The Beast from the East, Storm Emma, floods, drought – whatever nature throws at us, horse owners weather it, writes Carolyn Henderson.
There might be times when we wonder why we do it, but they’re merely passing moments. All it takes is to see your horse bucking in a snowy field for the joy of it, or tucking contentedly into his bedtime hay, and you know you’d put up with any amount of discomfort.
It was summed up by a message on social media that sparked recognition across the country: “Most people in the UK are advised to hibernate. Horse owners – just put your big coats on.”
Without minimising the achievements of those who had to be out in appalling conditions, including members of the emergency services, farmers looking after their stock and those attempting to keep the roads open, we’re not a bad bunch, are we? If you couldn’t get to your horse, perhaps because access to your livery yard was impossible and you had to rely on those on the spot, you probably felt worse than if you were battling the dire conditions.
A friend who runs a livery yard in Kent got a late-night phone call from an apologetic client whose 10-year-old daughter was in tears and couldn’t sleep. The daughter had read that hypothermia can be fatal and was worried that her pony, who grows a coat like a yak’s and could eat his way through a bale of hay faster than she could scoff a biscuit, might not survive the night.
So what did my friend, with 20 years’ experience of being firm with panicking clients, do? You’ve guessed. She told her husband that she may be gone some time and went out into the snow with her mobile phone.
There, she filmed the pony munching happily and emailed the result to his owners. One happy daughter, one relieved Mum and one livery yard owner with a nice warm feeling and a husband who couldn’t stop laughing at her.
“I know it sounds daft,” she said. “But she cared about her pony and she deserved to be sure that he was OK.”
In case you think she’s a soft touch, she has another client who learned a lesson about the priorities of horse care. Even if you pay for full livery, complaining that your horse hasn’t been groomed properly isn’t diplomatic when staff can’t get through and two people have struggled to do 20 horses while you enjoyed a duvet day.
Anyway, spring is around the corner. If you go by one calendar, it arrived on 1st March; for the sake of sanity, I’m sticking to the vernal equinox, which means the first day of spring is 20th March.
My horse and pony started shedding their coats during that mild snap in January, then changed their minds. I can’t wait to get covered in horsehair again: only a horse person will understand that.
In the meantime, we’d love to see pictures of your happy horses and perky ponies in the snow. Seeing them enjoy themselves makes it all worthwhile!