Christmas Day has come and gone and countless little girls and boys are now wistfully asking their parents, “Why didn’t Santa bring me that pony that I asked for?” I fell in love with horses in fourth grade after participating in a week-long horse camp. My steed, Midnight, was a retired racehorse who could ride fast and smooth. We were inseparable for the week except for the day when we rode across a small lake and I had to switch horses for the afternoon because Midnight was afraid of water. While we were still living in California, I occasionally got to go riding in the foothills along with my mom’s friend Lynn, who owned a ranch outside of town. Coincidentally, this was the same ranch where my goldfish Jumpy went to live once he outgrew his fish tank. We visited a few years later after moving to Wisconsin and Jumpy, now a giant carp, was still swimming happily in the horse trough.
While some people give up their childhood dreams of owning a horse, others not only continue to love horses, but also find the time, money and dedication to make horse ownership a reality. Washington County, in fact, is home to more horses than any other county in Minnesota. Countless stables and boarding facilities dot the countryside and for those who hike the trails at Pine Point, Lake Elmo and other regional parks it is commonplace to encounter groups of riders out enjoying the hills and prairies.
Owning a horse is a big responsibility, regardless of where the horse lives, but people who keep their horses on their own land or run boarding stables face a range of additional challenges. A horse owner needs not only a barn, but also enough land for grazing. What do you plant in the pasture, though, and how do you make sure the area outside the barn doesn’t turn into a mud hole each spring? How do you know if your pasture mix is providing the right nutritional value for your horses and do you plant the same acreage year after year or rotate from one year to the next? Is it safe to let your horses wade in wetlands and cross streams, or should you fence off these water features to protect the horses hooves from thrush and keep the water clean?
On Tuesday January 24, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program and Hagberg’s Country Feed will host a workshop for horse owners at 6pm in the Washington County Fairground’s Hooley Hall. The workshop will cover a variety of topics, including veterinary care, nutrition, mud management, pasture management and rotational grazing. Local veterinarian Dr. Martha Pott will talk about basic care to keep horses healthy, as well as necessary vaccinations and common diseases shared between horses and dogs. Equine nutrition consultant Kelly Ann Graber from Progressive Nutrition will discuss pasture and feed mixes and provide suggestions for measuring the nutritional value of pasture grasses. Pete Young, from the Washington Conservation District, will offer tips for managing mud and dealing with drainage issues. He will also highlight funding available to help landowners fix runoff, mud, and erosion problems on their lands, install fencing around streams and wetlands, and practice rotational grazing. Dr. Krishona Martinson, from University of Minnesota Extension, will also discuss pasture management and rotational grazing.
The goal of the Jan. 24 workshop is to provide local horse owners with basic information to better care for their land and animals, as well as to connect them with people and resources that they can follow-up with for additional assistance. Says Conservation District employee Wendy Griffin, “We want people to know how to keep their horses healthy so that they can spend more time out riding and enjoying this great county. We also want them to know how to keep their land healthy so that we can all continue to enjoy the lakes and streams around this area.”
To register for this free workshop, contact Wendy Griffin at 651-275-1136 x.24 or email@example.com. Find a compilation of web resources for horse owners at www.mnwcd.org/land_pastures_horse_resources.php.
Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water – www.mnwcd.org/cleanwater – which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine – St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, Stillwater, West Lakeland and Willernie, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-275-1136 x.35 or firstname.lastname@example.org.