Tag Archives: Paddock management

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?

 

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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

 

 

 

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!

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?

 
 

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

 

 


The Yellow Peril

This is ragwort

This is ragwort

It’s that time of year again. You might think you have pulled, sprayed or cut all of it, but the darned stuff still manages to flower and seed here there and everywhere. My dedicated team have noticed a substantial increase in the length of their arms during the last five years; they have really tackled this horrible weed and I think (whisper it) they are winning.

There had been an awful lot of misinformation peddled about ragwort on Twitter. ‘Don’t panic horse owners’, ‘Horses are selective feeders’ blah blah blah. Well here is my official line: if you have ragwort, go ahead and panic. Let your panic take the form of industrious measures to control the ragwort in your fields and hedges – you know it makes sense.

When you have known quite a few horses and ponies which have been rescued in a state of emaciation, as I have, you know that this selective eating thing CAN go out of the window. it doesn’t always, but it can. A lot of horses will just eat whatever is there from an instinct to fill their bellies – and of course when ragwort is dried in hay or silage, it can be unnoticeable to a hungry horse, but it’s just as deadly. Death from ragwort poisoning isn’t instant, but it’s nasty, very nasty. I’ve seen it and I know.

Spare a thought as well, for those of us who are constantly ON A DIET for our wellbeing. We tend to be kept on bare paddocks and can eat little bits of ragwort by mistake when we graze as close as we can to the ragwort plant. Over time, we could eat enough to do us harm, so get out there and sort it please.

I can’t find any in my paddock today – thank you Sally and Sarah!