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 …