Sunday, 7 October 2012

Weightwatchers Redux

Three weeks on the old long grass in the bottom field, Merlin has gained 30kg to 504kg and Finn has put on about 20kg to 434kg.

Not a lot I can do about it at the moment as until the shelter area is finished I can't keep them in and if I shut them onto the smaller shelter field it'll be trashed (it's a bit soggy).  It'll come off again as they finish the grass and start to depend on hay anyway.

Talking of which, I have 50 bales in the sheds and it's much better stuff than last year :o)

Thursday, 13 September 2012

Winter has begun

The boys are now down the hill in the bottom two fields again, 2 weeks earlier than I put Merlin down there last year.  It seems much earlier than that, probably because I was able to get him back into the top fields for some grazing later on in the year, but I doubt that will be an option this year as we've had the remains of two hurricanes dumped on us over the past 24 hours and the top two fields currently resemble an olympic swimming pool, despite the new drains put in last year.

I was going to strip graze them, but my neighbours have advised keeping the grass as long as possible for as long as possible (if you see what I mean!) while it's this wet to prevent it turning into a bog, so the gate to the bottom field is open and two happy naked horses are stuffing themselves on what is basically standing hay.  They have half a bale of hay spread out round the inside of the field shelter if they want it, but they much prefer to be out in the rain and wind eating the real deal.

Talking of the field shelter, look what my lovely other half arranged last week:

That's 24 tons of hardcore and the slope sorted out so the water drains away down the field into the drains rather than leaving Merlin with a moat like last year.  This area is going to be fenced, so if it gets as soggy and boggy as last year, I'll be able to shut them onto this with hay and they can potter in or out as they want rather than having to stable them.  If Carlsberg did husbands.... :o)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012


No, not the horses, me!  But up until yesterday we'd had a rather good week...

On Tuesday morning I thought I'd better see if the stand still for mounting lesson had translated successfully, so off we went to the road where Finn duly stood like a pony-shaped boulder for me to get on and was rewarded with a bit of carrot fed from the saddle.  I rode off down the road feeling rather chuffed with my l33t p0ny sch001ing ski11z, only for him to grind to a halt 10 yards later and look round going 'Oi! More carrot!'  I asked him to walk on, he started nibbling my boot!

Twenty minutes later I'd tried waiting him out, flapping reins and legs, growling, slapping my whip on my boot, waving it around his backside...and we'd got another 70 yards down the road, at which point he decided if he wasn't getting any more carrot he was going home and turned round.  At that point he got a smack on the bum and told to effing well get on with it - and he was a total angel for the rest of the hack! 

Having won that battle, I'd hoped for an easier time on Thursday morning, but he'd decided that the turning round and heading for home trick was one he wanted to repeat and tried it every minute or so for the first quarter of a mile, so we waltzed down the village in a series of small circles until he got to a manhole cover that he's walked past at least eight times before without noticing and decided that it was a pony-eating dragon that I needed protecting from and therefore he was taking me home.  I'd planned to take him out of the village and a little way up the main road, but didn't think it was particularly safe to be circling my way up a road where logging lorries come down the hill at 60mp, no matter how much high viz stuff I was wearing, so after I'd got a reasonably sensible five minutes out of him, I turned him round.  And, you guessed it, perfect hacking pony all the way home, until he realised that I was going to make him walk past our drive.  He tried a half-hearted dive to each side, got a strong leg and a growl and then gave in, so I rode him down to the road fork, gave him another bit of carrot and then went home.

The weather forecast is great for this week and I was hoping to ride at least three times, but yesterday rather put paid to that idea.  My husband stuck his head round the office door mid-morning to say that the breeze had dropped and the midges were horrendous, so I picked up the fly sheets and headed out to the field.  I'd done Merlin's and was just finishing up with Finn, who was standing at the small gate between us and the neighbour's field.  Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Merlin stalking up the field with his "I'm going to bite the pony on his arse" face on.  What I should have done was left the last strap on the neck cover, chased Merlin off and then gone back and done it up, but I thought I had time to get the strap done and then jump out of the way.  Wrong.  Horse teeth met pony bottom and Finn's only exit route was through me.  He barged past, knocking me over onto the stone dyke wall and then trod on my foot, which was sideways on the ground rather than flat.

By 3pm yesterday afternoon it was hurting like you wouldn't believe and alternating between nearly numb and almost pins and needles, so I took myself down to the surgery where they pronounced it probably not broken.  I'm hobbling around the place with the assistance of a wooden staff and swearing a lot!  I'm guessing that's the running knocked on the head for a few weeks - I'd just started really getting going with it again - but since it's the right foot, I may be able to scramble back into the saddle by the end of the week.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

*crackle* *crackle* Is this thing on? *crackle*

I was a bit over-optimistic about my recovery, it actually took a MONTH for me to feel normal again!  Anyway, 10 days ago I took Finn out for a hack, he did his usual trick of walking off while I was mounting, this time before I'd even swung my leg over.  He then got a bit un-nerved by the human wobbling along beside him trying to get her foot back out of the stirrup (the dangers of riding in hiking boots...) and started to trot - fortunately "WOOOOOAHHHHHHH!" worked, otherwise I'd have face-planted into the tarmac.  Attempt number two was successful and we had a nice hack to the end of the village and back.  I'd planned to go further and was all high-viz'd up, but I'd forgotten that the Scottish schools went back that day and after the circus of getting on from the normal picnic table, I didn't fancy trying to remount after the gate with a bus shelter full of kids and parents watching me!

So this morning I decided it was time for Mr Finn to learn that I wasn't like his previous owner (18, weighs about as much as a twig, very athletic, able to jump on a moving horse with absolutely no problems) and took him into my neighbour's school armed with a pocketful of carrot sticks.  As it turned out, being fed carrot sticks in return for standing still while I leaned on stirrups, bounced up and down beside him with one foot in them and then being rewarded from the saddle when I was finally up is just about Finn's ideal schooling exercise and after 10 minutes he was standing like a rock in the middle of the school on a completely loose rein :o)  He's obviously been taught it before, it's just not been enforced for a while.  The next step will be to see if I can replicate the lesson outside the manege, but as long as I have suitably orange bribes on me, I think all will be well!

We only had a short schooling session after that, we'd done what I wanted to achieve, so we walked a few shapes, I practiced a bit of trot (my balance is slowly coming back) and then we called it a day.

I was thinking about bonding the other day.  Merlin seems to have appointed himself my bodyguard when I'm in the field now; he'll walk next to me or just behind me as I push the wheelbarrow around (unless I've just moved the electric fence!).  I'm not sure if he's really bonded that closely or whether he's just protecting his food source from Finn though ;o)  However, he'll really try his hardest to do anything I ask him to these days, which is a real change from when he first arrived.  It gives me hope that one day I might be able to hack him out once I have my confidence back properly.  Finn hasn't bonded enough to want to try for me yet, but it's still very early days - he's only been here two and a half months and it took Merlin two years. 

Robbie the farrier came out to do their feet the week before last.  Merlin was, as usual, good as gold, but Finn was a slightly different matter and played up, not wanting to stand, snatching his feet away and generally being a bugger.  Robbie has been his farrier for a couple of years, so knew that Finn could be problematical but was definitely trying it on as he didn't usually act up quite that much.  Every time Finn snatched a foot back and walked off, I made him trot a circuit of the field - if he chose to move, he was going to be made to move more than he wanted to - and eventually we got the job done without too much grief, but this is something I need to work on.  Robbie has shown me the trick to getting reluctant cobs to lift their feet and Finn will now give me a front foot loose in the field (previously I could only get him to lift the backs).  At the moment I'm either lifting it, holding it for a moment and then putting it down or lifting, tapping with a hoof pick and putting down and I'm sure we'll get there eventually - Merlin was a sod with the farrier when he first arrived.

What else?  Finn has two new rugs courtesy of eBay, a fleece cooler to dry him out and a shower sheet to go over it.  Both almost new, the most expensive was £14.50 including postage :o)  But he's been moulting like mad over the past fortnight and the bristly clipped coat he arrived with is now mostly gone, replaced by a lovely soft, thicker coat which is far more waterproof and windproof.  As long as we have a dry, cold winter, he probably won't need rugging, but at least I now have some options on hand if he does.  Both of them have lost a little bit of weight this week, Merlin's down to 467kg and Finn to 402kg, but they're both looking good.  If there's another loss next week I may start them on a handful of breakfast each again.  At the moment they're having a handful of Speedibeet, half a handful of Greengold and two heaped spoonfuls of the homemade yeast/linseed/magnesium mix in the evenings and that's it. 

Saturday, 28 July 2012

*choke* *cough* *splutter*

Apologies for the radio silence, but I've been ill for the first time in about six years and it's kind of knocked me sideways.  Two weeks ago I schooled Finn on Sunday morning, then mis-timed taking Merlin for a walk round the village and got soaked to the skin.  That set off a urinary tract infection which became a kidney infection with added conjunctivitis, swollen tonsils, glands and a temperature.  By Wednesday, despite antibiotics, about all I was capable of doing was lying on the sofa and watching the room spin in an interesting manner! 

10 days later I'm mostly mended.  I managed to put my contact lenses back in this morning, but I still have the sore throat and the occasional twinge in the plumbing.  Most days it's been about all I can do to struggle round the field with the wheelbarrow, let alone think about riding, so Finn has had a quiet life.  His old owner came to visit him this morning and I was hoping she'd be able to take him out, but we had a downpour at 6am and by the time I got out he was drenched through and, to my surprise, shivering :o(  I scraped most of the water off and put his heavy turnout on him to warm him up.  By lunchtime the sun had come out and he'd cheered up, so he finished drying out in the afternoon breeze while the rug dried out in the shed and I've put it back on this evening because half the weather reports are saying we're going to get heavy rain around 7pm (the other half say it won't hit until lunchtime tomorrow). 

This evening's job: find a cooler rug to go under the turnout....

Weight-wise they've both gained; Merlin is up to 470kg and Finn back to 420kg, but this time last year M was 511kg, so we're doing better.  There's still a sizeable chunk fenced off in the top field which they're slowly strip grazing up, though Finn worked out that if he bent his knees and shuffled a bit, he could limbo under the electric gate and get into the long grass, which delighted him and infuriated Merlin!  The gate has now been lowered and he's not happy with me!

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Slowly, slowly

We're getting there.  As Shakespeare wrote, 'the rain it raineth every day' here, so today was the first chance I had to get on Finn again.  He was an utter git about being led down to the field shelter to be tacked up (I think Merlin may have taught him that Mum in jods means work - must get some of those denim ones!) and planted himself every couple of steps - I ended up whirling him around and then taking him on a brisk lap of the field in trot, after which he gave in.  Then he was a git about lining up with the mounting block (though to be fair I was faffing because I was nervous about him bucking again) and in the end I had an 'oh soddit' moment and hopped on from the ground. 

No bucks and after the first few seconds I was fine.  At the moment I need far more work on me than he does on him, so we spent most of the time in walk, concentrating on relaxing my seat to let him step out and getting him to do walk-halt transitions with just a seat aid, which he was doing beautifully by the time we finished.  I tried a bit of trot and he went much better for me in sitting trot than rising, which is definitely down to my fitness and lack of recent practice at rising, and then got really brave and asked for canter in the bottom corner and we did one side of the school to finish.

Merlin is on good form, he's got more friendly with Finn again and when I caught M this afternoon to brush him off and Finn wandered off, I had to let him go again as he was really stressing about not being able to see him.  I'll try taking Merlin out for a walk round the village this week and see what happens - he's not been out of the fields since Finn arrived.

Weigh in this week, Merlin 458kg and Finn 408kg.  Finn's lost quite a bit, but I think that's down to slightly less food and less bloating as he's cribbing a bit less.  I can feel ribs anyway, though he still has that apple bum, but the saddle fitter told me that was more down to his type and how he was muscled than excess blubber.  I'm slowly getting through that thick mane, the tack shop in Wick advised Canter Mane and Tail, which is miraculous stuff!  There's lots of loose hair in it though, the two thirds I've worked through is noticeably thinner than the untouched third.  His nappy rash came back a couple of days ago, on the other side this time.  It's clearing up again with the gel and I'm spreading it much more thinly this time to try and avoid the gungy tail problem.  I think it's going to be an industrial-sized pack of wet wipes and a twice daily inspection job in the long term though.  He's due his boosters at the end of next month/beginning of September so I'll ask the vet's opinion when s/he is out.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Black and blue

The saddle fitter arrived on Friday evening, about half an hour after I'd got back from Inverness, so I was still running round the field with a wheelbarrow trying to clean up a day's poo.  My lovely neighbours still let me use their school whenever I want (I'm selfishly pleased that their proposed house move to Aberdeenshire this summer fell through!), so I caught Finn, grabbed his tack and went through. 

Clare, the saddle fitter, has an injury to her back which means she uses crutches and Finn really wasn't sure about them - he kept side stepping away from her while she was trying to take tracings and kept one ear firmly locked onto them at all times.  She asked me to tack him up without his numnah and ride him so she could see how the saddle was in use - the moment I put my weight in the stirrup to get on he took off bronc-ing around the school.  I ended up face-planted in the sand with bruises to the underneath of my arms and my dignity!  I put his numnah back on to see if it was the different feel of the saddle which had triggered it and called Mick over to drag the mounting block in for me while I went to borrow my neighbour's lunging equipment as Clare suggested a few spins on the lunge before trying again!  While we were digging through the tack room for a lunge line, Finn had pulled away from Clare and bronc'd round the school again - I think it must have been the crutches spooking him, because he lunged fine and when I got on from the block and trotted him round for five minutes he was absolutely perfect.  I would have suspected a back problem, but I've ridden him four times in 10 days, including mounting from the ground, and there hasn't been a single issue.

The upshot is that the saddle fits fine, the bit I was worried about with the nails doesn't touch him, so I just need to pick up some wool from the field and glue it into place.  The saddle is a good one, a working hunter Farrington, one of the original ones made before Derby House took over.  It does need reflocking, but not urgently and she's recommended that I just get out and ride this summer and then let her have the saddle for a week at some point over the winter when the weather isn't so kind.

If that wasn't enough beating up for the weekend, he got me again this morning.  His nappy rash has cleared up beautifully with antibacterial gel twice a day, but a lot of the gel has ended up in his tail which has made combing out the occasional small piece of poo that gets stuck in there (it's a proper full bushy native tail!) rather unpleasant, so I marched out to do battle with a bucket of water, a sponge and a bottle of shampoo.  Being a typical pony, he stuck his nose in the bucket to see if there was anything edible in it and came up just as I turned round from closing the gate and bent down to pick it up again.  Pony forehead met human nose with a loud crunching sound and I think I'm quite lucky not to have broken it!  A few minutes of swearing later, bath-time was underway and it's a lot less sticky now, though I think I'm going to have to have another go in the next week as there's still a bit left in there.

Merlin, after initially loving having a friend, has now got a bit arsey about the whole thing and if Finn is on a bit of grass he thinks looks tasty, he'll march up to him and bite him on the bum to get him to move.  Finn has now got wise to this and will trot off if he sees Merlin walking over with his ears back.  The rest of the time, M is happy enough to graze next to him and yells when I take Finn out to ride even if he can see us in the school, so I think they'll settle down together before too long.  Hard to believe Finn has been here less than two weeks.  Interestingly, Clare - who is a BHSII instructor as well as a saddle fitter - doesn't think Finn is overweight, the stomach is just down to saggy muscles and the amount of air he's inhaling from cribbing on fence posts.  She says get him out and about and working before I put him on a diet, so we'll give it a go :o)

It does show that my confidence is coming on though - a year ago there's no way I would have got on a horse or pony I'd just seen do huge bunny hopping bucks around a school.  There's trust building here already.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

And then there were two

Finn arrived last week and settled in so well that he and Merlin were able to go in together within 24 hours.  I've ridden him three times and lunged him once and he's been very good, but I'm a little concerned about his saddle - one of the saddle nails can be felt on the underside of it - so the saddle fitter is paying us a visit tomorrow evening to check it over and fix it if required.

He's a podgy little fellow though!  I got a weight tape around him on day 2 and at 420kg he's only 30kg lighter than Merlin - and he's 7" smaller!!  His thighs are so big that he's been chafing between them and between his butt cheeks, so we currently have antibacterial gel (aka 'green goo') going on twice a day and it's clearing up quickly. 

Thursday, 7 June 2012


I had to measure Merlin twice this week, as when I did it on Sunday it came up in the 460s, but it was windy and I wasn't 100% certain the tape wasn't twisted, so I remeasured on Tuesday when the wind had gone and he's still in the 450s, so all is well.  The grass is growing amazingly fast though, so I've taken him off even the little bit of beet he was still having.  That does mean his yeast, magox and linseed have had to stop as well, so he may need to go back on it if his feet need it.

That said, he's going to be getting some help with the grass :o)  The Welsh D I mentioned in the last post proved to be an absolute star - we've transferred the money for him to his owner this morning and he'll be arriving on Tuesday :o)  He's unshod as well and has been seen by Merlin's farrier who likes him too.  Slightly concerned about introducing the two of them, as Merlin doesn't always take well to strange geldings, but there's a small chance they know each other as they've both been stabled at the same livery yard in the past and there may have been some overlap - I'm trying to find out.  I've got the field split anyway and will re-energise the electric fence, so if M tries to kick out at him he'll get zapped. 

Friday, 25 May 2012

Catching up

Oh dear, I've been a lazy blogger the past couple of weeks :o(

Quick catch up: his heel is better (the last bit of scab is just dropping off), no further lameness, his weight is steady in the 450s and I rode him last Monday!  Only for 15 minutes, he was good for about 5 and then his attention started to stray and it was all a bit 'Ooh!  Sheep!  Ooh!  Lamb!  Ooh!  Car!'  I've shut off the bottom field now, he's got the field shelter field (grazed almost bare) and a 5 metre strip of the house field, though the four sheep he's living with have the run of the whole thing.  It's just coming back after lambing so I thought it would be an idea to get them on it before it's suddenly hock deep and lush.  That said, it's rich enough that he completely failed to notice I haven't given him breakfast today!

We actually had a very sweet moment this morning, he was lying down so I went and sat with him and stroked his neck and he rested his nose against my shoulder and dozed for 20 minutes.

The search for a friend for him continues, with a bit more urgency now that the two ponies next door have been moved away.  He still has horses in eyesight, but none that he can touch very easily now.  Last weekend's prospect turned out to be a no go because she was probably in foal, much to the surprise of her owner (I did feel for the seller, she'd tried to get hold of me the night before to tell me, but I'd gone to bed early because of having to get up early to catch the ferry to Orkney to see her!).  Tomorrow I'm off to see a local pony - he's been for sale for a few weeks but I've been resisting going to see him a) because he's a Welsh D gelding and I've been looking at Highland mares and b) because the advert said POA which I generally interpret as out of budget.  However, after two people sent me his details I thought there was no harm in asking and it turns out that the price they're looking for is realistic, includes his tack and matches the very top of my budget, so we'll go and see what he's like.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Leg update

Picking out feet yesterday morning, I found a huge hole in the back of his left fore, just above the heel bulb.

Now, I'm 99.9% certain it wasn't there 24 hours earlier - I'd spent a day and a half worrying about that leg, sploshing water on it, cold booting it and bandaging it and I'm pretty sure that I'd have spotted a 1cm hole with skin sticking out looking like a tiny, tiny alien had chest-bursted out of it.

It looks for all the world as if an abscess has blown, but he wasn't lame enough and it's a little bit too high to have come out of the coronet band, so I suppose he must have caught it on something somewhere.  Anyway, it's being cleaned twice a day and having black powder puffed on it and it seems to be healing up nicely.  Definitely no walking out today though.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Weight target reached

Thanks to bad weather and a day and half on box rest (of which more in a minute), Merlin weighed in at 451kg today and since he's about right on the fat scoring front (I can finally feel his ribs but can't see them and nothing else has gone too skinny) we'll try to maintain from now on.  Without going back over all the posts, I think he topped out at 511kg (though he was chunkier than that when he first arrived), so that's 60kg gone since last summer or 9st 6lbs which is only 5lbs short of a whole me!

I came over all May-ish and started a new fitness regime this week.  Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday are Merlin exercise days, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday are running days.  I'm taking it very gently, so I'm doing Couch to 5K from the beginning again to break me back in, aiming for the Aviemore half marathon in October, and Merlin is doing 20 minutes' walk in hand around the village.

Or that was the plan.  We managed the walk Tuesday and Thursday, then on Friday evening I thought he was moving slightly oddly when he walked up the field for his supper.  Sure enough, when I got closer I saw that his left front pastern was so swollen that if you looked at his leg from the front it looked straight between the bottom of his fetlock and the top of his hoof.

Since he seemed reasonably happy walking around on it, there was no cut and it was fluid rather than hard, I sloshed it with cold water and shut him in the field shelter overnight to make sure he rested it.  The next morning it had filled up further, but drained almost immediately as soon as I led him out and sloshed it again, leaving a slightly less swollen pastern. 

We were heading into Thurso anyway, so I called in at the vet to check if there was anything else I should be doing.  As luck would have it, Bridget-the-eventing-vet was on duty.  She nixed my idea of giving him a little bit of turnout on the flat area behind his shelter, advising a short walk in hand on Saturday afternoon and then a restricted turnout area on Sunday if it continued to improve.  Plus stable bandages overnight to stop his legs filling.

A quick trip to the tack shop later and Merlin met his first cold water boot.  What a brilliant idea, especially for those of us who don't have hoses or mains water available at their field shelter/stable!  Merlin wasn't entirely convinced by the feel of it going on and the first one went sailing through the air and landed in the mud (now I know why they sell them in pairs...), but once it was on he decided it was A Good Thing and I had very little trouble when I did it again last night and this morning.

The stable bandages were a slightly different matter.  I'd only bandaged a horse's leg once; I was about 11 and the leg was plastic.  Still, I knew the theory, I'd found some videos on YouTube to refresh my memory - how hard could it be...?  As it turned out, the bit that flummoxed me was wrapping the bandage round in the correct orientation to end up with the velcro tabs on the correct side of the bandage, the first one took me three goes to get right!  I was concerned that I hadn't got the tension right, so popped down a couple of hours later to check they weren't in a tangle round his ankles. They looked fine, so I fed him an apple and went to bed, relieved I didn't have to worry about him tying all four feet together overnight.

This morning I went down to find the gate half off its hinges and no horse!  He'd lifted it off the top bracket so it swung off the bolt and the bottom bracket, jumped it and taken himself off to graze on a ledge on the near-vertical part of the hill in the bottom field.  The stable bandages had stayed put - result!  He allowed me to catch him with reasonably good grace and when I unwrapped him, his leg looked completely back to normal :o)  I stuck the cold water boot back on for 20 minutes as a precaution while he had his breakfast and I mucked out and wondered, given his overnight antics, whether it was worth restricting his turnout or not, but decided better safe than sorry and gave him an L-shaped area of flat field to potter around.

This evening his leg still looks normal, he's still being ever so slightly careful with it over the rutted areas, but he's definitely nearly mended.  If nothing changes overnight he can go back on normal turnout tomorrow and we'll pick up the walking round the village again on Thursday.

Monday, 30 April 2012


Apologies for missing last week, I was on holiday :o)

The day before I went, Merlin had an appointment with David Brown, an Equine Dental Technician.  One of the local vets had had a look at his teeth when he first arrived and couldn't see any major problems, but our vets will cheerfully admit that they're not specialists so I thought it would be a good idea to get the expert in.  Merlin actually behaved fairly well, he stood calmly enough while David scraped tartar off his front teeth, but once the gag went in and the rasping started, there was a lot of eye rolling and walking around his box.  David kept calmly putting him back in the corner and carrying on with the work and the whole thing was done in about 20 minutes.  There were some nasty sharp points to be removed right on the back molars and M spent the rest of the day poking his tongue round his mouth to try and work out what had changed.  David thought he'd probably never had a dentist visit (or at least not in the last 5 or 6 years, which would take us back to before he was imported from Hungary), so wants to see him again on his next trip north in the autumn to make sure there are no further problems.  After that we should only need a check up every 18 months until he gets to an age where teeth start falling out. 

Weight is currently on the bar between 464 and 458kg - and I've found another two grass lumps. 

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Back up to 464kg, which is no bad thing considering the weather we've had this week!  Snow, hail, wind, bright sunshine, sometimes all of them within the space of a morning.  So he's been getting extra hay to try and keep the boiler stoked since he's now shed enough coat that he's mostly bay from his ears to his shoulders.

The grass lumps seem to have gone though.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Nearly there

Into the 458kg band this morning and I can definitely feel some ribs if I prod hard enough.  I think the 464kg band is going to be the one we try not to exceed over the summer - quite a challenge when he topped out at over 511kg last year! 

The sugars are definitely coming through strongly in the grass now; he's got a couple of scurfy lumps in the usual places and he's grouchy, though that might also be to do with the amount he's moulting at the moment.  The problem is that the sugar makes his skin sensitive and the moulting makes him itchy, so grooming him is a bit of a lottery - I either get a blissed out horse with a wobbly lower lip or one who whips round with his ears back and his teeth bared.  He's much better than last year though, when he was on a sugary feed as well.

Sunday, 1 April 2012


Forgot to post last week, but he was on the border between 464kg and 470kg last week and is firmly in the 464kg band this week.  We're nearly there, I think.  His neck and shoulder are looking about right, the top of his back is about right, his ribs are still too well covered (though I can *just* feel them now if I have a good rummage!) and the top of his bum is firm, though there's still some flab further down on his thighs.  It looks like his 'good' weight is going to be around 450kg.

He's still a bit sensitive around his shoulders.  It's not all the time, but occasionally when I'm grooming him or even just stroking him and I touch the area around his shoulder blade (on both sides), he'll whip his head round with ears back and teeth bared.  Explains why he doesn't like being rugged anyway (he hasn't had one on this year so far), but I wonder what caused it (he's always done it)?  He's moving very well - comes bouncing up the field at trot or canter most meal times - so I don't think there's any underlying physical problem, but if I can find an equine physio who comes up here it might be worth getting him looked at I think.

In other news, Merlin is not the only one who's shrinking: I've lost 9lbs out of the stone I put on between the wedding last summer and Christmas :o)  Back down to 10st 0lbs, aiming to get to between 8st 7lbs and 9st 0lbs, which is at the lighter end of the healthy band for my height (5'5"), but I found an old photo of myself at that weight the other day and I really want to look that good again!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Winter feed costs 2011/12

Final calculation of feeding Merlin this winter (1st October to 31st March), since he won't be needing any more hay once this bale is finished:
3 bags of speedibeet c.£12 each
1 bag of greengold @ £12
2 lots of magic barefoot powder ;o) @ £46 each
45 bales of hay @ £3 each
16 bales of Horsehage @ £7.50 each
Total £395 or £65.83 a month or £2.16 a day.  Not bad at all.  Won't bother with the Horsehage next year, he would have been fine on just hay.

Walking out

Ooooh, I'm not popular this morning!  I did the usual Sunday morning weigh-in (on the border between 470kg and 478kg - now on 2 handfuls of Speedibeet, 1 handful of Greengold and 1 thin slice of hay twice a day), then groomed him, pulled a bit of mane, took two barrows of manure off the fields (should be caught up by the end of the week I hope), started re-shaping the muck heap and then decided it was too nice a day not to take him for a walk.

I've been thinking that it would be an idea to do some in-hand schooling to help build his back muscles up before getting a saddle fitted again, so after we'd walked down to the surgery end of the village, I tightened up the noseband on his headcollar, moved the lead rope to the left hand side and passed a lunge rein over his back to clip to the right side.  He was completely confused to start with because he's so used to following me around when he's being led that having me standing at his shoulder Did Not Compute, but with a bit of encouragement he took a step forwards, got lots of praise for it and after 30 seconds of hesitant walk with lots of glances back at me to make sure this was really what I wanted him to do, he decided that this was quite a fun game after all and walked out beautifully.

And the reason I'm not popular?  I walked him up to the road through two fields of beautiful fresh spring grass and wouldn't let him graze it ;o)  (Next door's sheep will be lambing on it in about 10 days' time!)

In other news, he nearly got a friend this week after I went to try a Highland pony.  She was everything I was looking for; a real confidence giver, but sadly someone else had deeper pockets.  It's a long time since I've felt that happy in the saddle though.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Going back down again

Hay is now down to 2 sections morning and evening, no horsehage and only 100g (unsoaked weight) of beet each feed.  Weight back down into the 478kg band.  It's been really windy here for the past few days, but he doesn't seem bothered - every time I've checked on him from the road as I've been driving to and from the post office, he's been in the bottom field grazing happily.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Spring is springing

Three signs that spring is definitely on its way:

1) he's putting on weight (firmly back into the 484 band after dipping onto the bottom of the 478 one)
2) he's occasionally leaving some of his morning hay
3) he's started moulting

Good thing I've just bought a Miele Cat & Dog hoover, the hair over the next 4-6 weeks is going to be horrible!

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Onwards and downwards

Horse has lost 6kg - now on the line between 484kg and 478kg - and I've finally lost 1lb after 4-5 weeks stuck at the same weight. 

A very kind neighbour has offered me the use of her treeless saddle until I can afford a new one, so I may take her up on that when the weather dries up a bit.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Same old, same old

Nothing much to report here.  Merlin has been on the line between 490 and 498 for the past fortnight, so since the grass is starting to come through (unlike the rest of the UK we're in glorious sunshine and temperatures of 6-8C in the daytime) he's getting 50g less beet in his morning bucket and I'll probably take 50g out of the evening bucket from next weekend. 

The farrier came on Friday.  In the vague hope of being able to present him with a clean horse, I groomed Merlin on Thursday night and got all the mud out.  Went down to feed him on Friday morning and was presented with a swamp donkey.  He'd PLASTERED himself in it and it was still wet.  Never mind, the farrier wasn't due until 2, so plenty of time for him to dry off and I could tie him up by the top gate about 1.30 and keep an eye out for the van.  It was a beautiful plan until the farrier turned up half an hour ahead of schedule! 

Still, he's had his pedicure (very little needed doing, just a little bit of shaping with the rasp), he didn't nibble the farrier's bottom and on the whole he seems pretty happy with life at the moment.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


I went to the local tack shop today to pick up a couple more bales of shavings.  The owner was in and we had a chat. She had the saddle fitter visiting yesterday (missed her AGAIN!  Back in March, so not long to wait.) and took a thumping fall off her Welsh D, to which she casually added that Merlin chucked her off into a cement mixer once and he'd had her in the ditch often enough.  Now, she's one of the better riders in the county at sticking on horses that want to get you off them, so if she was having problems hacking him out I'm not entirely certain I'm ever going to be able to do it. 

On the plus side, he's a dope on a rope if I'm leading him (apart from when we meet a strange gelding) and does seem to love being out and about, so if I do ever get a ploddy native or cob to amble around the moors on, it's possible I'll be able to ride and lead and he can expand his world a bit that way.  I did clean his bridle yesterday, so that's a step closer to getting back on him ;o)

Weight today smack on the marker between the 498kg and 490kg bands.  He's got a coat like a yak, is plastered in mud like a swamp donkey and seems very content with his life at the moment.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Up and down

It's been a horrible week weather-wise - rain, hail, high winds, you name it.  Yet somehow my unrugged, out 24/7, doesn't-do-winters horse has managed to put on weight and is now in the 498kg band again.  Back to 4 large handfuls of beet per meal then.

I was very proud of him on Monday.  The salmon fishing station at the end of the road put in a concrete loading dock last year which I was eyeing up as a perfect mounting block.  Would Merlin set hoof on the concrete?  Would he hell.  Every time I've gone that way walking him out he's carefully side-stepped the concrete area and flatly refused to walk on it if I asked him to.  I tried again when we were down there on Monday and he walked straight across it with no hesitation at all.  No idea what's changed, but he got lots of praise and we did it again on the way back just to prove it wasn't a fluke.

I finished the last bale of hay in the storage side of the pig palace this morning.  Just the bales in the pig-sleeping side now (I think that's 27 or 28, I can't remember) plus 10 bales of HorseHage.  It should be enough to get us through to the good grass.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Summer plans

I think I'm married to the most wonderful man in the world.  He's announced that this year's big summer project is going to be sorting the drainage in the 3rd field, building another field shelter in the gap between the current one and the feed/tack shed, expanding the hardcore area around the shelters, fencing it in and then covering with pea gravel.  So I'll have enough shelter space for three horses and an area where they can choose to be in or out 24/7 regardless of the weather and sogginess of the rest of the fields.  Time to start saving up for some company for Merlin :o)

Mr M himself is still happily naked and muddy.  I took him for a 3 mile walk on Friday, down to the layby for the beach and back.  We didn't go down to the beach itself, because the farmer who has the field we have to cross has got an enormous pile of neeps stored by the gate and I decided not to risk him trying to snag a neep on the way through and sending the whole pile avalanching into the burn.  Good decision, as he wound up her horse spectacularly on the way back home - Boxer came thundering down the hill to see who this new horse was and Merlin grew a hand, screamed his head off, waved his willy and started passaging down the middle of the A836.  Fortunately no logging lorries came through while he was being a prat.  He seems to do this whenever he meets a new gelding, whether it's because he was gelded late or because he got beaten up so regularly by a Shetland stallion and HighlandxWelsh colt in his last home, I don't know, but he's determined to be boss horse over any other gelding he encounters.  I guess I'll just have to keep walking him past there until he gets used to it.

The good news is that his feet looked great when we got home, 3 miles on tarmac is obviously no trouble at all for him.  Mine weren't so happy after 3 miles in wellies with slipping socks!

Weight loss is going well for both of us.  I've lost 4lbs so far this year and am running three times a week - just a mile each session while my body gets used to it again, but I'm planning to make today's run a mile and a half.  Merlin is now down to the bottom of the 490kg band, which is coming off a little bit too quick, so he's now on 5 handfuls of beet flakes per feed.  Hay supplies are holding up well, I have 3 bales in the main shed plus however many are in the pig bedroom side of the shed (I *think* it's 28) out of 50 purchased at the start of autumn, plus 12 bales of HorseHage, so that should be enough to see us through to the grass coming in properly.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Mud, mud, glorious mud

Last year it froze solid here for nearly two months and everyone complained bitterly.  This year it's rained nearly non-stop for two months and on balance I think I'd rather have the snow.  The top half of the bottom two fields, where the shelter is, has got a blocked drain somewhere, so Merlin has a half-moat round his shelter and the top 10 metres of field is like chocolate custard with green speckles on top.  And the winds lifted the felt on the shelter roof - we nailed it back down straight away but it's still leaking if the rain is hard enough.  We're going to put corrugated sheets over the top of the felt, once the wind dies down enough for Mick to get up there and measure up.

Not much news here.  Merlin is down to the bottom of the 498kg band and with only 10 weeks-ish to go until we start getting spring grass through, I'm going to keep his diet as is until either a) he starts moving a whole band on the weight tape in a week or b) he hits his target weight of 470kg.  I'm keeping a close eye on his wobbly bits, the fat pads on his quarters are about half what they were at the beginning of the winter but are still there, he still has a very small crest and I still can't even feel his ribs, though his shoulder is starting to look defined now.