Where does the time go?! 

It was today when I stopped and wondered where does the time go? 

Every day is like Groundhog Day.  I get up, go out, give them breakfast, turn them out, muck out, clean up, go in, do some house stuff and then before you know it, it’s back out, get them in, give them a groom, give them dinner and close up for the night. 

This is my first winter with them and it has been hard work.  It’s not been a particularly bad winter but the rain has been non stop and made everything so much more complicated! 

When I first had them I would study the weather forecast, decide whether they were in or out, rug or not, and paranoid about getting it wrong.  That calmed down until it started getting colder and wetter, it was ‘What’s the temperature? Which lining do I use? Day time? night time?’ Etc etc. 

I use the Premier Equine Buster Trio and with it you get the 100g rug and neck, a 100g, 200g, 350g liner and then a 100g and 200g neck. I had to devise a plan depending on the temperature and also if the ground was like a bog, would it be the ‘winter’ paddock or the manège I put them in.  When I say ‘Winter Paddock’ it sounds very grand but in essence our paddock in total is just over an acre, so we divided a third off for the winter so in the Spring they still had something that resembled grass and not a bog to go in.  

We are on heavy clay and so it became a bog very quickly.  I am conscious about issues like mud fever etc etc so it’s been easier to stick them in the manège to stop that issue. A couple of hay nets dotted about and a huge bucket of water and it’s all good.  Except that has its down sides.  When you poo pick you end up picking up the rubber too, it becomes uneven very quickly and even that was a swimming pool on a couple of really heavy downpour days so they had to stay in.  Bono doesn’t mind but Bart is a big lad so it’s important not to keep him in for too long as he cant have a leg stretch, his bowels aren’t moving about and so that could then cause other issues such as colic or an impaction. 

Bart has been doing well, and we managed to get him to load and take him to see a vet, Donna Blinman, who looks at the whole picture, behaviours issues, changes in food, riding issues etc, not just a poke and a prod and say ‘it’s fine’. 

His first visit he loaded well but got there (a 10 minute journey) all hot and sweaty and anxious.  He was agitated and so Donna found it quite difficult to asses him as much as she wanted to but she found that he had issues relating to his stomach and pancreas. 

His diet had to change gradually, we took him off the balancer, gave him Thunderbrooks chaff which is more natural and also gave him zinc, magnesium, vitamins and green clay. I changed him over gradually and he seemed to be getting better, he was less touchy about having his stomach touched, and on the return visit about 3 weeks later he was less angsty and she said he seemed to be improving.  The only issue I had was that the chaff on its own was dry and he ate it like it for about 10 days and then stopped eating it.  I discussed it with my instructor and we decided to give him some Speedibeet with it.  That went down well.  I ran out and went to get some more and they didn’t have any but they did have Fibrebeet, well! It was like feeding time at the zoo, both Bart & Bono woofed that down mixed in with the chaff! 

Bart felt he wasn’t getting enough and was quite upset that he was still hungry and I recognised his mood from the summer when he wasn’t getting a big enough net of hay, so he has a big bucket and loves it, although he still thinks he’s not getting enough. That’s just being greedy.  Their stomachs are only the size of a rugby ball and giving them a massive meal only means it doesn’t get digested properly so it’s going straight through! You might as well just get a £20 note and burn it! They get a breakfast and a dinner of the chaff and beet (with supplements), and hay inbetween. If you make it a sloppy mash then it also means they are getting additional water too which helps with hydration. 

So back to the ‘winter’ issues. 

We put up shutters on the stable ‘Windows’ (holes in the walls) as the wind and rain was coming in at such an angle that they were getting wet and cold, now it’s about 2-3 degrees C than it is outside and yes he can’t look out but warmer is better. 

They haven’t been on the paddock now for about a month and so the manège is getting heavily used.  I will have to get the rubber topped up in the Spring.  The track down the side is also a grass bog so this year we are going to put planings down so it’s easier to walk them down.  (I don’t think hover boards would help).  

They are a bit grumpier in the winter, and aren’t we all.  There is less daylight, less turn out, it’s cold, wet and fairly miserable but there is nothing you can do.  It will get better.  

I had a steep learning curve with Bart as his stable manners were beginning to slips. He started turning his bum in my face again and trying to intimidate me with his ears back and his head forward.  He did manage to intimidate me for a bit but I had to be tough.  If I let him do it then I would be on a slippery slope to a ill mannered horse and especially because of his size, that wouldn’t be good.  We worked on him stepping back when I went in to his stable with his food and worked on him not lurching forward when I went in for his bowl afterwards.  He is funny around his food, he doesn’t like being disturbed when he’s eating and he likes to have time after to chill out so I give him his food, and then sit quietly in the stable with them and leave it half an hour or so when he’s then chilled and go and get his bowl.  This works better.  There are some battles you have no choice but to win but this was a compromise.  It’s working well so far.  A horse should never be rude and bolshy.  If you are consistent and be firm then they will walk all over you.  I’m not talking about going in and beating them up, I haven’t and I wouldn’t, but Inam afraid that if he tries or does bite you then I will give him a slap on the shoulder.  You do have to react quickly.  If you don’t do it immediately then you have lost the opportunity as then they won’t know why you are doing it.   Never lose your temper with a horse.  There is a difference between being firm and angry. 

Bono in comparison is no issue, he eats his dinner off the floor, flicking the bowl over and he’s happy, go in and get his bowl and skip out and he’s done, Bart on the other hand, well I take the bowl out and don’t do anything else.  It’s easier. 

Bedding wise, well I have Bart on woodchip and I find the more I keep it topped up the easier it is to manage.  Yes it’s hard turning it all over as there is so much of it but it’s worth it.  Bono is on straw still and it’s quite sweet, he’s made himself a big bed in the corner of his stable so he’s all nice and warm. 

Riding wise well the last time I rode was New Years Day.  I was having a lesson once a week and trying to ride once or twice a week on top but the weather has been foul, I haven’t been at my best ( I have ongoing health issues, and like I said, the manège has been like a swimming pool, uneven and generally not great.  When it snowed and started getting icy, the road outside ours is like a skating rink.  It just isn’t worth the risk of injuring you or your horse for the sake of a hack.  I can understand why some people turn their horses away for the winter as its hard.  I keep thinking ‘I must get out’ but when I do it’s either raining, icy or I’m not well.  The other issue for me is that the longer the gap the anxiety levels build thinking about riding.  It’s daft I know but after having an accident a few years ago and then last winter having a very scary hack in someone else’s horse, it’s left me with confidence issues.  I know it’s daft, Bart hasn’t done anything to give me any reason as to why I would think he would do something silly but my brain works overtime. 

I have a friend who was my foot soldier which really helped on hacks and another friend who would come out on her horse from time to time for a hack, but my foot soldier friend is unwell and so hasn’t been able to do it for some time.  It’s through no fault of her own, it’s one of those things.  It just makes the anxiety levels much higher.  Bart and I did hack out on our own about two months ago, I had a large Brandy, and having done the route the day before with my instructor as foot soldier, she said I had no reason why I couldn’t do it by myself so I did.  Of course he picked up on my nerves a bit which made him a bit anxious but we did great and I was so so pleased after as the only other time we did a hack together on our own was in the summer round the field.  I know I can do it. That’s why it’s all a bit daft but I know I am not the only one out there like this.  I am an admin for a page on Facebook called ‘Fear less, Ride more’ and it’s fabulous.  Everyone is supportive, caring and full of great ideas, but they too feel like me, so it’s a great page to get a bit of moral support.  I have also decided that I am at the age where if I dont want to do something then I wont unless I have to.  Hacking out on my own? I did it but I found it boring.  I like having xompany. If I had to I know I could when push came to shove, but if I dont have to I wont. 

The thing is owning a horse isn’t a competition.  You have bought a horse because you want to do X,Y and Z, but do it in your time and don’t put unneccesary pressure on yourself.  Baby steps, working together with your hose and doing what is right for you both.  Yes I have ambition to do certain things but I am in no hurry.  Bart is still young and unbalanced, we are 9 months in to our partnership and it is still early days.  I need to do more groundwork with him and little and often.  When the weather gets better I want to do some groundwork with him to build our bond and make us confident in each other. 

I did have a bit of a set back which made me think.  I was contacted by the last but one owner of Bart who had been looking for him as she had sold him to the woman I bought him from and, to cut a long story short, she only had him a month then had him up for sale because he ‘wasn’t the horse she thought he was’.  Apparently he was dangerous, bolted off, bolshy and she wanted to get rid. Between us we put the parts of the puzzle together and it turns out I was lied to about how he was a ‘perfect first horse’, how long she had him, why she was selling him etc. I felt stupid for being done over and then worried because of what had allegedly happened.  My instructor told me that I had to focus on the horse I had now, not the one she had, which made sense.  She had out horsed herself, he took advantage of her and was bolshy and she let him get away with so much which is why he was how he was with me to begin with.  As I said, you have to be consistent, firm but fair, and you have to be the boss of the partnership otherwise it just won’t work.  I was lucky as, although she lied, I have a great horse and one who is helping me while I help him and we are on a great journey.  Her loss quite frankly! 

Anyhow my New Years resolution is to write my blog more regularly and keep you updated and help you find your feet too.  If you are like me, and never owned a horse before, it can be a daunting thing, but if I can help just one person to have a little more understanding and help them feel more confident then I will be happy. 

You can read Bart & Bono’s diary on Facebook and keep up to date with their antics.   Click on the link and like their page.  



Who? What? Where? How??

I didn’t realise just how quick the time goes when you are having fun! Having a horse is like having your own Rollercoaster – it’s a up and down ride with twist and turns and there is no way of getting off!

In the last entry I spoke about getting to know your horse and what to look out for and listening to your gut instinct.  I glad I do.

Bart was, for most of the time, a lot better, but now and again he would be tetchy about having his tummy touched so obviously there was something going on.   I arranged for the vet to come on a ‘free day’ – these are the days when your ‘zone’ means they will come out to you with no ‘call out fee’ which is handy.  I wanted Bart and Bono to have a general MOT and a look over before winter and also to check Bart as he was still a bit on and off.  The other thing was that they both needed a worm egg count doing (WEC).

So the vet arrived with an ‘observer’.  She was the lady who came out when I first got them, so she hadn’t seem them since May, and to be honest I forgot it was her.  I got Bono in first.  She had a look at him, told me that he was quite ‘large’ and that I should be able to feel his ribs.  He’s a shetland so he’s never going to be super slim, but his winter fluff is now coming through.  I said that I don’t rug him and that he only has a pinch of food when Bart is eating and then it’s ad lib hay or grass depending on the weather.  We have to manage our paddock well as it’s not the worlds biggest so when it’s wet they go in the manage.  Anyhow, she saw the size of his hay net and told me to cut that down too.  She rasped his teeth and said he was in good condition and had good feet etc. He also got his 3rd Vaccination too.  I was pleased, and to be honest I am not too worried about his weight as I know he will lose some during the winter anyhow.  He gets lunged and free schooled about once a week and him and Bart are always running around together so exercise isn’t a big issue.  The main thing is that, particularly with breeds such as him, they can be prone to Laminitis and I don’t want him getting this as to be honest it is avoidable if you are careful. He was so good having his teeth done and being checked – what a little superstar!

Bart was next, and he was the one I was more concerned about – particularly with his tummy.  She had a listen and said it sounded ok, which of course is typical that she comes when he is back to his ‘normal’ self.  He was given his third vaccination, and then she did his teeth – I was so surprised at how good he was as with the farrier he has been really bloody minded and played up – the fact he just took it all in his stride was really lovely to see (more about the farrier in a bit!)

She said he was a big bigger than when I first got him – and I did say that he had really built up a good top line and hasn’t got so much of an ‘apple’ bum anymore and is coming on well.  She asked how much he was eating and I told her.  She said perhaps the hard feed needed to stop but I disagreed as I know that some days he is on just hay because the paddock isn’t always available.  I also told her that he was on NAFF Magic supplement.  Now this is where it was interesting as she said that she didn’t really believe that the supplements really did a lot – which I know isn’t true.  She said that if I believed they worked then that was ok, and I tried explaining that without it he was a different horse, but she was in a total ‘scientific’ mind and said there wasn’t really any evidence to show any amazing transformations.  I beg to differ.  If she had seen him when he was off of it I am sure that she would be seeing things a bit differently.  I also asked her about SACC and Micronised Linseed supplements.  Micronised Linseed is meant to be better than Linseed oil and the SACC is a prebiotic which is good for horses who have a tendency to have stomach issues.  Again she ‘poo poo’d’ them and said there wasn’t any significant research to say they worked. She checked Bart all over and said it might be an idea to get a physiotherapist out to look at his back as it had a spasm.  I mentioned that I was thinking of getting either a McTimoney Chiropractor out, again she said that she didn’t think they really worked, preferring to have a Physiotherapist with an approved veterinary  qualification.  I disagree. I also believe that horses should be looked at from the ground upwards especially when it comes to back and limbs, and a chiropractor can really see how the muscles are interacting.

After she had finished with Bart I gave her a present from each of them – a bag with a sample of their poo for the WEC.  She asked what their worming history was and to be honest I had to say I didn’t know – which I didn’t.  I was told that they had both been done, but what with I couldn’t say.  So she gave me Panacur – working out that Bart needed 3 syringes and Bono just 1.  It was ‘Apple & Cinnamon’ flavour – giving them to the boys would be interesting I thought!

The next day we gave them the Panacur and they were absolutely fine.  Didn’t try to spit it out – the key, I found, was to put it in the top corner of their mouth and point it towards the back of their throat and then plunge it in quick!  They both licked and licked, and a little rub on their throat made them swallow too.  It couldn’t have tasted that bad as they swallowed it with no trouble.  For those who do have difficulty I have been told that coring an apple and putting it inside is one trick, another is to mix it in with their hard feed.  Whatever works for you, as long as they get it down them then its fine.

The WEC came back really quick and it showed that Bono was clear of anything, but that Bart had a ‘High’ count of Strongyle egg burden.  She suggested that I give them a double dose of Pyrantel and then test again in March.  Now having just put 3 syringes of Panacur in Bart and 1 in Bono I wanted to make sure that what she suggested was the best solution.  PLEASE!  If you are unsure about worming then ask – most vets are really helpful and will ensure that you have your questions answered.  It’s a good job that I did because she had forgotten that I had been given the Panacur, and she had forgotten it was Panacur and had written down Pyrantel.  I questioned whether or not they should be tested again soon rather than waiting until March, but they said that was fine.

How do you know if it’s worked if you don’t retest?  I checked with a few friends and my thoughts were right.  A retest should be done 14 days after the wormer has been given.  ALSO!  You should worm your horses for tapeworm after the first frost in the winter.  Now me being me felt bad that Bart had a high count and beat myself up a bit feeling I had let him down and thought that is why he had tummy issues and if I had done it sooner it may not have been so bad – DONT!! Don’t beat yourself up.  Worms are very common in animals especially horses, so don’t give yourself a hard time.  You can help by poo picking daily and look after the grazing, and regularly doing a WEC.  Don’t get bogged down, but it can be a bit complicated as to what to do, but just ask!  I have decided that my advice from the vet about retesting in March isn’t what I want – I want to retest, as you should, in a weeks time (it’s been a week since they had it) to see if it’s working, and also to worm for tapeworm when the weather gets colder.

As for the teeth and back – I have also decided that I will be getting a chiropractor out for Bart as I think that is far more suitable than a physio for him AND I will also get an equine dentist out next time too.  Don’t think for one minute that I think the vets aren’t good (and the one I use is an Equine Vets only), but I believe that an equine dentist will have had far more experience and knowledge and practical skills than an ‘all rounder’ vet.  It’s what ever feels right for you. I have absolutely 100% faith in my vets and I know that they would be able to help me in times of need, but I believe in ‘specialists’ being able to get to the root of the issue slightly better.

Since the visit they have both been fine – it’s been, weather wise, a bit up and down so the old question ‘Do I rug, don’t I rug?’ goes through your mind and a couple of times I have put a rug on only for the sun to then come out and go down and take it off and he’s steaming underneath.  Bono is super fluffy now (but isn’t rugged), and Bart is getting super fluffy all of a sudden (and is rugged when it’s cold.)  At the moment Bart is rugged with a lightweight during the day if it is below 8c and at night if it’s below 8c.  You don’t want to over rug that’s for sure!  It’s better for them to be slightly too cold rather than too hot!

Bart had a lovely present – I decided to buy him a new rug for the winter and after weighing up all the options I opted for the ‘Premier Equine Buster Trio’.  It’s a lightweight rug with different interchangeable liners.  It has a 100g, 200g and a 350g liner and a neck of either 100g or 200g which is detachable.  It’s awesome.  He also has a stable rug – 100g – which will also takes the liners too so it’s all interchangeable.  I figured that although it appeared ‘pricey’, by the time you have bought a lightweight, medium weight and a heavy weight rug and a stable rug you are looking at the same, or if not more for 4 different rugs.  Now the good thing too is that Premier Equine (PE) give you 10% discount if you ‘like’ them on Facebook and I believe the day after Halloween they do a one day special with 20% off – now it is a gamble as to whether you could wait that long to get one, I couldn’t as I am a coward and the temperatures were beginning to drop, but 10% off is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!  I might add there are other makes of interchangeable rugs out there, but PE are good size wise for my chunky monkey and have pleats on the legs so there is more space to move.  You don’t have to buy a stable rug either, you can leave them in the rug they went out in.  The benefit of that is that they will stay dry underneath, the rug will dry off while they have it on, and it saves a lot of time taking off, folding up, putting on faffing about!

In other news Bart is now being so much better with the issue with his feet being cleaned.  The one thing that I have learnt is that although its a partnership – you are in charge!  Do not let them get the better of you!  Now I don’t mean if they are being uncooperative that you tell them off, but a reminder that they need to behave doesn’t go a miss.  From only being able to do Barts back feet and now being able to do all 4, and spraying them with Pine Tar Spray to stop any issues with Thrust, it has taken consistency, not backing down and patience….. a lot of patience.  Being firm but fair is the best way!

Oh yes, I mentioned about the farrier.  I have purchased a chifney to use for the next farrier visit – some feel this is harsh, however, if used correctly, it works a treat.  Don’t ever tie your horse up from the chifney, tie them up from the head collar – if they pulled back and were tied up you could break their jaw – not nice.  The Dually head collar is fantastic and is 99.9% effective, but Bart was still trying to pull away and was being quite rude.  The chifney turned him in to a whole new horse with a angelic attitude and didn’t have to use it.  Safer all round for him, the farrier and for me who is holding him!

The same with his rug ‘issues’.  He now has no issue with his rug coming off or on. He was getting himself in a right fizz when I was taking it off, but now he stands still and doesn’t even bat an eyelid.  Be firm, patient and consistent!  I promise you it works.  Don’t be scared, appear anxious or fret as they will know and they will use it to their advantage!!

Apart from that we are getting along quite nicely – I must admit I have been feeling  a bit anxious about it coming up to Winter time, but as someone said – it’s the same as the summer, just shorter hours and colder!  There is no need to change your routine as such – I still intend to hack out when I can and I ride Bart in the school regularly and lunge Bono.  Bart is coming on leaps and bounds and despite his balance issues (he is still young and unbalanced at times) – we cantered for the first time in the school and it was awesome.  Initially I was a flappy mess, but once I worked out that I just give him a tap with my inside leg and my schooling whip and he will pop in to canter just like that!  It’s an amazing thing when it happens, and when you are over flapping about it then it’s a great buzz! He’s also taken a complete beginner on board and a 10 year old who’s legs only go half way down him.  It’s almost as if he knows the capabilities and thoughts of the person on board and really looks after them.

Bart will also need a bit of a hair cut – as he’s not working too hard really, a ‘Trace’ cut will be fine.  He had a ‘Hunter’ clip last year which, for what he does and did, was a little extreme, however, I can’t leave the fluff ball to get all hot and sweaty under his girth and numnah, so a little trim will be good.  Just remember though, if you are going to clip then rugging is more essential as they don’t have the fluff to keep warm.

Well I think I have written enough for now.  Remember it’s a partnership but don’t let them take advantage, and if you are unsure of anything ASK someone.  There are plenty of people are more than willing to give you an opinion but ask a professional or someone you trust – they don’t really mind at all.

In my next post I will go through clipping – what types of clip to choose and what to do if your horse becomes a gibbering wreck if you even put the clippers within a 10 meter radius of him.  I’ll keep you posted about how it’s all going to and any issues that pop up.

Don’t forget in the mean time you can read about Bart & Bono in their diaries which are on Facebook.  Bart & Bonos diary.  ENJOY!!

Getting to know you…… getting to know all about you……..

It’s always difficult to get to really know a horse when you are going for a lesson once a week.  You get to know some of their quirks and how they change through the seasons but you don’t really get to know ‘know’ them!

They say it takes anything up to 18 months – 2 years to really get to know your horse.  So far we have had 4 months together.  I think with your first horse too it’s always difficult to not worry too much if they are slightly ‘off’ sometimes.  We are all entitled to have a bad day, it’s just working out when they are trying to tell you more than they are feeling grumpy.

Having done my BHS Stable Management course and a University of Edinburgh (Coursera) course on Equine Nutrition (more about that in a bit…), I was aware of what to look out for with a poorly horse for say colic, grass sickness or laminitis etc, and it is easy to worry about the slightest little thing when you get them.

It takes time for them to settle in, especially as they are in new surroundings, maybe new food, new hay, new everything.  You can understand if they are going to be quiet, spooky or grumpy.

The first week I had Bart & Bono they were both as good as gold.  It was new for them and me so they were on their best behaviour.  Both got to see the vet for their jabs (which were due), the farrier for a pedicure, and Bart also saw the saddler.  They were both great.

The second week Bono was pretty laid back, but Bart decided he would ‘try it on’.  He would turn round in the stable and put his bum in my face, turn round in the paddock and put his bum in my face, pretty much turning his bum in my face apart from when there was food involved.  Now as a first time horse owner it can be intimidating, especially as Bart is 17hh and big build!   He could sense I was hesitant which means that he would do it even more.  I was ‘asking’ him to do things rather than telling him, leaving him alone when it got ‘too difficult’ and worrying that I wasn’t going to be able to cope.

I had contacted an instructor who I was very interested to work with as not only did she teach you to ride, but she also teaches you how to look after them and how to deal with them on the ground.  She is by no means a ‘tree hugger’ as someone once described ‘natural horsemanship’, and will be firm, but without punishment which I felt was the path I wanted to be on.

She came over and for the first lesson she showed me techniques for catching him in the paddock as his second week of being rude meant I couldn’t get his attention to get him out of the paddock unless it was dinner time and because I didn’t want a battle I would back off and leave him alone, which of course was the wrong thing to do as he knew that swinging his bum in my face was a way of getting rid of me!   She also showed me how to walk him to the paddock and back, which I know sounds so basic, but when you are a first time owner it’s good to get the basics right from the start.  After all, when you have a lesson how often do you do this, or was it like with me, you would arrive with the horse already tacked up and ready to go.  This was until I did the BHS stable management course, but as that was once a week you didn’t really get to know the horse.

Anyhow, problem solved, I was being more ‘business like’ and firm, not asking but telling and no nagging!!  When I say nagging I mean this.  Can your horse understand what you are saying? The answer is ‘No’.  Yes they can understand and associate words with an action, for example, walk, trot, canter, whoa, stand etc, but they can’t understand you whittering on at them.  So you walk with them and ask them to do something, and then you keep repeating yourself, so of course it’s like saying ‘What’s 2 + 2?’ and they say ‘4’.  You then repeat it again ‘What’s 2 + 2?’ and they are now thinking ‘I just said 4 – is that wrong?  ok um 5’.  You nag again ‘What’s 2 + 2?’ and now they are really confused.  Do you get it?  As soon as you tell them what to do and they do it then zip it!  That’s the way they understand.

You want a partnership with your horse, but although it’s 50/50, it’s more you need to be the leader.  They look to you and they put their trust in you to look after them.

So paddock issues sorted, yep it meant me sounding like a deranged woman chasing him around, and stable issues sorted by pushing him back and out of the way and giving you space.  Making him step back when you go in the stable.  Now you can start getting to know each other a bit more.

When their behaviour changes or their habits change that’s when you need to sit up and take note.

Bono gets a strop on from time to time, but as he is small he’s quite easy to handle, if you are firm with him he’s as good as gold.

When Bart is in a strop you know about it.  It makes you think just what went on in the previous years and with previous owners.

Bart and I have had a few issues between us.  Some of it is a lack of understanding, some of it is him being rude.

He got spooky when he wore his fly rug and I gave him an electric shock taking it off, so we then had issues with any rug.  It took a while to calm him down so I could take it off, no issues going on, just jiggly when taking it off!

He got grumpy when you disturbed him eating his breakfast or dinner.  Ears back, trying to nibble you and on one occasion he actually bit me, broke the skin, but he was told off and hasn’t done it since.

These things you can deal with and not worry about.  It’s when there is something and your gut instincts are saying ‘this isn’t right’.

The first one was his ‘Magic’.  He was on a magnesium supplement which is given if the grass isn’t all that great, and also keeps them calm and laid back.  He is laid back, sometimes lazy at times and I had people telling me he didn’t need to be on ‘Magic’.  So I took him off.  After a week he changed and I didn’t like it.  He was more jiggy, grumpy and not himself.  I put him back on it and within a week he was back to his normal self.

The second, and more serious one was this past week.  Last week we had a lesson and he wasn’t working that well and so we kept on him and he was irritable and bucked when I asked him to go more forward.  As I said, he’s laid back and can be lazy, but isn’t nasty or naughty in any way, so for him to do this was unusual.

As the week went on I lunged him.  Again, he wasn’t really wanting to work and so I kept on him and he was swinging his head about, trying to stop, and then was bucking and trying to pull away. This wasn’t him either.  Then he was running around and lost a shoe in the paddock.

Saturday it all came to a head.  He was spooked by something and he was running up and down the fence line and kept looking out across the field.  The local hunt has started again so they may well have been in the area, but whatever it was I couldn’t see what was causing him to spook.   As it was the first day on the ‘new grass’ of the paddock (it’s divided in two and they have 3 wks on one side and then change), I initially thought it was the fresh grass.  Bono gets fat on fresh air, so brought him in, but Bart was getting himself in more of a fizz,  so I had to bring Bono back out.

When it was time for them to come back in for dinner I got Bono in as usual and normally Bart is standing at the gate to come in.  He was running up and down the fence line, and had really runny poo, which may have been down to the change from hay to grass, but it was also frequent as he got himself in a fizz.

It took me 3/4hr to get him in as he was running up and down and wouldn’t stop, so I poo picked, sorted out Bono and went back out when he then calmed down a bit but was still on ‘edge’ and looking across the field.

I took him in to the stable and normally he is straight in to his hay and then his dinner.  Bono was fine, but Bart was walking in circles, and then looking out across the field, he was sweating and shivering, he didn’t want his dinner and there was nothing I could do to calm him down.  I was concerned that he may be showing mild signs of colic.  He wasn’t trying to kick his belly and he wasn’t trying to lay down or roll, but whatever was going on was making him feel terrible.

I kept an eye on him and sat with him for a while and after a couple of hours he was calmer.  I checked on him throughout the evening and before I went to bed.

In the morning I went in expecting the chaos and mess in his stable, but it was clean….. too clean.  He hadn’t done any poo and had hardly touched his hay net.  (it’s huge and normally all gone in the morning).  He did do one small poo when I was mucking out, so I knew it was still ‘working’ but he wouldn’t let me go near his stomach to listen to see if it was gurgling.

The day was rubbish and it was raining and because of how he was the day before I decided to keep them in.  (Due to the size of the paddock when it rains they go out in to the manage with a hay net otherwise the paddock would only last a week!)

Normally Bart would be grumpy to stay in but he wasn’t fussed, he appeared lethargic and was yawning.  He was now eating and drinking and was calmer and not circling round. However, when I went in for dinner he hadn’t poo’d once all day.  This was definitely not normal.  I know their intestines are really long, so of course he hadn’t eaten the day and night before so he was quite empty. I got advice and was told to keep an eye on him, but it appeared the worse was over.

Today my instructor came out for a lesson and because it was raining and because I was concerned about Bart she gave him a once over and when she touched him on the left side of his belly he kicked out.  He clearly has some pain and tenderness there.  We took him down to the manage and we walked and trotted him.  He showed no lameness, but she could see that he wasn’t exactly himself either.  I am going to contact a vet that she has recommended that will look at his behaviour as well as his tender bits and work out what is going on.  If there is any tummy trouble it is better they keep moving so put them in the paddock or manage so their gut can keep gurgling and moving.

It has really been a hard week and it’s been a worry.  I was told that I was ‘worrying’ too much, but my instincts are right.  He is not himself and needs to be looked at.  Don’t get me wrong, he’s tonnes better now and the worst is over, and it may well right itself, but I want to get him looked at just to try and find an answer as to why his behaviour has changed and what is going on.

You have to remember that horses can’t tell you what is wrong, so they will show it with their behaviour and body language.  If your horse is acting differently or our of character then pay attention as it’s important.

It may seem daft, but I keep a diary on Facebook for Bart & Bono (Bart & Bonos diary ) – which is helpful to read and see how they are developing and changing, as when you are seeing them every day you don’t always notice the changes as you go with the ebb and flow…. the fact that they have followers who love reading their diaries is an absolute bonus.

I really want to hammer it home just how important it is to listen and take note of their character, their behaviour and appearance.  I think gut instinct is also really important – don’t ignore it.  If there is any doubt then get some advice or call the vet.  If you sit there thinking ‘it’ll be ok soon’ then it could be too late.

I will keep you updated with how he does,  he’s doing so much better but I owe it to him that we get him checked out and get him back to his normal happy self.

Brave pants and bossy bra……..

Now I have my own horse I guess I had to hitch up my brave pants and get out riding.  I was apprehensive, I am not going to lie and the reason is that a few years ago I got flung off a horse which span me round in to a barbed wire fence which ripped my back fairly bad.  It did put me off a bit, but the longing to ride again was there, so before I bought my own I went and had lessons for a year, and also signed up for the Horse and Stable Management Course with the BHS.  It was really useful and I learnt and relearnt a lot.  With the lessons away from the course I was getting on really well, walk, trot, canter, leg yielding, shoulder in, and we also had been doing some jumping.  My confidence was at a good level.

I was starting to get impatient with not having my own horse and had several discussions with my old instructor about was I ready and to be honest I wasn’t, not then.  She told me I needed to go and get more experience under my seat riding other horses.  So I went out and rode other horses and had a good idea of what I wanted.

My ‘ideal’ horse was 16.2 – 17hh, 8-10 years old, gelding, and I do love a grey!  I needed a chunk of a horse as I am 5’10 and not a stick plant, so I was looking for something like an Irish Draught or similar.

Anyhow, so here we are and I have my own, 17hh, aged 6 (now 7), grey Percheron. At first, I admit, I was a bit intimidated by him, purely because of his size and the fact that because he was young  and was still a little unaware of his size.  He was unbalanced and unfit.  The first week he was an angel, and then the second week he thought he would try and get away with bits.  Nothing major, but being rude by turning his bum round in my face in the stable and in the paddock.

With the help of my instructor I got my confidence back in to walking in hand with him and getting him to listen, as well as learning to be confident getting on him.   Our first ride out together was with a neighbour who brought her horse down.  This was the day after we had him and we took him around the village with her horse Reggie.  Bart and I did well and he was taking it all in, didn’t spook once, and by the end of it, due to being so unfit, he was hanging! Bless him!! It was brilliant!

I had no problem in tacking him up and going out with another horse, I had no problems with tacking him up and having a lesson.  I had a big issue with riding him with no one else around.  I think part of me was thinking ‘if I fall off, no one will be here to find me’.  The first few weeks made it difficult because not having anyone to ride out with me all the time meant I would talk myself out of riding.

I am very fortunate that I have a school to work in, so if I can’t go out for a hack then we always have the school to work in.  There would be days when I would easily talk myself out of riding him on my own, and then there would be days when I gave myself a good talking to and made myself do it.

I needed to get in to a routine, and now the lessons were starting to become regularly it meant I had a definite day and hour that I could focus on.

Fortunately my neighbour, Naomi, has been a star.  She used to have horses and has ridden for years.  She said that she would be my ‘foot soldier’.  It meant that although we weren’t going out with another horse, I had someone on the ground that I could talk to so I didn’t think about all the bad stuff that could happen.  Initially I would ride Bart in the school for 10 minutes to see what he was like before hacking out, but to be fair he is so laid back he is more likely to stop than take off, so in the end we just went straight out.

If you can do it I would suggest that you have some kind of routine.  Not down to the hour and minute, but horses do like routine, and it gives you an incentive to go out and ride too.  I have now started getting more in to it.  Each horse is different and everyones schedules are different.  I don’t work now due to my ill health, so I am flexible, but I know others who can only ride during the week in the evenings and at the weekends.

I needed to work out a plan for Bart as he was unfit and clearly hadn’t been doing much.  I decided that we would have a lesson a week, have 1-2 schooling sessions a week, either ridden or lunging, and a hack a week.  So it would be something like:

  • Monday – Hack for 45 minutes
  • Tuesday – Lesson 45mins- 1hr
  • Wednesday – Rest Day
  • Thursday – School session
  • Friday – Rest Day
  • Saturday – School session
  • Sunday – Rest Day.

My schooling sessions would be 30-60 minutes depending on how we both feel.  I would mix it up so one session would be lunging him, and walking him in hand, and when I was riding him I would do a lot of walk and trot and working on transitions, balance and circles etc.  He is still young and can be unbalanced.  I think the more you can keep them ‘on their toes’ and not do the same boring things over and over it keeps their brains concentrating on what you are doing together.  Horses think about things after they have been done, so I guess they think in ‘hindsight’, so although you don’t think they are taking it in, they will, and they have a good think about it after. You might need the saddler out again when you start working them, just keep an eye on how it’s fitting and whether it’s changing.

Their feed may need tweaking if you are working them quite hard.  It depends on what you have bought them for to do.  For now Bart and I are happy hacking, schooling and learning.  Next year I would like to be doing more with him, a bit of jumping, dressage or even a bit of XC but we are in no hurry – we are learning together which is the idea.

There is no shame in not wanting to hack out on your own, hacking can be one of the most dangerous things, especially if you are out on your own.  I know it’s not the ‘cool’ thing, but if you are hacking out on the roads please wear hi – viz.  I get laughed at by my other half as he says I glow for miles, but with the narrow lanes around here, I would rather glow like a lighthouse than not be seen until the last minute.  I have a hi viz saddle cloth, jacket, and also have leg wraps for Bart too.

If you do hack out on your own then a good idea is to let someone know when you leave, where you are going and text them when you are back.  (Sounds like going out for a blind date!!).

If there isn’t a bridle path near you but you have fields, then it could be worth asking the farmer if you could ride on their land.  Obviously you don’t want to do it at certain times of the year, but there may be a ‘window’ that they might let you.  Mine lets me after combining and before drilling the field for next year, but if its really wet then I won’t go on there as I don’t want to churn up his field or lose a shoe!

So that’s the brave pants bit – you just need to hitch them up sometimes, and the more you do it the more confident you will get.  You have to remember that horses pick up your ‘vibe’ so if you are nervous and anxious they will pick up on it.  They are looking at you for giving them confidence and they are putting their trust in you to look after them.

The bossy bra bit is to be making sure that, although you are working in partnership with each other, that you are the ‘leader’.  It is a partnership, and it is 50/50, but you are the boss. You do not want your horse to be dictating to you what you are both doing, both on the ground and riding.  I started off by being a bit of a ‘mother’ with Bart, talking to him and fussing round him, telling him how good he was all the time, trying to hug him, blah blah blah….  however I found that he didn’t really understand that kind of thing.  I am not saying don’t hug your horse, I still do sometimes, but when I am telling him to do/not do something I have learnt to be more ‘definite’.  They are very black and white.

You have to be more ‘business like’ and tell them exactly how it’s going to be.   The more you do this the more they understand.  Everything you do has to be done with purpose, tell them not ask them.  The tone of your voice makes a big difference too.  You will find that if you are forthright, directional and don’t nag they will be more willing and understand what you want them to do.

I hope Brave pant and the Bossy bra blog has been helpful – it takes time to get to know each other, there has to be consistency, and routine, but it can be flexible as it has to fit around you.  Deep breaths and hitch them up.

Oh and before I forget – there are some lovely people in the same boat as you out there.  I have met some lovely people on a Facebook page called ‘Confident Riders’.  They are a great bunch and if you are having a good or bad day they will be there to support you.  (<3)

Bart and I out for a hack.

Time for bed…….. it’s like Goldilocks and the three bears…..

Ok, so you have got all the gear you think you need and you have it all set up.  Bedding is an important thing to think about.  Everyone will have a difference of opinion about what is best.  You have to decide what to do for the best for your horse.  Don’t buy the cheapest if it doesn’t work.  If you can’t afford decent bedding which works well then you have to question if you can afford a horse in the first place.

I started off with rubber mats and shavings.  I did this because when I was doing my Stable Management course that’s what my instructor had and when we were practising mucking out I found it quite easy to handle.

I had 3/4 of the stable covered in rubber matting (EVA – thinner type of matting, a bit like play mats for children with a jigsaw edge).  This matting was light, easy to move around and would be easy to lift to keep clean.  I don’t have any drainage in my stable as such as it used to be a workshop which was converted and the lady who put the stables in didn’t think to put any in.  *Sigh*

On top of this I had 2 or 3 bales of shavings.  Now there are all types of shavings, from your local wood yard, Hunters, Snowflake, you name it it’s out there.   I opted for Snowflake as it was compacted and you got a fair amount in a bale.  It’s around the £6 a bale mark but you can shop around and if you want to buy a pallet then it works out cheaper if you have the room for storage.  Remember the delivery charges as well will bump it up if you can’t go and collect it yourself.

Anyhow, so Rubber mats down and 3 bales of shavings.  Brilliant.  Looked really neat.  So here’s where Bart is like Goldilocks.

The bed was quite thick and with the rubber matting was less harsh on his feet.  Well that was the thought.  Went in the next day and it was a complete nightmare.

Bart is a big horse and so it is obvious that there is going to be a fair amount of  urine and faeces.  The shavings were everywhere and he was wearing most of it – and he was using his poo as a pillow – why do they do this?!  Anyhow, it was wet, but not too bad, so I mucked out and put it all back together with a little fresh shavings on top.

Bono was okay with the shavings, however, as he liked to roll he looked like he had walked through a shavings factory every morning, and you would groom him and as soon as your back was turned he would roll again. *Sigh*

Another night went by, and did the same.  After this though I noticed there was a pool of pee in front of the stable.  What was happening was the pee was getting underneath the matting, so although you were cleaning the mats on top, it was going underneath and collecting there.  I had to pull everything up and clean underneath and let me tell you, if you haven’t done this before, it’s disgusting.  I washed all the matting down with a hosepipe etc, dried them off and put them back.  Instead of putting them back with the shavings on top, I put the rubber matting along the other side and put the shavings on top of the concrete.  This was better as at least the pee wouldn’t pool underneath, but unless you kept it really thick, because he was so ‘wet’, it would be a complete mess and would be soggy and horrible when it came to mucking him out in the morning.  It wasn’t only unpleasant for him to sleep in, it also means that they are standing in urine and poo soaked bedding, which can cause problems with their feet.  Mostly thrush.  I know, as he had it, despite me cleaning his feet everyday.  I bought some ‘Stockholm Tar’, cleaned and dried his feet daily and sprayed this on which cleared it up quickly, but of course would not solve the issue.  So what next?  Goldilocks was going to have to try and different bed.

I opted for straw.  I wasn’t particularly keen on this idea as the thought of deep littering didn’t really appeal to me, plus I didn’t think it would help with the wet.  I got some straw from our neighbour & farmer, just 10 bales to begin with because I didn’t know if it would work or not, and at £1.50/£2 a bale its a lot cheaper than the shavings option.

I made a big deep bed and it looked great.  The next morning it was everywhere, the poo had dropped in through the straw and underneath it hadn’t soaked up the pee well so it was soggy and took a long time to clean and muck out.  Bono had also been changed to straw, and he was ok, and it seemed to work ok, and again he was covered in straw in his mane and tail, but that’s just what he does! The straw does go a long way and it is cheap, but I still wasn’t happy with using it with Bart as it wasn’t soaking up anything, so in order to use it up I have kept Bono on it and decided that Goldilocks needed to try something else.

I went to our local Countryside store, Mole, and spoke to a lovely girl called Alice.  She has her own horses, and I told her what a nightmare I was going through, and she could see I was almost having a nervous breakdown because of it!  Anyhow, she used to have a mare with cushings who used to wee a lot, so she used wood chip.  She showed me a couple of options, but the one we opted for was Snowflake.  She said it tends to stay and not get kicked about, and that when they pee and poo it sits on the top, so you can take the dry stuff around it away and just pick up the wet bits.  Sounded ideal.  Right lets start with 6 bales of that please.  It’s about the same price as the shavings, so wasn’t going to be costing much more, and to be honest if it worked then I would be really happy he was sleeping on a dry bed.  Although he mostly stood up to sleep, I knew he laid down, as did Bono, and that his feet would be also dry too.

Got home and unloaded.  I put 3 bales down to begin with.  The next morning it was awesome.  I walked in, and wasn’t overwhelmed by the smell of urine, and the poo was just sitting on the top, and you could move the dry bits away and pick up the wet.  I only took out one barrow full which was mostly poo and wee with hardly any wood chip.  Now in comparison I was taking about 3 – 4 barrows out of shavings and 3-4 barrows of straw.  Hurrah!!

This was working well.  Let me tell you a trick though.  Don’t get complacent and top it up!  If you take out a barrow a day, you are going to be taking out the wood chip with it too, so you need to top it up.  I forgot this fact in the first week and by the end of the week I looked like I was back to square one with the shavings again. I was getting really upset because how could you let him stay in something so ghastly?.  I had a look on the website and it states on there that you need to start with 3 bales and keep it topped up, so I took all the bad stuff out and went out, got some more, stuck 3 bales in there and made it really thick.  I am talking a good 4″ thick.  The next morning was back to being bliss again.  I think we cracked it.

You can’t afford to be too OCD with their bedding, although admittedly I am.  I like to have a bank around the edge, and the wood chip to be level.  I flick up the chip around the edge, using the fork to ‘straighten’ it out around the edges, and then using the back of the fork, I run this over the wood chip to make it level.  He doesn’t kick it around too much as it’s thick and doesn’t move as easily as the shavings.

There are other types of bedding, there are so many different types of straw, recycled paper, hemp, cardboard,  just all sorts out there, and each horse is different so you need to think about what is best for them and what works for them in the first instance.  If it is easier to use then this is a bonus.

In the first few weeks it used to take me an hour to give them breakfast, muck out two stables, fill the hay nets, water, sweep up, fill up the trough, put the electric fencing on etc, but I have it down to the fine art of an hour.  I know that I could do it quicker than that too, but to be honest, because I have my illness and this makes me in a muck sweat anyway, I don’t see the point in trying to kill myself to do it quicker as it isn’t a race.  After I have to have a cuppa and a snooze otherwise I will be bad the rest of the day!

The other tip is that if they are out for the day, then when you muck them out in the morning, use the fork to chuck all the bedding in a pile(s) at the back  and brush everything off the floor and then using diluted Jeyes Fluid in a spray bottle, spray a layer of it on the floor.  When the floor dries out, not only will it have less germs, but it won’t smell so bad either.  When you come to raking it all back before you bring them in then you know it’s all dry and fresher underneath which makes it nicer for both them and you.

Mucking out isn’t the best job in the world, but there is a satisfaction in making their bed nice and tidy for when they come in.  You have to think what would it be like for you if you were them and came in to rest and were standing in poo and wee?  If you think that’s ok, I don’t want to know, but would suggest that 99.9% would think ‘Ewwwwwww’.

So hopefully this has given you some help in deciding which bed your Goldilocks is going to sleep in.

Next time:  Pulling your brave pants up and going it alone…….

So much to think about…..

There is so much to think about.  Even if you think you are pretty read up and prepared, you still have a mind melt.

Other things to think about is what you need for your stable, paddock and for your horse.

As I said, it’s lovely to have a thumb through the catalogues and on the internet for what colour rugs you want and do you want matching bandages etc, and believe me my Rideaway catalogue is very well thumbed (www.rideaway.co.uk), and believe me when I say I have been one of their best customers in the last few months!

The practical items are the things you really need to take in to consideration.  Are you going to have rubber matting?  I decided to as it’s kinder on their feet, so I opted for a matting which is similar to children’s play mats with jigsaw edging.  It’s light, durable and easy to wash down, although I didn’t use the jigsaw bit as it didn’t lay as straight enough as I wanted it to.  Do you want to do the whole stable or just half?  I did half rubber matting and half bedding because of the brick columns in the stable would mean cutting out bits and that was just too much like hard work.  So half matting and half shavings was my first option.

Along with this you need the tools to be able to muck out and feed.  The essentials are:

  • Gloves for Poo picking
  • Straw/Shavings fork
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Shovel
  • A poo tidee
  • Broom
  • Haynets
  • Food buckets
  • Water buckets
  • Hosepipe
  • Grooming Kit/Tack Box
  • Storage Bins for Food
  • Feed scoop
  • Weigh Tape
  • Height tape
  • Weigh scale (for weighing hay nets)
  • First Aid Kit (I will discuss this more in another blog)
  • Fire Extinguisher (A good idea)

Got all that?!  If you want you can obviously choose to have a pink wheelbarrow if that floats your boat, but personally I go for practicality rather than colour. What you also want to think about is where you are going to store your rugs, tack and other essentials.

Now food is obviously essential for your horse, and it’s important you get it right, as trust me when I tell you that if you don’t you will have a grumpy horse!  When Bart & Bono first arrived my paddock was lovely and green with good grass, and obviously this will go quickly, and if like me your paddock space is limited, then it is essential that you have good paddock maintainence .  As well as the paddock you have the hard feed.

To work out how much your horse will need it helps to know: How tall are they? How much do they weigh?.  Now you can buy height measuring tapes and you can buy a weight tape.  Unless you are fortunate to live near to a weigh bridge then the weight tape is probably the best option.  Although not totally accurate, if you use it regularly it will give you an idea of whether they are losing weight or getting porky or staying the same.  You also have to have a look at what you are actually doing with your horse. If you are doing a hack and a couple of schooling sessions then your horse will still be in ‘light work’.

There is an accurate way of working out how much food a horse requires, but basically a horse needs to eat about 2 1/2% of it’s body weight a day.  If your horse is:

  • 10hh – 6lbs of food
  • 11hh – 10lbs of food
  • 12hh – 14lbs of food
  • 13hh – 18lbs of food
  • 14hh – 22lbs of food
  • 15hh – 26lbs of food
  • 16hh – 30lbs of food
  • 17hh – 34lbs of food

10% of this is hard feed and 90% is bulk (hay/haylage/grass).  So if like Bart your horse is 17hh then they require 34lbs of feed, so that is 3.4lbs of hard feed and the rest bulk.  If you prefer to work in Kgs then 2.2lb is 1kg.  If like Bono you are 10hh then they require 6lbs of food, 0.6lbs hard feed and the rest bulk, however, it does depend on the type and breed of horse as Shetlands can get fat on fresh air.

You then divide this up in to Breakfast, Dinner and Night feed.  For my boys they have breakfast at 7.30am/8am, having half of their hard feed in the morning, mixed with supplements and a carrot or two, then when they are out they are munching away on grass.  If the grass is not great then you will want to give them hay/haylage for them as well. They come in for dinner about 6pm and they have the other half of their hard feed.  For night time they then have their hay nets which will keep them going.

As I mentioned earlier, if you don’t give them enough overnight then you will have a grumpy horse.  I made this mistake and boy was Bart grumpy!  Remember they are trickle feeders so eat little and often (well nearly all the time). Once I kicked myself up the bum and worked it out then he was happy, and so was I!

As for what hard feed you want to use, it is a good idea to find out what they were on before and slowly change it if you want them to be on something different.  I sought advice from friends who had a wealth of experience as to what they fed theirs on.  I decided to put them on Dengie Alpha A and Top Spec Balancer (Non heating).  Its a good idea to ask friends where they buy their feed from, and if you have the space, you tend to be able to get a bit knocked off if you buy in bulk.  If you can’t fit it in your car/trailer then you can have it delivered, however generally there is a charge which can make it a little more expensive.  Same with your hay/haylage.  It’s important to get good quality, non dusty hay, or a good haylage.  I decided on hay as they wouldn’t get through haylage quick enough and it would start to go off, and it’s more sugary so I didn’t want them bouncing off the walls.  It’s good to get to know a local farmer who will be able to deliver it for you.  Don’t leave it until you have only a couple of bales left (Yep!  Done that too!!), otherwise you end up panicking and having to ring around to see if you can get some there and then.  You will soon get to know how much you get through a day so you can work out how long it will last.

Your hard feed does need to be stored somewhere where the rodents won’t get to it.  I bought a feed bin with partitions so I could fit a bag in each section which is really handy.  I bought mine from Ani-mate, a small friendly company, and Martin who runs it is great. (http://www.ani-matefeedbins.co.uk).

The other thing you want to consider for your stable is where you are going to keep your tack.  If you are on livery then they will have a place for you to store your tack away.  I bought a tack locker (again from ani-mate), which holds everything.  Make sure you screw it against the wall otherwise even if it’s locked then they can still pick it up and walk off with it!

As I also mentioned a Fire Extinguisher is handy and a first aid kit (more of which I will cover on another post), oh and of course you also want to have a kettle – handy for cleaning, bathing and of course a cuppa!

So are you still up to speed?  It’s a mind melt – I did tell you that!! Just remember the 5 P’s – Preparation prevents piss poor performance!

Next post:  Different bedding and how to save yourself a lot of work when mucking out.





So it all begins…..

Bart & Bono were now in my care.  EEEEKKKKK!! It’s a scary thing.  Even after doing a year of Stable Management and Horse Care, there is nothing like having a massive responsibility of actually owning your own.

The first week was busy.  I was fortunate to have my lovely friend come over and help me muck out every day as I hadn’t been well.  It is always helpful to have someone give you a hand to begin with.  There is so much to think about.

What type of bedding are you going to have? What did they have before? What size hay net do they need?  What hard feed, if any, were they on? Any supplements?

I decided that I wanted to use shavings.  My old instructor used to use shavings and it seemed manageable.  Straw seemed a lot of hassle.  I forgot to ask what either of them were on before, and I didn’t ask whether they were messy or clean in their stable.  These questions are handy to know.

Haynet size?  Yes there are big ones, small ones, little holes, big holes, there are so many different types.  I started off with a large hay net with 2″ holes for Bart and a small pony net with 1″ holes for Bart.  While this was a good idea, Bart ate at such a rate the 2″ holes were too big.  He was a gannet!  So I purchased a 1″ hole net, except that the less grass that there was on the paddock it meant more hay for night time.  By the end of the first month I had 3 hay nets dotted around Barts stable.  Ridiculous.  So in the end I had bought two 2″ hay nets that were useless, 4 1″ nets which kind of worked but had so many he hardly had room in his stable, 2 1″ pony nets for Bono and in the end I bought a 9kg Greedy Feeder net with 1″ holes for Bart.  The 2″ net I put a football in for him to pull about for entertainment, and the other I use out in the paddock.  You really don’t need to buy so many nets, and don’t buy two of everything until you know it works.

Hard feed? I knew what he was having every day, but I spoke to my friends and they suggested that although they will be on grass that it would be still a good idea to have a balancer so that you know he is getting all his nutrients.  I chose Alpha A chaff and Top Spec non heating balancer.  It’s important you don’t change them over too quickly because it can upset their digestive system, but if you do it slowly you will be fine.

Supplement wise I chose to get a general vitamin supplement and Magic, a magnesium supplement and calmer, and garlic.

Magic was the one I was unsure about, but I chose to put Bart on it as I didn’t want him unsettled so I thought it would help.  (I will talk more about this in a future blog).

Don’t forget also that you need to work out the percentage of hard feed they need, grass and hay, as well as what type of work that they are in.  If you are in a muddle then please ask someone, or use on line calculators to work it out.  If you get it wrong you will have a grumpy or poorly horse.

During the week we had the vet to come and give them their jabs and give them a once over.  Bono (my Shetland) was as big as he should get and could do with losing a bit of exercise, but Bart was fine.  The saddler came next and she check Bart’s saddle and said she would come out again in a month or so when the saddle had dropped.  Its always a good idea to get their saddle checked even if it’s one you have bought with your horse.  This saddle was well kept but it was lumpy underneath and there was a gap, so it wasn’t sitting on his back correctly.  It was reflocked and all was good.  It pays to get it checked to avoid any further issues in the future.

Next was the farrier.  Now Bono needed a pedicure, but Bart needed new shoes, and he wasn’t shod on the back, so this was going to be interesting.  The farrier was chosen because of recommendation from friends.  Bart needed size 5 shoes, which for those not in the know are about the size of dinner plates, so it’s more costly.  Anyhow, the farrier did a great job, even though Bart had never been shod on the back.  A word of note – it may be easier if you aren’t there trying to calm your horse and let the farrier get on with it.  I noticed with Bart that he was more fussy when I was stood there, and being a ‘first time parent’ I was worried he was going to go off on one.  If your farrier is happy to get on with it then let them.  One thing of note too – it’s hot work – please offer them a drink!  It goes down well.  Trust me!!

The first week was done, and I found it hard mucking out every day.  Partially due to my illness and not feeling tip top, but also because, lets face it, it’s bloody hard work.  There is the mucking out, making sure the bed is done, water filled up, hay nets filled up.  Now it’s not so bad in the summer as they are out on the grass so while they are out nibbling you can be mucking out.  I am not looking forward to when it’s winter but thats another story!

By the end of the first week I was having a meltdown.  What had I let myself in for?  I knew it was tough, but I was absolutely exhausted.  Although it was the right time for me to have a horse, it was the wrong time because I was poorly so it all hit me at once.

Honestly don’t let this put you off – it does get better and you get in the swing of it, but if you aren’t prepared to have blood sweat and tears, and no more lay ins forever, then you need to think again, unless of course you don’t have time and have the money, put them in full livery.

Next time:  The roller coaster that is the first few weeks of being a ‘first time mum’.