Tag Archives: Rosie

Two different equines

One thing that became very clear to me last winter was that Ben and Cloud do not co-exist ideally on my track system. Cloud’s rate of eating impacts on Ben. Ben’s slower rate, punctuated by rests, does not fit with Cloud’s non-stop and rapid eating. The result has been that Cloud became overweight (far too overweight) and Ben became underweight and looked bad. His coat looked dull, his bones showed and for the first time he looked old.

Having the use of the field this summer reversed this for Ben. Ben’s coat gleamed, his top-line improved (I was also riding most days which I am sure helped) and he gained weight. Cloud’s weight held until the second half of August, when increased grass growth told its tale and he became very round again.

Since coming back, my ad lib experiment has not worked. I have abandoned it a couple of weeks ago. Cloud also got mild laminitis due to the flush of Autumn growth and I have had to face the obvious: they are two different animals and need to be treated as such.

I do not understand this insistence some proponents of track system/paddock paradise have for ad lib feeding. The most I have been able to stretch this for Cloud has been three weeks. I was told (on the facebook paddock paradise group) that it can take six months for a horse to self-regulate. How can this be right? How can this be the right thing to do to a pony like Cloud? I certainly have not been prepared to take this risk.

Feeding ad lib hay worked for Ben and Rosie. Ben set the pace of eating and resting. He may have looked a bit too well-covered but I was not worried for his health. Now Cloud sets the pace.

I do not know Cloud’s breeding, but that he is a native type is obvious, in both character and make-up. He responds so very differently to Ben, for instance, when it comes to loading. Ben, you could say, is more “trainable”. For Cloud, it was clear that he was prepared to resist in every possible manner and a different way to reach him had to be found. I have found Hempfling’s writing on “The Origin” very helpful in helping me understand Cloud. And as regards his make-up, well I wonder about insulin resistance, I wonder also whether he could be leptin resistant which (if I understand correctly) would make him unable to self-regulate. And even if neither of these apply (the test for IR resistance is very expensive so I am holding off for now) I cannot see how a native type, whose ancestors lived on sparse forage over rough ground, could thrive on ad lib forage 24/7.

This morning, I let Ben into grass and spread Cloud’s hay around the track so that he circled Ben moving from small pile to small pile again and again as he foraged for the last remaining wisps. I am still working it out. I have been reluctant to abandon my system which worked so well for Ben and Rosie, where both could share everything day and night. But my big realisation has been that they are two quite different equines and I have to treat them as such. “Keeping it natural” is not quite so easy for this pair.

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Filed under ad lib hay experiment, health, track system

A wake up call

Somewhere in the depths of this blog I have written how I would receive a message from Ben to “wake up!”

That was back in the day when Rosie was with us. (How strange that already that feels like a long time ago.) And that message was particularly strong in the early days. I learned to become very present at all times around Ben. When he had Rosie to protect he could become quite anxious and consequently quite aggressive at times.

Now Ben can relax. Cloud is in charge and those edgy, aggressive moments have disappeared and Ben, the cooperative willing friend has been at my side all the time, making time spent with him pleasurable and easy. So without realising, I have slipped in my state of alertness and have become more automatic and distracted around them both, Ben in particular.

Today, I wanted to do some work with them both in the picadero. They were both there with me as I was getting organised. I stooped to pick up a headcollar and suddenly found myself knocked to the ground – by Ben. I was not hurt, but I was horrified. What I think happened was that Cloud pushed Ben and Ben moved out of his way taking no account of me. Maybe he saw me as smaller, stooping to the ground and certainly not aware of what was going on. Maybe he was just not aware of me. Anyway – I woke up.

I drove Ben out of the picadero, closed the fence and started to herd Cloud. I felt I should start with the dominant horse. In the end Cloud was listening to me, responding to every move I made. He stopped beside Ben at one stage, who was standing just outside the fence, and I turned away and Cloud left Ben and came to me. When I opened the fence he stuck with me. I produced a bucket with some treats and he waited until I allowed him eat.

Then I went to Ben. I have done work around buckets of food many times with Ben. To my surprise he was far pushier than Cloud. I have done myself and Ben no favours by ignoring this side of our interaction. I have taken him for granted and have not had the alertness and presence that he requires and has asked for many times from me.

So I have had a valuable wake up call today. I also realised something else. I have been anxious not to interfere with my daughter’s relationship with Cloud and have deliberately taken a back seat with Cloud, just making sure some basics were in place. Cloud needs and deserves me to be as clear and present with him as I should be with Ben.

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Moving on

It has been a strange summer. Somehow I have not had much time for blogging, either reading or writing. But, as always, with the new school year routines return and I look forward to playing catch up. Here, we have done more work on our track, re-seeded various areas and most importantly been joined by a new pony.

Meet Cloud:

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He is 14.2, 15 years old and originally from Lithuania. He has come from a riding school not far from here that is closing down and is a quietly self-confident pony who has, in a most friendly manner, assumed leadership over Ben.

Ben’s welfare was my biggest concern with Rosie gone. Fortunately he had somewhere to go. He has stayed with Sandra before and knows her two mares (her three year old Kerry Bog pony gelding, Arrow, was new to him and was to provide a most persistent challenge). He stayed there for the last three weeks. I knew I could not bring him home until I had found another pony. Ben is a worrier and would not fare well alone. Word of mouth led us to Cloud and, while he is a few years older than I would like, my older daughter’s complete confidence while riding him, and her beaming smile afterwards made the decision easy.

We met him in the passageway of the school’s barn and his presence filled that barn and clearly indicated a pony in charge of his herd. He is friendly towards children, pushy regarding treats, accepting of boundaries consistently put in place and is every bit as good a doer as Ben. I will get through a lot of hay this winter.

He had two days here at home by himself for my daughter to spend time with him before her school started. He really does impress as being very comfortable in his own skin. He adapted to being here alone, chose a vantage point from which he could see horses in a nearby field and stayed near my daughter every time she was in the paddock.

I brought Ben home last night. I kept them both in their stables for the night as Ben had greeted Cloud with much angry squealing and posturing over a stable door and I was anxious as to what fireworks would ensue during the night. This morning we could see that Cloud had finished his hay and most of his water. Ben had not touched his. We opened the stable doors and stood back. Cloud came out of his stable and approached Ben’s. Ben squealed. Cloud put his head into the stable. More noise from Ben. Cloud withdrew, walked a small circle and put his head back in again. More Ben noise. Cloud walked into the stable. The next thing we saw was Ben leaving and Cloud quietly herding him along the track.

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It was very impressive. Quietly done, with minimum fuss, a friendly air and, soon, they were grazing together. As my husband remarked – how could you remain angry with someone that friendly?

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There has been a lot of movement on the track today, casual walking, stopping to graze and moving on again. Sometimes Ben seems to initiate it and Cloud follows, but mostly Cloud drives Ben. Ben has come up to me whenever he sees me and Cloud seems happy to let him do this. Ben seems at peace. Cloud reminds me of Mark Rashid’s description of a passive leader. I think he will be very good for Ben.

So we have a new pony at home and Ben has adapted. Life moves on. I miss Rosie, sometimes quite acutely, and will always be grateful for her gentle, grounded presence here and her quite incredible gift to me of absolute trust.

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Rosie forever

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Coming to the end

Rosie is leaving us.

I had ordered boots for her front feet, thinking she would like it if I could lead her out the quiet roads as I rode Ben; ignoring the fact that her painful walking, shaky legs and stumbling were not coming from her hooves, but from her legs.  When she walked, her head was low, her spirit dull, she looked far older than she is.  This has not come suddenly, but, despite fleeting moments of her old spirit, slowly, inexorably she has seemed to lessen before our eyes.  She will not touch hay, there is little grass, so I give her haylage and she chews it slowly, seemingly absent-mindedly, from some very far away place.  The vet has come, the dentist has come, the vet has come again.

One day I sat on the ground beside her and she lowered her head to my lap. Is it time to go? I whispered. She was very still. Are you ready? Silence, but I knew her answer. She has been ready for months and I have not seen it. I sat in the stable yard that evening and Ben and Rosie gathered near me as they usually do. I tried to quiet my mind. But all I could visualise was Rosie, dying. At that moment, Ben herded Rosie up the track in some agitation. I stayed put. Only when my mind felt clear I went up to them. What do they need from me right now? I thought. Calmness and confidence. I walked up the track. Ben turned his head to me. I am in charge Ben. I will mind you. He breathed on my hand. I moved over to Rosie. She stayed quiet, in that aura of total peace that surrounds her. Every now and then she turned her head and just touched my hand. Rosie was minding me.

The next morning our vet came out. I have asked him before if Rosie was ready to go, not really afraid of the answer. And he said, no, not yet. This morning he said that she is. I knew this already. Rosie had told me. Before he left, I asked in some panic – am I doing the right thing? A shy man, he looked me full in the eyes. Yes you are he said.

We are devastated. She is part of our family and we are all devastated. I cry at stupid times. I cannot talk myself through this, Rosie has touched me at a much deeper place. The only place I do not cry is in the paddock. Neither Ben nor Rosie need my sentiment. Rosie is withdrawing day by day. Ben looks worried and if my sadness surfaces he leaves me and herds Rosie away, bossing her in some agitation. Chop wood, carry water it is said. And at least with ponies there are plenty of manual tasks to be done. I fill and carry water buckets. I tidy. I muck out. I pull haylage out of its tight bale, breathing in its uniquely strong smell and placing it around the paddock, not worrying if Ben eats too much. I pull ragwort. I focus as never before on the present moment, disciplining my mind because Ben does not need any agitation or emotion from me. Chop wood, carry water. And so we pass this time until the end comes later this week.

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At home

Swallows in Rosie’s stable,

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hens and ponies in the garden,

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apples – already – growing on the tree.

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An indomitable pony

I look out the kitchen window and there is Rosie, ignoring the hay left for her and gazing at grass. She moves off along the track and my eyes follow her anxiously, watching her footfall, worrying about her soundness. Is she sore today on the off fore? Is she really moving better or is it my imagination? Should I have kept them off the grass last night?

It can become an obsession. An obsession as big as Rosie’s own obsession with grass. When the spring growth started she would stretch her neck under the second layer of tape and work her away around the track, eating a surprisingly wide strip inside the tape. That’s when I first noticed she was sore on hard ground once again. Not dead lame, sound on soft ground but, on hard ground, obviously sore on her off fore. She had come back home from winter grazing sound on all surfaces.

Then I worry that she is too thin and I add extra speedi-beet to her bucket in the mornings, shutting both Ben and Rosie into their stables so that she can take the time to finish her feed. Then it rains, it is cold and the rain comes down in sheets and Ben chooses a dry stable and Rosie stands outside in the yard shivering all over her small body; she looks fragile and wretched. I bring Rosie into the second stable, give her plenty of hay and leave her to dry off. But she is never happy in a stable and I let them out that night and wonder will she still be with us in the morning. Morning comes, I hurry out and her eye is bright, her coat is gleaming and once again she confounds me with her sheer survivability.

But how she can move when she needs to. Left with Cassie and little Arrow while we were on our clicker training weekend, she gave Arrow as good as she got and out-ran him, young pony that he is.

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They look remarkably alike – both Kerry Bog Ponies, one young, one old but with neat little heads, a body more like a small horse and plenty of hair.

She hates being left behind when Ben and I ride out.

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She loves her feed, she loves treats, she loves grass – and she loves the inside of the shed.

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We all love Rosie here.

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Filed under diet, health, track system