Wednesday, April 18, 2007

No act of kindness shall go unpunished

The Horse Doctor is so-called because she has a doctorate in equine nutrition. Her normal advice when people ask for information on how best to feed their horses is 'put them in a field and let them eat grass,' which seems a bit simple for five years of study, but there you are.

Latterly she hasn't been doing much horse work, concentrating instead on beef cattle and sheep, since that's where what little money there is for this line of work can be found. But she has never forgotten her roots, and one of her great ambitions was to get horses or ponies to the research farm where we both work. Given the attitude of her co-workers towards anything that doesn't moo or bleat, this has been an uphill struggle, but after many years trying, she finally succeeded.


OK, so it was a bit of a con. The actual pony work is being done at another site, and involves studying the stress levels in unbroken ponies when they are being transported or handled at market. But during a hiatus in the trial, eighteen yearling Dartmoor colts and fillies were transported to the farm here and let loose on a part of the hill. Thus was a long-standing ambition fulfilled, and without having to kill the boss and stand over his dead body, either.

These eighteen ponies were loaned to us by some Dartmoor farmers, and about a month ago, they came to take them back home.*

All, that is, except one.

Hattie, as the farm staff came to call her, had not been prospering on the hill like her fellows. Whilst we were away on the great Canadian Skiing Adventure, they brought her in and tried to feed her up a bit. But when it came time to load them all up on a truck, she was deemed too weak to travel.

All alone, with no-one to talk to but Welsh Black cows, whose language, frankly, she really didn't understand, poor Hattie hasn't really been doing well. So our near neighbours, whose ducks and geese we looked after a few weeks ago, kindly agreed to take her on, putting her in a field with their old Shetland Pony, Dougal, so she could have some proper grass to eat and some companionship. We duly transported her the mile or so up the road and let her loose in the small paddock, only then noticing that her hair was falling out and her eyes were all warty.

spotty adolescent

The worry was that she had ringworm.** Some of the cattle have been known to suffer from it, and it can easily spread to young animals and those that are under the weather. Older horses tend to have developed an immunity to it, but it is contagious, so we were worried for poor Dougal. Today we managed to get the vet out to look at her, and it turns out that the warts are fairly common - a bit like teenage acne. The hair falling out bit is most likely scald, though that's normally associated with wet weather and we've not had any rain in three weeks or more. Basically, young Hattie is a runt who's been bullied away from the food by all the other ponies and is a bit run down as a result. She needs some good grazing, a chance to build up some body condition, and a haircut.

Yes, this evening's joyous game is clipping out an unbroken yearling filly, which will be undertaken by our near neighbour, probably whilst I hang onto a lead rope and try not to get kicked. We've already struggled with two applications of wart-lotion and one long session of foot-trimming, all of which have been good deeds, done out of kindness.

So remember that, next time you're thinking of agreeing to help someone out.

* or more likely the slaughterhouse. Make no mistake, the UK trade in horses and ponies is not as pretty as many might think. A lot of our youngstock go to Ireland or France to be eaten. And frankly I've no problem with that, except that they are transported there live, which is unnecessary and inhumane.
** which is a fungal infection, not a worm, and doesn't form a ring. I've no idea why it's called that.

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Blogger Sandra Ruttan said...

Poor Hattie! I hope you will keep us posted on her progress.

April 18, 2007 5:58 pm  
Blogger JamesO said...

I'll do my best, and also see about posting some pictures that show just how small she is. My sister has a Deer Hound who is easily bigger.

April 18, 2007 9:27 pm  
Anonymous Kylene said...

Good words.

November 10, 2008 1:36 pm  

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