Things they don’t tell you when you buy a horse

Learn how to care for your horse as well as your land.

We always had pets of the dog and cat variety while I was growing up. Sure, I begged my mom for more exotic animals – chinchillas, ferrets, a Venetian pot-bellied pig, and of a course a horse – but in the end we stuck with dogs, cats and the occasional fish. When my husband and I got our first dog, I knew with certainty that I was knowledgeable and prepared to care for this newest member of our family. Even so, she managed to throw curveballs at us, everything from running down the face of a nearly vertical cliff and splitting a claw in the process, to her strange and infuriating habitat of sneaking into our bedroom if the door was open and peeing in our bed. Every dog is different and some are easier to care for than others. Nonetheless, it is fairly easy to fit a dog into a formerly dog-free life. Sure, you need to walk them and feed them, but they fit in your car, can sleep in the house with everyone else, and you only need a few doggy bags to manage their daily droppings. Horses are a different story.Washington County is home to more horse owners that anywhere else in Minnesota, and while some people board their horses at area stables, there are plenty that keep their horses on their own land. Like a dog, horses need regular exercise, food, and veterinary care. Unlike a dog, however, they also need a trailer for transportation, indoor and outdoor enclosures, saddles, bridles and more. Their hoofs require special care and they need to be groomed as well. Also, horses generate a lot (and I mean, a lot) of manure each day. No one enters into horse ownership lightly, but there are some things they just don’t teach you when you go out to buy a horse.

On February 23, the Washington Conservation District (WCD), along with Hagberg’s Country Feed LLC, will hold a free full-day horse workshop at the Washington County Fairgrounds, Hooley Hall (see agenda here). Leading planning efforts for the workshop is long time WCD employee Wendy Griffin, herself a horse owner. According to Griffin, the goal for the workshop is to provide horse owners with information about horse care they might not already know, in addition to giving people tips for how to better manage pastures and manure to keep their horses healthy and protect nearby wells and surface water resources.

Speakers at the workshop will include several staff members from the University of Minnesota Extension, including Dr. Krishona Martinson, who will talk about Extension’s Horse Pasture Management Program, Betsy Wieland, who will discuss how to compost horse manure, and Rolf Modesto, who will provide detailed instruction on proper hoof care. In addition, Dr. Heiko Schoenfuss, from St. Cloud State, will talk about pharmaceuticals in groundwater, Kelly Ann Graber, from Progressive Nutrition, will talk about phosphorus in horse feed, and WCD landscape designer Andy Schilling will provide helpful hints for dealing with runoff in paddock areas and pastures. Last year’s WCD horse workshop was attended by more than 60 people. Griffin hopes that many of those people will return to learn about different topics this year and that new people will come as well. They might not tell you these things when you buy a horse, but it’s not too late to learn now.

The Horse Workshop will be held on Saturday, Feb. 23 from 9am-2:30pm at the Washington County Fairgrounds in Lake Elmo. The workshop is free and includes light lunch. To register, contact Wendy Griffin at 651-275-1136 x.24 or