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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