It's T-minus one week until we start the trip home from Florida, but of the many, many things I learned this year, some were equipment-related. Every year I get better and better at living the Floridian life: what stuff to bring, what products to use. And it's important, because I'm pretty convinced that there is no place on the entire North American continent worse to keep a horse than South Florida.
Here are some of my 2013 season essentials.
1. Pellet bedding. We use it at home, but in Florida seasons past, I'd used shavings. This year, I used the pellets, and WOW, what a difference. They're crazy easy to pick manure out of, which makes stall cleaning a snap. They're less wasteful, which is cheaper than shavings. Mostly, though, they're highly absorbent, and in a climate as damp and nasty as Florida, I think that's huge. I hesitate to say this until horses and I are safely across the state line, but this has been the lowest year for crud-related issues ever. And I think it's my bedding choice.
2. Mouthwash. Yes, mouthwash. The amount of funk down here—in the soil, in the air and in the water—will knock your socks off. I use mouthwash to clean buckets everywhere, but I especially like it down here. It kills germs and other nasty wee beasties, but it isn't repulsively, disgustingly toxic. I'll even use it on the horses as a brace for the legs, if there's a lot of funk going on.
3. Equiwinner. Fender has anhydrosis; he doesn't sweat. I've managed it strategically for the years we've spent together by riding him in the mornings and turning out later in the day, but with shows on his dance card for this year, I knew I needed a new plan.
Enter the Equiwinner patch. Don't ask me how it works because I couldn't tell you. It's a patch, a sticker, really, with these two hard plastic knots on it. You put it on your horse's butt for a day, then take it off and replace it with another one. You do this for 10 days. And you're starting to think it's voodoo, when lo and behold, your horse starts sweating. Crazy. Fender sweats almost normally now!
4. Horse Quencher. No matter how well your horse sweats, the water down here is funky. Some of the horses will go off the water for the first day or two in Florida. A scoop of Horse Quencher gets them drinking again.
5. Tall socks. Inevitably, one of the horses gets a little scrape, or a little leg funk. Bandaging is never fun, but especially here, where the skin irritation caused by vetwrap or Elastikon (you know, the stuff you use to cover the wound, which then goes and causes another wound. Ugh.) can flare up new levels of funk.
I've started using knee-high socks, retired from my own collection, as bandaging. It's certainly not sterile, so for a large wound it wouldn't be the thing, but for all the little bumps and scrapes, it's perfect. And they're fun!
6. Ultra Balancer. I just paid—OMG, I'm getting the shakes as I write this—$17 for a bale of acceptable, not amazing, hay. Grass down here looks more like astroturf, and it doesn't grow well in the winter. And for my easy-keeper horses, where a diet of hay and grass is mostly enough, down here, they don't get the nutrition they do at home. I feed Pennfield's Ultra Balancer, a ration balancer designed for easy keepers, because I know that it'll back up the nutrition they're getting from the minimal forage available. And like all Pennfield feeds, the quality is unparalleled.
7. Equilibrium boots. Once again, the Floridian funk facilitated the need for a boot I could hose off every day. The fleece-lined boots that we use at home just pick up the dirt, sand and permeating ick that South Florida has to offer, but these guys are lightweight and quick to dry after their daily hosing. And they wear like iron—the sets I picked up last year still look new two seasons later.