Monday, August 30, 2010

grey healing

Geezus!! 5 days without Internet, felt like a lifetime. Life has been ticking along on the farm.Spring seems to be almost within reach, with a couple of trees already covered in blossoms. All the horses are full of spring energy, which means they are galloping everywhere, spooking, bucking and in general behaving like idiots and doing their best to destroy any grass that is managing to grow. Both wild horses are doing fantastic.

The Grey is a tough cookie, her leg is healing fast, with no problems. She continues to live in the paddock during the day and stabled at night. Shes there waiting at the gate each evening, even though she knows she has to get her leg washed and sprayed with iodine before she is allowed in the stable for her precious food. Apart from the leg she is looking fantastic, her shaggy hair almost gone, and a sleek dark and fine summer coat coming through. She looks closer to foaling everyday, my guess is a baby within the month...

Little bay is also looking much sleeker and more handsome than ever. He even more than grey has shed and got a fine glossy summer coat. He now has nice dark black legs , and has gone from pale brown with white wisps to very dark, silky bay .. He to, gets stabled alongside grey each night and spends the day playing in the paddock with Milo the pony, who could be his twin. He knows the manners required for domestic life and behaves like a perfect gentle men in all situations. Around other horses even the mares he does nothing but stand quietly, even stabled next to grey he stays very docile. As long as you show them the correct way to behave to start with, you never run into problems later.

Watch this space should have photos of both horses up soon to show their progress!

Friday, August 27, 2010

wild horses attitude continue to impress

Hallelujah!!! So grey is doing better and the wound is healing right on track. What I'm going to call the vets new 'wonder drug' is working, nice clean wound, no more swelling, and the skin closing in corners...Fingers crossed for continuing progress. It is still a bug ugly hole of a wound but it not getting worse and progress is being made.

The Vet who came to see the grey girl was awesome, and managed to ease my sense of compounding guilt, that maybe id been to relaxed about the wound on her chest. He did have a few expletive words for the location of the cut, being in a spot that is completely impossible to either stitch up, or bandage. but agrees that even if id called him the night she was in the fence, he would have given the same advice, keep it clean and disinfect it. Huge sigh of relief from me! Now just a waiting game.

Usually when horses get nasty wounds wounds like this, you have to go through the dramas of giving it antibiotic injections twice a day (not so easy by yourself) or mess around with trying to get them to eat ineffective powers....Along comes a new drug that is only one injection and lasts for four days...Beauty!! So much easier...hopefully i haven't spoken to soon and its going to keep on working.

Grey was an angel for the vet. After being pulled from the fence by my family and i, she has overcome any fear she had of new people being around her. She stood there without a halter in the paddock while the vet and a good look at the wound. then when caught stood there for all three of her injections, tetanus and 2 antibiotic shots. Even standing quietly for the vet while he cut some dead flesh from the wound.

these horses just amaze me with their tough, steady, no fuss attitude. continuing to accept life and all the adventures that go with becoming domesticated. Grey is a dream patient. tolerating everything, daily leg washes and iodine treatment. She is so common sense their is no ruining around tearing her wound open (the bane of horse owners trying to heal injured creatures), she just spends all day calmly grazing, no excessive movement. If only all horses had her attitude.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When things go badly wrong

I had a good think today before i started writing this. Why did i start this blog? How much should i put into it? What should i with hold? Answer. more than anything i started this so that i have notes an experiences to look back on, in regards to my wild horses. because you don't remember everything, so writing it down in some form will remind me things in future so i don't go and repeat the same mistakes. So to be good for future reference, i figure i better not with hold any information, this would defeat the purpose. although it is sometimes painful, i have to put in the good the bad and the ugly, the disasters and accidents as well as the heart warming and successful parts. Even though sometimes as horse person you would rather just keep any mistakes or accidents hidden to avoid the criticism....ah well here it goes the ugly side of the wild horse project..

I talked in the last blog about the grey horse's bad feet and how she has trouble with slipping and sliding all over the place. Four days ago she slid down a slope and collided with a fence. For the second time in two weeks, she found herself tangled in wire. This time the fence came off slightly better than her.

I've read some other stories and comments from people with wild horses. About horses bolting straight through fences, jumping out of paddock and general mayhem. To myself Ive always been thinking 'what exactly did the person do to get a horse to react like that?' so maybe Ive been unfair in my judgement, because here i am having had the same horse, twice getting her self caught in a fence. At least both times they have been nothing but freak accidents (although i sure someone out there is rolling there eyes). I had nothing to do with causing either episode. Grey herself is actually very respectful of fences, never trying to push through, lean or escape any fence that she is put behind. so the first time she goes down for a roll and goes straight into fence.. Easily fixed. Second time not so easy to fix.

As a treat grey has been grazing in the orchard during the day and stabled at night. The orchard has nice fresh grass for a pregnant mare, and grey is the only horse on the farm who wont touch the fruit trees. This had been going on for about three days with no problems. but along one fence line on a bit of a slope is a 2 inch water pipe lying along the ground about a foot away from the fence and ruining parallel down a Little slope for a few metres. From the evidence left behind i guess that she slipped on the water pipe going down the slope, crashed into a post and ended on her back with all four legs in the fence, her neck and shoulder wedged against the post. i had left grey grazing, and gone to pick my family up from the airport. Coming home along driveway, i have never had such a sick feeling in my entire life. It felt like my heart dropped through my stomach. There was my beautiful grey mare, who has made so much progress in recent weeks, hanging from a fence, with what looked like a broken neck and appearing very much dead. It looked for intents and purposes that she had committed suicide in the most effective way possible....

Except she was still alive, breathing but very still and as soon as the car stopped she let out a shriek for help. all i can say is thank god this happened after i picked my family up and not before. We sprang into action, mum to the house for wire cutters. me sprinting in my high heels to the barn for a halter and lead, my brother off for a torch and extra ropes. It was a minute before we were all back. Grey still stricken in the fence. so i started talking to her and made my way to her head ' hey girly whirl, what have you done?' put on the halter 'good girl shall we get you out of here?' and slipped the halter. Mum went higher up the fence and my brother further down. one wire at a time mum cut and my brother pulled it clear. i held grey and talked to her in case she started thrashing. But she didn't she just lay there, her whole body heaving with each breath. once the three wires were clear she made a weak attempt at getting up. her head and neck being directly downhill from the rest of her body making this very difficult. But she at least managed to slide down the slope so she was lying sideways, with bum and head level. This unfortunately meant that instead of her head and neck against a post now the post was wedged against her from the fence but still stuck

Now we were in and interesting conundrum...She was still stuck because she couldn't get her legs underneath her to stand. She was also not in a good way, with very laboured breathing. Although i had only been gone two hours she had obviously been stuck upside down for a while, so must have had a bit of blood rush to the head, and looked almost like she was about to go into labour.. It was decided to let her gather her strength and catch her breath before the next attempt to free her. This gave me a chance to give her a quick look over, her neck was obviously not broken, so huge relief, her legs looked intact, another bonus, no gaping wounds so far...i was feeling slightly less sick, she might just survive this.

so since it was clear that she obviously wasn't getting up stuck against a pole. we decided we needed to get her some more room to move. i put a rope around her hind legs, a rope around her neck, handed one to mum, one to my brother and still in my high heels in the mud went and stood above her and grabbed her tale. With a couple of combined efforts, we managed to budge her a couple of inches back from the pole. Slightly more room but not much. grey still wasn't making many attempts at getting up either. Shit, shit, shit. Another pause to let her catch her breath and time to re-evaluate the situation. The pole wasn't going to move and we were not strong enough to move the grey any further.....
Plan B. now that we had given her slightly more room could we engourage her to her feet and help her stand? She was obviously in no great shape and dazed and confused. but no panicking and struggling. So this time we positioned her feet under her, took the ropes off her leg, changed the direction of the neck rope. I grabbed the halter and we all pulled. She tried to get up but just couldn't quite do it, although it looked promising. Second attempt, we let her rest again. This time my brother, who's 6ft, 16yrs old and far far stronger than me got on the end of the halter. with a bit of encouragement some muscle work, and persistence the second time she managed to get up on four legs. She was free... this didn't though mean the ordeal was over....
Poor grey looked like an absolute train wreck. Standing there and heaving for breath. after regaining her feet she just stood there not moving. Her face was covered in grazes and her right eye was pretty swollen. she had a couple of grazes on her neck, her left hock hdd a few nasty cuts around it, nothing that required stitches though. but the right hand side of her chest had big bruising and a massive hematoma starting to form as well as what looked like a deep graze on the top inside of her legs where all the loose folds of skin are, I'm assuming this is where it would have come into contact with the post. But to be honest i was surprised she was alive at all, her injuries mild compared to what might have been. We put her in the backyard for the night so we could keep an eye on her. Gave her some water and sprayed everything in iodine. It was a waiting game now. I checked on her through the night to make sure she wasn't going to lose the foal and that she was doing OK.
In the morning she was still alive and still pregnant. Yahhh!! within 48 hours her eye was back to normal and her head looked just fine, all the grazes looked okay and her back leg with the nasty cuts looked to be fine with no signs of infection. Her chest on the other hand was a massive liquid lump of swelling with fluid draining through the deep graze on her leg. with excess swelling being carried down her leg by gravity, until one leg was twice the size of the other. But she was still mobile, looked perky and had a healthy appetite. By day three swelling had almost gone completely but in the process had stretched the deep graze open and now it resembled a large pocket of flesh where it had once been tight with bruising and liquid. i kept up with iodine and washing, and hopped that it was going to heal eventually.
These wild ponies are tough. although the wound looks terrible, the vet came out yesterday and thinks that it should heel ok, nature would have to take its course, as its in an impossible place to bandage. but is going to be a long process. It breaks my heart that it happened to poor grey once again. But it if anything good can be said about it, she has overcome any fear she had of people. She more affectionate than ever. friendlier and seems, believe it or not happier than ever before. her whole expression has changed completely. this at least is a joy to see. fingers crossed her bad luck is over... ill keep everyone updated on her process

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

whats your opinion

Horse riding is like religion, people have there own beliefs and god forbid you tell them otherwise. In fact sometimes polarised views on different issues get so heated, it is just like the ongoing strife between Christians and Muslims....The battle in the horse world can get quite intense. Usually as far as the competition scene goes the battles are fought with snarky comments and back stabbing. It can go so far as to effect squad selections, area and national teams, even pony club competitions are effected. But do some of these issues really matter??? It is only horses after all, not world war III.

Theses issues can be as minor as who you train with, do u do natural horsemanship or conventional. Do you ride a horse with a bit in its mouth? Do you cover your horse? Should horses be stabled or should we try and re-create to a certain extent their wild life style. The dressage world is saturated in controversy at the moment over the use of rolkur (warming your horse up in a way that its neck is severely flexed so that it head is behind the vertical) as it can be detrimental to the horse, but yet gold medal wining riders are using this technique...But the issue that at the moment interests me, and i know is picking up interest world wide with different methods and new research, and has some very strong opinions on both sides of the argument is horses and their feet? To shoe or not to shoe? should we let them have natural feet like in the wild or because we have taken them out of that environment should they have metal shoes on their feet? What is humane?? Is their a right and wrong answer??

I sit very strongly in the middle, neither side of the fence so to speak. Some horses will be great without shoe, Ive competed quite a few successfully without them, some horses cannot handle it no matter what you do, so they need shoes. simple as that.

in my area over the last eight or so years there has been a big movement for no shoes. It has sparked huge debate and controversies within the area. The no shoes side based on the Strasser method, has always stated that a horse in the wild has no shoes and survives, they have the perfect hooves. This is what we should be aiming for with our domestic horse.They think of shoeing as evil. Their results have been somewhat of a mixed bag.

So wild horses have perfect hooves?? so our horses should mimic this? Horses evolved in the steppes of Mongolia. Dry prairie country where they would have traveled distance for water every day. I'm am sure the horses there have hard strong feet and don't need shoes. The mustangs and brumbies of America and Australia live in dry climates where they also have to travel long distances for water. But the horses of New Zealand live in wet hilly terrain where they don't have to travel very far at all for water. They have been wild long enough to adapt to these conditions so should have perfect hooves with very little lameness? Nope! a recent study published in the Australian veterinary journal showed that almost all of the group of NZ wild horses used for the study had some form problems and lameness.90% had dorsal hoof flare, 75% contracted under run heels, 65% had thrush, 80% some signs of chronic lameness. So obviously a blanket rule that we should base our practices on wild horses is not quite accurate. If you based it on NZ horses our domestic horses should be lame with long cracked feet....

take the grey, terrible feet far worse than any of my other horses. Cracked,long toes and splitting hooves, with one hind foot slightly rotated. shes has feet that resemble a set of ski's and as such isn't sure footed and spends a great deal of time sliding all over the show. So not perfect. She would in my mind be a candidate for shoes one day, when we have had the farrier correct her feet a bit. The stallion although slightly upright his feet are perfect, no cracks, no rotation and no long toes.he doesn't slip and is as sure footed as a horse comes. I'm sure that ill probably never need to put shoes on him and i am happy with this.

Whats the problem with shoes anyway?? a horses foot contracts and expands as it walks, this works as a shock absorber and helps blood pump through the foot. Metal shoe nailed on and hoof cant contract and expand. makes sense. i completely agree that shoes aren't the best thing for a horse, but the lesser of two evils. because they do provide protection from hard ground, stones and will help prevent hoof damage. A lame horse is far more miserable than a sound horse with shoes on. in saying that i do think a lot of horses are over shod. it makes me feel ill to go to big barns overseas and see two year old horse with shoes on that are stabled constantly and only get 20 minutes of work on a soft arena a day. Do they really need shoes? This is probably a case of shoes doing more harm than good.

i could go on but i think I'm getting off topic. My real point is that there is no blanket rule that cover all horses. i hate the fact that people are so prejudiced one way or another. There are going to be lame horses with shoes and lame horses without. Also you cant base anything on the fact that some wild horses have good feet, because obviously some don't! As long as your not being purposefully cruel and using common sense both ways are good. So the next time someone say 'ooh i bet your wild poniesave goodfeet' or 'how can you think of putting shoes on a horse that came from the wild?' i am going to smile sweetly and tell them to come read my blog....Peace!

P.S these photos were taken over a month a go and her feet are already looking better after a tidy up trim a couple of weeks ago

Friday, August 20, 2010

wild horse info

So a week of wild weather and no electricity because the generator broke (the joys of life when you cant have your electricity off the grid) i have been suffering some severe Internet withdrawals each night.i did get my first wild horse newsletter though, which has given me lots to read and think about. But back up and ruining with power and Internet so good to go again

Okay so have been meaning to put up a link to the website for wild horses in New Zealand. is the website where i found how to go about adopting, or if your interested in sponsoring a horse or donating they have all the info. for news and updates. both are good, they also have pages in facebook and twitter. so lots of info.

Again i really rate the work these guys do, they must put in some hours. every potential adopter has a pre adoption home check, to make sure that they are suitable for containing wild horse, have yards etc for unloading and good fences. They then give you another check up a month after you receive the horse to make sure everything is progressing safely. As the potential for these horse to end up in bad situations is quite high. Not only that but when you apply to adopt, you have to have a signature from a vet, as well as another from a independent source (not a family member) to say that you are a suitable and competent horse person and are capable of caring for theses horses. You can also choose what type of horse you would prefer, sex, age etc (although this is no guarantee what will arrive on you door step).okay so all the paper work is a bit of a pain, but worth it, You know that the organisation is trying their best to give these horses the best possible start to domestic life.

Cheers guys and keep up the good work

Monday, August 16, 2010


Grey cuddlier by the day. has been free grazing the driveway the last few days, and every morning on the dot, she is waiting at the barn door for me to arrive. After the boys have gone out to the paddock, she stands there in the way hanging around like a bad smell. head usually hanging right over the wheelbarrow as i muck out. then follows me to the orchard and back to dump manure....She wont even move for a car, you have to get out and push her out of the way just to drive down the driveway.. What a change she is now without exception, the cuddliest horse on the farm. This from the horse that i thought would always be an uninterested and withdrawn around people....So happy with her, thrilled actually, stuff like this makes it all worth tit, it really does.

Friday, August 13, 2010

all lifes challenges

i have found disaster always strikes when you least expect it. The Grey is a different horse these days. her attitude,her looks and her behaviour have changed dramatically. gone is the tenseness and withdrawn suspicious attitude she has had since she arrived. Now she actively seeks to interact with me and seems happy about it. In fact shes almost could be described as affectionate and cuddly as far as horses go. No longer does her neck and head stick straight up in the air at all times, so that she has the appearance of a sheared sheep. Now she drops her head licking her lips, a sign of thinking and relaxation in horses. She even nays to me every time she sees me approaching, whether to get her from the paddock or just walking past in the stable, which none of my domestic horses do! Shes constantly follows you in the paddock, getting in the way And she leans into her daily brushing as though she enjoying a really good massage. Horses change you just have to give them time. Never discount them from a first impression. So when the the grey got both hind legs stuck in a fence last week, it was a double blow of devastation after all her progress..

it was one of those things you see from a distance and watch with horror knowing you cant do anything, and it is all about to go horribly wrong. Sure enough i saw her lie down for her afternoon roll in the paddock, saw that she was too close to the fence, saw her roll right over to her other side and both back legs go straight through the fence. This is where you, as a owner almost don't want to see how bad it is. Horses talent for self destruction is always my worst nightmare. Ive nursed enough animals through bad injuries to know just how bad it can be. Horses being prey animals there first reaction is always to try and flee a bad situation. Which usually results in shredded legs, whenever a fence is involved. Luckily there second reaction is just to give up completely.

So as greys legs went through the fence her first reaction was to try and get up and get out of there. Our fences, luckily are good smooth wire fences and are only have the top three strands, the idea being that horses cant paw and get there legs stuck, like with low wires. We didn't take into account horses rolling into fences obviously. I was already on my way down the hill towards the grey when i saw her struggle to get up, thrashing and somehow managing to stretch the wire so it had the opposite effect of getting more caught on her legs. Great. Thank god she only struggled a bit, realised she was stuck lay there letting out one long desperate whinny for help.

i was hopping i was just going to be able to pull her leg out of the fence. That however would have been to simple. When i got there i could see that one strand of wire had been stretched and she'd managed to get that underneath her leg while the bottom strand and gone across the top...she was stuck. Off to the house i went for the wire cutters. Thank god, these wild horses have such a sense of self preservation and calm nature. I think some others horses would have thrashed around till they really injured themselves, while she just lay there still.

Back i came with the wire cutters. i went around the back of her so i was standing on the other side of the fence. Talking to her the whole time just like when I'm brushing . Hoping to keep her nice and calm, thinking that if she started thrashing again i was in the perfect spot to get taken out by those back legs...But she was an angel. Snip, snip, with the cutters and one legs was free. Up she hopped pulling the other leg free in the process. Lots of snorting and carrying on and away she walked. Horses for you.

Not seeing any gushing wounds, i set about doing an average job of fixing the fence (fencing not being one of my strengths). Finishing this i walked over to check the grey, who was busy eating. No massive wounds but a few minor cuts around the hock, nothing to serious. By this time it was almost dark so i just grabbed some iodine and wound powder and sprayed them on the leg.

Next morning on checking her over, the leg was a bit swollen, it looked like from bruising more than the cuts. i washed her leg, just to make sure wounds were clean, put wound powder on again, and let her be. For three days her leg stayed swollen and she stayed pretty quiet not moving much in the paddock. On the third day, i was starting to worry that it was indeed infected and i would have to take her to the vet. After much internal debate, i came to the conclusion to give her one more night and if it got worse i would take her to the vets.

fourth day after the leg incident, i came to the paddock to catch her, apprehensively waiting to see if a vet trip was in order. As i got to the gate a grey bullet shot past, full speed down the hill, galloping, bucking and kicking her back feet in the air. Never have i seen her do more than walk around the paddock before, shes never shown any such physical exuberance since she came here. but this morning it was bright, sunny and fresh,spring felt just around the corner, and she obviously felt a lot better.Galloping and bucking two full loops of the paddock before she turned on her haunches and galloped straight to me executing a beautiful sliding stop metres before colliding with the me and the fence. It was great i laughed to see her so happy and full of herself on such a nice morning. obviously not feeling any ill effects of her disaster a few days ago (fence still looks worse for wear).

These wild ones are tough little horses, they have had to survive without human intervention for generations. It shows, they are sturdy and calm creatures with a good head on their shoulders. To see the grey change completely, mentally in her attitude and finally showing some real life and spark galloping around on a spring day, is awesome. she is just getting more affectionate and trusting each day, cant wait to see what next couple of months have in store for her. You can just never write a horse off straight away they can change so much with time and training.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Horses are just that, horses. they think like horses, they behave like horses, and they react like horses. People try to put human emotions into a horse, it just doesn't work like that,horses behave like they have evolved to be. Nor are they like dogs, in their behaviour. They are a different creature entirely. We know this, yet so many people carry on treating them as anything but horses.

Take a dog, they seem to have an instinctive grasp of our emotions, most dogs, will know when we are angry, when we are happy and seem to go to great lengths to please their human. dogs bond with their masters very closely, a study i read somewhere, said that in most cases a dog will bond more strongly with a human than with other dogs. dogs want to work for us, whether on a farm with livestock, going for walks, guarding or my dog will go to the ends of the earth to retrieve any stick thrown for it. Dogs know when they have done something wrong, i.e get caught sneaking food, nipping at an animal or caught somewhere they shouldn't be. Dogs know guilt. You don't usually have to say anything if you catch them at bad behaviour, they give u that guilty look, that shows they know they done wrong and off they slink. This i think is a crucial difference, between two of mans best companions.

A horse has no concept of guilt or remorse. This is important. They don't get a fright and knock you over and then feel remorseful about it. Or turn around to see if your OK after you've fallen off and they have trodden on you. A horse doesnt spook at some insignificant object, then feel bad for upsetting there rider.If you catch a horse in the feed bin does it look up guiltily and try to slink off? No, they usually just carry on gobbling food.They don't have that cognitive ability for guilt or remorse. They live only in the present. there reactions effect them and they give precious little thought to how they effect the rider. You can train them so they learn not to trample their rider when scared, or to stop once their rider parts company, you can condition them to overcome spookiness and you can lock the feed bin. But they are never going to learn guilt or remorse for their actions. Its why when people get pissed off or something goes wrong and they beat the horse up, it doesn't work, the horse doesn't get the message.

If they don't have guilt for past actions then there is no point punishing a horse after an event has occurred. They have already forgotten their actions. THEY CANNOT ASSOCIATE PUNISHMENT after the event has taken place. If a horse bites, you have a little cry and then beat him up, hes not going to get the message. if You stuff things up in front of a judge at a show, take the horse out of the ring and beat it up at the end, it is not going to makes sense to the horse. Giving it a whack on the nose as it goes to bite, it will understand. But if you take your temper out after the horses bad behaviour has happened, your only convincing your horse that your a nut job who wants to eat it.

Stop and think for a second about how you see the world. What range of emotions do you feel? i and most dog owners would say, there dog feels and expresses a similar range. What about your horse? how much do we understand about their emotions? It drives me crazy when people put their feelings on a horse. Its not that horses don't have emotions and feelings, just that they don't plan how they react, nor associate past reactions to our emotions. Don't get me wrong they drive me mad at times,sometimes i would really love to just whack some sense into them but...... Horses are horses, they don't know how much money you spend on them, how much it hurts to be stood on, or how pissed off you are because they recked you show routine. they just react to whatever is happening, be from the rider or from the surroundings. So stop, breathe and think its only a horse.....

Oh and short update on wild ponies. Today they had their first loading and floating lesson. It took a total of ten minutes each to get them on and off the trailer a couple of times. First just leading them up and then backing them off again. Then closing the divider and door behind them. I think this one of the easier things to teach them to be honest. They were both quiet and sensible about the whole thing. The boy checked out everything, sniffing and pawing, then marched straight on. The girl took everything slowly, no sniffing at or pawing but slowly one step at a time until she was standing inside the trailer.

Last week i wormed them again. this time no worms in the end product! ya! Oh and they were both angels to worm again, so no bad memories there. they are both fatter and healthier by the day. They boy is starting to develop and fill out more. all good things. Now if the girl would just have her baby.....

Thursday, August 5, 2010

puddle ponys

After four days of rain, this morning the sun came out. The rivers steaming through the horse paddocks have slowly retreated until they are just very big puddles. The creek has gone down enough that you can drive through it again. The farm sprung back into life, and i jumped back into action.

I am an eventing rider, i love cross country jumping, which includes jumping into water.. So all my horses learn about going in and out of water from an early stage. i also think its a good way of re-inforcing lessons, helps keep work fun, and also helps build trust between you and the horse when you ask them to do something a bit different and challenging.The training starts with puddles at home, a horse doesn't know the difference between going into a puddle at home and going into a water jump on a cross country course. So if you teach them to go straight into and out of water at home, this is what they do at competition. If you let them step around, or avoid every bit of watter they come across during training, they probably do the same thing around a cross country course. This has always worked for me, i spent all last winter marking my young warmblood gelding ( who had a real issue about going into water)walk into every puddle we came across. So this last season at all the competitions, he flew around the cross country courses, water was never an issue because he was so confident about it from all his puddle experience at home.
Wild horses are very boring when it comes to water and natural obstacles. Most horses, it will take a little bit of encouragement to get them to step into water for the first time. in fact getting the above mentioned warmblood to even step one foot in took a very long time as he would do huge leaps from one side of the puddle to the other keeping his feet completely dry. Fair enough water is an unknown thing, to the average domestic horse, there only experience being with it in a trough or buckets. Most young horse are a little bit nervous the first time, hence most do leaping bounds across puddles. Wild horse don't have this problem, probably from having crossed and drinking from natural streams in their home range. So while i was hoping for a bit of excitement and some athletic leaps and bounds....wild boy just plodded straight into the puddles when asked, as did the grey girl. how boring... Even trotting in and out of the knee deep water, wasnt a problem.... Their common sense, calm approach to life is great and makes training them so easy, but does not unfortunately make for very exciting viewing. Ah well cant complain about well behaved horses..
So since it was such a gorgeous day, thought id take some quick pics of the wild boy in the water. Water, sun, nature and a horse= amazing photo..or not. he didn't quite understand the posing part, obediently following me every time i tried to walk far enough away to get a good shot. Eventually i conveyed the concept of staying put, but then he turned to face me and investigate the camera. What was i doing crouching down there with a funny shaped object pointed at him? I gave up and just took the best pictures i could with my limited photographic skill. finally there is some gloss in his coat, when he stands in the sun, hes actually starting to look like a healthy horse rather than a scrawny goat haired thing, that he was when he arrived...Cant wait to see what he looks like in 6 months from now....

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It is always surprising to me that any horse, domestic or wild in origin, seem to accept a covers on there back the first time, with very little stress and worry. Surely this would be one of those things that you think, would cause them concern?

Its been raining for three days straight, I'm going stir crazy. I cant even leave because the creek across the driveway has risen so high u cant get a car through.Its the kind of rain that you only understand if you live in this wet kind of climate. Not a hard tropical downpour that moves on as suddenly as it started, or a light rain that refreshes everything. Water has been pouring out of the sky solidly for three days. Some times heavy down pours, some times just plain old rain and the rest of the time it drizzles and moisture hangs so thick in the air you seem to be breathing it in every time you step outside and even inside in the dry everything feels damp.

Ive noticed with weather like this the first day everything looks sparkly fresh, greener and the farm covered in new streams and puddles that form great canals across the paddock and driveway's. The geese and ducks are in heaven they don't have to walk anywhere, spend the whole day paddling to there hearts content.The horses are full of energy and spring fever, galloping around ripping up grass, jumping and pawing in the new puddles. everything is exciting.

Second day, everyone goes on life as usual, ignoring the rain. not exciting anymore.

Today everything looks weary. The trees and plants are all bent over from the weight of water. the geese and ducks are content to sit by the house, and the horses wait miserably at the gate, huddled, tails to the wind, desperately wanting to come in to the barn for the day. Any silliness and excuberance is long gone they just plod through puddles to the barn and their waiting hay. sick of being wet, and resigned to being wet for a while longer.

The 3 horses stabled at night, the Shetland, the wild stallion and Milo the pony, were less keen to leave the comfort of their stable than usual. I decided it was time the stallion got acquainted with a cover. Yes i know, being from the wild he can survive without one . but it saves me time and money if he warm and dry, instead of shivering and wet losing weight. Hes just stating to look good, don't want to go back to how he was before. being covered has the added bonus that they get a little bit of extra handling each, and get used to straps and things around there legs.

So at this stage i don't treat the wild ones much different from the domestic horses, horses are just horses. Its no differant putting cover on wild stallion for the first time as it is putting it on one of my own yearlings. I'm sure it helps that they get used to seeing them being put on, and taken off the older horses everyday around the barn. Scariest thing always seem to be when you come towards them carry a big huge blanket.

like any horse bay had a good sniff of his cover before i threw it on his back. its an old cover that used to belong to my old welsh pony(they don't get there own cover until they stop growing and have proven there not cover wrecker in the paddock), i think the smell of musty horse,interested him more than the actual blanket. So when he was done with his inspection, i carefully placed it on his back. He did try and move away as i lifted it toward him, but i kept the cover there and he accepted it. on his back it went, he blinked.....that was pretty much the only reaction there was to wearing his very first blanket...I led him in a circle to make sure he was comfortable.took the cover off and on again a few more times to get him used to that. Then spent ten minutes fiddling and adjusting belly and leg straps, he didn't seem to mind one bit. Off to the paddock with the others ponies in the pouring rain. Now we have a covered wild stallion, no big deal.

O also because i cant work the horses at moment, due to weather. Ive managed to put in some decent grooming hours. Both grey and the stallion are shedding like crazy. There new coats coming through, are darker, richer and both have lustrous shine to them. The yellowed, dry, dull looking hair is disappearing from there flanks and legs. The dreadlocks in their manes and tails were de-tangeld weeks ago.By spring i don't think you will be able to tell from the appearance that they ever ran wild, or how sorry they looked when they first arrived.

Monday, August 2, 2010

out of the wild

So have being doing lots more thinking...and researching about wild horses.(because this is my fourth day stuck inside due to weather, i have ran out of things to occupy myself) Why cant we leave them running wild? Is it kinder to cull or adopt out mustered horse? What is the success rate and the failure rate with adoption? what are the problems with culling?

In New Zealand at least, there was a great need to reduce the number of horses running wild in their home range. They were causing huge damage to a unique and delicate ecosystem, through grazing and trampling. New Zealand was a land that had no native land mammals to provide competition for resources, and no large natural predators to weed out sick weak or old individuals. they bred unchecked, there were huge numbers of horses and because of this they were not in good condition, yet weak and less sturdy ones would continue to live in poor condition, because they were not picked off by predators. The early horses mustered were in very bad shape. Since herd numbers have been reduced, the wild horses still living there have been in better condition and the number of births have actually increased. So for the good of the environment, and the animals own welfare wild horse populations usually need to be kept in check.

So if horses have to be removed from the wild, should they go to slaughter or be put up for adoption? New Zealand does both. The ones that the respective wild horse societies feel can be homed are allowed to be adopted, the rest are slaughtered. As long as killing is done humanely and quickly, i don't have a problem with it. Ideally it would be fantastic if they could all be re homed but this is not reality. There are not enough people willing to take them on, lets face they are not for the average person. Some mustered will be old or sick, or inferior quality animals due to inbreeding.who wants to take on a 20yr old stallion that run wild all its days?? It is hard enough to find homes for young and promising horses. Why waste a potential home on a horse with very limited future.A quick human death for these horses,is more ethical than having them slowly starve or end up severely neglected because people have taken them and then realised they cant handle them and have lost interest.

Too many times, the media in the past, has reported mustered horses starving to death in holding yards. The Australian government tried controlling brumby numbers by shooting horses from helicopters. Some didn't die instantly, some mares were shot, there foals left to starve to death, as they stayed with their dead mothers bodies. I have read a couple of things about mustangs in America, dying of exhaustion and dehydration while being mustered in summer. Then horses left in pens for months, or facing extremely long journeys to slaughter houses in Mexico and Canada. this is definitely animal abuse to me. Not because they are killed, but because they are in a state of extended misery waiting to be killed. Surely its is better for a sensible animal welfare organisation to take over the muster, quickly sort which horses have potential for adoption, and which ones need to have the unpleasant decision of being killed humanly and as quickly as possible.

As far as i can tell this is exactly what happen in NZ and it seems to be working very successfully. Pat on the back for all those involved in this process. I know i had my two horses at my property (half way up the country) within a few days of being caught from the wild. The organisation looking after the adopting of the horses, has checked upon them again too. So again good work on making sure people are'nt going on to neglect or abuse horses. As i realise this can easily happen either through cruelty, but I'm guessing more through ignorance and people realising they don't have a clue what to do next with their wild horses. There is no gentle way to capture large number of horses from the wild, sort, load and distribute across a country. but the quicker the process, the easier for the horse.

i know there are a lot of website, groups etc out there who are so violently against slaughtering a single horse (some seem to be against adopting horses out as well). They constantly rally for support to have new sanctuaries for the horses....then what? You move Small herds of horses into a new and smaller area to roam....OK so then they go on to breed and soon outgrow these new sanctuaries......when does it stop. That is not a sustainable solution either....I know they love the animals, but some hard decisions need to be made ..maybe better to preserve a smaller number in the wild and find homes for the excess?? This would at least help the animals in the wild remain healthy and happy, preserve there welfare and the breed....? Some of these people come across like crazed nut jobs, who scream blue murder at anyone who dares to oppose them. Not my cup of tea, because they brand all of us who also want to help save wild horses, to look like crazy hippy wing nuts as well! Yes, I'm sure there are some evil western cattle ranchers, who are trying to kill every wild horse on their land...but there needs to be a middle ground...

Any how, i think you can train any horse to do anything, if you know what your doing. So why not save a wild horse that's destined only for slaughter?


Sunday, August 1, 2010

what is wild ??

What is wild? what should stay wild? Ethically and morally what is the right thing to do regarding wild animals? Should they be domesticated? Shouldn't they ? Is it kinder to kill them than to subject them to domestic life after a free and untouched upbringing?? Is it saving them or torturing them to try and domesticate a wild animal? Are we doing what is best for them or what is easiest for us?Not just horses but all animals born free and wild?

There is some debate over these issues.I have found from looking on the Internet regarding other wild horse preservation and adoption programmes the world over, that opinions can be quite polarized. Also from hearing peoples opinions here in New Zealand, there is some very strong debate. My moral compass is neither black nor white on the issue. obviously i am for adopting and domesticating an animal,if it can help preserve a breed or species, and saves a few animals from being culled. Yes i am against taking an animal from the wild and plonking it in a cage for the rest of its life.

So one argument i keep hearing is that, trying to domesticate a horse born in the wild is cruel to the animals spirit and it free nature. One girl who was actually promoting wild horses in NZ and trying to gain donations and support. Felt that it was against nature to break a previously wild horse to saddle or for it to be trained to domestic purposes. She felt that the horses needed to retain their wild dignity and spirit. She went on to state that even though she had a horse born in captivity, but with parents that had been mustered from the wild, it would never have a saddle on its back....but said that it was OK however to to ride it bareback.....hmmmm???? I have spoken to a few people who thought it was cruel to domesticate a wild animal. But most were defiantly for adopting and domesticating if this saved them.

In all the arguments against training and breaking in wild horses words like 'preserving its wild spirit' , 'dignity', 'freedom' and 'respect' for the horse are thrown around.....but i haven't found a convincing argument to show these actual qualities and how horses are striped of them in captivity.

What i think is that barring places where horses actually evolved, like Mongolia, most wild horses are actually more feral horses. Brumbies in Australia, introduced by colonial settlers. Mustangs in America, introduced by the Spanish, or later released or escaped from ranches. Kaimanawas from new Zealand, released or escaped from farms and ended up running wild in the kaimanawa ranges. They are all descended from domestic stock. Not saying they are not now there own special and unique breeds, adapted to their specific environments. But they come from stock that was never truly wild, as in bred solely by mother nature. In some places still, but more commonly in the old day, horses were usually turned out on the back of a farm,ranch or station and allowed to breed similar to a wild herd, usually rounded up in the spring when they were three or four years old and broken to saddle and used as stock horses by cowboys and stockman. These would have not been much tamer than horses taken straight from the wild today. some horses now are still turned out to run wild over the range and fend for themselves in winter and mustered and brought back in every spring, even today. so in my thinking when we muster from these feral or wild herds, it is similar to methods used when they were first introduced, methods still used today.Though Today these wild horse herds have just had a couple generations in between being caught by man, so to speak.

Secondly horses are horses. unlike people they live only in the present, they do not reminisce about the past. i very much doubt my stallion is sitting in the paddock thinking about running free across the mountains. Nor does he look beaten and broken by domestic life. i would say he looks very happy, he still has 'spirit', all horses do, you cant say when you see a horse performing at Olympic level it doesn't have spirit and dignity, because it has never been wild. Horses have this 'spirit' and dignity no matter where they are born, that's why people love them. My little stallion loves his stable and his feed, hes waiting at the gate each evening to go to his stable, there no reluctance there. So i would assume hes happy. Every morning he pricks his ears and comes to the door as soon as i walk in the barn, during the day he grazes plays and behaves like any horse anywhere in the world, comfortably in his paddock. to me he looks like a happy horse, and a lot healthier than when he arrived to.

Also if your sitting on a horses back riding doesn't make a difference to the horse whether it has a saddle on, it wont have higher self esteem because you riding it bareback....If it going to be in a domestic environment you might as well domesticate it all the way, so it gets the perks of the life. regular feet maintenance, worming, feeding, shelter and exercise. Also so it is happy and confident in its environment,leaving them semi wild, i believe makes domestic life scarier for them, because they never get over the fear of humans.i think at least if it can be handled or ridden, it gets exercise and mental stimulation from being able to explore new environments and travel new places, whether trail riding or competing and learning new things.

there are so many success stories out there regarding wild horse that have gone on to thrive in a domestic environment. I know that the adoption agency in New Zealand does a fantastic job ensuring wild horses end up in safe, suitable homes, doing inspections prior to people receiving their wild horse and then check on them again a month after they are placed in their new, to make sure horses are not being neglected. Many have gone on to be great kids ponies etc. So surely this is a good solution?

hmmmm food for thought.....maybe il just state my views on the positive side of adoption today and tackle the negative another time...have to many thoughts rolling around me head today to type them all up.