Unhorsey Parents

24 Apr

We all know the different types of horsey parents – the pony club mum, the pushy, competitive parent, etc. But what about the non-horsey parents?

In my observations I`ve come across several different types.

Type A
The non-horsey parent who reluctantly takes their child to the stables. They sit in the car reading a book while their offspring ride. Horsey gear cannot get further than the porch for fear of contamination, and in dire circumstances the avid horse rider has to get changed in the hallway before being allowed inside. This avid horse rider has a constant uphill struggle to get horse-time; be it helping at the stables, having lessons, or even getting their own horse.

Type B
The subservient parent. They aren`t particularly horsey in the past, but are dedicated to their child`s happiness and diligently take them for lessons, watch on the sidelines, supervise them whilst they look after their loan pony before graduating to their own pony. This parent is usually seen a couple of strides behind their child, carrying tack, or skipping out the stable. Their lucky child sails through horsey life, being able to focus on riding, whilst their parent does the dirty work.

Type C
The non-horsey parent who walks the walk. They jump both high-heeled feet into the horse world, without a second thought, lavishing their child and pony with the latest gear in all the latest colours. This parent doesn`t want to get involved, but wants their child to succeed so makes up for their lack of involvement by providing for the rider`s every whim.

Type D
The non-committal type. This non horsey parent wants the best for their child but is very conscious of the time and financial commitment. It`s a good approach, but nothing ventured nothing gained. If you sit on the sidelines you and your child can end up missing out on some great opportunities.

Type E
The convert. This parent starts off ambivalent about horses, but after exposure to their child and their pony. After intensive treatment, the parent takes the big step and books their first riding lesson. After that it`s a downhill spiral. Going on hacks together, sharing the pony, and then getting a horse each…


Word of The Day

24 Apr

Axis – The second vertebrae.

Hoof Picking

23 Apr

It`s a really basic part of horse care, but let`s face it, we can get complacent about it.

This week has reminded me about how important it is to get your horse used to having his feet picked out. I`m talking of course, about Apollo. The monkey of a four year old I have acquired. In general, he is very easy to handle and enjoys a good groom (and a good roll afterwards) but picking out his feet can be a bit hit and miss.

On day one he was foot perfect, no pun intended. He lifted when I asked and held his foot still. The next day however, he was a bit fidgety. On the fourth day my friend brought him in from the field and gave him a really good groom (I think he wants to be bay not skewbald). After about forty minutes she tried to pick out his feet. Her previous experience has been with mature horses, so she got herself in a bit of a muddle. As did Apollo. He stood firm and then when he did lift his leg he waved it around frantically, causing her to drop it. After a couple of attempts I had to do them. Apollo was quite cheeky, but I think part of it was that he was bored of standing around and wanted some dinner.

Later that day I brought Otis in, and once in his stable I immediately went to do his feet. Deep in thought, I bent down and tapped his fetlock. He lifted his foot straight up. Once picked, I let go and he lowered it down and I moved onto the next foot. Easy as pie.

As I compared him to Apollo I thought about how I had trained my previous horses. I picked their feet out when they came in, so it became a strong routine and they weren`t fidgety and impatient. I start by making sure the youngster is standing square and not about to step forwards – easier said than done! Then I approach the first leg and before I run my hand down it I give them a bit of a push on the shoulder or flank. This gives them an elephant sized hint to shift their weight away from me and then as I run my hand down I lean slightly against them. I try and use the same word “foot” or “up” would be acceptable and then once they lift their foot I hold it still, or keep holding it until they settle, then hoof pick them. If they hold their foot still then I put it down gently. If they try and snatch it away I keep hold until it`s still, and then I put it down. If the horse gets their foot away from me I take a deep breath, say their name sternly, and try again.

Hopefully by keeping this strict routine and repeating it regularly Apollo will soon learn to lift his foot automatically.


Word of The Day

23 Apr

Axial Skeleton – Atlas Vertebra Axis Vertebra Cervical vertebrae (7) Coccygeal vertebrae (15 – 20) Cranium Facial Bone Incisors Mandible Molar Teeth Nasal Bone Occipital Bone Orbit of eye Ribs (18) Sacral vertebrae (5) Sternum Lumber vertebrae (6) Thoracic vertebrae (18) Tushes

Improving the Jumping Technique

22 Apr

In tonight`s jumping lesson I had a teenager riding a New Forest riding school gelding. She`s been riding him for a couple of weeks but last week was a bit of disaster with the fillers. Enough said about that one …

This pony tends to get very close to the jump, and doesn`t hold a particularly good rhythm going into the fences, which invariably means a bit of rushing and some dirty stops.

Last week we discovered that rising canter helps this pony stretch over his back a bit more and to lengthen his stride. So after a warm up which involved a lot of long and low work, and suppling his back I had this teenager working over the canter poles.

I had a one stride double set up followed by four strides to a spread, with the canter poles between the double and then the third jump. Initially the pony rushed through, and rushed afterwards, but after a couple of goes he improved and stayed straight and in a better rhythm.

While my rider had a quick rest I put the third jump up as a cross, leaving a placing pole just short of nine feet in front of it (I had to make allowances for his short stride). The canter poles went smoothly and my rider kept her pony together and met the cross pole on a good stride. Not too close, and not over jumping.

We built the double up slowly, leaving the pole in the middle to encourage the pony to sit up and pay attention after the first cross pole. It encouraged the rider to keep a rhythm and not let him rush, or make it a two stride double. The first few times she had a nice stride then a little chip-in, but once the rider focused on riding away from the fence and onto the next fence in a positive manner, we managed to get a flowing double.

To finish, the third fence became an ascending spread without the placing pole, and then the second part of the double became an upright. Pleasingly, my rider and pony met the spread on a good stride without the help of the placing pole, and the added height of the double fences the pony found it easier to make the combination in one stride.

Overall it was a good jumping lesson and I think my rider really got a feel for getting her pony into a forward but relaxed and steady rhythm and to keep it through a combination. Next week we`ll move towards keeping that canter round a small course. It will mean she has to use her space and not cut the corners!

Word of The Day

22 Apr

Autonomic Nervous System – An arrangement of nerves regulating actions within the horse’s body. They can be split into two parts:
Voluntary – the horse can decide whether or not to move a leg or swish his tail.
Involuntary – is found in the digestive tract, the bladder, the arteries and the uterus, the horse cannot wilfully control the actions of this type of muscle.

Field Partners

21 Apr

As requested, here is yesterdays can of worms, fully opened for all to discuss.

Horses are designed to live in herds, but we humans have great difficulty in sharing both our horses and our fields.

The yard that I had my ponies on as a kid had five massive fields over which all the horses ran at various times in one large herd. There was very little disruption and injury to the horses because they could form their own mini-herds and stay out of each other’s way. Kinda like in a large school you could avoid the bullies. Even now, my Mum`s pony is in a mini herd of four geldings and two mares, and are always found together.

At the other end of the spectrum, are those over protective owners who keep their horse in single paddocks on their own. Personally I`m not a massive fan of this set up. Your horse becomes dominant, which may come out in behaviour towards humans, and can make hacking or travelling with others difficult. They don`t have the chance to groom another horse, or play. Social hierarchy disappears. I mean, how would you like it if you were kept in solitary confinement?

I can completely understand wanting to minimise the risk of injury to your competition horse, and if you know your horse to be aggressive then it is only common sense to reduce the chance of him injuring another horse. So I can see why in certain circumstances people may choose to keep their horse alone.

Then you get the human complication of sharing fields; you resent your field partner because you end up doing the majority of the poo-picking. Or they always tie the haynet too low. Or you always get the early morning shift. The list is endless, and whilst sharing a field can work in everybody`s favour you have to be careful who you go into partnership with, and if necessary draw up an agreement beforehand.

The reason I`ve brought up this touchy subject, is the content of yesterdays blog. What happens when one horse injures another? Of course, horses are horses, and can be unpredictable. It may be an argument over food, or just over zealous playing, but if an injury occurs it is almost impossible for the victims parent to politely say to their field companion “Don`t worry about it, these things happen.” You know there will be a massive vet bill, and the current field arrangement cannot continue in case another accident happens in the future.

Having said that, it`s not the fault of the other horse owner, they can`t tell their horse to play nicely, and everyone should be adult about the sticky situation.

The accident which happened at our yard last week reminded me of a nasty accident when I was a teenager.

My friend and I were going to the stables after school one February day, and for some reason I had accumulated a few extra horses that night. In total I was mucking out and bringing in eight horses. Some people were ill, others had netball matches, and someone else had A-Level exams too revise for. My friend offered to help me, so when we got to the yard we went and got our own horses (my black pony, and her loan pony) so we could ride in the light. As we came down the field three of the others followed us down to the gate. I suggested we let them in to save catching them later. They could stand on the yard until we`d ridden and mucked out.
Anyway, as we got through the gate my friends gelding kicked out at one of the mares. She was a thoroughbred, so instantly limped. We took her down to the yard and had a quick look. It was a kick to her knee but wasn`t swelling up too much.
We rode our horses and mucked out all the stables and tucked the horses to bed. On my way home I text the owner of the mare who had been kicked to tell her what had happened, and that she was okay but probably going to be lame. We`d also told our riding instructor.
The next day our riding instructor left the mare in her stable as her leg had swollen and she was pretty lame. The vet was called, and by that evening we knew that she had fractured her foreleg, just above the knee.
The following day the mare was taken to hospital and more x-rays and a Robert Jones bandage put on. She was brought back to the yard and put on box rest. Now, remember this was before rehabilitating horses with broken legs was common place, and it was the first time I was aware that a broken leg didn`t mean automatic death for a horse.
That Saturday morning, at about 7am the vet was called. I think this means that the original accident was on a Wednesday, but it may have been Tuesday. Anyway, the mare was lying down. Unfortunately, she was lying in such a position that in order to get up she would have to use her broken leg. I wasn`t allowed in to see the mare, but I think the break was worsened by her trying to get up. The vet euthanised her that morning. Unfortunately, the stable she was put in for box rest, which was quieter than her original, was down a narrow passage. This meant that a couple of us older girls had to drag the dead carcass out onto the yard so that the knacker man could pick it up. However, because it was a weekend, we had to cover her with a tarpaulin for two days until the knacker man came. It was fairly ugly knowing that a dead body lay in the middle of the yard.
I don`t think the mare`s owner ever forgave my friends loan pony, but she grew considerably warmer towards my friend once he went back to his original owner. It was an unfortunate accident, and one that could not have been prevented, but we had to put it behind us and carry on being friends.

That concludes my blog about sharing fields. I`m all for sharing with someone you get on with, and more importantly, your horse gets on with. It allows horses to play and socialise, but providing you don`t put overly dominant horses together, or a young horse with an old highly submissive horse. If you can come up with a good routine that suits both parties it can make your life much easier. Plus the fact you have someone who knows your horse very well if you are ever ill or on holiday. If your horse is anti-social then obviously it is much better for everyone if you can keep him separate and everyone else`s horse safe then that keeps everyone happy. I guess you could ask the question as to how a horse becomes anti-social or overly dominant …

Word of The Day

21 Apr

Jackass – A male ass.

A Fractured Jaw

20 Apr

I`d like to share a recent experience of a fellow livery, in the hope that it will make us all aware of fractures and their treatment.

On Wednesday morning, this livery was rung by her field friend. Well, not her personal field friend, but the owner of the horse who shared the field with her horse. You can see why I just said field friend, can`t you? Back to the story; the field friend said that the horse, for this purpose named X, had a wound on his cheek.

As a dedicated mother, and knowing that the field friend wouldn`t have called about any old cut, this livery went up to see X. She brought him in to clean what looked like a puncture wound. However, the wound was quite deep, and X was refusing to eat and drink, so the vet was called.

After a long wait for our busy vet, during which time the field was thoroughly checked for protrusions, the wound was inspected and cleaned out. The vet was worried that the wound was not the full story, so wanted to X-Ray. Whether this was because he thought there was something inside I don`t know, but the X-Ray showed a hairline fracture and comminuted fracture of the mandible. X was given powerful analgesia and antibiotics via IV, and the vet said he would be back the following day. X was to be stabled that night, and offered a variety of foods and water in his stable, in the hope that he would eat a bit. Buckets were arranged with tempting chaff, mix, or a soaked feed. The water drinker was turned off, and a bucket provided so that his water intake could be monitored.

The vets prognosis would depend, ultimately, on whether X would be able to eat and drink. The vet suggested that the injuries were sustained as a result from a kick from another horse, which opens a whole new can of worms. I`l get the can opener out for tomorrow`s post …

On Thursday X was taken out of his stable and taken for walks, as he tends to get very stressed in his stable. To everyone`s relief X managed to eat, drink, poo, and pee. He was happily grazing on the long lush grass at the edge of the tracks! When the vet arrived that evening he was very pleased with X`s progress, and they decided that surgery was not necessary.

X has a long road to recovery, which won`t be easy, and the prognosis depends on his determination and will to survive. The vet gave X more pain relief on Thursday and he is to have more twice daily until the vet`s next visit on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, to best care for X, a small paddock with long, fresh grass was found. Because he dislikes living it, the vet thought that field rest would be best for him, particularly as he is grazing comfortably. X needs to live on his own, for safety and to reduce the risk of further injury, and will probably live on his own for the rest of his life. The vet will make regular visits and assess the level of pain X is in, and how to medicate him. Further X-Rays will be done in a couple of months and depending on his level of comfort, his dedicated mother will be able to start riding him. Thankfully it`s spring now and grass is plentiful so he has the best, and most easily eaten, food available. As he recovers other feeds will be introduced to see how he copes with it.

Fingers crossed that X makes a full recovery, he`s in the best hands and will be given five star care.


Word of The Day

20 Apr

Ragwort – Ragwort is a member of the daisy family and is so called because of their ragged leaves and are all poisonous to horses causing liver damage. There are four types
Marsh (Senecio aquaticus) is found in damp pasture, especially on peaty soil.
Hoary (S.erucifolius) is found on lime rich soils especially clay, in lowland areas of England and Wales. It can be identified by its hairy leaves and stems and grows between 30cm-120cm (1ft-4ft).
Oxford (S.aqualidus) is becoming common especially around towns. It grows 22cm-37cm (9ins. -15ins.) and its flowers brighten the corner of a building plot. It was introduced to Oxford from southern Italy and was first noticed spreading elsewhere in 1794. This ragwort begins to bloom in May.
Common (S. Jacobaea) – grows throughout the British Isles, growing on waste ground, roadsides and neglected pasture.

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