Day 11 – To Rug, or Not to Rug..

, How things have changed over the years. When I bought my first horse 30 years ago, when it came to buying rugs for him there was very little choice as to style, , weight, fabric or colour. For turn out it was a green, canvas, New Zealand Rug, and for the stable, a Jute Rug with a separate roller. There was also a string vest style sweat rug. If your horse was cold, you put a bed blanket under the rug. If your horse was wet, you put the jute rug on inside out, and thatched him with straw under the rug. I remember there being nothing more heavy and difficult to handle then a truly soaking wet, mud plastered, New Zealand Rug.

Fast forward 30 years

and the choice of rugs is mind blowing . The equine clothing industry is a multi billion pound sector which seems to be going from strength to strength. However I do wonder how much of this is actually Led by fashion, and owner shaming, rather than the actual needs of the horse. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t go back to using a heavy, difficult to handle, old-fashioned New Zealand Rug if you paid me. However I sometimes wonder if all these different rugs are strictly necessary, and if the basic animal needs of the horse are being forgotten.

Last year I did a quick count up, and was really shocked to discover that I had around about 40 rugs. Okay, i’ve owned horses for about 30 years, and in recent years I’ve had as many as four at any one time. I also have a tendency to keep hold of the Quitman, even when I have no real need for it, just in case.

. My attitude towards rugging has really changed since we moved here and have been doing it all ourselves

When I kept my horses on full livery I was very much influenced by what the yard owner said I needed to do. By and large, they were the ones who were actually handling my horse on a daily basis, so when they told me I need a particular rug, off I would toddle and buy one. After all, they were the expert here, Who was I to question their judgement? It wasn’t until I bought Magnum, and ended up having to keep him and Sapphire more or less on a do-it-yourself basis, that I started to question things. The actual Yurika moment came courtesy of the woman whose land are used to keep Magnum on, and who, at the time, had Sapphire on loan for one of her daughters. It was June, admittedly it wasn’t a particularly nice June, but it wasn’t what you would call cold.

I can’t remember where we were, but it would’ve taken us about an hour to get back to home. Suddenly my mobile phone rang, and when I answered it I was met with a very shouty voice, which informed me that I had to get to the field NOW! That it was raining, that I had to put a rug on my horse NOW! OR ELSE!!! When we did eventually get back to the field, it had stopped raining, and the Sun was shining. I found a comfortable and content Magnum stuff in grass like it was going out of fashion, in the company of four extremely uncomfortable ponies, all wearing rugs, and sweating profusely. Why has she shouted at me like that, and why was she letting her ponies suffer through being too hot? It wasn’t very long after this that I decided to try and move Magnum two other quarters. It was when I told her that I had found another billet for him, that she suddenly decided she didn’t want Sapphire anymore..

In recent times I have read a lot of articles written by vets and equine physiologists, which question the need for horses to be rugged except in the coldest conditions. Thereseems to be a lot of evidence now, that horse is a very good at regulating their own body temperature, and, in general, are perfectly comfortable

In temperatures between 5 – 25 degrees. This means that just because we’re cold, it doesn’t mean our horses are. Since last winter it has been my policy not to rug umtil it’s 5 or below, or under 10 if it’s hammering down. It’s fair to say that they are hardly wasting away.

Day 5 – Autumn Essentials

So far this year my hay is untouched, I have far too much grass and to scarily fat horses, and whilst I can’t claim to be entirely free of mud, it really isn’t worth writing home about. Yes, The nights are drawing in, and they are noticeably cooler, but, even though they have now been clipped, The girls are still perfectly comfortable without a rug.

Is it really October? It’s really difficult to think about the autumn essentials when the weather is so mixed up that The local farmers are in the process of bailing silage.In the last five days the land next door to us has had grass cut, turned, and bailed, with the bales being removed yesterday evening. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced such a late cut of silage. It must be a real relief, as after the first cut, which happened oh so very long ago, The grass just didn’t grow again until September.

Usually by this Time of year I am wondering if it is safe to start using the hay that Steve cut back in June or July. Whilst I always try to bring horses in as late as possible, and never until after the 5th of November, normally by now my resolve is beginning to crumble. Usually I am already beginning to run out of grass, monsoon season is in full swing, and the mud is beginning to make itself known.

So, apart from a good pair of wellies and some decent waterproofs, which are primed and ready to be worn in an instant, I think the mot essential thing to have at this time of year is am open mind.

Trug Hunting

I hate to keep banging on about it, but one of the most frustrating aspects of being blind is the amount of time you waist searching around for things that are, or at least should be, right under your nose. This activity is made even more interesting when the thing you are trying to find is on the floor of an enclosed space that also contains a large, over friendly, quadruped, and several samples of said animals excreta. Something I find myself doing 8 times a day, 4 breakfast bowls, and 4 teatime bowls, while the horses are in overnight during winter.

In their natural state, horses graze at ground level, and intermittently browse from shrubs, bushes and trees. They also tend to move, walking slowly, whilst grazing. You can watch them doing this in the field. . It’s not really possible to replicate this behaviour when shut in a 12 X 12 wooden box, but our girls certainly like to try. Which keeps me entertained.

We serve the ‘hard feed’, a feed balancer, and whatever supplements and medication each individual happens to be taking, In shallow, round, rubber trugs. They are reputed to be made out of recycled tyres. I don’t know about that, but they certainly smell foul when they’re new. It always amazes me that a horse doesn’t get put off it’s food by the smell, but I’ve never had any complaints. The Beauty of the trugs is they are both flexible and strong. They can stand up to a lot of punishment, and don’t seem to be bothered by extremes of weather. That said, both Leonie and Breeze hand each killed a trug this winter. Luckily, they’re not too expensive either.

So, picture the scheme. It’s roughly 10.30p.m. Hal and I are checking the girls last thing. Hal is topping up the waters, and I am hanging fresh Haynes, and, theoretically, removing the empty feed trugs. It goes like this;
Open stable door and immediately stand on, or trip over trug – ideal!
Hang haynet, then do a fingertip, or, more correctly, boot tip, search of th stable floor, squelching through pee and poo, and occasionally walking into a horse that keeps moving in order to more easily see the fun, and who is sniggering away whilst saying “Cold – getting warmer – no, getting colder – ooh, red hot!”. Eventually I find it. Either it is;
Exactly where I put it, I’ve just managed to step over it 4 or 5 times,
No longer in the stable as Hal has already moved it,
Directly underneath a now hysterically laughing horse, who has spent the time I’ve been looking for it, very carefully positioning herself so the trug is directly under her central point.

Sometimes, just to add variety, 1 of the girls will land a poo in their trug. Leonie’s speciality is turning it upside down, and then standing on it! Never a dull moment.

Oh well, it keeps me off the streets.