In Praise of Poo Picking!

I’m not going to pretend for a second that I enjoy the seemingly never-ending task of poo picking Starky’s fields. Especially in winter, when the wheelbarrow gets stuck in the mud at the field gate and you are freezing! It is a necessary chore though, that I try to do regularly (except in the very worst weather) and here are a few reasons why your horse and paddock will thank you for it – and you might even enjoy the odd moment!

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Say No to Worms – More and more equestrians move towards faecal egg counts to avoid over-use of wormers. Poo picking and good pasture management is a great way to help make sure your horses worm count is as low as can be. It seems pretty obvious that the more hygienic your horses paddock is, the more likely it is that they’ll avoid picking up a worm burden. Healthy horses = happy owners! It also helps with saving the pennies as an egg count is much cheaper than a wormer, so if you don’t need to worm your horse when the results come back then you are on to a winner!

Better Grazing – another clear benefit is that poo picking helps the grass recover quicker. Grass is never going to grow while it is suffocated under piles of horse poo, so clear it away regularly and give it a better chance of recovering. This is particularly important on our winter paddocks, they get trashed so quickly with the weather and enthusiastic horses so any chance we can give them to recover ready for next season seems sensible. The clearer the paddock is, the easier it is for our ponies to find grazing spots. It always amazes me how Starky seems to find something to graze on in the sparsest fields, but I want to give him the best possible chance of finding the good stuff! In the summer, it is also a chance to inspect the fields for ragwort and other field invaders and to get rid of it early.

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Flies – writing in January, flies seem like a distant memory, but in summer the struggle is real and they will swarm around the horse poo in your paddocks and bother your horse incessantly. There seems like there’s no getting rid of them, but less poo in your paddocks will certainly help ease the issue!

Spending time with your horseĀ  – one of the things I actually enjoy about poo picking is spending time with Starky out in his field. It is great for our bond to spend time around him without wanting anything from him. He gets to choose whether he wants to investigate what I’m doing and spend time around me, or not. He gets to go about his business without seeing me as the annoying human that’s always trying to either clean him or ride him! I might as well make myself useful while I’m out there, especially as in the winter it’s a bit too cold to just stand around. Photos look better when it’s your horse out in a beautiful green field than surrounded by piles of poo as well!

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Rider fitness goals – poo picking is surprisingly hard work! Any extra time spent on your feet and on the move is good for general fitness and doing it with a wheelbarrow of horse muck in tow adds a bit of resistance. All good news on the quest for rider fitness. With Starks and I aiming for affiliated dressage this year, I should probably pull my weight on the getting in shape side of things. He has got fit a lot quicker than me this year so I’ve got some work to do if I’m going to play my part in our team!

So there you have it, poo picking may not be the most fun you’ll have in your equestrian life, but it has a lot of benefits for your four legged best friend. That’s how I keep myself motivated when I’m getting covered in mud up to my knees anyway!

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Coping with rider injury

Three weeks has passed since I was cruelly banned from riding due to an unfortunate yard accident. To add insult to injury of course it wasn’t even a dramatic accident, so no exciting story to tell. I was turning my friend’s mare out for the night and she took offence at a child on a trampoline, spooked and landed unceremoniously on my foot. Four hours in A&E and a plaster cast later, I find myself confined to the sofa with no riding on the horizon. Just as the ginger beast is starting to go really nicely and I was filling the diary with plans for fun rides, jumping clinics, dressage tests and maybe a camp at Hartpury over my birthday weekend. Luckily fracture clinic were less doom and gloom than A&E, so the good news is I now have a protective boot instead of a cast and am hopefully only another two weeks away from being back in the saddle. Of course, I have my beloved, old-faithful Harry Hall jodhpur boots to thank for things not being worse. Always wear the right protective gear around the yard, accidents like these can happen in a heartbeat and we have all seen the photographs in Horse & Hound of what happens if you are wearing flip flops when they do!

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Nothing more flattering than hospital pjs!

The first tip I have for coping with injury is make sure the yard has a good human first aid kit! I was so unprepared for incident that I ended up borrowing from ginge. I’ve been treating myself to a My Horse Box subscription for the last few months, so luckily Stark has a well stocked first aid kit. I can officially confirm that the Equi-N-icE cooldown products really do the trick, as I found myself wearing his post workout socks to bring down the swelling en route to A&E.

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Once home, my first worry was boredom. Us equestrians are so used to being rushed off our feet with full time work plus taking care of our horses and somehow fitting in time to ride. The idea of being sat still for days on end is so alien! So I’ve kept busy – and would recommend it. I’ve brushed up on my horse care knowledge, dusted off the BHS stable management books and taken online courses on equine nutrition and bedding management. It’s important to stay up to date with best practice in the equine industry. We all want to know we are doing the best for our horses, so it is good to have the time to check in.

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The other obvious worry is this guy! He is obviously quite happy snuggled in his big straw bed or stuffing his face with grass and I am lucky enough to rely on great grooming staff to take care of him. However, it is peak grass growing season and while he is going so well and looking fit I don’t really want to come back to a barrel. My fantastic trainer has ridden him for me instead of our scheduled lessons. Watching her ride has been great, I am so proud of how good ginge is looking and how hard he tried. Definite proud mum moments when other liveries have come up to comment how good he is looking! Sadly having her ride him very regularly is not an affordable option. Lucky for me, a good friend is planning on horse shopping in a few months and has jumped at the chance to ride a new horse. The benefits work for both of us: my boy is kept ticking over and she gets to ride something completely different to the TBs she has got used to – a big help in deciding what she is looking for when she is ready to go ahead.

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Now I am looking ahead! My foot is healing rapidly. I’m almost ready to walk without crutches, so I’m hoping to at least start loose schooling and renewing our bond with groundwork within the next two weeks. I’m also starting to plan our schedule for the rest of the summer – fingers crossed we can get some of those clinics in after all!