Sunday, August 31, 2014

31st August, 2014 Demolition Time

An interesting interpretation of the words "Day Off". David and I began to empty the ancient shed which needs to be demolished pending the arrival of the brand new BIG shed. We won't know ourselves when we have somewhere to store all of the winter hay, park the trailer and to have a dry corner where we can sit and relax. We might not have the poshest facilities but we have the best riding country, training ground and peace and quiet.

United Colours of New Forest Ponies in the field all interacting with each other when they weren't trying to unnterfere with what we were doing.

Came home to a lovely email from April's owner. April has now been turned out with other horses for the first time since she was a yearling. Horses need the company of others in order to be truly happy. April is top left.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

30th August, 2014 Team Weston

I have to admit it, I'm absolutely worn out so this could be a very short or very haphazard post!

Tracey and Julie turned up bright and early and we did a little poo-picking before getting on the road. Where would I be without them? They help with the fields, navigate, fetch and carry stuff, take over second horses, take part in role play, answer the phone, find things in the car, reassure me, help to write up horse reports and take lots and lots of photos. We even cleaned all of the water troughs today.

First stop, Bryn. He has had a week off so it was time to consolidate. He looked a little wary of someone mounting with a saddle on for the first time. The fit has been checked but he doesn't know that.

He calmed down really well when everyone started breathing and coped well with Alan leaning over him.

Second stop, Penn Common and the New Forest ponies, Copper and Kesali. Once again we took them out for a walk on the Forest stopping off at the water trough...

...and the best coloured digger and dumper truck I have ever seen.

The ponies coped brilliantly with cyclists, wild ponies, cattle and sheep.

I do have to explain how we can't take them all home.

"Thanks so much again to Team Weston for helping to boost my confidence back up. My favourite moment was when I was getting stressed with the wild ponies and you said "look at what is on the end of the lead rope and concentrate on that. A wonderful pony!" Works for me Sarah!" JH

Having dropped Julie from our entourage, some lame excuse about her own horses to see to, we had to make do with a donkey to watch over proceedings.

Flo had made a miraculous transformation since we saw her nine months ago. At that time she was frightened of everyone and everything. Today we started to look at the final steps towards restarting her. Her owner has been working with Straightness Training which is much talked about at the moment.

New horse Vesper is a five year old gyspy type cob. I don't think he has met much sense in the past. He was inclined to push into people's space but we soon had that sorted out and a useful discussion about clarity versus subtlety in training.

Positive reinforcement does not have to mean food. Vesper was extremely happy to have a lovely scratch around his fetlocks where he can't reach on his own.

Friday, August 29, 2014

29th August, 2014 Sprung!!

Having failed miserably to find my New Forest girls yesterday, Tracey, Julie and I went up to the Fritham Drift to see if they would turn up there. The Agisters hadn't been expecting many ponies to come in at all but there was a satisfyingly large group that all came in at once meaning that the riders didn't have to go out again.

It started as a trickle but soon there was a surge.

The ponies briefly cross the road before going into the woods where they are funnelled along a fence, through a gap and into a temporary pound.

Agister Andrew Napthine, whose area it is, is in charge of the ponies and the people rounding them up. Not an easy task. More of his duties later.

He is assisted by Agister Mike Lovell and a group of mounted Commoners with Agister Peter Rix and Head Agister Johnathon Gerelli on foot. All of the drifting ponies seem to enjoy their job - it's certainly exciting - but it does make them a very lively ride. They all come back sweating.

Although the ponies in the pound seem pretty calm there is plenty of squabbling between them and some signs of anxiety.

I was pleased to see my ponies had come in and were both fine.

All of the ponies were in fantastic condition.

Once there were less ponies in the pen I asked for special permission to catch mine and, determined to be no trouble, did it from outside the pen. Then when I was told it was okay I climbed over the fence to put their lead reins on.

Here we are waiting for Andrew the Hairdresser.

After they've had everything done, most of the mares go back out.

My two came home for a few days so that they can help out on Tuesday's course. I've got two new collars around my arm ready for when they go back out again.

A day in the life of an Agister is pretty hard and at times dangerous. At the Drift they have to organise all the riders and keep a close eye on health and safety considerations for all the people who might attend - this might include random members of the public, the old and the young - there were a lot of children around today all of whom may be Commoners of the future if they are not already.

Once the ponies are in the pound the Agister has to tail mark (cut a shape into the tail of) each pony whether they are placid or keen kickers, put collars on and worm ponies as requested by the owners, and brand any ponies that are intended to stay out on the Forest.

The collar
Branding - there were no foals at this dirft but a couple of the older ponies needed to be branded.

Of course, a night in the life of an Agister often includes having to destroy a pony that has been hit by a car. 

Once the morning's excitement was over it was time to go and see Kestrel. Today's plan was to take him out for a walk on the Forest. There were plenty of things to see and do!

"Yet again Kestrel was really happy and relaxed when I left him tonight.  Quite proud of himself in fact.  He is really enjoying the sessions." YS

And finally, we went over to Somerley to long rein Sampson. I haven't seen him for a good while now and he's grown and grown.

29th August, 2014 All The Leaves are Brown

The latest IH magazine appears to have a New Forest Pony on it. Copies of this latest magazine are available through the IH Website at The subscription includes
  • The IH Magazine 4 times a year - full of useful articles and tips!
  • Private Audience invitation at Monty Roberts demonstrations. Bring guests and reserve the best seats!
  • Eligibility to all IH Courses with Kelly Marks and Ian Vandenberghe
  • Various discount offers during the year
  • Access to Members Pages on IH Website - exclusive videos, access to student science research projects.
  • Private Members Board on online Discussion Group - help, advice and support from fellow members and RAs. 

All for only £25 per year! OR You can SAVE £5 and the £3.50 online booking fee - by joining by Direct Debit!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

29th August, 2014 And In Other News

Chance the Bodmin Moor Pony had his feet trimmed for the first time by the farrier today. I had a lovely message from his owner Teresa: "Amazing boy all the preparation and time paid off and he was an angel so proud of him thank you Sarah."

I received the Commoners' Newsletter from the CDA (Commeners' Defence Association) last night and it reports the drawing up of a Code of Practice covering gathering, handling, restrain and hot branding of semi-feral ponies in areas such as Dartmoor, Exmoor and the New Forest. I have asked the Verderers to let me know where I can get a copy and will report back when I have got one.

I was amused to read in the same newsletter about 'Mischievous' donkeys. Next spring any mule foal sired on the Forest will be DNA tested and this will be matched with the jack donkey DNA samples (that have become compulosry ro any turned out) and the sire will be identified through the DNA-microchip details held by the Verderers. The offending jack will then be ordered off the Forest using the miscievous element of the byelways. One strike and they are out it says.

On a more sombre note it has taken me a while to come to terms with the fact that Lark, a semi-feral foal that I worked with for the Horse and Country TV programme has been put to sleep this summer following her failure to recover from a bout of strangles. There are some cases of strangles in the Southern part of the Forest and whilst most ponies recover, she clearly could not. One sales date and a drift have been cancelled in the relevant area but otherwise all of the other drifts are still taking place. As a precaution I have stopped allowing my own horses to drink from the communal water trough when they are out for a ride.

28th August, 2014 Coming Adrift

As the Fritham Drift is due to take place tomorrow I have been looking out for my mares all week so that I could bring them in to avoid it. Unfortunately it rained all through the beginning of the week and with the abundance of water the ponies dispersed to more lush grazing areas and then apparently melted out of sight. Julie and I went on a long and ultimately pointless walk this morning to try and find Nelly and Blue. No one claimed to have seen them and although we had a couple of Snap! moments we just couldn't find them.


Not not mine!

Definitely not mine (but I wouldn't mind)
Never heard of them.
Then one of our regular visits to see Anna and to catch her for the farrier. Although we couldn't persuade her to smile she seemed to be very pleased to see us and to have some company. 


A quick call in to see Chancer just around the corner. He has been with his loaner for over a year now and it sounds like everything is going really well. He certainly looks very well - even a little bit fat which has got to be good news as we head towards the winter. Being stabled at night but with the freedon of a thirty acre field during the day seems to be doing him the power of good.

Julie,  founder member of his fan club