Yesterday I brought Nelly, Blue and Juma in so that they wouldn't be drifted on Friday. The Fritham Drift tends to be particularly fast, lots of rider taking part, including young Commoners who haven't yet gone back to school and need the experience of drifting ponies. The final section, before the pen that has been used for the last few years, goes straight across the road where ponies can slip easily and end up on the deck. The last time I attended one of the Agisters seems to have acquired a bull whip which he delighted in cracking - that did seem a bit mad and unnecessary to me. With Juma not yet three months old, I prefer him not to go through this. I'm also concerned for the two younger foals that are not yet a month old and I'm hoping that their owner is going to divert them too having seen them hanging about with their mothers outside his farm this morning.
I wish the drifts, especially in our area, were slightly later in the year - the latest ones go into October - so that there was no risk of foals being taken off their mothers when they are too young. It is believed that many behavioural problems with horses stem from early and abrupt weaning.
The drift is an extremely important and necessary part of commoning and the conservation of the Forest, giving the Commoners the chance to look over their wildest mares very carefully and check that they are in good condition. For the foals it is an opportunity to complete their passports, get them microchipped, branded, and separate them from the mare if they are old enough. I'm not keen on abrupt weaning but there are few people with the opportunity to do it the way I do and I only have one foal to contend with. I'd hope that few people would wean their foals when they are only three months old but once the foals are a little older and we start going into winter, it is important to keep condition on the mares. They drop back very quickly and even Nelly, with her fat tummy, is showing signs of loss of condition on her neck and haunches, and her ribs are definitely showing. A few days on some good grass will help her to pick up again.