Boxing Day Hunt

When it`s Christmas all routine goes out the window doesn`t it? The horses have to put up with coming in a bit earlier, going out later, no riding (not that they will complain about that!) and we don`t know if we`re coming or going.
I was lucky enough to have Christmas Day and Boxing Day off this year, so trying to work out family commitments, Christmas dinner time, the ins and outs of drinking and not driving, I came to the conclusion that the easiest thing would be, given that the weather, after Monday`s monsoon, was fine and warm, I decided that I would rug up my horse and he could stay out. I`m lucky in the fact that he enjoys living out and doesn`t stand by the gate. Also his field is well sheltered with woods on two sides. We also decided that with the logistics of having to go to family for a 3pm dinner time he would be better having a slightly bigger feed instead of having two (not massive, as we want to avoid colic. I think I gave him 2/3rds of a scoop of Alfa instead of 1/2 scoop). This would probably be the same on Boxing Day.

O usually lives in his field with two veterans, G and T, both of whom live out all year round and are semi-retired. G had 18 months of suspensory problems and is now sound enough to do gentle hacking. G`s owner tends to feed both G and T together as T`s owner works shifts.

Now on Christmas Eve I turned O out and then he had his hard feed dinner at lunch time, and we checked they had enough hay (a slice of hay in each builder`s bag lasts about three days at the moment!) It was then that G`s owners asked if I was around on Boxing Day and if I could help them out and feed G and T. I agreed instantly, it would make it easier to feed O. At the same time G`s owners offered to feed O on Christmas Day morning, as we would be most likely there at the same time. O is top dog in the field, T is next, and poor G is at the bottom.

So there I am Boxing Day morning, with a slightly sore head and a still full tummy, walking down to the field well laden with three buckets. I spot O and call him; he marches determinedly, closely followed by G.

“Oh.” I think “Where`s T?” I scan the field but I can`t see any sign of the dark bay. I feed the other two and they munch away companionably, not even looking at each other`s dinner. They`re quite well trained that a growl of their name as they glance at one of the other buckets and they instantly return to their own feed. I wander across the field, to see if I can find T, and to check their hay bags.

Loads of hay, but the gap in the fencing, secured by slip rails, which serves as a second gateway so that we can reduce the poaching at the front of the field, wasn`t closed properly. The bottom one was on the floor.

That`s when I started to panic. I ducked under and checked the main path of the woods. Where was T? There weren`t any anomalous hoofprints and the other two weren`t at all bothered. I managed to secure the slip rail and tried ringing T`s owner, who I knew was in London with family.

This is our conversation:

Me: Hi, I was just wondering if you know where T is? I`m at the field and he`s not there. The slip rail was off …
P: He`s not there? Oh the silly pony must have taken himself for a walk. What a monster he is.
Me: So no ones brought him in? When are you coming back?
P: Unfortunately I`m about two hours away. I`ll pootle back slowly and see if I can find him.
Me: [sigh] I`ll let you know if I find him.

Next I tried ringing the yard staff. No answer. I tried again, and thankfully got an answer.

Me: I`m at the field and I`m missing T. Do you know what`s going on?
M: Oh yes… I brought him in this morning. He`s hopping lame. He`s in the riding school barn. I`ve cold hosed and given him a bute.

Phew. Panic over.

I took a detour to the riding school barn on my way back to drop the feed buckets off and collected T to take him to his stable where I fed him, gave him hay and water before ringing his owner who said he would “poodle over” to check him that evening. Then I rang G’s owner to update him.

So the net result is that O is living out 24/7 to keep G company as G won’t live in and it’s bad for his arthritis. At the moment this isn’t a problem as I planned to give him a holiday over the festive period and am busy with family, but come Wednesday when I want to get back into the swing of riding and fittening us both we will have to find another solution to keep all the horses happy – I’m lucky O doesn’t mind being in or out and isn’t likely to lose weight when in the field.

Meanwhile, T is still lame in walk and has significant heat just below his pastern which is being cold hosed. If it’s going to be long term box rest then we will borrow a companion, possibly from the riding school, so that G has company in the field at night, and O can be worked and live in at night. Additionally G can be brought in as and when necessary. If T is likely to be back in the field within a week we will have to work something out so that I can still ride O.

The politics of sharing fields!

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