Monday, August 31, 2015

31st August, 2015 What a Grey Day!

To hell with the weather, we might not have been able to go out driving but we were happy to go and see Simon and Michelle's Percheron Parade. They've now got eight, all grey except for one black one, and three other horses too. The latest four all came over from France last year after the stud that owned them closed down and there was some concern about where they might head next.

Since then Michelle and Simon and lots of willing helpers have helped to bring the horses on. None had done any work before and Margaret, the eldest, really thought that her career lay in breeding.

Blue (foreground) and Margaret
 All of the horses have such soft eyes, sometimes despite a difficult past as in the case of Blue.

Margaret is pulling a roadworks barrier and tyre and flattening out the contours of the school which had a lot of lying water on it today.

She is happier wearing blinkers which shut out some of the surrounding information. Simon and Michelle are keen to work out which horse prefers which set up.

During an interval I did some groundwork with M, aged 12, and her favourite horse Jeffers. I think it is this lovely grey cob that started Michelle's addiction to grey horses.

M is practising asking a horse to stand where she wants them to. An important skill with a driving horse where she would need to stand much closer to the horse.

Amye, Margaret's daughter, is driven in an open bridle. Here she seemed keen to watch the 'putting too' process.

Michelle is insistant that she wants a horse that can be driven without pulling or leaning in walk...

...and trot. In the meantime Simon explains how the brakes on a carriage can be used to apply pressure and release to encourage a horse not to pull or rush.

Of course I had to have a ride myself and this will always be one of my favourite views.

Between the raindrops Pat, Tracey and I went out riding as a threesome for the first time. It's lovely to go out as a 'family' group. Bella seemed so content to be out with the other two and has now officially graduated to all round riding horse.

Henrietta showed off her latest party trick, stepping easily on to the big bridge.

I felt rather smug...and untidy.

Unkind of her to stick her tongue out at Bella.

It's difficult not to anthropomorphise with a character like hers. She's the best enrichment my other horses have ever had, providing us all with our of wonderful viewing and engagement. I can;t make up my mind whether she is the farm dog, the office cat, or the class clown. I am certain she is a solopsist, someone who thinks that the world only exists in relation to them.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

30th August, 2015 There's More to Life than Horses

Wondering why the donkeys were wandering this morning, it transpired they had been visiting the Faraway Alpacas that live not far away at all from us. 

Also not far away is Anthony's cow, Flower, who has not been very well owing to an incident with a gate. We went to give her some love and ginger biscuits. She appreciated my efforts on the first count and then poo-ed on the biscuits.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

29th August, 2015 Following the Instructions

I love Wellow Nettles and he is still the best hugger in the world. In the two years he has been on loan he has been ridden by people young and younger, led from a mobility scooter, trained fire fighters and help to heal and reassure people overcoming addiction. I really want to make sure that he does well in his new home.

However, this is not going to be a straightforward job because not only does he need to accept a pack saddle but he will eventually need to carry large panniers full of champagne and cucumber sandwiches! Here we are trying to make sense of the instructions for all the kit he needs to wear.

The massive blanket is the first step...

...and we think the rest goes like this. In the interests of incremental learning (for us too) we just went with the pack saddle today but realise that I need to watch a YouTube video on how to fasten a Western girth without buckles.

We're on our way and to make sure he is fine he is led about for a while with a few tight turns to make sure he has looked at it out of both eyes.

Then it's out into the inclosure to grapple with the undergrowth to make sure that he is fine with bits of twigs and bramble grabbing at the pack saddle.

We also needed to make sure that he had trotted with it on. Tourists may not want to sprint everywhere but they won't want a pony that carts off with their lunch.

Out on the airstrip we met a group of riders out for a pleasure ride. I took photos for the New Forest Equestrian Association.

Luckily, given the fact that all the motorways South and West were at a standstill, out next two appointments were only a few miles away and then one across the road from the other.

Copper went out for his first long-line on the roads and tracks. He's not quite as confident as Kesali so we're adding extra steps. Accordingly he was on the lead rein most of the way round.

New client Kathryn has recently taken BB on loan with a view to buy. BB is a seven year old |Friesian with the typically high head carriage that typifies the breed. She's certainly a sweet natured horse and just a little discomfited by her change of home.

It was just a case of giving her some clear and gentle leadership and she grew calmer and calmer as the session went on.

As we continued to work, her head got lower and lower and by the end she didn't feel so imposing.

She did the best counted stops with no pressure at all applied to the lead rein.

As a result we inadvertently solved another problem. The first window on the right houses pigs and for the first time she didn't rush past them in either direction.

"Thank you and the photos are super. I'm so glad that you like BB.. She is a lovely creature and I really want to help her feel happy and secure. I found today's lesson so helpful and I am eager to learn with her." KB
Back at the fields it was another bridle session for Banksy. We did a bit of bridle work followed by learning to short rein - in the rain. All of today's horses were angels.

AND, in other news, Rory and T went to a show today and came third in his main class with a double clear. He also loaded to go home.

And on Sunday, they ventured further afield, trusting that they would be able to load to come home:

"Sooooo many positives with the ponio today at Bagnam. A cheeky little rossete, jumped the very scary solid wall and the gate and loaded like a dream. Happy happy happy." AS

Friday, August 28, 2015

28th August, 2015 Heat of the Moment

A busy but interesting day which started out with the collection of my stock trailer from New Forest Farm Machinery where it had been for it's service. Then it was off to the drift to check if my ponies came in and to introduce Diana to Nettles' potential new owner. It's not a done deal yet as we have to make sure that he is fine about what she intends to do with him. All will start to be revealed tomorrow.

Head Agister, Jonathon Gerelli, appears very relaxed as he enjoys a chat with his horse. The horse looks like he is doing all the talking.

The first herd of ponies coming across the road at Fritham.

One of the agisters looks like he is flying...

... and all of the drifting horses are completely revved up.

A beautiful mare in the drift pen. Most of the mares will simply have their tail marked (cut into the shape for this area of the Forest) and be turned away again. Very few had foals at foot.

We had an appointment in the middle of the day so may have missed Nelly and Blue coming in. The appointment was with Kym and her new horse Elmo, a three year old gypsy type cob. Sadly she lost Harley after he had a sudden form of cancer. Elmo was taken in by a rescue organisation after he was found loose on the A36 and threatened with a bullet when the police just shoved him into someone's garden.

Nowadays he is very pampered and has a cunning disguise to keep the flies off.

Kym's multi-coloured lead rein came in handy for suggesting the best place to hold it to achieve that smile in the line.

All we needed to do was put a few gentle rules in place so that he wasn't all over everyone as he is want to do. He's an amenable soul, an innocent of this world, and happy to do whatever you ask once he understands what he needs to do.

Practising counted stops up and down the track.

Explaining how easy it is to move a horse's feet if he gets stuck.

We finished with some foot handling. Kym hasn't picked his back feet up since he arrived and he needed to be taught to keep his feet down and then to pick them up when given a signal.

It worked.

Email received 1.9.15: "Elmo has been brilliant since you came out and its much nicer to spend time with him now that he no longer has to be right on top of you all the time. Picking is feet up is amazing, he now happily holds each foot up for 30 seconds at a time." KB
Back at the drift there was an extremely feisty lot of mares in the drift pen that probably hadn't been brought in for a couple of years since they were hidden deep within Slodden inclosure. I didn't envy the agisters coming in close contact with them to mark their tails (by cutting with scissors) when they seemed quite prepared to run people over and give them a good kick.

I was disappointed to see that this foal was branded twice, once on his back, and once on his bottom. I have always argued that one hot brand is necessary for the identification at a distance of mixed ownership herds of semi-feral ponies, and until the day there is a microchip or other device that can be read at a greater distance than 3 foot. However, there can be no justification for two. It is true that the New Forest agisters and experienced commoners are very adept at branding ponies as humanely as possible. The brand is small and always heated to the right temperature and only in contact with the pony for an extremely short time. That doesn't make it right or better when it is done twice. With a foot in the branding camp and a foot in the anti-multiple branding camp I'm always falling out with someone!

Back at the fields it was time to work with Banksy again and I was astonished at the progress he has made in accepting his bridle. I worked without a bit for a few minutes and found that he no longer walked away at all when the bridle was produced.

After a little while I started to work with the bit on the bridle. Although it is not fool-proof or fail-proof yet, it's certainly getting there.

In bright sunshine we then went out to long rein around the inclosure.

Last session of the day and Henrietta has now learned to stand on the big bridge. What a clever mule.