What do you do with your horses once they don’t do the therapy work?
Our horses were with us long before our business. Our business may come and go, but our horses are here for life.
We are well aware we may become crazy old horse ladies (if we are not already).
Do we ride our horses?
No. We are not a riding establishment. Most of our ponies and horses have come our way due to injuries, they are veterans, or simply do not wish to be ridden anymore.
Personally, Livvy rode Gunner for hacking and endurance rides. He had a leg injury early in 2017 and had most of the year off recovering. They have been a few short hacks since November 2017 and they may well get out for more hacking in 2018.
How do we keep our horses?
We rent some of the 16 acres of farm land owned by Lyn Palmer who is an Equine Touch Instructor. We moved to this farm in April 2017 with seven horses and over the next six months we progressed to having twelve horses. Whilst living out 24/7 in 2017 they were in two herds that lived next door to each other. One herd of eight (Danny, Gunner, Jac, Ulha, Prada, Epona, Hope and Grace) and the other herd of four (Logan, Rio, Polly and Blossom). Gunner was the only horse who needed to come in at night time as he needs a wall to get back up after sleeping flat out. All horses and ponies had to come off the Somerset levels in Dec 2017 as the land became too wet and has become home to opportunistic swans. We created two temporary ‘communal’ living areas, use several stables and can use a few places such as the arena for them to have a leg stretch. We are have been mixing up the groupings in the communal areas as the wet winter continues so they have a break from each other and renew relationships. They are looking forward to the land drying up and them getting back out (so are we!).
Do any of your horses have health issues?
Epona, is prone to laminitis but can now generally live out with the herd. Her the first sign of any laminitic issue is in her breathing and she has responded well to The Equine Touch which seems to help her regulate her own body systems and a key reason we have managed to keep her out with the herd. She tends to come up to request a body balance when she needs one as she knows quicker than we do if something is amiss.
Logan has Cushing’s Disease or PPID and his seedy toe is still growing out. He is on a Prascend tablet a day and his last blood showed that his hormone levels are back within normal range. We have been lucky he has never lost his appetite so giving him a pill was easy. We may be lucky and have Logan in our lives for another 2-3 years if he continues as he is.
Jac is blind in his left eye due to cataracts when younger, this had gone unnoticed most of his life as he had managed to adapt incredibly well.
Rio has a bit of arthritis due to his previous career as a polo pony and he ended up as body condition 1.5 before he was discovered and rehabilitated by Claudia (our extended team practitioner) before coming to join our herd here.
Blossom has recently been diagnosed with seasonal laminitis and the vet has recommended box rest for 4 weeks and hay rationing.
What do you feed your horses?
When they live out they select what the meadows and hedgerows provide throughout the growing months. Gunner comes in at night so has haylage/hay, and a feed of chaff/nuts/cool-stance for breakfast and supper. Outside of the growing months they are all given hay/haylage and most are given a morning feed of chaff with cool-stance and some additional pony nuts. We are not worried if they lose a bit of weight/condition over winter as this is normal for wild horses and as a result they seem to handle Spring’s grass much better. Apples and carrots are given ad-hoc.
Do you use supplements?
Yes, although vets and nutritionists have varying opinions on how useful they are. Gunner and Blossom have a gut balancer, Gunner has farrier aid/linseed to support his hooves and Polly has a supplement to help her joints due to a previous knee operation. This winter they have all had multi vitamin supplement.
All horses regularly self select herbs, clays and essential oils; rosehips, arnica and peppermint are firm favourites and occasionally barley grass powder.
Livvy had six horses/ponies, Georgie had one when they joined up businesses in April 2016. There were two ponies at the farm they both moved to and a month later they bought them as their owner couldn’t look after them anymore. Another horse joined about 2 months after that looking for a forever home/as a companion horse for another horse at the farm but ended up with paintedhorse. A month later, two more arrived on retirement livery with us as their owner had suffered a sudden health issue and could no longer do they physical work involved in looking after horses.
How old are your horses?
Our veterans (over 15) are Rio, Jac (both 20), Gunner, Danny (both 19) and Polly (aged 17). Our middle rangers are Ulha, Prada and Blossom (all 11), Logan who is allegedly 11 but the dentist suggests 13 and Epona is 9. Our youngsters are Grace and Hope (both 3).
Do you rug your horses?
Gunner has a light weight jacket on as and when required in the wetter and colder months, he is one of our more sensitive thoroughbreds. As the only one stabled, he also has his stable PJ’s when the nights are colder as it is drafty in the barn. Our other thoroughbreds/crosses are a bit more hardy than Gunner but have rugs on when they start feeling the colder/wetter weather. Logan a Gypsy Cob with Cushing’s/PPID, has a compromised coat so this winter so was rugged but since his medication has stabilised his hormones he is fine rug free. Our two retirement liveries (Polly and Blossom) have rugs on colder nights at their owners request but generally don’t need them. Rio who is a little on the slimmer side going into winter also has a rug. The rest of the herd are native breeds such as Welsh, Dartmoor or Cob so grow amazing coats which are designed for our UK climate.
Why don’t you have a track system if you are ‘keeping horses naturally’?
If we are honest its not ‘natural’ for us to keep equines at all; fenced in a track system, fenced in a field, shut in a stable or otherwise, but we do. As a result of all that came before, we now have a responsibility to provide our domesticated friends a living space as natural as possible with the FAWC Five Freedoms in mind and working with what resources we have.
Whilst it would be beneficial for us all to have a raised track around the farm’s perimeter, as it would help us winter out on the Somerset levels, we rent the land.
When living out our herds both move around constantly and they have the space needed for any herd dynamics to play out. So our ‘system’ of meadow fields and field rotation works for us, our horses are happy and therefore we are. If they weren’t we would change things. Keeping horses is not a one size fits all and we feel its important to keep an open mind about what works for each individual, their situation, resources, finances and so on.
If you are ‘natural’ why are your horses shod?
Gunner is shod, the others are barefoot. Each of our horses are individual cases, we have not found a one size fits all approach works. Gunner is a veteran, has a long history of crumbling hooves despite diet/supplements and his shoes therefore help his well-being and position in the herd. We feel we would be dismissing his welfare for the sake of proving barefoot is best, which would feel ego based on our part. Therefore we accept in his case he needs shoes. We have a fully qualified and experienced farrier we know and trust who works well with all our herd.
Supporting Other Horse Owners
We have found empowering horse owners, inspiring them and sharing good practice is such a positive energy and one we prefer to engage with. Unhelpful criticism and a closed mind/attitude tends to persecute and dis-empower other people; consequently this can lead to a loss of confidence after which point many a horse owner can give up keeping horses. Be the reason someone feels empowered to keep their horse and do their best by them, there is already a surplus of horses requiring good homes to those that are available.