Senior Pony Club Camp.. over for another year. But what a camp it was. The weather was great so all the riding was in the field, the tents stayed up, the horses went well, and the dressage tests were (almost) all remembered.

Monday started with a light day with everybody getting into the swing of it. Obviously we had tack check, turnout check and stable check. Each morning Beki and I checked the horses, tack and stables and scored them for cleanness. And already some if the riders started to get adventurous…

Tuesday we started working on our badges. Fitness and Training. My group got the stethoscope out and learned how to listen to their horses heart rate. We also founf the pulse points on the inside of our horses knees and jaw. We measured their heart rates at rest in the morning. Then in the afternoon worjed out a 350m course in the pony fiels with 4 jumps in it and took it in turns to ride the course 3 times in 3 minutes and as soon as we had finished took the heart rates again and then after 5 10 or 15 minutes. We were looking to see which horses heart rate elevated least and which dropped down to its resting heart rate soonest. Guess which horses was the fittest out of Sploge, Snoop, Monty, Boysey, Princessa and Polo. Well here are the results…

Tuesday finished with pony club and then a camp fire as the night was clear and dry.

Wednesday we practised schooling our horses using the Scales of Training and swapped horses at the end of the flatwork session to see if we could learn anything from feeling how other riders had got their horses going. And in the aftermoon it was grids of jumps in the field to focus on keeping a line and riding a horse through jumps and finished off with a little gallop..

And wednesday evening was of course…

Thursday was a very special day. It was someones birthday. Can you guess who?

So we had birthday breakfast and then went out on a 24km hack to Dollar and back through the Ochils stopping for a picnic half way around. We had some great views..

You can see the route we took on the following two maps..

So that left Friday for dressage tests, jump cross and prizegiving. Everyone finished with big smiles and hopefully looking forward to doing it all again next year..

And so next week is the final Own a Pony Day of the holiday and then we are heading off to the Pony Club Championships with 3 polocrosse teams but more of that next week.

Senior Pony Club Camp..

How time flies..

.. when the sun is shining. It seems like only yesterday that I was posting a blog and it was actually the middle of January with short days, dark nights and the threat of snow.

And now we have long days and we have had about 5 weeks of non stop sunshine. We have put the time to good use and have sprayed the fields and fertilized them and we are sitting watching the grass grow feeling rather pleased. And as the grass is now growing and hopefullt horses are putting weight on its probably worth a cautionary tale.

At our annual licence inspection, the vet was checking our horses to make sure they weren’t too under weight and he starting telling us about equine metabolic syndrome. Apparently because we try to keep horses conditioned throughout the year this is becoming a problem. In nature horses have reduced grazing through wi tet and early spring and so have evolved to be able to increase fat stores over summer and autumn and then use these stotes up through winter so a horses weight and condition should fluctuate throughout the year. Because we are now able to control and increase a horses food intake through winter there is now less of a fluctuation in condition leading to all sorts of metabolic issues for horses. Obviously you dont want your horse dropping to a 1 on the condition score but 2/3 over winter and into early spring might actually be a bit beneficial.

This got me doing some research. I happened to come across a really interesting article by Blue Cross, the charity dedicated to helping sick, injured and homeless pets, called Fat horse slim. Did you know that after colic the biggest cause of equine deaths is obesity related illnesses. Read the article here.

So since january we have had half term activities and Easter activities with camps and own a pony days and polocrosse…lots of polocrosse. Over winter we have been practicing polocrosse on foot and building up a large group of keen adults and children. In fact so keen that we led a polocrosse expedition to the Early Season Tournament.

And now the summer holidays are almost over and our programme of summer camps and activities nearly finished. So lets have a recap shall we?

After passing his forgework certificate Hamish has moved to Kent to work as a horse trainer for Jason Webb. You can find out all about Jason’s Australian Horsemanship by clicking here. He has also been playing plenty of polocrosse, including some a grade tournaments. he has also bought himself a new horse and so Indie is coming back to Scotland! So once again you will see his giraffe like shape in the fields.

This year we ran a record number of camps. Our polocrosse camp was very busy and timed so that we could get alot of training in before the start of the pony club home nations competition. This meant that the English schools hadn’t broken up so we didnt get any visitors from England.

And after the polocrosse camp we headed off to Chester for a week before pur Scottish Pony Club Polocrosse team took on the might of the Irish, Welsh and English. What a weekend that was. Any readers on facebook can see all the pictures and action on our facebook page Scottish Polocrosse Team. Our minis came third after a thrilling and exciting final match against Ireland. Our juniors came fourth. despite this they played brilliantly and kept on fighting the the very end. Not once did they start bickering or blaming each other.

The final game was over shadowed by an accident to John and he had to be taken off to A&E and then driven home as he was hit on the face and the blow damaged his eye and he didnt even get a goal on the board. But seriously, despite his iris changing colour the consultant thinks he will make a full recovery but he is off riding and polocrosse for at least the next 6 weeks.

So after the Home Nations it was a late night dash home from Chester on Sunday to get ready for Junior Pony Club camp. At this we covered feeding and grooming and all the riders were awarded to Pony Club achievement badges. We also awarded badges for the Pony club progressive tests.which was a first for us and very successful. the final day of camp was dressage tests and showjumping. Katie amd Beki did a great job scoring the tests and running the final day as well as celebrating freyas birthday. Meanwhile Shaun was driving to Worcestershire with Ru to play polocrosse. But not before waking Freya up very early to give her her birthday present….

..tot, curly and berry.

Next week its our final week long camp. Senior Pony Club Camp. Lots of camping, (hopefully) nice weather and swimming in the river and lots of horsey stuff. Then its back to school and Pony club championships. But more of that later..

How time flies..

So did you know..

…that based on the latest survey (2011) 3.5 million people in the UK had ridden a horse at least once in the previous 12 months and that there are an estimated 988,000 horses in the UK.

This got me thinking that that’s an awful lot of horses and probably as many opinions on the best way to keep a horse. So how do we know what is best for our horses…

Some people anthropomorphize their horses and treat them like people. They think that the horses are best kept separate from other horses and they like tucking them up at night in their own little bedrooms. And despite the horses often spending as much as 23 hours a day without their human owner they believe their horse somehow prefers human company to equine company.

Having 45 equines and years of experience looking after them we have no delusions about what our horses would like to be doing. But also we use the 5 freedoms to make decisions about our horses living conditions.

So what are these 5 freedoms. Well they are currently enacted in the animal welfare act and are summarised really well on the website

Freedom from hunger and thirst

Horses have evolved as trickle feeders, designed to be chewing/occupied by feed for a large portion of their day. Their digestive systems are primarily designed to digest fibre and, therefore, forage (hay/haylage/grass) should represent the majority of their diet.

Wild horses spend about 60% of their time eating. This compares to stabled competition horses kept in individual stables and fed rationed feed where only 15% of their time is spent eating. Although these horses usually receive good nutrition, their eating is done over 4-5 hours; a third of the time spent by wild horses who are free to graze at will (16-18 hours per day).

Ideally domesticated horses should have free access to fibre to allow them to eat for at least 16 hours per day and clean drinking water. So for as much of the year as possible our horses live out and are free to graze 24/7. In winter our ponies have hay in their field in 5 hay feeders and so with one feeder to 4 ponies they can easily get access to forage.

Freedom from discomfort

Horses evolved as a social species living in open plains where running away was their primary method of escape from predators. Today, horses still possess an inherent aversion to isolation and confinement. Research has shown that horses with free access to both pasture and to box stalls with bedding, hay and water, prefer pasture even during poor weather as long as some grass is available.

While horses do need some protection from the elements – shelter, trees, barn – they do not require warm housing and have been shown to be able to comfortably tolerate low temperatures. Horses naturally insulate themselves with their winter coats; however, horses with clipped coats may need rugs to maintain a comfortable body temperature. Anything that a horse wears, be it a rug, headcollar, bridle or saddle, needs to fit correctly and be cleaned regularly.

Horses that are in work should only be asked to do what they are capable of and what they enjoy.

At this time of year almost all our ponies and all our horses are rugged in order to protect them from the lowest temperatures. The fields that they roam in have undulating ground and natural shade and shelter via tree lines and high hedges. We don’t provide field shelters as these are often points of conflict and therefore can cause injury. But with 400m of tree line to shelter against on both sides of the field all the ponies can get shelter from rain and wind and extreme heat and sunlight (in summer)

Freedom from pain, injury and disease

It is important to make sure all reasonable steps are taken to prevent ill-health and to seek prompt veterinary care in the event of illness or injury.

Our vets (Loch Leven Equine) are super, come to the rescue in emergencies and are there to give sound advise to keep our herd of ponies and horses healthy.

Freedom from distress and fear

Horses evolved as a social species living in open plains where running away was their primary method of escape from predation. Movement and grazing will naturally dominate the majority of a horse’s time. Therefore, confining horses to individual stables or paddocks may be insufficient to meet their social and mental needs. Distress may result from lack of social interaction and space.

We keep our horses and ponies in large mixed sex herds in fields with as much space as possible for the animals to roam in. In summer we try to balance the needs of the animals to roam in as large a space as possible with the need to rest fields to allow the grass to grow. The horses have around 15 acres to roam through and the ponies the same. It is beautiful watching a herd of horses go for a mad gallop back and forwards across our fields.

Freedom to express natural behaviour

Chronic frustration from isolation, lack of social contact, lack of environmental enrichment and/or lack of stimulation can result in abnormal or stereotypic behaviours (‘stereotypies’). Abnormal behaviours include pacing, licking, eating or chewing of non-food objects. Stereotypies are repetitive behaviours horses use to cope with the abundance of time that would otherwise be spent grazing and socializing. Examples of stereotypies include crib biting, weaving, wind sucking, head tossing and head nodding. Unfortunately some stereotypies become learned behaviours that cannot be resolved, even after the horse has been removed from the environment that initially triggered the behaviour (e.g. wind sucking).

Once again we avoid isolating our horses and ponies in single animal paddocks even if this means that sometimes we have further to walk.

It is quite clear that the only way to keep equines in as natural an environment as possible and therefore give them the freedom to express natural behaviour which then keeps them free from distress and fear is to have large mixed sex herds roaming over as large a space as is available as they would in the wild

This however is what creates the clash between what humans want and what horses need. When an owner wants the horse kept in a small paddock by itself or with one companion pony to avoid herd injuries (which happen) or are fearful of leading their horse away or through a large herd of other horses but the horse wants the stability and protection of a herd. When the horse wants a large area to roam over but the owner doesnt have the time to walk a mile to catch their horse.

There are no easy solutions to these clashes. The way most people keep their horses is dictated by the practicalities of what their livery yard allows. However it is still useful for horse owners to have a very thorough knowledge of natural horse behaviour and then recognise that a horse as a prey animal will have different drivers from humans. Because the more we can understand horses the more we can learn to give them what they genuinely need and not what we may mistakenly believe they want…

So did you know..

Happy New Year..

..from everyone at Over Dalkeith Stables.

We know that this is a little bit late (it being the 11th of January already) but better later than never.

So 2017 kicked off with a polocrosse day on the Wednesday and a working riders day on the Friday.  The polocrosse day was a huge success.  We even got out and played some arena chukkas at the end.

The work rider day had our riders trying their hand on some of our more novice ponies.  Majik was ridden very successfully as was Baby George,  who Freya pointed out is no baby as he is the same age as her (13).  Majik was so successful that we had him ridden on saturday and he is being used tonight as well.  Baby George may well be starting work on saturday this week as well.

And this week everyone is back at school and after school lessons are back to normal and pony club is back on again after a break for the holidays and we are all looking forward to our new years resolutions.

And today we had SNOW.  Not quite the snowmageddon that the papers threatened us with but enough to make us glad that the feeders were full of hay. Some of the ponies were happy to stand around and eat hay..

..And then some where equally happy to play around in the snow..

Happy New Year..

What more can we say..

..from now on the days are getting longer and the nights shorter.

We finished our last Christmas party yesterday and so with only one day to go before Christmas day we are just getting the yard ready for our christmas eve gymkhana.  We have 17 riders coming to play on ponies.  The plan is instant win chocolate games (you win a race and you get a chocolate), a top score showjumping competition for rosettes and of course chocolate pairs.

The day is due to finish at 3pm and then it’s get all ready for Christmas day.  Ru has got the bit between his teeth and is coordinating our morning.  He reckons we can get all the yard duties done by 8.30 am and then we can spend the rest of the day doing Christmas.  We will let you kwo how that goes. 

What more can we say..

Look who visited us..

..on Saturday… our first day of Christmas Parties.  This year we started the parties on Saturday and will be running them all next week until Friday.  Santa could only make it to four of the parties as he was quite busy but we were very glad to see him.  Who knew Santa could ride a horse as well as fly a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

 And in other exciting news there are only 3 days until the shortest day.  Yippee!  The days are quite dark at the moment but we know that longer days are just around the corner.

So with only 3 days to the shortest day (did I mention that) we are into the final stretch before the schools break up for Christmas.  And our holiday activities are filling up fast.  The Christmas eve gymkhana is very busy and the Own a Pony Day is full (better get the pizza in for lunch).  We have a 3 day camp between Christmas and New Year and it’s very popular too.  With all this fun stuff I am going to have to get busy making rosettes this week so that we have plenty of red.rosettes for the winners (and blues, greens, yellows, purples and oranges).

Look who visited us..

Mollie has arrived.. New Zealand.  She has been really enjoying doing some work at the Wellington Indoor Riding Centre which is also a NZ Pony Club Member Centre just like us.

Anyway back at home we have rehoused our hens and ducks in the dairy and they will stay their for they the next 30 days.  Hopefully the Avian Influenza in Europe won’t spread over here but if it does or ducks and hens should be ok.  The ducks have got a paddling pool to swim in. Sadly they aren’t that bothered about it which is annoying ruaridh no end.

And obviously Christmas is coming and we have a packed programme of holiday activities..

..And anyone that keeps up with our Facebook page posts will be aware that we are now able to take payments by debit and credit cards.  Unfortunately only in person, we can’t take payments over the phone.

And for the feative period we have been given a lovely yard decoration.  A big thank you to Marley for her horsey wreath…

..It is lovely and anyone visiting us over the holidays will see this as they first come onto the yard.

Mollie has arrived..