If you have a horse, chance are youíll accumulate things in bottles and bags that contain food, medications, grooming aids and supplements. In cleaning out my house for a move, I found lots of these things and I realized I had had some of them for years. And I wondered, which ones should I keep, and which should I toss?
Bottles of Grooming Aids
If youíve got a horse, youíve probably also a collection of hoof treatments, shine sprays, detanglers, soaps, whiteners and other sprays, lotions and powders.
Hoof oils and salves keep a long time. Venice turpentine should be kept a room temperature, but it lasts a very long time without separating or changing. It kills bacteria, but should be kept as clean as possible, which can be a challenge if youíre dipping a brush in, rather than pouring it in another container. Most hoof salves and oils will be stable, even in changes of temperature.
I contacted Absorbine, and they suggested ďfor best results, we recommend that you not use products that are more than five years old.Ē
Bedding will last a very long time and you donít have to worry about nutrient loss like you do with hay. But, any bedding can be spoiled by damp. This can cause molds and bacteria to grow, and that can be bad for your horse. But as long as your bedding, whether that be straw, shavings, wood pellets, shredded paper or anything else, is kept clean and dry, it will keep for a very long time.
Most medications will have an expiry date printed on the label. If you have leftovers of something your veterinarian gave you, youíll want to dispose of them properly. Itís not a great idea to keep old medications around Ďjust in caseí. You might end up giving your horse spoiled or inappropriate medications.
And that stuff you buy off the shelf at the tack shop? Pay attention to expiry dates and even if the expiry date isnít reached yet, toss it if looks or smells different from when you bought it.
Hay actually keeps for a long time as long as itís protected from sunlight and wet. Even if hay is baled dry, it will spoil if it gets damp. This can leach out nutrients and cause mold and bacteria to grow. Sun will bleach it, causing nutrient lose. High quality, properly stored hay can actually keep for years. But, itís hard to store hay in perfect conditions sometimes. Hay should be stored off of dirt or concrete floors so that damp doesnít build underneath. Even hay stored in a loft above a barn full of animals can absorb dampness. But in ideal situations hay can last for years, perhaps decades without losing too much of its nutrition.
How long grain will last will depend on whatís been done with it and how it is stored. Whole oats will last longer than crushed, rolled or crimped oats. Whole oats should last about a year under dry, cool conditions. Once the hull is broken, the nutrients are lost and any natural oils can go rancid. So these should be used within a short time so. You will be able to smell if they have gone bad, because they will have an unpleasant sharp, oily smell. How quickly this happens depends on the temperature. In cold weather, processed grains will last longer due to natural refrigeration. But when the weather is hot, rancidity can occur within a few weeks. This is really noticeable if you have a grain mixed with molasses as the rancidity and fermentation of the sugar gives off a noticeably sour smell.
Tack Cleaning Products
Some of your products may have best before or expiry dates, so check the labels. Most products are very long lasting and even if they separate, can be shaken back into usefulness.
You donít have to keep saddle soap very long in a non-airtight container to learn that it can dry up into a tiny shriveled sliver. I find it is harder, but not impossible to use. You can turn it into a paste by soaking it overnight in a little boiled water. Then itís easier to work up suds and go to work.
There is a slight chance it can go rancid, but pure neatsfoot oil will keep in a sealed container for years. If itís exposed to the air, it will get thicker. Mixed with other vegetable or synthetic oils, it may go rancid over time. Let your nose be your guide.
Petrolatum based ointments and creams will keep a long time, since petrolatum--which in one form is petroleum jelly and in another, mineral oil, is inert. That means nothing can grow in it, like bacteria, and it wonít go rancid. If itís mixed with organic ingredients however, these might go off. Beeswax too, will not go rancid and will not go bad. If it develops a powdery substance, that is called bloom. Itís not mold, and itís not harmful.
Natural supplements without preservatives are best kept in a cool, dry place. Flax seed, like grain, will keep well if itís not crushed. But once ground, which is the best way to feed it to your horse, it will go rancid quickly. Many supplements, natural or not, will have a best before, or expiry date.
So what did I toss? An aerosol bottle of grooming spray I havenít used in ten years went. A few slivers of saddle soap and some wound spray with a soiled, unreadable label also got tossed.
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