Tag Archives: Horse and Hound

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

 

 

 

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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.

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.

What price competition success?

How sad to see pictures on facebook of a horse ridden at Burghley Horse Trials in a hackamore which was fitted so low that it seemed to be restricting his nostrils. Was this a groom’s mistake or a deliberate misuse of equipment? Either way, it was allowed to compete. Where were the rigorous checks which we observed at the Olympics?

Now today, Horse and Hound leads with a story about drugs found in a leading endurance yard. Hats off to the magazine for persisting in their reports on health and welfare!

This is top level cometition we are talking about here, so ignorance of best practice (or the rules) can be no excuse. There has been much talk of the Olympic legacy and the fact that more riders are inspired to compete than ever before. So isn’t it the duty of those at the high end of equestrian sport, to set a good example?

I was made to suffer once, and as a result, I can’t work. I was tethered by my back leg and now that leg doesn’t work well enough for me to be ridden or driven. I was never quite an Olympic prospect (except in my own head of course), but the law treats me just the same as it does a four star horse.

I hope that horse with the sore nose will be OK and his owner will not try that method again. And I hope those brave endurance horses will be OK too – it’s not their fault that we have set them times they can’t achieve.

Cruelty to horses is cruelty to horses. You people have a duty to treat us right – especially when we are your ticket to success!