Friday, December 17, 2010

Pie Moves Outside

Since Pie joined us at the end of October, he's been turned out all day and stalled at night, like all the other horses at our barn.  Since he was ranch bred and lived outside as a foal and yearling, and also lived outside year-round at his prior owner's, coming in only briefly for feeding, he's never been all that comfortable in a stall.  Our stalls are also fairly small - 10'x12'.  Some horses are comfortable in stalls, like Noble was and Dawn is - they consider them safe havens and are horses that were or have been stalled for most of their lives.  Also, Dawn is extremely cold-sensitive and when she did live outside (briefly when we first moved here), she had to be blanketed, and even double-blanketed, most of the time.

Also, the more I learn about horse health - digestive, hoof and respiratory, and mental welfare, the more I felt that Pie should live outside, with the freedom to move around.  He clearly wasn't very happy in his stall - no stall vices or pawing, but I just got the feeling he didn't like it much and felt constrained.  I think that, although he couldn't tell me this in words, one thing that bothered him a lot was that he had to lie in his own waste - he's a very neat, fastidious horse and managed to keep the manure to the edges but there wasn't much he could do about the urine.  And despite using deep pelleted bedding, his hock sore (that clearly developed because he was stalled) is still bad (it's now Pie 2 - Hock Shield 0) and he often is slightly damp in the morning from lying in pee spots.  He also doesn't drink all that well inside, despite the fact that we have heated buckets.  And his feet seemed to be getting a bit softer from standing in soiled bedding.  Also, when I get to the barn in the mornings, the air inside is very close and dusty, although we do everything we can to maximize ventilation our barn is poorly ventilated - not good for lungs and I'd like to keep him healthy.

When Lily lived here, since she had heaves, she lived outside in a nice-sized paddock with a run-in shed and a large heated water tank, as well as a large salt block.  As soon as we can get things set up, perhaps as early as tonight, Pie is moving out there.  He'll still be turned out for the day with the other geldings.  I expect he'll be a bit lonely for his friends inside the barn for a night or two, but he's pretty adaptable and I think he will enjoy being able to have a separate bathroom area so he can lie down in a clean spot.  He'll be able to have access to hay for most of the night, and can walk around, and he'll be able to see the night sky and all around - the paddock's at a high point with a view of the pastures and barn.  I often would find Lily in the morning surveying things - I think she enjoyed that and I think Pie will too. In the spring, when things begin to thaw up, we'll add a truckload of pea gravel to the lower end of the paddock to cut down the mud, improve the drainage and give Pie some different surfaces for his hoof health.

Pie's also pretty cold-hardy - the wind chills are about 15F today but he's the only horse out without a blanket and is perfectly comfortable, despite there being no shelter in the dry lots.  He will need blanketing or sheeting from time to time, but I'm around to see to it or can get one of the other boarders (or my long-suffering husband) to cover for me if I'm away.  I expect he'll enjoy his new digs once he gets used to them, and I certainly will feel better about it.  He'll still have an inside stall if it's needed for any reason, but I hope not to have to use it.  I'm not sure why I took so long to realize that this was a better option for Pie, but sometimes I'm a slow learner.

29 comments:

  1. Yay!! Awesome decision, Kate!!!

    I always thought a barn would be so great, but I've come to believe, too, that the perfect situation is all day turnout with a covered area to keep them from wind and rain, if they choose to use it.

    If I had to do over, I'd build a hay barn and the rest of my place would have inline sheds--I actually had that exact set-up at my last place, but thought I wanted a barn. Mistake.

    I use my barn like I would in-lines, but they don't work as well, 1) Because they only have a small doorway to escape if another horse goes into their stall, and 2) they are harder to rake out with a tractor.

    So, one day, I'll build more inlines anyway, and I don't know what will come of the 7 stalls in my barn.

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  2. This is such an interesting post, Kate. It happens that my new mare, Saxony, has never been blanketed and often (unless horrid weather prevents it) stays out overnight at the small semi-private barn where I board her. Scout, on the other hand, has had to learn to accept blanketing since that is mandatory at the barn where she stays. I plan to watch them both closely through the harsh Midwestern winter, as it has worried me just a tad that Saxony isn't blanketed. I'm relieved to hear about the decision you've made for Pie.

    P.S, Thanks for you very wise comment on my post about Saxony. It did me a world of good to read those words, and I see that you are right.

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  3. I think he'll be happier. Good move!

    Dixie was a stall queen when I got her. Always waiting at the gate to come inside. I turned all my horses out on a 40 acre pasture one summer, and after 4 days of waiting at the gate for the humans to take care of them, they adapted beautifully. She's never cared for stalls since then. She is at this very moment standing in her paddock getting snowed on, while the goats are staring at her in bewilderment from the run-in. :)

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  4. I think that sounds great! I am sure Pie will really appreciate it. I am always concerned about their mental welfare and even though we have a hard time keeping our horses in a 'natural way' I think it is a step towards being a little more natural.
    Sam is bought in at night and he has a run in stable and a yard about the size of a dressage arena. He does use his stable a lot but I too find him looking over the back fence at times, listening and watching things happening.

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  5. Good for you, better for Pie!!! I am sure he will be a happy boy to be out. Gilly hates to be shut in the barn, if I have taken him to a clinic where he has to stay in a stall over night, he is grumpy. When we get home he won't come to the barn to eat because he thinks I'm going to shut him in. I likes the life of a free horse and doesn't care if it's cold, rainy or snowy.
    Funny thing with him is in the summer when it rains hard he will go in the barn, when it's cold outside and rains he stays out??? I think it's strange but apparently he is OK with it. Horses have their own ideas about things.

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  6. Horses are SO much healthier when they live out-of-doors 24-7. They are built for it! I am always happy to hear that owners are willing to let go of "worries" and do what's best for their horses whenever possible.

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  7. I have one of those who prefers a stall. He was born and lived outside until he was nearly 2 1/2, so he started out much like Pie, except that when he discovered stalls he fell in love immediately! He's in a corral with a shed now, and although he doesn't seem to mind terribly, I could never put him anywhere without a shelter. He is always the first one in the shed when it gets cold or starts to rain or snow!

    It's funny how we know their preferences even though they can't tell us in words. I was wondering while I was reading how you knew he'd rather be outside, and then I realized, probably in the same way I always know Panama hates getting cold or wet.

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  8. Sounds like a great plan! I do think that horses tell us, in their own way, what they need. We just have to "listen," and Pie is a luck horse to have to listening to him :)

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  9. Wonderful! Glad you stable can accommodate Pie this way. My Boys have free run of their stalls, run-in roofs on the barn and a separate run-in shed. They seem to enjoy "musical shelters" but often end up just hanging around outdoors, even in the bad weather.

    I have a feeling Pie is going to be one happy camper with the new arrangements.

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  10. I have found that horses in pipe runs (with barely any cover) seem to have less problems mentally, emotionally and physically. Frankly I can't imagine me being in a stall for hours, let alone an animal 5 times my size.

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  11. I am curious how do you know if a horse is uncomfortable with the weather. I mean my horses seem comfortable to me. I do not blanket. They are turned out all day and stalled all night when the temps drop as low as they have been. If it is above freezing they are turned out all the time. I ask because I am concerned about when and when not to blanket. I am half temped to blanket my TB. Simply because it is his first year off the track though he has always lived where it is cold and because I have struggled to keep weight on in the past and with his winter coat it is very hard for me to tell if his weight is staying up. Any help? Thanks

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  12. I think Pie is going to enjoy his new living arrangements. Some nights I can't get anyone to come up and into the barn and some nights they're waiting at the gate. I let them decide. But it's better for their health to be outside.

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  13. This sounds to me like a perfect solution. Pie will have shelter and clean sleep areas. I bet his hock problem will vanish. You know how I have wrestled with the "horses have to be kept inside" demons and yet I have managed to keep Pie and Sovey outside since March 16th. They are not blanketed at all. Our Pennsylvania winters do not approach yours in severity, but from what I have learned, even horses in extreme low temperatures with wind are fine if provided ample three-sided shelter and good hay, water, and salt. As long as a horse is a healthy weight and has been given the opportunity during the changing of the seasons (not blanketed) to grow the appropriate winter coat, they will be better off outside. This has been a tough lesson for me because it seems crazy, but so far, our horses are very healthy this winter. I think Pie will prosper! Good for you for giving it a try!

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  14. Amy - I would judge based on how your horse seems to feel and how he acts. In my experience, TBs seem not to grow as much coat, and sometimes have more trouble keeping weight on, than other horses. Wet and wind are the two things that can make a horse cold - a wet horse can become chilled very fast. If your horse seems completely comfortable - eating, hanging out, he's OK. If he's huddled, butt to the wind, he's cold even if he's not shivering yet. Shelter is essential. Dawn (TB) wears a heavy turnout if temps/wind chills are 20F and below, Pie (young QH) does not need blanketing unless wind chills will be below zero and I expect he really doesn't even need it then. There really are no rules - each horse is an individual. I judge in part by ears and chests - if they're warm, all is well; very cold, not so good.

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  15. So glad you wrote on this topic. My experience has been, with many "horse people," that they do things because it's "always" been done that way. Joe Camp helped me see that may not be what's best for the horse. He brings up an interesting point... that the domesticated horse's life span is not as long as that of their wild counterparts...? That's the opposite in every other case of wild vs. domesticated animals. Anyway, interesting point about knowing your horse and his needs.

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  16. Rachel, I'm not so sure that's true. Domesticated horses live pretty long. My vet actually says that on average, horses in the wild only live about half as long.

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  17. Good to know. That is pretty much how I judge their comfort level. They are in if it rains is too windy or even snows because I don't want them to get wet by being snowed on. Thanks so much.

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  18. It's good that you are tuned into your horses like that. Too many people aren't and they never get where they understand them.

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  19. My gelding has really taken a shine to stall living, but I know it has a lot to do with food. He's low man and since I board, I think he ends up being chased away from food. In the stall he has it all to himself and he likes that!

    I prefer them to be out 24/7 with a nice 3 sided shelter.

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  20. Our horses prefer to be out 24/7 and we try to accommodate that. Flash doesn't like a stall at all. Jackson, who gets cold easier, likes a stall when it rains. I stick my hand under their blanket by their shoulder to see if they are warm. Pie is going to be loving life. Outside is best for mental and physical health if you can swing it. Kudos to you!

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  21. ie sounds like a hardy fellow ,I am sure he will do well outside,esp as it is what he has beed used to

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  22. I've always felt they belong outside, as much for their mental health as physical well being. I prefer to stall only when medically necessary. Being a ranch horse, I'm sure Pie will get along well.

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  23. My brother just acquired a horse (here in AZ). Do you have a favorite 'blanket' seller?

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  24. I know you didn't ask me, but I've got to put in a good word for Schneider's. It's sstack.com - great prices, good product, good customer service.

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  25. Brenda's Arizona - I've had good luck with the Brookside brand available from Valley Vet - good value for money, and also the Rambo/Rhino line and the Wethabeeta Orican turnouts. Some people seem to like the Landas as well.

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  26. Thank you, Kate! I'll look into them!

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  27. As a horse owner whose horse is never stalled at all, I am very interested in Pie and how he does in a stall and what he will think of being back outside. When my horse has been in a stall for short periods because of her hoof, she has not liked it and it seemed to make her a wilder ride. I will be reading with interest to see Pie's progression.

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  28. Currently, my Haflinger is boarded outside. She has a big paddock to do whatever horse things she desires and a gelding to keep her company. They have a 3 sided shelter that has a barrier so they each can have their own space, but they prefer to stay on the same side together!

    I am struggling with whether or not to stall her in the cold Michigan winter. According to my knowledge, she has never been stalled. I think she will be happier outside, but I will have to let go of my human worries about the cold. I mean, she is a hearty Haflinger and she should grow a fabulously shaggy winter coat to keep her warm.

    I am looking to blanket her when it is windy and wet though, any suggestions for blankets for Haflingers?

    www.adventureswithahorse.blogspot.com

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