Our farm is located in Northeastern Washington State on 500 beautiful acres of the valley bottom. You can reach our farm about and hour and a half north of Spokane and south of Chewelah right on Highway 231.
Our property is still under construction, as it has not been used for horses prior to our acquisition in summer of 2019.
We have approx. 40 acres in alfalfa, which we usually take two cuttings a year off and approx. 400 acres in grass mix for one cutting. Our horse set up is limited to 16 acres due to wet land easement restrictions. Nonetheless we have open fields for hacking and access to timber land for trail riding in the mountains. Besides our riding options right off our property, we trailer regularly during the year to Riverside State Park Equestrian Area in Spokane, to the Columbia River for beach riding and Rustlers Gulch in Deer Park..
We are currently in the process of converting our steel building into an indoor riding arena, which will be finished 108' x 66' clear span with a 20' lean-to with stalls. In late fall 2021 we have started the process of carving out/filling our outdoor arenas. Our big outdoor arena with mountain view is 220' x 100' and can comfortably be used for dressage, jumping and driving. Our small outdoor arena behind the indoor arena will get finished as 140' x 85' and will be the ideal size for free movement. starting young horse and for setting up Dualactivation courses.
Our mares are kept in small herds (2-4 horses) according to their nutritional needs and friendships. Not every horse gets along with everyone else (same for humans!) and for us it is important to have relaxed, friendly and calm herd dynamics.
We have a lot of different feed program and management styles between youngstock, open mares in training, bred mares, performance horse and stallions. We try to achieve the balance between providing a natural herd dynamic and environment, which is especially important to young horses, and giving each horse the individual care and attention they need.
Our foals grow up together with other mare/foal pairs. While enjoying the protection of their mothers, they will learn to socialize with agemates and develop friendships at a very young age. Foals will start learning boundaries from other mothers, who are firm but fair and are teaching the youngsters to read body language and herd behavior.
We usually wean our foals earlier compared to industry standards. After 3-4 months the milk of the mares is not really nutritional any longer and is more a comfort food for the foals than anything else. However, the mares with growing foals are loosing more substance that they can recover. Bringing the mares back in good shape and condition would therefore be more difficult and taking longer than necessary, if weaning would happen later than 4 months.
Our foals are getting supplemented with a wet mash from birth, which makes the transition off milk for them a lot easier. At weaning age, the foals have already developed a strong bond to the other foals and find it more upsetting to get separated from them, than their mothers.
Our foals stay in their weanling group during the first winter, so that we have a closer eye on their development and nutritional needs. In groups with older horses, which eat a lot faster and are more food aggressive, the youngsters will not get all the food and nutrition they need to develop properly. During bad weather (rain/snow) our foals spent their first winter in our small indoor arena where they can lay down in dry sand and run, play and interact with the other foals. We do not like to stall them individually at such young age.
When the conditions allow, the foals go outside on 24/7 access to quality grass hay and supplemental alfalfa. We avoid feeding our young horse with slow feeders/nibble nets, as it has a drastic impact on bad head/neck/poll posture, is unnatural and consumes too much time to provide these youngsters with enough forage that it cuts into the so important sleeping and socialization time. Because of the bad impacts of slow feeders we try to avoid these with all age groups as much as possible and feed instead at ground height in tubs and on mats.
In spring, the yearlings will be turned out in big turnouts with the foals from the/ previous couple years, who are not in daily training and still enjoying their childhood. We can't stress enough how important it is to let young horses run, play and grow up like horses and not be micro- managed and humanized! Friends, Forage and Freedom is the key to successful grow out well socialized and healthy young horses.
Natural horsemanship techniques are all based on copying herd behavior and while young horses can be fun to play with, they are not toys for personal entertainment and should not be treated like such!
Our youngsters are not getting trained on a daily based, but are receiving daily attention, which includes cuddles, grooming and leading. The two year-olds are getting ponied out on trails and do some lunging and groundwork. In 2021 we took a couple two year-olds to the National Mountain Trail Championship indoor trail course in Eugene, OR for in hand training on obstacles, something we certainly plan to repeat in the future.
Our stallions are not living together, but are also not shut out from the world around them. While our stallions are getting stalled in extreme weather, they spend most of the time in their paddocks outside. They have a double run-in-shelter, automatic frost free waterers and a very generous dry lot for a single horse at approx. 100' x 120' with attached pasture for grazing, which doubles their total area when opened up.
Every stallion has mares in the paddocks next to them, so that they are the center of attention, which they truly enjoy. Occasionally, we will turn the stallions out with the mares next to them for additional grazing time, but due to breeding and being used for performance, our stallions have higher nutritional needs than most of our mares, making it not fair to them to keep them together with mares full time. However, they appreciate being treated like horses and be able to socialize with others.
Our stallions know that they are not the only stallion on our property, but have learned to tolerate the others. We can trailer them together for lessons and have them stalled in the barn without problems. We surely appreciate our stallions dispositions and think that our management is part of this success.
In general our Fjords live outside, but we do stable our horses on occasion. For example, we stable our mares close to their due date to be able to watch them 24h on a foaling camera. For the first couple days our mares and foals stay in oversized stalls to keep the foals in a safe environment and where they can't get too far away from their mothers. The stalls give great protection from intense sunshine, wind and other elements, making it most comfortable for mom and baby. The mothers stay more relaxed in a smaller space without worrying that their foals get away or of being taken away by a different mare. This ultimately strengthens the mother-foal relationship and keeps the stress level down for everyone.
We stable our horses during bad weather and despite a lot of people's impression, they do love to come into their stalls. The benefits of stalling is that they have a warm dry space and we can adjust the feed more individually. As such, they love to come in and get pampered, but are also excited to get back out and roll in the mud.