Well, it is definitely November here in Iowa! Tomorrow is supposed to be 70 degrees and Sunday the bottom drops out and it will be cold with a possibility of rain/snow mix. This November weather makes it interesting when it comes to keeping my horses comfortable. If you read my previous blog entries you know I have two broodmares, Bitsy Pine Sun and Maker Miss Ellie. It is Bitsy that is featured with a photo this time!
Both mares are in foal and are beginning to show. Especially Bitsy but then, she is 19 years old and has had 10 foals. She really does keep herself in great shape and always bounces back from delivery remarkably well. (Knock on wood!) She is an easy keeper and doesn't require alot of maintenance. Maker Miss Ellie is 9 years old and is somewhat prone to colic when the weather changes so I have to keep a close eye on her this time of year and make sure she is consuming enough water, etc. And, I always have a tube of Banamine on hand just in case. Her colic episodes are generally mild and have only occured when there is a noticeable shift in the weather.
One of the fun things I do for the mares in the fall is to let them graze on our hayfield after it has a good freeze. We had an unusually dry summer here in Iowa but the alfalfa still grew and the grass was short. Alfalfa will actually put down a root system of about 15 feet so it found what little moisture there was this year. We like feeding a 50/50 mix of alfalfa and good quality grass. Iowa is not only known for its grand ability to grow corn, but the alfalfa does good too!
Each day, if the weather is nice, I turn the mares out into the hayfield for a couple of hours. I don't want to overdo their grazing on the alfalfa for two reasons: 1) they don't need much of that and, 2) I don't want to hurt the alfalfa. We have a 2 acre hayfield which is generally enough to supply us with a year's worth of hay if we take good care of it. Overgrazing in the fall would be disastrous.
The mares never forget my fall ritual! They practically beg me to open the gate and let them on the hayfield long before the first hard freeze. Now, when I start walking down toward the gate, it doesn't matter where they are - they beat me there. It is so exciting for them! I make them stay back and stay calm while I open the gate. That always takes a few times of telling Bitsy to "get back". Now she knows when I get to the gate she has to be calm and hang back a little. She is the alpha-mare so no way is she going to let Ellie go first! They run and buck and whinny as they move out into the field. It is such a delight to watch!
Last week I had Bitsy's shoes removed. I always ride her in the fall after weaning her babies and have my farrier put shoes on her for that one time period. Ellie also got a trim and it is a great opportunity to assess their overall foot health. Both mares are blessed with good feet and for that I am thankful. I wouldn't have a broodmare with poor feet because it is likely they would pass that along to their babies. One of my pet peeves is horse owners who have an average or poor quality mare and let her reproduce because they think "it is so cute" to have a foal. With all the horse market difficulties right now people should only be breeding quality to quality!
So, as we head toward another Iowa winter, the mares are vaccinated, trimmed, wormed and happy! I wouldn't have it any other way. More later on my next blog about winter care for my precious mares!