5Photos1Day: February #HorseBloggers Challenge

This month, I took up the challenge set by Sam from Haynet blog to post five photos in a single day that give insight into typical daily life. Since Instagramming photos of the pony and dog is one of my favourite things at the moment I jumped at this challenge! I decided to take the challenge on a weekend day, as they’re much more fun and less likely to be 80% photos of coffee! I also quizzed my bemused husband on whether he thought a photo of ‘x’ or ‘y’ seemed more appropriate in an attempt to make a plan. In the end though, I think the photos were more or less organic and they’re definitely a good representation of my weekends!

Here we go with photo number 1! This is how literally every day starts: tea and doggy cuddles. The mug was a leaving gift from my previous job, most office colleagues seem endlessly confused by the early starts and the mucking out involved in horse ownership, so this comedy mug is a perfect representation of how they see me! Spider pup is a bit of a lapdog, despite his tough exterior when we’re out and about, so no cup of tea is permitted in our house without a small dog sat on you!

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Photo 2, shows the real “glamour” of horse ownership, ha! It’s raining and I’m pushing a wheelbarrow of muck through ankle deep mud. Glorious. The things we do for the animals we love! I like to get my all my jobs out the way first thing when I arrive at the yard, it’s a good way of warming up and means that when I get to riding I can enjoy it without a million tasks in my head for when I get back. For Starks, it means he gets to mooch about in his field for a few hours stretching off after a night in the stable before working as well.

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Photo 3 is what it’s all about for many of us, the riding! As you can tell from Ginge’s wet ears, it was definitely a rainy day, but luckily for us it slowed right down for our little plod around the village. I was really proud of us this day as it was our first time hacking out alone for quite a while. I’m a big baby about hacking out alone and try to avoid it if I’m honest. I’m not entirely sure why as Starks is normally pretty good hacking out. We had a bit of a nappy phase about a year ago and an incident where he turned into a rodeo horse in an open field and I’ve not fully trusted him since. This is probably sensible, as you really never know with horses even if they’re usually the safest plod on the planet. However, he was school tired for this week and I really fancied an outing, so with no one to go with us I text my husband a route and estimated return time (just in case), covered us in hi-viz and off we went. Ginge was a perfect gent, of course, and once I relaxed I think we both enjoyed ourselves. It was quite a nice experience actually, just the two of us spending some quality time together. Since I wasn’t busy gossiping, I got to actually admire the beauty of our lovely Cotswold surroundings and since I wasn’t hurrying him along Ginge got to enjoy having a good nose and trying to go down everyone’s driveways. Bliss!

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Photo 4 is another insight into our home life. My husband and I bought a 1970s house, which had remained unchanged since then, two years ago and have been slowly making it our own. Very talented husband has done most of the house without any practical input from me, but very occasionally I get involved and help with a spot of painting. We’re doing the hallway at the moment – an exciting point that means we’ve finished upstairs and we’re moving onto the ground floor – so I helped by diligently painting the middles of all the walls on a rainy afternoon.

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The final photo of the day is another of my lovely ginger boy. I brought him in early out of the rain, as he seemed particularly unhappy about it today. He used to live out 24/7 during the winter, but these days he seems to quite like his home comforts. Here he is all snug in his stable rug (which is filthy because he is endlessly scruffy) munching on a fibre block. He doesn’t get these very often, but if he needs a bit of extra stable time he has them as a boredom buster. He’s no fool so he makes short work of them despite the small net by crushing them and eating them off the floor. I think I’d have to find something a bit more involved to keep him occupied if he ever had to spend a real extended period of time indoors. The real bonus is that the extra fibre and vitamins is really beneficial for him at this time of year when we’re low on grass and starting to feel like it has been winter forever!

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Well, that’s pretty much me – who else is taking the challenge?

Dogs at Equestrian Events

As horse owners we tend to be animal lovers. I don’t know the actual statistics on how many horse owners also have dogs (or indeed any other animal), but in my experience it is quite a high proportion of us. I’m sure that we’ve all had the dream of hacking out with our faithful canine happily trotting alongside, but sadly the reality often is that horses and dogs aren’t always the best of friends. According to the British Horse Society, there has been a great increase in reports of dog attacks on horses recently and I have definitely noticed increased controversy around our canine companions attending equestrian events. I attended both Withington Manor Horse Trials and Gatcombe Festival of Eventing as a spectator this year and at both events there was chaos at least once when a loose dog chased a combination on the cross country phase. This has resulted in a few calls for dogs to be banned from attending equestrian events for everyone’s safety. Olivia Wilmot talked to Horse and Hound¬†about her anger after being chased by a dog at Gatcombe last year, she may not have been hurt but it is hardly optimum competing conditions. Others argue that a few incidents like this shouldn’t be allowed to ruin it for the hundreds of well behaved dogs and their responsible owners who attend these events safely every year. Luckily, I didn’t see anyone actually get hurt, but even one accident would be one too many!

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From personal experience, as the owner of a rescued Jack Russell Terrier, I’ve been working hard to teach my dog about responsible behaviour around horses. I still wouldn’t trust him off the lead around them, but he’s basically fine now on the yard and when he sees them hacking while we’re walking. Poor, tolerant Ginge has been brilliant during the desensitisation process. He has come with us on walks and I’ve hacked round the field with my partner leading the dog nearby – we’ve done a fairly good job at convincing him that horses are extremely boring and not worth barking at.

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I still prefer not taking him to equestrian events though and generally speaking I just don’t do it. I was talked into giving him a try at attending Gatcombe this year, I had tickets for my birthday and everyone we would normally have left him with was away. His best doggy friend, Barney, was coming along too and we hoped they would just be quiet together. Honestly, I won’t be taking him again. I’m not sure it was an enjoyable outing for either of us. It turns out, despite all our hard work and training there are two things that are just too much for my tiny dog to cope with: clapping and horses galloping. You can expect both of these things at an event and he handled it as many terriers would – with a lot of barking. As a result, I spent the whole day consoling or attempting to discipline the dog (neither worked) and did a lot of laps of the car park or shopping areas to steer clear of the horses and riders. I saw very little eventing and came home exhausted with a headache. Not an experience I plan on repeating.

There were plenty of dogs there, including terriers, who behaved perfectly all day of course. I may be banning my own dog from attending equestrian events, but I don’t think this needs to apply to all dogs. It just needs us as dog owners to act responsibly and decide the best course of action as individuals to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable experience. As much as we love to have them with us everywhere, sometimes the best choice for everyone is to leave them behind with a responsible adult. I was disappointed to miss out on the action at Gatcombe to retreat to a safe place with the dog, but I was more comfortable leaving and missing out than stressing him out and taking the risk of causing an accident on the course. I think we’ll be sticking to our quiet country walks in future – I hope other people make responsible choices about what suits their pooches too.

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