Some of you may remember that I reported the devastating forest fires which swept through Victoria, Australia, a few years back when Jolly Farm, owned by Highland pony breeder Scott MacGregor, came seriously under threat.

It was his Aussie neighbours and my longstanding friends, Anthony and Suellen Deane, along with their family, who saved his property from destruction by keeping it doused with water throughout the night.

News has just come to me that the drought-ridden state is suffering a similar fate but this time it’s my friend’s farm which has come under threat, with fires raging literally a few metres away from their house and steading. They are the second of my pony friends to succumb to devastating fires this year and a frightening thought it is that weather can play such a cruel hand.

Along with the many thousands of starving, if not dead, livestock for which there has been little or no keep for more than a year now, the price of fodder has reached an all-time high in Australia ... for those who can find it.

Bearing in mind the threat to both human and animal life, this puts into perspective the difficulties we faced last year when too much winter rain, followed by a dry summer, ironically brought about similar difficulties over the availability of grass fodder and straw.

Despite the inordinate price horse and pony owners have had to pay for hay, haylage and straw over the past eight months, they have survived and are now enjoying the pleasures of the fine spring weather.

I say ‘enjoying’, however the sunshine and warm temperatures have had a noticeable effect on the growth of grass, especially in the early part of the year – too much sugar-rich grass is bringing with it problems of its own. Of course, I refer to the scourge of little ponies, in particular, commonly known in Scotland as ‘founder’, which by all accounts has been keeping vets busy throughout Scotland.

Horses, of course, are not immune to the condition, nevertheless it is a problem which few pony owners will have missed during their time with their ponies. As a painful, crippling and potentially fatal disease in worse-case scenarios, it is important to seek veterinary advice immediately when first spotted.

We know so much more about laminitis these days, with the myth well and truly exploded that it only occurs in over-fat ponies – although it is more likely to affect them particularly badly and is a special danger associated with obesity. While stress, concussion, severe infection and hormone levels are some of the many recognised triggers which can bring on laminitis, the digestion of high levels of soluble starch and sugars is probably most prevalent.

Needless to say, we have had a few cases of laminitis over a 40-year period, which makes us extremely vigilant as a result. It is such a painful condition that any effort to restrict it is worthwhile.

In my view, of all the measures of prevention which an owner can put in place, carefully and routinely observing your pony is paramount, as early intervention normally prevents the onset of acute cases. These are typified by standing with hind hooves well underneath the body, so taking weight off the front hooves, regularly moving from one hoof to another or at worst, the prostrate position with legs outstretched and a reluctance to stand. With pain written all over the faces, poor ponies, you feel for them.

Some simple observations which owners should constantly make include: Are they going slightly short in their stride when normally they take a long one? Do they walk tenderly on hard ground when normally it doesn’t affect them? Are they lying down in the field a bit more than normally? Are they grazing away from their friends when usually they are in the thick of things?

Careful observation and swift action by you and your vet may stop a small problem escalating into a much more serious one. With the high levels of sugars currently available in what can only be described as an abundance of spring grass following on from a winter with some of the best quality hay and haylage available in Scotland for many a year, owners need to be on laminitis alert this year more than any.

All that said, the countryside looks resplendent in its emerald cloak at the moment and it is great to see photographs taken at shows held on grass. The early West Coast shows have enjoyed remarkably good conditions, although not so for Royal Windsor Horse Show, which looked to be a real casualty last week following the heavy rainfall in the south.

From a production point of view, there’s nothing worse than having to tip-toe through muddy areas leading to a ring only to be followed by a mud bath round the perimeter, which develops as the day goes on. As for waterproofs and umbrellas, it is so nice not to have to don them or carry them about.

I suppose it’s one good thing about an equestrian centre which we all appreciate, although I wouldn’t go as far as to say ‘love’. I think the hard standing and the lack of need to tow horseboxes or trailers on and off site is the main benefit for me and the toilets are usually heated in winter – a great benefit as you get older!

Modern equestrian centres are doing a great service and provide the type of facility which the modern competitor seems to want and need. From an organisers’ point of view, all the facilities which normally require a great deal of voluntary effort to create, are someone else’s problem and permanent rather than temporary. By nature of the buildings and rings available, the downside tends to be the lack of atmosphere which they sometimes engender on show day.

It is with this in mind that the organisers of the NPS Scotland Summer Show have decided to return to the popular green-field site at Strathallan. With the infrastructure created for T in the Park (located there for a few years) access should be easier this time around and the policies around the castle will continue to create the magnificent back drop to which we became accustomed.

Hopefully, the popularity expressed so far will become a reality on the day with good entries and high class competition. With the Royal Highland scheduled only a few weeks later, it will provide exhibitors with an excellent opportunity to compete on grass prior to the big event at Ingliston.

Talking of big events, I am sure that many of you joined me on the BBC Red Button channel to watch live competition at Badminton Horse Trials just over a week ago. What a marvellous facility this presents to enthusiasts at home and round the world who can’t make it to this legendary event.

Apart from the BBC coverage, which was incredibly good in every respect from camera work to commentary, it was a real pleasure to watch a modern event where most of the horses looked relatively comfortable and relaxed going round.

If the cross country course was easier than some might have liked, that suited me and many others since one of the highlights was the lack of horrendous falls and tip-ups to which we have become so accustomed at these top level competitions.

This year’s championship proved that it is possible to achieve a good and thrilling result without mishap to rider or horse. Let’s hope it becomes a blue print which takes us away from some of the horror courses we have witnessed in recent years.

And, by the way, well done the inventor of the frangible pin – job well done!