Tag Archives: horses and ponies

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

 

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

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

 

 


Counting my Blessings

The UK horse welfare scene is a very sad one. It has always been sad. I myself was a rescue case. I don’t remember too much about it now, but will post the details again on my official birthday next month (don’t miss my party on Facebook and Twitter).

Ever since horses were overtaken by technology in this country, their welfare has been a matter of chance. During the twentieth century, thousands of horses were just used up, by two World Wars and by export for meat. Thankfully, all that terrible business was stopped in the 1960’s, but people kept on breeding horses and ponies as though, as the saying goes, they were going out of style. The result is a huge surplus, coupled with a decline in the necessary skills to care for them.

There are several brave charities in the UK, which do their best to react to the horrible situations they find. Every day, some poor friend is rescued from a tether, a flooded paddock or a back garden. These neglected creatures are nursed back to health and if they recover, they are sometimes lucky, as I was, and they find a permanent home with someone who cares for them.

But the new phenomenon is quite different. For the last five years, huge herds of coloured cobs have appeared in various areas of the country, usually concentrated on so-called common land or sometimes just left on farm land, with the promise of grass livery fees. These horses are kind and easy to handle. As long as they are wormed and have a reasonable amount of grazing, they are really good doers in fact. But when left like this, their maintenance issues unattended and breeding indiscriminately, their health soon deteriorates. Malnutrition and appalling diseases are the order of the day.

Malnutrition is the order of the day

Malnutrition is the order of the day

For a few years now, the charities have made massive efforts to rescue the worst, and then hoped that someone would take responsibility for the wider problem. Until last week, when countless lovely coloured cobs and ponies eventually had to be put to sleep, in their squalor, because they were too sick to live any more.

I care for those horse charity people who work on the frontline! They came for me when I was hungry and scared, when I could hardly walk any more; they mended me and made my life good again.

I am a coloured pony as you know. A few years ago, when I was rescued, every horse was individually assessed and given a chance, even though it costs thousands to café for even a little pony like me.  But today, if I was one of a herd two hundred, with my crippled back leg, I would certainly not make it.

Just saying, it makes you think

Just saying, it makes you think

 It’s a sobering thought.

It’s complicated

being a boy. This year,we have had a bit of a glut of these young lads on the yard. They get neglected because nobody wants to get them gelded and feed them until they are three. So sometimes they end up struggling and starving. Once they are healthy, it’s no problem getting them fat – you rarely have to teach a hungry pony how to eat! But if a young boy is to find a good, settled home, he needs to be a gelding.

We have a great vet whose name starts with V. She sorts us all out and helps us when we are sick. We have a ‘hospital wing’ at the yard where she does the gelding operations. It’s just a clean corner of a well-lit shed, with rubber matting and a thick bed, where she can work in fairly clean and controlled conditions. We organised a day and booked for the Hobbits to be done – I make myself scarce to be honest. I was done years ago but the thought still makes me wince!

Bilbo was up first, catheter in neck, drugs all injected in; Bilbo still awake. Bit more drugs, Bilbo still awake! Tiny bit more drugs (uh oh, can’t have any more) and Bilbo lay down. All is settled, everything washed and ready for the unkindest cut, when surprise! Bilbo gets up again! Back to the drawing board for him then.

Bilbo

We booked for V to come another day. She sedated Bilbo with some different stuff and he was was done while he stood up. Although he looked awake, he didn’t seem to know a thing about it – amazing!

Next up is Frodo, who goes to sleep as planned, All is done and dusted and he’s back on his feet before we know it. He’s a bit sleepy, but V has given him lovely pain relief so he is not distressed. After the rest of the day, he is able to go out into a lovely clean field with Bilbo – to sleep it off.

Frodo

Merry was a different story altogether. He got examined (which he rather enjoyed) and V said he would have to go to hospital. That turned out to be quite an adventure!

Busy week

It’s been a bit hectic this week. There have been lots of changes of field and stable and I think everyone has landed now. Hooligan is back with Tawny, ready to start work again and Tabitha and Twinkle are in a flattish paddock behind the yard. Tabitha is still taking it easy while her sidebone settles. On Monday, Merry was brought in to the stable beside mine and he didn’t have anything to eat until Thursday – 36 hours with no grub! I was sympathetic – I would not have been happy with that arrangement. Anyway, on Thursday the trailer was hitched up, I got extremely excited, because the trailer sometimes takes me for a day out, to see my public, but no. This time Merry was loaded up – and he was very good about it too. Then he went off to Cotts Farm Equine hospital to have his operation. Apparently it couldn’t be done at home like the others, because of certain stuff (it makes my eyes water thinking about it), so he had to go and have a scan first. He got back about 4 pm and he was a bit sleepy, but eating as though his life depended on it. He had to starve in case the anaesthetic gave him a guts ache – poor little man. Anyway, by evening he was pretty lively again and Friday afternoon he went out with his mates again. He has to have a blood test in ten days to make sure it’s all OK. In the meantime he is eating up his meds which he has in a (large) feed each day. Now it’s me who is feeling hungry!Merry

 

New Friends

 

Last week was very full of stuff. On Thursday, my friends Ben and Timothy Too went off to their new home. I was sad to see them go, but I did feel that I had helped them along their way. They were lucky little guys. Together with Bill, they were sponsored by the Pettifor Trust for their veterinary expenses while they were here. They have settled down well after being gelded and are sure to make good family ponies.

Ben

Ben

Timothy Too

Timothy Too

 

 

Bill is still here because his gelding operation was a bit more complicated. I am looking after him for a while – I must say, he does not play such rough games as he used to and I am quite relieved about that!

On Friday, quite late, two trailers rumbled down the lane to the yard and some new friends arrived! Their names are Frodo, Bilbo and Merry. They are a bit rough in the manners department, but I have had a word with them about that.

Meeting and greeting

Meeting and greeting

 

Frodo is brave and sociable. He loves to be groomed and does his leading really well. He is well grown but thin and in need of Doctor Green (luckily the good Dr is here for the summer).

Bay Bilbo is VERY SHY. He can hardly bear to look at you really, but once he has his courage in both hands (hooves?) he allows himself to be touched and heaves a big sigh of relief.

Little black Merry is kind of the odd one out. He is number three in this gang and the smallest, however, what he lacks in size, he makes up for in character (rather like my good self really). When he arrived, he was doing all of the defensive stuff which we all do when we are scared. He tossed his head and stamped his front foot, but gradually his curiosity (and greed) has got the better of him. After three days, he is itching to play another game and this morning decided that having his tummy scratched was his new favourite thing!