Thursday, November 22, 2012
Horses and Rats - a Horror Story
12:32 pm gmt
This post is not for the faint hearted. Just thought I'd get that in early. If you can't even bear the thought of reading
about rats, tune out now.
My horror story began several months ago when our beloved dog died. He used to accompany me every night to the stables
for last feeds and enthusiastically slaughter any rat stupid enough to get in his way. It was frightening how rats fought
the dog, leaping and squealing in the darkness while I stood uselessly by, also screaming. For all the good screaming does!
Since the dog's death, the rats continued to thrive and breed. Apparently they have an average of 6 babies every 6
weeks. After another 6 weeks, the babies themselves can produce babies. You don't have to be a maths genius to work out that
after a couple of months you're in big trouble. Another scary statistic I learnt from the pest control man is that for every
one rat you see in daylight hours, there are at least another 10 in hiding. When 5 rats jumped out of a feed bucket one night,
I sent for the marines.
The marines arrived in the Rentokil van and, being fond of statistics, I discovered that my
rat infestation is 8 on a scale of 10 and that a single pair of breeding rats and their subsequent descendants will produce
2,300 rats in one year. Scary, right?
Some people, when I mentioned the problem, thought rats were cute and were fine
to have around horses. Here's why this couldn't be further from the truth:
- Rats spread disease through their urine
and poo. Rat urine will cause Leptospirosis in dogs and Weil's Disease in humans. By the time the infection has reached the
liver, it's often too late. If you have been near rats and touched anything, especially if you have cuts on your hands, and
subsequently get bad flu symptoms, joint aches and pains and respiratory problems, go to your doctor immediately for the antibiotics.
I'm not exaggerating. My brother had to be treated for Weil's Disease last August after clearing out a shed on his farm. You
might like to Google Weil's Disease for more info about how it can cause death and make sure your dogs are vaccinated against
Leptospirosis as it's also a killer.
- The Rentokil technician assured me that rat urine on hay, bedding
and feed in stables can cause respiratory problems in horses and told me that they are employed in top racing yards around
the Curragh on permanent contracts as (and I quote him) ‘a racehorse where there are rats will never win a race.' You
need to check with your vet on this one as I'm not an expert.
- Rats can also nibble through wiring
and cause fire in stables.
How to get rid of the rats? First and foremost, keep your feed room scrupulously clean.
Rats love cereals so sweep up any nuts, oats or mix that falls on the ground and keep bags of feed in galvanised metal bins.
All our plastic bins have been chewed through so we only use metal ones now.
If you don't use professional pest control,
and even if you do, make sure you don't cause secondary poisoning where your dog, cat or even owls and birds eat the poisoned
rats and mice and also die. I have been assured that the rat extermination programme I am following will not do this. I met
a farmer this week who uses bait bought in the local store and it regularly kills off the kittens. Only one cat survives as
he doesn't like eating dead mice. Horrible. And not what I would like to happen to our new kitten.
Another way to keep
rats at bay is to own a hardy Jack Russell terrier or two. Farm cats will also kill off baby rats and stop the breeding process.
It takes a brave cat to tackle a fully grown rat and I remember years ago one of ours getting her face torn open by one.
warned you this was a horror story.
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
'Nearly There' book and CD competition prize
2:56 pm gmt
We're delighted to announce that we have a competition for October. Over the next three weeks, we will be giving away three
copies of the children's book and CD 'Nearly There'. The prizes have been very kindly donated and signed by the authors, Johanna
Connor and Gabrielle Byrne.
'Nearly There' is a beautifully illustrated children's book, CD and iPad app which
follows the journey of two horses and the collection of creatures they meet along the way to Nearly There. It is now
available to buy on Amazon also.
The book & CD would make a great gift for a child's birthday or for Christmas
so why not have a go at our competition? All you have to do is answer a simple question. If you don't win the first time round,
you still have two more chances. Enter today here!
Sunday, October 7, 2012
Horse bits and pieces
4:44 pm gmt
All of us have been run away with at some time or another. It's not a nice feeling - in fact, it can often be a terrifying
one and may often put children off riding forever. The right answer is always correct schooling under a capable instuctor
but this takes times. Also a horse which behaves like an angel in an enclosed arena can often turn into a maniac when he gets
out into the fields, especially if he's jumping a cross country course or going hunting.
There are many worried
mothers out there whose children are clinging on for dear life to enthusiastic little ponies. Young children don't have the
strength to take a strong pull on a tearaway pony and safety must always come first.
With this in mind, as well
as the countless questions we get about bits on our Facebook page, we asked Lorraine Jennings (who writes 'School Your Horse')
for an article about controlling horses and ponies. You will find her suggestions here
Sunday, September 9, 2012
An inspiring Paralympic dressage rider
5:55 pm gmt
Have you enjoyed watching the London Paralympics? There have been so many inspirational stories and achievements.
One can only admire the sheer courage and determination of these athletes. Grace Bowman is a paralympic dressage rider from
Australia and hers is one of these amazing stories.
Grace may not have won a medal at the games this time round
but she is both brave and determined. We have made the ABC TV Sport feature about her our September 'Video of the Month'.
Grace was a normal, horse mad girl until a riding accident at the age of 12 took away the use of her legs. When she was out
on her horse, he shied suddenly and ducked under a tree branch. Grace was swept off and when she saw the position of her legs
and realised she couldn't feel them, she knew something was terribly wrong.
The accident left Grace in a wheelchair
but only 5 months later she was back on a horse. She now trains with Megan Jones and has competed at both the Beijing and
London Paralympics. View her amazing story here
. The video is over 10 minutes long so put on the kettle and settle down. Warning - you may need a tissue or two.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Olympics - highs and lows
5:11 pm gmt
What a great experience the Olympics was! A friend who lends me her bombproof mare for my students and I headed off this month
for the final of the Individual Dressage in Greenwich Park. I was lucky to get tickets for this as I recently met a family
who live in London and they applied for four sports and didn't get tickets for any of them.The highs
We got the last double bedroom in the Clarendon hotel overlooking the green in Blackheath with the Equestrian
entrance to Greenwich Park just a quick stroll away across the grass. On the left of the green was a big screen where we watched
other competitions including Cian O'Connor's unexpected bronze in the individual showjumping. We also saw Katie Taylor's gallant
gold for Ireland in boxing. The Clarendon staff were friendly and our room was large considering it was the last
one available. The guests were given a poem written by a permanent resident about the Equestrian Olympics which was a nice
We were both impressed with the organisation, the quick but efficient security check by the army and the
friendliness of the many volunteers both at the event and throughout London. We got lost several times on our visits
to the city centre and were helped and given free maps by the ever cheerful volunteers wearing pink.
itself was wonderful and the top eighteen qualifiers for the individual final were all interesting to watch. When Adelinde's
(from The Netherlands) score came up on the screen, I couldn't see how it would be beaten. I hadn't realised just how relaxed
and easy Charlotte Dujardin makes dressage to music seem. 90%! I had never seen a score like that before. Well done also to
Laura B and Alf and we could all share in the emotional pat she gave her horse as, at the age of 17, he did his very best
to win bronze in his last Olympics. And the lows?
Well, only one low. We had all been warned
about professional pick pockets at the Olympics. On the tube back to Heathrow, somewhere along the way, my handbag went
missing. In it was my passport, my driver's licence and all my bank cards. Even my car keys. What a panic when I discovered
this at Heathrow! It took one and a quarter hours to persuade Aer Lingus to let me on the plane with only a boarding card
and a letter from the Olympics about tickets to prove who I was.
By the time I got to Dublin and cancelled my
bank cards, no one had managed to use them but the one big loss was my new iPhone. The police in Heathrow asked if I had downloaded
the app 'Find My Phone'. Alas no. It'll be the first download if I can ever afford another iPhone!
app which disappeared with my iPhone but which I will be putting on the next one is Horselog. It helps to keep your horses,
competitions and budget organised. Click here for review of Horselog app
Wednesday, July 4, 2012
Are we there yet? Nearly there... a new horse book for children
5:06 pm gmt
How many of us parents remember the words 'Are we there yet? Are we there yet?' chanted loudly from the back seat (or booster
seat) of our cars by enthusiastic or bored offspring dying to get to the end of their journey? And our patient reply of 'Nearly
Johanna and Gabrielle have written and illustrated a new book for children which is suitable for the young person in
all of us. Inspired by their love of horses and the West Cork countryside, 'Nearly There' is a story of discovery and friendship.
The two artists have been good friends for eleven years and based their book on two very real but completely different
horses: Budley, a solid cob and Bishop, a feisty thoroughbred mare. As you can see from the photo of an elephant greeting
Bishop, even in real life these horses met some interesting characters! This elephant was part of a travelling circus which
was on tour in West Cork when Johanna says an 'elegant trunk suddenly appeared over the hedge'.
In the book, the
fictional characters of Budley and Bishop escape from an unloved home and go on an exciting journey, meeting other creatures
along the way. The book comes with a CD and is also available as an app for iPad which can be purchased from iTunes.
and Pony Info interviewed Johanna about her background in horses and her inspiration for the book. Read the interview and see some great photos kindly sent to us by Johanna here.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Not just a one trick pony
2:16 pm gmt
The great thing about our Facebook page is we never know what is going to be posted on it next.
Last month we met
Amos, a wonderful little pony with a whole big bag of tricks. Amos was so popular with our followers that we decided to make
his dvd our Favourite Video for June. Our thanks go to Shelly for bringing him to our attention. He has played basketball
with a well known US team, he can play the xylophone and that's only for starters.
Jennings, who runs the 'School Your Horse Help Desk', has tackled the problem of counter canter this week and she makes it
a lot easier than some people may think. The main thing when teaching your horse any new school movement is to break it down
into sections which he or she will find easy to learn. To see the new reader's question and download Lorraine's answer as
a pdf, click here.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Have you got a 'lucky' piece of horsey clothing?
11:35 am gmt
When I was a teenager, I did a lot of showjumping. Every Sunday I loaded two horses into the horse trailer and headed off
with my mother to local shows and gymkhanas. It was a lot of fun and if one horse knocked a fence, there was always the chance
that the other one would go clear. Very rarely did they both go round without fault on the same day!
one day, however, when they both went clear and, because the prizes for the grade I jumped for younger horses wasn't decided
against the clock, we would all get a red rosette. Sometimes as many as eight or ten horses with double clears would line
up in front of the Judge's box. This particular day there was also a trophy on offer. The one who drew the rosette with an
'x' on the back won the trophy. I was wearing my lucky pink shirt and was the one who took home the trophy. Huge excitement!
From then on I wore my lucky pink shirt until it literally wore out. I remember the panic on the day it ripped across the
back. I would NEVER be able to jump a clear round again!
I overcame this dependency and went on to jump more clear
rounds but I never let myself get so superstitious again. There are enough things to worry about when getting horses to shows
instead of fussing about the colour of my shirt!
In our Online Store this month we've picked a couple of T-shirts
which caught our eye. Moon Shadow is so striking he nearly jumps off the front of the shirt and we loved the Evolution of
Man ending with him or her galloping off on a horse. Both of these T-shirts are 100% cotton. For more info about them, visit our Online Store page
Sunday, April 29, 2012
Should he stay or should he go? Dealing with a nappy horse
1:21 pm gmt
Our new 'School Your Horse Help Desk' has been busy. Lorraine received several questions along the lines of the one below
and we also got yet another one on our Facebook page. Nappy horses can be the bane of owners' lives and we ought to know as
we've got one ourselves!
Reader's Question: "My new horse is extremely nappy. On a ride he stops, rears
and spins round. He's good in every other way but it's starting to frighten me. I thought having my own horse was going to
be fun. Do you have any advice for me - I don't know what to do."
Does this sound familiar to you?
If so, or if you just want to find out what Lorraine suggests, click here to read her answer.
The first thing you've got to do is give the horse the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he is in pain so check
back, teeth, saddle fit, the bit and anything else that might be upsetting him. Perhaps he's nappy because he's young, inexperienced
and doesn't like going out on his own. He should have a sensible leader horse to start off with - this is also safer for you,
the rider. But years later ours will still try to nap if he thinks he can get away with it and one dressage trainer described
him as 'intelligent'! He is certainly cleverer than our other horses and learns quickly.
The disadvantage of owning
a brainy horse is that he also learns bad habits (or what he can get away with) quickly too. Lorraine suggests in her answer
that you need to keep a nappy horse moving forward at speed and this definitely worked for me on the road. When the gelding
tried to stop and spin around, I pushed him into trot and kept him trotting until he was well past what he was objecting to.
When he napped again, he had to trot again. It was much harder for him to stop and turn around when trotting. How do I know
he is clever? Well, when he passes the half way point in the circuit of road, he goes forwards of his own accord without any
messing as he knows he is heading home! No more napping once past that point.
Sunday, April 15, 2012
The Grand National - how to make the race less risky?
1:53 pm gmt
Yesterday's Aintree Grand National produced an unusually close photo finish. But the success of Paul Nicholls trained Neptune
Collonges was overshadowed by the fatal injuries to two horses, including the winner of this year's Cheltenham Gold Cup. Paul
Nicholls says lowering the fences even more will only result in horses going faster and more fallers. How
can what is probably one of the world's most famous races be made safer?
What is the answer to making the Grand
National safer? Having read some of the racing sites today, there's a suggestion that Beecher's Brook be taken away or the
drop on the far side lessened as horses don't expect that on the other side of a fence. The famous fence caused trouble this
year again but, ironically, both horses fatally injured got up after this fence and ran on riderless to meet accidents further
I agree with Paul Nicholls that lowering the fences again will make the jockeys go faster. The fences
looked smaller this year but there were still two fatalities and a large amount of fallers. Too many runners causes all sorts
of problems and the cavalry like charge to the first fence is always alarming! The fact that it's a handicap encourages owners
to enter horses, which often have no hope of getting round, just because they want a runner in the race. Put these two together
and you have major trouble. Always risks with horses
However, there will always be
risks. There ARE always risks with horses. I myself have had two horses of mine put down because of broken legs: one was kicked
out hunting and the other broke his hind hock in a paddock at a livery yard.
My very first race meeting (aged
10), a horse unseated his rider and then galloped around riderless only to run straight into the winning post where he broke
his neck in front of the stand. This was horrific for the crowd watching. You never know what a loose horse will do.
I worked in the horse racing industry for many years and I wouldn't like to see the Grand National go but I believe more
steps have to be taken to reduce the risks.