Well it has been a fun year! My new friend William Bach is great company and we do get up to some stuff I can tell you! Nearly every day, there is an excuse to tear around the paddock and make very satisfactory hoof marks. Sadly, we haven’t had any snow yet, but there is plenty of time to go.
In July we had a grand day out! It was Cardigan Show and the first of the new Rescue Horse and Pony classes, sponsored by the local branch of the RSPCA. William Bach and I were bathed the day before. I get terribly excited when I have a bath, because I know it means we are heading for a day out. William Bach is, of course, young and experienced in these matters so he stood still like a rock and got some quite unnecessary praise I thought. He’ll learn.
On the day, she and Sarah polished us up and oiled our hooves and off we went in the trailer. We were pretty mucky by the time we got there, so then they had to start again! I went in the Rescue Pony class, which was judged on my story as well as my condition, turnout and conformation. I had the best time! Everyone was watching while I tore about, doing my finest trotting, with William Bach bellowing at me from the sidelines. He didn’t realise that he was going into a different class because he is a Miniature Shetland which is something like a big panda, only faster. I got lots of ribbons and a sash and William Bach got two blue rosettes, which I must admit suited him very well. We had lots to tell the girls when we got home – I had nearly forgotten how much I like shows.
In October, we were invited to attend St David’s Church in Blaenporth for a Service of Pet Blessing. Clearly Megan Dog couldn’t go, the minister wouldn’t get a word in edgewise! William Bach and I were up with the sparrows that morning, getting groomed and having a shoe shine. She and Sarah popped us in the trailer and off we went up the road. It isn’t too far to walk, but the main road is much too busy for ponies, even on a Sunday. We were soon there and had a stroll up the road to the Church which has a very peaceful setting and loads of grass! The people were very nice to us and the Minister and his wife said some really good stuff. Thank you to my new friends Chris Frost and Kate, for commending us animals, blessing us and wishing us long lives.
But today is my birthday! As you know, it isn’t my real birthday, but it’s the day we celebrate my coming here, to start on my second chance in life. I struck lucky that day I can tell you because things had got really bad for me. You can look at my story here if you want, just scroll up to another of my biirthdays to see my films.
Anyway, I am always happy to celebrate my birthday with friends. When it falls on a weekend, I invite my people. I depend on them and they never let me down. But they work on weekdays, so when my birthday is a week day, I invite my yard friends. And for the first time, I have asked Megan Dog to be here! Megan has been with us for more than a year and I would dearly like her to be my friend. Sadly, she doesn’t understand yet and she barks a lot, but one day, we will play properly. I know we will!
Do you know my friend Maciej? He is my vet. We all like him but we try not to invite him to the yard too much, because if he arrives, it usually means that something is wrong with one of us animals.
He pitched up yesterday with a determined look. Tawny did a lot of walking about with her bad leg and then he said ‘We’ll do the first dental’. I had been observing from a safe distance, but I was summoned. ‘Good Boy Tim’ she said, as he stuck a needle in my neck! After that it was all fine.
I was vaguely aware that something metal was being put between my front teeth. I expect that is so Maciej could see my back ones. There was a cold mouth wash and then a far-away but persistent noise in my head. It was all fine really, because I had her to lean on as I got sleepier and sleepier.
I woke up a bit later, to be told I was a good boy again – that can’t be bad can it? My stable was completely bare. All my hay had been taken out because if I had tried to chew on it while sleepy, I might have choked. I was ready for my tea a couple of hours afterwards I can tell you!
Tawny did a bit more walking up and down, then Paddy got his dental. He didn’t have the needle and he says his was a lot noisier than mine. He is a really brave pony. I try, but sometimes that doesn’t work.
Maciej says my teeth are a bit wonk and perhaps I had an injury to my head in the past. All these years later, I don’t remember being in the boot of that car now, but maybe this is another battle scar from my past!
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,600 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 27 trips to carry that many people.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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).
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!
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.
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.
It’s a sobering thought.
Today we have had some results. Hari amd her mum Paula are happy and healthy again. After their month in isolation, they had to be retested to make sure they had shaken off their infection. Last Tuesday, Veronika arrived on the yard wih her box of tricks. She stuck things up Hari’s nose and took blood from her neck; then she took blood from Paula’s neck as well. Hari was tied up by the wall, while her mum was tested. She had not been tied before, but it was OK; she liked it. Luckily she liked the rest of it as well and also liked having her feet picked up. Next Friday, the farrier will come to trim her feet, and Paula’s as well, before they set off on the next stage of their lives.
Hari has had her microchip as well. This is a very important thing! Her passport application has been been filled in and sent away. Now she will have a proper identification document for the rest of her life.
Paula was scanned and she already had a microchip. Unfortunately, her microchip was never registered by her owner or the vet who inserted it, so we will never know who owned her originally. Is that a stupid situation or what?