Saturday, 31 October 2009

...a bit more room for Billy Boy

Looks as if Billy Boy might be a long job so we have made him a pen to come out to. He was a bit jumpy at first but settled down to eat hay. He also took grass and dogwood leaves through the wire from one of our young volunteers who appeared only about 2' high to Billy as she was sitting on the ground.

This pen will help to accustom him to all the sights and sounds of the yard. I also hope to put a companion in with him and will introduce Frodo through the bars tomorrow. It will be interesting to see Frodo's reaction; he is 7, but a very small gelding - 10.1hh. and lowest in our pecking order, whereas Billy is a 12.2 hh stallion. If that works I think Billy will draw some confidence from him.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

A really busy day with everybody, it seems, wanting to talk to us. We took Frodo out in his new red cart; only just up the road but he was very good and nearly crossed his feet properly when we turned round to come back.

Jeremy took matters into his own hooves and managed to get into the grass beyond the electric fence; don't know if he's jumping or limbo-ing.

Billy Boy has a strong aversion to men; we've seen it before but it's really obvious with him and it puts Paul at such a disadvantage as he is the first contact for a rehab case like this. He padded up today, just in case, when he went in to work with him. Billy will take some sedge leaves or hazel from us, only offered over the door, but not from Paul! It's very sad. Normally offering food is not part of the process but it can't hurt.

It just brings it home to us what a serious situation it would be for Billy Boy if he was out on the moor and needed medical attention.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Hot Branding

We now know that the reason for the BBC not showing previous video footage of a branding session was because it was considered unacceptable for breakfast viewing.

I have been interviewed today along with Rex Milton, President of the Exmoor Pony Society, and that interview is being shown today on the BBC News channel.

One never gets a chance to say all that one wants to, but it is keeping the issue current.

Hot Branding

We've just watched the BBC Breakfast programme and are very disappointed with the report. We actually covered all the arguments about hot branding, had an emotionally damaged branded Exmoor stallion here who was filmed; we did not describe ourselves as an animal rights group and we suggested ways forward for the moorland ponies and their handlers.

The BBC Spotlight piece that was recorded last week is still available online and gives more evidence of a branding session. See link below or copy and paste the link into your web browser.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Billy Boy

This is a picture of our newest rehab. project, Billy Boy. He's an Exmoor stallion, and is very scared of people. A lovely looking chap though. He is already responding to advance and retreat methods.

BBC Breakfast TV

There will be more on the hot branding issue on BBC Breakfast television, probably tomorrow morning. We have been interviewed again. I think it will be one of those items that they repeat at intervals during the programme.

Conservation Grazing

I thought I would copy this piece to the blogger as it might be of interest. It's about two of our 'conservation grazing' ponies.

Misty and Star have been doing a really good job conservation grazing for the Devon Wildlife Trust. The ponies are visually checked daily by a DWT warden. These two little Exmoor cross mares are semi wild – they have done basic and limited handling so they can be headcollared to have any general maintenance done (using our particular methods) but so that they would not willingly come up to anyone – the trauma of ear notching means that they are much too wary of people to volunteer themselves for any kind of interaction.

In December 2008 it was time for the girls to have their six monthly check up – to have their feet trimmed and a general check over to decide if they are still OK to stay on the site. As usual for these occasions, a band of volunteers came to help drift the ponies in to be checked. The key to getting a successful outcome to these occasions is preparation! On site, the first step was to create a safe enclosure for the ponies to be drifted into. Some round pen panels make a simple mobile handling unit. The access to the site is via an old banked track which makes a perfect channel for the ponies to move along and we decided that a 5 bar gate that had been installed along this lane would be the perfect location for the enclosure as it could form one side of it. A gate of panels was set up and left open for the ponies to go into the pen but arranged so it was easy to close when the time was right. Another DWT warden was there to help with the drifting (round up) as well as the DWT “lookerer” who was hoping to get to see the ponies at much closer quarters than usual.

The drifting was quite a simple process – the route from the conservation site to the pen is walked and people are placed at vulnerable spots – places where the ponies might move in the wrong direction – this might be footpaths leading off somewhere else or large gaps in woodland. The idea isn’t to scare the ponies to keep them out of the spots – just having someone standing in a spot is enough to make them not go there. When the route is secure, part of the volunteer party enters the site and, at a distance, moves slowly but steadily behind the ponies, moving them in the right direction. Walking towards them at a distance is enough to move them forward – there is no shouting or arm waving or dramatic effects. It didn’t take long at all to drift the ponies once everything was set up – perhaps 10 or 15 minutes. The girls trotted out of the site and along the banked track. Cilla had decided to be in front of them, walking towards where they needed to go, but with her back turned so as not to be confrontational. Star and Misty followed Cilla up the track and into the pen - Cilla having by then climbed out over the 5 bar gate to stop any unsuspecting walkers who might be on their way down, and to just make sure the girls didn’t consider jumping out. This really shouldn’t happen (because everything should be calm) but in case of unforeseen circumstances, we didn’t want the girls heading off towards the road. Once the girls had passed the vulnerable spots along the access path, the people blocking routes steadily walked behind the girls at a distance just to block the way back. Everything is judged carefully so that the ponies are given time to be calm and to consider where they are but by having people blocking routes it helps the ponies make the right decisions on where to be. When everything was right, the gates for the enclosure were gently pulled across the path.

After allowing the girls a little time to settle, Paul and another volunteer went in and quietly headcollared the ponies. Misty and Star were in really good condition – well covered to go into the winter but not too fat. You’d almost think they had been brushed for the occasion. The girls had lots of burrs caught in their manes and so the handlers spent some time de-burring them, then Paul tended to their feet – only a tidy up was required. Both DWT wardens were absolutely amazed that all of this was possible. They admitted to us that they thought we would be spending all day trying to round up these ponies and they expected us to lose them in the woodland!! As they had never managed to get anywhere near the ponies and having never seen these methods in action before, they had thought that headcollaring, stroking and hoof rasping, all in a calm manner, would be impossible. They found the whole thing amazing and asked lots of questions. The “lookerer” even went in with the girls and was able to stroke them for the first time – something she never thought she would be able to do.

After all the checks, the girls were led back down to their site and released from their headcollars. All that was left was to dismantle the enclosure. That should be it for another six months; they’ll have another check in the summer.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The little bird died overnight. Last night it seemed fine - flying round the room. I had given it some fresh flies and it picked them up, pulled off the wings and ate them. I thought we'd saved it. Wish I'd let it out last night now. Oh well.

Mousey was reluctant to go to the lawn paddock today but Paul fetched Frodo and she was happy to follow him. Frodo comes back to call and Mousey comes too. The picture shows her following Paul out in the morning, when she's feeling co-operative.
She now has Boy in the stable next to her. He's come for handling practice but he's pretty scared of people.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

I came in after mucking out this morning and found a blue tit stuck to the fly paper in the kitchen. It had one wing totally stuck and was going mad. We managed to peel it off and tried to remove the sticky, first with surgical spirit (no good) and then with white spirit, which was working but the poor little thing was dying, whether from stress or fumes we don't know. It keeled over and I left it in the sun outside. All the years we've used fly papers, never had such a thing happen before. Maybe because it's late in the year it came in and saw a few flies handy...

Anyway, an hour later, Kayleigh came to tell me it was still alive! So we gave it some extra warmth with a hot water bottle under some towels and kept an eye on it. Another hour and it was on its feet! We gave it yet another hour to regain strength, and then carefully washed its wings with washing up liquid to remove the oil, which we could still smell. It has lost a few tail feathers. So, at the moment, it is resting in the laundry basket by the Rayburn, and has my mesh food cover over to prevent escape.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

For those who don't know, Mousey has come to us for rehabilitation; hopefully to make her less fearful and ideally so she is able to be headcollared, groomed, led about, have her feet seen to etc. - in short, so she is more user-friendly! She may then be able to be re-homed.

She will have been here 3 weeks on Tuesday.

Friday, 23 October 2009

23rd October

Been a bit busy the last couple of days but Mousey has been going out as usual to her lawn paddock. She follows Paul now and doesn't need anyone behind her. Still needs a little remote pressure from behind to get her back though, and given half a chance she makes her way into the garden as if to say 'I could stay in here...'

In the stable she will accept Paul approaching her shoulder now and doesn't present her rump - although when she did, it was totally non-threatening and just that she preferred the touching to begin there. We are some way off headcollaring. She can tolerate a hand within about 4" of her muzzle when she is eating - we are getting nearer, although I think Paul's 'advance and retreat' technique up her neck is the most likely thing to work.