No sooner had I written about hoping for a dry period up to Christmas then the heavens opened! Cue copious amounts of mud and a champion Shetland pony looking like she had never seen a brush let alone a show ring.
Luckily, I had not grazed one of my fields to ensure there was a good length of grass on it for the winter months. The long grass obviously gets eaten down, but it also prevents the field from getting churned up compared to one that is grazed to the roots.
I do like Diva (Melland Queen of Scots) to live as natural a life as she can, so during the winter she is unrugged and I try to keep her out in all but the worst weather. She generally comes in if I am restricting grass intake – protecting the field from being too badly poached – or if her field companion, Mabel, needs to come in if the rain is relentless. As Mabel is 25 years old, she needs a little more pampering but is happier and less creaky when she is out in the field.
I had to chuckle when I had them in the stable on a day of extremely heavy rain. Despite several hay nets stuffed to capacity, Diva insisted on eating the bits of hay that dropped to the floor from the net Mabel was eating out of. A consequence of which can be seen in the photo where the soggy Shetland was covered in hay.
I said soggy, but in reality, Diva is properly roughed off and even heavy rain doesn’t get through her long coat and natural grease to her skin. Winter on Shetland itself can be very windy and wet and the native ponies have evolved to thrive in such conditions. Generally, it is us as owners that feel the need to rug and pamper them. Of course, the elderly or ill need to be looked after and if they are ridden and clipped, they will need to be rugged, but most are quite happy without.
After a long dry summer, getting into the winter routine seems harder than usual this year, but we will soon be back in the swing of it.