Monday, 13 December 2010

700 ponies killed on Dartmoor

Since we discovered that ear mutilations have been illegal for equines since 2007 we have become increasingly aware of the desperate situation facing ponies on Dartmoor. Thanks to our efforts the relevant authorities are now aware of the problem regarding ear mutilations and it is being dealt with at last. However, there are many other problems which are yet to be overcome.
Dartmoor ponies in particular are having a torrid time of it. This emotive article was published recently. (there were similar articles in other dailies )

There are many unanswered questions. If there are organisations that have been selectively breeding and promoting the ponies for years, how has the situation got so bad? There is clearly no demand for the ponies. We were once told that children in Ireland want the coloured ones for riding ponies! What rubbish - more likely that they end up as handbags on the continent.

As the welfare problem gains momentum more individuals and organisations are speaking out. is a new website with some astonishing and shocking pictures and information particularly about ponies on the moors. It has links to other sites, articles and publications including
This organisation has photographed live Dartmoor ponies in a sale at Maurs in the South of France. How did they end up there? It's not supposed to be possible.

people4ponies believes that it is unethical and immoral to use culling as a method of breeding control.

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Thursday, 2 December 2010

Coping with the snow

Woke up to find a heavy fall of snow today and it has been snowing on and off all day, but thawing at the same time so the level has been maintained.
I took a couple of pictures - our ducks are coping quite well with coming off the pond and over the snow for food. Here, they are dabbling corn out of the bowl. The black one is Mrs. Tucker, an Indian runner and the other one is Tufty Duck, a Saxony cross. They are both young females. You can see Mousey behind, and Ginger with her blue rug on.

Then I watched Mousey for a bit. She was using her nose as a snowplough, pushing and grazing alternately. I think she has had many years on Dartmoor to perfect this technique!
Late Night Shopping tomorrow at South Molton - a big event these days with lots of live music, a craft fair and other attractions including people4ponies. We will be in the Pannier Market with our fundraising stall. And probably our hot water bottles!
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Saturday, 27 November 2010

Snow in November

Yesterday was sunny and calm but then in the early afternoon it became very dark and suddenly it was snowing hard - a real blizzard - and it settled fast. It slowed down after about half an hour and by then we were preparing to bring in Mousey and Ginger (2 hours earlier than usual).
The boys watched as we headcollared the two girls, but Frodo took matters into his own hands, popping straight out under the tape and making it very obvious that he wanted to come out too. Paul started to put a headcollar on him but we'd only brought two so he let him go past without one - our lane is very quiet and he would usually only stop and graze. However he rushed out and hurried after me as I was leading Ginger up the drive! "I've no time for grazing let me get IN!" So we made him comfortable in his little workshop stable and he has been in for the night. I think we've got the water situation under control now - the pink container is outside and he has to put his head through the bars to drink. No matter what we put it in, if it's reachable with a hoof he will pull it over and then we have a flood.

I went back down and took the snowy picture after Paul had put some hay out for the boys - Muddy, Bobby, Rocky and Dan. It was such a gloomy afternoon but they were happy once they had the hay. We are into the 2010 hay now - it is VERY good hay, from a June cut. Thank you, Ted and Jenny, what would we do without this amazing donation! Frodo had the 2009 hay, damped, and had to put up with it. It's perfectly fine but he knows there is superior stuff!

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Thursday, 11 November 2010

Mousey's still with us and doing well

A couple of nice pictures of Mousey with Gill and Margaret taken over the last two weeks. She copes well with our volunteers doing a bit of gentle and rhythmical grooming, so we are pushing the boundaries a bit in this respect.

I am really chuffed to have headcollared her whilst wearing strange clothing (yes, I know, all my clothes are strange!)

The first time was in the morning, so she was in her stable. It was cold and wet so I had on a rustle-y waterproof jacket on and, feeling a bit under the weather with a cold, I was reluctant to take it off. So I
thought, well, if I can't do it I'll get Paul to headcollar her. There was no hurry anyway. (Which, of course, there should never be). I just kept on, doing advance and retreat to her face and neck, until she allowed my hand, with the unfamiliar sleeve, to rest on her forehead. Then smoothly down and under her chin to maintain the contact while I slipped the noseband over her muzzle.

Then this afternoon getting her in from the field with a strong wind blowing, I had a different coat on with larger cuffs - I was quite prepared to take it off but thought I would try the same technique first, and it worked really well. I had to push the cuffs up a bit as she would have spooked if they had touched her face.

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Wednesday, 10 November 2010

A good old pony

Here's Ginger, who has been with us since last January. On board is Celeste, who spent a few days with us in October. She usually rides Frodo but this time she took Ginger out as well. It is the first time this old pony has been ridden here apart from a couple of trips down the drive with toddlers on her. Celeste didn't go far but was very pleased at how responsive Ginger still is - she must have been ridden by many children in the past. I think they both really enjoyed it!

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Wednesday, 18 August 2010

The Brooke Rescue Show (in August !)

(A very belated blog, which I actually wrote way back in August.)

Last Sunday we went to The Brooke Rescue Horse and Dog Show at Tiverton. This charity does such a lot to help equines in the poorest parts of the world, and the Show is a fund raiser for them and to highlight those issues, but also brings together many animal welfare charities like us. Have a look at their website -

Young Millie took Frodo in some of the classes; they came third in the Turnout class and then did really well in the Child Handler class - they won it! Faye has been coaching Millie with her Frodo handling and she (Millie) was complemented by the judge on her comfortably loose leading and also for the fact that even though she was not riding she still wore her hat for safety.

We sold lots of horsy stuff that had been donated for this purpose and we were also selling the wonderful 'pony' marmalade and jams made by our Wednesday ladies. There was a steady stream of gamblers trying their luck on our Tombola and we also sold cards and T shirts.

In the afternoon we watched the Horse Agility Club's demonstration and then Millie took Frodo in the simplified competition version. Frodo was required to stand still with his front feet in a hoop laid on the ground (He's not good at standing still and wanted to play with the hoop), be led in and out of cones (OK with that), walk through a tunnel (good), go past Scary Corner, (good) jump through a blue tube hoop! (very good) and be led through a strip curtain (excellent) and they won!!
The top picture shows a very happy Millie with her handful of rosettes, and (bottom) walking a very calm Frodo through the strip curtain.

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Tuesday, 3 August 2010


I wrote the first part of this blog weeks ago, and will now finish it off so that I can get on with some more blogging, which I am sadly behind with. This is the first part.

Wilma is an Exmoor mare from a semi-feral herd. She probably experienced traditional handling methods as a foal - indeed, she displayed great fear and suspicion when she arrived in July to be a course demo pony. She has lived all her life so far (don't know how old she is, 10 maybe) as a wild pony, and she has a fear of humans. Her previous handling may have caused some trauma. We suspect she may have high status within her herd. She is a big pony - a real walloper.

Paul started to interact with the long cane over the door - she would not look at it, but stood resolutely at the back of the stable waiting until it had gone again. So assuming that she knew very well that it was there Paul touched her with it and she was ok. He quickly progressed to the hand stick; also ok. He goes in to do 'stable servicing'; but is very careful; especially about bending to pick up manure.

(Wilma was judged too unpredictable to be able to progress over the two day course so Paul continued to work with her in the following days. I think it was Tuesday when he came in to tell me -)

'Touched her!' (I had left him 10 mins before giving her longish slivers of carrot wedged between his fingers, palm uppermost, and she was ok with brushing his hand as she took them. He had gone in again with the handstick and made an approach to her shoulder showing her what a stroke looks like as he got there (it's quite important to do air stroking as you approach and not to touch first and then change to a stroking movement)

'I've made a point of moving her around in the stable just to show that I'm the one who does the moving and not her; I just put my hand out towards a point just behind her, no noise, just the visual pressure, and she moves round.'

'Judging by the way she has become accustomed to my presence going in and out of the stable she is not as worried as some have been and may come round quite quickly.'

Famous last words.

This is the rest of the story -

It was the day after that, Wednesday. Our volunteer ladies were here having a coffee break from their mucking out. Paul was down at the stables working with Wilma. Suddenly
there was a tremendous bang which seemed to continue into a crashing noise of moving metal - we rushed out; Wilma was standing in the pen, which was detached from the stables and partially collapsed; Paul was just standing there to prevent her getting out. The stable was open. The stable door was in two halves.

We drifted Wilma back into the stable and Paul fastened the round pen gate as a door to secure her there.

He said he had been working quietly with her in the stable; Wilma facing the door, Paul alongside her neck, making hand contact. She had moved back a step (he wondered whether her rump touched the back wall and there was a combination of circumstances that produced a trigger) but then she exploded forwards, straight through the door and her momentum continuing into the pen and across and into the far side of it, when it came apart from the stables and partially collapsed.

We talked a lot about what had happened and the dangers associated with rehabilitating a big mature pony who has such fear of humans. If Wilma had been sympathetically handled as a youngster she would now be a 'wild but handleable' conservation pony. Although we are sure progress could be achieved we decided that our facilities are not good enough to cope with this sort of situation, and Wilma was returned to her herd. Of course she is happy there, living life as a wild pony. It has again highlighted the problem of welfare issues in unhandleable wild ponies.

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Monday, 19 July 2010


Connor has been here for two days for handling practice. His new owners brought him to the 'Handling the Wild, Untouched and Traumatised Pony' course which Vanessa Bee runs here.

Connor is a 2 year old Welsh gelding, very pretty, but with big 'people problems' - probably stemming from his experience of forced handling when first headcollared, and when gelded.

His new owner Clare had managed to change his headcollar, which was tight, for another one - across the back of a tame pony! But Connor needed to overcome his fear, and Paul began work with him on Saturday morning using familiarisation techniques and remote pressure. We all watched as the short sessions continued through the day, resuming on Sunday and culminating in Connor being led out for the first time and walking into his trailer for the homeward journey.

He now lives with understanding and caring people who will not hurt him. Now that we've been able to show them some of our techniques we're sure that they will be able to continue to work with him in a positive way.

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Mousey loading! (and unloading)

Paul tried loading Mousey on the lead the other day. Because of her fear of humans she has only ever been loose-loaded before. This time, she walked up the ramp so smoothly that I nearly missed it with my camera. She was perfectly fine about going in, turning round and coming out again. Of course this is all with Paul, in whom she has such trust.

Mousey will soon be returning to the pony welfare organisation that she belongs to, and things will be very different for her. Because of her handling issues she may never be able to be rehomed, but will still be cared for by the charity.

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Sunday, 4 July 2010

Dressing up!

As promised, a picture of us in costume at St. John's Fayre in Witheridge last Saturday. There was also a lovely but lively Fell pony stallion in the procession whose rider opted to stick close behind Frodo 'because he's so well behaved!' and he was, as always when we do this! The noise, colour and diversity of participants is amazing but he copes really well, also with everyone wanting to pat and stroke him.

On the left is Noah, as Sir Thomas, in a magnificent yellow cloak and tunic that she had made herself (and thanks Paul for a very late night making her sword and shield after getting the hay in), then there's me - I am a Peasant, and looked the part even if I say so myself. I'm leading Frodo who wore a green and red strappy get-up that I'd made for him. In front are Emily who was a Jester, very colouful and tinkly with her red tights, tunic and jester's stick and hat and next to her is Lauren, a medieval lady in a white dress with red velvet sash and a headband to suit the period, carrying Sir Thomas's flag.

There were about 20 people to be judged and we didn't win one of the two £25 prizes, much to our dismay, but the Mayor gave us each £1 for an ice cream as a consolation.
Paul said 'we wuz robbed' ! Never mind, it was fun.

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Monday, 28 June 2010

St. John's Fayre

Last Saturday we attended the Fayre, all feeling a bit weary from the haymaking the day before.

Another swelteringly hot day, and as well as our fund-raising stall we took part in the procession. This year there was a medieval theme so we decided to dress Frodo up as well as ourselves. I made him a red and green costume; sorry we haven't any pictures yet because I didn't take any! Others have though, so I will post them on the Blog when I get them.

The picture shows the now-empty street at the end of the day just prior to us packing up. Our stall is in the foreground; we had Margaret's gazebo and umbrella for shade. The old traction engine steams quietly outside The Angel and that's Philip and Kip (who raised money with her Penny a Pat dog tabard) just crossing the road.

Earlier in the day the street and square were heaving with people out enjoying all the fun of the fair. Frodo was so good with all the musicians, dancers, noise, strange costumes and especially with the crowds of people, many of whom wanted to stroke him.

We did well with book and marmalade sales and the Tombola; thanks to our gallant ladies who manned the stall all day.

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Haymaking !

Along with thousands of other folk all over the country we were helping with the haymaking last week, in perfect June weather. With the lack of rain this year it was not expected to be a big crop, but the quality is superb - it's so green and sweet. Ted had been out turning it twice a day and it dried very quickly.

In the picture Stella is guiding Pete back into the big barn at Jenny's prior to us unloading on to the stack. It's such hot work but we had plenty of help, what with 5 of Jenny and Ted's good neighbours and 8 of us p4p lot, and with lots of cold drinks.

The total was over 600 bales, but they are each lifted several times so it's no wonder we were all a bit tired after that lot. Ted and Jenny work so hard to help us and the p4p ponies not only with all this hay (which they donate) but also by fostering for us. Currently they have Silver and Jaffa Cake over there, and both ponies watched all the hay goings-on with keen interest, hoping a little would blow in their direction!

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Thursday, 17 June 2010

Little Ginger

Here's Ginger, having her feet trimmed. This old pony certainly doesn't act her age; she's quite feisty with the other ponies and is the most vocal pony we've ever met. She positively roars at the boys over the fence if she is in the field next to them, squeaks at Mousey to move her out of the way and all rolling and bodily functions are accompanied by much grunting.
As you can see she is a bit ribby, but because we are very wary of laminitis she has a high-fibre, low sugar, low calorie diet with lots of short chop chaff that she manages to eat quite well now after 2 visits from our brilliant equine dentist Bill Lomas.
Ginger needs a home where her management is clearly understood. She still has much to offer, being safe on the roads, and it would be lovely to find her a good home not too far away, with a little jockey to ride her out on the lead.
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Saturday, 5 June 2010

Mousey's triumph

This morning I took this lovely series of pictures. I feel quite emotional to see Mousey so accepting of this attention after being such a terrified pony last October. She is ready to go home, but will probably stay until July. She is very lucky to be owned by, and will return to, SWEP (South West Equine Protection) and they will continue to work with her and provide her with a safe home for life.

In the pictures she is HEADCOLLARED ! ... and TIED !... safely, because she understands how to yield to pressure. As you can see in the first picture, she stands relaxed, with loose rope and calm eye, whilst Paul brushes a foreleg.

In the second picture Mousey shifts her weight to allow Paul to pick out a hoof.

The third picture shows how Mousey enjoys having her tail brushed! She looks really good now.

Fourth picture - Mousey is fine with back feet too!

The final picture shows Mousey so relaxed while Paul brushes out her mane, just by her damaged ears.

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Tuesday, 25 May 2010

I can do it too !!

...headcollar Mousey, that is! I have done it three mornings running, in the stable and in the pen. I am dead chuffed to have achieved this. First time was under instruction from Paul, and you have to 'go for it' a bit, and if Mousey goes away a little , you just stay with her, and believe you are going to do it, and she accepts it going over her nose. I am flipping the head strap over, rather than going over her head with my hand. Don't think she will cope with that from me yet though Paul can do it, even outside in the open.

We will have to video this amazing progress.

The picture is from Open Day at the beginning of May; I'm interacting with Mousey and she has moved her nose very close to me to allow me to touch the side of her face rather than her muzzle. She does the 'magnet' thing which we've experienced before; you get quite close, and she suddenly sticks her face onto your arm, as if to get the moment of contact over with quickly. She is such a sweet pony and so pretty now in her summer coat.

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Thursday, 20 May 2010

Mousey's ear tag

As you might already know, Mousey has a plastic tag in her left ear. (Her right ear has had the top cut off it). It has been an ambition to get the tag out, if possible. It's so ugly and is a horrible reminder of her previous abuse.

Paul can now headcollar Mousey 'out in the open', and has spent many hours helping her become used to hands touching her head; so much so that he said he was going to try to remove the ear tag.

She was very good about him fiddling with her ear. We have found that the site of pain is not necessarily the same site as a 'trauma trigger' associated with it. For instance Mousey is less frightened of her cut ear being touched than of her muzzle being touched. Her muzzle may well have been held whilst her ear was cut, and it is fear of a touch on the muzzle that makes her panic.

Anyway, Paul was able to cut through the plastic tag at the top thinking it might then come out, because he could see that the button fastening was all on one side of her ear. He then managed to cut the piece off, with the button. Still it wouldn't come, and he realised that the button stalk at the bottom of the other piece of plastic has become embedded in her ear. So she now has half an ear tag, and it looks like it will have to stay like that.

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Yesterday we went out for a walk - here we all are, just setting off. We took Muddy, Rocky, Bobby and Frodo and they carried our bring-and-share picnic lunch for us!

The lanes are absolutely beautiful at the moment with all the cow parsley out, red campion, bluebells, buttercup and stitchwort, and with the young beech leaves dripping out of the hedgerows. All the ponies LOVE cow parsley, and we did stop several times to let them take advantage of it.

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Monday, 10 May 2010


Ahhh! He's lovely isn't he? Troy is here for 2 nights on a stopover from Cornwall. He and his owner/rider David are making their way up country and we are so pleased they chose us as their next stop after Chulmleigh.
Troy is enjoying a nice rest and some turnout, and has caused much excitement among all the ponies here; Jeremy was the bravest (right hand picture) and was the first up to say hello.
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Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Open Day 2010

We held our annual Open Day yesterday and I think it was very much enjoyed by all who attended - not as many visitors as on some May bank holidays maybe because the weather was rather cool. However lots of people stayed long enough to buy more tea and cake between the pony demos and we also sold plants, books and bric-a-brac and ran a tombola.

The picture shows Paul holding Mousey - I am explaining on the microphone just how fearful she was back in October and how well she has progressed. She coped with all the visitors very well and I think the day was good for her. Bobby, Frodo, Ginger and Rocky also took turns in the demo pen and since they are all moulting heavily I ended up with almost as much hair on me as one of the ponies (....why did we choose to wear navy fleeces I wonder?)

Many thanks to all our gallant volunteers who work so hard preparing for events like this.

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Friday, 23 April 2010

A headcollar change for Mousey

Mousey's rehabilitation is progressing fast now. Two days ago Paul managed to change her headcollar for a lighter weight yellow one by putting it on over the top (in the stable) and then fiddling the red one out from underneath it. Mousey still objects and evades but not in the same panicky manner. I think she realises now that whatever Paul is trying to accomplish is inevitable, that it won't hurt, and that she will get a piece of carrot.

The headcollar change was another major step forward and now Paul uses the red one on and off over the top, sometimes having her clipped by the yellow one so she can't whisk away as the red one comes off.

Yesterday I got this lovely picture of Mousey calmly accepting Paul's hand on her forehead - a blind spot for a horse, and surely worse for Mousey, being so close to her damaged ears.

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Thursday, 22 April 2010

Celeste visits Frodo

Another picture from a week or so ago - when Celeste first came here she was so little that she struggled to reach Frodo's stirrup, but now she can jump onto the bareback pad and ride without any stirrups at all!
Celeste now lives right up country in Northumberland so her visits to Frodo are a bit limited.

You can see an animated film that Celeste and her brother made a couple of years ago if you click on the link below -

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Wednesday, 21 April 2010


The people4ponies Open Day will be held on Bank Holiday Monday, May 3rd.
11am - 4pm.
Come and meet the ponies! Demonstrations throughout the day.
Delicious Refreshments, Cakes and Cream Teas on sale all day.
Lots of lovely things to buy - Plants, Books, Bric-a-Brac and of course a wonderful Tombola!
and best of all... it's FREE to get in!

Please telephone 01884 860252 for more information.

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A routine check up

Sorry folks! This picture is two weeks old (and it hasn't rained since then...amazing). We were at Black Dog to catch up Ebony, Apache and Gus for a routine health check. All three ponies have varying degrees of previous trauma and are doing a good conservation- grazing job. We carefully drift them into a corner of the field, closing them down by a rope held as a fence by our volunteers. When we have it as small as we dare, before it is small enough to spook them, one or other of us goes in and, being very quiet and careful, we can headcollar them all and lead them up to the barn.

The picture shows Apache, held by Margaret, watching Thomas and Isabel making buttercup chains. Apache is waiting his turn for a foot trim.

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Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Mousey's head

I took these pictures today - they show Paul working with Mousey to help her to overcome her fear of hands around her head. In the first two pictures her fear of the hand contact is obvious although she was only being evasive rather than making the very violent movements that she used to do. In the third picture, about 5 minutes later, she is coping a bit better and has taken the tension off the rope. In the fourth picture (another 5 minutes) she has relaxed, with lowered head and softer eye.

Mousey is turned out each day with another mare but she comes to be caught (clipped on to a lead rope) with no trouble at all. She leads nicely, grazes on the lead and Paul has groomed most of her. We just have to overcome the head touching so that she can accept headcollaring - something that is still a little way off.

Oh I nearly forgot!! She all but came in the kitchen yesterday - Paul saw her coming and I, as quickly as I dared so as not to alarm her, walked through the kitchen to block her, hands up - (Pip was already standing guard on the rug with his best intimidating posture and lowered head!) - Mousey turned, without panicking, in the tiny space between door, flowerpots and gate.
I think she is really intelligent and had come to ask about going to the back lawn, because when I went out that is what she was indicating.

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Thursday, 1 April 2010

Buffy's new home

Today Buffy has travelled over to Holsworthy to be a companion to Bugsy, a 9 year old gelding. We are so pleased to have re-homed a pony as the recession seemed to affect us quite badly with no homes offered for many months. It is especially good for Buffy to have been homed as she has been lame since last summer and we are not sure that she will recover completely. (see last posting)

Buffy is a sweet little mare, quite laid back - she whinnied when she spotted Bugsy though, and I think they will be great friends. He was certainly very pleased to see her, and celebrated with some high jinks around his paddock even though they have only met over the fence as yet.

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Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Two days off

We spent a rare weekend away and left all the animals in the care of our very capable volunteers. Everything went well, even the most testing operation which was to catch up Mousie each day from the little paddock. There are 3 of us now who can do this, and Mousie even approached Paul out there today whilst he was picking up manure. She still has the headcollar on though.

Buffy, an 9 year old mare from the original group of ponies, is about to be rehomed. She has been offered a very good home as companion to a gelding. We asked our vet. to have another look at her because she is still lame from her unknown injury last year. He could find no evidence to suggest that she might be in pain so she will be travelling over to her new home near Holsworthy shortly. It's most likely that Buffy has some nerve damage which prevents her using her leg normally; this may still improve over time.

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Friday, 12 March 2010

A lesson for Basil

Having a lightweight adult volunteer is a real asset with these little ponies needing to be educated. Yesterday Faye and Catherine had a session with Basil, an 11.2hh. 7 year old Exmoor cross gelding. He's a nice little chap but hasn't done much yet. However he coped with much adjusting of tack, Faye getting on and off several times, going past some rubbish up the road, stepping over and around poles and completing various other maneouvres, all on the lead but headcollar only.

Basil is one of our ponies who is on the 'available for rehoming' list but he needs a confident and knowledgeable handler who will continue his education.

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Mousey goes out with the others!

Mousey has been turned out each day in our round pen during this fine weather which gives her more interaction with other ponies all round. She allows Paul to clip on in there when we go to fetch her in again.

Yesterday, for the first time, we turned her out in our half acre paddock with two other ponies. With plenty of room to evade us we planned to drift her into the round pen to catch her again but when we went to catch them up she stood with the other two to be caught!! We are thrilled with this. But she still has the headcollar on and is still too headshy to even change it yet, though it can be straightened etc.

Her fear of hands near her head is quite understandable when you see what has been done to her poor ears. Paul is continuing the desensitisation work and I think us other volunteers will now interact more; she will accept carrot from others now. Mousey enjoys her walks out with Paul up the lane and with it being dry he was able to sit down; she grazed very close to him when he appeared to be so much smaller.

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Saturday, 27 February 2010

More Mousey

Here are the promised pictures - firstly, Paul just clipping the lead rope on to her headcollar. She has a piece of carrot to help, and takes it very gently. This is great progress! In the other picture Paul is asking her to lift her hind foot, which she does. The rope is loose; she could move away if she wanted to. Paul is now able to groom more of her and she is looking much tidier and cleaner. The next big milestone will be when the headcollar can be removed and replaced.

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Friday, 26 February 2010

Windy Friday

I was just letting Mousey out to the pen first thing this morning when it occured to me to offer her a piece of carrot, and after a couple of doubtful head shakes, she took it! Quite carefully in fact. So I am the second person here to interact with her.

Every day she is increasingly confident with Paul. Whilst grazing, out on their walk today, there was a sudden gust of wind which caused her to leap away. That's the first time on the lead that she's tested the boundaries, but Paul held firm as always and she was calmly grazing again a second later.

I'll try and take some pics. tomorrow.

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Monday, 22 February 2010

Catching Mousey

It's lovely to be able to report progress with Mousey. Yesterday Paul was elated at having clipped onto her headcollar, in the pen, after Mousey tentatively accepted a piece of carrot from his hand. No hook stick, rope or anything. To make a change from going for a walk he then took her to the back 'lawn'... (it was a lawn, and will be again one day, but at the moment looks like a mole infested pony paddock).

We all went to pick up manure after that, of which there was two days worth, and when we came back Paul went to check on Mousey and she wasn't there! Good job we had three volunteers here whom we immediately despatched up and down the lane. Grabbed mobile phones and ropes, rang the neighbour to alert them and quickly set up the stable, yard and driveway so it was all open in case we would be drifting her back in.

Paul and Gill went up the lane and Paul soon spotted Mousey grazing on a lovely grassy area, enclosed from the road, belonging to another neighbour. I went to help and Mousey trotted into a concrete yard and turned to face Paul. He approached her in the appropriate non-confrontational manner and did exactly what he had already done that morning and she accepted carrot and then rope in the same way!! We were so pleased with her. In a strange place too. Though it did look as if she she was anxious, being away from familiar surroundings, and maybe is beginning to see Paul as a safe place. So she was led home, with the other volunteers following up.

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Mousey's feet

Just a little update on Mousey. Paul has lifted up her front feet and picked them out today. He says they are really good; hard as iron, and need no trimming. He has been working up to this over the past few days but it hasn't been a big problem. He doesn't even need to hold her rope.

Not so with actually clipping a lead rope onto her headcollar. She is so frightened of hands near her face. Paul will usually make contact with his hand on her neck - she backs round into him, but he stands his ground, maybe scratches her rump and then hooks onto her neck strap with his longer stick. She yields to this pressure and Paul can then reach under her face and clip onto the headcollar. Her reaction to the slightest touch on her nose or face can be explosively violent.

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010


At long last Mousey can be taken for a walk, on the lead. This can be accomplished because she now has a headcollar on. She is able to graze; not all traumatised ponies will do this so close to a predator the like of which has hurt them in the past, but Mousey has been with us for months now and has become used to Paul standing close by her.

Pre-headcollaring, he had stroked her neck and body, though only on her right hand side. This had been achieved with hours of patient work and a good deal of calm confident energy; Mousey has learnt that a kick will deter potential handlers and she will swing her rump with lightning speed and back up; she does this to Paul but he is now able to call her bluff and stands there with her backed up against him. However all the technique in the world was never going to allow a hand to get to her head, face or muzzle to put a headcollar on and there is precious little one can do to help her without that so we were at a standstill with her progress.
Mousey has two serious wounds; the top has been cut off her right ear, and a plastic tag punched through her left ear. As well as being forcibly held by men she may well have had her muzzle gripped when she was so physically abused. She may be in her late teens now and this experience has left her so frightened of humans that she cannot have her teeth checked, her feet attended to or be given any routine care. She has always been owned; luckily now by a charity who want her to overcome her fears, which is why she has come to us.
The headcollaring was achieved 2 days ago and we 'crushed' Mousey to do it. We used the mesh panels of the pen that she is used to - there is a good deal of 'give' in them so it was a secure hold. It took about half an hour for Paul firstly to desensitise her head as much as possible with his hands and then with much fiddling to work the headcollar throught the mesh and into place.
I held the panels closed at the rear end. Mousey moved backwards and forwards, several times, but she didn't panic, didn't try to go up or thrash with her feet. Before she was released Paul clipped on a long rope so that he could pick up the end once she was out of the crush. He then began to help her learn to yield to pressure and to begin leading lessons.

We have a long way to go with Mousey but we hope for steady progress as we daily repeat the message to her that humans will not hurt her again.

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Goodbye Billy Boy

Billy Boy, the Exmoor stallion, has today gone home to his mares. His owner came last week to fetch him but the blizzard conditions that we experienced here on January 31st. made it too dangerous to attempt the return journey with Billy Boy. So he has had a week longer with us, and has really benefited from the extra time because Paul has been able to hold his back feet and tidy them up with the rasp, comb out his tail and generally get him more accustomed to being handled. They also did some loading practice with our trailer, so when BB was collected he walked into the trailer on the lead, having always been loose loaded before.
We've had him here about 4 months, and to start with were doubtful about our chances of successfully turning him into a handle-able pony. He was absolutely terrified of humans attempting to touch him, and was quite prepared to defend himself if he couldn't escape. Paul has made wonderful progress but BB has not got to the stage where other handlers can begin to interact with him. We have suggested that he should not be handled, as his sharp behaviour may easily be misconstrued as threatening. Billy Boy seems to use his ears more, and quicker, than usual and will lay them flat back at a stranger but flicking forward as he turns to Paul. Back again as Paul's hand approaches his face but forward once the contact is made.
We're pleased to think how joyful Billy will be at regaining his freedom (he had to make do with walks and the garden here) and if he has a welfare issue at any time in the future he should cope with it better, especially if Paul is summoned to help with the handling as we suggested.
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Friday, 29 January 2010

Billy Boy behaviour

Billy Boy's progress has accelarated over the last few days, as if he is starting to really believe that Paul is not going to hurt him. Paul can lift all BB's feet whilst the pony is loose in the stable. (The fact that he's loose helps him not to feel trapped, but it is more risky for the handler).

Yesterday, for the first time, Paul managed to firstly stroke, then brush, then gently plastic-curry-comb Billy's tail. This is invariably liked if it is carefully introduced, and so it was with BB - he stood enjoying the rhythmic motion and slight snagging.

Paul told me that as they came back from their first walk and he had just closed the gate, Billy Boy suddenly took hold of his fleece, on his shoulder. I said 'What did you do? (though I knew what he would say), - 'nothing'.

This behaviour could so easily have provoked a slap by way of retaliation, from a less knowledgeable handler, or could have caused the handler to react fearfully, perceiving a bite. Either reaction would seriously upset Billy's relationship with humans. How do we know that BB wasn't saying 'alright mate?' or something? After all, they have to use their mouths like hands. How dreadful if he had been hit for it. Stallions are more inclined to test with their mouths but it is not necessarily a bite, or aggressive.

If Paul felt that a pony should be reprimanded for inappropriate behaviour he might do it by facing the pony, making eye contact and 'making himself big'. But Billy is already very nervous so he would not cope with this. With traumatised ponies we are so pleased when they begin to interact and communicate with us - the finer points of boundaries can come later.

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Wednesday, 27 January 2010

A new pony

Ginger came last weekend and will be with us for a little while. She is an elderly little mare but very bright and has been a nice riding pony for small children. Having not lived with other ponies for some time she was very excited to meet the others here and made the most astonishing noise at Billy Boy that can only be described as a roar!
She's had a busy couple of days here with all the new sights and sounds and in the picture is being groomed by our volunteers.

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Foot lifting

Paul has been working on Billy Boy's foot lifting for some time. He has been able to rasp the front ones but BB was even more cautious about his hind feet. At last after much patient 'advance and retreat' down his back legs Paul is getting a lift every time now. Not quite to the stage of being able to hold them for rasping. That will require a good deal of trust and bravery on BB's part as he will probably have a memory of being forcibly held as a foal whilst he was branded; it would have entailed human hands gripping him in the same way.

Paul and BB have been further on their daily walks. BB walks on nicely but not quite level with Paul; likes to keep an eye on him from just behind his shoulder.

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Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Hot Branding banned in Scotland

We heard yesterday from a BBC journalist that there will be no more hot branding of equines in Scotland. Although the current consultation does not end until 28th. February the Scottish Cabinet Minister Richard Lochhead issued a statement yesterday - go to

This is very good news. If any of you belong to Facebook, a new Group has just been started there called 'Ban Hot Branding in England and Wales'. Add your name, and keep a watch on there for further news.

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Friday, 15 January 2010

BB and the wheelie bin

Paul often brings the empty bin with him if he's coming up the drive with a pony but this was the first time for Billy Boy. He looked a bit shocked to start with but with Paul's confident leading he walked along nicely. After all, wheelie bins have never hurt him.

We have made good inroads into the massive backlog of poo-picking as the snow continued to melt today There is usually somewhere in the region of 109 per 24 hours from the six ponies out in the field, so times 10 days of snow that's well over 1000 heaps and there was a lot already stuck there from the freezing weather before!

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Monday, 11 January 2010

A January Monday

All the ponies are fed up with the weather although it seemed warmer today - the outside taps have freed off. Trough's still frozen so Paul filled it with the hose.

Billy Boy's headcollar touched him on the nose and he panicked; it's so depressing; any small movement or noise can have this effect on a traumatised pony. However, he and Paul spent time just waiting in the stable, on opposite sides, and BB suddenly came forward again to accept the headcollar. That was before this morning's outing. Later Paul brushed him, though he's not keen on his mane being brushed and Paul hasn't done his tail yet. He did pick up both front feet and held them properly as if to rasp whilst BB was tied up in the stable.

Frodo spends a lot of time companioning Mousey so this afternoon I took him out. He was very keen to go for a walk but just can't settle to scraping for grass like BB does. We went up and down the lane and he picked off the odd blackberry leaf but he was clearly put out about the lack of greenery; eventually after much head-twirling he ate a good deal of sedge and was then happy to go back.

Mousey seems more relaxed ; she enjoys the Healthy Hooves feed that we bought for her and she's looking well on it.

I spent some time today trying to rehome ponies. We get others that need homes offered to us and if we can't help by taking them (because we are pretty much always full) we can sometimes suggest options or put people in touch with each other. Also I'm spending time working on the next Pony Express which should have been out months ago. I think it's nearly done now.

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Friday, 8 January 2010

Fun in the snow !

So that's what they get up to at people4ponies - thought they went to help! Yes, we've all had a go on the sledge and thrown snowballs at each other.

The down side is that we haven't picked up any manure since last weekend - if we ever get to see the field again we will have to have a poo-picking party. Paul has finally overcome the frozen trough problem by feeding it via 2 hoses, from the house, but coiling the hoses up afterwards and bringing them back into the kitchen.

The snow is so deep that walking hasn't been too slippery, just a bit of a trudge. All the ponies love rolling in the snow - Mousey and Frodo in particular and it was nice to see Mousey instigate a playful run round when they went out together.

(Must just say a BIG thank you to our volunteers who have put in extra hours to help during the bad weather).

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Hot Branding - latest update

It is looking increasingly likely that the Scottish Parliament are going to ban equine hot branding. They have suspended the issuing of licences pending an investigation. The following letter, from the Scottish Rural Directorate Animal Health and Welfare Division, has been sent to various organisations and individuals but anyone may respond - there is an email address and postal address at the end. We will be sending a people4ponies response.

23rd December 2009

Dear Sir or Madam


As you may be aware section 20 of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 makes it an offence to carry out a procedure on a protected animal which involves interference with the sensitive tissues or bone structure of an animal. The Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 exempt certain procedures from this general prohibition and one of these exempted procedures is the hot branding of equine animals for identification purposes. However, hot branding of equine animals is only permitted in Scotland where a specific authorisation has been issued by Scottish Ministers.

Since these Regulations came into effect specific authorisations have only been requested for a number of Exmoor ponies.

Since July this year, it has been a requirement for all horses and ponies to be microchipped and this has considerably weakened the case to allow hot branding. In addition, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) issued a recent policy statement which stated:

“Hot branding is generally carried out without analgesia and is undoubtedly a painful process. The BVA believe that the continued use of hot branding as a means of identifying certain breeds is unacceptable and should be banned on welfare grounds”.

This statement goes further than the statement issued by the British Equine Veterinary Association, who wished to see hot branding of equine animals “phased out”.

As a consequence, we have been reviewing our policy which has allowed hot branding of certain horses and ponies under the restrictions of a specific authorisation. Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, has indicated that he would like to remove the exemption for hot branding of equine animals, making the hot branding of any equine animal in Scotland an offence. This will mean that the Prohibited Procedures on Protected Animals (Exemptions) (Scotland) Regulations 2007 will need to be amended.

It is a requirement of section 20 (6) of the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006 that before any Regulation is made under section 20, Scottish Ministers must consult “such persons appearing to them to represent relevant interests….as they consider appropriate”.

Thus this letter is designed to inform you of the Scottish Government’s intention to lay an amending Regulation in Parliament and to allow you the opportunity to make your views known to us. In the meantime, no further authorisations to hot brand any equine animal in Scotland will be issued.

If you wish to comment on our plans to remove the exemption for hot branding, thus making it an offence to hot brand any equine animal in Scotland, please send your respond by 28 February 2010 to the following email address:

Or by post to:

Pam Kennedy
Animal Welfare Branch
Room 350
Pentland House
47 Robb’s Loan
EH14 1TY

Yours faithfully

Ian W Strachan
Head of Animal Welfare Branch

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Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The snow's back

We spent ages sweeping paths to stables, pen, gate and outbuildings after waking up to more snow but later in the morning we had another hour's snow and it was all covered again.

Billy Boy was anxious to go for his walk as usual so off they went and Paul said BB scraped around in true Exmoor pony style and found plenty to eat up the lane.

He is much better with the headcollar after several days intensive work with the double headcollar technique and plenty of carrots but he is still so easily startled and even a day missed sets him back. We took him further walking yesterday and that was fine. Paul can pick up both BB's front feet, though BB is worried about it.

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