Horse owners feeling pain of drought

OLATHE, Kan. - The drought has had its effects on many areas of nature and business, and agri-business is where those two areas come together.

The Radke farm in south Olathe is struggling to care for some expensive four-footed investments.

Earl the dog seems to enjoy running around a small depression on the farm. He used to enjoy swimming there, but now his favorite pond is completely dry.

"It's pretty sad. We've been here for 55 years, and this is the worst drought we've ever had," explained Gail Radke.

So far, the Radkes have been luckier than many farmers. They grow their own hay, and this year they cut it before things got too bad. That gave them a full supply of winter hay for their more than 30 head of Thoroughbred horses.

However, now the pastures have nothing but weeds for the horses to eat. Horses always consume some weeds, but with nothing but weeds growing, grazing in these conditions can cause digestive problems for the Thoroughbreds.

"Right now that's all dormant. It's brown, it's flat, you know and nothing there. And I'm hoping it's just dormant and that it will come back," said Roger Hartmann, Radke farm manager.

"We usually get into the winter hay maybe the end of September, October. And then it's just a little bit at a time, because the pasture's really lush and green," noted Radke.

They have already had to put out 100 square bales and a dozen large round bales of hay, each weighing 1,300 pounds, originally meant for this winter.

The Radkes have given up on a second growing season this fall and are already checking where they can buy hay for early next year.

"If we continue through this drought even in the wintertime, then we are really going to be desperate come February and March," explained Radke.

Radke said she feels sorry for those who don't have the option of growing their own hay and are now paying higher prices for it.

The drought can cause other problems for the horses. The dust can cause eye infections, the hard ground can bring about hoof problems and there is always the chance a horse will stumble in the deep cracks in the ground.

Still, Hartmann's staying somewhat confident.

"We are gonna get some rain. I...I...I'm pretty sure we will," Hartmann said.

The horses, the Radkes and Earl the dog are hoping he's right.

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