Top 10 FAQs from Michigan Horse Owners

February 19, 2024

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This presentation will discuss and provide resources in regard to the Top 10 questions received by the MSU Extension Equine Team from Michigan Horse Owners.

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Video Transcript

Well, welcome everyone to Michigan Ag Ideas to Grow With. We'll get started. Here you are in the equine session. First one out of the gate. Here we get rolling here into our program. We've got the top ten questions from Michigan horse owners. My name is Tom Guthrie. I'm an MSU extension statewide educator for equine. I'm based in the Jackson office. I've got my colleague here, Dr. Christine Skelly, who is a equine specialist extension specialist, and she's in the Department of Animal Science. Chris and I have done a lot of work over the years. Chris, do you want to say anything else about myself there? That's my old gilding cat. Okay. Yeah. Okay. Well, I've got pictures of my family's quarter horses. There are two on the left. As you can see, we've got a couple fools in the Mayor that I have my arm underneath her neck. There she was. She's been shown in the youth World Show for Ran sorting and Teen Penny. All right. The way that we laid out these top ten questions when we go through, I'm going to give you my top five and Dr. Skelly is going to give you her top five of the questions that we most often receive from horse owners. I'll start off with the top question that I get. Then when we move on, Dr. Skelly will talk about the top question she gets and we'll go on down the line until we get through. Sound All right, Chris. Good, great. All right. Here we go. Top question that I typically receive out in the field is pasture management. When we look at pasture objectives, these are the two that I can come up with. First one is to consider and or evaluate the possibility of implementing a pasture management plan with the grazing system that works best for your respective farm. Really, that's what it comes down to is your respective farm. And we'll talk about some of the key components coming up. The second one I've got there is to understand the key components of pasture management that allows for an informed decision to be reached. A lot of times we might have these big ideas and we've got all these horses, however, we may not be able to pull that off as far as land based resources go. If we look at grazing strategies from the top here, we've got continuous where horses have access to a single pasture nearly all the time. We have partial season where horses may be restricted to a certain pasture for only part of the year. We've got turn out with opportunity to graze, and that's my term, I call it a turn out with opportunity to graze where you might have multiple horses have daily access to a pasture for shorter periods. Essentially, if you're stalling horses in the barn, one might go out for 2 hours, you bring that horse back in, you bring another horse out, and turn it out into that specific lot that allows them some turnout time and there's some vegetation there that they can graze on. Then the final one is rotational grazing. Essentially, that's just a pasture that's divided up into smaller cells or paddocks, and then you're rotating the use of each of those cells or pastures. Okay. Common question. Why won't the grass grow in my pasture? It seems all I have is weeds. Okay. Really, there's three things that this comes down to. First one is the soil test. Second one is do you have a sacrifice or dry lot area. And then the third one is stocking density. Okay. How many horses do you have? However many acres that you might have. Okay. So let's talk about the first one for soil fertility and pasture productivity. Okay? So I've got on here, have you had your soil analyzed lately? When you do a soil analysis, really what you're looking for is you're looking for the indication of what your soil may need. Example, do you need lime? Do you need to apply some nitrogen? Okay, The goal is that we want that soil to be productive to grow. The pasture forges that we're looking for, okay? These need to be done every three years. It's relatively inexpensive to do 1920 bucks to do, and each soil analysis can go over a 20 acres span. Okay? So anything less than 20 acres you do a soil test on. That gives you the results of what you might need for your soil. And you can do that every three years, and I'll give you some information later on where you can get those done. Okay? So soil fertility, the tools that you may need. Okay? Soil probe or a shovel clean, plastic bucket, 15 to 20 random samples per field. And you can see down here in the picture on the bottom where I've got like a zigzag pattern going across in this pasture. You want to take samples all the way across. Most folks think, well, I'll just go out and take one sample right out in the middle. That doesn't give us a representative sample across the whole pasture. You really need to try to take multiple samples and make a Z type pattern across your pasture. That will give you a composite sample and then you can move on from there. The soil fertility or soil analysis, there are places that will provide that service. Grain elevators. A lot of times we'll do that. If you can find somebody locally to do that. You can also check in with your local extension office and they'll have all of the paperwork that you may need to be able to go ahead and do that soil analysis. Second one is sacrifice or dry lot area. Okay. So you can see here I've got a picture of a dry lot and you can see this little paint mare she's eating out of a hay bag. But if you look beyond that far fence line where the big tree is out there, that's the pasture. Okay. It's in the middle of summer, it's dry. Okay. And so there might be times that you need to keep those horses off the pasture. It's just not productive. So you put them in a dry lot. You dry lot area needs to have water, ample room to feed hay, shelter, and appropriate fencing tom on the dry lot. One thing we might mention, when your dry lot is real sandy on the bottom and you're feeding your horses out there, it would be good to have like a rubber mat underneath where they're dropping so that as they're picking hay up off the ground, they have less exposure to sand which could potentially call down the road. Some horses seem to be really sensitive to sand. Other horses in the same scenario never have a problem. It's a great point. Thank you. And that's something very simple management wise that you can do to prevent that for sure. Okay. All right. So we've got checking our soil fertility, we need to try to get our soil in the right condition so we can grow good desirable forage for horses. If we have a sacrifice lot, this keeps them in when they shouldn't be out there. And I've got an example picture a little bit later, and I'll show you what I mean by that. Then the last thing is stocking density, okay? And this goes along with forage height, the general rule of thumb. You want to graze when it's six to 10 " tall and you want to stop grazing when it gets to be about three to 4 ". When we look at the general recommendation for stocking, density is about two acres per horse for true pasture. Okay? It might be more if you're on a lot of sand and rocks like where I live, it's a lot of sand and rocks. It might take a little bit more land to sustain those horses out on pasture if it's a true pasture, and that's why I say it may vary by geographic area, but stop and go grazing. Just remember that, stop and go grazing, if you can get them off of there, when it gets to the three to 4 " type, get them off pasture plants regrow replenish because if you don't, you might see the opportunity for weed invasion there. Okay, so here are some forge resting guidelines factors. Obviously the weather has a lot to do with it and seasonal variation. You want to monitor your grazing progress and manage the grass. Typically, you want to avoid using a strict calendar of entrance and exit dates. It's really going to depend on the weather, but lots of times I get questions about where the general timelines, Here you go for cool season grasses, 14 to 16 days during the spring, 20 to 30 days during late spring. And then we hit that summer low where it takes a little bit longer for them to regrow 30 to 40 days. Okay. And then finally here I have kee keep horses off the pasture when you have a drought wet conditions or they're newly seated. This is a picture from my neighbor's property. It was early in the spring. She turned her horses out. They went flying across their skid and bucking jumping, and this is one of the skid marks that I went out and measured when they hit the brakes. It's about 16 " long and it's about 6 " deep. It doesn't take long to tear up a pasture when you've got horses out there feeling good. All right. And lastly, on this one, there's Forge resources and I put this up here, It's the MSU Forge Connection. If you go to this website, it has multiple resources establishing forge in your pasture. It's got rotational grazing as you can see here. For Michigan horses, there are multiple bulletins in here. What types of forages are acceptable to plant for horses or for Michigan? So you can find all of those resources all in one spot right here on this website. And they're all free to download. All right. So Chris, I'm going to turn it over to you. All right. I teach a horse nutrition class in our department to college kids when I get a lot of calls and e mails and I actually start visiting with horse owners, one of the biggest things that they want is more information on what type of forage to feed to their horses, how much of it to feed as well as how do they buy for. Forage is extremely important to the horses are going to get most of their energy from, from grain, but from forage, good quality forage can make the base, or should make the base of a horse's diet upwards to 70 to 80% of the diet with just grain and potentially supplement on top of that. But you always want to start with your part of your diet as far as focusing and optimizing. If we look at what forage provides for the horse, it's both a physiological as well as psychological impact. Physiologically, it's keeping the gut healthy. It's keeping saliva. As horses are chewing their, they're producing more saliva which helps the stomach stay at a good basic type environment for the horse. When they go for long periods of time without chewing. That's when we may start seeing an increase in ulcers in our horses. Horses that chew hay or graze as a base of their diet usually have better dental health. We see less diseases like laminitis or symptoms of colic, and horses that have a borage based diet From a behavioral standpoint, just because horses are hard wired to chew. If we don't give them something to chew, they're going to chew each other's tails. They're going to chew your fence. They're going to chew your barn, your trees, whatever else they can find when we can give them forage to chew, they're just a lot happier. And we reduce some of those stereo tippies that we might see cribbing as well. All right. Tom time, I think you'll have to advance the slide. Yeah, I'm trying. Yeah. Okay. Basically, in Michigan, we have cool season grasses which include your Brohm Orchard or Timothy. You may see when you buy grass hay in Michigan, it could be a mix a lot of times, Roman orchard. Are seeded together or sometimes people go straight, Timothy, your cool grass hay are going to be higher in sugars than say grasses grown in the South. Like your coastal Bermuda hay is a lot lower in sugars than our cool season grasses. In some respects that's cool because it's a high quality hay. But if you're feeding a horse that has metabolic disorders, you have to be careful about their sugar and starch in take. We'll talk a little bit more about that in a second. From a nutritional standpoint, then you can look at your grass haze as being low to moderate. What makes a grass hay, either low or moderate? It's usually at this point, it's about when it's harvested. The longer we let plants mature out in the past, the lower their energy content, the lower their protein content is going to be. That's something you want to remember when you're purchasing. Who eats grass hay? Any horse can eat grass hay. Horses with require energy requirements. You may want to feed the higher quality to horses that need to lose weight anyway. You can feed more mature and they'll get less calories out of that. If you're going to try feeding free choice, then grass hay would be the hay you'd want to feed. You would not want to feed a legume hay. That's what we're going to talk about now are legumes in Michigan consist of alfalfa, birds, foot trefoil, and clover because of dust issues when you try to harvest clover into bales, usually we see legume hay for horses, we're looking at alfalfa hay. Sometimes you can get a really nice mixed, hey, of both your grass and your alfalfa together. Alfalfa hay, if you compare it to your grasses, is going to be more considered moderate to high in nutritional status. It has more energy per bite. It also has a much higher protein content per bite. If we're looking at protein in our grass hays, it may range from really mature hay may be as low as 7% accruded protein. Whereas really good grass hay may go up to 12 to 14% accruded protein. But with our legumes or alfalfa, they will start at the low end around 14% and they can go on into the low '20s from my percent protein. The other nice thing about alfalfa, if you're using it to feed your lactating brood mares or your young growing horses is it's fairly high in calcium. It has a pretty decent calcium to phosphorus ratio as is. That makes it a great hay for your brood mares in your growing horses. This is also a good, hey, if you have horses that need the extra energy, you're really hard working horses could also benefit maybe from legume hay or maybe a mixed grass abut. Hey, all right Tom. When we're evaluating hay and we're doing it just visually with our hands, we want to look for that softer hay. Now, when we look at alfalfa hay, it's naturally going to be a little coarser stemmed. But then you want to look at the actual leaves, okay? You should see leaves that are still connected to the stem, but not all just falling out of the bale. You want to look for blooms as we look at the hay, if we see a lot of seed head in our grass hay, or a lot of blooms in our alfalfa hay, that basically means it's been harvested when it was a little bit more mature. We want to see fewer seed heads and fewer blooms in our hay to denote, hey, that's harvested earlier in its maturity. The other thing we want to do is we want to give it the sniff test. Preferably, we want to open it up because sometimes end to end, the hay bales look pretty good. But when you open them up, you might see some mold growing in the middle of that Hey bale, if it got damp while it was harvested. But you want to sniff it, you want to pat it, You don't want to see a whole lot of dust or anything like that coming out. It just smelled really fresh. Cleanliness here. Again, if you can find an open bale and go through it, you're looking for trash. I had somebody who ended up with a lot of of metals and trash in their hay. They were wondering, can I feed this Well, No, you really should. You're putting your horse at risk of colic if you're feeding any material that this non fibrous. And we also can look at color, but color can be more of an indicator of how long the hay was in the sun versus the actual quality of the hay. You don't want to use that as your only or best indicator. You want to look at leafiness, softness, odor, and cleanliness. Okay, Tom. Tom's going to talk more about forage sample, but what we just described as that eye hand looking at hay, but really the only way you know what you're feeding is to get a forage analysis done of your hay. That may not be very helpful if you're buying hay and really small batches, but if you're buying hay and big lots, having that forage analysis can really help you out. Okay Tom. Chris, can you hear me? Yeah. There's a question that came through. The question is, in ways of carbs and protein nutrition is first cut better than second for growing horses. Here's my stance on cuttings. When you're looking at, hey, you really want to look at how it was harvested, Okay, I think you can get decent hay first and second cutting as long as it's harvested at the proper time. Sometimes in Michigan, that's just so weather dependent. If we have a nice dry spring, you could get some first cutting hay that works out really good for you. If it's raining midsummer, they're not going to be able to get the hay off the field in time, so then you end up with a more mature hay. I don't know, Tom, do you have any other opinions on that? No. We tend to look a little less at time of cutting versus just knowing the farmer and when they're getting it off the field. This is what an analysis would look like when you're talking about feeding young horses and whatnot. The analysis is going to tell you how much energy is present in the hay, how much. If you're worried about horses that tend to be metabolic, it'll give you a better idea of how much sugar and starch is present in whether this is a good hay to feed to those types of horses. All right. To the other thing I wanted to mention were hay preservatives. Sometimes I get calls on, can I feed this hay to my horse? It's got preservatives in it. This is usually when we've had a really bad hay season. Now people are having to buy horsey that they wouldn't normally buy. We had a really harvest season, and people are using preservatives to prevent mold from growing on their hay. That's usually when I get these types of calls. Yes, hay preservatives are very safe for horses. What you'll see is when you first offer it to horses, the horses are going to refuse it because it's a different smell than they're used to. But usually over time, they'll eat it as well as their other hay. Sometimes you can get this hay at a lower cost as well, because it has a preservative on it. It's definitely better than feeding your horse hay that hasn't been preserved and it's moldy. You definitely don't want to feed moldy hay to your horse. Okay? To the same winters when we've had a bad harvest year, or maybe all of our hay is being shipped south because there's droughts going on outside of Michigan, sometimes, it's just really hard to get hay in the midst of winter, towards the end of winter. Then I always say, go ahead and use a bagged forage product to help you out. Hey cubes and Hey pellets are basically just hay that have been processed either into the two by two inch cube. Hey or hey pellets, If you can stretch the actual hay that you have with these products, that's a lot better than just feeding the cubes or they pellets all by themselves. The horse's gut needs about 2 " of fiber material going through its gut to really stimulate the intestinal lining and keep it healthy. I tend to look at hey cubes as being a little bit better to get that done. The hay cubes that they process now are very different than the hay cubes that came out 30, 40 years ago. Most horses would not have any problem with that. You want to feed it the same way as you feed hay, equal weight for these bag products. Another way to go though is the complete feed. A complete feed contains both your concentrate in your ruffage in that feed. It's meant to be fed alone, That's not my preferred method. I like to see horses getting that launch stem forage for best gut help. But sometimes, especially if you're dealing with horses that have allergies and stuff, complete feeds can be very good. All right? Okay. So it's my turn again. This is my number two I guess you could say toxic plants, probably the number one we that I get questions about or individuals asking if I could identify if it's potentially horeolisma. Horelism is toxic in both pasture and hay. You can see that horses will typically avoid this weed for other more palatable forages in a productive pasture situation. I was down at my neighbor's a couple of years ago and I was watching the horses graze and I knew that there was horeolysum out there. I sat and watched this gelding throughout the pasture and avoiding the horelysum that was all over the pasture out there because there were other desirable forage for him to graze on. With that, just keep in mind if you have other desirable forage, typically horses will leave these other weeds alone. Some of the common signs of poisoning that you might see with horeolysum is swelling of the lower legs or stocking up. They get a fever. They're not willing to move, so on and so forth. Okay. The signs of poisoning will typically be observed within 12 to 24 hours of ingestion. And if you can remove the horses from the source, usually those signs will go away. But this is a big one, this plant is pretty ubiquitous. It's everywhere, right. The recommendation used to be in hay. It started off if the hay contained 30% don't feed it to horses, then it went down to 20% don't feed it to horses. But if you have a horse that's extra sensitive to this plant, I would say if your hay has horeolysum in it, then don't feed it to them. But the big thing is learning how to identify it, because there are several plants that look very similar to Horelysum, but you can see that has small white flowers on the top, and these seed pods are oblong and they've got a point at the end. Once you see it, it's pretty identifiable. The toxic tree that's probably the most common tree that's causing an illness in Michigan horses is the red maple. The toxic parts of the red maple are the wilted or the dry leaves and they could remain toxic for about a month. Let's say, for example, that you may have a red maple tree around your horse pasture. A lot of times I will get calls and I can hear the chains all running in the background that they're going to cut it down, but you might not need to. Okay. So it really depends on what kind of management practice that you have in place. Typically, the time of the year that the leaves are falling. Right in the fall, pasture has been grazed down. Okay? So you might not have a lot of desirable forge. Available, this is where the risk may increase, right? If you have another place to put those horses in, that time frame might be a good idea to do that. It really comes down to how you're managing the risk. We have several toxic plant resources available. You can see here, I've taken pictures of what the bulletins look like. Toxic plants of concern and pastures and hay for Michigan horses, the Michigan trees, toxic to horses, donkeys and mules. And then we've got one on ornamental plants as well. You can find all of those bulletins if you go to the MSU Forge Connection, which I showed you a picture of the website earlier. Or you can get onto our website and just type in toxic plants, toxic plants of concern in pastures and hey, these bulletins will come up and they're also free to download as well as far as reminders for toxic plants, okay? It is the dose that makes the poison, okay? You're never going to eliminate all of the risk that's out there, okay? But you have to evaluate the potential risk. Most of the time, if horses have desirable forage available, they will leave it alone. However, I will say that you always have the one horse that's a troublemaker and that wants to get himself in trouble. Just keep that in mind, being aware and curious of what's actually out in your pasture. Okay. Tom, we do have one question. If the horse gets hold of the green leaves, eats the green leaves, will they be all right? As far as the tree? I'm assuming yeah. Yeah. Is typically I would assume those typically aren't an issue, but I don't know if you noticed or not. In the one picture, I had a bag of dry leaves. Okay. And it takes about a pound and a half of dry leaves. That's a lot of leaves for horses to start showing signs of toxicity. Okay? So it goes back to if you have desirable forage available, most of the time they'll leave it alone. But be aware, be aware and curious about what's out in your pasture, right? Walk your pastures on a frequent basis. And if you see a plant that you don't recognize or if you're kind of curious as to what it is, find out what it is, okay? Most of the time when I get questions about toxic plants, it's typically when we get into the summer months, in the later summer months when pastures have been grazed down or overgrazed, and then you start seeing those weeds emerge. The pasture management along with toxic plants goes hand in hand. If you keep a competitive stand of desirable forage, it usually will outcompete the weeds. Okay, Chris. All right. The next thing that I get quite a few questions on is what type of grain to feed. And we already talked about optimizing forage. And then when you get to grain, you go to the feed store and there's just a selection there. Go ahead to one thing to think about. What form of concentrate do you want to feed? A textured feed is more typical, what you might call a sweet feed, right? You can see the individual grain. Some people like this simply because they want to know what they're feeding. They want to be able to look at those grains. The sweet feed, if you have a horse that's picky about eating grain, sometimes the sweet feed will actually help increase the palatability and they'll just like it a little bit better. The other thing is if you're mixing medicine with your horse's grain textured feed, will help keep that medicine from going to the bottom because of the molasses content. Basically, when you look at your pelleted feeds, a lot of times it's the exact same ingredient as its mirror textured feed. It's just been processed, it's ground up, and then they heated up through dies to get these pellets. Back in the day, pellets were really hard. People, I don't know if I like pellets now, they're very palatable as well. But the great thing about pelleted feeds, horses can't sort through them if you have a horse, again, sometimes babies are notorious for sorting through a sweet feed and just picking out the grains that they like. The pelleted feed will keep that from happening. A lot of times people also like it's easy to store and it's really easy to feed in the winter time. Sometimes in Michigan that sweep feed can get really hard to scoop out, you won't have that problem with your pellet feed. Then the extruded feeds just back up one. The extruded feed has been cooked and is also pressurized. You're breaking down some of the bonds and the protein and the energy makes it more of a digestible feed. A lot of times we'll see extruded feed for horses are either really hard working and need increased digestibility to keep up with their energy needs. Or sometimes you'll see it in older horses, it might be helpful to have an extruded feed product, but it's usually going to be quite a bit more expensive than your pelleted or your textured feed. All right Tom. One way you can know what you're getting when you're looking at a feedback is looking at the feed tag. Usually the information will also be on the actual feedback, but sometimes in elevators the information is just going to be on the feed tags. All of the feed tags will have their brand name and also what that feed is targeted for. Here you see a pretty simple feed for maintenance horses, adult horses that aren't really working very hard, brood mares, lactating, they're not young growing horses, just your standard backyard pleasure horse. These speeds will usually run 10-12% crude protein, no added fat. All of our haze and grains are going to have about 2.2 to 3% fat. If you see over 3% that usually means fat has been added to the feed fiber of around 8% Calcium and phosphorus should be listed. Copper selenium is very important for Michigan horses because our soils in Michigan are selenium deficient. So if you're feeding a bag feed, look at the selenium. And usually it will always have a minimum of 0.6 parts per million. Now if you feed this feed at the rate that the direction say to feed it, you will know that you're meeting your horse's selenium requirement without supplementing selenium on top. If you're feeding it lower than the direction, say to feed it for your horse, then you would potentially be meeting those requirements. Christopher, question here? Yeah, it is. Is there a way of calculating how much protein and fiber in both the hay and grain combined? There is. I actually use the computer program to do it, but you can also do a little bit of arithmetic with Pearson Square to determine how much you're feeding. If you have a crude protein feeding, you can figure out from your, hey, how much you're feeding of your. Hey, let's say you're feeding 20 pounds. You're feeding a grass hay at 10% crude protein. That means for each day you're feeding what, about two pounds, is that right? You're feeding 12% of 20 pounds of crude protein basically. Then the same thing for your grains. That would be one way to do that. If you're going to start calculating that out then I would also work with a nutritionist. Sometimes you feed store will have a nutritionist who represents the product that you're buying and they can help you as far as calculating the nutrients your horse is getting. Most of our bagged feed though, is designed to help to ensure that your horse is getting the correct amount of protein energy from that feed. As well as the minerals and vitamins if you feed it as directed. Okay, Tom, here's a feed you can look at. It's got a crude protein of 10% which is probably about average for adult horses that don't have any requirements for growth or reproduction. It also is telling us how much lysine is in that feed. Lysine is a limiting amino acid. That means if we've met a horse's lysine requirement, then we're probably feeding a good high quality protein in that feed. You can see the fat is a little over 3% It's probably got a little bit of fat added to this feed. If we look down, we can see it's got the selenium. It's also giving us an amount for zinc, an important trace mineral, vitamin A and vitamin E that are all important for just healthy horses. Any guess on what type of feed this is? Who is this feed being geared towards? Also, the lower the fiber content, the higher the digestible energy is going to be in that feed per se. If we go ahead and click one more time there, this feed would be developed for the active pleasure horse. But here's the important part to remember, you want to feed it as directed. A lot of times people spend money on backed feed and they'll cut it like half the feed and half of oats. When you do that, you're basically taking the calculations they've put their time in and you put your money into, and you're splitting that and half you want to feed as directed. But usually they also have some language in the directions that says say don't feed less than so many pounds per 100 pounds of body weight. That's for those real easy keepers that tend to get really fat if you're feeding them too much grain. Okay, here's another feed that's higher. Now in crude protein, it's showing you an amino acid profile including lysine, methionine, and threanine. It's got added fat into the feed, but look how high the fiber content is. Now we're getting in more fiber. We go ahead and click it again. If we look at who this feed is geared for, it is for the senior feed or the senior horse. The reason why you see a lot more fiber in the feed is this feed could actually be fed as a complete feed if the horse can no longer really eat their hay. You can this, they can eat it. And it also has a pretty extensive vitamin profile. We even see vitamin C. Most horses do not need vitamin C as a supplement. But horses that have problems for their immunity for maybe they're getting over some sort of disease state or some of our real senior horses, vitamin C may be a benefit in their diet. Okay Tom, again, you have directions for that senior feed and you just want to feed the give directions for feeding it with hay or feeding it by itself. All right. Tom, the ration balancer is my favorite product out nowadays because I work with so many people that actually their horses need to lose weight, and we'll talk about that here in a second. The forage balancer is meant to maximize your, the forage part of your diet. And then if you need to balance out for protein and some of the vitamins and minerals, especially if you're feeding hay to the horse versus pasture, you can balance out your protein, vitamin, and minerals with your R and balance usually you're feeding this in really small quantities at a time. Okay? Okay. Number three on the list for me is horse manure management. This seems to be a pretty wicked problem because a lot of times you might not have the land base to take care of your how much byproduct your horses are generating. Typically, that's what I see is the major first step of understanding when you're looking at managing your manure from your horses is how much the horses are actually generating. Here's a table that gives you a comparison between a lactating cow, there's a sow on there, and there's finishing beef as well as a horse. So if we have an 1,100 pounds horse pounds per day, it's going to be about 57 pounds okay, per day. So if we take that a step farther and let's say that we have 1,000 pounds horse, okay, and that's pro rated down to 50 pounds of manure per day. If you're stalling that horse at any point in time, you're going to have, you're going to have some bedding that's going to go into that total. One horse equals about almost a ton per month. Okay? And then if you have five horses, you can just take that number right there times five. And it does not take long for it to add up. The biggest advice I could give to you is see that out front, right? Understand how much is being produced for a month and that'll give you the basis to go, okay? Now, which direction do I need to go? Because a lot of times I see mountains and mountains of newer where people have just become overwhelmed and they didn't think about this out of the gate. Right. So if you can get a handle on how much is being produced on a monthly basis and then you can devise a plan from there. Got some resources here on horse manure management plans. If you get on our extension website and just type in horse manure management plans, there is eight step bulletin that takes you through all of the different pieces of developing a manure management plan for your horses. That's a really good bulletin and it talks about how much is being generated, how are you going to store it, how are you going to get rid of it or spread it, so on and so forth. One of the biggest things I see is individuals want to take that horse manure with shavings in it and they decide to spread it across their pastures. And that's actually counterproductive because the nitrogen in the soil that, that nitrogen that you're trying to grow desirable forge width is being used up to break down the carbon in the wood shavings. Okay. Composting is an option to help alleviate some of those issues, but unfortunately, there's not a whole lot of options when it comes down to like getting rid of your horse manure. In the end, think about it or consider thinking about your manure management and record keeping. In this way, commit to documenting manure management practices in a way that holds you responsible for managing manure in appropriate way. This holds you accountable for the byproduct that your horses are producing and will help you avoid any problems in the future. Down below, you can see what the acronym says. All right, Chris. All right. I also work with people a lot on weight management of horses. When we think about weight management, we use a body condition score scale of 1-9 Our horses at a body condition score of one are the extremely thin horses. You can see that with a little Palomino versus nine, where they're very heavy, extremely obese. Then what we should be looking for, especially of our young horses, is horses at about a body condition score of five. So in moderate condition. Okay, So when we look at these horses then, and we're estimating their body condition score, we look at the top of the neck. We don't want to see a lot of fatty deposits over the top. We look for fat around the weathers, we look for fat over the top of the croup and around the The tail head. We look for fat along the shoulder, as well as the rib cage. Especially in the wintertime when I can't visually see what a horse looks like. I want to put my hands on that horse. I want to palpate for patches of fat when I'm doing that, palpating over the ribs. One tool that I use my hand, if I'm rubbing the knuckles of my hand and it feels extremely rigid and sharp, that's going to be a horse that's more on that thin end of the scale, body condition score 1-3 If I rub my hands over my first digit, I can still feel each digit or each rib, but it feels smoother. That would be a horse that's more in that body condition score around five or moderate. That's what most of us are trying to keep our horses at. If I go to my palm, right right below my thumb and I press on it, I can't find any bone at all. Okay. That's what a really fat horse would feel like if you're rubbing it over the ribs. I find that to be a helpful tool to just find out where my horse is at. Okay. Tom, if we want horses to gain weight, there's some different ways we can go about that. We can feed a quality pasture, that's probably the easiest way to have horses put on weight, is a good quality grass pasture. If we don't have a quality pasture to turn them out and then feeding a quality would be really important. Now you might be looking at that mixed legume, hey, are going towards more of an alfalfa hay to help that horse out. You can provide really high quality. I call them super fibers like beat pulp. That'll help put weight on. You want to feed a concentrate or a formulated bag ration that matches that horse's age and activity level. You can also add fat to the feed. Different sources of fat would be oil, rice. Some brands of feed have their own fat supplements as well. But this will add the calories. That's what you need for horses to gain weight. It's not about the protein level. The calories or energy that you're providing in that bag feed is what puts on calories and helps your horse gain weight. By the same token, the horse needs to lose weight. We've got to feed a lower calorie diet. Now we're feeding more of a load of moderate quality grass to the horse. We want to decrease the amount of grain that we're feeding. In fact, potentially you would just need to feed that ration balancer to really try to restrict the energy intake that they're getting from that bag to feed. You want to exercise your horse. Sometimes we're working with horses that are a little laminitic. Those horses you can't really exercise, but if you can exercise the horse, that will also help pull that weight off either one of these scenarios. If you're working with extremes, you want to work with your veterinarian on this process, especially with the weight gain because sometimes they gain too fast, it can be unhealthy for them. Okay, Tom, that brings us into our metabolic horses. You really have to watch out in your spring pastures with the lush growth because you're getting a lot more bang for your buck with energy and protein. Some horses can be really reactive to that and get a little laminitic, this little pony. You can see it's trying to rock its weight off of its front feet. Pretty sore there. Okay. One thing that you can do to try to reduce feed intake if you have your horses out in the pasture is to use a grazing muscle. And some of the newer muscles are really lightweight. They're not those big, heavy, heavy things that we used to put on our horses. You might feel a little more comfortable doing that with your horse. That just slows down their intake quite a bit. The other thing you can do is put them on that sacrifice lap that Tom was talking about and just feeding them a low quality grass hay to restrict their grazing when you're turning horses out that have been stalled up into spring pasture. That's where you have to really be concerned and you want to Basically limit the time that they're out there initially. You might start them out with 15 minutes the pasture and then increase it to 30 to an hour second or third week. And just keep increasing the time. That will also give that spring grass a chance to get a little bit more mature. All right. Time. Well, just one point, Chris. Yeah. If your horse is super sensitive to sugar. Yeah. You just don't check dry lot might be your only option. Yeah. I mean, they're going to let you know how unhappy they are about being in the drive lot, but yeah, that that may be your only option. So Angela, just quick, I should have mentioned that, but when you have horses out on pasture, you should always provide them with a salt block or even just a handful of loose salt if they're not getting any other back feed. A lot of times your bag feed will have enough of the electrolytes in it. If you're feeding a recommended dose, you'll be okay if you have a and it's really hot outside, it's not a bad idea just to put at salt in your hand and toss that on top of their feed as well, just to give them a little bit more of the electrolytes they need during the summertime. Awesome. Okay, Number four for me is forage testing. When we look at forage testing on the left hand side, that's what you want your sample to look like compared to the one on the right hand side, essentially the one on the left hand side. You've used a forge probe or some device that allows you to get the instrument into the ball, pull it out, like for example, like an old golf club, I've seen people use those where they can drive them in to get a representative sample coming out of the ball. Grab samples like on your right hand side. It's going to give you information but it's not going to give you the information. What you're really looking for there. Your laboratory analysis is going to be more accurate than visual appraisal like Dr. Skelli alluded to earlier. And we talked about the horses that are really sensitive to sugar testing Your hay will give you a good indication of where those levels are at. You might help you determine which hay might be most appropriate to feed your horse. You can see in these pictures here, this is a hay probe. Okay? That allows us to get the correct stem to leaf ratio. And you want to sample several bales within the hay that you've bought or harvested. Realize that fields are going to vary as well. If you're getting hay from different fields, it might be harvested at a different time, different soil conditions, so on and so forth. So just keep all of that in mind. We do have a probe, you can check with your local extension office, but we do get questions about well, do you have a hay probe that I can utilize? We do have one here in Jackson County that you can borrow. We require $150 deposit, and then once you bring it back, you get your 50 bucks back. That way we don't have to keep going out and buying one because people don't necessarily return them all the time. But check with your local extension office, see if they might have a probe that you can utilize to get this done. Testing labs, there's one in Michigan, Dairy Land Laboratories. You can see if you've got the website here, that's in Battle Creek. Another lab that does forest testing is A L Great Lakes Laboratories in Fort Wayne. Then the final one is equal analytical and that lab is out of New York. There are a couple of different you can or send your to get it analyzed on all of these websites. A matter of fact, they have sampling protocols if you look and then how to sample and then how they want the samples set in to be analyzed. Okay, Chris. All right. I do get quite a few calls about how to best house horses. When Tom and I go to farms, they're building a new set up. A lot of times they're really focused on their barns and the inside of their barns, and sometimes this is just for Pleasure horses. They're not going to be showing them or doing anything else with them, but they're spending a whole lot of money on their barns. One thing to remember when you think about housing horses is horses are wild or feral horses. They existed on very poor to medium quality grasses. They were constantly moving and they spent the majority of their time budget grazing and that all is how they've evolved over time. That's really what they're geared to do, right? They've got company, they're herd animals, they've got freedom of movement. So there's a pretty a new movement within welfare, especially over in Europe where they're saying the more we can let horses exhibit these more natural behaviors, the higher degree of welfare they're actually experiencing. If we think about our domestic horses, this certainly isn't all of them, but some of them. We think about horses that are stalled in a barn. They're being fed, improved forage and concentrates. They only are eating about 20 to 30% of the time because basically the food is given to them right in front of them. If they're eating a high grain diet, then that's less forage that they're going to be able to take in. They may have some performance demands, okay? To there's different scenarios that you can house your horses. Outside is certainly one of them. From the people that deal with behavior and welfare and horses, they would probably say that is the most natural way to house horses. But even outside, you want to have a wind block. You want to have some place where the horses can go to get out of the sun if it's too hot or the buggy times of the day, or to stay dry if it's raining. The next step might be more of a smaller lot with a three sided shed where horses can get in, escape the elements. But you're bringing forage into that paddock area. However, they still have the benefit of being outside movement and fresh air. Another type of housing that you see more in Europe, but it's gaining popularity, is indoor group housing. Now we have horses indoors, but we don't have them housed in individual stalls. We give them a little bit more freedom of movement, plus they have that heard interaction. This might work out really nice if you have less horses that don't necessarily need to be individually stalled but could get along well in a group. Then when you do stall horses, you want to make that stall as visually free as possible. You want to ensure that there's ventilation in your peak and your eaves horses like to be able to look at each other. They like to be able to hear each other, to smell each other. Anything you can do to enrich that indoor environment is important. The other thing important though, for your stalled horses, ideally they should be out with free exercise. This doesn't include the time you spend riding them, but they should be free exercise with other horses four to 6 hours a day. That would be the recommendation coming from groups that work in equine welfare. So I think that's it for that time. Okay. And so my final one is farm layout, and so this is really dependent on what your goals are, right? So if you just have a couple horses that you just want to see out in the pasture is that's going to be very different than if you want to run a training business. Okay? So on and so forth with, you know, indoor riding arena, outdoor riding arena, that sort of thing. It really comes down to what your specific goals are. But your land based resource is really going to figure into that. As far as able acres are concerned. What I mean by usable acres. We have a lot of woods and we have a lot of swamp in Michigan. Okay? The swamp is not a place to store your manure that's not usable for your horses. You have to think about those types of things in the end. Let's say that you've bought a property and you have dreams of making boarding facility. Okay. How many horses do you want to board and how many usable acres do you have? So here's just a very crude drawing. It's not the scale, so forgive me for that. But, you know, if, let's say, for example, that you've just bought a property and you're planning on bringing horses there, right? Draw it out on a sheet of paper. I don't know how many times I've run into horse owners that are like, I really wish I wouldn't have built that barn there or I wish I wish my fences were laid out differently. Right. Or even if you have an existing farm already, do this sort of exercise, figure out where things are, how can you make things more efficient? Maybe, maybe not. Maybe it's the best as it is right now. Okay. But just think about those things. As you can see here, I've got woods in the top left hand corner, I've got a wetland down here in the far right corner. Okay, Maybe for your fencing, maybe you focus on spending a good amount of your resources for fencing in the perimeter fence and then do temporary fencing in on the inside of that, separate out your grazing management plan. Or maybe you don't take your fence all the way up to your property line. Maybe you leave a 12 foot area there that you can mow and use for riding around your property with your horse for exercise. Just going for a ride. If you get home after work, you don't have a whole lot of time to trailer your horse up to take it off to go riding. You can just saddle up, make a trip around your property. That also serves another purpose of keeping all of those toxic weeds that we discussed earlier from encroaching into your pasture ground or the toxic trees, right? And then in addition to that, it also provides a vegetative buffer. If you get any runoff from your property that's going to be absorbed by that vegetative buffer, there's just some things to consider. I've seen horses and pastures for 15 years. Right? But could things be done a little differently? Yeah, Maybe. But do they need to? Maybe not. Right. But just think about all of those types of things. Barn positioning, where you want your driveway, so on and so forth. It's just one of those things. It's a good exercise just to draw it out and see where you're at. All right? My last one is water quality. I mean, the water that your horse is actually drinking. Every once in a while I get calls coming in and people are they've bought a farm. And then when they bought it, they got their housing water looked at as part of their inspection, but they did not get their barn water looked at. There may be some problems there. Whenever you're looking at a facility to buy, you should always make sure that you check the water quality of the water that will be going to the livestock there. One problem that can occur is just having too much solids or salts in the water. Sometimes it's workable ranges to where a horse will get used to it. That's why when you go to horse shows and stuff, you may have more salt in the water. And you have to bring your own water for your horse to keep drinking on a short term period. But over time they'll learn to drink it. But once it gets too much salt, then you're going to start preventing horses, they just won't drink it as readily. And that's where you get in some dehydration problems that can lead to colic and whatnot. Okay. Tom water contamination is something that I see a lot with horses looking in a big tank like this and you see fecal matter in there. Obviously, the horses aren't going to drink that. Maybe your horses are drinking out of a pond. But the pond is at the bottom of the property. Like Tom was saying, you have manure runoff going into that pond. Now that pond is contaminated, sometimes you end up with animals falling into the water and dying and the water becoming contaminated. It's really important to check your waters on a daily basis. In the winter, make sure that if you have heaters running into your water, that it's safe for the horses. Because sometimes these heaters, you can have some problems with the electrical current and it's giving little belts of shock to the horse and keeping the horse from drinking. Okay Tom. There's a whole host of water contaminants. Usually we see more of these where there was once a dump or maybe if you're in more of an industrial area, there could be more contaminants in the soil or in the water, but you should get this again. Another reason to get your livestock water tested, especially if you're seeing anything unusual and the health and well being of your animals. Okay, Tom. Finally, water consumption is a critical nutrient and water intake is going to be affected by the diet, but it will also be affected by activity and outdoor temperatures as well. One thing you want to do in really extreme hot weather is make sure your horse always has plenty of drinking water. The whole old school mindset of, oh, if my horse is hot, they can't drink. We're actually finding that horses will drink more when they're hot, which will actually help to prevent dehydration. It doesn't lock up their muscles or anything or cause colic. The other extreme that we have is when water is so cold that your older horses who have worn down dentures will have real sensitive teeth. And that cold water may impact how much water intake they have. We want to really be aware that horses can actually become dehydrated in the winter as well. That's why we suggest that you keep that water at a more comfortable temperature, especially for our older horses. That's it for me, Tom. Yep. And then we have resources. You want to talk, Mom? Go ahead. Yeah. No, we've got some great resources. If you go MSU News, you will get to a variety of articles if you select animals as your content area. And then horses. There's a whole host of short articles, easy to read, all of the topics we've discussed and a lot more. My horse University offers webinars on every single topic we discussed today, plus a lot more topics where you can go into depth on subject matters. There's also a great article base in that and you can also go there if you want to take some courses. A lot of those courses are offered free. Give that a try. And then Extension Horses is another land grant organization of extension experts from all over the country that get together and provide really great resources for horse owners. All of these resources are there for your pleasure.