Tag Archives: Animal Welfare

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


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.


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 Stable Yard Cats

Some of the most important members of staff on my yard are the cats. Every stable yard is the same; we store hay, straw, feed and lovely warm horses and all of these provide a haven of comfort for a rat when the weather turns wet (and at any other time come to that). And there is nothing like a team of cats to deter those rats from joining your yard.

Cats are very singular creatures. They form their own likes and dislikes, friendships and habits. Some are domesticated and enjoy lives as wonderful family pets and undemanding companions; others are born wild and are therefore more tricky.

A kitten which is born to feral parents needs to be captured almost at birth, if he is to be tamed enough to become a pet or companion cat. If reared in captivity from a few weeks old and handled carefully (despite the protestations of his mother!), he may grow up to be tame and biddable. But at seven or eight weeks, his ancestry imprints itself indelibly on his mind and he will, like as not, be a wild boy for ever.

Winston out hunting

Given that there are thousands and thousands of feral cats at large in the UK, what is supposed to happen to them all? They are not popular when they populate gardens and the misguided often resort to cruel means of getting rid of these needy creatures, which are fighting and hunting as nature intended them to do. Sometimes they are trapped and taken to rescue centres, where their health needs are met and they are neutered. As long as they are not being a nuisance, many are re-released where they were originally trapped, so they can continue their lives without the consequences of constant reproduction. But large numbers of feral cats remain in rescue centres for ages and ages, because rehoming them is problematic.

This is where you and your stable yard come in! These cats can be an invaluable and low-maintenance asset to your menage, if you are prepared to give them a chance. There is a particular knack for settling them in to a new situation. They need to be confined to a large cage, with beds, feed, water and a litter tray for a fortnight. Most cat rescues will lend you the equipment to get started. Don’t expect affection from these moggies- they will swear and spit at you and rush to the furthest corner when they see you. But gradually, as they associate you with feeding time and a routine, they will become a bit calmer. Your cages will be situated in a closed stable or building, and after a fortnight, the cats can be released into that space as well – again, don’t expect tameness, but watch for signs that they are getting used to coming for their food.

Twice a day feeds keep the cats fit and strong

Twice a day feeds keep the cats fit and strong

After another fortnight, you can open the door to the big wide world. By now, the cats will know where their home is and they will begin to explore. You will be amazed at how their confidence will grow at this stage. A feral cat hates to be confined, so once he is free again, his true character will emerge. Some will remain completely wild; others will become tamer, though probably never quite up for a cuddle! The aim is that you can get close enough (at feeding time) to administer flea and worming treatment – and of course, to grab them if they need to go to the vet (wear gloves by the way).

All in all, this is great way to get a team of cats for your yard – and to help a very particular type of needy animal. Our three lovely cats, Winston, William and Tilly came to us two months ago as eight month old sibling kittens. Already they are bringing ‘trophies’ to the feed room and are proving to be delightful company during mucking out and feeding round. They are quite happy to be touched at feeding time and love to patrol the buildings and the woods around the farm. They were neutered, microchipped and vaccinated whilst in care, so they are healthy and strong.

Winston's first mouse was a cause of great excitement

Winston’s first mouse was a cause of great excitement

The foster carer has three more similar cats waiting for someone to understand their needs. They are called Tom, Dick and Harry. Meet them here: http://www.rspca.org.uk/local/ceredigion-branch/petsearch

 If you can help them, phone 01239 810595.

The next time you need a cat for your stable yard, please consider rehoming a feral one.

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.


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!




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!


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

Big day yesterday


This is my friend Bill. He came to stay in February when he wasn’t very well at all. I have been looking after him since then.  He and his friend Ben were lucky ponies: not only did the RSPCA rescue them, but some other kind friends sponsored their rehabilitation while they stayed ay my yard.

The Pettifor Trust is a Swansea charity, which raises money for needy animals. One of their many responses to the plight of horses in 2013 was to contribute towards some veterinary expenses of four ponies which had been rescued by their local group of RSPCA inspectors.

So, to begin at the beginning, Bill and his friend Ben were spotted by the good Inspector Nic, who arranged for them to be removed from their desperate starving plight – hooray for the RSPCA!

All these ponies needed to be gelded before rehoming and Bill’s operation was not straightforward. In fact, he had to go to horse hospital to have a special procedure – hooray for the Pettifor Trust!

It’s a sobering thought that if Bill had been left with his breeder, he might have died, but even if he had survived a winter’s starvation, he would have been an oddity, and would have finished his short life at the abattoir by now.

His good luck continued yesterday, when he went to his new home. Another old friend of mine (sshh, don’t tell a soul but it’s my farrier) made friends with Bill while he was here and yesterday, he fetched him home to live with his family’s driving ponies.

I wish him well.

It’s Royal Welsh Week!

My team came back from the show with lots of news. They couldn’t wait to tell me how cute the donkeys were on the Donkey Sanctuary stand. They are beautifully cared for and such good little ambassadors for donkey welfare.


Strange thing is, there was no RSPCA stand at the show. I hear there has been a presence there for the last 24 years, but none this time. Their usual stand was borrowed by the show committee for a display, but the RSPCA elected not to accept the alternative site offered. What a disappointment for many supporters! The stand has provided so much information to so many people over the years. The most frequently asked questions were ‘How can I stop my new puppy from chewing the table legs?’ and ‘Where are the nearest toilets?’ – straight up there, first left and first left by the way.