Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Rider’s Wednesday: Three Fall Gotta-do’s

Today’s musings are about those things you gotta do before snow flies. The things that are SO easy to put off till tomorrow. The things you keep telling yourself, “I really need to _____” soon. Those things.

And so, in the interest of efficiency, here are three items on a handy, easily cross-off-able list. If it’ll help, print it off, tack it up in the barn, and ceremoniously black out each item as you do it. Soon, you’ll be ready to put your feet up and sip hot cocoa by the fire – feeling smugly superior that you got your gottta-do’s done.

1. Weigh Everyone
As the season changes and your horses start to eat more hay and less grass, it’s a good idea to check their weight.

A cheap combination weight tape / hand measure is readily available at most farm supply and tack stores for under $3. (If you have drafts, opt for a draft horse version. Standard horse weight tapes rarely measure above 1600 pounds.)

Follow the instructions on the tape to find your horse’s weight. The tape may not be exact, but it will give a fairly accurate ballpark of how heavy your horse is. It’s a good idea to record and date the measurement in your horse’s vet file.

Periodically throughout the winter (every time the farrier trims, for instance), re-measure the horse and make sure he is maintaining his weight while temperatures are low.

2. Worm Everyone
Using your recent weigh-in information, purchase a good quality wormer for your horse – and use it. Resist the temptation to empty the entire syringe of wormer into your horse’s mouth. Dial the wormer to your horse’s weight and administer only the specified dose.

Many people like to use a product that includes targeted tapeworm medication when worming after the first frost. In any case, it’s a good idea to rotate wormers on occasion, so your horse doesn’t build up a tolerance to a particular product.

Remember to make sure there is no food in the horse’s mouth before administering the wormer. Once you’ve depressed the plunger, then elevate the horse’s chin for a bit, to ensure that the dose doesn’t just roll off the tongue and glop all over you. That doesn’t do anyone any good…

3. Clean Sheaths
Go ahead – make all the jokes you want about starring on the Farmyard Porn Channel. The fact is, if you have stallions or geldings, this is just one of those gotta-do’s.

No, I won’t go into detail here. Go to your local farm supply or tack store and buy a container of Excalibur, or similar product (under $10). Also pick up some disposable gloves. Bar anyone who threatens to videotape the procedure from your barn and get to work.

A few tips:
* Don’t use cold water straight from the hose. Have a heart!

* If you are having problems getting the cleaner where it needs to go, squeeze a good amount in one of the fingers of the disposable gloves. Poke a hole in the finger and squeeze the cleaner out of it when you’re in position.

* It’s not a bad idea to wear steel-toed boots for this job. Some horses enjoy this WAY too much. Others dance around and try to mash your toes.

* Remind yourself that you could literally be saving your horse’s life. Dirt and oil build-up can lead to all sorts of problems including abscesses and kidney failure. Somehow, the whole life-saving thing makes it all worthwhile.

Other Updates
Spent a lot of time on the phone and online today, tying up loose ends. Ah -- success. All that stands between me and the end of the month now is FINISHING this blasted SCREENPLAY. Got some good work done today. A friend has offered to watch the Little One tomorrow. The end is in sight... with 5 days left to write.