Only slight regrets
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By Amy Worley, Features Commissioning Editor at CJS
In December my family took on two loan ponies; Cossack is a 12 year old fell pony, the breed is native to the North of England, and are mostly found in Cumbria; Shelly is a 20 year old cob – a draft type pony where the name determines the body type rather than a specific breed. (loaning a pony means we are able to care for them which does include all the costs, but ownership is retained and we can hand them back to the owner when they’ve outgrown us or they need to retire)
Recently we were lucky enough to move them closer to home, out of livery and on to our own land.
The downsides of having a pony:
- They are heavy, very heavy so chew up the land when it’s wet. You need an area of hardstanding for the winter months so they don’t create a mud bath and end up with mud fever or bog rot (yes!)
- They cost a lot of money in bedding, vets bills, shoeing and feeding (they eat all the time which correlates into many movements at the other end)
- They require a lot of time – mucking out, filling haynets, filling water buckets, picking the stones out of their feet, grooming and checking
- They are strong, very strong – if they don’t want to have their hooves cleaned out you’ve got a battle on your hands and sore muscles at the end of the day.
Oh dear, I appear to be putting you all off keeping horses, but then there are the benefits we receive from being around them.
The rides we can go on from the field are numerous, vary in length and can always incorporate a canter. The wind on your face as you sit astride a living beast – the feeling is second to none.
Animals can offer an extraordinary amount of emotional support, just the act of stroking them will calm the breathing and lead to a sense of wellbeing. Indeed, horses are increasingly being used in emotional therapy such as with organisations like Horse Time
The horses are teaching my children empathy, responsibility, perseverance (with the hoof cleaning) and problem solving. The children are developing trust in themselves, confidence in their own abilities and self-esteem.
Looking after the horses also gets us all outside, active and off a screen. In my opinion too much time is spent staring at one device or another. In caring for a pet, you spend time doing something physical, maybe you need to walk the dog, perhaps clean out the ferret or pick grass for the rabbit.
The horse care can be quite physically demanding – lugging bales of hay, struggling to keep that foot up for the picking out of the hoof, carrying heavy buckets of water and the running after the horses when someone else is riding yours. I’m working at building up the children’s stamina because the current generation seem to have very little.
The slight regrets, I feel will clear when they are out at grass and need less work, but return in winter when the dark wet nights mean it’s not so much fun.
So, if you’re thinking of getting a pet this National Pet Month, consider the work involved and make sure you are able to commit the time and energy needed in looking after them well. But just remember they give us far more than we need to give them.
What about working with animals? There are many professions where you can get hands on with animals – wild and pets. Find out more at https://www.countryside-jobs.com/animal-care/
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