Scratching Posts

Originally installed as a tie point for grooming and hoof cleaning, this post is now used for scratching and rubbing.  It’s a 4 x 6 treated timber 8 foot long, cemented about 30 inches into the ground.

The metal loop at the top is known as a ‘shoulder nut ring bolt.’  The eye (above the ring) has been polished by these guys.


Tie points should be high enough and lead ropes short enough so the horse can’t step on the rope or get his leg over it.  If you’ll be around while he’s tied, then maybe you can give him a little more slack.  See if you can get him to stand quietly without tieing while you clean his feet.

If circumstances are such that you want to be able to untie him quickly, try the bank robber’s knot:

Rural Water Systems – Repairs

If water gets to your horses by way of PVC pipe, you’ll want to keep some tools and parts on hand for leak repairs, such as

  • Valves
  • Fittings
  • Adapters
  • Primer and glue
  • Sticks of pipe
  • Measuring tape
  • Pencil or marker
  • Hacksaw
  • Sandpaper or knife

Get parts for the various line sizes at your ranch (3/4″, 1″, etc).  Keep these items in a dry place and away from sunlight.


Before you glue anything, make sure the parts are clean and dry.  Remove rough edges from where the pipe was cut.

If the leak is underground in a straight run of pipe, you won’t be able to replace the faulty section directly.  Instead, reroute the line with some elbows, to create a flexible loop that reconnects to the old pipe at the points where you first cut into it.


You can also install a tee and riser to provide a branch connection for future use.

If your system uses copper tubing, you’ll want to keep the same assortment of fittings and valves, along with a cutter, propane torch, solder, and flux.  Copper tends to be more durable than PVC so you probably won’t be making many repairs.  But pipe fitting and soldering take a little more skill compared to PVC.

Don’t forget to order a spare bulb for your UV unit.  It should be replaced annually.

A Word about Hand-Feeding Your Horse


It’s a great way to corrupt your relationship, leads to bribery.

Do you have to bring cookies to catch him in pasture?  To put on a halter?  Might as well place a sticker on your forehead that says KICK ME I’M LOWER.

Watch the video on the Oatman burros, especially the action from 2:22 to 2:38 where the burro is a bit too aggressive.  Do you identify with that woman?  Who’s moving whose feet?

You want your horse to see you as his leader not a walking talking vending machine.

You want him to come to you respectfully and pay attention, not frisk you with his nose.

Don’t set an expectation of food when it’s time to work.

If you want to give him carrots, cookies and apples, put them in his grain bucket.


Rural Water Systems – Power

Your water system should have a back-up power source, such as a generator.  If the pump in your well can’t run, you only have what’s in your pressure tank(s).  And the power will probably go out when you’re just a few psi above the low setpoint of the pressure switch.

Ideally, the generator would be large enough to serve everything at your ranch, which means 15 to 20 kW in size.  A smaller unit, say 10 kW, might require some load shedding before startup.

You’ll have to install a transfer switch to prevent back-feeding the power company.  It can be manual or automatic.


If your generator can carry the full load of your ranch, the transfer switch can be automatic, along with startup of the generator.

A manual switch lets you reduce load before starting the generator.   The sequence might look something like this (power already out):

  1. Move lever on transfer switch to neutral position
  2. Open main breaker from power company
  3. Reduce load as needed (e.g., open breaker to water heater, turn off A/C units)
  4. Start generator and let it run a minute or two to warm up
  5. Move lever on transfer switch to generator position

At this point lights should come back on, the refrigerator should run, and your pressure tanks should refill when the low setpoint is reached.

When power is restored (numbers appear on face of electric meter), the sequence might be:

  1. Move lever on transfer switch to neutral position
  2. Allow generator to run a few minutes to cool down
  3. Turn off generator
  4. Restore loads
  5. Close main breaker from power company
  6. Move lever on transfer switch to power company position

Load has now been transferred back to the power company.  If your generator has a fuel tank, top it off so you’ll be ready for the next outage.  Keep several five-gallon containers of fuel on hand and store in a safe location.

One way to keep electric demand low (and get by with a smaller generator) is to have ‘fired’ appliances, such as your water heater, furnace, cooktop and clothes dryer.  Fuel can be natural gas (if available at your location) or propane.  A stove that burns wood or pellets is another option.

A ‘poor man’s version’ would be to install the transfer switch at the panel that feeds the pump and connect a portable generator there.  Allow 2 kW for a 1 HP pump, 4 kW for 2 HP pump, etc.  It won’t power anything else but at least your horses will have water.  The UV unit in your treatment system will be inactive, and the softener will not regenerate if it has electric controls.

Always make sure the exhaust from the generator is routed to a safe location.  Never run it inside an occupied space such as a house or barn.

You can buy a trickle charger for the battery in your generator to make sure it’s ready to go when you need it.


Two basic types:

  • Bow
  • Swing

Here’s an example of each, side by side.  Bow on the left, swing on the right.


A six foot bow gate with one-hand latch gives you easy access when you’re entering the corral with halters or fly masks in the other hand.  Also gives you quick access to the poop pile when dumping the wheel barrow.  Place the gate so the latch is on the outside of the corral.

The latch has a slider and keeper.  To open the gate, flip the keeper up (on the right in the following photo) and pull the slider to the open position.  The gate will swing freely in either direction.


If you are new to horses or are in the process of gentling some mustangs, always open the gate inward.  Pull the slider open, push the gate in a few inches, then move the slider back to the closed position.  If a horse approaches the gate as you enter and pushes, it will swing back and hit the bow, stopping it from flying open, knocking you to the ground, and setting your horses free.  (This is one way your horse tells you he thinks you’re lower, that he doesn’t have to listen to you.  It’s not a problem of smacking him and showing him who’s boss, it’s a problem of relationship.  Yes, you may have to turn up the pressure for a while until he comes to you respectfully, the same way he would to a higher horse in his band.)

Unlike bow gates, swing gates are usually not furnished in a frame.  You’ll have to cement 6 x 6 posts to hang them.  Once they’re in place, you can bring in fill material with your tractor to create a dry space in the corral.  Twelve feet wide should work.  Orient the hinge post so the dead weight of the gate will not bend it (lines of grain parallel to gate in closed position).


You’ll also have to supply a latch for the gate.  It can be mounted on the 6 x 6 post opposite the hinges.  In the following example, you can reach through the gate to lift the inside keeper and push the gate open.  If a horse pushes back or the wind blows it toward you, the outside keeper will stop it from flying open.  It’s a great safety feature.


The latch will also allow the gate to open outward (not recommended unless you have halters on your horses and are taking them out to pasture or going on a ride).  Some gates are furnished with chains for added security.

Avoid gates with chains only, no latches.  They require two hands to secure properly.

Here’s another view of the two gates.  Note the absence of 90 degree interior corners.


If you will be leaving your ranch for a few hours or retiring for the evening, check your gates to make sure they’re properly latched.  And don’t think your horse won’t notice if they aren’t.  If he doesn’t hear the ‘clink’ of the keeper dropping into position when the gate closes, he’ll probably walk over to investigate.  If it’s the outside keeper, pasture is just one push away!

Opening and closing gates is not complicated.  But on a ranch you’re doing that many times a day so it’s easy to mess up, especially when you’ve got a hundred other things on your mind.

Rural Water Systems – Treatment

Now that you have water at the surface and under pressure, should you send it directly to your horses?  To answer that question, take a sample to your water treating supplier or lab that specializes in domestic water sources.

Your sample will be tested for three characteristics:

  • Suspended solids
  • Dissolved solids
  • Microbes

Suspended solids are small particles that make your water look cloudy.  These can often be removed by settling and/or filtration.

Dissolved solids, sometimes referred to as ‘hardness,’ are minerals that leave a white residue on things when the water evaporates.  The most common types are calcium and magnesium.  They can’t be removed by filtration but can be removed by ion exchange (a.k.a. softening).

Microbes, such as bacteria and algae, can make your horses sick.  They can be killed by UV radiation or bleach.

The treatment process usually begins with a filter, which removes suspended solids from the incoming water.  As silt and sediment accumulate in the filter, pressure loss goes up and water flow goes down.  If your water buckets are filling slowly, check this filter, it may be time to replace the element.

You’ll want to keep spare filters and O-rings on hand.  Dirty elements can be cleaned and reused once or twice.  You can buy filters and parts at vendors like this one.

Softening is the next step in the treatment process.  Most units have a resin bed with brine tank.  The resin has millions of tiny beads which initially hold particles of sodium.  Water flowing across the bed picks up sodium from the resin and loses calcium and magnesium.

Eventually, the resin becomes full of calcium and magnesium, which are displaced by sodium in the regeneration cycle.  Salt in the brine tank provides the sodium.

A problem with single-bed units is timing of regeneration.  The control panel lets you decide when that happens, usually at night when water use is low.  The bed may or may not be exhausted at that time.

In the summer, you’ll be putting out more water for your horses, spraying them down for cooling, washing out your trailer, etc.  You may run out of soft water before the unit regenerates.  That problem can be avoided with a dual-bed system.

Keep in mind that soft water still contains dissolved solids and may leave a residue if the water is allowed to evaporate completely.

Next in line is a charcoal filter, which improves taste and removes odor.  Unlike a softener, this unit can’t be regenerated; it must be dumped and refilled with new media or receive a new cartridge.  A ‘whole house’ unit may run for several years before needing service.

The softener and charcoal bed may be followed by another filter which removes fine particles from the water.  Elements in this unit may be rated for 5 microns, whereas the filter at the beginning of the train may be around 20 microns.  The rating tells you what size particles the element will catch.  A micron is a thousandth of a millimeter.

The last step in the treatment process is microbio control.  A rural water system will often use an ultraviolet unit to kill microbes before sending water to users.

Although UV radiation is effective at the point of application, it can’t send the kill down the line.

If microbes were present before you installed the unit, they will still be there.  You can treat the entire system by dropping a few bleach tablets into the well.  It only takes a few ppm (parts per million) of bleach to do the job.  Check with your well contractor or water treating supplier.

Your horses will probably be happy with their water at this point.  If you’ll be consuming it, you can install an RO unit under your kitchen sink to provide an additional layer of protection.

In reverse osmosis, water is forced under pressure through a membrane that allows water molecules to pass through but not much else.

The RO unit will likely have cartridge filters in addition to the membrane that should be replaced on periodic schedule.

A problem with some RO systems is waste.  You may have to feed three or four gallons of soft water to get a gallon of drinking water out.  Contaminants held back by the membrane are swept out of the system and down the drain by the ‘missing’ water.

Never send raw water from your well directly to the unit.  Without pretreatment, silt, sediment and minerals will foul the membrane quickly.