Tag Archives: equine welfare

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.

 

 

30 years from now

Where will this little foal be?

I am only a day old.

I am only a day old.

She was born just yesterday, one of thousands of foals to be produced in the UK this year. The question is, what does the future hold for her?

There are a million reasons why people choose to breed from their mare. Some genuinely need a replacement horse for themselves and would like their tried and tested mare replicated as near as can be. Some are locked into a programme of breeding to manage the health of their hill or moorland ponies. Some want to breed the fastest racehorse known to man and others want to win, win and win. And then there are those who cover the mare because she is unsound, either in temperament, or soundness, or both – and they just don’t know what to do with her.

Add to that list a small number of unscrupulous dealers who have flooded the market with middle-sized, good tempered coloured vanners and there you have it – a surplus of thousands!

During the last few months, the horse charities have continued to wring their hands and fail to deal with the hundreds of starving horses which herald each Spring of the 21st century. It’s not their fault; they have done all they can, but it is not enough. Still horses are bred by the thousand, with no trade to support the level of production. There has been a high-profile suggestion of late that the UK should take to eating horse meat. Get real! If the British liked eating horse meat they’d be doing it already and if there were a viable export trade, they would be supplying it with chilled horse meat. Eating horses is simply not the answer.

The issue lies fairly and squarely at the door of the UK horse industry. It is time to face up to your responsibilities and stop adding to the surplus. How many times do we hear excuses about passing on older horses – you can’t afford the vet bills, you need a younger horse, he’s stopped winning. Did you consider his whole life when you covered that mare? Who is supposed to safeguard his future when you don’t want him any more?

In this week’s Horse and Hound, an article covered the breeding of a 1000 Guineas winner – and we are talking the best of the best here. A forebear ‘was exported to India’ – I wonder how her life ended, in a country whose welfare standards are pretty notional unless you are a cow.

This little foal may be your pride and joy today, but who knows where will she go during the course of her life?  Think twice before covering that mare and give me a follow this May if you feel as strongly as I do about this. You see, I was an unwanted foal and I went through a lot before I got lucky.

If you can’t feed it don’t breed it.

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