Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Okay back on track, in case any of you thought id completely forgotten my wild horses for Egypt instead, they are doing great. Life has been hectic, competing, on weekends, traveling Friday, working non-stop Monday-Thursday, i haven't had a chance to hit the keyboard and talk about the wild horses in a while.Well today even though its summer, we have torrential rain and flooding, and after getting up to find the stream had risen 3metres in the night and burst it banks,  blankiting every bit of flat pasture under a good few feet of water. I spent the early par of the morning making sure all assorted animals are away from the danger, i now have nothing to do, but sit inside and wait it out, until the flood waters go down again, this give me the perfect opportunity to catch up on everything so here we go....

I have learned many things since starting the wild horse project, in May last year. Some things,just from observing and comparing horses, from the wild ones, to the ones we raise. Lots of ideas and theories i had about horses, have become more established, and i have been reminded of lots of things that had slipped to the back of my mind after working in solely with show horses for the last few years.

  • The biggest lesson, Horses are only as wild as you make them. I already kind of thought this but working with my three wild horses, just confirmed it. They are not born crazy, and given the chance they are pretty stoic animals, not as prone to flight as we think they are. We determine how settled they become in life due to the kind of handling, and the amount of time put into them. True of either horse born wild or in domestication. But really, nothing seems to upset the wild horses to much, they just take life as it is and don't get to phased by it.
  • You can feed a wild horse half as much, and it will grow twice as fat as one of my precious sport horses. Some of this isn't just their great metabolism, but behavioural as well. The ones from the wild see eating as survival and are very focused about it. The sport horses see it as something to do for entertainment and pick and fuss, or stand at the gates wasting hours of grazing time waiting to come in to the barn.
  • Wild horses are HAPPY, once domesticated. Mine give no signs of longing to be free in the mountains again, and seem totally settled in domestic bliss. Given the chance I'm sure they would lock themselves in the stable with a pile of hay and never come out.
  • Domestic horses are a lot more prone to flight than wild horses. All my 'wilds' if spooked stop and stare and then just carry on with what they are doing. Some of the sport horses, whirl, and bolt before they even seen a thing. this can be in the paddock or ridden. Also while the domestic ones gallop headlong, excuberantly down the hill to be caught, the wild ones have always calmy picked their way down, even though they are the ones born runing on mountains.
  • The biggest thing that surprised me though was the Independence that the wild horses showed. We think of herd animals as being together constantly, and unwilling to act alone. To this day, if the wild mare doesn't agree with what the herd is doing, she just takes herself off and does her own thing, completely out of sight of the herd if need be.Today is a classic example, the herd of mares is grazing where i can see them, totally exposed in the pouring rain, shivering and cold. The wild mare cant be seen, but i know is on the next hill over, tucked way back into the forest, where shes dry and warm, a looking out over the other idiot equines standing in the rain.
  • they develop a lot faster and studier, than our purpose bred sport horses. Sonny the wild yearling looks like a fully grown little stallion in miniature, strong sturdy, glossy coat, and a good covering of fat and muscle. he looks like he could survive anything and behaves more like an adult horse than a you would expect. The purpose bred sport horses on the other hand, long, lanky, impossible to keep weight on, with no muscling, they are still very much babies mentally, apart from the colts keen desire to breed with anything, he is nowhere near as developed as Sonny. This makes sense if they were in the wild, the quicker they develop the better their chance for survival
  • Going slowly as far as training, does not make it easier for the horse. Going to fast and putting to much pressure on them doesn't help either. But the people who take months and months, to get to where they can handle a horse, i think, only prolong the amount of time the horses spends scared of you. If you can get to where they can be haltered and handled relatively quickly, i think its better for the horse as they learn you mean no harm and can relax in their new environment.
These are just my opinions though, some people may have different experiences or not agree with me. That's okay to, every ones entitled to their own ideas. I'm also sure i have forgotten to put down about half the things i meant to, but as soon as i sit down and stare at a computer screen my mind seem to come up blank and i forget all i meant to write about...

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Images from Egypt......can you see why i might want to go?

this horse had cloth tied through it flesh for 'good health'....

these ones are simply starving to death with only sand to eat...One thing is for sure im going to see things over there, worse than anything iever seen or dealt with before, it will be educational at the very least

So this is what i have to look forward to when i travel over in march. I'm sure these images make your gut twist just as much as mine. How could this happen, how could people do this or tolerate it? makes you pretty sick to think about...

But then its amazing what you become immune to, or what you think is normal when its all you know. I'm sure their are some bastards over their, that are rotten to the core, and knowingly abuse their animals, working them for all they are worth, literally until they drop dead. but I'm also equally sure, that some just don't know any better and are just carrying on practices that there ancestors were doing back in the stone ages.

We, and i mean anyone, anywhere, are all guilty of becoming to familiarized or used, to certain things and just accepting them as normal. just for an example, horses in New Zealand, live out in pasture mostly, and generally are pretty healthy animals, with good wide hooves and are pretty co-ordinated creatures. This is what I'm used to, its normal for me, to expect any horse i get on to be able to walk up and down a hill. The look of a long lean thouroughbred, or eventing type, is also the kind of horse im used to seeing.

But when Ive traveled, i have found this is far from the norm in other places. In America, i went to a stable, where every second horse was obese and had at some stage, had major colic surgery, navicular and ringbone were pretty rife too, everyone their thought this was totally normal, as they did the tiny pinched hooves and the fact that their horses couldnt walk down the slightest slope without tripping over. this was just how horses were, or so they thought. Everyone had just become so familiarised they started thinking this was normal. By the way, not a attack at american barns at all, because i know there are some great ones to!

Who's to know its not a similar situation in Egypt, you may just never realise their is another way of caring for horses, and that jutting hip bones and gaping sores are not just the norm. who's to say until you have been there. But i think this is why education is so important, and that is part of what the people on this trip hope to achieve, re-educating locals into better practices and care of their animals.

But don't get me wrong, in no way am i justifying what they do. Its horrible, but you cant just tell people their wrong, you have to show them and give them a reason to do it differently.

Well today a friend and i raised $223 to go towards, educating people, and taking medical gear over to look after the horses. What was amazing is how many donated more than required to buy the fundraising raffle ticket. Was really great to see, and most people were genuinely interested and asked what they could do to help. So thank you to all those who brought a ticket and donated, hopefully your money will to making a real differance to the lives of the horses, donkeys and camels over there

I know a lot of readers here will want to help to, at the moment there are lots of ways you can contribute. We need, horse wormers, tick tags, vet wrap, gamgee, wound dressings, non-stick wound pads, flea spray, and lice powders. But also things you might have lying around your tack room unused, such as halters and leads, snaflle bits, foam saddle blankets, plastic bridles, even dog collars and leads are needed. If your handy with a sewing machine, making synthetic sheepskin covers for noseband and gith sleeves, would be fantastic, to hlep protect horses from traditioanl chain nosebands and rough girths. As always money can be donated and will appreciated too!

If you can help and want more imformation please contact me by email chloesponys@hotmail.com

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Kaimanawa to Cairo

I'm feeling a but frustrated, with the weekends of competitions and week of manically trying to keep up with all the work on the farm and with the horses.Don't get me wrong, i love competing, horse shows are a huge part of my life and keep me on my toes and striving to succeed. But you can, at times, get jaded with the whole scene, the money, the time involved, the travel,and the fact that your whole life revolves around a how well a horse can go in different circles and jump without knocking a rail down. Sometimes you do find yourself thinking, "is this all my life is about". Recently i have felt i need for something else in my life, a holiday, a new project, something to re-inspire me. The last time i felt this way i adopted wild horses and started this blog. So what next???

Most people when they need a break, or R&R, pick a nice holiday destination where they can lie on the beach, relax and unwind and think about things.Not me. I'm going to a war zone, to work my ass off, to live in less than great conditions, in the heat, in a country that is predominantly Muslim. and where animals welfare is not high on the list of most people's priorities. Egypt. With Libya on it left, sitting below Israel, Jordon and Palestine, above Sudan and a hop,skip and a jump from Iraq and Afghanistan.That's right, to a country in the middle of a political upheaval, that according to my government is a 'high risk' travel destination, in the middle of a part of the world that is presently rife, with war, terrorism, protesters, suicide bombers, dictatorships and countries that don't allow women any freedom. Sounds great right? Dangerous, hot, hard work and where women are not well respected. What better place to go, for a young girl from New Zealand.

So why go? Why the risk, to a place i wont even be able to kick back and relax? This wont be a holiday, but it will be an experience, because im going to set up street clinics, for starving neglected, abused and wounded horses, camels and donkeys. I'm going to Egypt, because i feel i would actually be able to put some of my skills to something more useful than, preparing a horse for shows. The is a chance to maybe work at Giza Zoo, get some hands on experience with camels, save some horses and donkeys, and be doing all this within a stones throw from the great pyramids. Was to good an opportunity to pass by.

Sometimes in the western world we forget how lucky we are, were educated have great resources at our disposle, unlimited access to knowledge via the Internet. We don't go hungry, mostly our governments run smoothly, and in New Zealand at least we have a green, pristine and beautiful environment. What happens if you live in a desert, and the tourist money you rely on runs dry? Its not even like you can turn your animals loose to find grass, your surrounded by rock and sand. No money, first your animals go hungry and then you and your family. What happens if your brought up without knowledge of modern animals care, what if you practice old beliefs, like piercing an animals flesh and tying bits of string, wire and cloth through their flesh, to promote better health, but instead leave the animals with open rotting sores. Can we sitting at home really judge people?

Im sure not all of it is ignorance but i will hold my judgment until i see condition for myself. The pictures are however horrific. Horses like walking skeletons. Animals with open putrid wounds almost to the bone, from being ridden with ill fitting saddles by tourists to see the pyramids, or sores from chains rubbing across their faces and legs. The photos paint a very grim picture. This wont be for the faint hearted. It will be heart wrenching and hard, but i think worth it.

So when i saw a team of Kiwi's were going, including a horse dentist and vets, i thought that this would be my chance to make a bit of a difference, help out, not just talk about how horrible it is, but go and do something about it.

I'm no delicate flower, not afraid to get my hands dirty,i can deal with injuries, i worked with starved abused and injured horses in the past. I can bandage, dress wounds, trim hooves and deal with unruly animals. I can provide a lot of the grunt work need on this kind of trip.people have told me they couldn't cope seeing this kind of thing, it would be to upsetting.but i just want to get stuck in and help out, i figure anything i can do will help improve theses horses lives, and it worth dealing with everything else.

So i got in contact and signed up for the trip, it was a spur of the moment decision and i don't regret it, March next year i will be ,bandaging, feeding holding and looking after horses in Egypt. The worst part i think will be starting the huge amount of vaccinations i need for the trip, including rabies, which i start next week. I'm excited, i feel inspired again and bursting with passion and enthusiasm. I feel much better to have something to be working towards again. I know its a risk, but one I'm willing to take, and well, if i get kidnapped over there and sold for camels to be part of some sheik's harem, we will all know it was a mistake, but you don't know until you try.