Friday, 27 September 2013

Anita Says They're Preparing for Hickstead!

Well, perhaps not quite yet...but Rowan and Jeremy are learning how to jump...and considering that I can remember seeing Jeremy jump the electric fence at Horseford with ease (to get to the greener grass the other side), who knows...maybe he will be a show jumping pony!

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Wednesday, 25 September 2013

"Dartmoor ponies culled and their hides made into drums used in Druid style retreats"

Some of you may have seen this article in The Daily Mail published on Sunday...( and it just goes to show how far things are from having a sustainable future on Dartmoor for the ponies that live there and how far we are from having people truly responsible and caring for the future of the ponies.

The breeders of the "purebred" Dartmoor ponies abandoned keeping their ponies on the moor long ago.  Breeders of heritage ponies removed or vasectimised stallions to reduce numbers and try to control breeding...and then we have the Hill Pony Breeders.  Determined to have their own way - to farm ponies for slaughter to make money, and at the same time raising money as a charity to "Save The Pony" - the very ones they themselves are slaughtering!  Some breeders of Hill ponies who wanted to stop breeding and removed stallions have been put in a hopeless situations - without a governing/overseeing body other unscrupulous breeders can do exactly as they want and turn stallions out on the moor to cover the mares...which is why so many unwanted foals are born.

Over the last few years we have seen the most appalling welfare cases involving Hill Ponies, been told by breeders that that it is their given right to mutilate ponies by cutting pieces off of their ears (even thought it's illegal!) and to hot brand them...we've seen Hill Ponies illegally transported long-distance to Europe for meat, and I strongly believe that they have also been involved in the Horse Meat Scandal (why else were meat men buying large numbers of ponies at markets and prepared to pay the huge fuel costs of transporting across the country...if it made a profit to slaughter them locally at Potters near Taunton, the farmers would have done it themselves).

Most pony and horse owners will tell you that you can't earn money from keeping them and it's about time that this fact was accepted - and many of the breeders are not poor - the Defra farm payment subsidy list quotes the subsidies some of these moorland breeders receive per year - £185,408.87, another £161,758.82, another £116,771.04...

If they wanted to, they could stop this right now and remove the stallions from the moors - but they refuse...not based on any factual evidence...but because they don't want to.

One day maybe our dream will come true - a central organisation for each moor - that owns the ponies (not separate breeders who can do whatever they want) and is led by someone who actually understands them and truly cares for their future and welfare.  The moor will have a proper environmental survey to determine the number of ponies needed to sustainably graze it and each area will only breed with a long-term aim to maintain those numbers.  Any colts that are born as part of that scheme are gelded and returned to the moor, or are properly handled and then rehomed.  The organisation would also be fully responsible for the welfare of those ponies.  Stallions would be kept in an area off of the moor.

We're a hundred million years away from anything like that at the moment..instead we are supposed to think that a Dartmoor Hill Pony hide drum is a "Symbol of the ponies' voice...calling you to listen to their cry for support to help them continue looking after Dartmoor"...

...I wonder what the ponies would have to say on the matter!

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Lulu's Adventures with Ellie

We had an email yesterday from Ellie who is having lots of fun with former p4p pony Lulu.  Ellie has sent through these photos and also says:

 "I am really getting on well with lulu and she is behaving herself we did our first dressage test a few months ago and came 5th I was so happy also we went jumping over the field last weekend she was amazing hope to do more jumping and shows in future". 

Well done Ellie and Lulu!  Keep up the good work!! 

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Sunday, 22 September 2013

First Market Of The Season

Saturday was the first wild pony market of the season so we travelled down to Cornwall for the sale.  The market has improved vastly - in so many ways - since Faye first went in 2010.  This year there were 217 horses and ponies entered in the catalogue (although not all actually turned up) and about half of those (perhaps a few more) were domesticated.  Back in 2010 the same sale had over 486 wild ponies, not really any domesticated ones, and it wasn't an experience for the faint hearted!

This year the auctioneers did very well - the auction staff handling the ponies were helpful and quiet by auction standards.  Great care had been taken to make sure that all the entered animals were appropriately penned and not injured etc...and that they had passports.  We noticed a pen with a gate that hadn't been shut properly and a small foal was in a precarious position and likely to be crushed by the opening gate - we asked the auction staff and they were happy for us to go in the pen and shut the gate.  Just about every horse and pony in the sale had a bid offered and (even if the reserve was not met) the prices were above meat value and no meat men were at the sale.

We saw one very proud grandfather collect his purchase "Lucy" a lead rein pony for a 10 month old baby - the pony was very happy to see the small child...and the child, who couldn't stop grinning with joy at seeing the pony, was sat on top, much to the delight of all parties involved.

And then to the other end of the scale...and perfectly within the law...2 women who purchased 2 young foals - maybe 6 or 7 months old - straight off the moor and absolutely terrified.  With 2 young girls in tow, they went about splitting their ponies from the others in the pen - rather crudely done, but they did manage it.  The women were then determined to headcollar both foals there and then.  The foals jumped and leaped about in all directions desperate to get away - rearing over the top of each other and getting stuck several times whilst the women pursued them - one woman got the headcollar partly on and pulled, resulting in the foal rearing up and going straight over backwards falling to the floor on it's back and landing on the 10 year old girl in the pen who hopped away with an injured foot.  The whole episode seemed to last forever.  Eventually, the women, with "fag ends" hanging from sides of their mouths emerged victorious and proud from the pen with their two petrified, headcollared foals huddling for comfort and shut down in the the women went laughing about their experience.  Watching it, it was difficult to know whether to pass out or throw up...that sinking feeling, not only is it distressing and highly traumatic for the animals, and difficult for us to watch, it's the realisation that things still have a long way to go - the law doesn't make provision for handling and if people don't want to be educated, then they are stuck in the tradition and mentality of breaking horses.

Despite this last story, this was the best sale we have seen at this auction house and we hope that they can continue with their new standards of running the sales.

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Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Happy Birthday Hazel-Ann!

Frodo looking very cute...and of course a bit muddy!
Sorry for the delay in blogging everyone.  Last week Faye was away in the Cotswolds for a few days to have her CEVA award prize trip away - all the volunteers did a great job of looking after the ponies and the yard whilst she was away and kept up with all the blackberry picking too with many kilos gathered to put in the freezer ready for the winter.

This week, we definitely know that autumn has arrived - we've been battered by gale force winds and heavy rain so we can't help but notice mud starting to appear in the gateway of the field.
Dedicated as ever - gale force winds and heavy rain don't put off the multi-talented poo-pickers!
King of the manure heap!
Ponies coming in
Bobby yesterday - looking a bit worried in the windy weather
Hazel-Ann's enjoying her birthday today spending time with the ponies (and hoping for some "snogs" from Bobby)!!

The market season is about to begin - the first one is this Saturday so we'll be on patrol as usual...if only they would stop breeding unwanted ponies...

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Sunday, 8 September 2013


We've been making the most of the blackberry harvest the last couple of days - firstly picking 2.5 pounds worth for making jam for our stalls (Ted, Jenny and Faye did the picking, whilst Margaret has done the jam making!).  Today Graham and Hazel-Ann have been picking more blackberries and the ponies have been benefiting.
Who's first for blackberries (they're in the tin!)??


We now have a very smart round-pen, thanks to Hazel-Ann and Graham making a big painting effort on Wednesday before the weather changed.  Now it's just the ends where the bolts go to tidy up and then it's all done!

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Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Meals On Wheels

Yesterday, Graham and Margaret cleared up some cut grass that had dried in the sunshine and were moving it in the link box of the little tractor.  Frodo realised the opportunity for extra hay snacks and followed the tractor sneaking mouthfuls from behind as it moved through the yard!

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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Conservation Pony Check-Up

We must say a big thank you to our friend Vanessa who has been out to check Misty, Star and Breeze for us.  We had an email from the warden who looks after their nature reserve to say he'd had a report from a member of the public that a pony had cuts and scrapes on its legs.

The good thing about having daily checks from the warden is that he had been down to investigate and couldn't see anything wrong.  Vanessa was able to confirm that the ponies are fine - rather well covered and with lots of burrs in their manes and tails!  The ponies' track to the water is getting quite overgrown with brambles, so if one of the ponies had cuts, perhaps there had been an altercation with a bramble bush.  We've asked the warden if the brambles along the track to the water can be strimmed back.

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Sunday, 1 September 2013

Great Team Effort!

8 nice shiny green painted panels...only 10 to go!

We've had a busy day today! After doing the mucking out this morning, followed by cleaning out the barn, cleaning all the pea gravel and the mats in the yard, we had a group meeting over lunch to arrange and co-ordinate our rotas for the next month or two.  The wild pony market season is about to commence so we need to make sure we are "man"power provisioned at both at the yard and at the markets.

This afternoon, we had a team effort moving all 18 panels of the roundpen (it takes 3 people to lift each panel!) and switched our 8 finished panels with our 10 waiting to be done.  With Hazel-Ann and Graham "rubbing down" the panels and Faye and Margaret washing the panels, they were prepared in no time at all...we didn't quite get around to painting them as we ran out of time!

Look at Frodo go!

Chickens enjoying a communal trip to the "watering hole"!

Margaret hard at work!

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