Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon on my riding lawn mower making myself a marathon track with obstacles. I am so happy to have my riding lawn mower back… it didn’t run all last year and I really missed being able to make myself such fun obstacles!

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I mowed a nice track around the 10 acre field. I am going to put at least two more obstacles out there as well!

I put in a cones course, complete with a little bridge!

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I put in a tires course, which is just like running the barrels!

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I have a barrels course:

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And then there is the track:

I think we are going to have a lot of fun out there!

Zorro has been feeling grumpy lately. I think he needs a little break from the long drives and this is a way to mix things up for him.

I am going to take the Skid Steer out there tomorrow and fill in the holes and dips we encountered today to smooth things out a bit. We did trot and canter but it was a bit bouncy! LOL!

I am going to add two more obstacles out on the track, another cones course and ?? I’m not sure what the other will be but it will be FUN!

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So Zorro had a little episode which resulted in him being a bit footy a couple of weeks ago. Of course this happened the week before we were supposed to go camping with our driving group and have two big days of driving in the mountains. I was crushed.

Zorro had been going around, reaching under the hot wire and eating the new green grass that is coming up. He has done this every year since he has lived here without any side effects. But this year everything was just right for him to get sore footed. Of course the grass he was eating is the dreaded Crested Wheat Grass that I have talked about here. This same grass cost me both Chloe and Bonnie. I am not prepared to lose any more ponies to this grass so changes had to happen.

I made a smaller pen for Zorro, had 10 yards of sand brought in and bedded his pen down with 2-3″ of sand. This helped him immediately. Of course it didn’t take all 10 yards to do that so we fenced off another area, scraped the grass up with the Bobcat and then spread the sand around for Sky and Mikey.

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I set up two feed areas that have a t-post driven through a rubber mat. Then I tie their hay bag to the post and they can eat in a sand free area. We didn’t put the sand on every square foot of the area, so I put their hay in two spots that don’t have sand. Then I sweep the mats off every time I feed.

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Sky has been packing on the pounds without the track. No track means little exercise. Clearly she needs to go out and work a bit so that will start this week. She looks like she may foal any day. I won’t be posting pictures of her close up for awhile!

Mikey is actually calmer and happier in the smaller area. Clearly he prefers less area to the openness of the track system. This is hard to juggle. His mental health for his physical health. I would prefer they live on a track so we are going to try something a bit different.

We took all the fences down, except for the pen they are currently in, and will re-design the track to be a little smaller and much more secure. In interior of the track will also be fenced with a field type fence, maybe cattle panels if I have enough of them to do the inside and the outside. Then we will top that with one or two strands of hot wire.

We will clear the inside of the track of as much grass as we can by scraping it with the Bobcat, as well as scraping the track. My Hubby called the home owner and talked to him about this and he is fine with it. Thank goodness! We were going to put the health of my ponies before the ground anyway and haul in material when we leave if necessary, but I am relieved that he doesn’t mind us setting this all up!

That means I can bring in more material for the track as well. Some more sand, some pea gravel… This is going to take some time and some money so I don’t think it will be done this year. We also have to build a new hay shed because I constantly lose too much hay every single year using the tarps. So the shed will come before the track. But at least we have a plan! And the horses are safe in the area they are set up in right now. There isn’t any grass in that pen and is small enough that I can stay on top of it. Plus it’s starting to warm up which will help kill the grass as well. Phew!

Is this my dream set up? Not at all. But this is one of those times when it’s important to stay flexible. This is what’s best for their health right now so this is what I will do.

They are getting a measured amount of low sugar/low starch hay while locked up. 2 flakes in their hay nets in the morning and 1 flake in the evening.

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This is what 1/2 a pound of alfalfa pellets with 2 ounces of Soybean Meal looks like.

They get 1/2 a pound of alfalfa pellets topped with 2 ounces of Soybean Meal twice a day right now. They have access to salt 24/7 and of course fresh water. The boys are looking wonderful on this feed plan. I’ll stick with this for the next year and see how they do. Then I may be able to stop feeding the Soybean meal!

This is where I put their feed together in the garage. I went from 3 different garbage cans full of feed and three drawers of supplements (they didn’t get all those at the same time, it was what I had amassed over the last few years trying to find the perfect feed program!) to this:

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On the left is the Soybean Meal and on the right is the alfalfa pellets. That’s it! Oh I have a jug of water that I use to wet their feed. I would never feed this without adding water…

So things have majorly simplified as far as the ponies go for right now. It’s not ideal but it is what it is!

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I have been following David Landreville for nearly 2 years on Facebook. What drew me to his page were the beautiful hoof photos he was posting. He also shared consecutive trim photos of hooves that he was rehabbing, but the number of beautiful hooves he was sharing were truly inspiring. I figured if he had access to so many beautiful hooves he must be onto something!

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I shared his page with some good friends of mine that had recently taken over trimming their herd of 6 big horses. It’s my belief that if I spend a certain amount of time looking at beautifully balanced hooves then my brain will start to understand more fully exactly what I am trying to accomplish with my own ponies. My friends felt the same way! In fact they liked what they saw so much that they contacted David and flew down to Arizona to shadow him for a few days! Oh man I was so jealous! LOL! But I also knew they would bring back some great information and share it with me.

Not only did they bring back information, and we had many long talks about building beautiful hooves, but they also brought back information for putting on our own David Landreville Hoof Trimming Clinic here in Montana! I was so excited!

I chose to camp at my friends house for the duration of the clinic because I knew that often more talk goes on during lunch, then during dinner, then during that time after dinner before you go to bed. And boy did it! David was so generous with his time and his information. I tried to be a sponge and soak up everything the had to share in the short time he was with us.

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He brought his wonderful wife, Stephanie as well and she was so kind and made all who spent time with her feel calm and peaceful. That is such a special gift to have!

David spends a lot of time polishing and smoothing the back of the hoof so the horse has a nice soft place to land when they are trying to land heel first.

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Mostly David uses his rasp to polish the frog. In this photo he was showing us how to use our knife to do the same thing, trimming off the dead frog to give the horse a nice supple frog.
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Using the rasp to clean up the frog.

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He spends a lot of time explaining exactly how a horse’s foot works and why a heel first landing is so important. He has done extensive studying of the horse’s foot and has a deep understanding of how everything works together.

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Feeling the difference between the hard dead frog and the live supple frog.

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His philosophy is that the frog should not be weight bearing, nor should the outer hoof wall. Instead we need to balance the foot so the horse is weight bearing on the inner hoof wall, but over 4 main points of the hoof, the seat of the corn and the toe pillars, and the frog gives them a nice place to land and push off from. Our goal as hoof trimmers, is to develop a nice plump and thick area at the back of the foot to give our horses a soft place to land that is also working as it should, as a shock absorber.

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Giving us a better idea of what is going on INSIDE the hoof. David is such an artist!
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He would mark where he wants the weight bearing to be on the hoof.

He taught us techniques as well as his method by working on 6 different horses the first day and then watching us work on 6 horses the second day.

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Everyone felt relaxed learning from David. This mare decided to lay down and take a nap!

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He taught us of the importance of using sharp tools and being very very precise with them. It’s difficult to get a precise trim with dull tools.

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Showing us how to sharpen our hoof knives. This comes with trepidation because if we weren’t used to trimming with sharp tools we could cause some damage to both our horse and ourselves. Learning proper technique when trimming but also learning how to hold and manage our tools was a big part of this clinic.

A few of the horses were a bit skeptical about having their feet worked on. Once David was able to work on the back of the horse’s heel, put their foot down and give them a minute to think about it, their entire demeanor would change and they would hand him their other feet. If you horses aren’t doing this when you trim them, then maybe it’s time to look at a different trimming technique! He worked on several horses that I have also worked on over the years (including Zorro!) and I really enjoyed watching him change a horse’s mind from arguing and being mad to quiet, licking and chewing and lots of positive processing.

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This gelding was a very well mannered boy, but the relief he felt when he had a nice place to stand was immediate and recognized by all of us.

David stressed the importance of having a nice place to live. Adding sand to your dry lot or track system can be extremely helpful, working with the horse to develop a beautiful foot. As well as keeping their living area clean and free of manure.

He talked about how much more important it is to have a balanced trim than it is to change the diet to all the new fads or miracle cures. In essence there isn’t anything we can feed that will help our horse grow a perfect, balanced and fully live foot. But there is a lot we can do, with the proper training, through barefoot trimming, to help our horse grow this.

There are so many little things that are difficult to teach online, but are easier to understand in person. If there is ever a David Landreville Hoof Trimming Clinic in your area I highly recommend you take the time to go!

 

P.S. I came home with lots of information for my Handsome Hubby but while I was gone my Handsome Hubby had been hard at work clearing space and preparing the ground for a new hay shed, planning where he wants to move our current shed and how he wants to move the fence of the track. I am also getting another shelter from my friends that will be a run in shelter for the ponies and will be putting sand down before we set the shed down. This will give them a nice soft place to stand as well as a footing to work quietly on the dead tissues of their feet in between trims. I’m going to have a few truck loads of sand brought in to put on the track in a few spots. Luckily my track is small so adding footing shouldn’t be too cost prohibitive! Stay tuned for some track upgrades coming soon!

 

Every spring I take before photos and then again in mid summer and again in late summer, early fall I take afters of my ponies. This helps me gauge how well my feeding/exercise program is going.

This year we are doing the No Grain Challenge, which for us is more about no treats, no flax seed, no chia, no vitamins/minerals. My ponies are currently not getting grain, as I was using timothy grass pellets as a carrier for their supplements.

After taking the Horsemanship Nutrition Course I found out that both flax and chia seeds are inflammatory to the gut lining. Which would explain why Mikey has such a dull coat and is still ribby and not thriving.

So they are not getting ANY treats other than alfalfa pellets and this week I will add in Soybean Meal to bump up their protein. By bumping up the protein this will help them utilize the fats that are in their forage.

Onto the photos!

First up is Zorro. He has gained a little weight over the last week, so has Sky… I gave them a TON of hay last weekend. They pooped on it, peed on it, laid in it and pigged out royally. Plus I got some new hay and they have gorged themselves a bit on it. I sent the testing off yesterday so we will see what the sugars and starches are. Also they are only on the front part of the track and are being fed right beside the water trough. This is not ideal as they don’t have to move much to go from eating to drinking. I’m hoping to move their hay to the back side of the track later this week!

Zorro is amazingly hairy. I can not wait to see him all shed off! He is actually well muscled and fairly sleek under all the fluff. He has a more sprung rib cage which makes him have a rather round silhouette, but he is in pretty good shape right now!

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Sky will lose some of this weight when I move the hay. LOL! But she is ALWAYS the cutest. And she gives such sweet kisses.

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Mikey is a bit ribby and has a very dry hair coat. However I would prefer all three ponies to come out of winter looking a bit more like this. They did not have any shelter other than wind breaks this year and I think that worked well. Sky wasn’t ribby but she was much thinner even just two weeks ago. I was very happy with how they all came out of winter… until I had to give them extra new hay last weekend. I’m super dreading how fat they will all be when I get home from my trip with Chimacum in May!!

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I also think it’s weird how these two pictures look like two completely different ponies! He is very fancy when facing west and becomes a bit dumpy when facing east. LOL! I don’t know why. He is so narrow and has ZERO belly. If I were to start working him right now he would look like a race horse by summer!!

So that’s what we are starting with. It will be so interesting to see where we end up!

What a beautiful day it turned into! After snowing and snowing and snowing the clouds parted and the sun shone down. It was such a welcome reprieve from all the snow and w-i-n-d.

When I went out to get Mikey so I could trim his feet Zorro tried to shove HIS nose in the halter. LOL! I love it when everyone wants to wear the halter. So I trimmed Mikey all up worked on his manners a little bit.

Then I went and got Zorro and hitched him to the Easy Entry. I found a set of used shafts from Patty’s Pony Place (the same place I got my suspension kit from) on Facebook and snapped those right up!

When I first hitched Zorro to this cart with these shafts, which was also the first time he was ever hitched to the easy entry, the seat was tipping back dramatically. beforecart

The balance was fine as far as Zorro went, but as we know from my other blog post about this, the seat should sit level.

So I moved the bottom brace forward. This one accordions in and out, the pipe slides, so I moved it forward, making that piece longer. This leveled the seat right out!cartafter

Then we went for a little spin down the road, up and down, in front of our house. The snow is so deep, the road is slick and the easy entry is HEAVY, so I didn’t make him pull me for very long. But we had a fun time!

As we drove down the road Zorro was looking very closely at the way the snow is piled along the road. He would stop and LOOK, blow a little air out of his nose, turn and look at me, I would say, “It’s fine. Good boy, walk on!” and he would walk on. He spooked once but came right back down. We did quite a bit of trotting but I had him walk back home when we turned around.drivingzorro2

drivingzorro3This reminded of a post I saw on Facebook the other day. It asked the question, “How do you know when you have a ‘Heart Horse’?” I didn’t really know how to answer that question that day but today I realized something. For ME I know when I have a heart horse when I am not worried or scared by anything they do. Zorro may startle me sometimes but I always laugh at him. I know that he will listen to me and that he trusts me and I trust him as well. I don’t believe that we only have one heart horse in our lives. I have had 6, including Zorro. I’m not saying bad things won’t happen with a heart horse. They are still horses! I’m just saying that I realized today that I feel different when I drive Zorro than when I drive Mikey or Sky. I have way more fun with him!

After our little drive around I took his harness off and we went for our walk. Zorro wasn’t thrilled at first:tiredzorroHe kept telling me he was too tired from the short drive. LOL! But once we made it up the big hill he got his second wind and perked right up!

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He thought he saw deer on the hill side here. I couldn’t see them but did see their tracks everywhere!zorroonourwalk

He is such a great walker! And he is getting more consistent and not breaking gait as often as he was. All good things come with time!zorroonourwalkwiththemountains

These boys are so cute!goingforawalk

For the month of March we have walked 8 miles!

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I get questions all the time about how I care for my ponies when we are dealing with some intense winter weather. I thought a blog post was due!

This winter has been super easy so far. I was even able to keep up with scooping manure up until this last week! Some winters I have to stop in December. I’m especially grateful for this right now as it means far less clean up when we start to thaw…

This last week we’ve been dealing with the “Polar Vortex” (I think it’s so funny that they named it!) which basically means we’ve been well below zero during the day and at night for the last week. It’s not supposed to break until early next week. I’m really looking forward to the warmer temps, these cold temps have really cut into Zorro’s February miles!! So far we have been able to do 3 miles this month. We’ll have to make that up as soon as the weather breaks!

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  • I make sure they have plenty of windbreaks. All of my shelters are currently full of hay so they don’t have a place to go IN, but they can back up to many of the different windbreaks that I have scattered around the track. Most of the breaks are for the north wind, which is the nastiest of our wind here, but they can also hunker down if we are getting south wind.
  • I make sure they have access to hay 24/7 with piles left over between feedings. This will help them warm up from the inside which is the best way for them to weather the storms.

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They are still getting their supplements via breakfast, but I never up their intake of grain/supplements when it’s cold. Doing so does very little to help them stay warm. And the grain products can soak up any water they are drinking which can cause impaction colic. I add water to their hard feed but giving them more of that will do little to help so I just keep those amounts the same.

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  • All three ponies have very thick, dense hair coats. They have some extra padding in the way of fat as well so they have made it through this weather just fine. No shivering at all. I do have a blanket for each one but find they rarely need them. If I haul them in the trailer in the winter I do blanket because my trailer is not enclosed. If I work them hard away from home and have to haul them I double blanket for the trip back. If I work them hard here at home and they get sweaty I do not blanket them, but allow them to roll in the snow and dry on their own – Unless we are having a lot of wind and they get chilled. Then I will blanket over night until it warms back up.
  • I do not like to brush them when it’s this cold. They will naturally fluff up their hair to create an air pocket of warmth between their skin and the air, brushing will flatten the hair and can make them feel chilled.

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  • I make sure they have access to water. For this cold snap I found I couldn’t fill the trough all the way up and had to use two trough heaters. The wind just made it very hard for one heater to keep up. If my trough freezes over? Then I have to haul buckets of warm water many times a day to make sure they are getting enough water. So I do all I can to ensure my trough doesn’t freeze over!

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They are making tracks within the tracks, but the snow is deep enough in some spots to nearly cover the hot wire that runs around the middle of the track! So I have to keep an eye on that. If we get much more snow fall then I’ll have to shovel some away from the fence lines. A snow blower would be awesome right about now!

We are warming up slowly but enough that when the wind blows it is starting to harden the snow drifts. This makes the going much harder out there. Walking through knee deep drifts that are hard is quite a work out. At least Zorro will be in good shape when we hit the road again next week!

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Here is a link to a post I wrote about driving in the winter. I do things a bit differently when I’m driving in the winter as compared to summer. Zorro has a different collar and hames but I’ll share more on that later this week!

It’s a beautiful day here today. A perfect day for trimming hooves and going for a nice long walk! What a nice way to start the new year.

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The ponies on the track. This is the back of the track looking towards their hay net feed station.
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Sky wants a cookie! Whenever she sees a camera she comes and makes this face. LOL!