Tag: horses

The Realistic Guide To Buying A Horse Part 2

#5 Do not overlook the veteran horse

Do not be deterred from buying a horse that is over 12, 15, 18 or even 20 years old. If the animal is fit there is no reason why such an age should matter, or even be relevant. A 20 year old horse will hunt, show-jump, hack or even compete in dressage for example. Horse care has come on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of decades. They are afforded better dental, farrier and vet care, as well as improved feed and supplements, both of which can contain essential herbs and minerals to maintain good health. Most yards insist on fastidious worming programs, and flu and tetanus jabs. Manufacturers of equine consumables strive (and compete) to improve the quality of bedding in term of reducing dust and maximising absorption. Frankly put, there has never been a better time to be a horse, and 20 could be seen as the new 10!

Equestrians for the most part are just stuck in the old school, traditional way of thinking that a horse is old at the age of 16. Ligament and tendon issues, back and joint problems, colic or even arthritis can occur at just about any age. Become a seasoned horse owner and you will soon discover it is nigh on impossible to plan too far into the future. The 4 year old, for example, may have a future in show-jumping, and has been bought for that purpose. Unfortunately the horse could pull a tendon out in the field tomorrow, or next week, its easily done. To be blunt, no-one knows exactly how long they have with any particular animal. Horses are moved from pillar to post amongst young equestrians especially, as children grow out of them. A 25 year old Shetland could be ideal for a 3 year old child, given its experience with children. The same could be said for a 22 year old horse that has retired from dressage but could now suit a happy hacker. It’s a mistake to overlook the veteran, many remain fit and healthy and still have a  lot to give.

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#6 Choose a temperament that matches your skill set

Regardless of the breed, horses can have different temperaments and personalities. Two subservient laid back parents will not guarantee that the foal will not possess very dominant characteristics. Horses with very dominant personalities will need an experienced rider and handler because these types are likely to have more challenging behaviour.  Most people identify rearing, bucking, biting, kicking and bolting as a behavioural problem, when actually it’s the human lacking the skills to avoid, or resolve what is essentially natural behaviour. Horses that display aggressive, evasive, even stubborn behaviour toward its human handler is doing so because it sees itself as more dominant, but it has to be the other way around.

Being more dominant than a horse is not to suggest unkindness or brutality. Clear instructions, and consistent knowledgeable training is showing the horse that you are the leader, and someone he can trust. Some horses don’t resist when you push it’s buttons, but many will. Even if you have to contact past owners, find out everything you can about the horses temperament because unless you are an expert trainer, you could end up with a horse that becomes your leader.

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#7 Find A Horse that matches your life style

Some horses take up more time than others depending on the breed and its purpose. If you are a happy hacker the majority of the time, and only occasionally take part in the local shows then grass livery could be more suitable. Moreover if an owner is working full time, raising children and has a busy social life, anything other than grass livery could be quite challenging in terms of time management. When time becomes an issue it may just be better to concentrate on riding without mucking out, bringing in/turning out twice a day, filling hay-nets and making up feeds. Paddock maintenance would still be necessary such as manure removal, cleaning of troughs, fixing fences and adding hay over winter. Although many yards include this maintenance in the price of grass livery.

Some breeds can be prone to laminitis, and gain weight easily leading to further health problems, yet with proper paddock management there are many issues that could be avoided. Grass livery isn’t exclusive to the native breeds either as many horses will happily live out. Less hardy types and owners that intend to clip their horse in order to compete or hunt over winter usually require a stable. This could mean two visits a day, manual labour and less time for anything else going on in life. I have met my fair share of new owners that have found owning a horse disrupts their 25 year habit of eating dinner on their lap, while watching Coronation Street. Or complain that the farrier won’t as a rule work on a Sunday, just for their convenience. Owning a horse can be like taking on a part-time job without set hours. So give serious consideration on what type of horse you buy, its purpose and where and how you are going to keep it.

The Realistic Guide To Buying A Horse Part 1

Images: Pixabay, CC0 Creative Commons, Free for commercial use, No attribution required. Modified by author. https://pixabay.com/

The Realistic Guide To Buying A Horse Part 1

#1 Don’t be swayed by pretty names and good looks

My first horse was a 14.2 hh strawberry roan mare called Princess. 8 year old girls in particular will immediately want to own a pony that is strawberry roan, and called Princess. The child’s parents may also assume such a beautiful pony with an angelic, virtuous name would be appropriate for a little girl. As it turns out pretty ponies with pretty names are not as virtuous as 8 year old children think. Over a period of 2 years I had to endure bucks, rears and bolts and all the associated injuries and terrifying experiences that occurred during such events.

Some people may assume this type of pony was completely inappropriate for a novice child. However I am cautious now, some 40 years later, when deciding if the pony was unsuitable. If anything the pony was a test of my passion, endurance and mettle. My parents had no clue about horses, and back then all horses were sold as seen. When a pony threw its rider no one called the vet, dentist or saddle fitter. Right or wrong, it was a simpler time, and a child either learnt to sit a buck, or gave up riding.

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#2 Do not take the advert at face value

It has to said adverts can be tricky to write by the seller, but most private sellers generally pad the advert out too much. By the time they have listed the 7 or 8 disciplines the animal has competed in, you are left wondering if the horse ever had time to sleep. Dealers, for the most part, can be more honest in that they will say the horse hunted last season, rather than is an experienced hunter. For some reason buyers like seeing the words has hunted. It may indicate the horse will perform well at cross country, be bombproof on hacks, and isn’t fazed by hounds or other horses. My horse hunted for many seasons, yet was a complete nut case, something the advert may fail to mention.

In the event you have bought the dream horse that is good to do in all ways, you may soon discover it was only good to do in all ways when it had an experienced jockey handling or riding it. The type of jockey that could tame one of Daenerys Targaryens dragons while simultaneously performing root canal on themselves. None of these issues showed up when you went to view and ride the horse either. But give it time, and take advice. You can either embrace this opportunity to become as good as the last rider, or admit your skill set is lacking and find a more appropriate animal in terms of your riding ability. Either decision is fine and after-all, you have at least learnt not to take horse adverts at face value.

#3 Age means nothing

There exists a myth that when a horse reaches the golden age of 8 it spontaneously becomes sensible. Sensible must mean bombproof, experienced and wise, a trustworthy animal that has completed its training and now has a PhD in Equine Brilliance. However, there is no such thing as a horse that has completed its training. Training is something that continues throughout the life of a horse. Consideration must also be taken in exactly who has been training the horse for the last 8 years. One trainer, many trainers, one owner or numerous owners?

There are many, many horses out there that should potentially have training started from scratch, because they have not been trained correctly in the first place. Owners are faced with evidence of this on a daily basis, but choose to ignore it. A horse may regularly duck out of a jump, boot the heck out of the trailer when travelling, be strong when leading to the field, or tanks off with the rider at canter. Yet owners pass this off as the horse being quirky, or having a bad day. Forget age because it means nothing in terms of the quality of training the horse has had. It’s better to have a 4 year old that has been trained by a professional than an 8 year old that has not been trained properly, or even badly.

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#4 Price also means nothing

Bluntly put, a horse is worth whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it.  We are all aware, or have been, of the livery that has paid 12 grand in purchasing a show jumper. Yet the rider themselves is a novice and has never jumped more than 60 cm. The seller may have attached such a price to the horse because it has a proven track record and has won money. In other cases it’s because it was bred from parents that had success at show-jumping, even dressage or showing. The less experienced potential horse owner may assume it’s a good horse simply by the price tag alone.

While the breed of the horse may play a part in whether it will be more suited to a particular discipline, horses are not born ready-made. If the horse has already been trained to a good standard it is unlikely to stay this way without regular, and knowledgeable training maintenance. If an owner does have the time and the resources to regularly train, then they stand the same chance of success buying  a healthy animal of the same breed or type that cost 11 grand less.

 

Images: Pixabay. CC0 Creative Commons Free for commercial use No attribution required. https://pixabay.com/

Modified by author

Grazing Muzzles Cause Misery

There appear to be various contraptions readily available to buy these days in which it seems evident that the designer of the product either had no love for horses, or was ignorant of their welfare. Moreover it appears the buyer of such contraptions willingly shares the same mindset of the manufacturer. There are a few things that cause me to grimace when I see a horse from afar. One is seeing a horse wearing a rug on a warm day, or just because it’s raining. The other is seeing a horse wearing a grazing muzzle.

The design of the muzzle would lead one to believe that only small sections of grass can poke through, allowing the horse to snip off just the delicate ends from blades of grass. If used carefully by the animal then it should be entirely possible to graze.

Sounds good so far.

All the horse needs to do is not press down fully to ground level, so not to flatten the grass, but stop approximately 5 cm from the root base. If done slowly, and with a good amount of dexterity and careful precision, several blades of grass should pass through the opening. In theory yes, but obviously this demonstration was performed by the human hands of a designer who no doubt was trying to impress his potential investors. Do these potential investors have horse knowledge?

Those that think a horse knows to stop 5 cm from the ground and blindly negotiate the gaps of the muzzle over several pieces of grass are misinformed. The position of the horses eyes are not located in such a position to be able to see what is directly under its lips. Throw a mint on the floor and observe what happens. The horse knows the general location at first from sight, but when he lowers his head he is going by memory only. To find the mint he will now use smell, and his muzzle and whiskers to feel around for it. Yet while at pasture, the use of the lips and whiskers are rendered near on useless considering the grazing muzzle surrounds the mouth area.

Furthermore horses do not snip off delicate blades of grass habitually, because they would die of starvation. These are big animals that need to eat in bulk spread out over 24 hours. Horses are very capable of using a fair amount of dexterity while picking through thorny bushes for herbs or fruit. But for the most part, they graze in a succession of 2 or 3 chomps before chewing. Instinct alone will cause them to lift their head to check for predators. Therefore to maximise feeding efficiency while remaining alert, they chew while surveying the environment. Simply put, they grab what they can, then check for lions.

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Horses have not evolved to have the dexterity to negotiate the gaps in a plastic or nylon muzzle, only the human inventor that evolved to have fingers can manage such a task. A horse in this situation is more likely to press harder on the ground in an attempt to find grass, rather than calculate the angle, distance and force needed to successfully nip off a few blades of grass. While its entirely plausible that adaptation can occur in animals, over many generations, it is highly unlikely a horse will pass down knowledge of muzzles to its foal, and all of its future generations. To assume all horses will adapt, happily and efficiently, to using muzzles is bordering on the ridiculous.

Every owner that has used one must be aware of the disgusting mess the contraption contains after every single use. Both saliva, and moisture from the grass build up on the inside of the muzzle. Grass that has not been swallowed mixes with all the extra moisture and forms a pulp. This green pulp clogs up the holes of the muzzle and rubs against the horses nose, lips and chin and also impedes the ability to breath comfortably. Horses by their very nature expel vegetation they find unpalatable, and this occurs often. They also shake off the parts they do not wish to eat, such as soil that clings to roots.

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Anything discarded has the potential not to drop through the holes to the ground. As the horse attempts to breath normally, moisture and detritus can be drawn into the nasal passages. If that green, slimy detritus filled mash isn’t bad enough now, just imagine what will happen when the horse visits the water trough.

There is absolutely no way that a muzzle rubbing against the delicate skin of the face will not cause discomfort, or unnatural pressure on the teeth as the horse bears down harder on the ground. Damage and injuries that will no doubt be susceptible to infection considering the amount of bacteria that is being smeared onto broken compromised skin. Furthermore while everyone is aware of the dangers of leaving head collars on when in pasture, for some reason they assume the straps of a muzzle must be safe. Even if the straps are engineered to safely snap, left unsupervised the now hungry horse is likely to gorge on the grass.

Stopping a herbivorous prey animal from grazing and foraging is without a doubt very, very cruel. It can’t be stressed enough, those that use muzzles are tampering with the mental stability of the animal. The animal must be aware on some level it is not meeting its own physical needs. Horses are big on showing strength and not appearing weak. Imagine the distress a horse must feel while its simultaneously staying alert for danger and feeling hunger, breathing through something that feels like a sodden stinking flannel while all the time feeling pain from a lump of plastic or nylon rubbing against his face. Adding to that mental cruelty is then putting a horse in a field full of fresh lush grass…then impeding its ability to consume what visually must be the human equivalent of a banquet.

Research on this topic advises that horses should not be left unsupervised when wearing a muzzle, and that they should only be left on for short periods. In all of these case studies however there were individual horses that had to be removed from the study due to behavioural changes that indicated stress.

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Horses do not need much grass to feel mentally secure, it’s more of a case that we inhibit their ability to roam to pastures new, and this in particular is what causes mental stress. Therefore using a starvation paddock, or employing the method of strip grazing is still not ideal, but it could suffice. If an owner has somehow allowed a working animal to gain an excess of weight, or is attempting to avoid other serious ailments, they could use a starvation paddock and add hay. Hay added in sections in various places within the paddock would meet the needs of the horse in terms of foraging while encouraging movement. This is obviously far better than obstructing air ways and causing both physical and mental discomfort.

Everyone’s circumstances, and the individual needs of the horse are different, understandably. But whether taking measures to avoid a multitude of conditions such as colic or even laminitis, then more intelligent, effective methods must be employed rather than placing such a contraption on the horses head. The best place for a grazing muzzle, ideally, would be in a bin.

Image sources: Wikipedia & Pixels CC0 License,Free for personal and commercial use, No attribution required. Modified by author.

Why I Hate Spurs

I am just going to come out and say it. Spurs should only be used if you are a very, VERY good rider. If a rider does not have the skills, knowledge or patience to re-educate a horse with desensitised sides, which is why the majority of bad riders are using them, then spurs are the last thing they need. It is not my intention to become part of the no bits, no spurs, no anything brigade. Spurs may have their place in the equestrian world, and are traditionally used all over the planet, in my view, to refine the leg aid. An extremely well trained horse may for whatever reason ignore the leg, and I use the word ‘ignore’ loosely. There could be many reasons why the horse has not responded in that particular instance. So strapped to the leg of an expert, one that is aware of their own movements and know exactly what they are asking of the horse, then yes spurs have their place. But then compare that to someone that has been riding 3 years and are strapping spurs on because they are about to do a pre-novice dressage test, or jump 60 cm at the local show.

Continue reading “Why I Hate Spurs”

The Livery Snob

…and she’s only a D.I.Y’er!

Yes I heard those words. That delightful sentence fell from the mouth of a person on full livery.

They had felt compelled for some reason, to log a complaint to the yard owner about a person on Do It Yourself livery. I can’t imagine what the naughty diy’er had done, perhaps it was even about me!

Continue reading “The Livery Snob”

Aggression Doesn’t Always Mean Dangerous

Over the years I have more than once, blamed a groom for forgetting to bolt the stable door when finding my horse loose on the yard. Then one day I witnessed my mare jumping out of her stable! Well that’s putting it more mildly than what really happened when my horse escaped. Continue reading “Aggression Doesn’t Always Mean Dangerous”

The Planned Spook

There is only one good reason why my terrier would suddenly go from lounging on the carpet to suddenly leaping up and running under the sofa at break neck speed. Being fully aware of the reason, the human sat on said sofa jumped up and ran fearfully to the living room door. For the past 20 years this particular arachnophobe has made sure to train her dogs to perform a very important duty. Terriers it would seem are far more talented in this role as opposed to larger dogs that struggle to successfully squeeze under sofas, armchairs or beds. 3 seconds later my pint sized tri-coloured saviour emerged with it caged between two rows of teeth, and it was enormous. I don’t like to see any living thing on this earth hurt, or unnecessarily killed, but my phobia runs deep. I would actually prefer to throw a pint glass at a spider rather than catch it humanely. I’m very sorry for this. Continue reading “The Planned Spook”

Irresponsible Horse Dealers?

The deal was done, money was exchanged, hands were shaken and Charlie was loaded onto the trailer. The family had done their homework on finding an appropriate pony for their child, in size, temperament, training and experience in both the pony and the child. On the face of it, it was an ideal match. The dealer was well known, certainly in England, probably in Britain maybe even overseas. Therefore a  well known horse-dealer is unlikely to destroy their reputation by selling a dangerous pony to a child. So in this case, it is certain there had been no shady shenanigans in terms of selling a dangerous, unsound, insane or unhealthy animal by a greedy and  unethical  seller that had bought the horse just 2 days before from a knackers yard. Yet in just six months this pony had thrown the child so many times that it was considered too perilous for the child to continue riding, not without risking serious injury. If after 40 years of riding and one day I fell, breaking my neck, it could be considered a freak accident. Yet if I was bucked off on a weekly basis some might suggest it was inevitable. So it is understandable that the parents decided to send this pony back to the dealer.

So did the dealer sell a dangerous animal?

Continue reading “Irresponsible Horse Dealers?”

Training Without Due Care and Attention

Darcey skipped across the yard with all the joys of a spring lamb and flicked up both heels as she jumped the narrow concrete drainage gutter. In her mind she was not a 9 year old child, nope, she was Ellen Whitaker competing on her grand 16.2 hh bay steed. The fence before her was over 4 feet high and as she got close she counted down the approach 3…2…1 and takeoff! The gutter was jumped clear, guaranteeing her a place at HOYS! Darcey threw up her hands in jubilation and waved to the cheering crowd. In this moment a high-pitched whinny quickly disintegrated her fantasy and the crowd abruptly faded away. Continue reading “Training Without Due Care and Attention”

Why Your Horse Could Kick You

When somebody is about to walk behind my horse and they ask Does your horse kick? I always feel a bit tongue tied. Obviously I would like to say no, but in truth all horses kick. Although I am almost certain my mare wont (this time) because I am aware she has seen the person approach her. If she’s not eating, stressed, frightened, in-pain, half asleep, or being eaten by flies, then yes, I am almost certain sure she will not kick you on this occasion.

Horses have taught me many valuable lessons over the years, even the painful lessons have been important as these are the ones that have kept me safe. The speed, accuracy and power of a kick is something to behold. I was kicked twice in a fraction of a second 2 inches above my left knee cap many years ago, the dent in my leg will be there permanently. I regard this as physical reminder of my stupidity. Continue reading “Why Your Horse Could Kick You”