No Utopia for Uthopia?

So the famous dressage horse Uthopia is to be sold at auction.

Old age is a bit of a lottery for any horse or pony. We commonly live until we are in our thirties these days and who can guarantee our welfare needs for a lifetime? At fifteen years of age, a horse like Uthopia may be older in his joints than many. Although he is immaculately cared for at his current yard, dressage is hard on the joints and his particular recipe for wellbeing might ideally involve an easier life in the future.

Who will buy him? Perish the thought that he is sold abroad to some up-and-coming competitor as a ‘schoolmaster’. Imagine the change! He will be used to travelling, but not to his new rider, a different climate and whatever demands being a schoolmaster will put on his ageing physique.

And even if he remains in this country,  with the UK’s comparatively favourable animal welfare law, his future is not assured. The above scenario could also happen here, but who will look after him when he can no longer work? Celebrity seems to have little say in the matter: Hallo Dandy, who won the Grand National, ended up as a welfare case, as did 2000 Guineas winner Brigadier Gerard.

How many owners can claim, hand on heart, that they will take responsibility for their horse throughout its life, in sickness and in health? It’s amazing how many people still imagine that there are rolling acres and a warm stable somewhere, just waiting for their horse when he is too old to be worked or wanted any more.

Though it’s unlikely I will ever meet him, I wish Uthopia the best of luck. He is offered a retirement slot where he lives now – please someone, let him enjoy it!

 

 

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Storm Frank and the Woodpecker

The back field is our driest one, so it’s usually Hooligan’s during the winter. Luckily, he wasn’t in it when Storm Frank hit us with his worst last week. The old ash tree in that field is over 140 years old – not bad for an ash, we think.

The old ash tree

The old ash tree

Ash trees tend to grow in a forked shape if they are left to their own devices, and one part of the tree must have broken off in the wind.

Broken bough

Broken bough

However, it had help! You have heard me tell before of the plentiful wildlife there is on this farm. We have foxes, badgers, an otter, the odd hedgehog (though not many, thanks to the badgers) and plentiful bird life, because of all the trees. One of the most interesting of these birds is the woodpecker (lesser spotted) which makes its home in the old ash tree. We often hear it hammering away and now that the branch has fallen the inroads are plain to see.

Prospecting for a home.

Prospecting for a home.

And right in the middle of that huge broken bough is a prime example of woodpecker engineering.

The doorway.

The doorway.

The nursery.

The nursery.

We horses were fortunate not to be near that tree when it crumbled. Storm Frank has gone to terrorise someone else and we guess the woodpeckers will have to look for a new home!

It was a funny old year.

Well, 2015 has been and gone and what a strange thing happened to me! As you know, I always have my say about animal welfare. I am a great pony for the social networking and I have made a lot of new friends and found loads of old ones as well. I do not discriminate! I am a friend to elephants and cats, giraffes and border terriers, carthorses and miniature Shetland ponies, lions and tigers.

It was the lions and tigers which got me into trouble actually. A tatty circus act came to our district, using lions and tigers to do tricks. They said their act was about care and conservation but I wasn’t fooled! This was a circus and I didn’t think it was very fair, or natural for the animals to be used in that way. It’s supposed to be a free country, so I recorded my disagreement with the use of live animals in circuses on Facebook and what do you think? Facebook suspended my profile!  I am back now, but they have cramped my style because I can only be a ‘pet’ (as if!) and am not allowed to have a profile at all. So please accept my apologies if I haven’t been in touch with some of you – I miss our conversations but Facebook won’t let me do it any more.

Keep in touch in 2016 – I am still on Twitter as you know and at least we can have conversations on there. I hope you all have a good time –  a safe, warm and comfortable year, with company you love and someone to feed you good things and protect you from harm.

Happy New Year!

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

Look out! It’s my birthday!

 

Today is my official birthday, when I celebrate the beginning of my life here. I have a good life now, but I did have a bit of a false start – you can look at my story here.

https://hooveswho.com/2013/12/12/its-my-birthday/

This year’s birthday will be unusual because I am not expecting any visitors. I shall have my cake as usual, at 4.30 pm, because that is the time I was collected from the side of the road. I shall also have lots of edible treats which I will share with my friends, Hooligan, Paddy, Bramble, Tawny and Tabitha (as long as she doesn’t make rude faces).

The thing is, I know I will always get one visitor, every single day. It’s usually the same one, but sometimes it’s Sarah or Joanna or Steve or the other Sarah (Happy Birthday Auntie Sarah!). They never fail to come. Even if I don’t need anything, they check that I am OK in the field – at least twice a day.

Not all ponies and horses are so fortunate. Some owners don’t bother in bad weather, or if they are late home from work. Some owners forget they have a horse when it’s the winter and sadly, many of my poor friends will starve this winter on their tethers or in wet, muddy fields.

If you are reading this, please look out! Don’t forget that all animals need to be checked twice a day and if you see a neglected one, do something! The RSPCA rescued me and you can report a poorly animal to them. But there are other organisations as well – Redwings, World Horse Welfare and the British Horse Society all have networks of caring people who can help a horse in need.

Here’s another film which explains a bit more about how I came to be here, and where she gets very serious about it all. I had fun that day, nibbling the front of the BBC lady’s cream cashmere jacket. She seemed to take it well.

 

Luck

Luck can be good or bad and some say you make your own. As the recipient of some extremely good luck once, I doubt that statement.

But luck in sport – how does that work? We are great rugby supporters in this household and we have been watching the World Cup unfold. For the duration (being a Welshman) I wear my red headcollar and when I tweet in support of the brave lads, I always use the hash tag.

#wearinmyred

#wearinmyred

Wales fought a hard campaign and were heroes throughout. What is more, they were well-behaved heroes and were not always accorded the decisions they deserved. Luck played its part in their last match against Australia. It seemed as though they would prevail and just before half-time, a drop goal seemed to say that luck was on their side. I am honoured that my tweet featured on the roof of the O2 at that point.

Just imagine – my name in lights with the best outside-half in the world. I thought I would burst with pride!

The rest is a sad tale of bad luck and disappointment. For the ‘home’ teams, well. The luck of the Irish certainly didn’t make it to Cardiff and Scotland were truly robbed by a ref who should have gone to Specsavers.

Keep up the good work you brave British rugby players. Remember what Mr Gatland said: It’s not a matter of ‘if ‘a home side beats the All Blacks, it’s ‘when’.

Good luck!

Tim’s Poem for National Poetry Day

AUTUMN WARNING

I spotted it, I spotted it!
It wriggled on the ground
A worm, all white and gleaming
Amongst the poo was found.

A quick look at the worming plan
And off I sent the staff
Just get the right thing, one tube each
And don’t do this by half.

Well there’s Equi- this and Equa-that
The choice is something scary
And you could be sold the wrong thing
So it pays you to be wary.

The lady can advise us here
We’re lucky that we have her
To help us understand the terms:
The veterinary palaver!

To test the poo and test the spit
The cost works out amazing!
But we are very lucky here
To have rotated grazing.

So if you’re short of grazing
And you have a lot of gees
It’s time to get the chequebook out
And sort the worming fees.

And if your horse should have the luck
To be your only love
Go get a kit and test his spit
And poo (and use a glove).

Take care of us this autumn mild
When wriggly worms abound.
You know it’s what you need to do,
To keep us safe and sound.

A most excellent day

Yesterday, I had a day out. It all started with a bath on Thursday. I behaved pretty badly, all things considered, because it did not suit me, at that moment, to have my feet scrubbed. However, by yesterday morning I had thought it through. A bath usually means a trip out somewhere – and I am a very sociable pony.

There was a bit more polishing when I came in from the field yesterday morning, then it was best hat on and off for a walk up the lane. What? No trailer?

Shanks's pony

Shanks’s pony

We arrived at the church car park, to meet some very nice people, who gave me a soft mint, which is STILL stuck around my teeth today. They were in charge of some very smart cars with ribbons.

Nodes of transport

Various modes of transport

It was then that unfamiliar things began to happen. She worked a double plait into my mane and hung one of my shoes, all polished up on a pretty ribbon, in the plait. I felt a bit girlie I can tell you, but whatever! They kept telling me I was good, so I went along with it.

 

Wearing my shoe.

Wearing my shoe.

Then we continued down the road into the church yard. I liked it in there! There was plenty of grass for me to eat and some flowers which I wasn’t allowed to eat.

Off to church.

Off to church.

After a bit of muffled music and some shouting, some people came out of the door. It turned out to be my friend Jane and her new husband Dave! They had got married! And my shoe was a good luck token for them.

Hope she didn't break a fingernail!

Hope she didn’t break a fingernail!

Naturally I stayed a while longer so that my many fans could say hello and I could get some more grass. I also had a very important official photo-call with the bride and groom (he wasn’t really dressed like any other groom I’ve met and he didn’t have a brush).

Official photo-call.

Official photo-call.

After a while, the people all got in their cars and went off up the road. I said thank you to the vicar and his family for allowing me to attend.

Thanks Trevor!

Thanks Trevor!

Then we walked home. Weddings are my new favourite thing!

Photos by Sarah Smith