Saturday, 29 December 2012

Merry Christmas!

We do hope that everyone has been enjoying their Christmas!  I've been knocked out the last few days with one of the Christmas "bugs" that have been going around (hence the lack of blogging, so apologies for that).  The volunteers have been helping out a lot, and even made sure that there were plenty of carrots for the ponies' Christmas Day treat.  There was also some fresh grass in a new field for the ponies to have a feast and a run about in.

I think if you asked the ponies...what they'd have really, really liked for Christmas, they'd have probably voted for it to stop raining, and for the mud to dry up...but carrots were a very good alternative!

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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Pony Self Selection Day

Munch Self-Selecting
We all had the most wonderful day, yesterday.  We had a special lady, Fiona Habershon, come to visit the yard, who specialises in Zoopharmacognosy...also known as self-selection for animals.  Fiona has a wonderful array of plants and essential oils, which the ponies can choose to help them address not only physical problems, but also emotional difficulties too.  (For those of you you haven't come across Zoopharmacognosy before, it is not a replacement for veterinary diagnosis or treatment, but is complementary to it).

Munch was a very keen first volunteer.  When Fiona arrived,  Munch was already trying to get himself into one of Fiona's boxes before she'd even made it across the yard!  Fiona started with different plants to see what Munch wanted to select.  Some of the other ponies headed over, near to where we were, all wanting their turn!

After learning about the plants and watching Munch's selections and reactions, Fiona moved onto looking at the essential oils and explaining how they can be used to help with emotional difficulties, and can be incorporated into behavioural training.  Fiona was able to work with Topsy and Tufty with the oils, and both ponies made huge steps forward yesterday, and you could see Topsy particularly wanting oils that relate to fear, and fear of pain etc.

We finished with a group exercise in the yard with all the ponies and volunteers, using the oils to see what the ponies selected, and finding out which ponies needed which oils.  Fiona kindly left us with a selection of the most needed oils.  It was wonderful to see Tufty loving all the human attention by the end of the day, wanting lots of stroking, particularly from Graham, who I think is her new best friend!!

A big thank you to Fiona, who travelled a very long way to visit us, who donated her time, skills and essential oils to the ponies for the day.  We all learnt so much and are looking forward to putting our newly found skills into practice.  We hope that Fiona will visit us again next year!

If you'd like to find out more about self selection and Fiona's work, please visit Fiona's website:

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Thursday, 13 December 2012


It looks as though Tufty is going to be a star again!  Verm-X are so pleased with her results that they are hoping to feature Tufty's story in some national horsey magazines...

September 2012
 December 2012
...I know I've blogged about Tufty's results recently, but she's changed so much and is so sprightly, I just couldn't resist another post!
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Bobby's Feast!

Ted and Jenny want to open up an area on their land that has been overtaken by reeds.  The sheep won't eat them, but the ponies, who are great conservation grazers, love to eat the reeds, so here's Bobby enjoying himself, munching away on the reeds!  Delicious!

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

People4ponies Trip to Parliament

On Monday, Faye and volunteer Gill travelled to London, to Parliament.  After our successful trip to the APGAW meeting in October, Neil Parish, our local MP, arranged a special meeting for us at Portcullis House to present the work that people4ponies does.  We had a very positive meeting, and our presentation, and our work, was very well received and commended by the Minister.  

It's just wonderful to be able to present our work and have it recognised at this level, and we'd like to thank Neil for arranging the meeting with the Minister, and for all his wonderful support!

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Sunday, 9 December 2012

Did You Know It's Nearly Christmas???

Don't forget to go through the Easyfundraising website ( ) when doing your online Christmas present shopping!  For each purchase, people4ponies gets a donation from the retailer, and it costs you nothing!  So far we've raised a fantastic £ thank you to everyone who's signed up to the scheme.

If you are stuck for a about our "Sponsor A Pony" scheme?  I've just updated our website with details of the ponies, and Topsy and Tufty are now part of the scheme too!

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Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Lulu...What A Super Pony!

We had a lovely email this week from Lulu's owner with an update on how she's getting can read the email below...what a super pony, and what a super fan club Lulu has.  Happy riding girls...and give Lulu a stroke from us!

"Lulu is very happy with her new Saturday job! Attached is a photo taken last weekend in the pouring rain!  With Grace age 4 riding - she rides very well indeed! and Ellie who is 11 but tiny and very scared of horses but trusts Lulu to look after her.

As the weather was so bad and the kids insisted on going out, Lulu and Grace's pony were chucked in the horse box and taken just up the road to the forestry, where they had never been before, Grace's pony was too lively for her to ride, so one of the bigger children rode her, and needless to say dear Lulu just mooched along quite happily. They had some nice trots, now they want her to canter and jump a few logs!"

And then today..."Lulu spent Saturday and Sunday down the road, the kids come and fetch her and return her later, they take it in turns to ride her in head collar and bareback the 15 min walk down the lane! Yesterday they were laughing, trotting her bareback and holding onto a big chunk of mane. Even Daisy loves her to bits and likes her turn to ride and she is just two years old. Lulu seems to know they are little and has been on her best behaviour".

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Monday, 3 December 2012

Tufty's Wonderful Results

I've added some before and after photos below of Tufty, so you can see how she's been progressing since she arrived.

Tufty's worm results are back...and very impressive too.  If you've been following the blog, you might remember that when she first arrived, we tested her for worms.  She had a worm count of 4,400 eggs per gram (that's a gram of manure), which is an extremely high reading...1,200 epg would normally be considered as a high count, so 4,400 was more than off the scale!  Both Tufty and Topsy had a 2 week course of Verm-X, which is a wormer made from herbs (rather than chemicals), and after waiting about a month after worming, we have retested...

...and Tufty's results came back as 100epg, which is a healthy low reading.  Verm-X have been very supportive of people4ponies, and kindly give us a discount on all our wormer...thank you very much to everyone, particularly Ellie at Verm-X, for all their help.

Before: Tufty when she first arrived with us at the beginning of September

Now: Tufty, free from her worm burden, and enjoying new winter grass in the big field.

Now: Tufty enjoying her feed with lovely herbs and carrots...delicious!
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Friday, 30 November 2012

Exciting News From LUSH...

Earlier in the year, People4ponies was lucky enough to be awarded a grant from LUSH to help us with our charity and campaigning work.  You may have a LUSH shop on your local high street - they make fresh, hand-made cosmetics that are not tested on animals.

We have just heard that People4ponies is going to be featured in the next edition of the "LUSH Times"-  their magazine that will be distributed across their national stores...and as well as this, people4ponies is going to be featured on their new Charity Pot Hand and Body Lotion product lids...which will be in their UK shops the week before Christmas! You can see the current LUSH charity pot products on the following link:

Thank you to everyone at LUSH for all their help and support!

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Monday, 26 November 2012

So Far So Good...

Munch has had another good day today.  He was nice and cosy in the stable last night with his rug on.  I checked on him once in the middle of the night, and he was absolutely fine.  All the ponies have been concerned about Munch over the last few days, and sometimes all of them have gathered outside the stable door to keep an eye on him.

Today, he's had a good day out in the yard with his friends, even managing to enjoy some sunshine.  He's staying stabled at night to make sure he stays warm and dry, but we feel he's OK no more night-time observations, and I'm back home again, looking forward to a full night's sleep!

Whilst I've been busy with Munch, p4p volunteers Ann and Margaret braved the weather and floods to hold a fundraising stall in Witheridge, at the car boot sale.  They raised £26 for the ponies, which is better than they had expected, as many people who hoped to go to the sale couldn't get there.

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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Munch Is Feeling Better!

I have to say it was quite a worrying evening yesterday, seeing Munch not looking well again...but Jenny's brilliant efforts with the warm rugs and towels worked wonders.  He dried up really nicely, and I think the warmth helped his tummy to feel better too...a bit like having a hot water bottle!  I just can't emphasise how appalling the weather has been.  Jenny and I were out at 11pm last night and the rain was flowing straight off the fields, and running like a river through the yard.  We left Munch all tucked up with a new warm rug and towel, and he was happily devouring his hay.  He even needed an extra helping of hay in his hay-net to get him through the night.

At 2am it had stopped raining but the wind was horrendous.  Munch was resting in the stable but somehow his rugs were off and damp on the floor.  We'd left some rugs and towels drying on the radiators, and thankfully some had dried enough to put on Munch as he was a bit chilly.  At 4.30am all his rugs had stayed in place, and he was warmer again and he'd been having a good amount to eat. 

This morning (at a more reasonable time!) I let him out of the stable for a wander, but as soon as he was out, it was raining poor Munch had to go back in again to make sure he stayed warm and dry. 

He's remained very cheery and perky all day with a good apetite and is much more alert and back to his normal self....thank goodness...what a worrying few days it's been!

Thank you everyone for all your get well wishes and comments for Munch!

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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Munch's Recovery

We hope that Munch is in the recovery phase now.  He was looking very perky at 4.30am this morning, munching quite happily on his hay net.  And when it was time for breakfast, he was very cheery coming out of the stable and competing with the other ponies for the first hay nets.

Catherine came to help today.  We kept an eye on Munch, and he still has periods when he doesn't feel quite right.  No lying down or rolling etc., but he still isn't back to being 100% again.  We took him for a little walk, but he wasn't as keen as yesterday.

This evening Munch seemed very quiet again and was standing at the back of the stable.  We were concerned that he seemed colder than he should be.  It's been such terrible weather, and he just wasn't drying Jenny's been warming towels in the rayburn for him and we've been putting them under his rug.  He's drying up quite nicely now and looking perkier again.  So I'll continue with the night-time observations tonight, and we'll see how he is tomorrow...

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Friday, 23 November 2012

Munch's Still Poorly...

Poor Munch had to have the vet again today...

Last night I was up checking on him every couple of hours.  He was quiet, but still passing manure, and occasionally going for a drink, or a bite to eat.  No rolling or lying down, which was promising...but this morning it was apparent that although he was better than he was yesterday, he still wasn't better.  He'd look completely OK one minute, striding across the yard and eating enthusiastically from a hay net, and then after a while he'd go and lay down in the barn feeling poorly.  Then he'd be up and eating again, and after a while back laying down again.  There was no rolling, or kicking, or biting of the stomach, but he obviously still had colicky symptoms.

Another lovely vet, Elaine, came to visit Munch and she assessed him.  His stomach was still making lots of gurgling sounds (which is good) and his temperature was normal, but his heart rate was elevated and he was obviously in some pain and discomfort.  The good thing is that he's not presenting signs of the most serious types of colic (impaction or twisted gut).  Elaine gave Munch some drugs directly into his vein, and he was very brave for the needle going in.  Once the drugs were in, he perked up fairly quickly.

We took him for a good walk this afternoon to help, and this evening he's been back to moving all the ponies around, trying to eat from everyone's hay nets and generally looking very interested in food.  The drugs will still be working at the moment, so it's another night of observations to see how Munch gets on...

Thank you very much to Graham for coming to help with all the pony chores and Munch today!

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Thursday, 22 November 2012

Poorly Munchkin

Poor Munchkin has been feeling very poorly today...he wasn't right this morning, much quieter than usual.  This morning he laid down in the yard on the concrete for a while, which is very unusual, but he got up again and so we kept an eye on him whilst we did the morning chores.  All the haynets were out and usually he'd be munching away, eating everyone else's ration as well as his own...but today he just stood by the net with his eyes half shut.  It just wasn't Munch's normal behaviour.  Whilst we were discussing next steps and whether to call the vet, he started kicking his that was it confirmed...Munch had colic. 

We called the vet and they said they would be at the yard within an hour.  Munch was presenting mild symptoms of colic, no rolling as such, but he would lie down for a while and then get back up again.  He had passed manure twice during the morning, and his stomach was gurgling away, which are good signs, but colic is a painful, and sometimes fatal condition, and has to be taken seriously.  As the hour progressed, he laid down flat out in the barn with one back leg in the air (not a nice sight!), trying to feel more comfortable and showing us that his tummy hurts.  A lovely vet, Neil, came to the rescue, braving the appalling weather and floods to get out to us.  He assessed Munch and was very quiet and understanding with him.  We just can't work out a cause for the colic.   The vet was happy with Munch's daily routine and management.  Neil was able to confirm (by listening to Munch's tummy) that his gut is still working and he also checked Munch's manure, which all looked normal.  Munch had to be brave to have a needle inserted into his neck to administer some pain relief and anti-inflammatory.  Munch wasn't best pleased about that, but did feel a bit better once the drugs were in.  Volunteer Mel was great and helped with Munch all morning.

Now we're just observing Munch...he's in the stable and we're checking him every hour to make sure he's still ok.  His tummy's still sore but he's not colicking (touch wood) lots of positive, "get better" thoughts for Munch please!

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Sunday, 18 November 2012

Settling In

Topsy and Tufty have been settling in this week and as you can see, the whole herd is going out together.  On Tuesday, we integrated them all carefully.  Tufty definitely likes to tell the boys what she thinks, but overall it was a very amicable process, and all the ponies get on with each other. 
This week, we welcomed new volunteer Mel...and a big thank you to Ross who came for a surprise visit on Friday morning and left a special donation for the ponies. 
Thank you also to Jenny for donating a bag of carrots - a delicious extra for the ponies at feed time!

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Monday, 12 November 2012

Tufty and Topsy Arrive

Topsy meeting "the boys" - her welcoming committee
Most of this week has been geared towards preparing for today, when Topsy and Tufty have been due to arrive at our main base.  Jane was very kind, and loaned us her lorry a few days early, so that Paul could do lorry practice with Topsy and Tufty to prepare them for their move.

Paul decided it would be safer for the ponies to travel separately, so there would be plenty of room in the lorry for them.  The girls travelled well -  Topsy arrived first and was quite calm on arrival, taking in her new surroundings.  I'd kept Frodo in (instead of putting him out in the field) this morning, in case his services were required.  I wasn't sure if Topsy would be unsettled having just arrived without Tufty, and Frodo is very good at settling new ponies.  If Topsy did look worried, my intention was to employ Frodo as a non-confrontational, settling companion until Tufty arrived.  As it turned out, Topsy was very calm, so we just let her settle into her new surroundings and enjoy her hay net, with the boys looking on from the yard beyond.

Topsy and Tufty reunited in the yard
About 40 minutes later, Paul arrived back with the lorry with Tufty on-board.  Both ponies had been OK about being separated from each other, but were definitely happy to be reunited again.  They've spent the day settling in, with much attention from the other ponies, particularly from Munchkin.

Both ponies have started on their herbal supplements.  The next step will be to integrate all the ponies, so we'll have to see how they all get on with each other...

(P.S...thank you to Ted too, for donating his Sunday afternoon to ensuring there were extra facilities in the yard for the new ponies!)

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Munch Arrives

Today we completed the second phase of "plan B"...we walked Munch the last stage from Horseford Farm back to our main base - a shorter walk compared to yesterday, but definitely hillier!

On arriving, Munch was keen to meet the ponies - they do all know each other, but the last time they met was about 7 years ago.  One at a time they greeted Munch, and each interaction was met with the usual postering, and gestering, and squealing as the herd hierarchy was established.  The video shows Dan meeting Munch.

After we stopped filming. Munch approached Dan a second time and snapped with his mouth.  This is a gesture foals use to protect themselves from harm, showing they are babies and not a threat.  Munch is 9 years old though, so definitely not a foal anymore!  He will remember Dan as being the main stallion in the p4p herd.

They all settled fairly quickly, and enjoyed having a short excursion into the field to have a good run about.

I think we walked about 16 miles blisters or sore feet.  It's nice to know that we humans are probably a lot fitter than we thought...probably partly thanks to all that poo picking we do!

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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Munch's Move - Plan B!

Munch and Hazel-Ann on their walking adventure
On the way home from Chulmleigh yesterday, I noticed a signpost with a location on it that I recognised...and it isn't far from Horseford Farm, where the ponies used to reside.  On consulting an Ordnance Survey map, it looked possible for us to walk Munchkin over 2 days to our main base - and so plan B was formed! we (myself and willing volunteer Hazel-Ann) walked Munch the 9 miles to Horseford Farm, where he is B&Bing tonight thanks to Paul and Cilla.

Actually, it was a really good way to get to know him - we met just about every type of traffic you could imagine on the Devon country lanes...milk tankers, tractors with silage trailers, tractors with muck spreaders, quadbikes, a herd of cows, haulage lorries...he really is bombproof in all the traffic.  There were lots of grassy verges to walk on.  When we reached the lane to Horseford and the driveway, you could see he recognised where he was...and he was very perky after such a long walk!

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Munchkin's Move

Munch checking out the lorry
Today was supposed to be the day when Munchkin, who is one of the original p4p ponies, came back to us from his loan home in Chulmleigh.  His loanees are moving, and sadly are not able to take Munch with them.  I say "supposed" to be the day because things didn't go quite to plan!

We hired the lorry that we have used so many times to transport ponies, so that we could take Munch back to our main base.

He loaded really nicely, but when the lorry was moving he became very agitated.  On the lorry CCTV, we could see that he was about to try to jump the back partition.  We stopped the lorry immediately to sort the situation out.  We thought that he might feel happier if someone travelled with him, but although he would settle for very short periods of time, he continually tried to jump the back partition of the lorry.

This is a dangerous situation, as on the other side of the partition is a groom's compartment - if Munch jumped into it, there is no way out for him, and he would most likely suffer a life threatening injury by jumping into the area.  It's certainly the type of situation that the Animal Rescue firefighters get called out to. 

Without the means to fill and block off the groom's compartment (nor the option to tether him at the other end of the lorry), and with Munch being so stressed, we decided the best thing to do was offload him (after his 2 mile journey) and walk him back home.  This meant walking him back through Chulmleigh high street - there were buses, milk tankers, scaffolding, flags etc and he was brilliant, really quite bombproof!  Munch has travelled OK before, but that was in a trailer - for some reason he found the lorry distressing so we needed a plan B!

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Sunday, 28 October 2012

Sunday Successes

Topsy's had her hooves trimmed this weekend.  She stood nicely for Paul to rasp them - such a huge achievement for them both.  The plan now is for Topsy and Tufty to get used to Faye so that they can then be moved to our main base.

The ponies are all enjoying time out in the field, and they also enjoy having a run back into the yard when it's time to come in!  Faye just wishes she could run a bit faster so she could run with them a bit more effectively!!

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

Topsy and Tufty - Week 8

Topsy and Paul have had a triumph this week, as Paul has been able to pick up, and pick out (!) her feet.  So far Topsy doesn't seem to have any trauma triggers in these areas, so it's great that she's getting closer to having her feet rasped.

It's been a rather traumatic week for us, rather than for the ponies themselves!  I wrote to the national welfare charity/organisation that owns the ponies and offered Topsy and Tufty permanent places at our main base so that they can both stay with us.  I asked if the charity would pay or contribute towards the everyday costs of the ponies, but they say that they are unable to do so (and they are unable pay any of the bedding, hay, wormer that the ponies have already used) because of their funding crisis.  So, in accordance with their policy, they would choose to destroy/euthanise Topsy and Tufty.

We certainly haven't done all this work with the ponies for them to be destroyed - both ponies are happy and healthy, and trust us and our methods.  It looks like we will have to take on the everyday costs of the ponies and both ponies will be staying with us.

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Wild Pony Markets

Foals for sale at Tavistock market
Today was the last "wild" pony market of the season.  Each year we attend the autumn markets in Cornwall and Devon to make sure that welfare standards are monitored and upheld.  This year we also attended a market in Somerset, so the total for us was 7 markets in about 6 weeks.

This year, it was noticeable that the welfare standards at the autumn markets have considerably improved since we first started going to markets a couple of years ago.  This is the first year where we haven't had to intervene (ask for ponies to be separated, or removed from sale, or write evidence reports etc) at all, and we hope that these improved standards and conditions will now be maintained.

There was a real sense of excitement at the Quantock sale, with all the foals selling to private homes and making impressive prices compared to elsewhere.  Very few foals sold at all at the Dartmoor sales, and of those that did sell, very few went to private homes.

Handling at the sales could definitely be improved - there were incidences at 2 markets of petrified animals attempting to jump out of the sale ring and into the audience, but, unfortunately, the law makes little provision for rules on handling methods.

On a positive note, it's been good to see Devon Trading Standards at markets this year, in spite of their funding restrictions...and we have seen auction staff at several markets making very positive decisions about loading - turning away unsuitable vehicles, and quickly intervening when a buyer starts beating a horse (their new purchase) when it refuses to load.  Also, reassuringly, we have only seen ear notches on older animals and we haven't seen any illegal ear mutilations.

The market season is a very intense time for us and I would like to thank all the p4p volunteers who have helped, and travelled hundreds of miles (thanks to our LUSH funding!), to ensure welfare standards for wild ponies at the markets this year.

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Monday, 22 October 2012

A Busy Weekend...

Here's a photo of the boys enjoying some greenery in the yard on Saturday.  The autumn change is happening fast now, so the ponies need to make the most of the last green leaves before they are all gone!

In the afternoon, we had a stall at the Multiple Sclerosis Table Top Sale in Sandford.  Our stall had a steady stream of visitors to the tombola and we were able to raise £25.50 for the ponies.  Thank you very much to Jenny for all her hard work arranging the sale, and to Margaret and Ann for setting up and running the p4p stall.

On Sunday, our friend Vanessa came to visit to take some photographs of the p4p ponies for a special chapter in her next book.  The ponies already have their woolly winter coats, so cleaning them up so that they look in "show condition" (i.e no mud or dirt!) isn't an easy task.  Thankfully Hazel-Ann came to help get the boys ready for their photo shoot.  The ponies have been staying in the yard, so that definitely made things easier...and Frodo couldn't do his usual trick of becoming absolutely plastered in mud after he'd been cleaned!

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Thursday, 18 October 2012

APGAW Meeting

On Tuesday, Faye (as chief representative of p4p) travelled to the Houses of Parliament.  She had been invited by our local MP, Neil Parish, to attend the Associate Parliamentary Group For Animal Welfare (APGAW) October Committee Meeting.

This meeting was dedicated to welfare subjects relating to "The Horse".  There were two main scheduled topics on the agenda.  The first related to the "impending welfare crisis" where an estimated 6000 horses will be in need of welfare help this winter, but sadly welfare centres are already full, and there will not be enough places for them all to be rescued.  Faye was able to contribute to the discussion about the problems of overbreeding, particularly regarding the wild ponies in our region.

The second agenda item was the Grand National, and the number of equine deaths and casualties caused by the race.

It was a very interesting meeting dedicated to discussing equine welfare, and people4ponies valued the opportunity to contribute to the discussions (particularly regarding wild ponies) and the meeting as a whole.

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Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Firefighter Training Day

Firefighter Simon makes first contact with wary Bobby
Monday was a special day because we had the Animal Rescue Team from the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service come to people4ponies for specialist training.  The team members first came to us for training in autumn 2010.  Then, we were able to teach them special skills and techniques to help them get close to frightened/wild ponies, to help them acclimatise equines to their equipment, and we taught them how to safely lead horses.  We also spend a lot of time teaching them how to read equine body language.

It was great to hear from the team how much of a difference just one day of our training had made to them with their rescues, and how they have applied techniques to all sorts of different rescue and training situations.
Training in the yard

On Monday, as well as helping the team progress with their knowledge of reading equine body language, and how to approach wary equines, we were able to spend the afternoon teaching them how to move and control loose horses from a distance by using their (human) body language.

Firefighter Kev won the "golden carrot award" - as his energy is so good, he was able to work with Dan to the extent where Dan would take a carrot from him in an outdoor, open space.  Although this would be an easy thing for a normal pony, Kev is the only man, other than Paul, that Dan has felt safe enough to interact with in this way.

We had such wonderful support from our p4p volunteers (both on the day and the lead up to it) and big thank yous go to Catherine, Hazel-Ann, Margaret, Gill, Graham, Ted and Jenny, and both Anns who all helped to make the day possible.  Thank you to LUSH too, for helping us to buy a projector to enhance our teaching.

The firefighters are such a great team of people to work with - they are great listeners and learners, and they progress so quickly.  They are often called to situations that we all dread as horse owners, where the unimaginable worst nightmares have happened.  It is such a relief that the Fire Service have such a dedicated team of people working with the greatest degree of thought for the safety and welfare of the equines and other animals that they rescue.

We are looking forward to doing more training with the specialist Animal Rescue Firefighters in 2013.

Firefighter Pete makes friends with Bobby

Firefighter Kev practices moving Dan ...
...and has the perfect energy, body language, and timing to do so.

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Sunday, 14 October 2012


Dan has made a really big step in his progress today.  He's been becoming noticeably more relaxed around people in the yard, and he's pretty laid back with all our normal yard routine (sweeping, wheelbarrowing etc).  It's always been possible to do pretty much anything you want with Dan once he is confined in a stable or pen, but in open areas, it's always been much more tricky.  Often you'd need the help of another person in order to catch him in an open space or field entrance.

Today, Dan let me approach him and stroke him in the yard!  He had a carrot to reward him for his efforts and bravery, and with careful handling he also let me headcollar him out in the open yard.

Dan is one of those ponies that you have to prove to everyday that we are not going to hurt or kill him.  I led him into a stable to that I could brush him.  I had a different brush on this occasion, and you could see him thinking, this is it...this is the scary piece of equipment that's going to hurt me.  Using our special techniques, he quickly realised that it was just a brush for his mane, and brushing is something he is very comfortable with.  Once into the rhythm of the brushing, he relaxed and was fine again, and the experience was followed by Dan licking and chewing, and yawning.

As long as we keep his experiences as positive as possible, he should continue to progress...

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Saturday, 13 October 2012

Topsy and Tufty - Week 6

Sorry everyone for a bit of a delay in posting but it's been such a busy couple of weeks.  Here's a progress report for Topsy.  We've had some pretty shocking weather some days, and if it's torrential rain and gale force winds, then the girls enjoy the luxury of staying in the stable out of the bad weather.  For Topsy though, this spoiled the routine that she's been used to, and this set her back a bit.

When you have ponies at this crucial early stage of working through their trauma, they have what we call "rituals" - where they perceive that as long as everything is done in the same order, or the same way, then everything will be OK.  If you alter anything - could be yourself wearing a coat rather than a jumper, headcollaring another pony first, or doing your stable routine slightly differently - they revert back to their old behaviour, and you have to start working on developing trust in basic areas all over again.

 Of course, the idea is that the pony won't always be as ritualistic as this, and you will gradually be able to change things once they are more comfortable...but at the moment, this is where Topsy is the "early days", "ritualistic" phase.

Here's some pictures of the girls enjoying a rare afternoon of lovely, warm sunshine.  Topsy actually approached me, came down the lawn, fairly close, pawed the ground, laid down, and rolled.  Ponies are vulnerable when they roll, so it's good that she felt OK to put herself in such a vulnerable position next to a human...but in reality, this is because Topsy knows that I won't try to touch her or grab her, and she'll always stay at that crucial distance beyond the "danger" zone of a it's not a sign that she's as trusting of humans, as you might think it would be!

Tufty having a snooze

Topsy's approach
Preparing to roll!

"Going Over"

Time to get up
Always have a good shake to finish!

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Monday, 8 October 2012

Topsy and Tufty - Week 5

Topsy is making some really noticeable progress now - this week she is starting to look more relaxed about things.  I managed to film this footage on Saturday - of both girls coming in...I can't believe I missed the first bit (again!!), because Paul called Tufty from the field, and she came running down, coming to a sliding stop to present herself to Paul, and she was rewarded with a piece of carrot.

In the video you can see that Topsy was just behind.  You can see from the headcollaring/clipping on of the lead rope that Topsy still has trauma triggers around her head, but she is starting to show very similar behaviours/processes to Mousey.  Both ponies still experience trauma triggered by past events when they are touched in certain areas, particularly around the head, but they almost learn to start to control it and work through it, because they know it's actually Paul there and he's someone that they trust. 

The last shorter video shows Topsy in the stable - for the first time, she is looking relaxed in the stable with people on the outside.  She even turns around in the stable and puts her back towards me for a couple of seconds, whereas before she would stand towards me looking alarmed.  She looks quite tired after a nice day eating grass in the sunshine!

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Saturday, 29 September 2012

Topsy's Progress - Week 4

Here's a couple of videos of Topsy from today that really show how she is progressing.  She is being turned out without a headcollar now - I didn't make it back from the field in time to film Paul headcollaring her, but here is the second phase of that - clipping on the lead rope.  You can see how much progress she has made - you can see that Topsy is even choosing to follow Paul before he clips the rope on.  There's actually an alley there along the side of the house (which isn't visible/obvious in the video) and she could have walked off back up towards the grass if she wanted to...but she didn't...she went towards a human.  Her past experiences of people had caused her to learn to avoid people at all costs...and now she is learning to trust a human for the first time in her life.  Paul is helping her to overcome her fears, and Topsy's comfort zones are slowly increasing.

This video shows Topsy having her headcollar taken off in the stable.  She's accepting of Paul doing this now.  She's not 100% comfortable with people around her yet and you can see the anxiety...but also notice her "licking and chewing" at the end of the video.  Before, she was too frightened to express like this.

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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Topsy's Progressing Well

Here's a short video of Topsy to show how she's sound on this video...but as you can see, Paul is now able to stroke Topsy on her forehead.  You can see that Topsy has "Trauma Trigger" areas on her nose - just a small reaction can be seen in the video.  Her strong reactions to being touched on certain areas of her nose lead us to believe that she has been grabbed around her nose at some point.

The video also shows how Topsy likes to be stroked under the chin.

Paul is pointing to explain that he's been finding that Topsy's left side is her worst/least comfortable side to work on.  We have found that Topsy has lots of different Trauma Triggers in different areas, which is why she is a particularly tricky case.

Tufty's been continuing to progress too...she's had her hooves trimmed this week, and her tail washed to try to ease her sweet-itch.  The ponies' winter coats are growing quickly now - here's a photo of Tufty's branded area, and as you can see, the brand mark is not visible at all...
 ...and finally, a photo of the girls out grazing together...where do they find that mud to roll in?!!

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Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Topsy Makes Good Progress

Topsy has had a really good few days and is really progressing through her fear of ropes - she might not be 100% with them yet...but she is improving every day.

When you are dealing with these extreme fears and phobias, part of the challenge is having to "think outside the box", or adapting, or developing techniques that we know work as a whole.  All our techniques are based on horse body language, instincts and psychology...but fear/trauma is a very strong thing and will always take over until we can prove that we are trustworthy, and particularly that we are trustworthy enough to help the pony with an extreme fear.

To be able to help a pony (which is already trusting us) with an extreme fear, first we have to establish what the cause of the problem is in order to help this is what Paul has been doing with Topsy.  He needs to break the problem down into smaller elements.  For instance, Paul has to establish whether Topsy's rope fear is actually about having the clip attached to the headcollar...or is it the noise of the clip attaching...or an association of having a person holding the rope and being too close to her...or is it the feeling of the rope touching her...or something else altogether?  This is what we are looking for in a practical sense, but...of course, for Topsy the fear is not as simple as that - it's not necessarily the touch of the rope that she's scared of...but for her, the touch of the rope triggers a flashback memory of a painful/life threatening event (such as having bits cut out of her ears, or hot irons applied to her skin) which she now associates with being touched with the rope.  She may associate that when a rope touches her on a particular area of her body (e.g her leg), something terrible will happen.  Of course, the human that caused the problem in the first place probably didn't even noticed that the rope was touching Topsy's leg when they notched/branded her...but to Topsy this was her association of the events...and this is now a "trauma trigger".

If we can show Topsy that ropes in another scenario are OK, then we can start to progress and eventually get to the stage that we can address her traumas and she will not panic.   Trust is the key to this though.

For us, the difference between the reactions of a previously untouched wild pony and the reactions of a traumatised pony are hugely different and only years of experience of handling both types of pony allows us to develop an understanding of different levels of worry, fear, trauma and how they manifest...and more importantly it helps us to develop an understanding of how these problems could have been avoided in the first place.

One of the great things is that Topsy is now able to communicate to Paul when she wants a particular type of interaction, such as being stroked under the chin - at the moment, she is finding this comforting, and asks Paul to interact with her in this way.  This is always a big step for a traumatised pony and shows that Topsy is making good progress in her rehabilitation.

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Saturday, 15 September 2012

The Trials of Traumatised Ponies

Tufty is progressing at a very fast rate now - she is starting to have a variety of people handle her, and she can now do all the basics required of a pony, including having her feet picked up.  Although we might have to do some things with her in a set way at the moment, she will gradually progress to being headcollared in different ways, and become accustomed to the different ways that people do things.  As you can see from this photo, she is improving in bodily condition too.

Topsy is potentially the most traumatised pony we've had for rehabilitation, which, after having had Mousey is really saying something!  Ponies can express fear in different ways - either outwardly (e.g where they might run in panic etc) or inwardly (where they might freeze or mentally shut down).  Usually, headcollaring is a major step forward with a pony and their progress, but with Topsy, one of the problems we have discovered is that she has an extreme fear of ropes.  She doesn't run off when she has the rope attached, but expresses her trauma inwardly.  Even though we know a lead rope isn't going to hurt her, or cause her pain, Topsy cannot see this.  Her trauma which she associates with ropes is so strong it completely overrides any attempt for "logical" reasoning - her memory of something that happened, or perceived to happen, is so strong she can't see through it.  Of course, we don't know what the original event was with ropes that caused Topsy to react like this, and we need to try to find a way to help her.  We have had other ponies before that have been scared of ropes, but not to the extreme degree of Topsy's trauma.

Seeing ponies with trauma is very frustrating to watch and to have to deal with.  We know through experience that the trauma that Topsy (...and other ponies that have been ruined), experience and have to live with is totally unnecessary.  As wild youngsters,  with the right handling techniques, they could have learnt all their basic skills without trauma in just a weekend...

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Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Nicola and Katie Come To Visit

Thank you to Nicola and Katie for sending through this photo from their visit last weekend.  They had been fostering Topsy and Tufty, but had only ever been able to interact with them from a distance.  Last weekend, Nicola and Katie came to see how the girls are progressing with their rehabilitation.  As you can see here, Tufty was very happy to enjoy some of the lovely carrot and apple that Nicola and Katie had brought for the ponies!

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Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Tufty Meets Our Local MP

Here's a photo of Tufty with Faye, Paul, and Neil Parish - our local MP who came to visit us last Friday.  Mr Parish came to see our work and particularly our specialist handling techniques.  As you can see, Tufty has progressed really well, and was happy to be stroked.

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Saturday, 8 September 2012

A Big Day for Topsy

Today was a big day for Topsy as she has been headcollared for the first time!  Looking back at the video, I should make it clear that we take her headcollar off before the end of the day - in the video, it sounds as if the pony will take it off by the end of the day, and obviously that is not the idea at all!

Topsy needed much more time to get accustomed to people and particular techniques before she could be headcollared.  It takes much time and experience to learn, progress and perfect these techniques - ponies with these sorts of mutilations can have strong trauma, and triggers, that can cause them to remember/re-live past scary/painful events in their past.  This trauma is a huge setback for ponies and, as in the case of Topsy and Tufty, has caused them to be unhandleable for a very long period of time.  Topsy has taken a huge step forward today in her beginnings to start trusting people for the first time.

Paul says that it has been noticeable with Topsy how she finds groups of people quite stressful - she is also very wary of men, which is fairly common with traumatised ponies as it tends to be men who inflict the mutilations upon them.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Topsy and Tufty in the Yard

Here's Tufty enjoying some grass out in the yard.  As you can see, she is being led out now.  Topsy is progressing more slowly, so she is coming out "loose" in the yard to have a break and eat grass.  The set-up here means that the ponies have short sessions and plenty of breaks so things aren't too overwhelming for them.

Monday, 3 September 2012

Topsy and Tufty's Progress - Day 2

Within 24 hours of arriving, the ponies have settled in well - Tufty the older mare has been headcollared and has enjoyed being brushed...but Topsy is much more frightened and her progress will be much slower.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Topsy and Tufty - New Arrivals today

Two new ponies have arrived with us today for specialist handling and rehabilitation.  These two mares, named Topsy and Tufty, originally came from Bodmin Moor - both are ear notched and branded.  They were seized from the Moor 13 years ago and are still unhandled.