I like a good routine and my horses have always seemed to thrive on it. I find it often makes things easier, I always pick feet out in the same order so the horses learn which foot comes next and often have it in the air ready! Even Tommy is starting to do this. Also, the horses come to the gate when I arrive so that I rarely have to walk out in the mud and dark to find them!
First things first - breakfast. All the horses have slightly different food and supplements so they each have a different coloured bowl to ensure they get the right one. I did nearly give Tommy Basil's the other morning and I am sure he knew it was the wrong colour!
While they are eating I make up Basil's haynets and put them in to soak. Basil has soaked hay because he suffers from Recurrent Airway Obstruction and although his seems to be pollen related and worse in the summer I try not to put his system under any extra strain. I am saving up for a steamer!
Tommy has usually now finished his breakfast as it is so small. Next I change the rugs, Chesney and Basil are both used to this whilst they are eating and don't mind at all. Usually about now Basil has also finished his breakfast but I take Tommy out first. I cut up some apples and put it in my pocket then put on Tommy's headcollar. It is good for him to have practice with the headcollar and he is so much happier than he was. He is nearly always covered in shavings so I brush the worst off with my hand, then lead him the short distance to the gate. Sometimes he stops for a huge leg stretch :)
Once through the gate he just turns around (routine) and waits for me to take his headcollar off before he gets a couple of bits of apple. I find this makes sure they don't try to run off whilst you are taking headcollars off as they know a treat is coming!
Basil is next - same routine - although he doesn't stop for a stretch! Tommy has sometimes pottered off by now and sometimes is still hanging around. Basil stays by the gate windsucking/crib biting on the gate post for a while (naughty, I know).
Chesney is often just finishing off his big breakfast so I gather the mucking out tools whilst I wait. When he is finished he just follows me to the gate and through before also waiting for his apples! We have a little cuddle too.
Next job is skipping out. The horses are all bedded on shavings, partly to reduce dust and partly to make life easy. In the week I just remove the droppings and then at the weekend take all the wet shavings out. Chesney has always been a really tidy horse and does his piles around the edge usually in 1 or 2 places. This means he doesn't spread it around so it is easy to take out. Tommy is not too bad, although he makes little piles everywhere he doesn't seem to spread it about either. Basil, though, is a really messy horse, he spreads his droppings everywhere and it takes more than twice as long to do his stable than the others. I level the shavings out and make the beds look relatively smart.
I am afraid that the yard does not get swept in the week although I do try to keep the gutter free of shavings and hay so that the water from the yard can drain away. I put the tools away and make up Chesney and Tommy's haynets. Chesney has 2 full nets and Tommy just 1. I tip over Basil's hay bins so that they can drain nicely throughout the day and are not so heavy to lift in the evening. Then I have to put my wellies on to take the wheelbarrow out to the muck heap!
That's it for the morning - it is usually about 7.20am.
Back again, usually the horses see my car and start over to the gate. They know it is tea time! I put Basil's haynets into his stable as it is much easier when he isn't in there. Next I mix their food up and put the bowls in the right stables. The horses are usually now hanging about by the gate. I make sure Chesney and Basil's doors are open but Tommy's is shut. I open the gate wide and Basil, closely followed by Chesney, potters in - most days - they go straight into their stables. I quickly shut the doors in time to open Tommy's for him.
Whilst they are eating I fill Chesney and Tommy's water buckets. Basil is the only one to use his automatic waterer, which is very annoying. I then pick out feet. Starting with Chesney (who is usually still eating) I take the skip and hoofpick into the stable. Chesney usually has his first front foot in the air before I get to it! I always pick their feet out into a skip as it makes sure the mud and stones don't get mixed up with the shavings. Tommy has generally finished his tea by now so I can go in and pick out his feet and then I do Basil's.
Most days I will then give them a quick brush. Again, I start with Chesney, taking his night-time rug and putting it over the door I then fold the front half of his turnout rug back. Using the rubber curry comb first I give his neck and body a short brush and follow with the body brush. Then I put his night-time rug over his front half and take the turnout rug off (and put it over the door). I do the same with his hindquarters and then put his night time rug on properly. This is a great way to do it if the weather is cold because it means they are not standing totally naked. If they are clipped and used to wearing a rug it can be a bit of a shock to the system to be expected to stand in the cold.
After putting Chesney's rug away I go in to see Tommy. I am only brushing him a little bit with the rubber curry comb. As he is not wearing a rug I don't want him to lose any of his weather protecting oils from his coat. It is good for him to have the attention and time spent with him each day and he is definitely continuing to build in confidence. Basil is last (but not least) to have a quick brush and rug change, which I do in exactly the same way as I did Chesney. Whilst I do their feet and give them a brush I try to check there are no new lumps, bumps or cuts. It is not always easy because it is dark and they are often covered in mud but I do my best.
Once they are all rugged up I collect in the feed bowls and give them a quick clean again. If it is not windy or snowy I will leave them upside down draining on the yard for the night. If they might start flying around in the wind and frighten the horses or get covered in snow I put them back in the feedroom for the night!
The horses then get their last treats of the day which signals to them that it is time to chill and that I am going home. They each get 2 treats, either a couple of bits of apple or carrot. They look out for these whilst I am washing the feedbowls and Tommy makes me laugh the most because he doesn't start eating his hay until he has had them! I turn all the lights off and leave the horses in peace. I don't check them late at night. If I think any of the horses are not 100% or I just have a funny feeling then I do come back later. Usually they are fine and I am worrying for no reason.
I really enjoy looking after the horses, for me it isn't just about the riding. I will admit that I do miss it when I can't ride regularly and Basil likes to work too. However, taking the time to make the beds smart and make sure they are warm, cosy and well fed are just as rewarding to me.
NB: The photos are from the weekend as it is too dark in the week!
Look out tomorrow for this week's vlog on my You Tube channel. Horse Life and Love
Please check it out and SUBSCRIBE.
You can also follow me on Facebook and Instagram for updates on Chesney, Basil, Tommy and Daisy.
Until next time!