Monday, March 31, 2008

Ripoffs and Rascals, part 2

Since I got sidetracked relaying the drama around this situation, here's a little more on "ripoffs and rascals"

You are probably being ripped off for boarding if

1. Your horse is losing an alarming amount of weight over a short period of time
2. You are charged unusual or expensive fees that serve no purpose other than to line the BO's pockets (ex: Additional fees above agreed boarding rate due upon arrival)
3. You seldom see any hay on the premises
4. Stock tanks are empty, frozen, or not available to the horses 24/7
5. You are not encouraged to visit your horse as often as you like
6. You cannot reach the BO by email or phone in a reasonable amount of time
7. Your vet or farrier is hesitant to treat or work on your horse at the location
8. Your horse gets moved into other quarters without your knowledge
9. You never get a copy of your signed boarding contract

I could add a whole bunch to that list, but these are the major ones, and let me explain why they should be red flags to you as a horse owner.

Anytime a horse loses weight it should a cause of concern. Perhaps the feed program was changed. Perhaps the horse is suffering from an underlying disease process. Or has been turned out with other horses who are higher in the herd hierarchy than yours. It could be a number of things, but it is your responsibility as the owner to determine what the cause is, and to remedy it. This means actually asking questions, and persuing meaningful answers until you are satisified that the BO can remedy it-or you can with veterinary intervention.

A lack of hay on site is not necessarily critical, but it may show that the BO is not able to secure a steady supply of good quality hay. This could be poor management, or that its just plain difficult to find (which it is). Either way, make sure to be present at several feedings-so that you can see for yourself what gets fed, and how it is distributed.

A lack of water is a huge red flag in mind. In this day and age, there is no reason NOT to provide water 24/7. Stock tanks can be heated using extension cords if necessary. Yes, they are very expensive to run, but insulating the tank(s) and using timers should see any barn through the utility crunch of the winter months.

If you aren't welcome to come see your horse(s) at any reasonable hour-that would give me pause. My first question would be: Why not? What's going on you don't want me to see? All my boarders are free to come any time, and they know that. I appreciate a courtesy call but don't demand it-I do like to chat with the owners when I can, so I can address any concerns they may have.

The rest of the items on my short list are self explanatory for the most part. As a horse owner, you are entering into a partnership when you board your horse. The BO agrees to meet the terms of the contract and care for your horse(s). You agree to pay the BO in a timely fashion for that care. It's basic and simple, and I am appalled that there are local boarding operators who do not even provide sufficient hay and/or water. Yet they happily cash the checks, blow off the owners' concerns, or worse yet, just duck any questions altogether. These are the local rascals who are going merrily along, ripping off the customer.....and causing no end of extra work for people like me-who do deliver on their promises.

Spring snow!

Much to our bemusement, it began snowing yesterday afternoon. I won't complain, this should be about the last hurrah on the winter type weather. I do find it funny that my hub had just two hours before, pressed me to change out the studded tires on my car for the summer tread. Umm, not! LOL, there is still ice out our way, I think I will wait another week or two!

Also over the weekend, I got my own baskets planted and hung in the big greenhouse. And yesterday I got ten more flats of stuff started for my friend. Today, I carefully count out seeds and get them germinating here at work. Then I have to figure where in heck I am going to try starting another 20 flats of various stuff-as I have run out of room at home.....this is going to take some creative thinking!

On the horse end, I may have nailed down a couple tons of clean, good local grass (yay!) and I am still waiting for the container to show up with the imported......but on a positive note, the forklift here at work is repaired!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Ripoffs and Rascals

I've had this percolating in the back of my mind for quite a while, but wasn't sure how to address the issue. The events of the last week have prompted me to go forward, as a cautionary tale for horse owners here.

Yes this is horse related, so feel free skip this if the subject bores you ;)

A little background....I have boarded my horses at a variety of places over the years, and have operated two different boarding places. I've had them in local Disney barns, to backyards with tarps and boards for shelter when needed, but most situations were in the middle with adequate care and some facilties to use-arena, round pen, or trails nearby, etc. Since I don't show, I sometimes ended up the odd owner out in a place full of competitors, but generally speaking if there was genuine cause to do so-my horses got moved. Like most owners, I paid fairly close attention to my horses.....but there would be periods where I could not get out-and trusted the owner/operator to take care of them for me.

Over the course of this winter, I have heard of situations where the care provided does not even meet the minimum state or Boro standard, never mind what the owner thought they were getting. I have two such horses in my care right now......recovering nicely.

And I will have another shortly who is in even worse shape.

In both cases, the owner(s) paid board regularly but due to circumstances, were unable to closely monitor the horses. They believed the BO when they called to check on them, and were confident that the horses were in good condition and being decently fed. Well, I am here to tell you that a horse that is a condition score 3 to 4, is NOT being decently fed. A horse that is critically dehydrated is NOT being properly cared for. A horse that has open wounds from an unknown source has NOT been handled properly as far as herd management. And we won't even go there about discovering that another person used a horse trailer that does not belong to them, eh?

Last week a previous boarded called me, very very upset about their horse. They had dropped by to pay board (BO not home) and saw the horse. They wanted the horse moved asap, did I have space? Yes, I can make space, and then ensued a rather frustrating week trying to find someone to haul (my trailer is blocked and I can't get to it) for a reasonable amount. The owner was so upset that I even made a driveby myself-I was sick to my stomach to realize that I could see ribs all the way down from over 100 foot away. I knew this horse inside and out, it had been with me for a year. I know the metabolism, the character, what the horse needs to be healthy.

So yesterday it all comes together-I thought. Found someone to move the horse, figured out where to put her on my end, and plans were made to haul around 6pm.

You won't believe what happened next-stay tuned...I will relate the rest later today in this thread as a comment........

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eeks! I overdid it!

Boy sometimes I think I must have lost my mind....the other day, I started a bunch of vegetable seeds. The really old fashioned way-which is by pre germinating. I remember my Grandmother (award winning gardener in L48) using fine linen napkins, a bit of rain water, and an old cigar tin to germinate seeds. My version, being the new century, is to use damp paper towels and ziplock bags, tossed onto my kitchen table.

I sprinke the seeds over the toweling, fold that up, pop it into the bag, and check in a couple of days to see if I have sprouts. I have a real hard time reining myself in, as far as the number of seeds go-after all, some may not sprout, given the lower percentage germination rate printed on the packets, right?

Wrong! I am up to my elbows in literally hundreds of baby sprouts, just emerging from their hulls, all of which need planted pronto. So this morning I tallied up what I have on hand for flats and cell packs, and managed to load up a bale of ProMix into my car. I have to do this at work because they won't wait a day for me to get home....And in a day or so, I will have to shuffle over many flats to my friends' commerical greenhouse to leaf out in the proper growing conditions.

In short, I have hundreds and hundreds of veggies needing to be carefully picked off the toweling, and set into properly moistened media right now today. Yes, it is somewhat painstaking work, picking them out by hand, but I just cannot throw out all that potential food.

At least I have a place to take them, and this year I am almost 12 days behind when I started last year-which is a good thing! So I think I have about 30 flats worth of seeds waiting for me to get busy with, and that's not counting the 750 seeds of summer squashes I am waiting until April 5th to start!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Making changes

I am always so tickled when I see the horses in my care just sort of bloom here. I could brag and say it's the quiet location, the attention to details, the lazy days of sunning themselves, or any number of things-but the real truth is, I feed enough.

Enough high quality hays that have excellent TDN, protiens, RFV, etc. The best that can be had in the state, in fact. A horse that arrives underweight, I feed to gain, not maintain. Sounds pretty simple, doesn't it? But while it may not be rocket science, it does require some acquaintance with a knowledge of the horses' digestive system, balancing the ration as close as possible, and feed feed feed.

Lots of folks think it should take up to six months to get a horse back up to decent weight if they are currently at a CS 3. Barring underlying issues, I just don't think that is true. But a person must understand that rebuilding wasted muscle requires adequate protiens and fats, coupled with careful exercise to help rebuild them. Every element must be provided in the right form for the horse to utilize appropriately, and in sufficient quantities for gain.

Keeping in mind the ca:ph ratio, I know that I might have an unbalanced diet for two horses in my care just now. They are approaching CS5, nearly where I would like to see them for normal weight, but are still needing to replace lost muscle. Today my chore is to locate the correct item to "plug the hole" in the diet that alfalfa could bring. In this particular case, alfalfa cannot be fed, due to allergy issues. So I need an alternate source of bio appropriate calcium. The orchard grass that I am feeding now is very high in phos, like most grass hays. However, I am also feeding beet pulp (higher in calcium) and I think it's time to break out the calculator and see how the ration stacks up, before I wander off to the feed store in search of yet another item for the feed room.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

So much for time off!

A few days ago I agreed to help out with a yearly project that I have helped with in the past. So, yesterday afternoon I sat down with the phone and started making sales calls. Not my favorite thing to do, but necessary. I am always astounded at how difficult it is to find people who don't mind hearing "no", lol

But my friend who publishes this Guide, has had one heck of a time finding reliable sales people.....even though her commissions are very generous for the industry. So, when I hear a no, I just thank them for their time, and move on to the next person on the list. I need to average about 20, 25 calls a day to bump up the size of the publication-which I am pretty sure I can do. I think that working where I do, I am just accustomed to working on a higher scale (dollar wise) and therefore the negatives just don't rattle me. You can't land them all and it's not a personal thing if folks chose not to particpate, right?

I set myself a rather lofty goal, so we'll see how I do :)

Later this week I will be helping another friend plant up 1000s of plant starts, simply because she needs the help. In exchange, I get to plant up my own baskets (woohoo!) and leave them in her greenhouse to get a real jump start on the season, yay! I am also planning on growing a sizeable number of veggie starts for her too, which she does not have room to start herself. Last year I brought over my extras and they did all sell very well. This year, there are two less largish commercial greenhouses so I am hopeful for my friends' success this season.

I know I only started things a few days ago, but I am hopeful I will have my first germinated flats in about two more days.....yippee!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Things are starting to happen :)

Being fortunate to have a week or so off, I have managed to get some things done.

Foremost, the growing area between the garage and house is now set up. The seed starter rack is up and working with flats under lights. The two tall saw horses are moved in, with some lengths of old countertop placed on for more flats. The track light system has been checked and it's working just fine. Later today, I need to get more cell packs, as I have agreed to grow on a whole bunch of stuff for a friend. I do have to say, the smell of wet ProMix makes me smile! I am not quite sure how many flats I will be doing, but this year I will be able to shuffle them over to the commerical greenhouse as soon as they are up-which will give me more space for new starts. I trade most of these out for goodies for my own garden, shrubs, trees, etc.

We've figured out what area we want to clear this year, and it's quite a bit bigger than I thought it would work out to be. If the snow keeps melting like it has been we can think about taking trees down starting next week. We've also discusssed moving the small garden and the greenhouse into the new spot......but it will stay where it is for this year I think. Actually, this gives me the chance to lobby for a new, bigger greenhouse with some sort of heat source :)

I went ahead and stocked up on some concentrates, and need to work on organizing the barn a bit better as it's surely a jumbled up mess right now. I emailed for another van load of hay also, and this time I cannot quote the cost up front-due to whats happening with the fuel prices. But as usual we Alaskans are going to take it in the shorts, sigh....

Sunday, March 2, 2008

March rolls in....

We've all heard the saying for March: In like a lion, out like a lamb. Supposedly, this applies to weather. I have no idea what March will bring towards the end, but I surely hope it's not more winds. This is also our big snow month (about five years ago, we got 28 inches in 24 hours) but I am hopeful we will dodge that!

Last week, I worked on getting that 25 ton of hay off the shipping van. On Friday and Saturday, the winds were howling across the "PeeDub" (as I call the Palmer Wasilla Highway) and it made any outdoor work was very nasty out, despite some sun. All the hay is offloaded, and I have not only called for pick up of the empty container, but emailed for another shipment. This time of year, quality hay is in short supply and every scrap of local is bought up.....but the fuel surcharges on the vans shipped is outrageous. Sometimes we don't even know for sure the cost until it actually arrives at the port (yeah no kidding!) so this is why I am no longer going to quote hay prices to folks. The last two vans, this has left me no margin at all :( Heck, even the company I work for is going to have a ten percent price increase. I can't wait to see what happens at the grocery store >not!<

Today we are having mostly sunny at my house. The temps are hovering around freezing and if you put your hand out into the sun, you can feel actual heat. Some of the snow is showing the telltale signs of melt also, which makes me smile. And it prompted me to go get the rest of the things I need to start some flats of plants too.

Spring has almost sprung, and I am glad for it :)