We have a visitor that has been with us for over a year, Sheila the pony. She belongs to a family member that is currently working abroad and we agreed to mind her for the period.
To be perfectly honest, we know pretty much nothing about horses or ponies, but Sheila is a very placid pony, easy to mind and requires very little attention. My riding skills leaves much to be desired, but with help of horse aficionado neighbours and friends, we have learned a lot.
I have learned to lunge her, which has amazed me. Tied to a long rope I get to play the circus tamer and exercise her in circles, making her walk, trot and canter, while also changing direction and speed. To able horse lovers this is probably small potatoes, to me it was incredible that I could have such control over a big animal and see her enjoy the attention and exercise.
The last year has been quiet for Sheila and she has kept company with our bullocks. Sheila minds herself most of the time, and needs very little supervision. She has unfortunately gained too much weight while hanging out with our cattle, and has had to be separated to a field with less grass. There are regular visits and plenty of attention from our kids, myself and our horse friendly friends and neighbours. On one such visit we were very worried to see that she had developed a severe lameness.
A visit from a vet and the farrier was arranged.
The farrier, Darren Howard, had a good look at her and noted the extra weight. Sheila patiently stood by as he gave her a horsey manicure and paired her hooves back. Darren showed us the cause of the lameness, which resulted in a small gap by her hoof where possibly a stone had dug through the hoof and found an outlet in the soft part where the hoof ends and the leg begins.
“There’s nothing you can really do about it. It just happens” Darren said.
So, with pretty hooves, Sheila was put into on a diet and again in a field with very little grass growing. This has not been enough and her sensitive hooves have caused her a lot of pain. She is now stabled in a very kindly neighbours farm, and very well looked after.
I never knew that horses where such sensitive animals, and while it at times has given us a lot of worry it has also been so rewarding to learn about these fantastic animals. What is true is that you truly have to love it, as they require a lot of your time and there are no half measures when you want to have a well behaved pony.
One last note, in case someone wonders. No, we do not do pony treks at Casa Ceoil holiday home. We will bring you over to pet Sheila, who is as placid as the day is long as we are a long cry from experienced horse riders. On the other hand, there are plenty of horse trek centers in the vicinity we can recommend.