Tag Archives: Horse Stories

Horse Story: Pasha

Many of you know Pasha. He’s our 13 hand high, bay, Dartmoor pony. He is full of character and usually full of hay too. He is gentle and just a touch wide at 325kg. Pasha is young and loves to hang around with all our mares. I’m not sure if he is looking for a mummy or a girl friend, but he is a bit of a ladies man – more like Hercules Poirot than James Bond.

I remember when I went to see Pasha for the first time. He was a cute little boy who was as tall as he was wide. I had taken my son Huw with me and the two of them became partners-in-crime instantly. Pasha wasn’t too sure what was going on, but he wasn’t terribly bothered. I liked that about him immediately. I was told that Pasha was 6 years old and was Riding For The Disabled (RDA) trained. He was so calm that I had no reason to doubt it. The only thing I was told that was a downside to this young man was that he didn’t like to box and he didn’t like to travel. I was sure I could sort this out, so I agreed to adopt him.

I came back a week later (had to get his box sorted) and picked our boy up. I brought Dottie with us as I figured that Pasha would be happier going on the box if he didn’t think he would be doing it alone. It was a risk, but one I thought negligible, because I didn’t know the yard he was coming from. I have to admit that I wasn’t overly impressed by that yard as it wasn’t terribly clean and there were lots of broken places in the hard standing. But I digress…. To my utter surprise, Pasha walked straight up the ramp and into the trailer. His ears were forward and he looked excited as we tied him up and gave him hay. Dottie looked over and gave the pony equivalent of a shrug.

The ride home to Sunshine was calm. When we arrived, Pasha was easy to get off the trailer. Again, he looked excited about his new home. We had a quick trot up on the yard to make sure he was fine. Pasha was far more interested at looking at all the new faces than what we were asking him to do. Our little fat pony was also out of puff by that trot up. Simon put Pasha in his new stable and we gave him some hay which was devoured in short order. Simon and I looked at each other and agreed that we had an “eater”.

After a week in quarantine so we could do a full health check and a worming, it was time to start introducing Pasha to work. Huw was the obvious choice as they had already developed a bond. We had a major problem trying to find tack to fit this monster. He was so wide that his back was flat. He was taking the same size grith as I would put on a horse 5 hands bigger than Pasha. One of teachers, Shannon, had a “miracle saddle” that was treeless, which made it possible for Pasha to be ridden and worked. When he lost some weight, he would be put into a more proper saddle. To this day I am so thankful that Shan had that saddle!

Huw mounted Pasha and we walked him into our field known as The Working. Shannon and I watched as Huw walked and trotted Pasha around. Pasha was a bit unsure yet happy to do what was asked of him. Now we have a ring in The Working which has a deep track (we currently use it as a ditch when we teach cross-country), and Huw and Pasha rode straight towards it. Pasha, who was so heavy that he couldn’t canter, heaved himself across it. At that moment Shannon squeeked, “I love that pony! He has so much! I am going to make him a jumper!”

So Shannon and Huw began to work Pasha. He had arrived weighing 380kg, which for a Dartmoor pony is morbidly fat. I was very impressed with the work they did as when we had out Annual Vet Inspection two months later in January, Pasha was down to 355kg. Not great, but better. Our Inspecting Vet, Mr McFairlane, checked Pasha and asked me what he had been doing in the school. I said, “Not much. Why?”

“Your pony just turned 4, I’d say about 6 weeks ago by his teeth. You know that you can’t have anything under 4 working in the school.”

Oh dear. This is the second time I had been told by a seller that my horse was actually older than it was. Fortunately for us we had just started putting Pasha into the lead rein classes, so we hadn’t broken any laws. But for training it makes a big difference. Mr McFarland also said that Pasha needed to loose 50kg by next inspection. Weight Watchers or Slimming World for Horses, anyone? We did get him down to 305kg, but our vet, Dr Laura, said he was too thin. So 325kg it is.

As Pasha was, and still is, an “eater” it was vital that we control his diet. He went on sugar free foods and no treats. We got him a trickle feeding haynet. It lasted 1 night before Pasha tore a hole the size of his head in it. Pasha was either ridden or lunged everyday. We tried him on a shavings bed because Pasha liked (and still likes) to eat his bedding. This change ended up with Pasha developing Colic. He ate his bed – which the manufacturers claimed wouldn’t happen because this bedding is ‘unpalatable to horses’. They had never met Pasha. We had our vet, Dr Laura, out and she gave him an injection to help him calm down and poop. We must have walked him more that day than any day previous. Eventually Pasha began pooping (remember that horses only have a one way system so what goes in the front must come out the back!) and boy did he produce. It was decided that Pasha would have a small straw bed put in at day’s end and it would not be more than 8 pounds of straw. This way if he ate it, the effects would be minimal. He still has this type of bed.

Pasha has become one of Sunshine’s most popular ponies. Thanks to the efforts of Shannon and then later Lauren and Izzy, Pasha has become an amazing jumper. He is not Schoolmaster, so he is not the best to start to teach jumping with, but if a rider has some jumping knowledge and is still small, Pasha is your boy. Pasha usually jumps to a height of 60cm, but he has his personal best with Izzy at 85cm. (It was a question of who could jump higher – Pasha or Katrina. Pasha won.) It is important to realise that a 13hh, boxy Dartmoor pony isn’t going to do the big sticks like a svelte New Forest. Each horse should jump to the height that is comfortable for them without posing damage to their legs.

Pasha is also an amazing dressage pony. Because he is young and responsive, he has some lovely, albeit small in stride, paces. Pasha has competed in our home shows and done very well. Huw has competed him in Interdressage, an online international competition, several times and the pair have always placed in the top 6. Yes, Pasha can be stubborn and there was the time that he jumped the mounting block out of the arena to avoid the next move, but he does have a lovely nature.

Pasha is also our “Pony Ride Pony”. Because of his good nature, we take him and Crystal (who he really doesn’t like) when we do pony rides at the local school fetes. He is patient and forgiving. He doesn’t kick or bite the riders. He seems to love to the attention, but he will tell you when he has had enough and wants a break. Many very young children who are too small to ride start their equine education by giving Pasha a pet-pet. Did you know he has the cutest little moustache too?

When Pasha isn’t showing off his jumping, dressage or pony riding, he is a stalwart in our school. Now all this praise of Pasha doesn’t mean he doesn’t have faults. Pasha is an EATER. He will happily thrown his head down and try to eat the grass in any of our schools. This is a challenge to both rider and Handler. He is strong and our young riders just don’t have the muscle or heft to stop him from doing this. Also, because he is strong, it is important that riders who have just come off the lead rein or those learning to canter have the confidence to pull the reins when he decides that he wants to be in another part of the school. Because he looks like butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth doesn’t mean he isn’t a very cheeky pony.

Pasha is now, really and truly, six years old. We do love him to bits and he is a big part of what Sunshine is all about. He is kind and helpful to our disabled riders and doesn’t put a hoof out of place for them. He will challenge riders who need a good challenge. He loves to hack and can be seen out on all our special rides or just with Huw. If you are young enough or small enough, Pasha is fun ride no matter what you are asking him to do.

This post would not be possible without the wonderful photos from Chris Cole Photography.  Thank you Chris for all you do for us!

So This Is Christmas And What Have You Done

Yes, Christmas is upon us. It is filled with coloured lights and Christmas trees; elves and odd, bordering on hideous, jumpers; hot chocolate and RAIN.

If you are a non-rider, rain is an annoyance. It makes it hard to go anywhere as traffic is terrible. Your jacket is damp and needs to be hung in the shower to dry. Your car windows are always steaming up. And it is a constant and necessary run from shop to car and vice versa. Yes, it is a bit dreary and doesn’t make for a fun December.

Now imagine, or just recognise, that you have all of that and a horse. The fields right now can only be described as a mud-pit. They are past saturated and are now filled with enough standing water and mud slurry to bring to mind WWI. The wind is blowing the rain in your face and you have to collect your best friend in. I really don’t think that horses are intentionally being stupid when they stand in the middle of the field and ignore you calling them. Yes they look at you with a face that says, “Really? You want me to come over there?” They aren’t being horrid as such. They just know how much mud separates you.

I would also like to think my horses are considering my bank balance. It is December and Charlie KNOWS it’s Christmas. He wants a new 7 foot medium weight rug in his stocking (it’s a big stocking!). He knows he is standing on the only solid part of the field and as a 750 kg boy, he’s not giving it up. He knows that walking over to me will suck off 2 of his shoes and the money I spend putting them back on will mean he doesn’t get that rug. He is a smart horse. He knows that my wellies don’t cost anywhere near that. So he stands firm in the hope of a new rug.

Once I have brought the beloved horse in, I then get the wonders of grooming. Well, first he has to dry out. I don’t know how he does it, but I turn him out in a rug to keep clean and he manages to get the mud up under the rug. So the mud has to dry so I can clean his coat. His rug has to dry too. That is even harder than getting the horse to dry because it is raining and humidity does not encourage evaporation. This is why he needs 2 of every rug – one to wear and one to dry. After approximately 90 minutes, Charlie is now dry enough to start the process of removing the mud. This is not going to be your standard rub and flick groom. The mud in my fields has an underlying component of cement. In my 90 minute wait, some of it has set. Charlie is now looking smug.

I get out the baby oil and begin to work it into the cement patches and they slowly dissolve. Now my hands are covered in oil and I can’t hold on to the brushes properly. After the 15th time of picking up the rubber curry comb, I am now becoming frustrated. The Grinch is making a move on my holiday glow. I reach for the mud comb and begin to apply it with vigour. Charlie decides that he doesn’t like his tummy fur being pulled that way and swings his nearly 18 hand body into me to get me to stop. He knocks over the only warm thing on the yard — my sacred cup of coffee. I walk away to make another and possibly to calm down.

I return after 10 minutes and continue at a more gentle pace. His body is clean. His mane and tail however look like a cross between a punk rocker and a mud wrestler. Baby oil makes it second appearance (can I buy stock in this suff?). I’ve tried specialist stuff which nearly bankrupted me after a British winter and I have tried standard conditioner which is supposed to help the hairs not break. Neither one did the trick. Baby oil is my friend. So we enjoy a repeat of my earlier experience with the only difference it is the mane and tail brush the flies all over the yard. Charlie just looks at me with patience and sympathy. I remind him this is all his fault. He snorts and returns to his haynet like the petulant teenager he is.

In the meantime, my son arrives on the yard swearing his head off. He tried to get his ginger thoroughbred in and failed. “Why do we have 4 foot tall fences when we teach our horses to jump higher than that? How is it he can jump in this mud? Why are our fence rails made of wood which can be broken by a trailing hind foot? And he’s lost a bloody hind shoe! I’m supposed to be hunting this weekend!” Apparently the Ginga Ninja had not only broken out but took a full on canter down the road. I reminded my son that he wanted a Cross Country horse. He glares at me then proceeds to try to pick the horse’s feet. By the time he is done, he is wearing mud to his elbows and Ginga Ninja has tried to kick him twice.

I take pity on the boy (ha! he’s a grown adult now!) and try to help. I get nipped for my efforts and I swear at the horse. Charlie looks smug again, and I tell him that his stable mate is about to become dogfood. I notice that the mud is now causing a small case of mud fever on Ginga’s hind right. I tell my son that it will need to be treated and fast if he wants to keep working the beast. We then have to wash the foot and dry it (remember what I said about getting things dry?) before we put the cream on. Son says he is glad that Ginga has mud fever because he can now stay in. I tell Son that he is buying all the bedding and making the stable repairs. Son not impressed. I then tell him that he has to go fix the fence Ginga broke. Son is now angry. I love being a yard Mum.

Charlie is now bored and irritated that he is not the centre of attention. After all, he is The Good Boy. So he begins to back up and pull on his rope. This tightens the knot. I know we/I use a quick release knot, so this shouldn’t be a problem, but a tightly pulled quick release is still a bugger to undo. I tell Charlie that he is not clever. Charlie tries to hug me and in the process pins me against the wall. And spills my now lukewarm coffee.

In desperation I take Charlie and put him to bed in his stable. He is happy, clean and dry. I look at his now damp, mud-encrusted rug to see if I can brush it off. He’s torn it. It has to be repaired. It can’t be worn until it is repaired. I want to cry. I know that tomorrow I will be fixing the rug and dealing with mud. This won’t end until March.

And Charlie still wants a new rug.