CREATING AN ENRICHED ENVIRONMENT FOR RESCUE HORSES

by Cal Eddy-Fox in Ochiltree, Ayrshire and Arran, Scotland

CREATING AN ENRICHED ENVIRONMENT FOR RESCUE HORSES

Help us raise £3300 to improve our resources for the care and rehabilitation of vulnerable horses and ponies in foster care

by Cal Eddy-Fox in Ochiltree, Ayrshire and Arran, Scotland

We did it
On 17th October 2018 we successfully raised £1,034 with 25 supporters in 45 days

As volunteers for Horse Rescue Scotland we are providing care and rehabilitation for vulnerable foster horses and ponies and now hope to raise £3300 to further develop and improve the resources we have available whilst these equines are in our care.  With this funding we will:

  • Create a hard-surfaced area usingINB® SLABS – the company have generously agreed to 
  • provide the slabs to Horse Rescue Scotland at a discount if our Crowdfunding project is a success!
  • Add gutters and rainwater collectors to the horses’ shelter
  • Raise the roof of the horses' shelter
  • Widen the gateway into the paddock

We can achieve ALL of this with £3300.

Why?

We are doing everything we can to provide the very best, most domestically natural and enriched environment for the horses and ponies in our care. This approach to horse care encourages the horse to explore and exhibit natural behaviours that it may have shut down due to its previous experiences. 

They have: 

  • Access to other horses to socialise with and learn from 
  • Free access to hedgerow foraging
  • The opportunity for self selection of herbs, minerals and different plants and grasses
  • An environment that increases movement and roaming
  • Other herd species that use the pasture differently, eating different parts of the grasses and also different plants. Cross grazing like this actually puts less strain on the fields and brings the horses other forms of company.
  • Our respect and are recognised as thoughtful, emotional beings rather than as commodities. Once here their journey begins with plenty of time spent just being a horse.


In October Snoopy will be getting the chance to do all of this with us and you can watch his journey from his very own Facebook page! 


So what's the problem?

The difficulties we are facing are as follows:


  • Mud and rain 

The soil here is a heavy clay mix and prone to becoming a deep, slippery mudbath during the wet periods of the year (we’re in the south west of Scotland so a large part of the year!). The image here shows the mud around the shelter during July of this year. The worst areas are those that the horses use the most and as such get churned up a lot. We find this to be outside the shelter and around the watering hole.

Mud affects every aspect of horsecare from the health of the horse, to the additional workload for the caregiver, and then there’s the impact on the environment around the muddy areas.

Constant exposure to mud can potentially lead to any number of health problems in horses as the wet conditions make the perfect home in which parasites, bacteria, fungi and fly larvae can thrive. Horses’ hooves soften in the wet environment and this invites fungal and bacterial growth within the hoof which could lead to ailments such as thrush or infection; and the persistent wetting of the skin increases the risk of rain scald and mud fever. Further, the boggy footing increases the risk of sprains and strains to the ligaments or tendons of the horse’s legs.


  • Shelter

The current shelter is well made and hard wearing, but it is definitely only made for two ponies who get on well ie are willing to stand close together. Successful group housing depends on minimal competition for resources – and sheltered space is one such resource. Each horse needs to be able to stand as close or as far away from the others as they need, and so extending the shelter to provide adequate dimensions is important. Ensuring these needs are met will help to reduce stress within the individual horse, and within the herd as a whole.


  • Access 

By replacing our current access which is a single gate (see image) with a full size gate we will be able to take necessary machinery into the fields to properly manage the pasture. This will save hundreds of man-hours which can instead be spent providing each horse with more time and focus.


Specifically then, how will we spend your donations?

  • With the use of MUDCONTROL INB® SLABS – interlocking, environmentally friendly slabs that are easy to install, require minimal ground preparation and are non-permanent  – we can very quickly create: a large mud-free area for the horses to chill out on during the long, wet winter months (called a loafing area); an area that will help to keep their hooves healthy and self-trimmed; and increase the number of hours I can spend working with the foster horses


  • Adding gutters and rainwater collectors to the horse shelter is a simple and cost-effective method to keep water and mud away from this important area. Not only will this help with the mud problem around the shelter but provide water for irrigating the fields during the increasingly dryer summers.


  • The current shelter needs its roof raised to ensure that each horse has access to plenty of space in which to stand, or lie, out of the wind, rain or sun should they so choose. All of the horses need to be able to fit comfortable into the shelter at the same time but equally be able to move out of the way of one another, raise their heads, and respond to one another appropriately.


  • Widening the gateway into the paddock will enable vehicles to access the field and perform much needed maintenance to the pastures to ensure the health of the soil, the pasture and environment - and ultimately the horses. Over the seasons this includes topping, harrowing, weeding and reseeding, and removing the manure heap. Currently this is all done by hand.


Horse Rescue Scotland is a charitable organisation that aims to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home horses and ponies before they become extreme welfare cases.

Horses and humans have evolved such unique partnerships that horses continue to have an important role in today’s society.Whether as working animals, family pets, equine athletes, conservation grazers or companions, horses contribute to our lives, cultures and economies. To live and work alongside horses and / or to enjoy leisure time with them, their welfare becomes and remains our responsibility.


Who are we?

Pam Currie and Aileen Connor have donated the use of their land, long term, on which the individual horses that require specialised rehabilitation can spend their time. This land forms the basis of the project. 


Then there's me. I’m Cal and I have High Functioning Autism (previously known as Asperger’s Syndrome). I was diagnosed at 34. Before I was diagnosed I often found interactions with people baffling, unsatisfying, and anxiety-inducing.

However animals, especially horses, take me to a place of calm, understanding and comfort. I have studied animal behaviour and training for almost 20 years; and human psychology, linguistics and behaviour to master’s level. 

I have been especially interested in the cross-purposes of communication between humans and their animal companions and unravelling the miscommunication that takes place between the two. We humans tend to forget that the expectations we have of our pets and their behaviour are ours and ours alone: if we wish for our pet to share in them then we may be wise to firstly teach them, and secondly to do so in a manner that recognises that animals have their own ‘expectations’ of life too. I interpret this as two individuals from completely different cultures with no common language. If they were both human we would seek out a translator for the language barrier, and we would try to help the other to feel as comfortable as possible in a space that was completely alien to them. This is what I now do for horses using the most ethical training I have come across, that of positive reinforcement and shaping. I'm absolutely certain that my form of autism and the struggles I've experienced equip me with a unique perspective to approach problems that animals may be experiencing. Temple Grandin speaks and writes about this a lot so if it interests you do have a look at her work.

I volunteer my time and skills to help with the rehabilitation of horses and ponies that come into Horse Rescue Scotland before they seek out their forever home. This could be anything from teaching the horse how to live comfortably alongside humans (what humans expect of them) to addressing stress-induced behaviour, or perhaps socialising a horse with other horses. 

To do this the horse I am to work with comes to live with my own two ponies so that I can spend time on a daily basis observing them and slowly building a rapport. In doing so I can assess how best to work with the horse using positive reinforcement training to help prepare them for the most suitable forever home Horse Rescue Scotland can find.

The horse has the structural support of a herd who live on what is called a 'track system' outdoors 24/7. This system stimulates horses to behave and move naturally according to their instincts, travelling around the track to feeding points, watering holes and shelter. There are hedgerows which provide natural foraging opportunities and the grazing is shared with sheep and goats which helps to manage the track itself as they all eat different types and parts of the vegetation. The continual movement that the track encourages helps to keep the horses weight down, keeps their hooves hard and trim (where appropriate surfaces are provided) and alongside having less access to sugar-rich grasses, can help to protect against laminitis.

Each horse is treated with respect, compassion and understanding and is supported through their rehabilitation according to their individual needs with the aim of striving for long-term change rather than short-term fixes.


Please help us to make these changes to our foster horses lives. You've heard it many times before but that's because it's true: every bit really does help... so whatever you can spare will make all the difference to reaching our goal.


Share our crowdfunder project on your social media - lets try for the butterfly effect.


Thank you for your time.


Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£15 or more

Visit our little horsey heaven

Come meet the horses, the goats, the sheep and the pigs! There's chickens, ducks and dogs too. See what we're doing here in Ochiltree, East Ayrshire whilst enjoying cake and a hot drink (it'll be raining!)

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