KAREN GRIFFITHS' HORSEPLAY COLUMN: Winter whilings, winnings on Peninsula
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Washington State Horsemen competitors Kyle Ellis and Eyed B Stylin’ (Vegas) show the showmanship moves that helped them win the WSH Horse Show Division’s Top 5 of 2013 award for horse/rider combination.

A NICE PERK of living close to DNR land is that the hard-packed gravel roads are rideable year-round.

Unless I venture onto a side trail, I know I won't be trudging through a mud bog, so you'd think, with my love of riding, I'd be out there riding in the rain like my neighbor Lisa Preston.

She's no wimp like me; she just throws on her rain gear and goes.

I felt guilty the other day when she passed by my house on her way home from another ride in the rain.

She looked wet, and so did her horse.

They'd stopped to chat with another neighbor, and you know what? They looked happy.

Not only am I a wimp, but so are my horses.

Lacy and Indy seem to be as miserable as I am when it's cold, damp and raining cats and dogs outside.

During bad weather, you can find them standing under the shelters, moping, until the weather clears.

Or if it's sunny out but the ground is frozen, they will still stay right there in the shelters.

They won't even leave the shelter to relieve themselves, which aggravates me to no end.

I tell them: “Hey! You're peeing and pooping where you eat hay. Get outta here! That's so unsanitary. You're gonna makes yourselves sick.”

Typical kids; they don't listen to me.

And even though I have rubber mats down and clean up after them daily, the smell gets pretty rank under there, so I worry about their respiratory systems.

The pee smell, which can be likened to ammonia when the urea in urine is broken down, is caustic and even in a somewhat-open shelter could possibly harm the horses respiratory system.

That's why if your horse is kept in a box stall, good ventilation is a must.

In the old days, we dug out the wet, loose soil and sprinkled agricultural lime over the spot to get rid of the smell.

Better products are on the market now, such as Sweet PDZ, StableBoy or Stall Dry.

There's no doubt more, not less, work and care are needed for your horses in winter.

While most of us don't ride during inclement weather, that doesn't mean it's OK to put the horse out in a pasture and forget about him until spring.

Do that, and if the horse survives, it'll likely be sickly and starving.

For starters, even if there's grass in the pasture, there's so little nutritional value in the winter, your horse will lose a lot of weight and could even starve to death.

Second, as the temperatures drop, your horse burns more calories to stay warm, so more feed is needed.

Quality hay is needed for roughage — not moldy hay; not hay full of weeds.

Sometimes even properly stored hay can get a musty smell or even get mold.

If you see mold on hay, throw it out.

Dusty or musty hay can often still be fed if you rinse it off.

An easy way is to load it in a hay bag so you can wet it down on all sides, then hang it up for the horses to eat.

What to do in winter

Horses need access to clean and unfrozen water to stay properly hydrated and to help avoid colic.

In freezing temperatures, for me that involves hooking up the hose to give the horses water, unhooking and then draining the hose every time.

I also have stock-tank de-icers.

Too many people neglect their horses' hooves in the winter.

The hooves need to be cleaned out regularly and checked for thrush (not an uncommon problem if they stand in mud without access to dry ground).

Their hooves still should be every trimmed six to eight weeks.

The problems associated with overgrown hooves are abundant.

It's a fact that a horse with its natural winter coat probably doesn't need blanketing as long as it has shelter from the elements, is receiving proper nutrition and is in good health.

Overblanketing a horse can cause it to overheat or other problems.

Worse, it can cause moisture retention, which can actually rot the skin off if the owner isn't paying attention.

If you do blanket, you still need to remove the blanket and groom the horse on a regular basis.

I'm so thankful my horses are in a pasture and don't have to be locked up in a stall 24/7.

Why? Because being confined to a stall without proper exercise can actually drive a horse bonkers.

Behavioral problems can include aggression toward people and/or other horses, cribbing, pacing, stall walking, stall kicking and pawing.

Horses are social animals that spend most of their day foraging (walking around seeking and obtaining food).

If you must keep your horse in a stall, please take it out for exercise and socialization at least once a day.

WSH awards

Congratulations to Port Angeles' Kyle Ellis and his horse, Eyed B Stylin', for receiving top honors at the Washington State Horsemen end-of-year awards, including the Horse Show Division's top five for horse/rider combination, senior inspirational, Jan Schuchman Versatile Perpetual Trophy, HP Pinto Performance Horse Perpetual Award, register of merit, English horse, equitation and Western.

Points for Washington State Horsemen are tallied throughout the year from horse shows across the state, and the best of eight shows are counted toward the year-end awards.

Sherri Ellis, Kyle's mom, was awarded this year's Harlan Blumenthal Inspirational Award Perpetual Trophy.

The Star Spangled Horse Club (the Ellis family) was awarded the Perpetual Trophy for Club of the Year by WSH.

Events

■ 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday — Jefferson Equestrian Association Horse Park update and annual general meeting. Everyone is invited to the American Legion, 209 Monroe St. in downtown Port Townsend.

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Karen Griffiths' column, Peninsula Horseplay, appears every other Wednesday.

If you have a horse event, clinic or seminar you would like listed, please email Griffiths at kbg@olympus.net at least two weeks in advance. You can also write Griffiths at PDN, P.O. Box 1330, Port Angeles, WA 98362.

Last modified: January 14. 2014 6:00PM
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