Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Lucky's Trekking Tips - Muzzle Blasts February 2024

Keeping Horses: While writing about horse trekking, it dawned on me that even as some may want to own a horse, they think they can’t. People assume they don’t have room, that horses require acreage, big barns, and experience. We knew nothing when we jumped into horses!

We live in a village on 1.5 acres with two horses, chickens, two gardens and at one point four dogs! Before moving horses here, we spent a lot of time talking to our farrier, veterinarian, and other horse experts. We decided to implement a dry lot system. Our area is roughly one tenth of an acre with a 24x12- foot barn/shelter. The shelter for the horses is 12x12 and the enclosed hay storage area is 12x12.

We are fortunate to have friends near us where we can get our hay at a fair price. Using our 16-foot flatbed trailer we stock the barn, which holds about 140 bales. To deal with manure we have three 4x4x4 compost bins to make black gold. Manure mixed with kitchen scraps gives me ample compost to keep my garden and yard vibrant. For a couple years I put heavy amounts on my vegetable garden to enrich previously very poor soil.

Parked near the dry lot is a 6x10 dump trailer we bought used with a ramp I built to empty the wheelbarrow of manure into each day. Amazingly, I have no shortage of people who want a load of manure every 3-4 weeks. Obviously, you will need to be able to tow trailers.

In addition to hay, they get grain twice a day with supplements and have a salt block in the pen. The beauty of the dry lot is you can control their diet. Our tack room is the horse trailer tack area, so no need to clutter the hay barn with saddles. It is a tidy setup and very convenient. We love the horses close to the house and when we can’t ride, we still interact with them at least twice a day when we feed. They are well integrated into the family and our bonding with them gets better every day.

We do have a section of the yard I planted with a forage grass mix where we picket them out on a weekly basis to graze. With many visitors out for a walk stopping to visit they have become more sociable and accustomed to loud vehicles so when we ride along roads they are desensitized to the distraction. They are so comfortable in their dry lot they lie down regularly to get their much-needed REM sleep. Horses won’t lay down unless they feel safe.

Finally, people talk about bedding and the cost of wood chips. We use something you can get free anywhere and people are happy to give it up! Leaves. Just avoid walnut. Instant bedding.

Keeping horses can be simple, compact, and enjoyable. You may see me on the trail this coming year with the 4th Light Dragoons doing Rev War events. Time to try something new! Hope to see you around a fire and happy trails! 

Written by Gerry "Lucky" Messmer. Reprinted with permission from the author.