Sunday, 4 January 2009

Right from the beginning

So we got pretty spaced out over Christmas. See my wife is really lazy, and I am even lazier, so we get a little excuse like a pagan festival or even a non-pagan one for that matter and we are all curled up in front of the log stove checking to see if there are any good films on telly that day.

All we've done is fed, mucked out, and a bit of worming. We worm the horses once a year after the first heavy frost. That kills all the bots too then. It's highly unscientific but it seems to work well for us. It's also the time when we have to handle last years foals. Up till then we have pretty much kept away from them, but they have to be wormed. This year it was really good because we had guests working with us who wanted experience handling young horses, so this was their opportunity. Working with foals is a great way to set up how you need to be to keep the horse onside.

So what's the trick - being soft within yourself, and in all your actions helps, that's for sure. I know it's a much over-used word these days but softness in your mind and body is good. I find it works for most things and also, as a bonus, it helps keep you feeling good within yourself too. And horses tend to trust it too. So in no time you can be putting a headcollar on and off these seven month old foals, and putting your hands around their mouths getting them ready for the wormer. The whole job was done in about three half hour sessions, and the foals were happy with it too.

I don't want to sound cocky about this, because I'm not, but what I do think is important is to try and keep things right with these little horses from the start, because our experience is that then, you get good horses out of it at the other end. This years foals are solid little guys. Simon is going to make a great 15hh plus cob, he is really sound in his mind and you can just see what a solid little horse he is going to be. His little half sister Kate is going to be a really pretty little riding horse. She was just a tiny tiny bit more wary to start with but as soon as she saw we were ok she was fine about everything too. It's just so great to have horses that haven't been cursed with a load of human rubbish in their lives.

Compare that to those poor horses born into human confusion. Horses not born into herds, that know no boundaries, or get weaned too early for no reason other than money or ignorance (sorry, I'm off on a rant here). Just to say, if you are planning to buy a youngster, buy one that's been raised properly - it's worth it, and also the more people who demand that, the more it will happen.


glenatron said...

Your last paragraph there is interesting- in terms of the horse's young life, what is the approximate timeline in terms of human intervention in their lives and what happens at each stage?

Tom said...

Hi Ben. This is interesting - I was reading an article about these kids that had been kidnapped to be turned into soldiers - the guy was saying that as long as you rescued them before they were 12 or 13 they had a good chance of being rehabilitated, but after that age they were pretty permanently damaged. There's another interesting thing related to this too (it may be rubbish) but I have heard that whatever happens to people around puberty time kind of fixes a lot of how they are. I don't know if this is the place to explore this (I guess it's not) but I'm guessing that the power of those feelings of growing up combined with what's going on at the time kind of defines the character a bit - simply put, why do some people prefer blondes etc.
This fits in pretty well with horses I reckon. If you think about hand reared foals - they are virtually impossible to normalise I'd say (there's always one exception - wait for it), and we have one mare that I know for a fact was badly overhandled as a youngster, till she was three, and she finds it really difficult to remember I don't want her all over me. she gets it sorted but then forgets, over and over.
So in answer to your question, I'd say we have lost nothing by not getting involved too much in the youngsters almost until they are ready to start work. I do think walking them about a bit is good, get them to see traffic and so on - really based on the same theory that if they see it's ok when they are young hopefully it sticks with them. In the first couple of years I reckon just do worming, leading, trimming feet, loading (which is leading) go for a few walks with another horse, see a few cars and tractors, and that's about it. If you buy a youngster and it's a bit bargy then a bit of single line work can help sort out the boundaries and who moves who, but can't really see the point of doing any more than that.

glenatron said...

What kind of herd to your young ones live in? Do you allow weaning to happen naturally in that context?

tom909 said...

The herd varies. Some years it includes the stallion, but some years if the mares need a break we have to put him with other mares. At the moment this years two foals are in a group of ten. Them, their mums, two yearlings, one of which is the elder sister to one of the foals, and four riding horses, three of which are mares and one gelding.

So here's how we wean - we've done it like this for years and it works really well. Around springtimee, if the mare is in foal again, she will wean last years foal automatically. If she isn't in foal we just take her out and stick her in a field with plenty of grass in and a few other horses, quite often the stallion if she is going in foal again. The foal has the entire herd to support him, nothing has changed except his mum has gone. Honestly, pretty much every time there is no drama whatsoever.

June said...

Like the photos on your new look web site!

Susan said...

HI All Susan has joined the Blog..

I have enjoyed reading so much these like minded folks.

Interesting comment regards damaged kids.. and affecting them.. but often too late ( If I read it right) if not life changed by aged 12-13.. personal experience says often we and other animals get on with life as a protective layer.. and try to fit in and think we are doing OK.. it is later when something comes along that upsets us more then we had protection from that rears its head again..
I see horsee reacting in the same way.