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Trees around Horses

Posted by Katrina Boyd on
Yew Tree – lethal to horses

There are some things that just shouldn’t be anywhere nears horses, and one of this is yew trees. Often found in churchyards and producing beautiful specimens, nevertheless yews are lethal to horses and cattle and have been known to kill them in seconds. Horses have died with yew leaves in their jaws.

So if you have a yew tree anywhere near your paddock call a local tree surgeon to get it instantly removed as it’s just not worth the risk.

Another tree that can cause problems is oak. Horses often eat the young leaves, which probably won’t do any harm, but the danger comes in the autumn if they eat the acorns. A few are ok, but some horses get a taste for them so you need to fence off the trees or pick up the acorns regularly if you hear your horses crunching on them. The toxicity of acorns can build up in the horse’s body and damage their liver. Again, not worth the risk so make sure you act and protect your horses.

In Winchester, where we lived for a while, there was a company that specialised in inspection of horse paddocks. They had knowledge of any plants and shrubs that might cause upset to your equines and would remove things like ragwort that can make them sick. Winchester tree removal services would then be employed to fell any obnoxious trees to make the paddock safer.

Hedge cutting is another job that needs to be undertaken, particularly if hedging is the only boundary for your fields. Horses love to eat a variety of hedge plants but that may lead to destroying areas and creating gaps through which a horse may be able to push. Since your horses must be contained for their own protection, please ensure your hedges are always kept trimmed to ensure they remain solid and neat.

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A Home for your Horses

Posted by Katrina Boyd on

Although I like to keep horses in a natural environment whenever possible, there are times when they need a cosy home and that’s why I have a lovely block of stables. If they’re ill or the weather is atrocious, the horses appreciate having a dry building to call home. So we had a company that specialises in property renovation visit and convert our old barn into individual stables and a large open space.

The builders were quite surprised to be awarded this contract because they usually work on old houses, so this presented a unique challenge. First they drew up plans to convert the large space in the most efficient manner, then they set about dividing it into a large open-barn area at one end and individual stables at the other. The stables resemble an American Barn and are much more comfortable to work in than an open yard!

I suppose this is more-or-less the opposite of open-plan conversion – which is one of the things these guys do on a regular basis. They take a house with small rooms and knock down many of the internal walls to create a large, airy and functional space. Our barn started off with a large and airy space, albeit not particularly functional, and they turned it into smaller units to accommodate my precious animals. It was a different sort of challenge for these builders and they produced a fantastic results. I guess it made a change from house remodelling

Once you have the right type of building to house your horse, you need something to make it comfortable for standing and lying down. I use the new type of rubber mats that are soft to walk on. They’re much lighter than the more traditional mats so easier to move around, though they do tend to stretch so you may have to take them up again and trim. I believe the best type of flooring would be rubber floor made to fit the stable and fitted around the edge, but these are hideously expensive so unfortunately the budget doesn’t stretch!

On top of the matting I use miscanthus grass as bedding. You don’t need much and it’s very absorbent. I spread thinly and it soaks up the urine so you can remove a minimum of the grass. Miscanthus is a giant grass they often grow for biofuel. I’ve seen fields of it in Wales. They chop it into small lengths for bedding and it isn’t palatable to horses so won’t be eaten. I also like straw but find it too heavy and hard work to muck out, although I do like the fact that horses can top up on it if they want something to eat in the night.

Ultimately it’s down to personal preference which type of bedding you use – just make sure it’s comfortable enough for your horses to lie down if they wish.

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Looking After your Horses

Posted by Katrina Boyd on
Sturdy fences are essential

There are some important aspects of caring for horses and fencing is one of the most crucial, since escapees can cause danger to themselves and others.

Most horses will happily graze and wander around their pasture all day every day, provided there is enough grass and they aren’t looking for company. But once their grazing is depleted or they feel lonely, their attention starts to wander and they may well become escape artists. This seems to particularly apply to small ponies, who are especially adapt at getting under, through or over fences.

That’s when you need a local fence company to check out all the posts and rails to ensure your little darlings aren’t going to get into danger.

There are several types of fences suitable for horses, from traditional post-and-rail where the natural rails are fitted into the posts, making a nice looking and neat finish. These are more expensive than other types so are particularly suitable when sited near the house. The type of post-and-rail that are nailed together can be pretty strong too, though they use sawn rails, giving a more uniform look if that suits your property. This type of fence can be treated prior to erection, coated with creosote or similar, or painted, traditionally in white. This is pretty high maintenance though so if you hanker after a white fence you might want to consider composite fencing as opposed to wooden fencing

Many people incorporate wire into their fences, usually for practical reasons or because it’s cheap. It’s not something we would recommend, since wire seems to have an attraction for horses – and not in a good way!

Many years ago I had a small well-fenced paddock with post-and-rail fencing, but wire stock fencing had been added around the bottom to keep in the sheep we occasionally housed. All was well for several years until my ID/TB horse decided to roll close to the fence. Somehow she caught the wire between the shoe and hoof on one of her forelegs. Luckily I looked out of the window and saw her stuck there, but I have no idea how long she had been down. It could have been a lot worse if she’d panicked, but as it was it caused a nasty bout of colic, no doubt brought on by the stress of the situation.

Needless to say, the stock fencing was ripped off and I’ve never had it since.

But even the electric wire strung along the top of fencing often to stop horses chewing it can cause problems. At a livery yard another horse recently cut himself badly on some fencing that had become detached. Bad maintenance on the part of the yard manager, but it shows how horses can get themselves into trouble quite quickly – and that one is quite accident prone!

In my view, barbed wire is always an accident waiting to happen and I have no idea why you’d use it. Horses push against it and rub, often resulting in cuts to head, neck or legs. Just give it a miss and only keep horses if you can afford to fence them in properly.