Dusty – kissing spines update


At the beginning of November I had a reading week so went home to Norfolk for a few days. I took my riding boots and hat back with me, and was glad that I did as I ended up riding Dusty four times while I was back!


It was great to catch up with his owner and to hear about how he has been progressing since I last saw him in the summer. (A quick note – I have acquired a few more followers recently, so if you aren’t aware of Dusty’s back problem you can find a previous blog post about it using the menu on the left hand side).


His owner has continued to be successful in getting him working over his back when out hacking and this has also begun to show in the school as well. We each had a lesson on him and I could see the improvement in him from watching him being ridden.

When I was riding him in the lesson and in the field on my own I still found him to be quite tricky but after a good forty-five minutes of warming up I could occasionally get him working nicely for a few strides…


He often lacks energy when schooling, but with the cooler weather and him having not been ridden in the field for a couple of months he was a little bit more lively and even started to get quite strong with me at one point. I was able to use this to my advantage and it definitely made it easier for me to encourage him into an outline as he was stepping forwards with much more power. We also practised plenty of trot poles as these require him to engage his hindquarters more.


After each ride we ask him to perform particular stretches using treats such as chunks of apple – these stretch his back and help him to develop muscle. Strengthening his back could alleviate the symptoms of kissing spine and reduce the need for surgery.

I wasn’t able to get very good images of Dusty stretching, but it generally includes him reach his head to his sides, to his hooves and to the tops of his front legs.


The video below shows some short clips of us schooling and a couple of his stretches.



Invasive animal species no.3 – ring-necked parakeets

(I’ll apologise in advance for the pictures, these are quite tricky creatures to photograph!)

The ring-necked parakeet is the only parrot to be found living successfully in the UK. The species originates from South Asia but has been a popular pet in Europe for many years – this has led to many birds escaping or simply being set free here.


City parks provide the ideal habitat: since the 1970s population sizes have been on the increase and the parakeets are now found across most of England. When I first arrived in Manchester and began to explore nearby parks I was quite surprised to see ring-necked parakeets as I had assumed that they would not cope with the colder weather in the north of the country.


Unlike the other two species that I have covered in this series (grey squirrels and Canadian geese), the ring-necked parakeet has not had any major effects on the ecology of the habitats it has moved into. However it has been here for a relatively short amount of time compared with other invasive species and with numbers on the rise it is likely that this introduction could prove to be detrimental to British wildlife.


Certain people are eligible for a license which enables them to kill ring-necked parakeets or to destroy eggs and nests. Once again this raises the question of whether this is ethical or not – we are the reason that this species ended up here in the first place and at this present time it is not causing any real disruption in UK ecosystems.


However, this could be considered a preventative measure to avoid damage to British wildlife: past experience shows us that the sudden introduction of a species is rarely beneficial. It is inevitable that the parakeets will begin to compete with native species for resources and even the decline of just one bird could send the whole food chain into chaos.

If ring-necked parakeets are going to be allowed to stay in the UK, their populations and impact should be carefully monitored to ensure that the lives of native species are not compromised.


Sources used in this blog post:

The RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/

Gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-take-or-kill-for-health-or-safety-purposes

Invasive animal species no.2 – Canada Geese

Canada geese were initially introduced to the UK as an ornamental species in the 17th century and since then they have flourished: the past forty years in particular have seen a significant increase in the population size.

They are attractive birds and the majority of people probably wouldn’t think twice about whether they are supposed to be in our parks and lakes – I wasn’t even aware that they were a foreign species until I began reading up on the topic a few weeks ago. Whilst much less emphasis is placed on them than other invasive species (grey squirrels, for example – see my previous blog post for more information), they do still have detrimental effects in British ecosystems.


Canada geese can cause damage to plant life – by eating aquatic plants they can disrupt oxygen levels in lakes, which has an impact on organisms in the water. On the sides of lakes, terrestrial plants such as grass are trampled and eaten. 

Their droppings can appear unsightly and contain substances which in large quantities could affect aquatic life – these include nitrate and phosphate. Continual entries and exits from the lakes can also cause erosion of the banks.


Certain people are eligible for a license which grants them permission to kill Canada geese and to destroy their nests and eggs. 

Some other less extreme methods can be used to manage populations: many are fed by humans, so discouraging this activity is an option and strategic fencing can prevent geese from settling in an area in the first place. 


Whilst this may be considered as necessary action to protect British lakes and parks, perhaps we should also recognise that Canada geese are not the only waterfowl to inhabit these areas and so are not the only species contributing to the problem. That said, they are on the rise and could begin to dominate over other native species that exploit the same niche. 

The idea of having to remove Canada geese due to us wrongly introducing them in the first place is a controversial one, but we have to understand that as an invasive species they could have a long term negative impact on British ecosystems.


Sources used in this blog post: 

The RSPB: https://www.rspb.org.uk/ 

English Heritage: http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/ 

Gov.uk: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wild-birds-licence-to-take-or-kill-for-health-or-safety-purposes