Sunday, October 29, 2017

29th October, 2017 We-ekend

While David and I were engaged in yet more fencing, the pigs were busy on their clear up operation out on the open Forest.

Théoden is not pointing out where our attention needs to turn next, but pointing at the sheer pinkness of the eleven pigs rooting about just outside. Incidentally, the fence was fixed.

Henrietta was almost transfixed...

I always appreciate an opportunity to sing the tune to 633 Squadron.

Almost finished...

Friday, October 27, 2017

27th October, 2017 Elementary My Dear Watson

An unusual day not just because of the beautiful weather. I have finished painting Honour's plinth so she should be making her way to the vets' very soon. They might not be able to revive her but hopefully they can find her some more teeth.

Tracey and I had a lovely ride this morning and then Nikki came over to introduce her young dog, a ten month old Labradoodle called Watson, to horses. She is currently working on his recall using clicker training and keeping his attention when he is distracted by horses or other dogs. In this day and age where traffic and dogs represent such a risk to horses, it's great to meet someone keen to get their training right from the outset.

Whoops, the fencing man (David) is needed again.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

25th October, 2017 BRS

It was off to the Beaulieu Road Sales this morning in unseasonal sunshine to look out for a pony for a friend. It's good to see the sales thriving thanks to its timing, and the sensible breeding policy which has been adopted (limiting the number of foals and improving the quality of those produced both through choice of stallions and the mares having foals less frequently). Certainly the stand was packed and hopefully this will be reflected in the prices achieved although no doubt there were many sightseers. I'd find it difficult to let my ponies go through a lottery like this but higher prices and better quality foals generally mean better homes and far less likelihood of going for meat, and the highly successful Beaulieu Road Sales Yard Facebook page is brimming with success stories year on year as these ponies start to be ridden and competed. Selling a pony is always a risk, no matter how hard you are able to vet a potential owner as you are only ever one step away from having no control on the pony's destiny in any case.

As well as the foals there were a number of older New Forest ponies, along with some good crosses, a handful of coloured horses, a Welsh and an Exmoor.

Monday, October 23, 2017

23rd October, 2017 Add Three Minutes

23rd October, 2017 Useful Kit and Contraptions

The cheapest, and most useful piece of horse kit I own is a soft scarf which is ideal for teaching a foal, or any horse, the concept of being softly restrained and for the introduction of the head-collar.

I've got a few ragwort plants in my new field so I am very grateful to the inventor of the ragwort fork and think he or she deserves a rosette. Ragwort rosettes are not the sort you want to be given. I'm hoping that if I attack them early they won't get to the flowering stage.

The most complicated piece of technology we used this weekend was the post-basher which was a present to our landlord Anthony from his father - just the sort of present that everyone needs.

It was great to see the last section of post and rail fencing going up.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

22nd October, 2017 My Brother from the Same Mother

The two brothers, Peechay and Juma, are having the time of their lives...

22nd October, 2017 Iron Filings

I made a mistake yesterday in turning Peechay in with the 'in' horses. Whether Théoden thought that he was Nettles, who he hated because he was a romancer, or just resented the intrusion into his herd, he was absolutely set on expelling him.

I hastily removed him from the field again by diverting him through an open gate and had a re-think.

Théoden's angst lasted for a good fifteen minutes after this perceived incursion...

...and he was cross with everyone.

A great opportunity to see some of the behaviours that Lucy Rees highlights in her book. Protection expressed through aggression. horses moving as one, a metre or so's gap between them, cohesion, synchrony, and collision avoidance,

Henrietta works on a different algorithm.

I tried putting Peechay just with Jack but Jack soon got bored and tried to force his way through the fence to get back to the other horses.

After a torrid day, I resolved the situation easily. I put Peechay on the Ifor Bus and took him over to Hale to live with his mother and brother.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

21st October, 2017 Pretty Patterns

I have just finished Lucy Rees' book in one sitting and I am burning to tell you about it. This is a really heartwarming book and yet totally realistic about the loves and lives of truly wild horses and the challenges that they face. It comes to some conclusions about the way that horses operate on a social level that leaving you thinking, "Oh yes, that has to be right" and sometimes "Yep, I think I always sort of knew that." The section on cohesion, synchrony, and collision avoidance is beautifully described.

Credit: Audrey Scott-Hopkins

I first read, and loved, articles written by Lucy Rees when The Riding Magazine featured a series that she wrote in the 1970's. Considering that The Riding Magazine was a rather starchy magazine, heavily into BHS traditional techniques, it was ahead of it's time, and I only wish that I had paid more attention then and allowed it to sink in. More recently I heard rumours that Lucy was somewhat "off the wall" and, like a lot of passionate people, rather outspoken (this way lies madness in a lot of horse people!) living amongst horses in Spain. I missed an opportunity to meet her when she came to the UK. Its clear to me now that she and her students have spent a lot of time lying on their tummies next to inadequate bushes, watching the actions of horses in interesting, insect, and puma-ridden places like Venezuela, as well observing her own feral herd of pottaka ponies. Now, that's a job I'd like to do.

Credit: Jim Crouch

She's rather dismissive of the New Forest ponies in their managed herds and any research based on their movements, blithely and inaccurately stating that the "colts are culled" which has never been the case on a wholesale level and is very far from the truth now. Her biggest revelations are about the paternal and protective role of stallions in a herd, something that is disrupted and now limited by the Stallion Scheme here which sees just fifteen or less, sometimes very young, stallions turned out for just one month. I have seen her arguments used by others as a justification for leaving stallions out on Dartmoor where over-production of foals is definitely a problem and does lead to some of them being shot at home, sent to an abattoir, or sold for a pittance at the sales. I think I'd like to see (do) more on the role of geldings and vasectomised stallions in the lives of semi-feral herds such as the New Forest (geldings) and Dartmoor (both). I've been watching 'white' Blue and the way he has nurtured and protected Juma and certainly influenced his demeanour and sense of safety. I could happily hole up in some gorse bush for hours at a time watching our beloved ponies interacting.

I can hide better than this

This brings me to the future of my blog which is petering towards a diary of what the New Forest ponies are up to and views from the top of my horse. I think I have room for a bit more passionate, outspoken, potentially blithely inaccurate stuff before I give it up, along with any horse work whatsoever, at Christmas. That's when my insurance runs out and unless I can get regular access to local semi-feral ponies for halter training with students, I think it really is all over.

If you have any views on anything in this blog, or indeed a supply of local semi-feral ponies for training with students,  please email me at

Friday, October 20, 2017

20th October, 2017 Happy Feet?

Nelly and Juma have settled well into their holiday apartment and even made a new friend out of old Sprout who lives out on the Forest still at the age of twenty-nine.

Anna was less happy, crotchety even, as I delicately removed all of the burdock seeds from her tangled mane and made sure they couldn't go into her eyes. The art is not to pull on the seeds but to pull gently on the mane above the seeds, separating it out hair by hair, until the seeds fall out.

Coming back out to her having spent an hour with her elderly owners she was even crosser and displayed behaviour I haven't seen for some four years or so, screaming at me, wrinkling her nostrils at me, and threatening to bite me or kick. I don't know whether she was just annoyed that I wasn't hand feeding her like all of her other visitors, whether she is really hungry as there is little grass in her field at the moment and she struggles with her hay because she had COPD. Whether it was because I was wearing a coat or because Matt had arrived already to do her feet and she felt outnumbered by the two of us even though Matt retreated to his car. After a little while she did calm down and I was able to rub her with my hand, then touch her with the crown piece and then gently put her headcollar on. Matt was suitably deferential as he did her feet and all was well with the world. Sometimes horses do regress to or just revisit old behaviour patterns when they pull the wrong video out of their collection. Let's hope it is a little blip.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

19th October, 2017 I'll Find my Way Home

It's a well known 'fact' that horses have an amazing sense of direction and an ability to orientate themselves in places they have never been before. Well, it's either not true or Théoden was thwarted by the terrain and field boundaries. On Tuesday we set off to go home from Hale to Fritham and at one point Théoden put his indicators on (one ear turned down in that direction) to take a less used track into the Forest. He marched off with such certainty and confidence that I had no doubt he knew where he was going. After about an hour we appeared to be lost and somewhat disorientated as we came up to a field boundary, not helped at that stage by two walkers who were in the same predicament partly because they had their map upside down. After switching off Théoden's satnav we sought some familiar landmarks and eventually found ourselves at the top of the Eyeworth track from where we could make our way to the Royal Oak pub and into Fritham.

In any event it was a lovely ride set against ominous black clouds that only burst when we finally got home. He was overjoyed to be reunited with his other wife and the two Jacks and reinstated as head of the herd.

Noises off: "In fairness how did I know that Eyeworth Lodge was in the way?"

It was Nelly and Juma's turn to go over to the Hale Holiday field next although they went by bus. Peechay, who is quite round, is staying at Fritham to keep Henrietta company while she is confined to a small paddock and the barn in order to wear her feet down again.

The neighbours seem nice.