"The secret to happiness is freedom and the secret to freedom is courage."
Friends, freedom, forage, best describes our philosophy and methods at Winsome Meadows.
Friends.... what does that mean? Well, of course that means they have other horses in their environment, the ability to play, run, groom - a herd environment.
A herd environment means friends, but also manners. Manners with other horses, allowing our young horses to ease into new environments with new horses.
The benefit of herd manners doesn't just stop there, though! Horses see us as part of their herd, and when taught manners by their dams and other equine herd mates, they translate quite well into manners when being handled by humans.
Our horses are placed in small herds that get along well. Young horses are kept with other young horses with suitable older horses to learn from. Our ideal is that the older horse tasked as the "babysitter" will teach the young horses manners in the herd and equine body signals, as well as confidence.
Horses that are taught manners from the start are set up for a lifetime of opportunities and safe landings because they are easy and enjoyable to be around in the barn... constantly making new friends along the way!
Freedom, and freedom from, are equally important.
Freedom - to move, play, and be a horse. It is extremely important for horses of all ages, and especially young horses to have turnout. Large turnout. Turnout where they can run and play, but most importantly to wander. Horses that are fed and watered in close proximity in a paddock will move very little compared to horses that are fed away from water and in many areas. In the summer, lush irrigated pastures makes this easy and we see our horses move around constantly. During the winter, our horses are fed in multiple areas around their fields to ensure they move as close to a natural amount as possible. This works incredibly well as we see them graze and sample each pile of hay. Our free choice method of feeding from birth works exceptionally well and our horses are fantastic at self-regulating their feed intake.
Freedom from... pain, hunger, thirst, the elements, we could go on. There are many considerations when breeding, foaling, raising and keeping horses. A domesticated horse relies completely on their human to provide and care for them.
Our mares enjoy a mare-centric breeding program. This includes our on-farm breeding services keeping them and their foals comfortable and stress-free at home. Our reduced hormone dosing reduces cramping and discomfort with pain medication after foaling to ensure the mare's ultimate comfort. All complete with friends throughout their pregnancies and time with their foals at side, our mares' physical and mental health are always at the top of our mind in our program.
Forage and nutrition are very important to us.
To us, forage means carefully monitored free choice quality hay. Feeding free choice hay from birth allows our foals to self-regulate and never feel as though they must finish their hay quickly to avoid their herd mates from eating it, or becoming hungry. Our foals maintain a healthy, lean weight naturally and are able to determine when they need to eat more as their body grows, or slow down for a bit. This feeding method helps to prevent young horses from learning any stable vice. In older horses with learned vices - it helps to reduce or completely eliminate the time they spend doing their vice.
Our nutritional program does not stop at quality hay, though. All of our horses benefit from a well researched nutritional plan specific to their (ever changing) requirements.
As with any Warmblood breeder, we are very aware of concerns with our young horses growing too fast and developing osteochondritis dissecans (OCD). While this is important, it is also extremely important that the young horse be supplemented with the appropriate ratios of vitamins, minerals and essential amino acids for the development of their bones, tendons, ligaments and muscles. In utero nutrition is also very important, as research indicates that poor maternal nutrition results in potential lifelong implications on the resulting foal's health.
Reference: M. Carey Satterfield, PhD; Josie A. Coverdale, PhD; Guoyao Wu, PhD. Review of Fetal Programming: Implications to Horse Health
Equine healthcare is forefront in our breeding program at all times. We have a wonderful relationship with our veterinary team as well as other industry professionals, such as Heart in Hand Equine Therapy. Bodywork is incredibly beneficial for all ages of the horses in our herd. Broodmares get worked on as needed throughout the year. We ensure they are treated after foaling to make sure they are well aligned after the demanding task of carrying and delivering their foal. Some foals also benefit from gentle bodywork and we are privileged to have a local practitioner that specializes in this!
Our breeding program is unique in that Bridgette does all of our ultrasounding, artificial insemination and other reproductive procedures. This benefits the mares and foals by keeping them stress-free in their usual environment without the need to haul to vet clinics and risk exposure to diseases and undesirable stabling. The foals also gain additional positive handling while their dam is in the breeding shed for reproductive procedures.
Farrier care is also provided by Bridgette and foals receive farrier care for the first time within the first month of life. Uneven wear can cause foals to develop misalignment of the legs, even when born straight, so it is imperative that foals receive frequent hoof care as they grow and develop. Bridgette has experience in fitting foal cuff shoes to correct angular limb deformities and tendon laxity.
Our horses are checked multiple times a day for injury, illness and overall wellbeing. This has allowed us to catch problems quickly and seek veterinary care immediately to ensure a positive outcome. We know our horses as individuals and each horse's normal is well known to catch any potential illnesses right away.
We carefully watch and attend to all of our mares during foaling to ensure that we can assist the mare with any potential problems such as dystocia, red bag, and retained placenta. Our mares get a mash post-foaling to replenish energy and to thank them for their hard work. Once the placenta is passed, she is given a dose of Banamine to help with any pain she may be experiencing. We test the mare's colostrum with a refractometer and ensure that the foal suckles sufficiently. Finally, we ensure the foal passes the meconium before leaving the mare and foal alone to bond while we watch via our barn cameras.
Our facility is located in the beautiful Sunshine Valley of Merritt, British Columbia. We have built our facility with the horse's best interest and comfort in mind.
Our modest 6 stall barn is equipped with removeable stall dividers that allow us to set up large foaling stalls with attached paddocks. Our stalls are large enough to allow us to keep horses in need of stall rest comfortable and happy.
South of the barn, we have several large paddocks with shelters for small groups of horses to either be turned in at night, or when the pasture needs resting, short term housing for all of our herd.
To the east, we have two 4 acre irrigated pastures that we are able to use nearly year round, which accommodates all of our horses. Surrounding our pastures is a track, this services multiple purposes as riding, turnout as well as biosecurity division from any neighbouring animals.
We also have a large 120' x 230' outdoor arena with excellent sand footing for starting young horses, free jumping, and additional safe turnout if needed due to inclement weather.
Our horses enjoy state-of-the-art Drinking Post waterers which offer clean, tepid water year round, and of course top quality locally produced hay from trusted farmers to ensure we know what is in our hay.
Our horses, but especially our broodmares, are treated like queens. After all, they give everything they have to us and our program!
Each of our horses are loved as the individuals they are. We select horses that are a pleasure to have in the barn and that is what we wish to produce for our clients. Every horse has their own preferences, for feed, friends, turn out, living situation, and possibly most importantly... scratching spots.
Bridgette's old show horses, Whinny and Lunar are retired on the farm, in fact, Whinny's show name, Winsome Dream, is our farm's namesake!
We also retire our broodmares here. It may not be the best business plan, especially since older horses require more expensive feed and frequent veterinary care, but it is what we believe in and wouldn't have it any other way!