Category Archives: Horse welfare

General comment on horse welfare

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

No chips please. We’re British.

I have a passport. It is blue and it has my name and microchip number clearly displayed on the front, along with the name of my friends at the BHS. Inside it has my ownership details, a description of me (tricky when you are skewbald), and my age.

Passport

The passport laws in the UK are pretty non-existent at the moment. They invented some of them back in the noughties, but there were too many passport issuers appointed, so all the passports looked different. And all of those issuers (PIOs) had different sets of rules and regulations and charges, so in the end it was just a complete mess – far too many ‘differents’ to work efficiently – or even to work at all!

Then they introduced compulsory microchipping – every horse born after a certain date had to have a microchip. Once again, it was a free-for-all. No guidance was given as to the numerical detail of the equine chips, so they were bought in from everywhere! Unlike on mainland Europe, where each country has a dedicated numerical prefix, the microchips used in the UK came from all over the world.

When it came to paperwork, there was more confusion. When you called the vet to get your horse microchipped, you would be offered two options. There was the expensive chip, which had forms to complete (not so popular with the vets’ admin staff) and the cheap chip, where you were advised to phone the National Equine Database (NED) yourself, to inform them of the number. You can guess which option most people chose, but the snag was that the NED telephone line was never manned, so you could never make that call.

Sad, isn’t it, when one of the most developed, well-educated nations of the western world can’t invent a simple catalogue of horses in case there is a disease outbreak or a leak of horse meat into the food chain?

Well, it happened didn’t it? Last year, you were all going to die from eating pony pies, if you believed what they said on the news.

Apparently, DEFRA are looking into how to sort it all out without spending any money. They are bombarded with advice from various sources. Owners would like horse identification to be someone else’s job. Vets would like it all to happen without involving them. Dealers would like to return to the bad old days of no traceability at all and Auctioneers, well, how about the auctioneers? Shouldn’t they be held responsible for checking that each horse has a passport in the name of its vendor – they do it routinely for cattle after all?

I think there should be some clear and basic rules here.

1. All microchips should have a dedicated UK prefix and come from the same source.

2. Vets should bear responsibility for providing traceability.

3. No horse should be presented for sale without a valid passport and microchip registered to its current owner.

4. Ownership should be transferred on that passport before the horse is resold.

5. There should be two PIOs for the UK. Weatherbys for the thoroughbreds and another for the rest.

There are so many people who want to make money out of horses, without ever putting anything back into the industry. I think it is time they stood up to be counted.

Militant little me!

PS If you read this and feel strongly about this issue, please give me a follow.

Dreamyard on Twitter

The weather is so dire at the moment, that a lot of horses and their owners are wishing wishing wishing for better living conditions and an end to the storms. I have been asking my friends in the ‘twitter herd’ for their wish lists over the festive season and their requests have given me quite a challenge!

There is no Harry Potter movie this Christmas, so here’s a test for all horse keepers, film makers, technological genii and wizards.

Some of our wishes are simple – rolling acres of old turf, free draining with no rye grass: great big gorse hedges for shelter and friends to share our space. There will, of course, be sufficient so that land can be rotated and rested, not to mention some hill land for the Shetlands and fatties to enjoy. The donkeys from Birmingham and the rehab boys at RSPCA Felledge have also requested a fine view.

imag0097.jpg

And it must only rain at night.

There will be various types of building including field shelters for the free spirits, barns for the community types and individual stables for the poorly and pregnant.

Ublah the Trakehner is a wise old bird and her list was very long! She asked for grills between stables so that nobody is isolated and off-road riding for the enjoyment of all.

What a brilliant track!

Arnie (The Fat Pony) was not alone in his request for a solarium. And Ruth included a photo of exactly the thing we have in mind.

Heat lamps

Tilly wants a mud patch, bless. I am sure she will share.

My old friends Oscar and Teddy share my preoccupation with food. This is where the magic and technology come into play. I think we can achieve Teddy’s automatic haynet filler with a coded microchip sewn into his rug and some awkward mechanical dangly things. Oscar’s grassy stable floor which regrows after it has been nibbled is quite another matter. To be honest, I think their worries will all be sorted by the daily work and turnout – in fact I would suggest they are turned out together.

After my friend Valentine’s warning this morning, all turnout rugs will be fitted with alarms. In the event of a thief attempting to remove a rug, huge floodlights will switch on and the deafening sound of galloping hooves will fill the air, alerting the staff to the misdemeanor.

The automatic drinkers and horse treat vending machines could also be worked with the clever microchips, but do bear in mind that the yard will have STAFF. They will never sleep and will be at our beck and call 24/7. I expect there will have to be some concessions to their comfort as well – hot showers and a Costa machine maybe and chocolate biscuits for when they are extra good.

The yard is right next to a beach and future plans include a wave powered hydro-electric system to run the heat lamps (no Arnie, we can’t put the Shetlands on a treadmill). I can confirm that Kauto Star, our most famous inmate, will have a flatscreen in his stable, so that he can relive his favourite triumphs.

Kauto Star

Future developments will include a true replica of Cheltenham Racecourse as well, so that Kauto can pose for the cameras whenever he likes. Provision of iPads for the donkeys is dependent on sponsorship from Apple apparently. The rest of us will be quite content with the actual apples, thank you.

I hope you approve of the interim plans for the Twitter yard. My own wish is that its doors will be forever open, if any horse, pony or donkey needs somewhere to go.

And once a year, just for a week, proper snow!

cropped-tim-in-the-snow-009.jpg

 

 


Happy New Year!

It has been a year of change for us here and change is always a challenge (it has a lot of the same letters). We started off the year chasing our tails as ever, but then in March we left the RSPCA (Happy New Year to the RSPCA).

We still welcomed some poorly ponies to the yard, to help them to recover before rehoming. I help a lot with that, you know, keep them company and play and stuff to cheer them up when they are a bit blue (Happy New Year Bill, Ben, Timothy Too (get it?), Hobbits, Paula and little Hari). They have all moved on to new lives now and we hope they will have long and happy ones.

A day in the shade

The summer was hot and lasted longer than usual – guess we had more time to enjoy it. I was on my usual diet so my feet don’t hurt, but I have a regular ride and lead date with the big guys. I love ride and lead!

Tim

In the autumn, we walked with donkeys which was a new thing for me. Luckily I liked that too (Happy New Year Chico Florence and Hannah).

How are we doing, donks?

Then we got new cats for the yard (Happy New Year Winston, William and Tilly).

Now we are in winter routine and I am in the stable each night because the frost can make my feet hurt worse than over eating! I like a routine and I am quite happy to bring myself in at night, as long as someone opens the gate for me.

My new year resolution is to keep trying to improve things for my friends who are not as lucky as I am. I keep in touch with my old friends at the horse charities (Happy New Year to Nicolas at Redwings and all of his teams of helpers at the NEWC charities). The work they do is crucial and they have had a tough time in 2013.

And before I go to bed (yawning, I was up late last night) I wish the best of Happy New Years to Sally, Sarah, Joanna, Steve and Rob. They care for me and I care for them.

OK. 2014. Bring it on!

Just saying, it makes you think

It’s my Birthday!

Today is the day I celebrate my arrival here. It’s not my real birthday; more like my official one and this year, I want to share it with all of my friends on the social network. Since last March, I have had my own Facebook and Twitter accounts and I have so many friends! We talk to each other most days and share our thoughts. Some of my friends are other animals and some are people – it doesn’t matter, I love them all. There is the great Twitter herd of horses, the Border Terrier Posse, my people, not to mention all of the good charity officers I got to know when I was an RSPCA chap. We are all very sociable and we all care – if someone is in bother or lost, we can help with our sharing and retweeting. I am hoping that a lot of my friends will post photos of themselves today, so we can all be together for my special day.

 On this day in 2007, things were not going well for me. I had undergone a journey in a car boot, with all of my legs lashed together. None of your posey 4×4’s by the way; this was a modest saloon car and I shared the boot with a tool kit and some other rubbish. It was lucky for me that someone saw me being unloaded, and made a report to the RSPCA. I was just nibbling some grass at the side of the road when the brave Inspectors Richard and Nic came for me. She came with them, in Wilf the horse box. Once she had parked him up, I could smell other horses; I spoke but the box was empty. My people were not around, so she and the Inspectors encouraged me to go into the horse box. They had to help quite a bit because I was feeling pretty poorly, but once I was in there, I found a lovely straw bed and I could still smell horse.

 The journey was short and she went very slowly. We were soon back at this yard, where she helped me down the ramp into what is now my home. It was warm and cosy and there were little bits of yummy food. She spent a lot of time with me that night and we soon got used to each other. I slept and slept on that comfy bed, sometimes with my head on her lap – she didn’t seem to mind and it was good to have company.

 The following day, the vet came. It was all very scarey, because quite a lot of me was hurting. I had a collapsed back leg and a huge abscess on one of my fronts as well. What with that and the lice and not much condition to speak of, I was a bit of a mess. When I had some injections, I felt much better!

 There was more stuff over the next few days. There was delousing, worming (yeuch), cleaning the abscess (double yeuch) and x-rays, which luckily said that my back leg wasn’t broken. Funny, but she started to look a lot more cheerful after that. The vet thought that I must have been tethered by that leg for most of my life (I was three) and the tendon had become all slack and useless. My feet had never been trimmed either, which added to the problem. The farrier tidied them up and I could hobble a bit better.

 The vet then had a Good Idea. You know when you break your arm and they put a cast on it? When the cast comes off, the tendons have shortened up? Well, he made me a little plaster cast for my leg, which she could take off every so often to check there was nothing bad going on underneath. After a while, my leg started to behave much like a normal leg? It will never be brilliant, so I can never be a working pony, but it’s pretty good I can tell you! Clever vet!

 Tell you what. I will show you my movie – you’ll see what I mean.

 When I blow out the candle on my cake today, I shall wish that all horses and ponies will be valued and cared for like I am.

Well, a pony can dream.

My Birthday Party

On the twelfth of December each year, I have a birthday party. We don’t know when my actual birthday is, and it’s most certainly not in December! But this is the anniversary of when my better life began.

I was a rather sad and poorly thing.

I was a rather sad and poorly thing.

The idea is that we all, me and my followers, spare a thought fot those needy horses and ponies, who are not as fortunate as I am. On that day, I will invite all of my friends on Twitter and Facebook, to send a message and a photo (please, lots of photos) and at 1pm I blow out the candle on my cake (yum).

I will also post a film of my story, to show you how I recovered, against the odds, and was transformed into the talking pony you have come to know.

Don’t forget to join me now!

Tim browsing

Counting my Blessings

The UK horse welfare scene is a very sad one. It has always been sad. I myself was a rescue case. I don’t remember too much about it now, but will post the details again on my official birthday next month (don’t miss my party on Facebook and Twitter).

Ever since horses were overtaken by technology in this country, their welfare has been a matter of chance. During the twentieth century, thousands of horses were just used up, by two World Wars and by export for meat. Thankfully, all that terrible business was stopped in the 1960’s, but people kept on breeding horses and ponies as though, as the saying goes, they were going out of style. The result is a huge surplus, coupled with a decline in the necessary skills to care for them.

There are several brave charities in the UK, which do their best to react to the horrible situations they find. Every day, some poor friend is rescued from a tether, a flooded paddock or a back garden. These neglected creatures are nursed back to health and if they recover, they are sometimes lucky, as I was, and they find a permanent home with someone who cares for them.

But the new phenomenon is quite different. For the last five years, huge herds of coloured cobs have appeared in various areas of the country, usually concentrated on so-called common land or sometimes just left on farm land, with the promise of grass livery fees. These horses are kind and easy to handle. As long as they are wormed and have a reasonable amount of grazing, they are really good doers in fact. But when left like this, their maintenance issues unattended and breeding indiscriminately, their health soon deteriorates. Malnutrition and appalling diseases are the order of the day.

Malnutrition is the order of the day

Malnutrition is the order of the day

For a few years now, the charities have made massive efforts to rescue the worst, and then hoped that someone would take responsibility for the wider problem. Until last week, when countless lovely coloured cobs and ponies eventually had to be put to sleep, in their squalor, because they were too sick to live any more.

I care for those horse charity people who work on the frontline! They came for me when I was hungry and scared, when I could hardly walk any more; they mended me and made my life good again.

I am a coloured pony as you know. A few years ago, when I was rescued, every horse was individually assessed and given a chance, even though it costs thousands to café for even a little pony like me.  But today, if I was one of a herd two hundred, with my crippled back leg, I would certainly not make it.

Just saying, it makes you think

Just saying, it makes you think

 It’s a sobering thought.

Twink’s Day Out

was all about a tooth. When she had her annual dental back in the summer, Veronika muttered darkly about a bit of receding gum. When she looked again last week, there was only one way to go – down to the surgery for an extraction.

Twinkle is an old hand at going places. She has been to more competitions, weddings and carnivals as a driving horse than you could shake a metaphorical stick at! So when she got her bib clipped last week and her mane and tail tidied, she rather thought she would be going to a show. And when the legwraps went on yesterday morning, well! She is sometimes worse than me at getting excited, and that’s saying something. Anyhow, she almost trotted up the ramp and off they went.

Down at Priory Vets in Cardigan, there is a big new shed with a roller door. Veronika gets up to all sorts in there, and is gradually adding to the services that the practice can offer to horses, ponies and (not forgetting) donkeys. Twink walked into the stocks and was loosely pillar tied.She still thought there was excitement to come, but then Veronika gave her a big jab of sedative and she drifted off into a nice little daydream – had to be reminded to stand up now and again, I heard.

Pillar tied in the stocks

Pillar tied in the stocks

 

Looking at teeth without using stocks is tricky and procedures can be dangerous for the vet and handler. A dental gag is used to hold the jaws open so the vet can get at those scary back teeth. While under sedation, the horse’s head can be lifted so the vet can work more easily. Twinkle is a terror at getting out of the tooth gag, so Veronika had arranged a new design of headcollar to fit snugly around her jaw. She then had a nerve block and some pain killer to last a few hours.

Twink's head is lifted gently into position, with gadget which awaits patent!

Twink’s head is lifted gently into position, with gadget which awaits patent!

Our back teeth neeed to be extracted with extreme caution. Although this one of Twink’s was quite loose, an extraction could damage several lots of ligaments and her sinuses if the vet is not very careful. So a lot of wiggling and loosening has to go on, as well as flushing and cleaning as we go. Twink had started a course of antibiotics in advance of this day, as a safeguard against infection as well.

Her head is lowered for the final stage.

Her head is lowered for the final stage.

Twink’s sedation was carefully timed and had to be topped up at this point. Veronika places great emphasis on her patient’s comfort and welfare – that’s why we all like her!

At last, the tooth emerged and we could see that the gum had receded to a dangerous level. There was already food impacted into the root and this would certainly have caused a sinus infection if it had been left. Poor Twink!. No wonder she had been chewing carefully lately.

Better out than in!

Better out than in!

 

After all this, her mouth was cleaned again and she got more pain relief to last her until the morning. She recovered quietly, leaning against the side of the stocks and was soon able to walk back into her trusty trailer for the journey home.

Twink recovers slowly before the journey home.

Twink recovers slowly before the journey home.

Then came the worst part of the day – no food for four hours! I kept her company and sympathised. After another mouth flush, she was able to go out to the field with Hooligan and graze on some long grass. This morning she was at the gate, honking for her grub as usual. We have to go carefully for a few days now, with more pain relief and antibiotics, but our dear Twink is home and safe.

Not the day she had imagined, but I’m not sure she remembers the nasty bit at all!