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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