Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Unpopular

L. Williams of Viva Carlos fame asks: What is one unpopular horsey opinion you have?

My unpopular point of view? Horses are creatures best suited to living outdoors. I firmly believe that horses are happiest and healthiest when they live as they evolved to: grazing constantly over a relatively large area. 
Obviously there are exceptions to this: a previously foundered horse does not need to be on green grass all day. Clipped horses need blankets in the winter. Horses that don’t regulate their body temperatures well may need to be stalled with a fan during the summer. But I am an advocate of letting horses live as horses: outside, on a pasture, in some kind of herd, all the time.
Moe and Gina have lived their entire lives with me in this fashion. Currently, they are turned out 24/7 (except to eat, and unless they’re injured) on a 20 acre pasture with 6 other horses. They do not get stalled if it’s raining. They do not get stalled if it’s cold. They both grow big, furry, fluffy coats and only get blanketed in very extreme cold and wind. (For example, last winter, they were blanketed when the wind chill was below zero.) 

I butted heads with my boss at the therapeutic riding center over this constantly: she wanted the horses blanketed constantly, brought it when rain was forecasted, taken off pastures when it was hot for fear they wouldn’t drink any water. At my current barn, I encountered a woman who’d left her horse in all day last Thursday because it was raining. She said he didn’t want to get wet. He looked to me like he wanted to be let out.

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Record Keeping

I try my hardest to keep thorough, accurate records of my horses’ lives. When I was a Pony Clubber, I used the USPC Health & Maintenance Record Book, which is a great tool for logging the basics: the whens, wheres, and whys of feed changes, vet visits, farrier appointments, conditioning schedules, etc. (It’s available as a free PDF download here if you’re interested.) 

When I was responsible for managing 20 or so horses at the therapeutic riding center, I found it extremely tedious and difficult to log everything by hand. I was also terrified the notebooks and papers I wrote on would be misplaced, lost, or destroyed. I created a MS Word document that served as a template for every horse’s records; the first page was a form which asked for basic information on the horse, like its name, age, color, markings, gender, height, and included a picture. Subsequent pages had tables for recording farrier and vet visits, deworming, feed ration/changes, and even bathing and udder/sheath cleaning. Each record had a blank page at the end of the document where I would type notes every time I worked with a horse, either on the ground or under saddle. If someone else (like a student worker or volunteer) worked with the horse, I’d ask for a brief report of what they did, how the horse behaved, and problems they encountered. Every horse had an electronic file of this nature that was saved on a drive shared between all employees (which was 3). My boss detested this method of record keeping, as she was not a computer person and could never remember how to access the shared drive. She was also concerned that the files would simply disappear one day. (Computers are magic!)
Unfortunately, I never bothered to recreate those forms as Google Docs or save them to a jump drive. I have a notebook where I keep Moe and Gina’s important documents (Coggins tests, registration papers), but as for recording farrier and vet visits, rides, and deworming? This is where we’re at:
That’s my planner. When I ride, I simply write down a brief synopsis of what I did. When the horses have their hooves trimmed, I jot it down. It works well enough, but it’s a pain to leaf through weeks of records and try to find something specific. Frequently, I also forget to write down how much something costs or when I ordered something online.
In the interest of digitizing my life as much as possible, I’m searching for a solution to the record keeping problem. I’m thinking of using Evernote to keep track; I like that it has both desktop and mobile apps, I can search it, and I can keep it organized how I choose. I’ll let you know how it goes.
In the meantime, I’m really curious about what y’all use to maintain your horse’s records. Pen and paper? Your blog? An app? Do tell.

Organizing a Tack Room

I’ve finally moved most of my tack from my horse trailer to the new barn. I’ve spent a lot of time organizing my corner of the tack room to make room for more stuff, so I thought I’d share some tips and tricks on how I do it.

  • Wall-mount saddle rack: Years ago, my dad picked up several of these racks at a horse auction, and I’m happy to finally put one to use. (Horse auctions were a weekly Friday night outing for my family for several years.) They run anywhere from $11 (at Jeffers) to $25 (at Dover), but Beka at The Owls Approve posted a great DIY tutorial for a collapsible racks last month. Wall-mount racks are great because you can mount several in a vertical line without taking up valuable floor space. Be sure to mount them in a stud, though, or you’ll rip a hole in the drywall.
  • Tuna cans: For hanging bridles and halters up, you can’t beat clean tuna cans. Dover sells bridle brackets for $4, but why buy that when you can get a can of tuna for $2, eat it, and use it to hang your stuff up? If you want to get fancy, you could spray paint the cans, but I just tacked mine up with a hammer and framing nails. (And obviously no level.) 
  • Tack trunk: This small green trunk was originally purchased for me when I started attending two-week summer camp programs. It was converted to tack trunk duty in high school (so at least 10 years ago).  The trunk is about 30″ long, 18″ wide, and 15″ tall. It’s perfect for corralling all kinds of stuff: lunge line, polo wraps, helmet, extra lead ropes, equine first aid kit, human first aid kit. You can put a lock on it, too, if you’re concerned about fellow boarders “borrowing” from your trunk! You can buy these at Wal-Mart or off Amazon for about $40. (Stickers optional.)
  • Wash bucket: Even in the dead of winter, I keep my wash bucket at the barn. It’s a plastic 5-gallon bucket used exclusively for bathing ponies. I keep all of my bathing supplies in it: pimply rubber mitt, sheath cleaner, shampoo, conditioner, sweat scraper, body sponge, face sponges, towel, etc. I never have to wonder where anything is, and keeping liquids in the tack room versus the trailer helps prevent freezing. (In the picture, it’s also holding a bucket of Uncle Jimmy’s Squeezy Buns treats and a stud finder.)
  • Grooming tote: You know the grooming tote. You probably have one just like it. This holds the basics for me: curry comb, dandy brush, body brush, hoof pick, hairbrush, pulling comb, scissors, fly spray, hoof ointment, and hair detangler. 
I’ve been allotted some more space in the tack room since someone moved out, so I’m planning to bring in a plastic shelf unit. It’ll hold the horse and human first aid kits to make them more easily accessible, as well as my dressage letter cones, jump cups, and any other loose ends. 
What kind of tack set up do y’all have? Have any neat DIYs?