Unsurprisingly, one of the questions I get asked most often is “What do you actually do?” – To be fair to everyone that asks, it’s not the most common profession I could have chosen. I touched on this in my first guest blog, but there really is a lot more behind the scenes for a producer.
Of course, depending on the time of year my routine changes, so in this blog I will run through a day on the yard during Autumn.
First things first
After the show season comes to an end most customers typically take their ponies home for a well-deserved holiday, which leaves empty stables. To fill the stables over the winter months I take in ponies for breaking, schooling, or as a project for myself. They are often naughty ponies that need help in progressing with their ridden career. This is a particularly exciting time of year when I can assess newcomers for the season ahead.
Breakfast is served before anything else, so I leave them to enjoy that whilst I sort out tack for the day - I operate on a rota basis to protect my grazing, deciding who I want to ride and work that morning, and which of the gang is going out in the field.
Once the ponies have been turned out, the mucking out begins – historically this would have been one of the most laborious tasks of my day, however, since switching to BedKind everything has changed for the better.
The thought of reverting back to straw or shavings is not something I care to think about – I don’t miss them in the slightest. The quality of straw was unpredictable to say the least, it was awkward to store, and the dust was a real problem.
Pallets of BedKind are far more convenient. I can spread a bale in seconds and bring a pony in knowing there is no dust to worry about. The bedding also lasts much longer compared to shavings because the wet is limited to one area. This means I take out less than a third of a wheelbarrow each time, and my muck trailer needs emptying much less often compared to traditional bedding types, saving me a penny or two over the course of a year.
After mucking out I put the bedding up in banks to allow any little patches of wet to dry, not an essential task, but rather a personal preference and long-term habit. For the ponies that are staying in, I give them a day hay net to keep them occupied, whilst also topping up the other hay nets and water buckets ready for the evening.
Depending upon each ponies’ level of education, I will lunge and long rein the 'breakers' in the school, progressing to the lanes and down to the village once I feel they’re ready. Ponies that are backed will either be taken for a hack down the bridleways and village roads, or worked in the school - we like to keep their work varied, and each pony has a plan tailored to their needs.
After lunch, the yard swaps and the process begins again.
The amount of work a pony receives depends on a few things - age, level of education, overall fitness, and behaviour. Of course, I like to make sure that each pony has enough exercise each day, so if they are not on the worklist, they can enjoy a free day in the field. I’ve found over the years that some horses prefer a morning’s leg stretch before coming in at lunch to be worked.
Breaking in ponies requires a different approach. We tend to work them every other day, especially the younger ponies, aged 3-4, giving their bodies enough time to catch up without overdoing their joints, or brains for that matter. It’s a bit like a child at school, we must be careful not to push them too hard, whilst being mindful of their capabilities.
With the dark nights creeping in, and daylight limited, I like to get the ponies in from the field when it’s still light to give them a once over, rugs are changed, and evening feeds are dished out. Then it’s lights out, the perfect chance for them to make more mess ready for the next morning!
Any time left in the day is spent catching up with owners on their ponies’ progress, and of course, the bit everyone hates – admin! Like with any business, there’s a surprising amount of paperwork to keep things ticking along nicely!
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