I sent the ladies at the livery yard on a trip down memory lane this morning.
It all started last night when I was researching for a stable management lecture. I needed to remind myself of the BHS grooming process, so was flicking through my Stage II book and I noticed strapping.
I remember learning how to strap in preparation for this exam, and often practised on Otis, but it is an old-fashioned technique and one that very few horse owners use today. In college we either used a cupped hand or a leather pad, so I`ve never made one before.
One livery used to work in a showing yard, so I asked her if she could make wisps. Yes, she replied, but a long time ago. She could remember that it was a lot of twisting, so I sat on a bale and busied myself twisting up the long strands of haylage.
Eventually I made a half decent wisp. You take a handful of long strands of hay/haylage/straw and pull it out so the stalks like parallel. Then folding it in half you start twisting the strands as you would twist your hair around a finger – sorry guys, I`m talking from a long-haired girls perspective. As the haylage strands twist around themselves the two strands start to twist around each other, and then the large plait curl around itself until the end meets the beginning. Then you poke the end into the loop at the beginning of your twist (the middle of the original length of haylage), which secures the wisp.
Here is my attempt at making a wisp, and I practised later on Otis.
To strap, you bang the wisp down onto the horse`s hindquarters, shoulder, or crest, in a steady rhythm. There should be a pause between hits to allow the muscle to relax. Strapping builds muscle tone and bulk by stimulating blood flow to the large muscles. Within a couple of bangs to Otis`s quarters his muscles pre-empt my hitting and contract themselves, which is why it is important to keep the rhythm. Otherwise I would be hitting as his muscles are relaxing.
Another livery laughed at me, and observed that a bystander could report me for abusing my horse, if they saw me repeatedly hitting him. My arms were aching after a while though!
Going back to our trip down memory lane. The liveries started chatting about the old school equipment they used to use. Which of these can people remember?
- The heavy, stiff, old fashioned New Zealand rugs with the checked wool on the inside, that were fastened by a surcingle.
- Jute rugs – wool lined Hessian rugs which were used to dry horses when worn inside out, and to keep them warm when worn in the usual way.
- Baling twine haynets – this was a popular way of passing the time at pony club, and the haynets were never big enough and the knots were always in the wrong place!
- Blankets which were placed from the poll to the tail, and the front corners folded diagonally to the withers and then from the poll to the back, and secured with a surcingle. Or a roller. Some people even used anti-cast rollers, which stopped the horse from getting cast in their stable.
- The metal curry comb, which no one knows how to use correctly. I never had one as a child as I`m sure Mum was convinced I`d injure myself, but I use the plastic curry comb in the same manner. I never succombed to the self-harming-like cuts on the wrist from where I`d missed the body brush when cleaning it.
- String girths? Those funny-looking girths which were basically made out of thirty thin pieces of rope, banded together at regular intervals… I never really got the idea of them.
- String vest cooling rugs … which could only be used with another rug on top, and weren`t that effective. Instead, many people did …
- Thatching. The process by which you push straw up under a rug on a wet horse and leave them to dry, doing an Oscar-winning performance of Quasimodo.