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Hoofbeats - The Blog 

Welcome to our blog page, HOOFBEATS, where we talk about the countryside with a main emphasis on training and caring for horses and ponies. If you would like to contribute ideas and information about your own experiences, we would be delighted to hear them. Please email to editor@horseandponyinfo.com or post to our Facebook Page, Horse and Pony Info. If you're into Twitter, you can contact us @horse_ponyinfo.

IMPORTANT - The opinions expressed here are from personal experience and we strongly advise you to contact your veterinary surgeon or your riding instructor if you are seriously worried about your horse. Prompt action is important.

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Saturday, March 27, 2010

The cost of owning a horse or pony
Buying a horse or pony is a bit like buying a car as the initial outlay to buy the horse is only part of the expense. Let's compare a horse and a car for a moment: you need petrol (hay and hard feed), regular servicing (vet), new tyres (horse shoes), washing and polishing (grooming), road tax and insurance (passport, registrations for competitions and accident insurance) and repairs (vet again). How much this all costs is worth checking out before you commit yourself to a horse or pony. The bad news is that a horse probably has more expenses attached to it than a car! The good news is that you'll have a lot of fun and, hopefully, a great relationship with your horse. You can't have a relationship with a car, can you? I remember someone telling me once that a bad horse eats as much as a good horse so it's really worth shopping around and taking your time to find something suitable.

If you're lucky enough to have your own field and stable, then you won't have to pay livery costs which mount up over the years to a considerable sum of money. I don't always stable my horses and ponies. The competition horses are kept in a stable with grazing turn out during the day but most of the ponies live out in a field in summer and winter. They have good rugs and are fed extra food in the field during the colder months, of course, and they are all looking well with plenty of condition on them in March after a particularly harsh Irish winter. I kept an old thoroughbred horse living out most of his time with me as he used to get very stiff in a stable and preferred being able to walk around outside. With a rug and good food, he lived to his 30th year.

So what are the main expenses associated with owning a horse or pony? Click here to find out.
2:29 pm gmt 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Clipping horses
I have spent the morning of St Patrick's Day clipping a horse. Usually I wouldn't clip this late in the year but there is still no sign of Spring and this particular horse has a very thick, woolly coat under his rug. When days get warmer, the horse sweats and often ends up with a skin infection. I thought I would try clipping him later this time to try to avoid these problems.

Most horse manuals will tell you to give your horse his last clip in January and to leave it at that otherwise it might interfere with the summer coat coming through but some trainers of show horses will clip horses all year round. I suppose it's a matter of what suits you and your horse. If the summer coat has started to appear on a previously clipped horse, I wouldn't clip him again at this stage.

Getting started
I wear a hat and overalls as hair will get everywhere. It's a good idea to clear a bare patch in the stable before clipping so that it's easy to sweep up the hair afterwards. The horse I clipped today is an angel and stands as still as a rock until I am finished. Most horses and ponies will object a bit so you will need someone to help you hold them.

Make sure you have your clipping blades sharpened beforehand and also that you have a clean extra rug to take the place of the hair you are about to remove. As this is a large horse, I have to have two sets of clipping blades in case the first one becomes blunt half way through. A dirty coat will blunt the blades so groom the horse well over the weeks before you clip and you can also sponge him down with a little shampoo mixed with water to wash off sweat after exercise. This will leave a clean coat ready for clipping later on. It's hard to dry a horse in the winter if you hose him so I just use a cloth and bucket of water. I wring out the cloth so that it doesn't wet the coat too much and I wipe the sweat off with this.  

What sort of clip do you want?
Decide what sort of clip you want and always clip against the way the hair grows. If a horse or pony isn't doing much work, a trace clip will be sufficient. Mark the lines on his coat beforehand with chalk or masking tape so that you get straight lines even on both sides. I clipped this fellow out today which meant I took off all the hair but I left it on his legs, the front half of his head and his ears. Most horses hate having their heads clipped so why bother unless you are showing the horse? One tip which I got from a showing friend is to put the horse's bridle on while you clip him and clip away the hair behind the cheek piece (strap) using the cheek piece as a guide so that you get a nice, straight line down the side of his head. It looks good with the bridle on and with it off.

When I clipped a child's small pony last year, I only took a small amount of hair off his stomach, between his front legs and a little up his neck. He was living out in the field and I didn't want him to get too cold, although he did have his rug on.

Keep blades clean and allow to cool down
I brush the hair off the clipping blades regularly with a dry paintbrush and apply plenty of clipping oil to the blades at the top and underneath. I also leave the clippers switched off from time to time to cool down while I wipe down the horse and remove loose hair with a stable rubber (which looks much the same as a tea towel). Be careful clipping underneath the horse and under the legs as it is possible to cut him where the skin is loose. I pull the skin tight with my other hand to make this easier.

If you're clipping on a cold day, keep the horse covered with a rug on areas you've already clipped so that he doesn't get cold.
My horse looks a lot better now and all I have to do is pull his mane and tail and trim the long hairs at his heels before he can appear in public!
4:59 pm gmt 

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Tame foxes and swimming horses in West Cork
A tame fox is an unusual sight for those of us who have lived their lives in the country. Foxes are mostly nocturnal and are shy of humans, their main enemy, but recently I came across two foxes on separate occasions who regularly visited people for a evening snack and one who was trained to take food from a human's hand.

Both of these animals were in West Cork. When we arrived at a holiday house we were renting two summers ago, there was a note in the visitors' book which marvelled at the routine visit by a local fox at dusk every night which would hang around the barbecue and eat food from the English visitors' hands. Impossible, I thought as I read this, it must have been a dog that looked like a fox.

Tamed by a local German
How wrong I was! Two nights later we were sitting at the kitchen window admiring the sunset when one of the children shouted in excitement. A fox was standing in the shadow of the trees as it watched the house. Grabbing pieces of bread, we hurried to the doorstep and sat down to wait. Sure enough, the fox cautiously approached and very gently took the bread from our fingers. This was the beginning of our holiday relationship with this little vixen.

She looked in very good condition and, when we made enquires, we were told that she had been tamed as a cub by a local German who travelled abroad a lot and didn't think it fair to have a dog. He wormed and deloused the fox regularly so she had a beautiful healthy coat and bushy tail. When the German went away, the fox trotted off to see what other inhabitants of the area had to offer in the line of food. (See video in right hand column on this page).Horseswimming.jpg

Fox visits B & B
The other tame fox visited a B & B in West Cork every evening and was fed dog biscuits by the owner. She thought it was a male until one night the fox appeared with two cubs in tow. We saw the fox and fed her - something that delighted a young French student who had come to us to ride horses and learn English. He had never seen a fox before.

Sea bathing for horses
Swimming horses is a well known way of improving fitness and providing exercise after injury. It's not possible, however, for many horse owners unless we take them to a special horse pool which obviously can work out expensive. In West Cork I witnessed horses swimming in the sea from a gently sloping beach in a calm inlet. The horses were 'lead' wearing a headcollar and rope behind a motor boat and had to swim quite a distance out from the beach before turning to come back. I remember being impressed by the shine on their coats and how fit they looked (they were trotters) but I was concerned that if anything went wrong, such as a horse swallowing too much water, he was a long way from the shore. If it had been my horse, I would have asked him to swim parallel with the beach rather than out to sea - advice that is often given to human swimmers.

The horses looked like they enjoyed the experience and, from the trainer's point of view, it was a free way to exercise them with the added benefit of salt water which would help heal any cuts.
9:20 am gmt 

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Results of February Competition
Congratulations to Sarah from Wellington, New Zealand who sent in the winning entry. Click here to see.

March Competition - Win 5 Equestrian and Country Cards of your choice!
This month we're using one of our Equestrian and Country Greetings Cards for our competition. Our cards are sold blank and we know that some people find it hard to think of a greeting for a blank card. This has inspired us to ask for help from those of you who find it easy! All you have to do is think of a greeting to write inside our 'Red Fox' card and
complete the form here.

The winning entry will be published on this website at the beginning of April.
5:31 pm gmt 

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Preventing laminitis, the curse of native breeds

twolittleponies.jpgIt seems strange to be thinking of grass induced laminitis as very cold nights persist and the Irish countryside has been scorched an uncharacteristic brown by severe frosts. There is hardly a green blade of grass to be seen and owners are feeding hay and hard feed to keep weight on horses and ponies living out.  

However, we know how quickly the weather and temperatures can change and it is a good idea to be aware of the possibility of laminitis before the spring grass appears. I have had several horses prone to this painful condition and prevention is better than cure. Please note that this is my way of trying to prevent laminitis caused only by too much rich grass and not any other kind of laminitis. If this is your first time to deal with laminitis or you are worried about your horse or pony, please contact your vet immediately as it is a serious, life threatening condition. 

What is laminitis?
The suffix ‘itis’ means inflammation and laminitis is the painful inflammation of the laminae in a horse’s hoof. This can be caused by a number of different conditions but the common one is grass induced and often affects native breeds of horses and ponies which are genetically programmed to live in areas of poor grassland, such as the Connemara, Irish Draught, Shetland and native moorland ponies. Overweight animals and ‘good doers’ will often suffer from laminitis.  

Watch out for sudden grass growth
Once a horse has been diagnosed with laminitis, he will always be prone to it. I find I have to be vigilant all year round but especially during periods when grass grows quickly, such as spring and summer. As soon as the grass starts to grow reduce the horse’s grazing hours. I keep laminitis prone horses and ponies on smaller paddocks and I also use a sand arena at times for turn out and hang hay nets on the fence if the horse is there for longer periods. A sand arena is useful for a horse recovering from laminitis as he can walk about to improve circulation and the sand is soft under his feet.  

Use low protein feeds
I feed ponies prone to laminitis very little hard feed and mostly hay. Feed plenty of fibre, such as hay, in a net which will take longer to eat and help prevent boredom. My vet advised me to feed my big Irish Draught horse a low protein, low carbohydrate, low sugar diet such as beet pulp, oats, low protein coarse mix and up to one cup of vegetable oil a day which helps keep on weight. I also use high fibre chopped straw mixed with feed instead of beet pulp. There are several good fibre chops available on the market and some especially for laminitis prone horses. You can also buy oil pellets which are expensive but an easy way to add extra oil to the diet.  

Exercise is important
Often horses and ponies with bad circulation are prone to laminitis so exercise is vital but only after they have become sound again. Some owners let their animals out on grass with a muzzle to prevent too much grazing so that they will get exercise but I haven’t tried this because I use small paddocks and the sand arena. I would never risk putting laminitis prone horses and ponies on a large field full of grass. And I would never put small ponies on rich grass, even if they’ve never had laminitis. Animals can be lunged or loose lunged to keep them fit if they can’t be ridden.  

Always keep a look out for the first signs of laminitis
If a laminitis prone horse or pony looks any way stiff or is lying down for longer periods, bring him into a stable immediately and reduce feed until he moves freely again. You will save him a lot of pain and misery if you act quickly. More information from The Laminitis Trust - www.laminitis.org

1:10 pm gmt 

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Watch out for laminitis in small ponies and Native Breeds. Keeping weight under control is vital.


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