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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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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Taking rugs off horses and ponies

Happy St Patrick's Day, everyone! It's a beautiful day in Ireland with bright sunshine but with a wind still on the cold side. We're getting plenty of questions about taking rugs off horses as we head into another difficult season when the weather can change from temperatures in the teens to below zero at night.

March is still a bit early to take off rugs completely but if temperatures are over 12 degrees we remove them for the day and put them back on at night. Horses are shedding hair from winter coats now and they appreciate a chance to roll and rub off some of this loose hair as it makes them itch. Another good way to remove hair is to brush or comb them well. We just bought a FURminator for the first time as Amazon has them on special offer at the moment with 86%*off the original price. We even tried ours out on the dog and it worked really well. The horses loved being combed with it. The FURminator was also highly recommended by others when we mentioned it on our Facebook page and it can be used all year round to remove loose hair.  

One of the easiest ways to deal with hardening off horses at this time of year is to have a lightweight turn out rug which can be put on during the day time to protect against wind and rain but will not make the horse sweat like he would in the winter heavyweight rug. You can put the heavier rug back on at night.

We don't have lightweight rugs for all our horses and ponies so will wait a little longer until temperatures are in the early teens (13 degrees or over) before removing the winter rugs for the day. You need to harden the horse or pony off gradually to give him time to adjust to not having a rug. It's difficult to say how long this will take as it depends on the weather. In Ireland we have snow or heat waves in April so one never knows what's coming next.

It may sound simplistic but what I do is judge it by what I wear myself. If it's a cold day, I put on a coat. If it's warm, I take off the coat. The main thing is not to allow horses to sweat under rugs because this can cause a lot more problems than coping without a rug. I mentioned in a recent blog about skin infections and itching caused by rashes from overheating under rugs. If you ask your vet about this, he or she will be more likely to advise you not to molly coddle the horse too much.

* N.B. 86% off the Furminator price at time of writing this.

4:13 pm gmt 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

What's in a name?

Advertisements/ZimmermanRosettes.jpgI've got two successes to report: Number One, the rosettes have arrived for our Online Show so here is a photo of our Zimmerman modelling them. And Number Two, I've finally worked out how to access a blog on blogger.com that I apparently set up in 2008 and promptly forgot how to find it again. Happens all the time to me on this maze that they called the World Wide Web. So easy to become entangled...

I felt obliged to write something on the blogger.com page (which I have linked to this website) after all these years so decided to do a more personal piece for a change. Here goes:
I've ridden horses since before I was born. Now that might sound like a typo but it's actually true. My mother, bless her, hunted regularly until she was six months pregnant. She only admitted this to me a few years ago and, when I tackled her about safety issues and how she could have killed me and so on, she pointed out that my father made her go! My poor father was in the Happy Hunting Ground in the Sky at this stage so I couldn't say anything to him. My mother wanted to name me 'Diana' after the Goddess of Hunting but my grandfather (not a lover of horses) intervened and so I was named Suzanne, meaning 'Beautiful White Lily'. In no way do I resemble a beautiful, white lily, alas.

Naming a child after your own loves is a bit of a risk. I ought to know. I named my first born son 'Philip' (from Greek, meaning 'Lover of Horses'). He hates them. He's allergic to them and he's totally bored by them. I attempted to put this miserable failure behind me, so I bought a beautiful white horse. (Grey is the correct terminology). Now I had a name already lined up for a grey horse. He was to be called Zimmerman, after my all time favourite musician, Bob Dylan. If you're not a Dylan fanatic, you may be forgiven for not knowing that his real name is Robert Zimmerman but he preferred to call himself after a Welsh poet.

Zimmerman, the horse, is 17.3 hh, Irish Draught x and has a powerful stride which throws the rider into the air at every step. I bought him from a dealer and he was quite unmanageable in the beginning and earned me several tellings off from my sister-in-law (a BHSII instructor and very, very knowledgeable). He was too nervous, too big, too strong, too badly behaved... While my husband worried that I'd wasted my money, I worried that I'd wasted my name.But all came good in the end. Perseverance is the most important thing with horses. Never give up. As the years passed, Zimmerman improved. He was taught basic dressage and he developed a talent for showing off, winning heavyweight hunter show classes and two championships. He was launched on the Irish dressage scene in his early teens and made his way (even with the handicap of having me on board) almost to Elementary. Which all goes to show, my son's name may have let me down but my horse's didn't.

4:30 pm gmt 

Monday, March 7, 2011

Training a young horse to pick up his feet
A week of March has already passed. Where has it gone? We've been frantically busy putting photo entries for our Online Show into competition albums on Facebook. I'm amazed by the number of entries and, great news, we have a new sponsor: thetackroom.ie who is sponsoring the Native Breeds of Ireland and UK competition. You can check out special offers here: www.thetackroom.ie. Owner Imelda Lynch has even entered her fab cob mare in the Curvy Cobs Class. Details of classes are on our Competition page and entries don't close until 31st March so you still have time to get out your camera.

I've started training our yearling pony. He escaped from his field on the day he was born by sliding under the fence and now, it seems, he's got a taste for it. After several phone calls from my neighbours to say he was out on the lane, I'm now bringing him into a stable during the day as he has to share our most secure field with another escapee. This gives me an opportunity to teach him some manners. The biting has virtually stopped and he's getting used to having a rug pulled on and off, as well as being tied up and groomed.

The next step was to tackle his feet. The front ones were no problem to pick up. Nice, placid yearling, I thought, as I moved towards the hind only to be nearly booted out of the stable. Days followed with us doing circuits of the box without him letting me near his hindquarters. There is no point getting angry with him as a horse is programmed to use four legs to escape from predators and is often phased by having to stand on three until he learns. I ran my hands down his legs and brushed them gently day after day. After five days of hopping around the box, he gave up. On Saturday I was even able to pick out all four feet (not at once!) with a girl holding him in the field. My farrier will be very pleased.  
11:41 am gmt 

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Horses racing on a frozen lake in Switzerland
copyright: Gilles Oster - Fotolia.com


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(Suzanne - Editor of Horse and Pony Info) 

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