to a run in shelter, they are able to get out of the elements.

I have been monitoring our horses and ponies very carefully this winter to make sure that they ARE staying warm and in good health. A good blanket is needed and it must not only be warm but waterproof as snow soaked blankets will only make a pony/horse colder. There are lots of blankets on the market but I have found that the more expensive brands like Rambo and Bucas, last longer and are better quality than others. If you wash and waterproof your blankets at the end of each season of use, this will also help prolong its’ life. It’s important to check blankets over daily for rips and any damage done to surcingles or leg straps. Leg straps should be checked before your horse/pony goes out in the morning and again, when it comes in at night. The same with the surcingles as often, horses and ponies love to roll so the blankets may shift slightly. Now that my horses and ponies have been wearing their blankets for many months, some of them have started to get some slight hair loss across the chest. Once the blankets are removed in early spring, generally, it doesn’t take long for their spring coats to grow in and repair the bald patch.

Another major issue to monitor in the winter is how much water your horse/pony is drinking. Some people assume that horses can eat snow to get their required intake ; however, this is definitely NOT the case. Horses will actually drink more water in the winter than at other times of the year because unlike spring/summer grass, hay is dry and they require more water to help digest and to avoid colic situations. To encourage my horses and ponies to drink more, I keep my outdoor water trough heated and I always have a salt and/or mineral block available. These blocks have vitamins and minerals that they do not get otherwise and the salt block makes them thirsty, which then sends them to the water. My current outdoor trough is 150 gallons and during the winter months, I will fill it up twice/day…that’s alot of drinking! For those horses that come in at night, they have water buckets in their stalls that get filled up several times over the course of the evening. If the buckets are completely frozen at night check, I will replace the bucket with a new one with fresh water. I have become very strong and skilled at using the rubber mallet this year to pound out ice;)

Some of our horses and ponies require a little extra feed over the winter as they may be old or just have trouble keeping up to the chubby ponies. Some of them get grain in the morning and at night – both times after they have had a feeding of hay which generates heat in their bodies. Without going into full detail about who eats what, every horse/pony has specific requirements so when introducing a new feed or when I get a new horse/pony, I always check with my local horse feed nutritionist to see what is best suited for that animal.

So, all of the key elements are covered at Foxwood to keep our ponies and horses happy in the winter: food, water and shelter…and of course lots of love! And let’s hope that all of the shedding we have been seeing while grooming our ponies and horses lately, is a sign that spring is just around the corner!

Until next time,
Keep warm!
Robyn

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!

Salty keeping warm in his blanket and eating LOTS of hay!