Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Start as you mean to go on

I've been meaning to write a proper post about Bryher for a while, because there is nothing better than bringing on a youngster to get you thinking about how you manage your own horses. I've also been asked about his routine and he certainly deserves his own post, so here goes.
Bryher (and his mum, Tegan) arrived last September, when he was just 10 weeks old, and with a bit of luck he will be here for very many years to come. One thing is for sure - we won't be able to blame anyone else for how he turns out. On his sire's side he is related to our old horse, Ghost - he was by a TB stallion called Hill Farmer who is Bryher's great-great-grandfather - and he seems to have the same bold outlook on life! 
Like all the horses here, Bryher spends part of his time on the tracks and on tougher terrain, as well as having turnout in the fields. He has access to ad lib haylage when he can't get grass and has the same feed (albeit in smaller quantities) and minerals as the adult horses. 
He really enjoys coming in for his breakfast and tea, as you can tell (Charlie is in front - always hungry...). 
He has his own family group, with "older brother" Charlie, patriarch Felix, mad aunt Bailey and of course his mum, who give him confidence but also keep him in line. Its nice to see that he is bold enough to head off on his own, too, once in a while. For instance, he was the first to cross the new bridge on his own and weaning him was a non-event as he was already independent and happy to leave his mum and live with the boys.
Being on the tracks allows his feet the chance to become much stronger than if he were just in a field and the varied terrain gives him all sorts of challenges, like steep slopes, bridges and banks, which help his proprioception and balance. 
Being brought in and fed twice a day gives him regular, low key handling, so its no big deal to groom him, pick his feet out or lead him on the ground or from another horse. He is happy to get on the lorry or stand for the vet and has even met the equine dentist. 
Spending time on the track and in the yards and barn also means he encounters new horses, tractors, chainsaws, trucks, quad-bikes, strimmers, and all the other noisy paraphernalia of the farm. He is intensely curious and as the other horses aren't bothered, nor is he - in fact he finds it all rather fascinating and has a tremendous tendency to stick his nose everywhere...
I know some people say that they just want their youngsters to be brought up "naturally" and to just "be a horse". That's often interpreted as basically leaving them in a field until they are big enough and old enough to back but if we look at what it really means to "be a horse" then I think there is a lot more to it - even for a youngster.
It would be "natural" for Bryher to cover as many miles per day as the adult horses - in the wild foals need to keep up with the herd and not only cover big distances but stay alert and learn all the time. Of course our adult horses are in ridden work and Bryher isn't but even in a domestic environment we can give him the chance to use his brain and his body; we can take him exploring with us when the older horses go out on exercise. 
We all know how important it is to socialise puppies and expose them to lots of different situations in order for them to be well-adjusted, confident adult dogs. For me, its no different with Bryher and it will make life easier and more rewarding for him later on if he has the chance to learn good "social skills" not just with other horses but with us and the outside world too.
Bryher won't go as far or as fast as the older horses, of course, but extra mileage is not only great for hooves and will enable him to become healthier and stronger, it also makes life more interesting for him. He is a nosy parker and very confident so these sorts of short trips should also stop him from becoming bored and give him the chance to "see the world".

10 comments:

uh said...

Would love to see some hoof pics :-)

Helen Barnes said...

Brilliant, I always take my babies out with the older horses too. Wish we had our own bridge though ;-)

Nic Barker said...

I'll do a hoof blog for him one day when its not so manic here :-)

Yep, Helen, obstacles are fun and when its as steep and wet as here bridges are required - we have 3, though the new one is the biggest(!)

aspireequestrian said...

Super post I was very curious about him too :) He has a fab life!

cptrayes said...
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cptrayes said...

Hill Farmer also being grandfather to Radar, my massive grasshopper :-)

I have never understood the argument, common among get older people in Cheshire, that it is best to leave them untouched for three years and then suddenly expect them to be handled and ridden.

C

cptrayes said...

Hedgehopper!!!!!

Hen said...

Please will you post some hoof pics? Would love to see the differences with my colt - this baby's lifestyle sounds fantastic!

Nic Barker said...

C, I didn't realise about Radar :-) All the HF stock seem to be incredible jumpers and go on and on for years - lots of his progeny still going strong in their twenties despite being big horses :-) Remote connection with Bryher, of course but at least its there!

M's mum said...

great post, thanks - lots of questions answered. Another vote for hoof pics please...