Having been in South Africa for 12 years, I had truly forgotten just how wet and muddy UK winters can be, and I am pretty sure Sharp was shell shocked as to just how wet and miserable it can be too. He has been rather lucky over the 3 winters that he has been in the UK – this is the first really wet one that he’s had. Don’t get me wrong, we had rain in South Africa, and lots of it over the summer months, but our winters over there were bone dry, as there was no winter rainfall in the Highveld! That certainly didn’t stop Sharp from enjoying the mud and clay in the summer. And it would appear that the UK mud will suffice too!
Of the 3 yards that Sharp has been at whilst in the UK, the yard we are at at present is the only one that has restricted turnout in Winter. I’m not going to lie; I wasn’t too keen on the idea of him being stabled 24/7 throughout Winter when we moved there. Sharp can be quite quirky and full on, and having been living out 24/7 in SA and then in the UK at previous yards he was only stabled at night in Winter, this was a big change, but one that couldn’t be avoided and I had no other real option.
The first winter he spent at the yard was 2018, and boy was he quite hard to handle. He had so much energy and literally would be explosive, sharp and spooky whenever he was being worked! Not much fun to try and ride him at all. I totally understood why he was so stressed and did everything in my power to alleviate the boredom and his stress, just to ensure that he was as happy as he could be. We have amazing facilities at our yard, but using them became impossible and dangerous as he was just so volatile! The yard owners were fabulous and in January they allowed me access to a pen that I could turn him out into whilst I mucked out morning and evening, and if I rode at lunch-time I would turn him out after whilst I skipped out! It became apparent that as long as Sharp had some time out in the pen each day, and was able to get his head down he was relaxed and happy and I could actually work him without fear of what may happen!
This year I was dreading winter, and had used the summer to look at alternatives for us but could find none! Now I have seen a lot of posts on social media recently of liveries complaining about restricted turn out throughout the UK, and I will admit that I used to be one of the complainers – mainly as I was so unhappy that my horse was unhappy. This year we have had so much rain, and our yard kept us turned out right up until about a week before Christmas. The mud has been horrendous, the paddocks that we were using were becoming trashed, and in all honesty by the time we were keeping in 24/7 Sharp was also fed up of the mud and rain and lack of grass, and was very happy to come in – secretly so was I! He has been a totally different horse to last winter and is very happy with his time spent in the turnout pens. Obviously its not the natural way to keep horses, and yes I would absolutely prefer him to be out in a field grazing, but he wasn’t happy out in a field, and I understand why some Yard owners restrict the turnout in Winter – it’s not ideal, but unfortunately the area where our yard is, is on clay based soil and that makes for very sticky, sloshy mud!
I may have to rename Sharp, as he is a true mud monster! As soon as he is out in a pen, he finds the wettest, dirtiest, muddiest patch and literally covers himself from ear to hoof in wet sloshy clay-based mud!! Don’t you just love horses!?!
How are you all coping with this wet winter that we are having??
Until next time – much love!!