Tag: welfare

When Retirement Isn’t The Kindest Thing

A vet once said to me By the time the horse shows pain, the damage is already severe. Those words sent me down the road of wanting to fully understand equine body language, instinct and psychology. I have now adapted those words to fit what I believe is true, which is By the time a human identifies pain in the horse, the damage is already severe. The horse is very good at hiding injury or illness because it is a prey animal. A lion hiding in tall grass never steams into a herd of zebra, but selects the animal it is most likely to succeed at killing. No animal will want to expend energy for a useless cause. The likely target will be a zebra that is old, young, weak or injured. Therefore if a horse is retired that is quite obviously lame then I am certain it must know it is vulnerable to attack. Thankfully there are usually no free roaming large predatory animals hunting around the country side of Great Britain. Considering the amount of times I have either stopped, or managed a bolt, I am fairly sure evolution has yet to tell our equine friends this fact. It is evident that the domestic horse has all the same instincts as the wild horse. Of course Homo Sapiens is also a predatory animal, probably the worst, most destructive animal on the planet. Albeit horses can have some trust in their human handlers, some more than others, it will never be 100%.

If a horse is showing catastrophic lameness through an injury, condition or disability then it should be put to sleep, rather than retired. If mother nature herself has decided not to tell the horse he is safe in his paddock, then it could be considered cruel for the horse to live with the stress of knowing he is vulnerable to attack 24/7. Horses generally operate as a herd, the herd is the entity, not necessarily the single horse. In some ways the herd does not care about the single horse, but only the survival of the herd itself. Observe the hierarchal  system, when a person hays a paddock the weakest animal can often not eat. The weakest, most least dominant horse will either only eat the scraps, or eat when the more dominant horses have had their fill. This ensures only the fittest, strongest animals survive, the herd itself stays strong. It may seem harsh but the horse does not care if a weaker animal does not eat, even dies. In the wild the weaker animal is not just a threat to the survival of the herd, but rather its more advantageous to the survival of the equine to build a herd of strong animals. Horses with colic and other life threatening conditions die so it is less common for wild/feral horses to pass on genetic defects.

Therefore it could actually be a very stressful life for a horse with obvious lameness to be retired. Not only does it have to live with the stress that it understands its vulnerable to attack, it will be identified by its herd as weak. There just won’t be a crippled horse in a domestic herd that is the leader, or even 2nd in command, it will be the lowest. The lowest that isn’t getting hay over winter, is sent away from the lush grass over the summer and an animal that is constantly badgered by the higher horses. The very core, the very thing that makes a horse a horse is the ability to run. Nature dishes out specific tools to every species to give it an advantage. The horse was given lightening quick reflexes and the power to run at speed at a moment’s notice. Now imagine for whatever reason that ability is taken away from the horse. The human is prolonging the suffering of the animal for their own selfish reasons, because we love the horse.

No-one wants to be the Grim Reaper. No one wants to face the realisation that the very animal you have loved and cared for over many years will now die from your decision. But horses hide pain to ensure their survival. As harsh as it is, once a horse is showing obvious weakness it already knows its defenceless and vulnerable. The horse you love should not spend its time being in pain and feeling defenceless, the stress of this is unfair, and both physically and mentally cruel.  Those that pass the horse around as a companion, or even worse as a foal factory are not people that love horses. Horses that are riddled with arthritis, and  disorders of the musculoskeletal system will be in agony if forced to produce offspring, they also pass on genetic defects.

If your horse is showing visible signs of discomfort and/or lameness, it might just be kinder to let go. Do not prolong the suffering to protect yourself from a broken heart at the detriment of your equine friend.

Just let go.

Experienced Groom Looking For Work

Well done to those people that actually get off their back-sides and look for work. I regularly see these adverts pinned to the notice boards of tack-shops. I applaud those individuals that make the effort to either hand-write or print off a carefully written advert and drive around the shops in a bid to find employment. But there is also an error in many of the adverts, as straight after the opening eye-catching title it will say I am 19 years old and have been riding since the age of 4. Well, as much as I hate to be the bearer of bad news, riding for 15 years does not make a person an experienced groom. If the author has grown up on a yard under the supervision of an experienced horse professional, then yes, probably in this case they may be an experienced groom. But those individuals are rare. My main beef, if you will, is that people assume that because someone has riding skills, they will make a good groom. The person that rides will also assume they will make a good groom. Most of these adverts generally only include riding experience, and that they are actively seeking work as a rider.

Continue reading “Experienced Groom Looking For Work”

Heavyweight Should Not Mean Overweight

The horse caught my eye simply by the way it was standing. There was something about its demeanour that seemed off. There was no back leg resting, the head wasn’t lowered and the ears were pinned. Furthermore the horse was tilting slightly backwards to remove the weight off its front legs. This wasn’t a horse at rest, no snoozing was occurring here, it looked like a marble statue. Laminitis seemed obvious, probably likely, but I also considered colic or even overheating, which in some cases can be connected. The most apparent thing about this animal which wouldn’t depend on a vet diagnosis  was that it was morbidly obese. I had considered overheating because the horse was a heavyweight native breed of the British Isles…and it was wearing a rug on a mild autumn day. This horse had been clipped but for no real reason that I was aware of, as it could not even be considered to be in light work. Continue reading “Heavyweight Should Not Mean Overweight”


I slowed my car and carefully drove onto the grass bank as there wasn’t a safe place to park on the narrow country lane. The moment I spotted the horse I could tell something was wrong. I wondered how many drivers had passed this location and either didn’t spot the problem, or didn’t care. I slowly approached the horse while uttering soothing words, the words didn’t matter, perhaps I was just trying to calm myself. The animal was surrounded by at least 2 days’ worth of manure, and this angered me. I reached down the leg and tried to remove the fencing wire that was wrapped several times around the fetlock. But one pair of hands wasn’t enough. I needed someone to stop the horse from pulling back from pain. I envisioned the horse damaging itself further, probably catastrophically. I called the fire-brigade and told them to leave the sirens off.

Continue reading “Retirement”

The Equine Mind Map

The stable had been prepared for the new livery with a thick bed of fresh straw and a hay net hung in the corner. The horse came off the lorry and walked into the barn filled with anxiety, he was head-high with flaring nostrils and eyes as round as dinner plates. Even after a good 45 minutes the horse was still extremely anxious. The once neat bed of straw was tossed to the side of the stable walls as the horse frantically circled the stable, the circuit was only broken when he rushed to the stable door to whinny and rear. Sweat made his bay coat glisten as steam started to rise from him. Continue reading “The Equine Mind Map”

Horse Blaming

The two ladies were heading down the hacking track toward me, they were talking loudly which caused me to look over. One of them was riding a horse, the actual owner was walking beside the horse holding onto both reins. It was apparent by the rider’s position that she was a novice. It begs the question why was a novice sat on a horse that needed 2 pairs of hands on its reins? Continue reading “Horse Blaming”