Category: Horse People

Too Windy For Turnout?

Turnout was cancelled. I was keeping my horse on part-livery which included hay, bedding and a groom that would do all the turning out and bringing in. 20 plus years ago part-livery used to include everything apart from someone exercising the horse. You could expect all the mucking out to be completed, the horse groomed, even the tack would be cleaned. If an owner is doing more than actually tacking up and riding, then yards have no right to call it part-livery.

It was a tall young woman who was striding past my stable that yelled out the news the horses would spend the entire day and night stuck in a 12 by 12 feet wooden box. I had only been at this yard for 2 days, and had chosen the place specifically to get extra help with my horse. I was looking forward to having more quality time, rather than spending time doing all the chores.

This was a first for me as I have always done all the work myself. At the time I was juggling studying, work and motherhood. Plus I was in a position to be able to afford such a luxury.

When I had initially been shown around the place and informed of the services, there had been no mention that on any given day turnout could be cancelled. Moreover, I had never even heard of a yard cancelling turnout, literally never in all these years of owning horses.

When I asked why? The tall girl told me it was too windy. Again I found myself utterly bewildered! It was a bit windy that day, but this was no hurricane and it certainly wasn’t a storm. I wouldn’t even have described it as gusty! It was just windy, clawing hair from your eyes windy, could blow a chip wrapper around windy, but certainly not tree’s are falling windy.

Baring in mind I have been a groom myself and we worked in all weather. I wouldn’t have kept my job long if I had told my boss I only handle horses on mild warm days. But in truth, none of the staff even discussed the weather, apart from moaning about being covered in mud on the worst of days. No decent groom would be without water proof clothing anyway. Hacks, lesson and attending liveries horses always went ahead. I never remember my boss cancelling anything. Therefore I hope you can imagine my dismay.

I had another question and asked why did the wind make a difference? She replied with…

Because its dangerous

For those that accept such a lame excuse, it’s probably because you are new to owning horses, or you just haven’t gained much experience yet.

But that excuse is a bucket full of horse manure.

Next time it’s windy go out to the horse paddocks and observe the animals (if you can find a yard that hasn’t cancelled turnout). Are the horses running around like crazy, or are they grazing? Well I already know they will be head down eating grass.

In my experience horses may be a little more on their toes when it’s very windy. I believe it’s because their senses are compromised. They can still hear of course, but because it’s so noisy they are less likely to hear a predator creeping up on them, and unlikely to smell it. So the horse becomes totally reliant on sight alone.

He may become head high because he’s actively looking for danger, his ears cannot tell him he’s safe, and nor can his nose. Think of the position he is now, relying just on sight isn’t enough for a prey animal to survive. Many predators can creep up quite close, unseen and ready to pounce. Horses will become jumpy because if in-fact a predator does make it that close, the horse will immediately take flight. He’s gearing up to run…even when he’s on the end of a lead rope.

But that’s fine, we love horses, and that’s what horses do.

Yet we are not leading the horse through new territory, and certainly not through the African bush. Turnout normally involves the same track and the same route. The same tracks and routes that you probably hack around on. The horse has probably been this way hundreds of times. So even on windy days he may look for danger, but he is aware of his environment and is probably more comfortable than you realise, it’s just instinct making him jumpy and he is being extra alert.

This isn’t the same as dangerous

I have never known horse events to be cancelled, vet/farrier/dentist appointments cancelled, endurance rides, racing, hunting, point to point, cross country, team chasing etc (you get my point) cancelled just because it’s a bit windy.

If a groom tells you that turnout is cancelled because it’s a bit windy, then employ another groom, or move yards. I did the latter and never bothered with part-livery again.

The Perfect Yard

My perfect yard would contain no liveries, there I’ve said it.

Let’s assume this impossible dream was to actually come true. I would own just a few acres that included a house, an indoor arena, great hacking, and ideally located near a quaint English village for road work. Plus I like to peer through people’s windows from my elevated position in the saddle, I’m nosy like that. Or perhaps I have an interest in interior design, you can decide which it is. I envisage an easy life with no one bothering me and I would always have that arena to myself. No-one could dictate where, or for how long my horse is turned out. No tack, feed or rugs would ever go missing, and most importantly I would never have to watch people making foolish decisions about their horses, or talking nonsense. Continue reading “The Perfect Yard”

Brass Tacks #1 – Laminitis

Many horse owners will assume the spring and summer grass will exacerbate laminitis so restrict grazing over the warmer months. However grass will accumulate sugar during the winter which is influenced by the cooler temperatures, over-cast days and longer nights. All of which will impact photosynthesis and respiration in plants. Horses with previous hoof damage from laminitis can also be affected by restricted blood flow during the cold weather, which will impede temperature regulation of the hooves over winter. Something of a double whammy right there.

It is often the case owners will wait until the horse is showing symptoms of laminitis before taking action. Yet laminitis could already be affecting the horse with no outward physical signs.  Owners also increase feed quantity over winter instead of taking the opportunity to encourage weight loss in overweight horses.

While extra fibre may be beneficial over winter adding extra calories could be detrimental to the horse’s health, so take careful consideration over what horses are consuming to reduce the risk. While many horses adapt to the cold weather without issue, horses with circulatory hoof damage will experience pain as blood supply is restricted (Kellon E 2017).

Laminitis is a complicated disease and causation can be multitudinous although studies continue. While science may not have all the answers yet it is certain that preventative measures should be taken over 12 months of the year, rather than just over spring and summer.

Kellon E (2017) Combating Winter Laminitis, Horse Network [ONLINE] Available at:

https://horsenetwork.com/2017/02/combating-winter-laminitis/

(Accessed 25th September 2017)

The Fragile Horse

Slate grey mountainous cumulonimbus clouds had been rolling across the valley toward my location for the last half an hour. I hastened my attempt to remove every trace of manure from the paddock as the aerial equivalent of the Atlantic Ocean projected angry towering waves of water vapour high up into the stratosphere. Continue reading “The Fragile Horse”

The Singers and the Losers

It had been a great party with too much booze, lots of music, great company and karaoke. The next morning when I visited the yard where the party had been held a friend of mine said that was a great night, but oh my gosh you can’t sing! She’s wasn’t lying, I can’t hit a single note and am completely tone deaf.

Does that mean I shouldn’t sing? Continue reading “The Singers and the Losers”

The Wrong Knickers

A carpet of wet leaves were saturating my bare feet while squelching their disapproval as I ran through the dense copse of tree’s. Sunlight was penetrating the bows of branches that had now shed their autumn presentation. My mouth felt parched from running and the sun appeared overly bright even for an undressed canopy. I raised my arm to shield my eyes and continued to run. Continue reading “The Wrong Knickers”

Homo Ferrum

It is widely accepted Homo Sapiens are the dominant species of Modern Human although approximately 150 000 years ago the genus Homo Ferrum evolved and diverged from other hominids in Africa. While not as successfully abundant in numbers as Homo Sapiens they subsequently spread globally. While the two species are similar in appearance and both have 23 pairs of chromosomes, DNA sampling can be used to identify homo type. This is generally unnecessary as characteristic traits of Homo Ferrum are easily identifiable by the time the child reaches the age of 5. Characteristics include lethargy, procrastination and an inhibited sense of smell. Physical differences include stronger back muscles and biceps than that of their closest living relative of Homo Sapiens. Because of these traits Homo Ferrum often choose careers as black smiths and farriers. Both species have lived peacefully together for many millennia as Homo Sapiens have adapted to accommodate the physical and behavioural differences of the Homo Ferrum. This is particularly apparent in the relationship between equestrians and farriers.

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The equestrian will know that if the farrier is booked to shoe their horse at 10 a.m they must wait until the farrier is unpacking the tools and filling the bucket with water before deciding to retrieve their horse from the field. The 20 minute walk to the field and back accommodates the farrier’s need to procrastinate. Fortunately it has been raining all night which is an added blessing because now the horse owner needs to spend a further 10 minutes cleaning the horse’s legs off. The farrier reciprocates this kind understanding of his species by feigning impatience, which simultaneously gives him the chance to be lethargic by sitting on the back of his van tapping his foot.

By 10.30 am the farrier has now been on the yard for a good half an hour and finally the horse is brought to him and tied up. He is now ready to start work but gleefully notices the hooves are covered in hoof oil which he knows will buy him another 5 minutes of procrastination while the owner wipes it off. The owner feels quite smug in that she was considerate enough to remember the oil this time. However both species finally realise with trepidation there is nothing more to do than actually start removing the horse’s shoes.

The owner settles herself down on the back of the farriers van and begins to recount her life over the past 6 weeks. She knows the farrier will be greatly interested in how things went at the West Wycombe Sponsored Ride and how her friend Jane fell off because her seat is so crap and her pony is so badly schooled. It’s at this point the owner remembers Jane’s pony lost a shoe during the ride but assures the farrier that he can magically find the time to get this horse shod also. The owner quickly moves the subject on because she is keen to educate the farrier on the shoeing techniques she read on the internet last night. He seems impressed with her extensive knowledge although he doesn’t say much, it’s because he’s listening intently. The farrier has removed all the shoes and is rasping a back hoof, it’s at this moment the horse lifts his tail and deposits 28 lbs of manure between his legs. This is fine as the owner already knows Homo Ferrum has an inhibited sense of smell and he’s quite comfortable having an enormous pile of shit 12 inches away from his face, so she leaves it there.

The owner realises her time is running short and will be late for work unless she leaves the yard 11.30 am sharp. Due to the very relaxed disposition of the farrier she knows it is perfectly acceptable for him to put the horse back out in the field for her, and anyway he may as well as Janes pony needs bringing in. With a wave and a smile the owner skips off the yard shouting something about forgetting her purse but she’ll pay next time…oh and so will Jane! Miraculously hoof filings, discarded nails and enormous piles of poop would have completely disappeared by the time the owner appears back on the yard the next day. This is known as the Lackadaisical Phenomena that only occurs to the most recently discovered species of Homo Inconsideratus.