Category Archives: Hints on horse care

Helpful tips prompted by events on my yard and beyond

Retirement. A question.

I wonder how many ‘retired’ horses there are in the UK. We have two on this yard: Twinkle and Paddy. Twinkle’s ‘swep-up’ name is Cwmbern Llygad y Dydd. She is a Welsh Cob, by that grandest of horses, the late Nebo Daniel, and out of our dear Cwmbern Angharad, herself a diamond mare in her time. Twink has had a busy working life, doing riding and driving, teaching, carnivals and weddings, not to mention breeding three foals. She is twenty five now. She is rather stiff and has hardly any teeth left at the front, but as long as the grass is long (and it is) she copes quite well and still keeps us all in order.

Twinkle last summer.

Twinkle last summer.

Goodness only knows who Paddy’s parents were! He is a bay Conni, bought from the Emerald Isle as a youngster, and acquired for our friend Elin when she wanted to do Pony Club. He is the go-to man for all handy pony activities, and is still the first choice to ride, when we are moving horses down the road from the top field. Paddy is a bit younger than Twink. His age is something of a grey area – rather like his eyebrows and forelock these days. He is pretty fit and well and enjoys the best fields with Twink during the winter.

Paddy with Bramble

Paddy with Bramble

Twinkle enjoys being a part of things and we are lucky that there is plenty of room here. She can be kept out at long grass, with a cosy rug and booster feeds when the weather is cold. Although she adored being stabled when in full work, that regime does not fit her now. She is a real outdoor girl and can now make the most of plenty of acres. Paddy is a bit the same – they are both true natives and so their current state of retirement suits them well.

We are lucky, and so, perhaps, are these two horses. But if they became infirm and were clearly not able to enjoy their lives, we would certainly think again. Certain decisions have already been made: ever-increasing vet insurance has been discontinued because there is a limit to how much treatment we would wish them to endure. We keep a piggy-bank for their basic veterinary needs and we never stint, but box-rest for months? We think that would be cruel. Major surgery? We definitely think not! And as for months and months on medication – well, how do you explain to a horse that he MIGHT feel better in a year’s time?

This yard has kept horses for over fifty years now. Back in the day, the issues were all to do with safe foalings, careful handling of youngsters and sometimes hitting the ground at speed! With an ageing population on the yard, the emphases have altered in a subtle but definite way. We are still all about preserving life and caring for well-being, but these days we must be pragmatic about the quality of that life. We want our pensioners to wake up to see the sunrise every morning, but only if they are occupied, contented and free from suffering and boredom.

It’s all a matter of putting your horse’s welfare before your own feelings. If you are the owner of an old or infirm horse, just do me a favour and answer this question, hand on heart.

Quality or quantity?

 

Tim’s Wish on National Poetry Day

Tim browsing

 

I got myself a winter coat

It’s brown and white and warm

These autumn mornings bring a chill

Tomorrow brews a storm

 

I’m in with friends this morning

A diet needs routine

Hooli’s been out working

And Tawny’s looking mean

 

There’s apples in the tackroom

To be shared out for us

But Tawny’s always wanting more

And making quite a fuss

 

We have a happy life here

Our friends are just up there

Our fields are safe and sheltered

And we rarely have a care

 

I wish a safer winter

To all my needy friends

Who wander far and hungry

And wonder what life sends

 

Those funny little weanlings

So cute all summer long

Will shortly go to market

And move on for a song

 

They won’t forget their mothers

For many a hungry week

They don’t know how to cope alone

It’s only milk they’ll seek

 

It’s tough out on a tether

When the novelty wears off

With a collar sore against your neck

And worms that make you cough

 

I wish an end to starving

And neglect and freezing cold

For those who have no winter coat

No food, no pot of gold

 

I wish a happy ending

For all my friends out there

A sheltered field, a happy life

Some tender loving care

 

 

The Twitterherd Charter – An Owner’s Guide

It has come to my attention that one or two members of the Twitterherd have been involved in some sad infringements of our charter – indeed, an all out strike of the Twitterherd right across the western world was narrowly avoided last night, when Oscar was confronted with a reinvention manual by his owner.

These are the rules then, for owners’ guidance:

1. You must provide our every requirement in the way of sustenance. That means lots of fresh water (replenished every time we knock the bucket over or get our front feet in the water trough). Feed must sustain without being harmful, so I get hardly anything, whereas Teddy is still awaiting the patent for his self-filling haynet. Remember we are trickle feeders, so don’t give us the guts-ache by withholding food for long periods!

2. We must have a proper place to live. That means shelter from the storm, freedom to gallop about for more hours than we have to stand still and Doctor Green in regular attendance (we like trees as well, Tawny especially prefers ash ones).

3. If we get ill or hurt, you need to fix it quick! We are dependent on you for this, so never economise on your twice daily checks and a call to the vet, whenever you see a problem.

4.  We need company of our own kind, so don’t try and fob us off with sheep and goats. We groom each other, talk about our owners, the weather etc and it just doesn’t work with other species. Be understanding about putting boys with boys and girls with girls as well; there are some combinations which just don’t mix – right Glory?

N.B. A word for the donkeys. A donkey needs another donkey. They are not quite as easy-going as the rest of us equines about companions, so do the right thing and let a donkey have his own donkey friend.

We need a patch of dust (if you are Paddy) or mud (if you are Tilly or Arnie) so that we can have a good roll as well – and you need to be endlessly good-tempered about grooming us.

5. And while you are sorting out these terms and conditions, don’t forget that we need a life which is free of fear. Don’t confine us where people who don’t understand horses will scare us half to death: our instinct is to run and we can get really hurt if we are made to panic.

 

Now, a word about training techniques – you know the sort of thing: wrapping us up in plastic bags and prodding us with sticks (never try that one with a Welshie which has been shoved through a sale as a sucker!). We will try our hearts out and do our best to understand you, but be sure to differentiate which is benefiting us and which is grooming your own ego. We can all (without exception) be trained to do lots of stuff, but don’t make us look silly please – we are too good for that.

It’s all about the horses – so watch your step!

Rehoming

It’s not surprising that the horse charities are having a big rehoming push this summer. There are so many horses and ponies being bred in the UK at the moment, that there is a huge surplus. The industry does not want to take any responsibility for that surplus, so it falls upon the charities to sort out the casualties.

There is a lot of talk about changes in the law and banning fly-grazing, but how much does legislation matter to the average horse owner? My owner doesn’t look after me because there is a law; she does it because she wants to, she was brought up to and she likes me.

Rescue horses are ten a penny. Everyone wants to say they have rescued their horse – but actually most people buy them. The process of rehoming is quite different: the horse may eventually be yours to keep, but you must agree to a fair contract with the organisation which is rehoming that horse.

Let me warn you right here, that you should not let your heart rule your head. If you go to a centre where the horses look poor and the fields are overcrowded, take note and consult the NEWC. Unless the centre insists on a pre-adoption visit to assess the suitability of your premises, be wary. And if someone offers to drop off your ‘rescue’ horse unseen, be afraid, be very afraid. There are dealers and breeders out there who are cynically jumping on to the rehoming bandwagon in order to pass on unfit animals.

Are you a horse owner, or are you looking for a horse at the moment? Because whatever your situation, as long as you can afford to keep a horse, you should look at rehoming a horse from a reputable charity before you go to a sale or reply to an advert. Consider carefully what type of horse will suit your needs as well as making sure you can meet the needs of that horse as well. Never forget that it’s 24/7, 365 days a year and the responsibility is YOURS.

The current ‘push’ is by the RSPCA, a charity which transfers ownership of each horse to its adopter after a short probationary period. If you can’t guarantee to keep a horse forever, consider a foster horse – there is nothing more rewarding than watching a youngster grow and learn. Thanks to the fashion for coloured cobs, and a few very unscrupulous breeders, the RSPCA has lots of sensible hairy babies looking for homes. They are patient, forgiving and repay every bit of attention you give them, with their loyalty and friendship.

Boys in the stream

Although the RSPCA rescued me, so I owe them my life, this scheme is not for everyone. If you can’t commit to a lifetime’s ownership, find a loan scheme! The NEWC charities all work together when horses are rescued and a loan horse from World Horse Welfare, Redwings or Bransby might be the right thing for your individual situation and helps another horse along in life.

 

 

RSPCA Week and Me

I have had a bath this morning, because tomorrow I shall be making my annual contribution to RSPCA Week. This week happens every year and it seeks to raise money for the animals. I am going to attend a coffee morning, so come and meet me if you are in the area!

When I first met the RSPCA, I looked like this. I had been tethered by the hind leg for most of my life and the day this photo was taken, my owner had tied my legs together (tight) and transported me in the boot of a car.

I was a rather sad and poorly thing.

I was a rather sad and poorly thing.

I was glad to see the Inspectors and the kind policemen and especially her, when she brought the horse box to take me to safety. She kept me in the end and I became a mascot for the local RSPCA. It is fitting that, once a year, I express my wholehearted support for the work of the Society, which set me on my feet again and gave me a new life.

Tim browsing

I can do lots of stuff now and I do enjoy myself!

Anyway, come and say hello if you can. I shall be at Clynfyw Care Farm, Abercych, Ceredigion at 10.30 with my friends. Clynfyw is a wonderful place where people can go and stay; they host coffee mornings for lots of different charities and tomorrow is our day – and your opportunity to come and support. Here’s their link for you to have a look for directions and news of their work http://www.clynfyw.co.uk/coffee.htm.

Please share this message as often as you can – it’s all for the animals.

See you there, Love, Tim

30 years from now

Where will this little foal be?

I am only a day old.

I am only a day old.

She was born just yesterday, one of thousands of foals to be produced in the UK this year. The question is, what does the future hold for her?

There are a million reasons why people choose to breed from their mare. Some genuinely need a replacement horse for themselves and would like their tried and tested mare replicated as near as can be. Some are locked into a programme of breeding to manage the health of their hill or moorland ponies. Some want to breed the fastest racehorse known to man and others want to win, win and win. And then there are those who cover the mare because she is unsound, either in temperament, or soundness, or both – and they just don’t know what to do with her.

Add to that list a small number of unscrupulous dealers who have flooded the market with middle-sized, good tempered coloured vanners and there you have it – a surplus of thousands!

During the last few months, the horse charities have continued to wring their hands and fail to deal with the hundreds of starving horses which herald each Spring of the 21st century. It’s not their fault; they have done all they can, but it is not enough. Still horses are bred by the thousand, with no trade to support the level of production. There has been a high-profile suggestion of late that the UK should take to eating horse meat. Get real! If the British liked eating horse meat they’d be doing it already and if there were a viable export trade, they would be supplying it with chilled horse meat. Eating horses is simply not the answer.

The issue lies fairly and squarely at the door of the UK horse industry. It is time to face up to your responsibilities and stop adding to the surplus. How many times do we hear excuses about passing on older horses – you can’t afford the vet bills, you need a younger horse, he’s stopped winning. Did you consider his whole life when you covered that mare? Who is supposed to safeguard his future when you don’t want him any more?

In this week’s Horse and Hound, an article covered the breeding of a 1000 Guineas winner – and we are talking the best of the best here. A forebear ‘was exported to India’ – I wonder how her life ended, in a country whose welfare standards are pretty notional unless you are a cow.

This little foal may be your pride and joy today, but who knows where will she go during the course of her life?  Think twice before covering that mare and give me a follow this May if you feel as strongly as I do about this. You see, I was an unwanted foal and I went through a lot before I got lucky.

If you can’t feed it don’t breed it.

The ‘L’ word

It’s here again, it’s Spring.

Some of you will know that I am just beginning my Easter holidays in the top field.

Easter hols

This is the first Easter holiday I have had for two years, because I had a bout of laminitis the year before last. It only hurt for a short while, but I had to stay in the stable for AGES while my hooves grew out ans then a very little bit of turnout got included in my day for quite a while. I always had company near me and toys, but it was a bit of a long haul. At last, the other day, when the farrier was changing my made-to-measure shoes, he said my feet were back to normal. Hooray!

The snag is, now that I have had laminitis, I will always be in danger of it happening again. I am a small chap, designed by nature to walk miles for every mouthful, but this farm is used to feeding cattle and sheep – it doesn’t know about the walking for miles thing – so my diet has to be restricted. Actually, everyone’s diet has to be watched here, because we are all fatties – even Hooligan who is 16hh with the longest legs in the world! The only exception is Twinkle, who is elderly and has a few dental issues, so she is allowed to eat the long grass.

So here I am, with Bramble and Paddy, on a diet, but having some freedom and a great view of the sea. She says I might be here for a week, or a month – depending on the weekly weigh-tape.

Out with Bramble and Paddy

 

A Tricky Time for Tim

As you know, there are a few of us horses and ponies here. We are all thrilled to bits that the Spring is here, with its daffodils, violets and blackthorn blossom, not to mention early signs of our old friend Doctor Green.

He’s a fickle man though! Once he starts to make himself known in March and April, everyone’s routine has to change and we all need something different. Let me explain.

First of all, clearly, there’s me. I am a smallish chap and prone to the dreaded laminitis, so I can’t go out at night until the temperature is over five degrees and I mustn’t have too much grass.

Tim browsing

Then there is Tawny, who is Auntie Sarah’s pony. A couple of years ago, she went lame and had lots of tests and stuff. She has something called navicular disease and a problem with her coffin joints. She had LOADS of stuff done with her feet and a diet which was nearly stricter than mine! She has to have regular, light work and special shoes a bit like mine. And she needs to be on a diet as well, because she only has to look at grass and she needs a longer girth.

Tawny spring

Her own sister is called Tabitha. I call her ‘silly sister’ because she is a bit loopy. She can worry pounds off her waistline in a single morning! Tabitha has something called a side-bone, which was discovered last year. She had a horrible summer resting her front foot and balancing on two because she had an abscess in a back foot at the same time. Now she is OK and in work with Tawny, but she must be kept on flat ground and needs a bit more grass than Tawny, but she suffers from separation anxiety if she is taken away from her.

Tabitha

The baby of their family is their nephew Hooligan. He is a bigger horse altogether, though he still thinks he is little bot sometimes. Although he is over six hands taller than I am, we share the same problem – fatness. So at the moment, he is keeping me company. He is a good mate, thought the mutual grooming which he adores can be something of a challenge for me.

Hooli spring

So you can see that managing all of us, on a limited choice of paddocks in a small Welsh valley has its challenges. A lot of time and effort goes into keeping us healthy and happy – aren’t we lucky?

 
 

We are too good for this

Amid all the coverage of the UK floods during the past few weeks, that excellent charity World Horse Welfare has been trying to draw attention to the plight of horses and ponies which are passing through our ports with no checks made on their identities and their well-being. Obviously, the floods merit the greater coverage – as national disasters go, this is a particularly horrid one for many people and their animals. However, I am really hoping that the unregulated import and export of horses and ponies does not go unnoticed.

There are some things which I can’t understand; in particular, why owners and breeders choose to supply such a trade. There is no money in it for the owner or breeder, there can’t be, otherwise the market trade would be better. So why does our horse industry continue to breed and give away thousands of foals each year, without giving a tuppenny damn where they finish their pathetically short lives? I expect it’s a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’.

There are big contradictions involved as well. The native pony breed societies all promote their brands like mad. The Dartmoor is the ideal child’s pony, the New Forest comes in for Pony Club and Mum-share, whereas the Welshies are the clever ones to get you there quickly. There is no such thing a a low-value native pony – these days they are all brilliant examples of improved indigenous performers. But all too often their fate is to end up unwanted, neglected and on that lorry – some thanks for doing their best and (actually) being the finest of their kind in the world.

It seems to me there is a need for some pride, some control of numbers, and some clever marketing. It was always said that the UK was a nation of animal lovers – but how come we allow this to happen. We native ponies are too god to be treated this way.

If you agree, lend your support to World Horse Welfare and their excellent campaign to get this trade regulated.

Better still, petition your MP to get it stopped!

 

Be my Valentine

Roses are red

Violets are blue

You care for me

And I will love you

 

The water are rising

My mum has long gone

I’m piebald and skinny

And I’m nearly one

 

My needs are quite simple

They number just five

If you could arrange them

I could stay alive

 

But I am so hungry

I’ll just lie down here

I can’t think just now

For the cold and the fear

 

Roses are red

Violets are blue

Care for me please

And I will love you