Thursday, October 2, 2014

3 horses, 3 training plans - Step 2 walking together & playing

Sugar, Lucky and Salty
3 very different horses

Lucky, featured previously on this blog, is an Arabian gelding in his mid-teens, very sensitive and intelligent. Lucky is easy to push away, and is quick to be turned off by aggression, strong cues or a reprimand.  Lucky is easy to call in to me, if I have his trust.  If I lose his trust, he has a long memory and is very slow to be willing again.

Sugar is a Quarter Horse Mare.  9 years old, Sugar is a trained cutting horse who spent several years as a broodmare.  Very intelligent and sensitive, and also aloof and insecure, Sugar does her job out of obedience rather than volunteering.  Sugar is easy to send away, hard to call in, and generally reluctant to participate in a relationship.

Salty is a 9 year old Quarter Horse mare bred for reining.  Salty was injured during her initial breaking and was never ridden.  Salty is boss mare, very intelligent, calm and sensitive.  She loves people, and is always right there investigating everything.  Salty is a leader, curious, bold and the first to explore new things.  Salty is easy to call in, and VERY hard to send away.

In my last post I introduced what I consider to be your most important training tool - something to sit on.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

3 horses, 3 training plans, same foundation. Step-by-step for you & your horse. Step 1 Just Being Together

Sugar, Lucky and Salty
3 very different horses

Lucky, featured previously on this blog, is an Arabian gelding in his mid-teens, very sensitive and intelligent. Lucky is easy to push away, and is quick to be turned off by aggression, strong cues or a reprimand.  Lucky is easy to call in to me, if I have his trust.  If I lose his trust, he has a long memory and is very slow to be willing again.  Lucky and I have been working together for several years now.

Sugar, a newer companion on my journey, is a Quarter Horse Mare.  9 years old, Sugar is a trained cutting horse who spent several years as a broodmare.  Very intelligent and sensitive, and also aloof and a bit insecure, Sugar knows her job but is very slow to trust and frankly, has not decided that humans are worth messing with yet.  Sugar is easy to send away, hard to call in, and generally reluctant to participate in a relationship.  Sugar and I have been hanging out for a year or so.

Salty is the newest member of our horse family.  Salty is another Quarter Horse mare.  Also 9 years old, Salty was injured during her initial breaking, and knows nothing beyond wearing a saddle and bridle.  Salty is very intelligent, calm and sensitive.  She loves people, and is always right there investigating everything.  Salty is a leader, curious, bold and the first to explore new things.  Salty is easy to call in, and VERY hard to send away.

As I've taking the last few months off while focusing on the writing the goat muscle testing book, and getting through the summer goat show season, I'm regrouping and reassessing where I am with all the horses.  I will be using the same basic principles to assess and work with each one, tweaking the program to suit their individual quirks.  My hope is that you, the reader, can follow along and apply these same basics to your own relationship with your horse.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Preparing for goat breeding season

A bit of planning ahead and preparing your goat herd can make breeding and later kidding much easier on you and your goats.  At Oak Hill, my planning usually starts no later than Labor Day.

Here at Oak Hill, I prepare for breeding season by first looking ahead to spring and kids on the ground.   I pull up the Farmers Almanac and check the National Weather Service and NOAA for the long-range winter forecasts.   Bitter cold, lots of snow or a late spring all affect my decisions about when the first kids should hit the ground.

Once I know my ideal earliest first kidding date, I start to work backwards.  Gestation is about 5 months.  My does typically conceive on their first or second breeding cycle.  So I work backwards on the calendar 5 months plus 21 days plus 21 days.  That tells me when I need to have my bucks and does ready to enter the breeding pen aka The Love Shack.  I also like to do a fall detox (which also addresses parasites), which takes about 14 days.  So I count back another 14 days.  Finally, I like to give my does a month on prenatal vitamins and extra nutrient-dense feed (called flushing) to improve the odds of multiple births.  So I add another month to my count backwards.  If my ideal first kid date is April 1, I start the preparation process in September of the previous year.

So this year's schedule looks like:
September - do 14 days of my favorite herbal detoxifier and at the same time start increasing the quality of browse and give a bit more feed.  I save my best browse areas and best hay for this time period, and increase their fats slightly also.
When the herbal blend is finished, I start topdressing a pinch of my favorite chelated supplement in their feed OR I switch from the my favorite chelated free choice browser mix to the a chelated free-choice vitamin mineral mix for horses with trace minerals and fulvic acid blended in.  (5 lbs trace minerals for 25 lbs of browser mix).
At the same time that I am making these feeding and supplement changes, I am tracking the start date of each doe's heat cycle and entering it into a spreadsheet.  This will let me easily predict the doe's cycles when it is time to start the "dating".  I like the kidding spreadsheet offered by Fias Co Farm.

I like my does to go into breeding well-fleshed but not fat, with a body score of about 4-5 before starting the flushing and 5-6 coming to the end of flushing.  This article explains the scoring on a scale of 1-9.

Around the middle of October, it is time to start the first breedings.  I like to have no more than 3 does due to kid the same week, so I can get some sleep and have enough kidding stalls to shelter all the new families.  Each farm can decide what a sane number of births per week is for them.  Hopefully, the heat cycles cooperate and offer me only 2 or 3 does per week for dates.  If more than 3 does cycle that week, some will wait until the next cycle.

Remember, a typical heat lasts 2-3 days.  Heat cycles repeat about every 21 days.  Ovulation occurs at the end of heat.

Now is where the fun starts!  You can actually change the odds in favor of doelings or bucklings, depending on what you prefer to get.
Here's how to select for doelings (if you want bucklings, do the opposite):
Breed before ovulation.  Breed on the first day of heat only, and do not repeat the breeding the next day. Female sperm swim slower and live longer, and will still be around when the doe ovulates. The males will have already made their swim and died before ovulation occurs.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Suggestions you can use to wade through the information on vaccines

I will start of this post by saying that I am very cautious about vaccines in my own animals and myself.  I believe vaccines offer immunity for years, if not for a lifetime, and potentially down the generations as well via the colostrum.  I'm not going to answer the vaccine question for you, or for your animals.  Rather than attempt to sway you to my way of looking at vaccines, I'm offering some definitions and some resources so you can go out and do your own research and make up your own mind.
You can google any one of these words, or combinations of these words, and come back with hundreds of relevant and not-so-relevant websites.  The links I provide will lead you to more links, as well as the names of well-known veterinarians.  Go forth and learn!

Terms like disease, infection, bacteria, virus, sickness, illness, toxoids all get tossed around in conversations about vaccines.  Do you find the terms confusing?  I know I used to.  So let's talk a bit about the labels we use.
Disease:  a disorder of structure or function in a human, animal, or plant, especially one that produces specific signs or symptoms or that affects a specific location and is not simply a direct result of physical injury.
"bacterial meningitis is a rare disease"
synonyms:illness, sickness, ill health; 
Infection:  the process of infecting or the state of being infected.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Feeding time at Oak Hill

For folks with smaller herds, I thought I'd share how I feed here.
I use individual tie stations so I can control the feed and supplements for each goat, plus have a chance to go over each goat daily.
Hay feeders help save the hay, and keep it up off the ground to reduce parasite exposure.  You can find hay feeder designs at   Please comment if you have a favorite feeder design I haven't pinned.
Water is in hard plastic troughs, low enough that babies can stand up and be above the water and climb out easily.  (Babies can easily tip headfirst into buckets and drown)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Prebiotics, Probiotics and Gut Health
Both healthy and unhealthy bacteria are always present in the digestive tract of ruminants. Bacteria are able to go dormant when conditions are not right for them to flourish (this is how bacteria evade antibiotics). In a healthy goat, the helpful bacteria are active and multiplying, and the harmful bacteria are in dormancy.
A healthy gut has the correct pH, food for the bacteria to eat, minimal adrenaline stress, and the goat is not in fight/flight mode. pH has been addressed in a separate thread. Food for bacteria is the "soup" of plant matter making it's way through the gut. Adrenaline stress and fight/flight mode is something we don't hear discussed as much, so I'll expand on that a bit.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Planting forages for browsers & grazers

The first step in planting or replanting your pastures is knowing the land use history.  Talk to your neighbors, they will often be the best source of information. When I bought Oak Hill, the pastures were bare red clay soil, rocks (lots of ironstone) and sparse weeds. Historically, I'm told the land had only been used for hay for many years at least 50 years ago, and then more recently as a very large untended lawn.  The fertilizer history of the land is unknown.  Based on current practices in my farming neighborhood, the land likely had little or no care beyond manure applications.

Your next step is to learn the basics of soil health, as well as understanding why certain plants grow on certain soils.  My first step in replanting Oak Hill was to reread the book Eco-Farm by Walter Fenzau.  Eco-Farm is considered by many to be the basic text on soil balancing, pasture plants, weeds as a soil diagnostic, and many other useful topics that go beyond the conventional Nitrogen-Potassium-Phosphorus (N-P-K) model of farming.  I highly recommend that every farmer read and reread this book.

Next, get soil tests done.  Each plant species grows best under certain soil conditions.  Plant in a soil that doesn't match that plant, and your seedlings will not thrive.  You can get soil tests through your local extension office or from various fertilizer vendors.  I used my local extension office.  Test for pH, the major minerals and carbon.  The soil test results, combined with the weeds currently living on my land, gave me a good indicator of what my next steps to pasture health would be.  I talk in more depth about soil tests and fertilizers in some other posts on here.  This first soil test will be your baseline to judge all your future efforts against, so make sure it is done correctly.

You also need to identify your goals for the land.  Is this supplemental feed?  Their entire food source?  Are you grazing year-round or seasonally?  Do you have dry lots or runways available?  Do you plan to use rotate, and if so, how intensively?  What changes would you like to see in your soil tests to indicate you are on the right track to healthy soil?  Planning strategies for these different approaches is beyond the scope of one blog post.  This should help you start looking in the right direction in your research.  At Oak Hill, the pastures are the primary food source for my goat herd, and a supplement for my horses.  I rotate between 4 sunny fields and 2 woods pens, plus my horses have access to unplanted runways around the perimeter for exercise.  Rotation time varies depending on how fast the plants are growing and how fast the goats are eating.  My goal for the soil health is to see more earthworms and earthworm castings, see improved soil test pH of 6.8 to 7.0, see carbon numbers increase, and get my high potassium numbers down. Other goals are seeing the soil turn a rich dark brown with accumulated humus (organic carbon matter), and have a layer of thatch that allows soil organisms to overwinter with plenty of food and shelter.

Your next step is plan which animals will use the pasture, and know their browsing or grazing preferences.  Internet searches will turn up loads of information about preferred planting for each kind of animal.  I run both horses and goats on the land now.

To address the horse needs first, horses are grazers, and prefer grass species, legumes like clover, and some weeds.  Horses do best when the majority of their diet is well-mineralized grasses.  I did internet searches on horse pasture seeds and found many useful links for seed purchases and reference material. Seedland has basic horse pasture information at  Seedland also put together some helpful charts of forage types at  Horses will also browse on herbs, forbs and the occasional brush.  Possible herbs for horse pastures include Melilot, Fenugreek, Fennel, Lemon Balm, Chicory, Queen Anne's Lace (wild carrot), Dandelion and Chamomile. These herbs will not stand up to heavy hoof traffic.

My pastures were first seeded with a standard horse mix when I bought Oak Hill, before I got my first goats.  This horse mix included red and white clover, timothy, fescue and bluegrass.  Additionally, I have volunteer plantain, dandelions, nettle, crabgrass and wild carrot as well as others.  I save the hay chaff from my hay cart and spread it on the fields weekly, plus my pastures get regular reseeding with timothy and other grasses from the hay chaff that ends up in the manure pile.  (Money saving tip:  Ask your local hay farmer if you can clean and sweep out his hay barn in the spring, in exchange for bagging up the hay chaff and seeds that have piled up.  Wear a mask - there are usually rodent and bird droppings in this dusty residue)

Goats are a nice plant balancer when rotated with horses.  In contrast to horses, goats do best on browse such as legumes (think clover), brassicas (think turnip, kale), herbs, forbs,  weeds, and brush rather than grasses.  After looking up all the possible plants appropriate for goat pastures, I eliminated any that would be bad for horses.  As I already have many goat-appropriate plants growing, I plan to add:
brassicas (I chose kale, in hopes that I can pick some for myself)
purple coneflower
Seed mixes advertised for deer feeding plots are very goat friendly.   If I didn't have horses, I would check with my extension office to see if lespedeza is classified as invasive in my area.  If not invasive, I would add this to a goat-only pasture, as the high tannins are known to help with parasites.

Two additional links that are general for all species:
Hobby Farms - grasses and pasture plants
herbs for pasture

As you are reading through websites and catalogs and textbooks making your seed choices, please be aware of seeds labeled GMO or hybrid.  GMO stands for genetically-modified organism.  There is mounting evidence that genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) are not safe for livestock or humans.  A hybrid is not a GMO.  Hybrids are cross-bred seeds, and perfectly safe.  Many hybrids are an improvement over the parent seeds.  You can read more about the difference between GMO and hybrids at Mother Earth News.

When should you seed or reseed?  Well, that really depends on what you are planting, and are you tilling then planting or overseeding?  Your extension office will be able to advise you on best practices for your area.  My favorite way to overseed is to scatter seed on the frost-heaved ground that happens on spring mornings.  As the sun warms the soil, the heaves thaw and flatten, burying the seeds for you.

A side note on overseeding and no-tillage farming:  I overseed for 2 reasons.  First, my soil is rocky, and plowing just turns up more rocks.  Second, and more importantly, healthy soil is a living organism with distinct layers, and various soil-enhancing creatures living in each layer.  Plowing disturbs these layers and also kills earthworms, making the soil less healthy.  There are some excellent pictures of healthy soil layers on this extension office page.  Think twice, and then think a third time before choosing to till up your soil.  Remember, if your soil has a large population of undesirable plants, you can change your soil chemistry and stop those plants from thriving.  If you plow them under, you have done nothing to change the chemistry, and they will come back.  Weeds are not a mistake, they are nature's way of rebalancing the soil.  Read Eco-Farm.

Thursday, February 27, 2014


All About Goats & Water
by Carrie Eastman

Four major sources for water: 

Rain (captured before it hits the ground - some people may call this Irrigation water) - is only as clean as your air, capture method and holding tanks. In some areas rain water is quite acidic. 

Surface (ponds/streams) - From rain/snow, it runs on top of the ground and any chemicals or poo are mixed in from surface contamination. 

Ground (Well or Springs) - I would expect Ground water (wells or springs) to have the greatest mineral content. Ground Water comes out of water sources under the ground, not underground rivers or lakes - actually more like a spongy diaper. Gravity holds in the water, and rock holds out the dirt. Either you drill down through dirt and different types of rock to get to it (Wells) or the land is worn thin in the spot and it bubbles up (Springs). A water source that bubbles up through pipes on it's own without a pump is a Gravity Well. Which the old folks sometimes called a Deep Spring. Ground water 'recharges' from incredibly slow snow melt and rain trickling through all the rock and dirt to get to what is basically an area with lots of little cracks - like a sponge - that hold the water. Water in most wells is limited in amount to the size of the holding tank it is being pumped into or the size of the natural holding space, called the water table. 

Municipal - Comes from a variety of sources (rivers, wells, reservoirs) and it may have been mechanically filtered, treated with chlorine, ozonation, flocculants or other chemicals such as fluoride - and is piped to your home. Most people would call this Tap water. To the best of my knowledge no municipal water system or sewage treatment plant has found a way to remove hormones and other drugs peed into the system upstream. (This information was based on US Government testing in the last few years and obtained directly from someone involved with the testing and reporting. Nobody is paying attention.)

Last water source, and often overlooked - Cloud or fog. Our pastures remain green at times when our down-mountain neighbors have dry fields. This was taken into consideration when choosing the location. Even if we don't get outright 'rain', we get 'dewed'.

An important point: Anyone using Well water should have it tested - check with your local Extension Service. Some wells need to be cleaned and flushed every year or two. (For those of you in areas where drilling may be occurring, test your water BEFORE they start work to get a base-line. You will need this to prove you had clean water before any drilling or fracking was done. All the testing in the world AFTER drilling and fracking is useless. You'd be amazed at the number of people who drink contaminated water for years and only test it after drilling starts.)

Water can be filtered. sells filters that screw onto the end of a hose, as well as other types of filters.  Ask about their discounted scratch and dent and refurbished models.  The folks at that company have great customer service.  Berkey also makes fantastic water filters.

Many people water their livestock using hoses.  Garden hoses contain lead and chemicals to inhibit algae growth. Potable water hoses are labeled for use for human drinking water, and are usually blue or white.  These hoses are much safer.  Hoses that have sat in sun should have water flushed through them before use, in case of leached chemicals.

Stock tanks and water buckets are made of hard plastic, rubber, or galvanized metal.  In general, the hard plastic is the safest.  Rubber has cancer-causing ethoxyquin added in the manufacturing process.  Galvanized metal can leach metals into the water, especially if the water is acidic.

Water can also be cleared energetically.  Sounds pretty whoo-hoo, yet I've seen it work.  Dr Emoto has published a bunch of photos of the ways that water structure shifts in reaction to energy. 

Copyright ©2016 Carrie Eastman.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

2017 update: Help for fleas, ticks, flies, lice and internal parasites - for dogs, horses & goats

updated February 2017

I have reduced my use of chemicals down to a handful of times in the past few years.  Some of my animals have had none at all, some a bit, depending on their immune system.  My goal is to be entirely chemical-free as soon as possible.

I use my eyes, reflex points, surrogate muscle testing and the occasional fecal test to check for parasites.  If I find a parasite issue, I use the same reflex points and/or surrogate muscle testing to check which products clear the issue.

In general, if a chemical is the only solution, I follow the chemical with several days of clay/diatomaceous earth/digestive aid* or montmorrillonite clay*.

Every early spring and late fall (around the first killing frost), I use an herbal detoxification blend* for 28 days for the dogs and horses per label amounts, and for 14 days for the goats at 1/4 teaspoon per 10 pounds bodyweight.  During the herbal liver cleanse, I stop using the basic supplements other than my favorite prebiotic*

This is an excellent reference article on parasites.

If the animal has signs of anemia or I suspect internal bleeding from the parasites, I use a liquid trace mineral concentrate*.  For a 1000lb horse, I use 30 drops/day for 2 weeks, longer if needed. For a 60lb goat or dog, I use 10 drops/day for 2 weeks, longer if needed.

Species specific tips

Horses - I use the parasite reflex point to look for the issue.  Then use the parasite point and the liver point to identify the product that safely clears the issue (Come to a class with Dr Golob to learn these points, or order his DVD ).  Most commonly, the issue clears with the 7 day herbal* cleanse, "miracle" clay* or a chelated copper blend*.  If I run a fecal, I only consider there to be a problem if the egg count is above 200 per gram.  Contact me for my 7 day recipe.

I have found the herbal detoxifier* orally also helps greatly with lice on horses.  So does dusting with diatomaceous earth, neem oil, and my favorite blend of bug-repellent oils*.

For ticks on horses, I find that generally keeping the horses healthy minimizes their attractiveness to the ticks.  I pick off any ticks that I find.  I use my oil blend* as needed, free range chickens or guinea fowl. I believe the Fly Free bands around the pasterns combines with trimming the tail short enough not to drag the ground also helps.

Should Lyme or West Nile become an issue, please contact me, as there are several holistic protocols that people have found very effective.

Dogs - I use yes/no muscle testing or observation to look for most parasites.  I have the vet check for heartworms annually.  For most internal parasites, I use the herbal detoxifier* at the higher label dose for 7 days as needed.  For external parasites, I use my favorite repellent oil blend* as needed when they go outside.  I also rub some neem oil through their fur after every bath.  This is sufficient for my house dogs that are outside a few hours daily.

For tapeworms, a simple mix of shredded raw carrot and kyolic garlic drops in their food for 7 days usually resolves the issue.

For heartworm exposure, add a mix of wormwood and black walnut tincture at 20 drops twice per week on the food during the warm season.

The fly free collar is another option for dogs.

As with the horses, I depend on free-range chickens or guinea fowl to control many of the ticks.

Goats - I use yes/no muscle testing, clumpy poo, weight loss, gum color as indicators of a potential problem.  I also just observe, as external parasites are easy to spot.  I use yes/no muscle testing to confirm my observations and determine the solution.  I surrogate test my own liver point to check the safety of the solution.

Here is an extensive blog entry on goat parasites.

This is an article about using lespedeza grazing to control parasites in goats.  (Lespedeza is not especially palatable for horses)

During the warm months, I will potentially use diatomaceous earth, pumpkin seeds, clay, a copper boost (not bolus), homeopathics or the herbal detox blend* at 1/4 tsp per 10 lbs bodyweight twice daily for 7 days.  Do NOT use the herbal blend on pregnant does!

The Fly Free collar is another option for goats, although not practical for large herds.

For lice, my favorite repellent oil blend* works miracles, not only repelling the adults but smothering the eggs as well.  I also dust with diatomaceous earth for lice.

Product Links

* for my favorite products or or for fly traps and Fly Free collars and bands

bugRIGHT for nematodes to locate a local food-grade diatomaceous earth distributor

Would you like to learn how to muscle test?  Need some help choosing the best approach for your animals?  Contact me!

Copyright ©2016, 2017 Carrie Eastman.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

Lena. Dental health - how to check your horse

(Originally posted on 09/02/13)  When working with a new horse, I always look at hooves and teeth right away, followed by a body assessment. When Lena first came home, she was showing some pain around her tmj (temporomandibular joint). The tmj is the most critical joint in the body in many ways. It is the only paired joint in the body, meaning when one side moves the other has to move. Symmetry is critical. Many of the proprioceptive nerves originate in the first few vertebrae of the spinal cord, and tmj stress affects these nerves. Tmj function affects the entire spine and sacrum. So balancing the jaw and teeth are critical to healthy nerves and movement. I use Krystin Dennis at HorseFloss for all my horses' dental care. Krystin found some points and also had to adjust Lena's upper incisors, which were too long and angling forward. Overall, Krystin said Lena has an excellent healthy mouth.

So how is your horse's mouth?  Does your horse's face have imbalanced muscle development in the forehead?  Are your horse's cheek muscles tight or sore?  Is your horse sensitive around the tmj?
How about inside your horse's mouth?  Do the incisors line up?  Do the incisors easily slide past each other if you raise and lower your horse's head?  Are there obvious hooks at the corners of the last incisors?  Does your horse obviously favor one side when chewing?
If you answered yes to any of these, it's time for the dentist!

There are some simple muscle releases that relieve pain and restore correct movement, after your horse's teeth have been done.  Contact me and I'll teach you how!

Copyright ©2016 Carrie Eastman.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration or American Veterinary Medical Association, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Always consult your veterinarian about any changes to your animal’s health program.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A stroll up the runway hill.

At Oak Hill the horses use runways for exercise, and pastures just for eating.  You can read more about runways and runway design at

Footing for pens and corrals

Screenings ready to spread
Dry, well-drained, clean footing is important for both the goats and the horses. At Oak Hill, we put down several tons of screenings in the horse corrals and sheds, the exercise pen and the goat night pens.
The skidloader made quick work of spreading the screenings
One side benefit of the screenings is that the horses and goats self-trim on this abrasive footing.
In the corral and shed
The other corral and shed
The goats' night pen
Another goat pen
feels pretty good on my feet too...