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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