Rhody Ranch Galloping Toward Improved Water Quality
By Shelly Dehoff
PA Agricultural Ombudsman Program
In 20 short months, Jody Rhody, owner of Rhody Ranch in Newville, Cumberland County has transformed 40 acres of a 97 acre crop farm into an equine ranch. Her goal for this fall is to have the remaining 50+ acres of crops planted in a grazing mix appropriate for her soil and to meet the nutritional needs of the horses. She also has plans to increase the number of paddocks on the ranch, and increase the frequency of rotation between paddocks.
Jody is a Penn State graduate. She previously worked as a health technician at a Military Entrance Processing Station (MEPS) and owned a real estate business. But, feeling a desire to return to her love of horses, she rented a place and started building her herd, prior to being able to purchase what is now Rhody Ranch.
In November 2010, Jody and her family purchased a crop farm, with plans to create an equine boarding, training and riding facility. Jody feels, "You have to do breeding, boarding and lessons to make it, you can't just do one thing" in this business. And Jody adds, "Quality genetics is a focus" for Rhody Ranch. Rhody Ranch currently houses 35 horses; equally split between boarded and owned animals. One triple-registered American Paint stallion and one American Quarterhorse stallion are available. There are currently 12 boarding stalls, with 7 more planned for the future. Jody, and her barn manager, Kathy, are focused on:
About 35 local children are taught more than just riding at Rhody Ranch. The children and young adults gain confidence through equine lessons and showmanship; and learn responsibility through "work before you can play" opportunities while doing chores, and assisting with construction projects.
Jody wants fellow equine owners to know that "there is technical assistance and money available" as she has discovered. Agencies which offer assistance include local County Conservation Districts, local offices of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), regional PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) staff, the Capital Resource Conservation and Development (Capital RC&D) office, and Penn State Extension. Jody is always willing to use Rhody Ranch for field days, grazing events, as well as equine competitions. "I'm all about education. I want to educate myself too. Let's get others out here and bounce ideas off of each other."
Jody appreciates working with Suzette Truax, NRCS Grazing Specialist, for technical advice related to pasture recommendations to ensure adequate availability throughout the growing season on her shale soils. Suzette will be writing Rhody Ranch's Grazing Plan. A Grazing Plan is a written, individualized grazing management plan outlining any best management practices (BMPs) needed to improve the overall grazing system. NRCS is a federal governmental agency, so assistance from NRCS will not cost a landowner anything. Any BMPs prescribed in the grazing plan could be eligible for cost-share funding, depending on the requirements of various programs. Suzette or other NRCS employees can explain program requirements when they visit your operation.
Regarding quality pastures, Jody says, "I don't think people realize how much money they can save if they have the pasture" which serves as a grazing and hay source when managed correctly. "It's not grain, grain, grain, but the pasture and hay that really helps keep weight on a horse. Horses are natural grazers, they didn't always have grain." And regarding exercise, Jody adds, "Stalling horses isn't good all the time. They need pasture for exercise and play. Those are natural things for horses." While Jody is aware she has more than enough acreage for the current number of horses on the ranch, she advises others that "Rotating horses in a well managed grazing system means people don't need as much acreage."
Jody is working with Kristen Kitchen from Cumberland County Conservation District. Like NRCS, assistance from a Conservation District is not a direct cost to the client. Kristen wrote a Nutrient Management Plan for Rhody Ranch. Kristen will provide technical assistance to Rhody Ranch for a manure stacking pad in the future. Currently, Jody has a pile of manure that she recognizes could use better management, and plans to create a manure stacking pad as funding allows, and is open to ideas for ways to utilize or share the manure in the future. Kristen offered technical assistance for fencing and a watering system that was installed on the ranch recently. Funding for some fencing and the watering system was through a program called Grass Roots: 21st Century Grazing, managed by Capital RC&D.
In September, Elwood Blake from PA DEP, is anticipating utilizing DEP's Chesapeake Bay Fencing Program, to provide streambank fencing and a stabilized stream crossing. The crossing and fencing will limit the horses' access to the stream, but allow access to 15 acres of pasture on the other side of the stream. Currently, the Bay Fencing Program will fund the whole project, if Rhody Ranch agrees to maintain the streamfencing and crossing for a minimum of 10 years. DEP provides assistance as a governmental service, but not all programs provide 100% cost share to the client.
Jody also utilizes Amy Welker, a private agricultural consultant who has assisted with technical advice for walkways, and written stormwater and manure management planning.
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The American Paint Horse's combination of color and conformation has made the American Paint Horse Association (APHA) the second-largest breed registry in the
Each Paint Horse has a particular combination of white and any color of the equine spectrum: black, bay, brown, roan, buckskin, dun, gray, grullo, perlino, smoky cream, chestnut, cremello, palomino, red dun, sorrel, or champagne.
Markings can be any shape or size, and located virtually anywhere on the Paint's body.
Although Paints come in a variety of colors with different markings, there are only three specific coat patterns: overo, tobiano and tovero.
These colors, markings and patterns, combined with stock-type conformation, athletic ability and agreeable disposition, make the American Paint Horse an investment in quality.