Juli - I always enjoy your articles and blogs.
Putting a positive spin on things always helps me deal with the adventures of obstacles. After having a head injury this fall with the constant heachache that's gone with it, being positive has definitely been a way to go farward with healing.
The mud- consider it the beauty spa treatment for horses - they love to roll in it and let it harden so the hair is more apt to come off in clumps. I just keep lots of lighter under pads handy for saddling on spring days. I set up the power washer to clean them. I put up big clamps on the corral to hook them to to wash, and they can drip dry in the shade. as for Mud in pastures, gate openings, and corrals - Evaluate this spring and determine what needs fixed and how.... watch where water tends to run. Where does it congregate. Where does it pool deeply. By flagging and evaluating how and when you use those areas, you can solve some of the issues of mud. Find a source of gravel, sand and bentonite. If scraping and leveling can be done with the farm implements available great, if they need be hired, make sure to hire some one capable of doing a good job the first time. Sometimes county planners need to be notified if drains or other subsurface devices are used. And SAFETY first, always contact utility company to make sure there are no subsurface electrical or water pipes or gaslines.
The hair? I consider it bird nesting material. I have a lowland location where I'll take piles of hair and songbirds and magpies come in droves to get the hair - they'll clean out a feed sack in about 1/2 hr. The mane & tail hairs that come out I save for a friend who does horsehair braiding and rope making. I've gotten two mecates this way. I found an old washing machine that lives in the shop for spring blanket cleaning... it was Free - I use it for farm stuff only. It works, and MY washer doesn't see the extreme hair problem.
Pasture - right now, and on into early spring is a good time to evaluate pastures for weeds, grass species etc to see where you need to interseed, reseed or control weeds. We use an interseeding method to improve the native grass species on our ranges. We have irrigation - flood type, so we deal with weed seeds that come ounto our land by the ditches. Developing rotation patterns - even on small acreages, you can see increase of your carrying capacity (less corral looking pastures) with good management. Also, another important consideration for horses that many people never think of : soil sampling. Is your area deficient in certain minerals, say selenium, or is it alkali, or real acid. Does it need fertilizer, or have too much of certain nutrients already. A good soill sample can help create better pastures and aid in growing the best species of grass for all livestock.
The unruly herd - far too much a problem for most people. Just allowing horses time to be horses solves lots of behavior issues. Take a rude pushy horse... the human they can walk all over, but out in a pasture, they are probably not the herd boss, and even so, others will demand respect and back that horse out of their space. Horses run in a herd are far less likely to be rude, or overly sassy. Unless they are totally herd bound.
The feet: Our horses get trimmed regularly, not so often in winter, as they run out all time, and paw for feed. Also a little longer hoof gives them better purchase if it happens to be icy, and protects the soles a bit. Getting backc into work for springwork, we trim them and check for lumps, bumps bruises, cuts, on legs, and entire bodies.
This winter we've had more moisture than we've had for years. (perhaps our drought is finally over) We watch for 'rain rot' or in this case snow rot... clumping of hairs, gooey discharges anywhere on the body, etc. As the weather warms, we watch for itching or bare spots - we do get ticks on horses occasionaly, so watch crevices, under jaws, under heavy manes and tails.
poisons: many spring weeds tend to cause problems in livestock, posionous plaants - or those who can be if ingested in large amounts. Monitoring spring growth, and again using spot management can help reduce problems before they become a problem.
Tack: I go thru the tackroom and do a thorough spring cleaning (all I'm good for this spring, as I'll be on crutches for a while) Anything that needs mended, stitched, patched or can be altered to work is put in one stack. Unsalvagable items are tossed ( I cut off all buckles, keepers, etc, so have a supply of items for repairs as needed. I will do an inventory and order needed supplies - (I do this frequently during the year, as I go thru the tack area often and maintain organization. That way when I do order it's not so costly on a time by time basis. ) All gear is assessed for quality and condition of leather or material - dry, cracked, soiled no more stretch, etc? I try to maintain all gear as good as possible, but we ride in extreme conditions in winter, so evaluating it saves in the long run, and keeping items clean and well oiled or creamed has made it possible for me to have items that are well over 60 yrs old and still servicable and look good enough to show in.
Evalute the BARN! Horses tend to find the problem areas and produce wounds sores, etc when we need them least. Keep a good eye on the stall area, any grooming area, and common areas, where nails splintered boards, metal protrusions, etc could be a problem. run your hands over every surface in the stalls - even up high... any horse over 15 hands can be reaching way up to the rafters, and find those little spots, and hurt a nose or ear, or whatever. Splintered boards can pull out tail hairs or mane hairs, or low down in stalls actually cause puncture wounds. Nails , screws, or any other device that is attached or attaches to your barn walls, etc can be an item to watch. Clean out cobwebs, lighting and areas up high need constant watching to prevent buildup of hay, straw and dust - fire safety. Have all electrical checked regularly. Water - if you have water spigots in barn, evaluate how cost effective it is. Does it freeze, does it cuase a mess when you fill buckets - there are many methods for improving water systems with out great cost. and early spring is a great time to get into it - to be ready for NEXT winter.
I also check all bits for rough spots (soft sweet iron bit can develp rough areas on bits that a horse really likes to chew), check splint boots, hoof boots, and leg wraps I buy Velcro by the spool. I check all braided items, Elastic on all girths, and the yarns on western cinches, any neoprene items are frequently sanitized after use, which can tend to stiffen if not allowed to dry before getting cold. Rasps in the hoof trimming kit get a quick glance, and I have decided after years and years of repairing them it's easier to get a new one or two. Horseshoes arepurchased, caulk kits are checked for completeness, horse shoe nails are bought. Magnets are put back in the box.... They tend to get used for everything everywhere in winter! Halters are gone over with a fine tooth comb. Those nylon halters with burned holes are evaluated closely. I use lots of tied halters, and make sure knots are even and squared - (so they lie on horse's head where they best fit. All little nobby strings are trimmed and burned (keeping halter neat and tidy) Leadropes are also checked - I don't use snaps, we just used a hitch on the rope. keeps safe, one less thing to break. We like long leads, for groundwork and packing horses. So I make sure the rope is smooth no knobbies from burrs getting stuck, etc.
Just a few of the many SPRING cleaning chores.