Looking After Horses

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Daydream’s magnificent mane

ponies - daydream 12

Daydream has wintered well and the cold weather has encouraged her to grow a really thick long mane.   We never cut the ponies manes and like to see them flowing and helping to keep them warm.   They are natural and beautiful – no show pony tricks for our little mares!   Daydream does like to have her mane and tail brushed, it’s not hard to keep free of tangles.   It’s fashionable when showing horses to ‘pull’ their tails and manes – this is just what it sounds like – a few hairs at a time are literally yanked out.  It must be quite painful.  Cutting manes and tails leaves stubby ends so leaving the hair long and naturally looks best.

It’s great to see the manes fly when the ponies are moving.


Horse meat ‘beef’ burgers

ponies - Bibby




It’s probably been going on for years and horses have always been slaughtered for food.   Now the food inspectors have proved what we’ve long suspected, that horse meat goes into the food chain.   We’ve campaigned for many years against the live transport of horses for slaughter but it still goes on in the EU.   In this country horses are routinely shipped to Ireland and a lot of the ‘knackermen’ have farms there.   What happens to them next is unknown.  We can be sure that they are not being kept as pets or going into a peaceful retirement home.

Hores are sensitive creatures and are vegetarians.  They stress easily and suffer terribly when they are taken to markets, sold in the ring and crammed on to lorries to suffer their fate.  It’s time to stop this cruel trade.   How to do it is the problem.

Pony with Cushing’s Disease


Krystal has Cushing’s Disease –  it’s a fairly common hormone or ‘endocrine’ disorder in horses and ponies.   It’s not widely realised that ponies with laminitis often have Cushing’s disease – it’s actually the hidden cause of the problem.  This is what happened to Krystal earlier this year and it was only our equine graduate Laura’s prompt diagnosis that saved her life.

When Krystal developed laminitis (fever of the feet) even though she hadn’t been on lush grass or was over fat, we were puzzled.  Laura realised that Cushing’s might be the cause of Krystal’s problems and asked the vet to do a blood test.  Whilst Krystal was being treated for the painful laminitis, we waited anxiously for the result of the test.  It was positive and although we were glad to know what was the cause of Krystal’s illness, we didn’t know whether she would respond to treatment.

It’s been several tense months and at one stage Krystal seemed to be getting worse.  Her feet hurt, her coat was rough (a symptom of Cushing’s) and we had to keep her on a special diet and on soft rubber flooring so she wouldn’t worsen the condition of her tender hooves.

The blacksmith was coming every two weeks, the medication for Cushing’s is a tiny tablet that she has to take every day.  Krystal swallows it without any fuss although we do disguise it in a chunk of apple to make sure it goes down.   It’s been hard to visualize that such a minute pill would cure her.

The vet was optimistic though and for sure she was right.   Krystal has gradually recovered.   Her coat is smooth again, her quality of life is good, she has her appetite back and her hooves are now showing no signs of laminitis.   The blacksmith is happy with her condition and she can go out for exercise again.

It’s been a harrowing ordeal, for us as well as Krystal.  If you have a horse with sudden onset laminitis it always best to have the test for Cushing’s done.   Krystal is such a lovely pony and has suffered so much already, we wish only the best and a happy life for her.   What caused her to become ill with hormonal problems?   I don’t think we’ll ever know.

Cushing’s Disease in horses – early diagnosis is essential




After all she’s been through it seems sad that Krystal now has to cope with Cushing’s disease which is more common in elderly horses than most people realize.   One of the classic signs of this illness in horses is that they develop a characteristic ‘curly coat’.  Krystal does not have this, she is just the same as she has always been.  So this painful and debilitating condition can easily be missed.

Middle aged horses (between 10 and 15 years) are also prone to it.  One of the first signs is laminitis (painful inflammation in the hooves) and when this is diagnosed your vet will almost certainly recommend a blood test for Cushings.

Krystal is now on medication and we hope it will keep her symptoms under control and enable her to have a happy and painfree retirement.

A blood test for Cushing’s should be part of the yearly health check, the sooner it’s diagnosed the milder the symptoms and the easier it is to treat.

If you’d like to adopt Krystal and help with her care please get in touch – Krystal’s rescue was one of our most dramatic and she is a lovely gentle and appreciative pony.   Pony adoption is £15.00 per year (pay by paypal, cheque made payable to Pet Samaritans or online donation).   We’ll send you a lovely photo of Krystal, her story and regular updates.  It makes a lovely gift – if for someone else please let us have their details.

A poorly old horse




Krystal is in her mid twenties and has been at the sanctuary for many years.  She is a lovely, gentle pony and apart from having only one eye, she has been fit and well – until recently.  A few weeks ago Krystal became lame and when the farrier came he diagnosed laminitis.  This was puzzling because she wasn’t overweight and the first flush of sweet grass is long gone.

The vet came and confirmed the diagnosis, Krystal was put on a fibre rich diet and given medication and pain killers.   There wasn’t much improvement and on her second visit the vet suggested a blood test.   The results have just come back – Krystal has Cushing’s disease which is also known as Equine Metabolic Syndrome.   Apparently it’s fairly common on old horses and is the reason she developed laminitis even though she wasn’t overweight.   We’ve seen dogs with Cushing’s and know that it can be treated so hopefully it will be the same for Krystal and we’re waiting to here from the vet about treatment.

More about Krystal and Cushing’s disease coming soon….

Pony Patter







The ponies have had their feet trimmed, now it’s their turn to see the dentist.   Checking horse and pony teeth is an essential job, their teeth grow all the time and if they aren’t kept short by the food they eat, they will develop sharp spikes which dig into the soft flesh of their mouth and make eating painful.   So often a very thin horse just can’t eat.   One sign in the early stages is if the horse takes a long while to eat their feed or spits mouthfuls of food out.

All the ponies have had their teeth checked this week and all of them needed some remedial work.   It doesn’t hurt them but when the teeth are filed they have to stay still and keep their mouth open.   The dentist fits a special bit which makes them do just that.   I don’t suppose they actually like having this done but they don’t seem to mind and seem to know that they are being helped.   Daydream, shown above, is having an intial check.










Pixie with the special bit fitted, the vet rasps the sharp projections on the teeth with a long file.   Soon done Pixie.   He was well behaved and stood quietly till it was over.










Bibby is patiently waiting her turn.   She is one of the more dominant ponies and although very friendly with people, she is aiming to be the boss of the herd.   Even the older ponies seem to defer to her, if Bibby says ‘move’ they get out of the way.   There always has to be a herd leader, there is a pecking order in ponies, just like chickens!










Isn’t it my turn yet?   Bibby is getting a bit impatient.    If you have horses or ponies make sure to make an appointment for the equine dentist to come at least once a year.   We have ours done on a rota basis, now the little ones have been sorted out, the bigger horses and ponies will be done next time.     If there are any irregular surfaces in your horse’s teeth he could be suffering discomfort, if not actual pain, on a daily basis.    The mouth can actually become cut and sore by sharp teeth.    When we rescued Danniboy, our red and white cob pony, he was emaciated and very depressed.   His owner told us that the pony wouldn’t eat.   Danniboy had been tied to the back of a lorry for most of his life so it was little wonder that he was so depressed and poorly.










Danniboy is a lovely pony with a sensitive and affectionate nature.   He may look like a ‘macho-man’ but he is really a complete wimp!    When we fetched him back to the sanctuary we asked the dentist to check him out right away.   His teeth were very neglected and his mouth was sore.   Once he’d had treatment he could eat again and started to put on weight.   The rest of his health and emotional problems took a while longer though.









One of the ponies, Ruby shown here on the left, hasn’t had her teeth checked this time though.   Ruby has a somewhat cramped mouth and hates having it done.   It would be stressful to force her, she either has a fear of it or it may be that she is caused discomfort by the procedure.   Rather than upset her we have booked the vet to come at the same time as the dentist and Ruby will have a sedative so that she doesn’t feel any pain.    Ruby is normally a good little pony and always wants to please so she wouldn’t be making a fuss over nothing.   It’s a bit like having a filling without an injection – don’t worry Ruby we’ll get you some pain relief!

Looking After Ponies In Winter

The ponies are glad to come in when the weather is bad, they don’t need to be caught up – just open the gates and call them and their little legs go like clockwork as they dash for the stables.   Most of it is because they are hoping for an extra feed!   Still, a snowy field is no place for a tiny pony, if they couldn’t find shelter they would get very chilled.

When horses and ponies get pneumonia it is always serious, their lungs form a big part of their body and any inflammation in them can have dire consequences.  If you are at all anxious or they go off their food and their breathing is laboured, the vet must be called.

A horse that has become chilled needs to be rubbed down with a straw wisp (you can make this by plaiting straw together into a circle).   When the circulation has improved and the horse is warm again,  a rug helps to maintain body heat.  Putting wisps of hay underneath the rug helps to keep the horse  dry and lets air circulate.

A nice bran mash is usually well received and a handful or two of linseed flakes makes it better.   You can buy ready made linseed flakes from your corn merchant, they are a good coat conditioner and an excellent treat for any horse.

Never feed raw linseed as it is poisonous, if you want to make a real linseed mash the actual seeds need to be boiled first in a big pan full of water.   It’s then simmered until they go into a jelly-like constituency.   We make sure the linseeds are in a rolling boil for at least fifteen minutes and then keep it ticking over on a low heat for several hours.   When it’s done tip it into a bucket with plenty of bran and a spoonful of molasses.   Feed while it’s still slightly warm, horses and ponies love it and a proper linseed mash is a great restorative as well as a real treat – just the thing for a winter’s day and horses love it!


Old ponies need to keep warm

Chester is around 26 years old and isn’t as agile as he used to be.   When the weather is cold or wet he has to be rugged up and kept warm.   When ponies are young and plump and active they can stand bad weather but even so this is only if they have a large enough field with some natural shelter.  An open shed would be even better.   We often see horses standing in small paddocks and they are alright for a quick turnout but no good for permanent grazing if there is nowhere to get out of the wind and rain.   Horses are used to being on the move and grazing as they wander.   Like us they keep warm by being active.   Even though Chester has plenty of room and has two fields to roam in if he wants to do so, he tends to stay close to his stable when it’s cold.   When he was younger he was full of beans – nowadays he’s thinking more about the next feed than he is about his lady friends!

Don’t forget to check your horse’s rug every day.  It needs to be taken off and the back checked for any signs of rubbing, a quick brush over is good and then put the rug back on.   Slip-on vests are available if the rug does tend to catch.   If the back or neck get sore then you can’t put the rug back on and have a real problem.    This may seem obvious advice but we once had a horse come in here with wearing a tattty old rug.  She was an oldster who came from a livery yard which on the surface looked to be smart and well run.   When we took the rug off it was a shocking sight, the poor horse had bare rubbed skin on her neck and hip joints.  The rug hadn’t been checked in months.    Even the vet was shocked by her condition .   Checking the rug yourself every day is essential .

Ponies love eating hay

We know that winter is here when the ponies start eating the hay we put out.   At around £4.00 per bale this is expensive food for them but they need the fibre and goodness it provides.   There’s little food value in the grass now and a pony needs to eat constantly, they are grazing animals and corn feeds, although helpful in small rations, just won’t do.   A dog will do well on one meal a day, in a natural life he is used to hunting for his food and filling himself up and then sleeping it off.  It might be two days before he will eat again.   But ponies have a quite different digestive arrangement and need to be munching away all the time.  If you’d like to buy a christmas pressie for the any of the ponies, a bale of hay would hit the spot!   Food presents are much better than trinkets for animals, you know they’ll enjoy them and they haven’t literally cost the earth, unlike plastic and manufactured items.   If you can buy a bale of hay for the ponies online – we’ll do the rest.

You can’t put all that in your mouth at once Chloe!   This little pony always been very determined where food is concerned.  It’s probably because she was half starved when we first rescued her.  When animals have known hunger they tend to never forget.

Bridget is a dainty eater, she’s always had plenty to eat.   Sundance likes his share but he doesn’t stuff himself like Chloe.

A bale of hay for the ponies is £4.00 online, we have thirty horses and ponies to feed every day.  They have a home for life with us and we can’t let them go hungry, please help if you can.  Even a small donation is a great help and is much appreciated.  [donate]