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Blanket ban on more purchases

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THE latest addition to our household is a chestnut pony, which arrived last year and has been, like so many animals, the source of much angst, argument and expenditure. The major bone of contention has not been the cost of livery, nor the farriery fees, nor the investment in new saddles, but the outlay on horse rugs. How many, do you think, are required to keep one small equid comfortably clothed? Two? Three? Let's assume one waterproof blanket for wet weather, a natty flycover for the lazy summer days spent grazing in the paddock and maybe a trendy quilted number so that it can look its best stepping out of the horsebox on arrival at a show. If perhaps we even add an extra one for luck or as a spare, we reach a maximum number of four.

So far, so good – except that our four-legged friend seems to actually require a grand total of 13 rugs! Each, I am assured, is essential. There is apparently a need for several rugs that vary (a bit like pugilists) from lightweight through mediumweight to heavyweight, plus stable blankets, travel rugs, paddock sheets, exercise rugs, anti-sweat covers and goodness-knows-what-else. Well actually I do know what else, as we seem to have acquired a couple of vests and a bib, plus some under-blankets, a neck collar and some surcingles (whatever they may be).

My comment that the beast is one of the mountain and moorland breeds, which are, by definition, hardy creatures that can cope with the worst of the British weather is greeted with indifference by the rest of the family. Observations that the ponies of the New Forest seem to survive from year to year without any form of artificial covering fall on stony ears.

The animal is, for large parts of each day, in a perfectly good, dry stable with as much bedding as it needs and more food than it knows what to do with, so why it needs so many outfits is quite beyond me. Suffice to say that, despite my protests, the pony has an extensive wardrobe. Moreover it seems to need new additions on a frequent basis, presumably because it has no wish to step out in an outfit that is looking a bit shabby or because it has the fashionista's desire to be seen only in this season's colours. Every month it seems that the postman staggers up to our front door clutching yet another bulky parcel and it does not take a financial genius to conclude that as the number of rugs grows my bank balance dwindles.

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My wife dropped in to the practice recently and, as she sipped a coffee with us in the dispensary, looked over to the rack holding our stethoscopes. She idly asked what each one was for. I explained that the red one with the small bell is ideal for cats, while the double-ended purple one is perfect for canine cardiac assessment. The green one is my partner's – he prefers the large ear tips – and the two multicoloured stethoscopes were bought on a whim at a congress but fascinate children when they come into the consulting room.

‘So, five stethoscopes in total?’, asked my wife, and I reassured her that we also have the oesophageal stethoscope for anaesthetic monitoring and the electronic gadget we sometime use to demonstrate to an owner their animal's heart murmur. We also keep a couple of spare stethoscopes in the practice van and, of course, the nurses each have their own as well. Every stethoscope is essential. My dear wife pondered this for a minute or so.

‘Surely, they all do the same thing?’, she said as she went to leave, pausing only to add that she was expecting a delivery and had to get home. I was sure I could guess what she had ordered, but for the moment I felt incapable of passing any judgement on the matter.

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