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Getting Ready for Winter

Ok – so yes, summer is just winding down, but it’s certainly never too early to begin thinking about winter. The cooler weather will be here before we know it and it’s always better to be prepared and not be caught off-guard. I’ve got a great article to share with you from Julie Goodnight and her thoughts on winter preparations, specifically with hay. What do you do to prepare for winter? Please share any tips with us in the comments – looking forward to reading your words of wisdom.


Get Your Horses and Barn Winter-Ready in the Fall

Things change fast up here in the mountains in early fall. The beginning of fall still feels like summer, but by the end all the leaves will have fallen and the mountains will be capped with snow. Up here in the Rocky Mountains, we take winter seriously and getting the barn and the horses ready for winter is no small task.

In spite of all the technological advances in weather forecasting, the Farmer’s Almanac remains one of the most reliable sources for predicting weather over the long run. This year, according to the Almanac, we are expecting “piercing cold and normal snowfall.” Great–all the cold and not enough snow. Our neck of the woods is still recovering from drought; we wish it read “normal temperatures and overwhelming amounts of snow.”

As fall approaches, I turn my attention to getting the horses and barn ready for winter. There’s lots to do from bringing in 24 tons of hay to winterizing our water system to preparing for winter riding. Winter comes early here in the Rocky Mountains at 8,000 feet of altitude: It’s best to be ready early and not get caught with your hoses frozen.

When people hear that I live in the high mountains of Colorado, they often ask, “How do the horses cope in the winter?” The truth is that horses have proven themselves to be highly adaptable to just about any environment. Our winters are long, with lots of snow and below zero temps. The horses do just fine but it is a lot of work to get prepared for winter and to keep our barn functioning in the cold.

I buy my hay once a year in early fall. I like to have at least an entire year’s worth of hay in the stack and securely covered with heavy-duty hay tarps. Over the last 30 years, I’ve found early fall to be the best time to buy hay–the best quality hay is in the stack and has had plenty of time to cure (buying hay right out of the field can be a risk); the supply is high in early fall and the prices most stable. I buy primarily grass hay, and around here there is only one cutting and it comes late in the summer.

Budgeting hay is easy: I’ve used the same formula for several decades and it’s never proved wrong. I buy 1/3 ton per horse per month. Right now we have six horses, so that’s two tons per month times 12 months equals 24 tons per year. Pricing hay by the ton is the most reliable method as cost per bale varies greatly with the type of hay and the size of the bale, which could be anything from 60 pounds to 600. Even if I am forced to buy by the bale, I always calculate the cost per ton. With small bales, there are roughly 28-30 bales per ton. Before you can calculate cost or the quantity you need to buy, you would at least have to know how much the average bale weighs.

Most horses do best on straight grass hay, although alfalfa can be useful as a supplement for youngsters and pregnant or lactating mares. The most important part of any horse’s diet is forage, and I prefer my horses to eat a simple and healthy diet of lots of high-quality, low-protein grass hay and a few oats as needed (mostly the oats are to carry the supplements we give them for their joints, their hair coats and hooves, although a couple of our horses need more calories and so get more oats).

On cold winter nights, we give them extra hay so they can munch all night long to keep warm. My budget of 1/3 ton per horse per month gives us plenty of hay to give extra on the coldest nights and accounts for a small amount of spoilage, which will invariably happen if your hay is not stored indoors.

I like my horses coming into winter a little on the fat side and then trimming up over the winter. This is the natural order for horses, and they seem to do best when their condition is consistent with what they would endure in the wild (fat in the summer and lean in the winter). So I don’t worry if the fat ones lose a little weight over the winter and I know that either the new green grass or an increase in their hay ration in the spring will help encourage shedding.

Most horses do just fine in our climate being outdoors and unblanketed. They do need a wind break, and generally when it is snowing hard the horses are happy to be inside the barn. Our horses are kept in individual stalls with runs at night and turned out in group paddocks during the day. This is the best of both worlds since at night we can better individualized their rations and during the day they can romp and socialize. If it is below freezing or very stormy, we lock the horses inside and close up the barn tight so their body heat is trapped inside to keep them a little warmer.

We do keep some horses blanketed during the winter–either because they are geriatric or because they are staying in training through the winter and will be ridden indoors. In the case of the seniors, they have such low body fat and it is difficult for them to get all the calories they need so the blankets help a lot. My performance horses are kept blanketed to keep their hair coats down to a minimum so they don’t end up wringing wet in sweat every time we ride.

Early fall is the time that we get all the blankets out, make sure they have been washed and repaired as needed and check to see if we have the right size and weight for all the horses that need them. We make sure they are fitted and labeled with each horse’s name. Since we have pretty harsh winters here, we use an “arctic weight” blanket for the performance horses. I also like a blanket that is waterproof and windproof since they may be outside in bad weather at times. I prefer “turtle necks” for the same reasons. Over the decades, I have discovered that it pays to buy the highest quality winter blankets. In the long run you’ll save money because they last for years instead of for weeks.

We also have to tackle the facility and get it ready for the winter. I always check my indoor arena this time of year to make sure the footing is good and no repairs are needed. We use Arena Rx to keep our indoor arena dust-free, and it occasionally needs an additional application. It’s well worth the money for both my horse’s health and my own to keep the arena dust-free.

Coming into winter I like to make sure my saddle pads are clean. We spend some extra time cleaning and conditioning the leather tack. I am fortunate to have a heated tack room, which is much easier on the leather. If your tack room is not heated, you may need to protect certain drugs, medications and supplies like fly spray from freezing (a little dormitory sized refrigerator works great for this).

Once winter sets in for good and we can no longer ride outdoors, we move all our tack to the unheated indoor arena so we can groom and tack out of the elements. If you don’t have a warm place to keep your tack, it’s not a bad idea to move it into your house or garage if you can. Get yourself a pretty wooden saddle rack and make it part of your decor! Keeping your bridles inside will keep the bit from freezing your horse’s tongue.

With sub-zero temperatures for weeks on end, water is always big problem in the winter. Hoses and attachments have to be drained and put away; the automatic waterers have to be checked and re-checked to make sure the heaters are working and our outdoor wash rack has to be put to bed. We hang heated water buckets in the stalls that don’t have automatic waterers.

Additionally, I like to make a corner-to-corner inspection of the barn, the barn yard and surrounding areas to make sure little odds and ends are put away–the rake someone left out, the pliers lying in the corner, the weed eater, etc. There’s nothing worse than getting an early snow storm and burying all that stuff that somehow got left out over the summer!

No doubt, after all this preparation, we’ll be sure to have an Indian summer. Bring it on! By the end of early fall, winter will be ready to pounce at any time here in Colorado, and I hate to be caught off-guard. Keeping horses in the winter in cold climates can be a real challenge, but being prepared will make it much easier to endure–for both you and your horses!

Horses are not a toy!… And introducing Dr. Allan Hamilton

I think we all know that horses are not a toy – they are a commitment and really, more like a lifestyle. Klaus Hempfling elaborates more in his latest video:


What are your thoughts?

In the final screen he says, “Only if you are sure you can satisfy the enormous needs and demands of a horse regarding space, time, knowledge, experience, your personality and physical condition and also financial expenses.”

In considering taking  horse into your life – it’s more about the physical and tangible (space, money, time) but your emotional, mental and spiritual capacity.

A film featuring…Dr. Allan Hamilton

Healing WITH horses (vs healing horses) is an area that is starting to pick up some steam in arena of public awareness. Why is this happening? Perhaps it’s the exploration of different areas to help heal emotional and spiritual (as well as physical) aspects of ailments or maybe it just simply is becoming more widespread. We have heard from Dr.Hamilton before – he had a feature on NBC news on how he invites medical students to his ranch to learn about experiential development and how it will benefit their journey in becoming doctors.

I am thrilled to discover that he has a film on his work as well as featuring some of those who have benefited from his facilitation.

Please visit this website for more about the film, “Playing with Magic”. 


Klaus F Hempfling – Body as a Communicator

In my other area of doing coaching and empowerment work, I have horses as facilitators. They work with their human partners to help them discover what’s “inside”. In this video, Klaus explores his philosophy of the body as a manifestation of the soul. In my Unbridling Your Brilliance programs, our horse facilitators help their human partners reveal the ways their body speaks to the world. The language of the body may be too subtle for human senses but horses pick up on it immediately – and give us instant feedback on it. It’s a wonderfully experiential and intimate way to reveal your hesitation, fears, insecurities…yet at the same time gives participants a safe way to explore their leadership skills and self-esteem and really build it from within.


You can lead a horse to water…

You can lead a horse to water….

Let’s hope they have a drink! It’s easy to neglect this key element in our health when it comes to considering nutrition and “fuel”. When I feel slightly out of sorts, relief usually comes in the form of a tall glass of water (with ice, warm, cold…your choice!). This is a great piece from Canadian Horse Journal on the importance on hydrating your horse:

Hydrate for a Healthy Horse
By Jess Hallas-Kilcoyne/Canadian Horse Journal Staff

For all the time we spend deliberating about what type of hay to feed, or whether to add this supplement or that, the majority of horse owners tend not to spend a great deal of time thinking about the most important nutrient of all – water.

Water helps maintain the healthy functioning of all the organs and systems in your horse’s body. Among many other things, it is essential to aiding digestion, regulating body temperature, eliminating toxins from the body, and lubricating the joints.

The average 1000-pound horse requires a minimum of five to ten gallons (19 to 38 litres) a day to stay properly hydrated and maintain body functions. Water requirements increase with warmer weather and increased work, and are also affected by management and diet. A horse that is turned out in a dry lot and fed dried forage will consume more water than a horse that is turned out on pasture, as fresh grass has a high water content. Pregnant and lactating mares also have increased water needs.

Without adequate water intake, a horse can become dehydrated very quickly, and dehydration can rapidly lead to colic. Reduced water consumption is sometimes thought to be a concern exclusive to the colder winter months, but the increased traveling, temperature, and workload that accompany spring and summer can also wreak havoc on your horse’s hydration. The most effective way to prevent your horse from becoming dehydrated is to make sure he always has access to fresh, clean water, regardless of the season or weather.

There are two principal ways to check if your horse is dehydrated. The “pinch test” consists of pinching the skin on the neck in front of the shoulder, then releasing it. The skin should return to normal in less than two seconds. You can also check your horse’s capillary refill time by pressing your thumb firmly against his upper gum for two seconds and timing how long it takes the pink colour to return to the area after you release. A capillary refill time of longer than two seconds is a possible indication of dehydration.

If you ever suspect that your horse is dehydrated, contact your veterinarian immediately. He or she will also be able to advise you if you are concerned that your horse’s water consumption is low.


Klaus F Hempfling: Healing Aggressive Stallion

Klaus F Hempfling , like myself, uses energies, read cues to work with horses in an intuitive and non-aggressive way. He’s based in Europe where he has a wide range of programming, for horses and humans!

Check out his website for more information on his work:

In his words…

“The author of ‘Dancing With Horses’ teaches the principles of primal life, against the background of both the mythological and the real horse. He emphasizes the importance of totally honest self-assessment and self-knowledge and both mental and physical self-control, demonstrating how a misplaced or misunderstood feeling, glance, posture, attitude or movement can make the difference between success and failure in the relationship with a horse.'”

In this great video, a beautiful dance of healing relationship where man is working with the horse from the inside out.  Staying clear in his intention to be unconditional and accepting in whatever shows up in front of him.

April is Homeopathy Month!

I received this reminder from Riva’s Remedies – a great resource for healing your horse.

Marijke van de Water (B.Sc., DHMS) is an Equine Health & Nutrition Specialist, Homeopathic Practitioner, Medical Intuitive & Healer and naturally…a teacher and author! Many thanks to her for spreading her great work and guidance.



Homeopathy to the Rescue

Homeopathy is a natural system of medicine dating back 200 years ago. While North America is slowly accepting homeopathy as an established form of medicine it is a widely accepted modality in Europe, UK, India and Latin America. Homeopathic remedies are highly diluted doses of substances to stimulate the body’s own healing mechanism to promote health.The use of homeopathic medicines – popularly known as remedies – is based on the discovery that natural substances are capable of curing the same symptoms that they can cause – “The Law of Similars”.

For example, homeopathic (or diluted) onion treats eye and nose allergies, homeopathic ipecac treats nausea and vomiting and homeopathic influenza virus treats cold and flu symptoms.

Riva’s Remedies homeopathics are formulated as easy-to-use combination remedies to address common situations.
Visit Riva’s Remedies for more information.

Brand New Horse Agility Educational DVD

Horse Agility is a discipline and internationally competitive sport in which horse and handler, both on foot, navigate a course of obstacles while focusing on clear communication and positive horsemanship.

Horse Agility: A step-by-step introduction to the sport is the brand new DVD from author of the best selling Horse Agility Handbook, Vanessa Bee.

Filmed on location at Horse Agility HQ in Devon, England and on Clare Island in the West of Ireland, Vanessa will show you, through 90 minutes of demonstrations, tips and advice, how to get really good at this fast and exciting sport.

Make sure you watch this teaser trailer:

Available on DVD Christmas 2012

J&M Acres Horse Rescue

Ive been following J&M Acres Horse Rescue on Facebook for about 6 months now. They are based in Maple Ridge, BC and have been running the rescue for  over 15 years. The have successfully saved and re-homed literally hundreds of horses. All breeds, all ages.

Dozer- Successfully Adopted!

Horse rescue is something very close to my heart. We live in a ‘throw-away’ society and horses are suffering daily because of this. Overbreeding, neglect, poor economy, abuse & ignorance  have left us with thousands and thousands of unwanted horses that get shipped off to slaughter in Alberta every week.

Id like to raise the awareness off this local Horse Rescue Centre so that through our support, donations, adoptions & even just word of mouth, we can personally help save one more horse…

Please visit to read more about the Rescue & the people who dedicate their lives to helping these horses.

They also have a YouTube Channel:

You can also follow them on FaceBook:!/JMAcresRescue

They have several beautiful, loving horses looking for forever homes right now. Please do visit their site and see how you can help!!

How to Make Natural, Safe Insect Repellents for Your Horses

Mosquitoes are not just pests for humans. They will pierce any living creature that has blood flowing through its body. Mosquitoes can carry a variety of diseases, including encephalitis and malaria. If you own any horses it is a good idea to coat them with a mosquito repellent, but you don’t need to purchase a mosquito repellent that is full of harsh chemicals.


1- Place 16 oz. of vodka in an empty spray bottle. This is the base of your homemade horse mosquito repellent.

2- Add 1/2 oz. of citronella oil, 1/4 oz. of lavender oil, Read the rest of this entry »

Synthetic or Leather Saddles – Which saddle is best?

This article is about the pros and cons of leather versus synthetic material saddles. Both have their disadvatages and advantages. Depending on your lifestyle, riding discipline and budget it is important to know the facts about both kinds of saddle. 

In keeping with the principles of natural horsemanship & natural horsecare, which we strive to promote, it is of the utmost importance that we make sure our saddles fit our horses properly and do not cause any discomfort or pain. 

An ill-fitting saddle can cause so many problems.  The following article is from and is writtin by Chris, one of their ranch staff writers. Enjoy!

Synthetic or Leather Saddles – Which saddle is best?

Leather Western Saddle

For centuries, leather was the material used to make saddles. You bought a saddle and it lasted a lifetime. Now it is not uncommon Read the rest of this entry »