Otis is still enjoying his life of leisure, but I thought my blog has been devoid of pictures of him recently, and you deserve an update.

He spent all summer in an extremely large field with half a dozen geldings of a similar size, very happy and very fat. Then in the winter they moved to a slightly smaller field, had ad lib hay, and he remained unrugged and very hairy until the snow came.

However, the last few months I’ve been in a bit of a pickle and quite stressed about him.

During the summer it was fine; I could drive across the expansive field to find him, give him some cuddles and grooming whilst Mallory stayed in the car. I just had to be aware of the aptly named Rhino trying to scratch his bum on my car. It was a special trip to go and visit him as I wasn’t working, but I could manage it three times a week.

But when I started working I was finding it harder to juggle things. One day a week I was working in the area, so could easily swing by and visit. But I had to find time to make a special trip over to see him on the other days. This coincided with them moving to winter grazing, which meant I had to walk through a field to get to his field. Add in a less patient baby, and I was finding that I was rushing across to Otis, briefly patting his nose before racing back; feeling guilty I wasn’t spending enough time with him and feeling guilty I’d left Mallory in the car, invariably getting upset by the time I returned.

Otis was in a field with older geldings, of a less hardy nature, so they’ve been fed very good quality hay all winter and I’ve been watching his waistline expand rather than him shedding the excess fat he needs to before the spring grass arrives.

So I’ve been surprisingly stressed out about everything. I considered moving him to Phoenix’s yard, but as they have to live in at night over winter I didn’t think it was that fair on Otis. Plus it’s more work for me, which could prove difficult to balance on a daily basis. I was relying heavily on two very good friends to keep an eye on Otis when they checked their horse, which I also felt guilty about and knew it wasn’t sustainable as he is mine and my responsibility.

I spoke to a couple of friends at Phoenix’s yard to see if they had any suggestions, and last week I was put in touch with a family who have a couple of ponies and were looking for a companion to help keep the grass down.

I went and had a look at the field, a couple of minutes down the road from Phoenix, and very quickly realised it solved all my problems.

Living with ponies will help Otis’s waistline because they won’t be fed such high quality hay, or ad lib. One of the ponies likes to play so there will be more physical activity for Otis. They get a bucket feed every morning, only chaff, which is a nice routine for them to have and stops them getting too feral. The field is next to a lane so there is plenty to see – school kids stroking them on their way home, for example. For a sociable horse like Otis, I think he’ll enjoy the stimulation. There’s a couple of old stables so I can separate him easily for grooming, vet, dentist and farrier. I can also park the car just inside the field, which is much easier for me to juggle horses and baby, and having smaller equines in the field means I can carry Mallory to say hello to Otis, who seems to have a soft spot for her and lets her stroke his nose and giggle as his breath whoofs her face.

In terms of the chores arrangement, there are three owners (me included) who take it in turns to feed Otis and the four ponies, and to poo pick the field. Which suits me perfectly. I can manage this two or three times a week. Even if I don’t groom him, I’m involved in his care, get to have cuddles with him, and being so close to Phoenix I can easily pop over if I get a free half hour. Like I did today, when I gave him a thorough groom and cut six inches off the bottom of his tail!

After just a week I feel Otis has lost a bit of weight, so I’m hopeful for spring as laminitis was a real concern for me. I can also feel our bond coming back, so I’m looking forwards to being able to spend more time with him. He’s still limpy, but hopefully the fact he’s carrying less weight will help him not be quite so limpy. His hooves have really changed shape by being barefoot, with a much wider heel. This was what the vet wanted me to improve via shoeing to reduce the pressure in the sidebone area, so I hope that whilst he may not become sound, he is more comfortable in his feet. I’ll have to do another blog about that once I’ve worked out how to increase my media allowance on WordPress…

So yes, all change for Otis, but hopefully for the best. I know I feel like a weight has been lifted from my mind.

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