You learn something every day

This is my current field companion Paddy, short for Paddywack.

Paddy the wise

He came to live here some years ago now, in semi-retirement, having been Elin’s busy Pony Club pony. He is bay and bigger than I am and sometimes we do have misunderstandings because he speaks slightly differently from the rest of us. Paddy is an Irish pony and he is very wise.

A couple of days ago she arrived in our field wielding a strange engine on a stalk. She set about the brambles with this thing and it was so noisy, I really thought we ought to be tearing around the field pretending to be scared (as you do). But Paddy said we shouldn’t. He said we would wait just around the corner from her until she switched the thing off, then I would see why. I stood behind him, just to be sure I was safe (I mean seriously noisy).

Well it turned out she was in bonfire mood, so soon she was clearing the cut brambles, adding them to a pile of hedge trimmings, which we had already investigated thoroughly, and setting them alight. We are used to that sort of thing – it takes her out of herself in early spring and autumn and she has to have some amusement.

autumn bonfire

But the thing is, as soon as she had finished cutting, Paddy said ‘Come on Tim!’ and we were soon digging into the lovely bits of grass which had been hidden under all those brambles. I would have found them sooner or later, but Paddy just knew.

After next Saturday when clearly, we shall be standing in different corners of the field (or pitch), I resolve to stick with my friend Paddy. His old Irish mammy taught him some good tricks!

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Tim’s Valentine

Oh my love is a fine bay mare who bears the name of Bramble.

She calls to me from up the bank, then down it she doth amble

I see her daily at the gate, her sharp pricked ears a-quiver

And how I wish she’ll come to me, her promise to deliver.

We sometimes meet in my own yard, but sadly all too briefly

She always has to leave again, for feeding reasons chiefly.

We like to groom each other during itchy summer days

I bite her and she bites me back, tho’ we’re not 50 greys!

My Bramble is a strapping girl, she beats me by four hands

But size is not important here, and this she understands.

We are a marriage of true minds and never will I waver

And even if she’s fickle, well it only makes me braver:

There’s some would say it’s food that brings her swinging down that hill

But I know that she loves me – you can say just what you will!

Bramble

Bramble

 

 

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?

 

The ‘New’ Year

Another year is upon us, with all the promise of new beginnings and better things.

TT in the paddock

If you are a horse, there is a snag with all this hope stuff, and with the talk of better things, because things don’t really improve for a lot of horses and ponies out there. During 2014, there have been some very sad developments in the horse world, accompanied by an upsurge of reportage.  You see, the thing about sensationalism is that it deadens the reactions over time. Thus, the first time you saw a starved horse in the media, social or otherwise, you were appalled. The second time, you wondered to yourself ‘Is that quite as thin as that dead one I saw in the press last week?’ The next one you see looks familiar – guess you are getting used to seeing all those bones now.

And the net result? Well, that pony on the tether by the river is still alive, so he’s OK today – not as bad as that one on Facebook after all. Perhaps I won’t bother reporting him…

STOP RIGHT THERE AND THINK!

When was the last time you saw someone give that pony a drink? In the snow last night, did he have some grub and a bit of shelter? Because if he didn’t, and you saw, and you did nothing, you may have become desensitised to the suffering of needy horses and ponies. It’s not your fault, but do beware of it all the same.

If you love horses and ponies and you are thinking of making some New Year resolutions, please consider making this one.

‘Every time I see a horse, I will observe it carefully and ask myself the following questions.

Does it have food and water?

Where are its companions?

Does it have a few hours of freedom to do what it likes each day?

Is anything causing it pain or discomfort?

Where does it shelter from the cold and wet?

If I am not satisfied that its welfare needs are not being met, I promise to make a report.’

Happy New Year. Love, Tim

 

 

 

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

New Forest Holiday

Tabitha and Tawny have returned from their holiday and high time too. They have such tales to tell though – I am definitely going next time! They said it was a long time in the trailer, but there was a halfway stop with apples. When they got there, they had a lovely breezy paddock with just enough grass to keep them happy (must’ve been lots to keep Tawny happy) and a field shelter. They weren’t sure what to do with the shelter, although Tabitha did say it would have been handy for scratching her back side of she hadn’t had her new fly rug.If you want to see where they stayed, have a look here: http://www.explorethenewforest.co.uk/carriage_house.htm. It’s all run by a lady called Margaret. There are friends there for company, Polo, Chance and Minstrel the horses, three dogs and some visiting ones, one hen, two ducks and a goose.

Tabi and Tawny had three adventures while they were there. The first one was pathfinding through Norleywood, to get their bearings.

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They said it was lovely! There was only a bit of road and the cars all had courteous drivers, then there were tracks to do trot and canter and there were no hills to wear you out.

The next day, they were more adventurous and headed for the second bus stop on the East Boldre road. What with bus stops and silver birch trees moving around like in Harry Potter, they got thoroughly lost and then stuck in a very treacherous bog. Oddly enough, they didn’t take a photo of when Tawny got stuck up to her middle  – it was a real tricky moment, but Sarah rescued her and they took a more cautious route home.

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Day three was the best of all. They started out the way they knew, through Norleywood and across the main road. Then Sarah did some nifty map reading and they rode all the way through Crockford Bottom and past the disused airfield to Beulieu Common.

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They had never seen such wide open spaces before! They have a good understanding, being sisters, and they take turns in going first. There were lots of trot and canter places across the common – not to mention ponies! Tawny was transfixed each time a new group appeared – is it a bird, is it a plane? No Tawny, it’s a New Forest pony, still in its winter feathers.

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On their way back across the Vicarage Green patch, there was the largest group of ponies, enjoying the sunshine. They took little notice of four Welsh girls passing through, so easily do they co-exist with the other users of the Forest.

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Now Tawny is famous for being sensible when all others lose their wits (see treacherous bog earlier). However, there are limits to her common sense. There was a dear little visitor to the gate of the cottage each morning: Tabi was happy to approach and say hello to this funny hairy person, but Tawny was convinced (she has asked me to emphasise this) that this creature was going to eat her alive. Guess this is what happens when you let girls go on holiday unsupervised!Image