Monday, June 30, 2003

Summer 2003

I work with a small Welsh Mountain pony called Pie. Born wild, he had been sent away to a BHS yard for breaking but he was absolutely terrified of people. When he bolted they used a Chifney on him and he still bolted. (Pie subsequently came to stay and never left. He bucked me off in late June 2003 and I broke a rib. He also appeared on Meridian TV on the New Forest programme showing some of my work. I don't think he will ever be safe for a child to ride so he is now a meeter and greeter at my yard).

I went to observe the Stallion Passing at Beaulieu Road. I met all the stallions that would be out on the Forest this summer including Knightsway Bill Boy and Smiler of Sheepwash. (Sadly Smiler of Sheepwash was subsequently killed by a van driver three days before he was due to come off the Forest).

Attended the Stud Management and Foal Handling weekend course with Ian Vandenburghe. I learned all about mares' insides and just how much intervention goes on in the racing industry. I led a foal in from the field which I was told was worth £100,000. Good job I didn't let it escape then!

Last week I finished the work I was doing with Tiara and Trixie, Soldier and Samson, Beatrice and Eclipse. Save for the two young fillies (T and T) it has been decided that all the ponies should now go back out onto the Forest and they were going to be turned out last Sunday. We all ended on a high note - the farrier came out on Thursday to trim all their feet and they were all perfectly behaved except for Soldier who felt that the farrier had looked him in the eye and was far too predatorial (I agreed with the pony). One of the Agisters had also come to watch what happened and I think he was quietly impressed. I was amazed that the macho farrier and the macho Agister spent much of their time discussing their diets! I was particularly pleased with Samson's progress. He was altogether calmer and completed the scary obstacle course I set up for him. This consisted of walking up to the false arm and being rubbed all over with the false hand, walking between two tyres, stepping over a pole, walking upto a brolly, letting it be opened and then "chasing it" round to the next obstacle; allowing himself to be flapped over with a dayglo safety waistcoat, stepping over a raised pole and finally allowing himself to be touched all over with a halter. He looked rather pleased with himself by the end and proudly led the others down to the Reserve where they were spending the next few nights. I shall go out and find them and see whether they will allow me to touch them and catch them when they're in the wilderness.

Went to Spain for two weeks on the motorbike. It broke down. Saw wild horses in Galicia. I did some research on these horses and found out about the Repas de las Bestas (Shearing of the Beasts) where the horses are brought down from the mountains and have their manes and tails cut for identification. However the festival also includes the struggle between man and beast - basically all the horses are put in one pound (curras) and youths from the village mount the horses and fight to subdue them - I wonder if the horses get the religious and cultural significance of the occasion? In Vigo there is a magnificent statue celebrating the wild horses.

I went to see if I could find any of the project ponies. Unfortunately it was very windy and the all the groupswere huddled up behind gorse bushes. Pat had given me permission to feed them so I took a brand new rubber bucket and some pony nuts with me. I learned that if you call a horse Eclipse, you can't expect to see it very often. Iwandered all over the area where she had been turned out but couldn't find her. First catch you horse? First find the wretched thing! I'd been told that Beatrice was at Balmer Lawn so I trecked across there with my binoculars and spotted a pony with white socks and a white stripe. As I approached she took no notice of me and then looked up ... and walked towards me. I gave her a lovely rub and offered her the feed which she gladly accepted. I put my arm right over her neck as if I had a rope and she didn't move. A success I think! As I wandered back across the Lawn the rain came down heavily and I found that the best use of a brand new rubber bucket is to turn it upside down and wear it as a hat. The rain pelted down so hard that I decided not to look for the geldings but I was elated to have found Beatrice and touched her.

Started work with a mare called Magic. Magic had bucked off the first person to sit on her. I started her off with groundwork and a Join-Up and eventually rode her. (She did eventually chuck me off and I ended up at Salisbury Hospital for the second time in a month).

I attended the Verderers' Court where the issues included National Park status, deer population levels, routes for cyclists and the latest sport of wind skateboarding. Many members of the public attended to make their presentments to the court. I interviewed Rick Manley, Chairman of the Commoner's Defence Association about the welfare and the management of the ponies and future initiatives to promote the ponies. A foal was badly bitten by a Staffordshire Bull Terrier last week and had to be put down and seven foals have been killed on the roads in the last few weeks.

Kelly Mark's niece is coming to stay for a week - she wants to become a lawyer and is going to shadow me at work for three days - after that we'll go and play with ponies instead. I'm sure she's going to need agood Indian meal or two..........

Interviewed Tony Gerelli, Verderer and Commoner and heard his views on the future of the Forest and the management of the ponies. He takes me round to see a selection of his (wonderful) ponies. He likes to wean them late and the yearlings look really well.
Went riding with Agister Robert Maton. Before we set off he put me up on Gigolo his New Forest stallion that he had quetly backed that morning. Our job on the Forest was to count the foals in a given area and decide which stallion had sired them. It was very poignant because some of Smiler's foals were there. The ponies were in great condition and I got the impression that Robert really cares about the welfare of the ponies in his area. He gave me a four year old to ride and went on to explain that she had only been broken in four weeks ago and then shot off on his own horse. Thanks Robert.

Helped on the Verderers's stand at the New Forest Show. Brian Ingram, Head Agister for forty years was given a special award for all his years' service. Went to the Intelligent Horsemanship Barbecue at Hartsop one day, followed by the Hoofing It Barbecue at the New Forest Showground the next day.

Got my new van.