How To Measure Your Neue Schule Bit Correctly June 02 2017

There are various measurements to consider when sourcing and assessing the correct size of bit including length, thickness, ring size and design.


Loose Ring Cheeks

The picture below demonstrates a popular loose ring snaffle bit, the NS Team Up. Other cheeks that are measured this way include the Universal, Beval, Balding Gag and the measurements to consider are here:


1) Mouthpiece Length: The measurement is taken by placing the bit on a flat surface and pulling the rings apart so the bit is at its maximum length.  The Measurement is taken along the full length of the mouthpiece from the inside edge of the loose ring to the inside edge of the opposite loose ring and can be measured in inches or centimetres.

2) Mouthpiece thickness: This measurement is taken at the widest part near to the cheek just before the hole that the ring slides through.  Again, if you put the bit on a flat surface , you can slide a tape measure below this point and, if you look from above, you can see the thickness.  The most accurate way to measure the thickness of your bit is using an set of callipers, which are widely available.

3) Loose Ring Diameter: This measurement is taken from inner edge of the loose ring and is generaly measured in millimetres; 70mm being the average for the standard loose ring bit; 55mm is the typical bridoon ring size.


Fixed Cheeks

Fixed cheek bits include the Baucher or Hanging Cheek, Full Cheek, D Ring, Eggbutt, Cheltenham Gag, and Nelson Gag.  The picture below, showing the NS Tranz Full Cheek bit,  is a good example of the points to measure at for this type of horse bit.  As you can see, the only difference is that the mouthpiece thickness of the Fixed Cheek bit is measured directly adjasent to the cheek.





When sourcing a Weymouth for your horse, there are a couple of addtional measurements to consider as demonstrated in the picture.


1)Shank length (lower): This measurement is taken from below the mouthpiece to the bottom of the shank (not the bottom of the loose ring) and is generally done in centimtres; 5cm, 7cm and 9cm are the options available within the Neue Schule collection.

2)Shank length (upper): In the Neue Schule collection this measurement has been scaled according to the lower shank length of the Weymouth. 


How to Keep Your Horse Cool & Signs Of Heat Stroke May 26 2017

Summer is a great time enjoy some time outside with your horse but as the weather heats it can be harder for your horse to cope.  If your horse is over heating it can result in dehydration, reduced energy & wellbeing.  In severe cases symptoms can include diarrhoea and colic. 

Signs Of Heat Stroke In Horses


Rapid pulse and breathing

Heavy breathing/panting

Increased sweating

Excessive salivation

Redness of the tongue and oral area

High body temperature

Erratic heart beat

Muscle spasms




There are a number of simple ways to help your horse cope, we have also selected some of our favourite products that you might find useful.


* Provide a source of cool, fresh drinking water.  Concider electrolytes if your horse is sweating a lot.

Cavalor Electrolyte Balance is a tasty powder mixture of electrolytes and quickly absorbable vitamins that has a positive impact on recovery ability.

* Choose cooler turnout times & choose paddocks that offer shade or a breeze.  If your horse needs to stay in consider setting up a fan system to help air rotation.

* Mist or hose your horse down. 

Horse Health Lavender Slosh is a heavenly smelling body wash that can be a beneficial addition to your wash down routine.

* Alter your horses work times or load to suit the weather.

* Fly and summer sheets not only offer protection from biting insects, they can also help prevent sunburn.  Some fly mask ranges offer a great UK protection rating.

Gold Label Sun Guard is a sunblock and soother for horses with areas that are susceptible to the rays of the sun. Contains only natural ingredients.

Shires Field Durable Fly Mask With Ears & Nose is a sturdy fly mask offering full face protection, made from 90% UV protective fabric

HY Guardian Fly Rug And Fly Mask gives maximum protection against all flying insects. Fully protected to reflect harmful UV rays of sunlight. 

Equi-N-IcE Rapid Cooler Rug is made from coolmax, known for its cooling properties and used to reduce skin temperature.


If you are concerned that your horse is suffering from heat stroke, call your veterinarian immediately and get your horse into a cooler environment.


Calming Supplements To bring Out The Best In Your Horse January 12 2017

We stock a range of calmers to help settle nervous, excited or spooky horses without impairing their performance.  Just like people, some horses can find certain situations stressful.

Calming supplements can help deal with hormonal or diet related causes of tension and help to maintain a constant temperament and behaviour.  Stress can be a contributing factor in the development of stereotypical behaviours such as wind-sucking, crib-biting, frequent pawing and box-walking.  Stress related conditions can include infection & gastric ulceration.

A calmer more relaxed attitude will mean your horse is happier, healthier and easier to work with.

Some other factors to consider are –

Amount of turnout your horse gets

Amount and type of feed your horse receives

Check fit of tack

Any recent changes in your horses routine

Our range of horse calming supplements can be fed on a long term basis or as an instant top up prior to stressful situations, please let us know if you need any advice -


Have more Summer Fun with your Horse! June 14 2016

Sometimes it can be boring for both you and the horse to do the same thing every day. The weather is getting better and you can often long for different ideas of what to do. Your horse is probably fed up too of the same old samey! 

Why not look for new rides to go on - take your bike or go for a drive and search for new pathways that you could explore.  How about advertising in the tack room, feed merchants or other stables nearby for friends to hack out with?  It's great fun to ride with others and there is always safety in numbers too.  

Pack a picnic in your panniers and a head halter &  lead rope, then stop half way so that you can munch on your sandwiches and your horse can graze.  Maybe your non riding friends or parents can join you in the prearranged spot.

What about trying a new discipline with your horse?  Dressage or cross country for example.   A challenge for you and your horse to do for the summer months.  Whatever you decide to do, enjoy those precious sunny moments with your horse.

 Bella enjoying the summer sun.

Wet, Warm Weather and Worming Your Horse June 13 2016

We are coming to the time of year when you should be considering treating your horse for tapeworms.  Historically, tapeworms were thought to be of relatively low importance.   However, due to the recent discovery of their strong connection with some forms of colic, we are standing up and taking notice of their presence.

Tapeworm are gradually being given the centre stage that they deserve when it comes to considering an effective worming routine.

Tapeworm Lifecycle

Tapeworms are quite a simplistic structure compared to other equine intestinal worms.  They attach to the intestinal wall via a headpiece.  Their body is made up from many segments, each segment contains it’s own set of reproductive organs and eggs, this makes them very unique.  These individual segments are discarded one by one and are passed out in the horses faeces.  The outer breaks down releasing the eggs into the surroundings.  The eggs delevelop within the harvest mite and are then ingested by the horse.

It is estimated that as many as 69% of horses in England and Wales have had exposure to this parasite at some point.


Tapeworms are not detected in a standard faecel egg count.  A blood or saliva test can be performed to test your horse for exposure to tapeworms.  This will only give an indication of exposure and should never be used to completely replace treatment.


There are 2 different approaches to treating tapeworm.  The first is a targeted approach when treatment is given on the back of a positive blood or salvia test result.  In this case treatment is given and repeated in 6 months time.  You can then re test your horse after 12 months to see if further treatment is required the following year.

Although recommended, a targeted worming approach for tapeworms may not always be appropriate.  In these instances giving a tapeworm treatment every 6 months may be considered.  The first of these treatments should coincide with the peak of exposure seen at the end of the grazing season (ie in the Autumn).

Remember not all wormers will target tapeworm.

Finalist for the SEIB retailer of the Year Award 2016 January 08 2016, of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, has reached the national finals of the 2016 British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA) Business Awards.

It is shortlisted for the SEIB Retailer of the Year Award (Mail Order/Internet Retailer category), which will be presented during the BETA Gala Dinner, at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on Sunday 24 January.               , which specialises in all aspects of equine care and rider accessories, was founded in 2014 and is run and owned by Sophie Knox, who employs 8 staff.

“We’re delighted to have reached the finals of such a prestigious award, particularly as we were nominated by our customers,” said Sophie Knox, of “In the best traditions of a specialist retailer, we always endeavour to offer a personal yet professional service, always aiming to get everything out in a timely manner – and it’s satisfying to know that our efforts have been rewarded.”

As part of the final judging, trade suppliers have been asked to add their votes to those of customers. BETA is also conducting a series of mystery shops and incognito telephone calls to the shortlisted candidates.

“There were more than 1,000 nominations for the SEIB Retailer of the Year Award, so many congratulations go to for reaching the finals,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “BETA encourages the highest standards in equestrian retailing, enabling horse owners and riders to shop with confidence where they see the BETA sign.”

More than 150 tack shops and feed merchants across the UK are entitled to display the BETA logo, indicating their retail membership of the trade association and that they are properly run businesses offering reliable advice.

BETA also runs courses to train retailers in the fitting of riding hats and body protectors, and to enhance their equestrian product knowledge – information that is available to horse owners and riders who shop with them.


Contact Laura Clegg,, or Claire Williams, BETA executive director and secretary, telephone 01937 587062 or email

Or Sophie Knox, Mane Supplies , telephone 01423 507224


Ensuring Your Horse Drinks Water During Winter December 18 2015

Winter time – it always seems to be either too much water in the form of rain or too much iced water in the form of frozen water or snow.  Your horse need access to water all the year round, of course, but during the winter you have to make sure that the water supply is not frozen and is still fresh.  Horses do seem to drink less in cold or wet weather but in spite of this they still need a supply of adequate water, so that they do not develop health problems.  You can tell if he is not getting enough water when his faeces is firm and dry rather than soft and moist.  Also, if he is not eating all of his hay or grain he is not getting enough water.  If your horse becomes dehydrated, then his flanks and abdomen will draw up and he will be generally and clearly uncomfortable.

You should check the water at least twice a day to break the ice if it is necessary.  If your buckets and automatic watering systems has a built in heating elements, you will need to check these buckets and systems to make sure that the heating element is working properly and keeping water thawed.   Many horses tend to drink more water if the water is not ice cold.  If you want to increase the amount of water that they drink, then supply them with warm water throughout the day or at feeding times.  Of course, horses should have access to an unfrozen water source between the times that you bring them warm water.

Keeping ducks and geese as Pets – Their outdoor Environment. December 12 2015

Whenever you keep any pet, you have to consider what your pet would need in order meet its basic welfare.  Let’s take a look at the welfare of ducks and geese outside, so that when they are out of their night time housing and in the field they are safe.  The outside area should be well managed as the area around the water facilities is bound to get muddy.  You should be able to section off areas that need to recover and still have enough area for the birds to roam.  Remember that geese like to graze and therefore they need a grassy area which is a good size.

They do need cover to protect them against the sun, bad weather and wild animals – so make sure that there are small trees or purpose build shelters.  Food and water outside needs to be kept in containers that avoid attracting rodents and wild birds.  So the food and water containers should be sheltered to keep it clean and dry.  The pasture should be fenced so that wild animals or dogs etc. cannot get in and your birds cannot escape or become trapped or injured in the fencing.

Ducks and geese enjoy splashing around in water and so you should provide access to hygienically managed open water sources.  You should clean this facility out daily and refill it daily with clean water.  This facility is not drinking water so your birds should have access to drinking water too.  Keep moving the water facility around to avoid the ground from becoming muddy.  Or you could put shingles under the area so that the water will drain well.  However if you have ducklings or goslings, you should not allow them access to deep water for swimming until they have developed adequate waterproofing on their feathers.  So the ducklings and goslings need access to shallow water troughs for the first few weeks of life.

When should Your Mare Breed? December 08 2015

What age can you start to breed with your mare?  A mare can produce a foal at about eighteen months of age but that is not desirable – it is much healthier if the mare is at least four years old, healthier for both the mare and the foal.  A mare can give birth to one foal per year but a stallion can sire around two hundred foals per year.  Though a stallion can serve a mare at two years or some cases even younger than that, it is again healthier for the stallion to begin to serve a mare when he is four years old.  A stallion’s potency will decline in his twenties but a mare can continue carrying foals until she is in her late twenties. 

The gestation period is 11 months or 340 days approximately. In the wild, the stallion would breed with the mare in the summer and this would ensure that the foals are born in spring and summer, when the grass is plentiful and the weather better.  Mares are more receptive to stallions in the late spring and summer.  Should a breeder wish to manipulate the cycle so foals are born earlier in the year, then he will use lights to simulate the longer days of spring and summer.  The artificial daylight will stimulate the mare’s reproductive hormones thus ensuring that the mare will want to breed at a time when the breeder wants her to, so that the foals arrive at the newly allotted time.

Foals can walk and run a few hours after birth and this is because in the wild, they would have to keep up with the herd.  The main source of nutrition after birth is their mother’s milk but a foal may nibble grass, hay or concentrate within a few days of birth.  Weaning often takes place at three months after birth but some breeders allow the foal to suckle for longer. 

How Your Horse Sees November 30 2015

A horse can see with 350 degrees vision fanning out to each side and behind.  It can do so because its eyes are on either side of its head, unlike a human who has two eyes facing forward.  Consequently a horse can see different things with either eye.  He can see things panoramically but could easily be distracted by things that it can see to the side and rear and miss something in front of him.   This is why blinders are used when horse racing etc.  In order to see long distance, a human can alter the shape of the lens in their eye but a horse cannot do that.  In order to see things in a distance, a horse has to use the lower part of his retina and to see things close up, the upper part of his retina.  Consequently, a horse lifts up his head and pricks his ears forward to see objects far away (the pricking of the ears is an indicator that the horse is looking into the distance and shows the direction that he is looking.)  When the horse looks into the distance, he causes both his eyes to look forward together.  To look at objects close at hand, the horse lowers his head and relaxes his eye muscles, causing his eyes to diverge. 

A horse has a blind spot four to five feet in front because of his long muzzle.  A horse must lower his head to see this spot.  Therefore you must remember to loosen the reins when running up to a jump, as the jump will enter his blind spot at four to five feet ahead.  The loosening of the reins will cause the horse to lower his head slightly and thus see the jump.    A horse finds it difficult to perceive depth which causes him to have difficulty judging a ditch with water in or a puddle.    The other blind spot is behind his tail, which is why you must make sure that he sees you when you walk behind him, so that he knows that you are there.    Also horses have a problem with vision in that they have only 65 degrees overlay of vision in both eyes – this means that when they look at a stationary object and then turn their head so that both eyes can see the object, the object appears to move.  This may explain the problem of spooking, when horses see rocks or trees move when they do not.

Why You Should Keep Your Horse's Hooves Moist November 25 2015

It is the time of year for muddy fields!  When you think about how to keep your horse’s hooves moist, you must first of all remember to try to keep her out of the mud.  Prolonged exposure to mud can alter the content of moisture in the hoof.  It can also cause thrush and other infections similar to thrush.  Finally, the mud can loosen shoes and also cause your horse to slip, fall, break a leg or injure joints.  Make sure, if possible, that you fill in the holes in the fields so that water does not collect in them and form mud.  A shelter for her to go into will provide her with dry ground when she has been turned out.

However it is important to make sure that you maintain hoof moisture.  Moisture in your horse’s feet helps to maintain flexibility and also prevents cracking.  When the conditions are wet and muddy, the feet dry rapidly.  The natural oils and protective films of the foot start to erode because of contact with external moisture.  You should regularly apply hoof dressing containing lanolin and if the dressing is not a petroleum derivative, it can be massaged into various parts of the feet - such as the frog, the coronet, the sole and the hoof wall.  If you massage the coronet it helps to stimulate the growth of a healthy hoof wall.

Carr Day & Martin Cornucrescine Daily Hoof Barrier 500ml

Brinicombe Foot Perfect Hoof Cream 800g

Lincoln Intensive Hoof Moisturiser

Gold Label Hoof Gel Moisturiser



Should you Clip Your Horse or not? November 23 2015

Should you clip your horse as winter approaches?  As the daylight hours reduce, the horse’s body will grow its winter coat.  However if you plan to continue training your horse during the winter months, this will mean more work for you as it will take longer for your horse to cool, even if you only do a short workout.  If you clip off the coat, then you will have the responsibility of making sure that you blanket your horse accordingly during the cold or wet weather.  If you are only going to do light work during the winter, then it might be worthwhile considering just doing a partial clip, clipping where your horse sweats the most.  A horse which has been fully clipped will be able to be blanketed straight after working as there will not be any sweat which would have to be dried off.  Another factor to consider is that some breed societies do not believe that the horse should be clipped, so do check first.

If you are going to clip your horse, do make sure that you have different sizes of clippers ready, as you will need other sizes for different parts of the body.  If your horse is not used to clippers, or is not comfortable with them, start with the smaller quieter ones first before using the noisier and larger ones. Make sure that you brush hair out of the clippers and lubricate them every five minutes and, in order that your horse and you stay calm, make sure that you are clipping in an area where there are no distractions.  Once your horse has been clipped, he will need to have a variety of rugs to keep him warm and dry, with hoods for those cold days. 

What Happens when Chickens Moult November 18 2015

Chickens will start to moult when the hours of day light reduce, or when their laying cycle has finished or when they are in stress.  During the period of moulting, the chicken’s reproductive system will rest.  Moulting (losing their feathers) can be quite stressful for chickens, so it is important to make sure that they are healthy and happy during that time.  New feathers will help to keep a chicken warmer in the winter and after moulting your chicken will become hardier and more resistant to disease.  It should also be noted that cocks also moult.

When a chick hatches, they are covered in down and not feathers.  A chick will have four mini moults – at 1-6 weeks, 7-9 weeks, 12-13 weeks and 20-22 weeks.  It is during the last moult that the tail feathers will grow.

A fully grown chicken will moult in the autumn when the days get shorter.  It takes a pure breed six weeks to complete a moult but a hybrid is usually quicker.  Occasionally the chicken will lay an egg during the moult but usually they do not.  The reason why they do not lay eggs is because feathers are made up of 85% protein and a chicken cannot lay eggs – which are 13% protein -  and make new feathers as well.

Do make sure that you keep a watch on your flock because sometimes other chickens will peck at a chicken with bald spots, thus increasing its stress.  You should be feeding your moulting chickens on a feed with a higher amount of protein in it, such as one with 20% protein, and this will help the chicken to grow its new feathers.  Amino acids, vitamins and minerals should be given to your chickens and Apple Cider Vinegar is rich in minerals and vitamins and thus should be given.  It can be easily added to their water.  The new feathers that are coming will push the old ones out.  Do not feed your chickens on too much corn as it will reduce the protein intake of your chickens. 

First of all the chicken will lose head and primary wing feathers and then lose feathers down the body.  If you have clipped your chicken’s wings, then you will have to re-clip them once the feathers have grown.  However do not clip too early as when a feather is growing, there is blood inside the quill and if you cut it too soon it will bleed – and that can be hard to stop.  A quill which is full of blood will be dark in colour instead of clear.

Famous People and their Famous Horses November 15 2015

Some famous people have horses who are equally as famous as they are. The Queen was presented with a black mare called Burmese by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.  This presentation took place in 1969 and so for almost 20 years at each Trooping of the Colour ceremony after that, she rode Burmese, who was her favourite. Burmese died in 1990 and in 2005 the government of Saskatchewan in Canada unveiled a statue of the Queen riding Burmese.

Roy Rogers, the legendary cowboy and singer, had to choose a horse to ride in his first film.  He rented and then later bought Trigger, who was a golden palomino.  Trigger knew many tricks and often appeared with Roy Rogers.  His wife, Dale Evans, appeared in the Roy Rogers Show with her husband and rode her horse called Buttermilk.  These two horses were very popular and many collectables were made in their likeness. Trigger died in 1965 and Buttermilk in 1972.  To preserve their memory, their hides were stretched over plaster.

Jesse James, a famous and notorious criminal of the American West, had a horse called Red Fox.  He needed a horse who was fast in order that he could make a quick getaway.  When he retired for a while from his life of crime, he trained Red Fox as a race horse.

Caligula’s horse was called Incitatus.  The Emperor Caligula of Rome kept his horse in a marble stable with eighteen servants to look after him.  Incitatus was fed on meat, wine and golden oats.  Caligula often dined with his horse and it is thought that he appointed Incitatus as a consul.  After Incitatus’ death, Caligula was totally grief stricken and within a year the Emperor was assassinated. 

How to Remove the Scabs caused by Mud Fever November 13 2015

Mud fever, the scourge of the autumn and winter, is prevalent during wet and cold conditions.  Horses are very susceptible to it.  It is a very common bacterial infection and affects the lower limbs of horses.  Horses with white legs are particularly susceptible. It starts with wetting and chilling of the limbs and the infection begins in the skin fold at the back of the pastern and spreads from there.  It can begin in other places on the skin of the pastern or the cannon region.

Scabs, which are thick, hairy and painful, form and perhaps the lower leg might swell.  It is not itchy though.  You must remove the scabs so that the treatment can penetrate.  When the scabs are removed, you should use an antibiotic cream and antibacterial skin washes, to kill the bacteria. You must continue with the treatment until everything is better and not stop before.  You should also close clip the affected area, using fine or dog clippers – horse clippers are too large and coarse to clip the hair of the heels well enough.

To remove the scabs, you should first soften the area.  A generous application of baby oil, aqueous cream or Udder cream, should be applied to the skin and then covered with Clingfilm and then covered with a stable bandage.  This will soften the skin after 1 to 3 days.  The Clingfilm and bandage have to be done to floor level or else they will ride up and expose the lower skin crease.  This method of removing the scabs by softening etc. may have to be repeated daily for a few days.

Once the scabs have softened, the area should be washed with an antibacterial scrub – first wet the legs with warm water and then apply the scrub, working in well to loosen any debris and scabs.  Leave the scrub on for 10 minutes to allow bacteria to be killed.  Then wash the legs and dry with a paper towel, thoroughly.  Dispose of the paper towel.  Do not use a proper towel, or else you might re-infect the healing skin.  If you have not already close clipped your horses limbs, it might be a good time to do so.

The Fell Pony November 08 2015

Native to the North of England, Fell ponies can be largely found in the old counties of Cumberland and Westmorland – what we now refer to as Cumbria.  The Vikings kept the breeding stock on the fells and used the ponies for pack work as well as ploughing, pulling sledges and riding.

As the centuries progressed, the ponies were used for more pack work, including carrying iron ore and agricultural products.  It was the wool trade which caused the use of the Fell pony to increase.  The Fell is a good walker and is steady, strong and fast.  It is also small enough to be loaded with ease. The Fells were organised into pack trains to carry cloth and in the winter of 1492-1493, eleven traders from Kendal made fourteen journeys to Southampton with cloth.

The Fells were used to carry iron, copper and lead ores from Cumbria to the smelting works.  They also went to Newcastle with this iron and lead and came back with coal.  Indeed they were used in the coal mines of the northeast until well into the 1900s, both underground and above ground.  In the remote areas, pack pony trains became the main means of transporting goods.

As far as pedigrees are concerned, Fell ponies were first registered in the Polo and Riding Pony Stud Book in 1898.  The Fell ponies are well known for their ground covering trot.  The Fell Pony Society was formed in 1922 and its purpose was to make sure that the old breed of pony was kept pure.  The increase in riding for pleasure has now resulted in more ponies being registered with the society.

With thanks to: The Fell Pony Museum and Richardson 1990 The Fell Pony

Why do Chickens Lay Different Coloured Eggs? November 05 2015

It is strange but true that people think that eggs with brown shells are healthier than eggs with white shells.  Indeed some people even believe that free range chickens produce brown shelled eggs and battery chickens lay white shelled eggs.

However eggs from chickens can come in a variety of colours – they could be white, cream, brown, blue or green.  Egg colour is determined by the genetics of the hens.  A Maran will lay a really dark brown egg; a Leghorn will lay a white shelled egg; an Ameraucana chicken lays blue eggs.  An interesting coloured egg is produced by crossing two different breeds of chicken - one breed which produces a dark brown coloured shelled egg and another which produces a blue coloured one.  The result of this is the Olive Egger - the shells of this chicken are olive, sometimes dark olive and sometimes a lighter olive, depending on the egg cycle of the chicken.  Interestingly if you look at the chicken’s ear lobes and spot that they are white, that chicken will lay white eggs.

All eggs begin as white.  The ones that are a different colour become shaded as they travel through the hen’s oviduct.  Pigments are deposited on the eggs as they go through the oviduct and it takes about 26 hours to complete that journey.  The shell itself takes about 20 hours to complete.  The chickens that lay brown tinted eggs have the pigment protoporphyrin deposited on the eggs but the pigment is deposited late in the shell forming process.  This is the reason that the pigment does not penetrate the interior of the egg and just colours the exterior, the surface of the egg.  So brown tinted shells are brown on the outside and white on the inside.  The Ameraucana hens have the pigment oocyanin deposited early on in the shell producing process – this is why the blue is on the exterior and interior of the shell.  With regards the Olive Egger, the brown pigment goes on the top of the blue pigment, making an olive green coloured egg shell.  The darker that the brown pigment is, the more olive coloured is the shell.

How many Goats should the smallholder keep? November 04 2015

Goats are often the animal of choice for the small holder.  You can keep seven to eight goats on an area that would support one cow.    However it is the quantity and quality of the vegetation on the land which will decided how many goats that you can keep.  You should start small and then grow your herd in accordance with the vegetation available until you get to a point where you will have to supplement with hay or grain.  Then you will have to decide whether to decrease your herd or buy in food stuffs. 

Goats are herd animals and enjoy the company of other goats or other animals.  They will eat the plants that other livestock will leave.  So that means that you can raise your goats with cows and thus you can more use out of your land.   For example, if you have ample vegetation then you can have one to three goats for every cow that you have.  The goats will prefer to eat weeds and the cow will rather have the grasses.   It is a perfect combination. 

You have to be careful not to overpopulate an area of land.  Such an overpopulation will cause a problem with parasites.  Stomach worms suck the blood from goats.  This can cause anaemia and maybe death.  You should keep looking at your goats for signs of parasite infestation and then get medicine to treat it.  You should then downsize your herd.

Overpopulation of your land by goats can also be caused by the simple reason of reproduction!  Your goat herd can double in size in less than a year.  Goats become sexually mature at about five months and they have a gestation period of about 145 – 155 days.  Multiple births are quite normal.  You have to keep considering which goats to sell and which to keep in order to sustain the land.

How to Brush Your Horse's Tail November 01 2015

It takes two years for a hair from a horse’s tail to regrow to the length as previous.  This is why you have to brush the tail with care and indeed why a horse’s tail is thicker at the top and gradually becomes thinner nearer the bottom.  This is because whenever you groom a tail, you pull out hair or break hair. 

The problem is often that the tail gets tangled and perhaps has burrs in.  To remove the burrs that entangle the tail, if they have been in there only a short time and there are only a few of them, just use your fingers.  If there are many burrs then the best thing to do is to drench the tail in de-tangler and let it soak in.  Then gently ease the hair out of the burr, starting with the hair at the bottom of the burr.  Be careful not to break the hair but just very gently brush the hair as you go.  Do not use a metal comb or that will break the hair. 

Once the burrs have been removed, then you will need to de-tangle.  For this you will need a wide bristle brush, a pair of gloves (optional), a mane and tail comb and grooming spray.  Spray the tail with the grooming spray, working it into the hair.   Place the tail over the arm and work on the bottom four inches with the brush and get it tangle free.  Then gradually move up the tail, two inches at a time.

If you start at the top of the tail, you will make the tangles tighter.  Pulling at the tail will make it frizzy.  If you are going to a show next day, you may want to plait it to keep it looking nice – however do not be tempted to leave the tail plaited for more than a day as your horse needs his nice swishy tail to shake off the flies!  If the tail is really dirty, then you might want to shampoo and condition it. 

Autumn Migration of Wild Birds October 30 2015

Autumn is such a time of coming and going for our wild bird population.  Some birds are arriving from the Artic and Iceland, others such as Gannet, Terns and Manx Shearwater leave their breeding grounds and fly off for the winter season and then there are various breeds of geese and swans who return here for the winter.  Meanwhile, the Swallows and House Martins set off once again for the journey to Africa, to spend their winter in warmer climes.

Swallows start their autumn migration in late August, with short distances every few days.  For example, swallows that have spent spring and summer in Ireland begin their migration by flying to Wales and then into southern England.  The vast majority of breeding swallows leave our shores by late September. 

The wood pigeon is seen in apparent migration in autumn but it is thought that it does not actually leave the UK but merely moves south.  Some starlings are residents here in the UK but many others arrive here in autumn to spend the winter here, as it is milder here than in Europe.  Most Blackbirds are also residents here but some blackbirds have migrated from Scandinavia to spend the winter here, again due to the fact that it is milder and therefore there is a better chance of food. 

Robins are also another breed of bird which is resident and also migratory.  The European Robin spends the winter here as it is milder – this species of Robin is paler than the one we are accustomed to and is less tame.  At the same time, some female British Robins spend their winter in southern Europe.  Robins are one of the few species of bird that sing all the year round and during December will search for a partner.  Once they have paired up, usually by mid-January, they will defend their breeding territory.  The male will continue to sing and proclaim that territory belongs to him and his mate.  About 10% of Robins die in territorial disputes.

Winter Dietary Change For Your Horse October 26 2015

Horses are grazing animals and are designed to eat almost constantly throughout the day. Many horses will now be switching over to their winter routine which will normally mean less time out at grass. The nutrition level in grass will also drop dramatically over the winter, your horse will probably need his diet supplementing with good quality forage and in some cases extra hard feed.

Find out how to alter your horses winter feed to suit the weather and his workload.



How to Measure Your Horse for a Rug October 25 2015

It may seem obvious, but the first thing to do is to measure your horse.  Take a tape measure and measure from the chest to the buttocks – see photo.  The place on the chest to measure from is where you would expect the chest buckle to sit and finish measuring at the furthest rear point of the rump, where you would expect the rug to go to. Remember whether you have measured in feet and inches or metric – 66inches is not 6’6”   Measure both sides more than once, just to make sure!

A good idea when you have the tape measure out is to see where a 6’ rug would finish, likewise a 5’9” and a 6’3”.  This then would be an extra guide to checking which the correct size of rug is for your horse. You could also measure an old rug that fits – don’t just rely on the sizing guide as that may not be accurate.  Also, the old rug may have stretched or shrunk.  If the old rug is a turnout rug, then bear in mind that turnout rugs follow a slightly different fit/sizing.  To measure an existing rug, start from between the two chest straps at the front edge of the rug, go along the length of the rug, with the gusset closed to the rear edge of the rug.

Cm (back) 95 100 105 110 115 120 125 130 135 145 150 155 165
Inches (bottom) 48" 51" 54" 57" 60" 63" 66" 69" 72" 75" 78" 81" 84"
Feet & Inches (bottom) 4' 4'3" 4'6" 4'9" 5' 5'3" 5'6" 5'9" 6' 6'3" 6'6" 6'9" 7'
Hands ( horse size) 11.2 12.0 12.2 13.0 13.2 14.0 14.2 15.0 15.2 16.0 16.2 17.0 17.

Avoiding Vices in Horses October 22 2015

Over time horses have evolved to socialise with other horses, move around and then graze for the remainder of about two thirds of their time.  However, the way that horses are managed in the modern age does not always allow that behaviour to happen.  So problems do occur when horses spend too much time in the stable – perhaps living next door to a horse that they don’t particularly like!

The horse owner must look at four key areas so that unwanted behaviour can be avoided.  Firstly time spent indoors:  your horse should be spending time out in the field and less time in the stable.  Of course, the weather in Britain plays a major part in determining whether a horse is indoors or out.  If rugged up for possible inclement weather, a horse would prefer to be out rather than in.  Unfortunately, boggy wet pasture is not suitable so turning out in an arena for a short period of time to give your horse a change of scenery is a possibility.  A horse walker is also a change of scene when the weather is bad.

Horses like to be in herds and should ideally be in a herd size of 4 – 10 horses of the same sex.  Stallions being the exception to this rule!  You should avoid altering the dynamics of the herd by adding new horses as that can become stressful – the horses will be used to mixing with the same horses and might resent a new horse.  If there are not the available horses to make a herd, donkeys, goats or sheep can be a good idea.  Do check with your vet about this to make sure that there is no problem with your horse’s health plan.

Thirdly horses like plenty of hay or pasture in their diet and if they do not receive enough they can develop behaviours such as wind sucking or cribbing.  If your horse is unable to go out to pasture, feed three to four small meals a day.  This simulates grazing and also increases the time that your horse spends eating, thus occupies the horse.

Finally, your horse enjoys seeing you – so visit him often, to groom, to ride and to enjoy!

What are Alpacas? October 20 2015

Coming in 22 different colours, Alpacas are bred for their fleece and not for meat.  Their fleece does not contain lanolin and therefore you do not need to use harsh chemicals when processing it.  They can live for between 20 and 25 years.  They make very intelligent and affectionate animals and are easy for their handler to train.  Communication between Alpacas is by humming and they have very long eyelashes. 

Though there are about 15,000 in the UK now, they are native to South America.  They were domesticated by early civilisations in the Andes about 6000 years ago.  Alpacas were used for their fleece, whereas Llamas were used to transport goods.  They were nearly wiped out by the Spanish invaders of the 16th century who had brought with them merino sheep which competed for the same pasture.  At the time of the invasion, there were about 30 million alpacas in South America.  They alpacas were soon pushed into the high Andes and there they developed the ability to survive in extremes of temperature with sparse grass and vegetation.  This made the alpaca into a very hardy animal and is  now found in the mountain ranges of Chile, Bolivia and Peru. 

During the 19th century, their famous fleeces were used by Sir Titus Salt at his mill in Saltaire and an alpaca coat was said to be an essential item in the Victorian wardrobe.  Indeed even Queen Victoria was said to have owned and worn dresses made from the fleeces of the alpacas.  

Alpacas enjoy the company of children. They rarely challenge fences so are easy to contain.  They are herd animals and should be kept in groups of a minimum of three.  Finally they are very clean animals and they use a central dung pile which is quite odourless.