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Bringing horse home - a zillion questions

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  • Bringing horse home - a zillion questions

    i'll post some of them here and some in the "Around the Farm" forum.

    I guess the main question for this one is regarding hay. How much do you figure per horse per day on land that isn't terribly grassy? How do round bales and square bales compare in this regard (how many square bales for one round bale? If I pull hay off of a round bale, how much shelter does the round bale need from the elements? (I need to figure out how big to make the storage shed - for hay, feed, trunk, extra buckets, etc.)

    What kinds of trees/plants should NOT be in a horse area? We're turning the orchard into the horse area but plan to leave two plums and a pear. There are lots of ferns and berries (stickers) that we'll keep down.

    The biggest concern I have is the idea of having her here alone. She's the type that tends to go off on her own away from the herd. She's rarely grazing near anyone (and it is her that walks away from them) tho she does still like to push others around). In talking about it with some other horse friends their thought was moving to a new place where she's not used to having company would probably be fine. It's a small area for a second horse but is possible but I'd have to find someone.

    Thanks and check over on the other board tos ee if you can answer other questions.

  • #2
    How much hay you need depends on the breed, metabolism, work, weather, quality of hay, how much grass, etc. But rule of thumb is about 2% of body weight per day in hay. 1% - 1.5% for weight loss. 2.5% - 3% for weight gain. So lets say your horse weighs 1,000 pounds - 2% would be 20 lbs of hay per day. Average sized grassy bales weigh around 40 lbs each. So your horse would eat roughly 1/2 a bale a day. Figure out how many months of absolutely NO GRASS you have. (For me that's about November - March) During those months figure maximum hay usage. The months leading into and out of that deep freeze period - October and April will require a bit more hay, but the months of May - September there will be maximum grass and minimum hay. Another consideration is - do you feed any beet pulp, or alfalfa pellets? If so, this counts as forage as well.

    For instance - my calculated usage for 3 medium sized horses living in northern wisconsin is just under 500 bales. But I feed enough that there is usually wastage and we get many many weeks of below zero temps and horses can consume 2.5% of their body weight in hay just to maintain weight during those conditions. One of those horses is a hard working performance horse, and is a hard keeper as well.

    So based on my hay calculations, if you divided that by 3 you'd be at aboug 166 bales a year for one horse.

    But take my friend in Southern Illinois for example - she buys 150 bales for TWO horses for the whole year because she has 9 months of grass. Her horses are not ridden at ALL and they are easy keepers.

    So anyway, I hope that helps some. Kind of complicated but not too bad if you just sit down and figure out a spreadsheet. Your first year at home - ESTIMATE HIGH so you don't run out. Whatever is left over, use it for the next year. Log everything so that the 2nd year on your own farm you'll have a better idea of how much you need.

    We used to do round bales and figured about 25% loss due to weather and wastage. They poop in it, sleep in it, stomp it in. I much prefer square bales so you can spread the hay out and don't have your horses standing around in a big pile of rotting organic matter year round.

    Lots of horses do fine alone. I wouldn't personally feel comfortable keeping a horse alone, but lots of horses do it and they're just fine. You could always add a goat or donkey or something as long as our fences are low and tight.


    • #3
      "How much hay" is hard to generalize. It really depends on what the hay is like, what your horse requires, and how much grazing they actually do.

      My orchard hay varies (depending on year and cutting) from 6% to 16% protein, from 800 to 1100 calories per pound. I usually feed anywhere from 10 to 25 pounds per day, per horse (less for the pony) depending on time of year, temperature, how hard everyone is working, whether they're getting grass, and what the nutritional content of the hay is that year. So there are weeks when I'll wind up using 1 or 2 40 pound bales (summer, lots of grazing) for the 3 horses, and weeks when I'll use almost 2 bales a day (winter, very cold). I mix up the 1st cutting (lower protein) and 2nd/3rd cutting (MUCH higher protein) to keep the ration balanced, and supplement whatever they are lacking with other stuff--but that's another whole topic!

      You have to know what's in your hay to be able to estimate how much you're going to need, and then you have to figure out where to store it. I have a 12 x 36 foot hay loft above my barn's center aisle and I can JUST BARELY stuff a year's worth of hay in there for the 3 equines. I don't like round bales--no place to keep 'em, lots of waste, and IME the quality isn't as nice as the squares I'm able to buy. Plus at least one of my horses would simply sit and eat until she exploded if she had access to that much hay 24/7. Two of them are idle a lot of the time and too easy to keep for that.

      I'm no expert on "trees to avoid" but no doubt there are lots of resources on that. We had some autumn olives and scrubby willows in our one paddock, but we took them down because they were nothing but varmint attractors and homes for wasps.

      As to having a horse alone, it's certainly do-able but for me I'd try to find some sort of buddy, like a retired pony or something. Lots of horses seem to do OK being solo, though.

      Good luck! It's wonderful.
      Click here before you buy.


      • #4
        The hay answers are good. As for toxic plants and trees, there are books and websites you can read. One common poisonous tree is the red maple (other maples are OK). Of course, try to get rid of toxic plants, but if your horse has enough to eat most horses (I'm sure there is an exception to every rule . . .) but most horses will not eat the toxic plants. I have large grass fields and buttercups and milkweed occasionally pop up (both toxic) but the horses leave them alone. At my trainer's barn, where the horses are in dry lots there have been buttercups along the outside of the fence -- and the horses don't touch them. Not to say you shouldn't try and get rid of them, but I don't think you need to plow everything under and reseed, e.g.

        What are your plans for dealing w/manure? Is there enough space that you can just leave it? Or are you going to be picking it up?

        Also, in your other post you said you were planning on using a stock tank. How will the water get to the tank? I'm sure you've thought about winter, and having an easy and nonfreezing way to do it. I had to install a lot of things on my farm and I am very very glad I listened to my trainer who said to put my money in automatic waterers in the fields. Your budget may not stretch to that, but if it does -- go for the automatic waterer!!
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        • #5
          Also, if you decide to try the companion route, you will have your pick of many many nice retired horses. You could always pick one where the owner will take it back if it doesn't work out, or your horse dies, or whatever. One of my boarders needs to move her retired horse because the farm where he's kept is selling and she doesn't want to pay full board with me. In her case, she'd probably pay a little towards his upkeep (shoes and vet bills, possibly even feed) and would take him back . . . anyway, if you put the word out that you are even thinking of a companion, you'll have to beat them off with a stick -- as you can see -- I've already suggested one!
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          • #6
            I guess she could get sick on pears, if she eats too many. I'd find out how she's been cared for up to now and how much she's been eating. You're not saying anything about your experience. Have you just been boarding up to now and been riding a lot. Or is all this new. Are you just learning to ride and buying your first horse. If this is all really new for you, I'd suggest boarding her somewhere for at least several months so you have support from other horse people, get to know the area vets and farriers, etc. Good luck.


            • #7
              2 horses, one arab, one TW and one pony eat 5 square bales every 3 days. I need about 50 bales per month. In bedding one bag of woodie pet per week per big horse and the pony is bedded by sharing some of the horses bedding.
              A square bale has 8 flakes. Round bales are harder to feed and judge.
              While cedar and pine trees are nice for shelter they attract mesquitos.
              If you have only one horse 6 flakes per day roughly 2/3rd of a bale per day.
              I also like alfalfa hay only.
              So 1 horse 20 bales per month and 4 bags of woody pet per month.

              On the farm we always kept the horses in a orchard where there were dozen of apply trees and we never had a problem. I feed 8 apples to my guy with his night grain and often dump a full pail of apples in the field for 4 horses.

              For a companion horse a small pony or donkey cost less feed, takes less room and your guy will be just as happy. A goat works but they eat tails. Get your goat is an old saying because they were often used as companions to high strung horses and shared a stall with them to keep them calm.


              • #8
                If you have only one horse 6 flakes per day roughly 2/3rd of a bale per day.
                Assuming the bales weigh a certain amount, you mean. Around here a "bale of hay" weighs anything from 35 to 100 pounds.
                Click here before you buy.


                • #9
                  Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                  Assuming the bales weigh a certain amount, you mean. Around here a "bale of hay" weighs anything from 35 to 100 pounds.
                  Most bales have 8 flakes but yes a guy can pack them tighter or looser. A normal bale is not that heavy and we feed second cut alfalfa mostly. A bale is $3.75 here, well it was last year, don't know this year yet but I got 100 bales this afternoon to get me through to June 1st.

                  I don't like large round bales because they are too hard to control the amount fed and no way to accurately measure a quantity. Large square bales are also too hard to handle without a tractor and spike and again too hard to measure. The normal rectangular bales of 8 flakes are easy to handle, easy to measure quanitity and easy to stack in a shed.
                  If you are building a shed square small bales are easy to stack to the roof, easy to move by hand to the feeder of barn and you can do this without a tractor and hay spike.


                  • #10
                    I know you're not asking this question but one thing to think about and I'll probably get flamed for this but after 2-+ years of keeping horses at home... If you are lucky enough to have a horse that does not mind being alone then it is often a good idea to keep it that way. Two horses often can be a trial. Often, at least one of them doesn't like when the other one is taken away for riding or vice versa and you end up having to close one in while you ride or have them run the fence raising a ruckus. If the horse that you have to close in really gets upset then your stall gets churned. Or, the horse that you are riding is calling back and forth with the other one or is more reluctant to leave the yard to go on a trail. Yes, horses are meant to live in a herd and it typically isn't fair to them to stable them alone but some horses don't seem to mind it, especially if they have a job to do with you on a regular basis and you have time to spend with them daily. And the attachment isn't always an issue and it's not that it can't be dealt with - unless you are unlucky enough to have one that tears your barn apart when left alone - but it can be tiring to deal with if you have the wrong pair. When you only have two then one is always left alone while you ride - unless you always ride with someone else.

                    So, don't work to squeeze two in unless you see that your horse is unhappy. It sounds like she may be one of those who may not mind living alone.


                    • #11
                      Most bales have 8 flakes
                      Again, maybe in your world. My 1st cutting bales (40 pounds) have 12-14 flakes, the 3rd cutting bales (50 pounds) have 16-20. It really, really depends on your locale, your farmer, your hay, etc. One size does not fit all.
                      Click here before you buy.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                        Again, maybe in your world. My 1st cutting bales (40 pounds) have 12-14 flakes, the 3rd cutting bales (50 pounds) have 16-20. It really, really depends on your locale, your farmer, your hay, etc. One size does not fit all.
                        Our 8 flake bales are about 3 feet long. Your 20 flake bales must exceed 6 feet then?? It must be difficult to keep the bales from breaking when throwing around?


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by deltawave View Post
                          Again, maybe in your world. My 1st cutting bales (40 pounds) have 12-14 flakes, the 3rd cutting bales (50 pounds) have 16-20. It really, really depends on your locale, your farmer, your hay, etc. One size does not fit all.
                          Ok, I counted flakes in the bales this morning. (This forum makes a person do crazy stuff....) Anyway, alfalfa bale had 12 flakes. Grass bale had 14. The alfalfa bale was probably 3 feet long. The grass bale about 3 1/2 feet long.

                          The size and number of flakes depends on the baler and how its set. The farmer you buy hay from Shadow14 has different settings on his baler, or a different type of baler or something.

                          That's why weighing hay is the only way to know how much you're giving. 2 of your flakes would equal 4 of mine.


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Auventera Two View Post

                            The size and number of flakes depends on the baler and how its set. The farmer you buy hay from Shadow14 has different settings on his baler, or a different type of baler or something.

                            That's why weighing hay is the only way to know how much you're giving. 2 of your flakes would equal 4 of mine.
                            I grew up on a dairy farm. We now buy our hay from 2 hay dealers. I have never known anything but 8 flake bales. The ram on the baler would make 8 plunges forward compressing each flake and then the tier is activated tieing the bale off. If you get 12 flakes in approximately a 3 foot bale then your flakes must be much smaller. Overall a bale must be a convenient length to carry and at the same time robust enough to be thrown around.

                            How many farms actually have weigh scales in the barn?? I don't know one. I weigh grain at work by taking a can of each type and weigh it here.
                            For feeding hay you can do a trial and error. See if the horse cleans it up, if so you and increase the amount, if not decrease and watch weight.
                            I fed 25 horses for years and our arabs all got 3 flakes per feeding and the bigger boys got 4.


                            • #15
                              To weigh hay I just use a digital bathroom scale. Use a rubbermaid tub and zero the scale out with the tub on it. Put the hay in, and there you go. For feed I have a kitchen scale, $7 at the grocery store.


                              • #16
                                Our 8 flake bales are about 3 feet long. Your 20 flake bales must exceed 6 feet then??
                                Noooo, my bales are 40 POUNDS, as I said. The flakes in my bales are obviously very much smaller than yours. Yet again illustrating the fact that NOT ALL HAY BALES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

                                I don't weigh my hay every day, but I weigh a big sample of my bales every year, and make the mental calculations from there. If I want to feed 20 pounds, that's roughly half of a 40 pound bale, etc. I almost never count flakes.
                                Click here before you buy.


                                • Original Poster

                                  Thank you for all of the replies and the discussion that it brought on.

                                  My plan, if I do round bales, is to keep it outside of her space and feed off of it daily. She has gotten incredibly fat when having access to a round bale with other horses, I don't want her to have it all to herself!! That's why the question of comparison. A friend told me that she'd previously found one round bale/month/horse seemed to work well in feeding that way. Again, I'm sure they come in varying weights.

                                  My neighbors have cows and I need to ask them if they will help me by bringing a bale over with their tractor once a month or 2 months. We do a lot for each other so I think that's a real possibility.

                                  Also, I just don't have the room/resources/desire to build a big barn/storage for 150 (rounding off here) bales of hay.

                                  Thanks for the thoughts on living alone. I think it's worth a try with her and, Sketcher, I think you're right. Although she's a loner she would get terribly attached to one other horse....

                                  Re experience: I've got 30 plus years horse experience including working at barns and as a working student for a very persnickety event rider () but have always boarded my horse (have had her 13 years) and have never had a horse at home. Right now she's somewhere where I'm pretty much taking care of her (I found out the hard way that they do "intermittent feeding" as my friend coined it when it happened to her). So, it's a new but not totally foreign experience.


                                  • #18

                                    The big bad tree is the Black Walnut.

                                    We have fruit trees in our paddocks and in the fall when the fruit starts falling, we go out each morning and pick up the fallen fruit. In the past few years, we've not had to do it as the deer eat all the fallen fruit. Just a chore that you should be aware of.

                                    Also, the previous poster who brought up water. Yes, anything you can spend NOW to make your winter watering chores easy is very IMPORTANT! Ugh, nothing worse than hauling water in the winter. And, keeping that water frost free as well...in tanks, pipes, etc. Spend all the time in the world on that project.

                                    As far as hay, we feed about an average of 1 bale of NY first cut a day per horse, sometimes less depending on how much was left from the day before. It is a 35 - 40 lbs bales. I like to feed bales so you can spread them out all over. If you like to walk, you can really spread them out. The horses meander from one pile to another. With a round bale, they'll plant in one spot all day and just stand there.

                                    Just so you know, each cutting of hay gets more delicious so it sounds like your mare does not need 2nd or third cut no matter how delicious it looks or smells. While we feed a lot of hay, we don't make ourselves nuts over waste.
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                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by Shadow14 View Post
                                      I fed 25 horses for years and our arabs all got 3 flakes per feeding and the bigger boys got 4.
                                      Agree that all bales are not the same. I also get about 11-14 flakes in my "typical" ~40lb square bale. My mare would starve on 3 "flakes". But even from one farmer, some of my bales are heavy and some are lighter; sometimes there is a lot of orchard grass which seems lighter than the timothy. And occasionally they must bale a very thick or long area and we get a freaky bale with only 7-8 giant flakes.

                                      A fish scale is a good way to weigh your average "flake" of hay...get a medium large shopping bale and put a flake in it, then hang on the fish scale. But even that is just a rough estimate; because time of year, turnout, activity level, etc. will determine how much hay they *need*. My TB mare gets the better part of a full bale in the winter; now she gets about 1/2....or so....sometimes more, sometimes less.

                                      Here's a tip I wish I followed: write down all your hay purchases in a notebook so you can remember a year from now how much hay you really DID buy. I usually try to pay my hay guy in cash so I forget too easily what I've bought.