Jessie Haas

award-winning children's horse books

BOOKS

The Horse Lover's Encyclopedia
Bramble and Maggie books
Four early readers about a horse and her girl
Early Readers
Help beginners onto that tall horse called Reading. Easy chapter books including Bramble and Maggie
Picture Book
A picture book about the sweet science of maple sugar. Illustrations by Jos. A. Smith
History for children and adults
history for children and adults
Nonfiction horse books
Nonfiction horse books for children and adults
Poetry
Horses from prehistory to today, our ecstatic and tangled relationship with them, and their powerful effect on history, explored in many kinds of poems. YA and As of all ages who love horses and histlry.
Middle-grade and YA novels
Saige, American Girl of the Year Chico's Challenge, Chase
My Stable
e-books and out-of-print editions

The Horse Lover's Blog

Sidestepping Spring Laminitis--It's All About The Micro-Biome

March 28, 2017

Tags: Jessie Haas, the horse lover, the horse lover's blog, the horse-lover's encyclopedia 2nd edition, pasture management, spring laminitis, founder, micro-biome

The pastures are still mostly white and any bare ground is brown, so file this under wishful thinking--but what's the best way to avoid foundering a horse in spring?
I have been doing a bit of research on that, and find that I was laboring under a couple of misconceptions.
One is the assumptionthat by not fertilizing my pasture I was keeping it 'leaner' and safer for the horses. Not so. The sugar is concentrated near the ground in over-grazed pasture, which is why they keep gnawing it down, and how they manage to fatten so handily in the autumn, when it looks like there's no grass left. If I fertilized, the grass would use that sugar for growth, which would also create more fiber. Less of the bad stuff, more of the good.
I don't want to use chemical fertilizer, as it kills soil bacteria which build tilth and carbon in the soil. So I'll be looking into alternatives.
Good things I've been doing forever? Carefully controlling spring grazing, starting with an hour at a time in the morning, and slowly increasing the amount of hours they get to graze. I knew that was important, but did not understand that it was mostly about the bacteria in the hindgut. The ones that digest fructans apparently die out during a winter of eating hay, and need time to repopulate. Gradual adjustment is important. One year I had a brain-fart and let the horses out for four hours their first time out. We all got lucky and there were no bad consequences, but that was not the way to do it.
Grazing in the morning is helpful in spring and fall, when the nights are cold. Sugar production in the grasses peaks in the afternoon and evening during that time. Luckily it's much easier to bring horses in and out during daylight hours. Later in the year, the bugs help me manage grazing time. Horses go out early, and come back to the barn when the flies start to bother them.
Spring grass is low in magnesium. I've been supplementing with magnesium in the spring for a couple of years and will keep that up. But it's time to step up my game on pasture management. I thought the lazy way was the right way, but apparently not. Now to investigate the best organic way to improve pasture.

Horse Pasture Weeds and Soil Carbon

March 6, 2017

Tags: horses, horse lover's encyclopedia, the horse lover, the horse lover's blog, Jessie Haas, pasture management, soil carbon, climate change, founder, laminitis

My newest passion is soil carbon. Soil is where much of the atmospheric carbon that is causing so many headaches came from in the first place, and the good news is that we can put it back, quickly, using a very old technology called plants.
Plants build humus in soil through a process of feeding the bacteria and fungi that support plant growth, in a mutually beneficial cycle. Grazing can help or hurt that cycle. The good news is that permanent pasture accomplishes one main goal of soil-builders--not plowing. Opening the soil up to wind, rain, and sun leaches carbon out rapidly. So our hay fields and horse pasture are doing that much right.
And I feel pretty good about the hay fields with regard to carbon. Half of the field gets only manure, no chemical fertilizer. Fertilizer damages the carbon cycle--basically, the plants stop feeding their micro-organism buddies because they are getting fuel elsewhere, but as fertilizer is applied as a top-dressing, it encourages shallow roots.
The hay fields get lightly grazed in the spring. Pulses of grazing stress the plants in a good way, allowing even more carbon to build in the soils.
My concern is with my pasture, and whether I can afford to do what I would like to do--build carbon--and still keep my horses in good health. The problem with Morgans and Belgians is that they can't stand too much prosperity. Both breeds are prone to laminitis on rich pasture. Ideally I would be dividing my pasture into paddock and rotationally grazing them. But I don't have quite enough pasture during midsummer for that to work. If I bring up the fertility so the grass grows better, will I create a health problem?
This is something I'm committed to studying. The horses' health must come first, but I'd love a way that the soil could also be improved. The good news, for the horses and the soil, may be the weeds. With their deeper taproots, they access more minerals. If I clip them before they seed, they open up the soil as the roots die, reducing compaction. And horses do graze a number of these weeds, sometimes seasonally, which I believe is beneficial to their health. I just read an account from an English breeder of successful race horses, who never fertilized pasture, and believed that a healthy pasture for horses should support 50 weed species. I'll be out there counting this summer, and meanwhile, I'll go on researching. If you have experience in this area, I'd love to hear about it.
Hoofprints; Horse Poems; the jacket art is by Alison D. Rieder.

Keeping Barney, my first novel

Woodgate Martha V.

At the Anderson-Abruzzo International Balloon Museum in Albuquerque

Saige and I presenting at the Mater Christi School


Saige and Picasso, the Spanish Barb horse, beautifully created by Sarah Davis.

Atherton

Atherton and Zeke