Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I will be brief, today. Flies are a major pesk around all livestock, but humans spend more time around horses than perhaps any other hoofed animal, and fly control is a serious concern. Flies can make both us and the horse miserable. If left unchecked, they can completely ruin an otherwise good day of training or just hanging out together. And, Yes, there is natural fly spray.

Natural fly spray is a repellent, not an insecticide. If you think about it, this makes more sense, whether you want to be all natural, or not. For an insecticidal spray to work, the fly has to land on your horse, and in some cases, bite him! Exactly what we want to prevent. So rather than the harsh poisons, which cost more and can pollute our ground water, go with a natural repellent that creates a scent barrier around your horse and keeps (most) flies from even lighting on his sensitive, ticklish skin! 

I have two that I rotate between: Liquid Net and Aloe Herbal Fly Repellent. I get both from 

I like to buy the concentrate, and mix it up myself- it costs a bit less that way. I have also bought the fly predators in the past. Can't tell you for certain if they make a difference, but I think they did...

Yay fly repellent! Now everyone can get back to enjoying themselves!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I want to keep my horses as naturally as possible. To that end, I'd like them to be on grass as their sole source of food the majority of the time. I do supplement with grain in the winter, and if you own a performance horse or use your horse for more than just light riding, they will need more caloric intake than just grass. A horse can survive on six hours of grazing per day, but mine are out 24/7, which I feel is best not just for their physical health, but for mental health, as well. Shelter is available for inclement weather. But my goal of grazing all year was not met this year (or last) due to drought.

This is a picture of my "pasture" from July. As you can tell, there's no grass to speak of. This summer was the second year of drought for us in Arkansas. Even in poor conditions, you should be able to graze for 300 days in this area: 
click on "Pasture Management" or you can go to and search "300 days of grazing".

My lack of grass is directly due to my poor pasture management. I was too optimistic last summer and then again this spring, thinking "surely, it will rain next week" for way too long! Last summer, I started feeding hay in August. This summer, it was June. My mistake was not taking the horses off of the pasture soon enough.

Horses should be removed from pasture when the grass gets to be two inches high, and not put back on until the grass exceeds four inches (I am currently waiting for five to six inches, because I damaged the pasture so severely, letting it get grazed right down to the dirt).  This does not mean they need to be on a dry lot (my horses currently are on a dry lot, to allow the entire pasture to recover... They stand wistfully gazing over the fence at their old play-ground...). The pasture can be managed with an electric fence, partitioning the space to allow the heavier grazed area to recover. When it recovers, I plan to add an electric line that partitions the front of the pasture (nearest the barn) from the back pasture. Horses will have access to the pond from either side of this fence. I have shelter set up for them to get under a roof in bad weather, no matter which side of the pasture they happen to be on.

The photo above is my dry lot. That's Sasha with a pile of hay and there are two small water troughs behind her. It's a good sized paddock- large enough for a hand-gallop if a horse is so inclined. I am glad it is so large, as they have been in it for months, now. Besides the ability to stretch their legs, this large size affords me several weeks before I have to drive the pick-up truck in there and pick up manure.

The above is why you need a dry-lot to feed hay. This bare patch is where I had a round-bale last winter. Here it is August and it is still a bare patch.  But check out that great grass coming up around it!

Since they have been off the pasture for a little while, it is beginning to look pretty good in there: the old grass sent up seed heads which have since dried up and scattered. Below those dry stalks, you can see the grass beginning to come back. It's about two inches high.

We also cleared a bit more pasture (if they grazed it to the ground, we must need a bit more, the thinking went). This is the big brush pile that remains from that... you can see that we did leave a few trees. I have noticed that the grass seems to grow best under the trees- it likes the shade and gets a longer soak when it rains because of the drip-line.

Of course, we planted seed in the new areas of the pasture. Went down to the local farmer's co-op and asked what to plant for fall germination. Here, we were told to put down rye and white clover. It's starting to come up!

Here's another shot of new grass- can you tell that I am excited?!

This is the top of the pond dam. We had it cleared of trees, too. (The trees looked great, but as they grow, they send roots down deep which can cause the pond to leak. Can't have that!). We put some of the rye seed down here, and you can see it coming up, too! The really green stuff down by the water's edge is a water plant that the horses don't eat.

That's it for today! Lesson for the day: take horses off pasture when it gets down to two inches (no matter the season) and don't put them back on till it is in excess of four inches... electric fences are good for partitioning the pasture to prevent overgrazing. I'll blog about the electric fence when we get it installed!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What you can't see in this picture is me. My name is Jocelyn and I am starting this blog to share my experiences with my two horses. I live on a farm in the Ozark National Forest. We are too far from any town to be on the grid. All of our electricity is solar and our water comes from a very reliable spring. In keeping with this natural life-style, I am also raising my horses naturally.

I purchased Justin (gelding, on the right in this photo) and Sasha (mare, on the left) as untrained two-year-olds. Justin and Sasha are half-siblings (same dad, different moms). They were both skittish from a lack of handling when I brought them home. In future posts, you will read how I "broke" them using a round-pen and natural, gentle methods. Justin is behind Sasha in his training (boys mature more slowly, even in horses, it seems!) so you will get some real-time info on his progress, too!

What you can''t see in the picture above is me. I am riding Sasha, and ponying Justin. We are on a trail ride. One thing we have in abundance is great trails to ride around here! One of my core beliefs is that horses can be trained for any discipline out on the trail. My chosen discipline is dressage, but I have in the past worked for barns training hunt seat, western pleasure, and saddle seat. In college, I did some show jumping. So my background is very diverse and well rounded. Of course, if you plan to show in any of the above disciplines, both rider and horse will need some ring work, too.

If you take a close look at Justin's "bridle", you will see it is little more than a halter. It is called a "side-pull" and is just like a hand-tied halter, but with rings attached to the side for reins. They are unused in this pic because I have attached the lead-line to the bottom loop for ponying. This side-pull is mainly what I ride in. Both horses do well bitless. Sasha has been ridden in a variety of bits and Justin is just learning to accept one. I bought both side-pulls off ebay.

At the end of this particular trail is a nice watering hole. Here you see my two horses and my dog all enjoying a cool drink. We've been on the trail- waling and trotting up and down hills- for about 40 minutes. On a hot summer's day, we all can work up quite a sweat!

So this is the side-pull. The white part is the nose-band. I have shown it with one rein attached to the near ring (where you would put it to ride) and the other rein attached to the loop that would hang below the horse's chin (where you would put it to use as a halter). This "bridle" is great for trail rides because if you want to get off and take a break, you can easily tie your horse without a fuss. If you notice, the piece that goes over the horse's poll is double: I like to use it as a one-ear to prevent it from slipping back on the horse's neck. When you get your new side-pull and put it on for the first time, you might find it a little tight here and a little loose there. No problem! it is easy to loosen the knots a little and make adjustments. I like to do this while the horse is wearing the side-pull- it is quicker and easier to see what you are doing. Make sure you pull the knots tight so they do not loosen and change while you ride. Another thing I like to do with a side-pull is add a clip so I don't have to tie it each time I put it on. I do this for my rope halters, too.

This is a close-up of the swivel-snap that I added to the bridle.