Rabbit Agility

Rabbit Agility is an activity we enjoy doing with our rabbits. It consists of several obstacles such as jumps, weave poles, teeter-totters, and bridges set in a circle, and is a timed event. We started training several years ago as a 4-H activity.

Any breed or size of rabbit can be taught the different obstacles in the agility course, but we have found that some rabbits are more athletically-inclined than others. In the above photos, our large Flemish Giant, Duncan, is hopping over the bridge obstacle and through the  window jump. Rabbits must wear a leash and harness, and move voluntarily through the course.

Marshall constructed a new set of agility obstacles for the Madison County 4-H rabbit exhibitors in 2016, and it was selected for the Iowa State Fair. Each day during the Madison County Fair, rabbit exhibitors are invited to practice the course with their rabbits in preparation for competition during the rabbit show.

Our best agility competitor, Tommy, is a breed of rabbit called Tan, which is considered a “running rabbit” breed. With practice, Tommy will move through the obstacles on his own, and really enjoys the physical activity. Other running rabbits breeds include Rhinelanders, Checkered Giants, and English Spots. Running rabbits are energetic and athletic, but generally not snuggly.

Marshall Eddleman, Madison Co. Shooting Stars 4-H Club
Heather Jamison, Madison Co. Fair Rabbit Supt.

The Wonder of Rabbits!

Hello from Clanton Creek Rabbitry! We are a 4-H family involved in raising pedigreed English Lops, Holland Lops, and English Angoras for 4-Hers and rabbit enthusiasts here in Madison County. We have been raising rabbits for over 40 years, and enjoy learning about different breeds and new trends in the care of rabbits. 

If you are thinking about adding a pet to your family this spring, why not consider a rabbit? Rabbits are easy to care for and come in many sizes, colors, and fur types. They can be kept indoors or outside, and are usually easy to litter train. Rabbits can coexist happily with other pets (ours live with dogs and guinea pigs), and can be taught to do tricks.

The diet of a healthy rabbit includes good quality rabbit pellets, plenty of timothy hay, and fresh water. Our rabbits also enjoy treats such as apple, carrot, and pineapple chunks, raw spinach and kale, and blueberries or strawberries. We make a homemade “bunny booster” to add to their daily feed ration that includes old-fashioned oats, black oil sunflower seeds, and calf manna. This combination promotes a shiny coat and a healthy digestive tract. 

We breed our pedigreed does once a year in the spring after they reach one year of age, but it is possible to rebreed does every 12 weeks year round if their body condition remains good.. We have found that many does need multiple tries at motherhood before they become comfortable with it. Hormonal changes can sometimes make does moody, so care must be taken in handling them during breeding season, gestation, and for the first few days after giving birth. 

Baby rabbits are called “kits”, and are born nearly hairless and blind. Smaller rabbit breeds usually have 2-4 kits, but larger breeds (such as our English Lops) can frequently have 10-12 kits. The kits grow rapidly; they are usually covered in soft baby fur by day 3, eyes open on day 10, and eating rabbit pellets at 2 weeks old. Our kits stay with their mothers until they are at least 9 weeks old, although the does usually wean them between 5 and 7 weeks. Siblings stay together until they are are 4 months old, and then we separate the genders to avoid accidental inbreeding.

We would encourage anyone considering adding a rabbit to their family to research different breeds, sizes, and fur types. For example, our Holland Lops are small (3-5 lbs) with gentle personalities, while our English Lops are large (10-15 lbs) with quirky, mischievous attitudes. Our English Angoras are laid-back and easy to handle, but their long wool coats require frequent maintenance. Currently, many of our local 4-H exhibitors enjoy Rex rabbits (Standard or Mini) for their super-soft fur and endless variety of colors and patterns. 

During the Madison County Fair, you will find 4-Hers exhibiting their rabbits in either a 4-class or 6-class format. Fancy rabbits are divided by age into junior does and junior bucks (10 weeks to six months old), or senior does and senior bucks (six months and older) and compete against other rabbits in their breed class. Commercial (meat) rabbits are grouped similarly with the addition of an intermediate class for 6-9 month old animals. This year we are also adding a “pet rabbit” class for rabbits that have been spayed or neutered. 

Rabbits are hardy creatures and require minimal preventative care to keep them healthy. We worm our rabbits seasonally with liquid wormer, and watch for excessive scratching, which can indicate mites. The occasional runny nose or chest congestion (called “snuffles”) is easily treated with oral antibiotics. Their toenails can be trimmed with common fingernail clippers.

Rabbits can thrive in colder weather as long as they have a dry, draft-free environment, and can be comfortable in warmer temperatures with fans, frozen treats, and plenty of fresh water.

In conclusion, here is some rabbit trivia! Did you know that rabbits can growl? Many of my smaller rabbits (especially does) make a grunting noise deep in their throats that sounds like a growl. It can occur when they are happy, hungry, or feel threatened. 

We hope you have enjoyed reading about some of the things we have learned about rabbit-keeping over the years. Thank you! 

Heather Jamison and Marshall Eddleman 
Clanton Creek Rabbitry, Winterset Iowa

Miniature Horses

Have you ever seen those little horses at a show or in a pasture? They melt your heart and are so adorable. Many people think they are only lawn ornaments with no purpose. That is FALSE! I want to share some information with you that may change your mind about these mini’s. The correct terminology is miniature horse not miniature pony. They stem from over 400 years of selective breeding in the lineage of Quarter horses and Arabians. There are a variety of colors. They must stand no taller than 34” and weigh on average 225-350 lbs when full grown. They can have a lifespan of 35 years. The oldest miniature horse on record lived to be over 50 years of age.

Miniature horses can be used in the show ring. There are multiple classes to show these unique animals in. Halter classes judge on the conformation of the miniature horse. They are shown in classes with other miniature horses like themselves. They can be shown in showmanship classes where the judge is judging how the handler shows the miniature horse. They can do obstacle courses in hand. This means that the miniature horse is led around the different obstacles and is judged on how easily the miniature horse moves through the pattern. There may be bridges to cross, gaits to be changed, backing experiences between poles, and other more challenging obstacles.  There are classes for in hand hunter/ jumper, costume, and liberty. The liberty classes are extremely interesting to watch. They show how responsive miniature horses can be to owners that take the time to train them in this freestyle musical class.

Driving is another common class for miniature horses. They can pull up to 3 times their body weight. The miniature horse should be at least 4 years of age prior to starting these competitions to avoid health risks. They can be entered into many different types of driving classes depending on what your preferences are. The training begins at an early age with ground work and it builds from there each year. There are videos available online to show the different competitions for driving classes. I was surprised to see a barrel race driving class and chuck wagon multi-hitch competitions.

The American Miniature Horse Association (AMHA) was begun in 1978. This allowed competitions amongst those who love this amazing creature. These small equines are very calm and adaptable to many different types of classes. If you would like to learn more about these incredible creatures visit the AMHA.

AMHA – American Miniature Horse Association, Alvarado, Texas

In recent years, the ADA allowed miniature horses to be service animals. In the past only dogs could be a service animal. The ADA has made provisions for miniature horses that qualify in the following areas:

  1. They must be housebroken.
  2. They must be under control of the owner.
  3. The facility must be able to accommodate the miniature horse’s size and weight.
  4. The horse’s presence does not present a safety concern for the facility.

If interested in more information about miniature horses and their service capabilities, you can read more about it at this link. 

Miniature Horses as Service Animals – Anything Pawsable

Miniature horses need to have a balanced diet. They should not be overfed since that can cause issues not only with internal organ function, but also increase chances of lameness. As small equines they require the core vaccinations such as Tetanus, Rabies, Eastern and Western Influenza, and West Nile immunization. It is important to do regular dewormings, hoof care, and teeth floating. They can develop a dense winter coat, so it is important to monitor their weight during the winter months. It can be difficult to see weight loss with that heavy coat. They enjoy hay and grain just like the larger horses but be certain to consult with someone experienced with mini horses to help you know what volume is appropriate for them.

Many years ago when my kids were younger, my father decided to bring these adorable miniature horses to his place. My daughters got to enjoy an afternoon of loving on them. They were so excited to be able to interact with them. We had seen them in pastures before but were never able to interact with them. I could not resist a photo opportunity.

If you are looking for a unique family pet, miniature horses can fit the bill. Be careful though…just like dogs….it is hard to have just one.

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