Thursday, 31 December 2009

Three steps forward and two back...

Billy Boy grazes up the lane on a nice loose (and long) lead rope.
He's getting good at yielding to pressure and is OK with cars moving slowly past him.
There are a couple of issues though. BB was very unsettled a few days ago when out on the lead and would not lower his head to graze; the next day was no better and Paul had to retrieve his navy fleece from the wash. BB was absolutely fine as soon as Paul appeared in the usual attire. We have seen this before with traumatised ponies and it is something to be aware of; hopefully BB will gradually become used to Paul wearing other clothing but we will stick to dark colours.
The other problem is that BB has become worse, not better, at having his headcollar on, sometimes needing an hour of patient work before he can accept it. Paul is experimenting now with leaving it on and putting another on over the top.
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Hard Times

During the snowy weather Billy Boy discovered the seeds on the bird table, and managed to get a few stuck to his tongue at each stretch! I think it was really awkward for him but he was very persistent. I had to go upstairs to get a good picture of him.

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Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Happy Christmas everybody

Serious ice at the other end of our lane prevented our volunteers from reaching us today and also claimed a victim who was bringing us a Christmas present - he had to walk the rest of the way and Paul went back to tow him out.

We couldn't do the manure - impossible to a) walk over the frozen ruts b) find the heaps c) detach them from the frozen ground. Paul rigged up a hose feed to the trough to save us bucketing water to the field.

Yesterday afternoon Bobby started coughing again after months cough-free. This is his asthmatic condition. I think it was triggered by the hay and the very dry cold air as the temperature dropped. We medicated him and gave him soaked hay (which froze of course). This morning he is better; but we are back to soaking all hay. Humidity is high today and he is breathing easier.

We'd like to say Happy Christmas to all our friends, helpers, pony sponsors and anyone interested in our Project - hope you all have a peaceful Christmas and a good 2010.

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Monday, 21 December 2009


A sprinkling of snow today, which on top of the frost and ice was treacherous. We had a job to find the manure heaps out in the field! The ponies were all looking a bit peeved so they had hay this morning as well as this afternoon.

Paul spent his Billy Boy sessions intensifying the grooming and especially the touching of BB's legs to which you can see BB saying 'Oi! Geroff!' and 'What are you doing?'

I touched Mousey today as she walked past me. I have been making the gap smaller between me and the door, as she goes into the pen for her breakfast. It was the lightest brush of her fur; she may have sped up slightly. It's no big deal because Paul can groom her (but not touch her head yet) still, it's another person making contact.

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Saturday, 19 December 2009

Chilly outings

Brrrr... it's cold. We were chiselling the heaps off the field this morning! Good news is, Paul's back's much better and we have been able to fetch a trailer-load of hay so we are well stocked up for a bit. (Thanks Jenny and Ted)

Billy Boy has been out for his first walk, on the lead, up the lane. He enjoyed browsing along the grassy edges; this is a bit of a test as we have had some ponies who are so fearful of humans that they cannot lower their heads to graze when on the lead; they feel very vulnerable in the close presence of a predator the like of whom has hurt them in the past.

He jumped away a couple of times when startled but every time is an opportunity for Paul to reinforce BB's understanding of pressure and release. The long rope allows this 'jump space' and Paul's experience, strength and leather gloves mean that he can hold on for BB to realise that all is well, and comfortable, when he comes back close.

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Thursday, 17 December 2009

Leading Billy Boy

I thought we had rejoiced too soon when I found out that Billy Boy's neck strap had come off in the night. However, Paul managed to get it back on and the headcollar has been on and off several times today.

As we expected, the progress now is quicker. This afternoon Paul led Billy Boy out of his stable into the yard for the first time. The leading was faltering at first, but BB is beginning to understand the concept of yielding to pressure and after a few minutes was coming along nicely.

We fully expect that he may test us and make a bid for freedom; Paul has an extra long rope and good gloves to give himself the best chance of holding BB, should this happen.

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Optimism justified!

Well just look at that - Billy Boy has a headcollar on. I knew Paul was trying to get this far as he has been disappearing very often to have another little session. I didn't go to watch as BB is still more relaxed when it's just Paul and him.

BB has been here 7 weeks. He is an Exmoor stallion - branded, semi-feral, and until he came to us, unhandleable and very frightened of humans.

Paul says "I did some work with him with a rope on the neck strap, (which BB had on overnight after it was put on yesterday) doing gentle pressure and release. Then I felt that I could try the headcollar. The fact that he allowed me to touch his forehead last night seemed promising. I put the noseband over his muzzle, took it off again, put it on again - he didn't mind. I still had the rope on the neck strap so if he backed away I could still do 'p and r' to get him back close. I used my left hand on the headpiece of the headcollar to put it up behind his ear and over his neck. He wasn't very keen, backed away and it fell off his nose twice but the 3rd time he accepted it. I feel as if he knew it was inevitable. He is worried about hands on top of his neck, on his crest. Anyway we go with whatever's offered and I have put headcollars on for the first time in many different ways and even inside out".

Paul has removed the headcollar for the night. Billy Boy still has the neck strap on.

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Tuesday, 15 December 2009

We're cautiously optimistic...

Great news today - Billy Boy is now wearing a neck strap. Paul has been working up to this very gradually, bunching it up in his hand whilst stroking him, and letting BB look at it and touch it. In the picture you can hardly see it - you might be able to see the buckle just under his throat.

Paul has been able to put the slightest pressure on the strap (with his hand) and encourage BB to yield to it. This is a very positive step on the way to a full headcollar and the first means of introducing BB to physical pressure instigated by his handler and the understanding of a yielding response to it. Because he was only using his hand on the strap Paul made no attempt to restrain BB if he backed away. He was also able, whilst holding it, to touch BBs face between his eyes.

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Monday, 14 December 2009

Frodo antics

Sorry, blog fans, didn't realise it had been so long since the last one. Still extra busy so that Paul doesn't aggravate his bad back and thankfully the weather has been good which makes it easier to pick the manure up out in the field.

I got over there this morning and saw that Frodo was down in the wood. Little monkey he is - we guessed it was him as we'd seen evidence on the other side of the electric fence. He pretty much takes no notice of it at this time of year; his coat is so thick he does a quick limbo and he's through. I called out to him to ask him what he thought he was doing but left him there while I worked away with bucket, trowel and barrow. Sometime later I saw him come back and pop through the fence to rejoin the others. It's a wonder they don't go too. We probably need another energiser on the fence or a new battery or something.

Paul has been able to resume his work with Billy Boy and Mousey. Mousey moves past us only a few inches away but it's because she knows we won't attempt to touch her while she does. Paul does a little contact work with her each day.

He was in the stable with BB yesterday, smoothing and scratching, he can do his nearside now. BB turned so that Paul could do his rump - Paul almost behind him at this point - something startled BB and he jumped away, bottom tucked in. Then he came back. Paul can stroke down his front legs now as well.

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Thursday, 10 December 2009

Thanks everyone

It's been a strange week with Paul out of action because of his back - it's getting better now. We are so grateful to our lovely volunteers who have put in extra hours to help with the ponies - poo picking, mucking out, picking up stuff from the feed merchants and even fetching bales of hay for us (and messing up your smart car Margaret in the process! )

It was busy this morning with everyone here but at coffee time it became apparent that there was a conspiracy to surprise me with a fantastic birthday cake! The cake decorations are getting more and more ambitious but Gill excelled herself with this one - our kitchen table and chairs in miniature, and on the table a phone, specs, my diary, pencil, flowers etc. and even the laptop showing a picture from our website, and our Rayburn with saucepan on the hob. All made of odds and ends and scraps. Oh, and the dog looking on. SO clever!! and the lemon cake is delicious. And guess what? Gill opens her oven to see how her cakes are getting on! She even changes the shelves! I thought that was an absolute no-no! Anyway I have written down her instructions to see if I can make one the same.

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Pannier Market - our stall

The fund raising at South Molton's Late Night Christmas Shopping went really well last Saturday evening. It's always well attended and we had a good position about halfway along the Pannier Market building. I had to come back home much earlier than expected to meet visitors but our volunteer ladies soon had the stall expertly and attractively set up as usual and they had a busy and profitable evening. Paul went along later with some friends to assist in the clearing up and then everyone came back for a cup of tea. Many thanks to the ladies, and all the friends.

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Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Last Sunday Billy Boy spotted Paul in the yard and came right up to him - looking at this picture it might seem strange that we still can't headcollar this very nervous Exmoor stallion yet. He asked for a back scratch and Paul obliged. As you can see in the lower picture Paul had his hand just over the top onto BB's bad side and was talking on the phone at the same time.

Paul has begun to introduce the headcollar by laying it on top of BB's feed bowl so that he has to put his nose in it or move it around to get the food.

We now have an unexpected and very annoying hold up in the rehabilitation of Billy Boy and Mousey as Paul has hurt his back. It just happens sometimes - this time whilst picking up manure. Hopefully, rest will bring it right. It is really hard going when one of us is incapacitated and the rain doesn't help - I have never known such a long spell of wet weather.

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Thursday, 3 December 2009

Fund raising

Well, we have been getting ready for our fund-raising stall in the Pannier Market at South Molton's Late Night Christmas Shopping tomorrow night. The ladies have made lots of marmalade and jam to sell and we have Gill's lovely greetings cards as well as a great Tombola which is usually really popular.

We'll take books too - people like to have a browse. It's a really good evening out as they have live music and dancing in the Square, stilt walkers, fairground rides,and a Craft Fair.

I've been out cutting bits of our twisted willow, red and yellow dogwood twigs and ivy trails all of which sell for decoration. Frodo spotted me coming through their field with the greenery and made a beeline for me, attracting the attention of the other 6 ponies and I had to jump up and down a bit so as not to be mugged for it.

It has been hailing on and off today and I took pity on Frodo and brought him in for the night. He gets pushed around a bit although Paul puts hay out in many piles to avoid squabbles.

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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Both Billy Boy and Mousey have seemed to increase in confidence today. Mousey, seen by a weekly visitor who remarked that she didn't move away (as she would have done last week) when approached from outside the pen. I can stand very close to her as she moves from the stable to the pen but I know that if I attempted to touch her as she went past she would still panic.

Billy Boy (loose in the yard) actually approached one of our volunteers who was holding a piece of freshly-picked hogweed; I don't think it was intended for him but it was a good opportunity to confirm that humans will not hurt him. He took a piece and moved away.

Two new techniques with him since the last blog; Paul reaches over the stable door to get to BB's nearside - it works. Secondly, when it's time for him to come back in from the yard BB has a little feed waiting in his stable, today it was with a headcollar arranged on the bowl so that he can familiarise himself with it as he woofles about for the feed.

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