We have had a number of young horses through our doors of late, and although they come in for a variety of different reasons, they often pose the same difficult question: to fix or not to fix? The answer of course lies in the nature of the problem.
For instance, one of our current post-kissing spines surgery cases is a five-year-old sports pony who is one deemed a good candidate for rehabilitation. It’s never good to encounter such a major issue at any age, but I think it can be even harder when they have almost no working life behind them. In these situations you have to make the decision as to whether their potential is a good enough to warrant substantial investment, as is the case with this pony, or rather that their issue means that they always struggle to perform at the required level.
Of all the things we encounter, chronic, degenerative and/or neurological conditions can be the most problematic to deal with and in these instances there can be some very hard decisions to make where young horses are concerned. This is where we very much rely on the knowledge and foresight of the vet to advise on matters of prognosis and suitability for that horse’s allotted role in life.
Most of our youngsters won’t yet have had much education in terms of their schooling, and so we have to remember that often we are teaching them things for the very first time. Some may not have been long reined before, others perhaps not even lunged much, so often we have to start from scratch (pictured top).
On the other hand, there are certain benefits to having a green horse to work with. Older horses can develop associations between pain and a certain exercise or activity; perhaps refusing to jump drop fences cross-country, having trouble popping through combinations cleanly, or difficulty stretching over wide oxers.
Conversely, if a young horse has been wrong from the outset, and has not yet been road-tested in a number of different situations, they can escape developing the same pain memory as more seasoned campaigners. Essentially, you take the pain away, put the education in and you have a clean slate to work from.
One step further is the very young horse, who hasn’t even been broken to ride prior to injuring itself. This is where the treadmill can be really handy, allowing us to put the straight-line exercise and hill work into them which might otherwise be done out hacking on an older horse, but is very difficult to achieve with an unbroken two- or three-year-old.
An Evening with Clare
I travelled down to Bath on Thursday last week to attend an Evening with Clare Balding, during which she talked about the contents of her new book Walking Home, including the inspiration behind it and a few more bits and pieces in between.
There’s no doubting that Clare is one of my heroes, and having read her first book I was hugely excited about the whole thing. My friend Alan and I went together and not knowing Bath very well, managed to park about 15 minutes’ walk from the venue. I walk a lot on a daily basis as you would expect, but I was in heels – not my greatest move – and so there we were, running late and tramping across Bath with me trying and failing to look elegant.
Alan spends his professional life constantly rushing around taking care of his illustrious string of horses at shows and so invariably goes everywhere at 100mph; as a result it got to the point where I was actually jogging alongside him to keep up! Bath has never seen the like I’m sure.
The event itself was great, and our host was just as captivating and entertaining in real life as she is on TV. I admire her ability to talk and write with such eloquence, but yet always allow the viewer or reader to feel as if you are on the same level as her.
Her talents as a presenter, progressing first from racing to now covering just about every sport there is, has brought her to the attention of mainstream audiences and she has towed her passion for horses along with her. I think the profile of equestrian sport has so much to thank Clare Balding for, long may she continue her success and to promote our disciplines and engage her viewers so brilliantly.
I’ve been up in Scotland again this week and have had the chance to further my carriage driving experience with my step-mum Nan and her pony Breeze.
The last time I was here we had her out on the long reins to deal with a few excitement-related issues and they have come on in leaps and bounds since. This time I was treated to a drive in the ‘Fun-bug’ as Nan calls it and it was so nice to see them now getting along so well together.
The most exciting bit came when we went through her mock driving trials section in the wood alongside the river at home – basically this just involves flying round corners and a natural water splash at high speed with a big grin on your face! It’s nice to hand over the reins to someone else once and a while and so good to see their partnership blossoming. I think they might have a big summer ahead of them next year.