After a pretty long battle, I finally succumbed to the weather and brought the horses inside.
I lost my ‘heart horse’ (Henry) at a young age, 15, and I feel strongly that his cause of death would have been preventable had he been given adequate turnout. In the UK it is common practise to stable horses for a large part of the year, and moving to New Zealand (although a massive culture shock at first) has shown me how much happier and healthier horses are with 24/7 turnout – which is the common practise here.
The almost across-the-board all-year turnout available for horses in New Zealand has given them a reputation overseas for being well developed, adaptable and sound.
Many years ago, I used to love winter. It meant for deep straw beds and snuggly stable rugs.
Each Christmas I would get a new ‘Masta’ stable rug for Henry. It was the first item on my Christmas wish list and I could pick that present from the others in the space of seconds; and once I’d ripped off the wrapping paper I’d be itching to get to the stables to muck out and try it on him. It was family tradition to take hot buttered toast to the horses on Christmas morning, and muck them out together as a family. I therefore have really fond memories of warm and toasty horses tucked away in their boxes, and out of the elements.
I won’t go into the details of Henry’s death, but my thoughts on stabled horses took a big u-turn probably a whole year after moving to New Zealand. These days it has to be really severe weather for me to bring my horses inside, and that is only because my paddocks are tiny. It takes thirty minutes to completely turn them upside down from grass to entirely soil when it’s wet; fifteen minutes if Kiri is involved. When the horses are out in the big paddocks, they’ll happily stay out in downpours with their rugs on. And they don’t mind it one bit.
My old self would see horses out in the rain over winter and think New Zealanders were a bit rough on their pets, but I’m starting to differentiate between horses and humans as I get older and have come to realise that horses don’t mind rain. Humans do, but we don’t care much for eating grass straight out of the soil either.
This year is the first year I’ve been really close minded about bringing the horses inside, and I’ve done really well until now. We’ve had some pretty crappy weather over the past few weeks, but have been lucky enough that it’s only been the odd day of rain between several dry days. The paddocks have held up nice enough – although I did have to tape off the gateways, which have sunken slightly over the years thanks to many a hungry horse waiting patiently for its’ dinner by the gate.
My gumboots are always fair game to the mud in that area, but behind where I’d taped has been dry enough.
Today though, my two paddocks were 50% under water and if I wanted them to last until mid-July I knew I’d have to get the horses off them. So, despite telling the grazing manager that I wouldn’t be using the boxes, I ended up bringing everyone in. Luckily I had emptied my four stables out completely and refilled them with fresh shavings “just in case”.
I’ve been saving my big paddock for as long as possible, so once uni starts again (I’m on holidays at the moment) they’ll have enough shelter and space to stay out even in the worst rainfall. I imported some decent rugs from the UK so they’ll be plenty warm enough. Two weeks of intermittent stabling can’t do too much damage, right? And I’ll definitely enjoy the reduced grooming time before lessons!
“Perhaps a hot coffee will help me warm up?” says Buzz.
I think the last thing this OTTB needs is caffeine. But he does look hella cute when he’s being hopeful, right?