Wednesday, 28 November 2012

When to rug

I always find it difficult to decide when to rug Dee for the winter.  She is a cob so she gets a good thick winter coat, but she is also a senior horse so she needs a bit of comfort.  I do not like to rug her too early, else she doesn’t get a full winter coat – and they are in rugs for so long.  However rugging her too late can mean she loses condition unnecessarily.  I did eventually rug her last week but not in a full winter-weight rug - just a padded cotton under-rug and a waterproof sheet.  I’ve also started feeding her conditioning cubes instead of cool mix.

The rain over last weekend was extreme and the wind really strong, so I felt to happy to think of her tucked up in her rugs.  I think she has got to know the van because today she was walking up to the gate by the time I had parked and got into my overall and wellies.

I forgot to take pictures of Dee today, but thought you might enjoy seeing these little ponies.  They are rescue ponies and one has a gammy leg.  The are not much bigger than a large dog and just as friendly.  They do not mix with the main herd and so did not realise it is not a good idea to try and pinch a bit of Dee’s feed!  Red was in so he also enjoyed fuss and treats today.

The sun was shining beautifully in the distance while I was at Briwnant – I don’t think the photos quite capture how beautiful the light was illuminating the green of the fields.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Briwnant is home

Dee accepting a carrot after being turned out.
We had been thinking of moving house.  I fancied a place, not too far from Cardiff, with a bit of land.  It has been a wish for a long time to live somewhere that the horses could live with us.  For various reasons we think that this particular dream will not come to pass – and that is fine.  We are happily staying where we are.

When I thought about moving the horses I realised that this would not be their preference.  They like living at Briwnant Riding Centre.  They like being part of a large herd and have friends in the herd.  I think they would have not been so happy as a herd of two.  Dee has established her place in the herd and is now relaxed and no longer aggressive.  She is not challenged, so she does not need to do more than put her ears back and the other horses give her space.  All is peaceful in the herd.

I still occasionally meet people who tell me that they knew Dee at Pontcanna.  Usually they find it hard to believe that she is the same horse – living in a large herd, and getting along well with the other horses.  One such lady I met at the weekend, has just moved her fine cob/Irish draught cross to Briwnant.  She told me that this blog was a major factor in her decision to move her horse to Briwnant.  I am so happy that the blog has been useful to someone.

Briwnant is not perfect – but it is close to perfect for us.  Dee and Red are happy and healthy, and prefer living out at grass rather than spending hours a day couped up in a stable.  Red so hated that.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Assertion and accession

We had friends staying for a few days and they were interested in seeing the horses and riding.  I usually tack up Dee at such times because she is the more cooperative horse with unfamiliar riders.  She came to call as always but was clearly expecting to only be fed and groomed.  She was not too pleased that she was going to be asked to work.  To be fair, I have ridden her very little this winter so it is reasonable that she would assume that today was no different, but she is usually happy to be ridden.

I put her saddle on first and she kept almost nipping me as I did up her girth.  This is more characteristic of Red rather than Dee.  I had not intended to ride but decided that I better ride her first in case she was going to be really difficult.  Then I asked her to take her bridle.  Now I always ask her rather than just put it on her, and she responds by putting her nose into the noseband.  But not this day.  She kept dipping her head and then putting it up in the air looking away from me.  She did this again and again.

Hmmm...  What to do next...?  I decided when I bought Dee that I would not force her in the way I had seen her forced to have a bridle on at Pontcanna riding stables – not cruelly, but against her wish and through dominating her rather than engaging with her to receive her cooperation.   But I also did not want her to get away with calling all the shots.  I have to be the head mare of her herd because she is a dominant mare with a strong personality.  I cannot let her walk over me – or she may in fact walk over me.   I led her into the arena and we walked around for a while and she was fine with this.  Then I unclipped her and sent her away by waving my arms about, shooing her and slapping my leg with the lead rein.  She trotted around me and I looked her in the eye.  When she stopped I turned away from her and she joined up with me.  We walked around the arena together for a few minutes and then I asked her to put her bridle on – still no go.  So I sent her away again and pushed her on for a few minutes by swinging the lead rope and slapping it against my leg again.  Then I let her stop, turned away and waited for her to join up with me.  This time she joined up with her head down and licking her lips.  I offered her her bridle and she immediately put her head in the noseband and accepted it.  I stroked her and told her she was a good girl and led her around with the bridle on for a few minutes.

I felt this was quite an important success for her to accede in this way and I was happy to leave it at that for that session.  So I led her out and gave her her feed.   We can build on this.  She will remember it and hopefully the spring energy she is feeling will be something we can share rather than a source of conflict.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Surviving the Winter

A ride returning in the snow.
This winter has been remarkably mild and we had not really even had an overnight frost until January.  Consequently the horses are still finding some forage, and this, supplemented by good hay, is keeping them all looking round and well.  Dee is doing particularly well and has a beautifully glossy coat and has kept a good weight.  Her mane in particular is looking thicker and glossier than I have ever seen.

On Saturday the weather suddenly turned seasonal and we dashed up to Briwnant in case it would prove difficult to get there again for a few days.  Dee was in a stable having a feed of haylage, but was happy to accept a feed from us as well . . . of course.  We added an under-rug to her winter turn-out rug as it was so cold.

Red was also there and happy to be given treats.

Then surprisingly, the snow turned to rain later in the day and was all gone by the following morning.  Perhaps that is the sum total of our winter weather this year . . . or perhaps there is more to come.