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.