Tag Archive: horse care

  1. How to catch your horse in the field

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    Some horses, particularly those you have formed a bond with over time, will be easy to catch in a field. They might even walk up to you, aware that your pockets contain treats, and bow their head helpfully as you put on their headcollar. Others, though, can resent the fact that they need to leave their field, their companions and their tasty grass and at the first sign of a human entering their paddock they will move off in the opposite direction.

    So how should you catch your horse, and what do you need to be aware of to stay safe during the process?

    Be subtle

    The golden rule of catching any horse is never to look it in the eye. Bow your head, all the time keeping the horse in your sights, but don’t ‘eyeball’ him. In the wild, a horse would regard a human as a predator, so do everything gently and in an un-pressured way.

    Walk, don’t march

    Never march up to a horse aggressively but walk in a confident and relaxed manner. If he turns in the opposite direction as you get closer, slow your walk considerably. Approach him on the side he is used to being handled from.

    Have a handy bribe

    Offer a titbit with an outstretched hand, but again without looking your horse in the eye.

    Make good use of the headcollar

    If he is tricky to catch it might be a good idea to leave on a headcollar. If so, very gently get hold of the back of the noseband and attach the leadrope before you let him have the titbit. Never make sudden movements which could startle the horse and cause him to rear or gallop off. If you are dealing with a particularly volatile horse, don’t clip the rope, but slide it over the back of the noseband and lead him with both ends — that way if he does pull away and you can’t hold on, the rope will slip off safely.

    If the horse isn’t wearing a halter, to catch him carefully slide the rope around his neck, hold both ends securely under his neck and gently put on the headcollar — then give him the titbit. Stand on his left side, never in front, as you put on the halter.

    Take your time

    If your horse is particularly reluctant to be caught, spend time going out to the field, giving him a titbit, putting on the headcollar, leading him around with no pressure and then letting him go again. Alternatively, try just giving him a rub with the headcollar (not even putting it on), a tasty reward and then leaving the field. He will soon understand that being approached and caught isn’t anything to be afraid of — especially when a tasty carrot or apple is involved. By doing this you are helping to defuse the predator/prey relationship.

    Consider some Parelli techniques

    You could take this approach further and try the Parelli method of rubbing the end of the lead rope over the horse’s body for enjoyment, before tossing it over his body so that he loses fear of it. See www.parelli.com for further stages of the process.

    Use reverse psychology

    Also try turning away from your horse when he turns from you. If you have food in your hand, especially something that he can see, he will probably relent and come looking for it. It may sound unlikely but it really does work.

    Try, and try again

    If you’re really struggling to catch your horse, go away for half an hour and return again, employing the same method explained above. He may now be in a more cooperative frame of mind.

    Don’t act like a predator

    Never chase a horse you are trying to catch, use aggressive behaviour, corner him or hit out at him — you will only make a bad situation even worse. If nothing seems to work, consult your trainer.

    …and put safety first

    Remember, always wear a safety helmet when catching a horse. Accidents can and do happen in the field.

  2. The 5 great fly-repellent products that help you protect your horse

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    Summer is here at last and we can look forward to long evening rides and lazy weekend hacks in the sunshine. There’s one drawback to the warm weather—pesky flies—but a good fly rug, a mask and a spray can work wonders to help you keep the pests at bay. Here’s our pick of great fly-repellent products for the new season.—and you can find out more on how to protect your horse from flies with our top tips.

    dh elite fly rugDerby House Elite fly-stopper rug, £45

    Light and comfortable, this stylish, seamless fly rug, which has a 300 denier inter-locking mesh outer and nylon crest and shoulder linings, will keep the flies at bay while keeping your horse cool even in very warm summer days. A large nylon lined tail flap ensures additional protection. The double-buckle and clip chest fastening, the four touch-and-close loop fastening on the neck and the low adjustable cross surcingles make it easy to fit the rug. Now discounted to £45 from £89.99, the Derby House Elite Fly Rug offers excellent value.

    weatherbeeta fly maskWeatherbeeta Genero fly mask, £12.99

    Made of soft, light mesh, this fabulous fly mask protects your horse’s eyes and ears while remaining fully breathable. The adjustable touch tape closure makes it easy to put on. It’s available in a classic grey and blue combo or a funkier silver and pink. £12.99.

    deet fly gelNaf-Off Deet power fly gel, £15.99

    This water-based, fly-repellent gel, which contains DEET, gives all-day protection against insects. Just apply a small amount on your horse with a sponge and spread evenly. £15.99

    fly repellent sprayLincoln Classic fly-repellent spray, £13.99

    This handy, solvent-based spray has a long-lasting formula—one application should last up to 12 hours in normal condition. It can be applied by cloth, sponge or spray in all areas affected by flies. It contains DEET and the new generation fly repellent PMD. £13.99.

    naf off extra effectNaf-Off extra effect spray, £6

    This powerful, water-based spray is ready for use and provides an effective protection against flies. It can be applies easily by spraying it evenly on your horse. £6.

  3. How to handle a difficult horse

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    Horses come in all shapes and sizes — and with many temperaments. Just like people, each one is different and the key from the outset when you are teaming up with a new horse is to choose one that matches your level of ability.

    Despite this, however, you can still end up with a horse who is hot to handle. If you are a complete beginner, it is a seriously bad idea to take on a strong, pushy or aggressive horse — resist no matter how tempted you are. A lack of knowledge on your part could turn an already tricky equine into one who becomes impossible and even dangerous.

    It is imperative that you have experience if you want to work with an unruly horse. But even the most seasoned horseperson will sometimes need to seek advice from an accredited instructor. Depending on your circumstances, it may be a good idea to attend a natural horsemanship clinic.

    There are also many examples of well-known riders who have tried ‘natural’ methods with hard to handle horses, German Olympic eventer Bettina Hoy being one particularly famous example.

    But why do horses behave badly and how should you handle an uncooperative one?

    Ask yourself why your horse is naughty

    Is it something that you are doing or has he had a difficult past? Some horses behave as they do because they have been cruelly treated, whipped or beaten or simply trained by someone with a poor understanding. Once you pin down the reason you will be in a better position to deal with the horse.

    Don’t rush things

    Patience will reap rewards, as will a quiet approach at all times. The more time you spend in his company, the more your horse will learn that he can trust you. Groom him and also talk to him and reward him for good behaviour. However, always be firm. Don’t let the horse think that he can get away with bad manners.

    Do the ground work

    Make the work you do on the ground part of your horse’s overall schooling programme — some will initially need far more work on the ground than under saddle, so be prepared for this. Finish any training on the ground on a good note, but if you feel you are getting nowhere seek expert advice as soon as possible.

    Teach him using pressure and release

    Don’t stress him, and reward him with instant release when he responds in the right way. Some ‘natural horsemanship’ practitioners recommend using rope halters with an extra long rope. Monty Roberts’ Dually headcollar is also popular: when the horse responds in the right way it stays loose, but it tightens when he misbehaves. Take lessons, though, and practise on well-behaved horses before you use it on your tricky one.

    Go easy on the bit

    Don’t be tempted to use harsh bits to control your horse from the ground. There are no shortcuts to time, patience and sympathetic training.

    Keep it quiet

    Initially train your horse in quiet, stress-free situations and only when he responds to the pressure and release system introduce him to busier, more buzzy, environments.

    Avoid eye contact

    Never look a nervous horse in the eye — it is a sign of aggression.

    Stay safe

    Wear the right equipment, particularly a hard hat secured with a strap.

    Think tail bandage

    If you tie up a horse who has a tendency to pull back or misbehave, use a tail bandage between the tie ring and the rope.

    Turn out your horse as much as possible

    Ideally, a difficult horse should be turned out 24/7. One who is cooped up in his stable for 23 hours a day is bound to have pent-up, nervous energy and be more difficult to handle.

    Consider a calmer

    Although they should not be seen as a miracle cure or be used in isolation, some natural calmers on the market may help certain horses.

  4. Ragwort: how to deal with it and keep your horse safe

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    With its bright, sunshine yellow flowers ragwort is as attractive as weeds get — but it’s deadly for your horse. The plant takes advantage of bare patches of ground and areas of poor grass cover and germinates. Unfortunately, horses expose soil in areas where they roll; where they are short of grazing, they will eat the grass down close to the ground and they can cut up a field, especially in wet conditions, with their hooves, particularly those that are shod — all of which create opportunities for ragwort to thrive.

    Insects, such as bees and butterflies benefit from ragwort, so there is never going to be a wholesale poisoning of it sanctioned, so what can you do when faced with it on your land?

    How to prevent your horse eating ragwort

    Be aware

    Ragwort tends to be quite high — generally up to knee height — with a straight, thick stem and a cluster of bright yellow flowers at the top that look not unlike large daisies. Horses generally won’t eat it out of choice because when alive it tastes bitter — although it does become more palatable as it wilts. Therefore be aware that dried ragwort in hay could also be eaten because the horse is likely to be unaware of its presence.

    Dig for Britain!

    If you spot ragwort growing in your horse’s pasture, don’t just pull it up, but dig out all the roots before it seeds, so that there is no chance of it spreading. Wear gloves while doing so and afterwards burn the plant (see bhs.org.uk for more information on how to remove and dispose of the weed). In extreme cases you may need to use a herbicide, but avoid this if possible as it may make patches of your paddock toxic for a period.

    Keep your horse nourished

    Horses who are hungry, with a shortage of grass in their paddocks, are the most likely to eat ragwort, so always ensure that yours has plenty to eat, as well as pulling up any ragwort you spot. By doing so, your horse will stay safe from this poisonous weed.

    Help! I think my horse has eaten ragwort

    Recognising ragwort poisoning

    Most horses can eat a bite of ragwort and suffer no lasting ill effects, although a few liver cells are damaged every time. Regular consumption of large quantities of ragwort’s toxic compounds (pyrrolizidine alkaloids), though, can cause liver failure as the organ loses its ability to regenerate cells. The result of this will be death.

    Sometimes there are no signs of poisoning, which is why ragwort is called the ‘silent killer’. On occasions, it shares the same signs with other causes of liver disease, and because few post mortems are carried out, many horse owners never find out what prompted their horse’s death. When signs of ragwort poisoning are apparent, they include a loss of weight as well as loss of sparkle, appetite and shiny coat. As his condition worsens the horse may exhibit colic, diarrhoea or jaundice, with yellowing of the skin, whites of his eyes and gums. He may also suffer from depressive behaviour, circling, aggressive tendencies or seizures.

    Diagnosis and treatment

    Your vet will be able to arrange for your horse to have a blood test or ultrasound scan, which will show if his liver is damaged, but not if ragwort is the cause. If your horse has liver failure — or 70% of the liver is damaged — the prognosis is generally poor as cell damage cannot be reversed.