Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Why are we in such a hurry with horses?

I have just read this excellent article by Nic Barker at Rockley Farm on why we shoe horses. Basically the answer is that shoeing a horse is a quick fix. if you don't shoe, you have to put a lot more time and effort into getting the horse's environment, feed, exercise etc. right so his hooves can function as nature intended. I have heard more than one person say "I'd love to go barefoot, but it would take too long to transition and I need to do x, y and z with my horse this year....."

This got me thinking. It's not just shoeing that we do to hurry along what we want to do with our horses. Let's take rugging. Another thing people do because they want a clean horse, don't have time to brush him, don't want him to get too hairy or want him to look "nice" and clean. I have heard convenience used time and time again as a reason to rug. Not the horse's convenience, when it's 25 degrees (like it is today) and he's sweltering under a rug though.

We're also in a hurry to get on the horse's back. Can't have him standing around in a field doing nothing for too long. People apparently find it normal to back them as three year olds. But they don't finish growing until about 6 and a half. So why do people feel the need to have a four year old jumping over a metre high (something I saw regularly in France) or going eventing? Why rush getting them backed and potentially ruining them, physically or mentally, for the rest of their lives?

Because we are in a hurry, we can't wait, we need to feel we're getting our money's worth out of this animal that many of us are just too busy to bother to find out about properly. How many people spend time hanging out in the field with their horses? Not just popping down to stick a rug on, or grabbing him to bring in to tack up (if he's lucky enough to be turned out, that is, and not kept in a stable for our convenience) but just being with them, watching them interact, giving them a good old scratch, letting them sniff our clothes, nibble our hair?

Cartoon by Fed Up Fred
How many people have time to spend training a horse correctly? Why spend months and years building up her balance and muscles working on the ground before ever getting on when you can just get her used to a rider and away you go. If she doesn't move how you want her to, stick a gadget on, that'll do the trick (draw reins seem to be the favourite in France). And if it still doesn't do he trick, if she can't canter a circle after you've had her for a few months, just decide she's not the right horse for dressage and get a different one.......

But to me, horses are not disposable commodities, they do not "need" to be stabled, rugged, shod, bitted, or even ridden. I do not need to get my daughter a "proper" horse for eventing or jumping, we have the horses we have and we try to enable them to do the best they can for us, taking as much time as they need to be able to do what we ask of them. Some things are just worth taking your time over.......

Friday, 10 April 2015

Cross country

Sky was a total star today. Sarah at Team Green was taking one of hers to a local cross country course and she offered to take Sky along for a play too. She had to go in the big lorry and once she'd figured out where to put her feet she loaded OK, between Twinkle, Sarah's home-bred eventer, and Destiny, her former problem horse turned schoolmistress. Yes, OK, she looked very scruffy and small compared to them and the other horses there, but once she got going, she really went for it.

Twinkle gave her a lead, after an impressive bucking session straight off the lorry, which is apparently entirely normal as she gets very impatient to be off, and Sky barrelled along after her like she'd done it before!

She wasn't too keen on the white house, but jumped it after Twinkle proved it wouldn't eat horses, and had no problem at all with the corn cob or the carrot.....

She went for a splash in the water and up and down the bank, and over some solid-looking fences like a proper XC pony

At the end, we sent them off over a couple of jumps without Twinkle, she was less keen on this, but did it eventually

A good start :-)

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Latest French update.....

Easter holidays are here, which means we could go back to France, sadly this time only for a few days but it was great. We made really good time down the motorway on Saturday so naturally went straight to the stables so Ali could have a quick lesson. When we arrived, the previous group was still in the school, including Diane-Claire riding Kinna.  Kinns turned and watched us walk over from the car, stared for a bit, then sauntered over to the gate to say hello! She had to be reminded that she was supposed to be working, and eventually did some jumping with Diane-Claire, she seems totally at ease with it all, not a Tigger bounce in sight....
Then it was Ali's lesson, and she was really good, none of last year's arguing, she clearly now knows her job and gets on with it. Maybe there's some hope for Sky after all.....?

Ali seemed pretty pleased anyway
Then a couple of days later, Ali and I went down to Sheila's to see Fina. She was on form, jumping her trademark huge jump, and not being too worried by the big green ball

Went for a nice walk/hack with Sheila and Lucie in the sun. Ali says Fina felt marvellously relaxed. So nice to see the ponies looking happy and fluffy in the sun. Miss them........