Thursday, 31 October 2013

Victoria's Got Her Calendar...

A big thank you to Catherine and Victoria who came over to help today - we had a big effort to sort out the electric fencing in the field to get the track system set up for the winter!  Sara also came to help in the yard for a while in the morning.

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Friday, 25 October 2013

We Were In The Guardian Today...

If anyone wants to know more about why we have this view...take a look at this recent blog post which explains our position

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Thursday, 24 October 2013

Introducing Our People4ponies Wall Calendars For 2014!

We are very excited to have our very first people4ponies calendars for sale.  Each month for 2014 features at least one our p4p ponies, including our sponsor ponies, and includes photos from throughout p4p's history...and of course, all profits from the sale of the calendars go directly on looking after the ponies and our campaigning work.  Glossy photos with a central binding, each side measures 279 x 216mm (just a little bit narrower than A4) so is nice and big when fully open and displayed on the wall (279 x 440mm).

A perfect Christmas present - they are £6.99 each (+ £1.20 postage).  To order yours, contact Faye on 07968 071179 or

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Back on the 13th October we went to visit Rosco, who is our last loan pony to check up on this year.  His carer said that Rosco has managed to find himself (and his friends) grazing on the land of someone rich and famous in our local area!  It is amazing where the p4p ponies manage to get to!  It's a lovely quiet spot far away from any towns or villages.

Rosco and his friends Toby (a former p4p pony) and Timmy were in great condition - it seems that Rosco will be coming back to us though as Donald's finding having 3 a bit too much now.  Rosco's a really nice looking pony who definitely has his Dad's Exmoor pony looks!

Toby and Rosco...Toby is much more of a roan colour, whilst Rosco has his Exmoor looks from his dad Tunny...hopefully Cilla can help us with confirming who their Mums were...

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Wednesday, 23 October 2013

APGAW - Animal Welfare Committee

Yesterday Faye travelled to the Houses of Parliament to contribute to the APGAW (the Associate Parliamentary Group for Animal Welfare) committee meeting.  There were a large range of animal welfare groups present and there was a unanimous concern on the overbreeding of companion animals (dogs, horses and cats) and that action needs to be taken.  The scale of the abandonment of horses is also of huge concern.  Wales are currently changing their rules to crack down on this problem - and the fear is that this will cause the problem to move across the border to England where legislation is not strong enough to deal with it.

The main part of the meeting was an open questions session with Lord de Mauley.  We had two questions to put forward.  The first was about hot branding - we welcome the recent review by Defra and we wanted to know what developments would need to be made for Defra to feel able to progress to a full ban in England.  Lord de Mauley said that he had personally been to Exmoor to witness a branding.  He said that it had been better than he had expected - that the foal went straight back to its mum and suckled, and it was good to see the ponies being wormed and treated coming off from the moor (obviously a situation that was set up - because this is certainly not standard practice!!).  He felt that the handling was the most distressing part of the process for the foals.  Neil Parish MP (and chairman of APGAW) who has fully supported our campaign from the start, championed the view at the meeting that hot branding should be banned, and the good news is that Lord de Mauley agreed on this and said that as soon as he is satisfied that technology is able to positively identify/read a microchip from a distance, then hot branding should be banned in England.  (Of course, as we posted previously, Lord de Mauley's review has made hot branding of domestic horses and ponies illegal, and reduced the number of brands on Exmoor ponies from up to 7 individual brands to just 1 brand).

Our second question was about Bodmin Moor - after the crisis in 2011, Defra promised that the situation would not happen again.  This year, over 20 ponies died on the same small enclosed area known as East Moor.  We wanted to know what guarantees Defra can give us that there won't be a crisis on Bodmin Moor this winter.  Lord de Mauley said that the owners of the animals should be made responsible (which we absolutely agree) and Neil Parish again supported us by saying that owners cannot be allowed to be keeping animals in emaciated condition or allow neglect to the stage that they are dying.  Whilst there are responsible owners, there are persistant offenders, Defra knows who they are, and they need to be held accountable for their actions.  Lord de Mauley said that there will soon be a meeting with local AHVLA, the police and local involved parties about Bodmin and this winter.

It is very clear from the meeting that Lord de Mauley is taking a very strong and personal interest in his role in animal welfare - and has made great efforts to meet different charities/groups and to listen to and consider issues across the companion animal spectrum...and this is something that has been needed for a long time and should be commended.  We'd also like to thank Neil Parish who has been such a support for us - for our campaigns and our work!  We are closer than ever to getting a full ban on branding in England!

We should also make a mention of Marc Abrahams (who presented Faye with her CEVA award) who was at the meeting and is asking for people to sign his petition - he has over 80,426 signatures and if he reaches over 100,000 the subject of banning the sale of puppies/kittens without their mothers being present will be debated in parliament - here's the link to the petition:

Thank you also to Margaret for collecting Faye from the station (after midnight!) to make sure she got home safely!

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Monday, 21 October 2013

Hallworthy Market

Saturday was the second of the seasonal sales at Hallworthy in Cornwall.  There were 80 entries in the catalogue, with a few extras entered on the day, but quite a few of those entered didn't show up.  There was a majority of domesticated horses and ponies entered, so it was a very different day to what it used to be with hundreds of wild ponies coming off the moors to the sale.

As usual for the moorland breeders, miniatures sold well making up to a maximum of £180.  One of the larger moorland horse foals was very frightened and tried to jump out of the ring.   Quite a few only made £20, whilst others went unsold - bids were started at £8 for a few but they didn't even reach the minimum of £10...and so went unsold.  Unlike the breeders on Dartmoor, the Bodmin farmers have to foot the cost of the microchipping and passporting themselves and (unless they were selling miniatures) many would have made a loss on the price their horses reached at the market.  On the whole, more horses and ponies (both wild and domesticated) were sold at Hallworthy than any of the other seasonal sales this year.

The drovers weren't the usual ones we see at the horse sale and they didn't look comfortable moving the wild ponies around but they did their best to keep things running smoothly, keeping gangways clear and penning animals suitably after they had been sold.

I was told that there was something on Spotlight news last night about the sale - where they made a mistake about ear tagging of horses, which is illegal!  The story said that the farmers are talking about removing stallions from Bodmin...let's hope some action is finally being taken...

That's the last of the wild pony markets for us this year (as Bampton is not selling ponies) so thank you to all the volunteers who have added extra days to their normal rotas to help either at the markets or at the yard.  There has been a huge improvement in the conditions at markets since we first started attending in 2010.  There have been no illegal ear notches/tagging, and the only intervention we had to make this year was at it's great that the large scale illegal dealers haven't been present and we don't believe any ponies have been illegally transported directly from markets abroad...Hooray...

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Friday, 18 October 2013

Brendon Horse Sale

Today there were 14 horses, ponies and donkeys entered at Brendon horse sale.  All were in good condition but only the miniature Shetland and its foal were sold (for £50 the pair).  A 7 month old gelding had a bid of £260 but didn't meet its reserve price.  The donkey with its very young (probably 1 week old) foal reached an offer of £260 but this was rejected as the reserve was £400.  There were no wild ponies entered for sale at Brendon this year.

We have also discovered that no horse, ponies or donkey will be sold at Bampton this year!

7 month old gelding
Baby donkey with its mother

Brood mare in foal

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Friday, 11 October 2013

Chagford Dartmoor Pony Sale

Yesterday we attended Chagford pony sale, the last of the big Dartmoor sales for this year.

Lots for the auction were entered up to 223 (ponies plus one donkey stallion) but 68 of the ponies were not brought to the sale, so there were actually 155 for sale altogether.

Walking around the pens there were lots of different stories.  One breeder was there in desperation - she owns pure-bred ponies and all the pony keepers on her common had agreed that they were not going to turn out any stallions this year - they were all determined not to breed any foals. Then, someone turned out a big stallion on the neighbouring common and it jumped the wall and covered all the mares on their common - they were so frustrated because they tried so hard to do the responsible thing and stop breeding - again it's the Hill Pony breeders who caused the unnecessary problems.

Although the main ring area was full there were very few bidders.  113 lots were unsold mostly because there were no bids even offered.  One very frightened pony that was in the main ring squeezed out through a small gap in the wood that makes up the sides of the ring.  The pony was caught and shoved back through the hole that it had escaped through.

The donkey had a bid of £90 but the owner had set a higher reserve so it didn't sell.

At least 24 ponies were bought by a couple of local dealers - one in particular who was very open that he'd bought them to go for meat - presumably for human consumption as he'd paid to have them passported and microchipped.  The 4 year old spotted stallion that he bought had been very tricky for the handlers to get through the crush for microchipping - it tried to jump over the side of the entrance of the crush and then out of the pen altogether.  Once the stallion had been microchipped he was put in a small pen already full of mares and foals who had been bought by the meat dealer - the market staff were not concerned that the stallion was causing disruption and covering all the mares in the small pen - we asked for the stallion to be separated and were told that they should all be allowed to have some enjoyment before they are killed.  We did manage to get the stallion separated after some rather disgruntled comments from the staff.

6 bidders bought just one pony each - so almost certainly to private homes.  Two bidders bought 3 ponies each and another bought 6 but we're not sure how many of these went to FDHP (as they did at Tavistock).

Again, we were so pleased not to see any of the big scale, mass buying by unscrupulous dealers who used to buy huge numbers and transport the ponies abroad illegally, and as we've said before, most likely those with involvement in the horse meat scandal.  It was at Chagford a couple of years ago that a driver was telling staff how the best direct route is through Spain and that's where he was heading - illegally.

This year at Chagford many of the breeders were lucky if they sold just one lot each.  The auctioneer claimed that it is bureaucracy that's "bugg**red" up 170 years of tradition - but it's nothing to do with that.  This is all a clear sign that the Hill Pony breeders need to respect the wishes of other pony keepers on the moor and respond to the current climate.  We all want the stallions to be removed.  People want to see a change and someone truly championing and putting the ponies at the heart of Dartmoor...after all, the pony was chosen as the symbol for the National Park.

Only one of the ponies in this pen sold

Foals that were born because pure-bred ponies were covered by Hill Pony stallions

This foal was one of the lucky ones to get a private buyer
Some of the mares bought by the dealer to go for meat - the stallion was added to this pen

Another mare bought by a meat dealer
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Saturday, 5 October 2013

Tavistock Market

This little foal was one of many unsold
Yesterday was Tavistock pony market - there were significantly fewer ponies entered than in previous years - just 94 in the catalogue and even then quite a few didn't arrive at the market for the actual sale.  It actually ended up being 57 ponies that went through the ring.  Three registered Dartmoor stallions, 44 ponies that could be classed as "wild" and 10 others that would probably be classed as domesticated.

The registered Dartmoors didn't sell as they had reserves that weren't met.

There weren't many ponies that did sell - 21 in all. Only 12 of the wild ones sold and only 3 to "domestic" homes  - of the others, 7 were bought by Charlotte Faulkner, one by another farmer on the moor and one by a local dealer.

The really great news is that there were no meat men or large scale "dodgy dealers" - so many times we've left markets knowing that lorries of ponies were heading out abroad illegally or up to some sort of scandalous activity (which I'm now convinced was connected to the horse meat scandal) and we were left unable to stop it.  It's a great relief that this is not happening this year.

Of course, the wild ponies brought to the sale are just a very small proportion of all those bred this year.  The vast majority will be shot for zoo meat, as will the ponies that didn't sell at the market.

Let's really hope that reaching a "rock bottom" at the market is a clear sign to the Dartmoor Hill Pony breeders on the moor that they must start thinking in a different way and stop breeding.
For the first time we've ever seen, the front section of Tavistock market was empty

Entries from Mary Alford

On our way home we did find a few ponies on the north side of the moor - mostly the higher value mares (probably heritage ponies/pure-bred ponies?) who looked in very good condition.  Sadly, someone obviously turned out a coloured stallion, making the foals valueless...

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Thursday, 3 October 2013

Sheep, Fencing, Mats And The Muck Heap

We've had a few big jobs on the go around the yard this week.  Last weekend Roger brought the sheep along (about 150 of them!) to eat down the grass in the pony field...which was great...but as we didn't  know that he was coming with them we hadn't prepared for their arrival!  We soon learnt that the electric current wasn't flowing properly around the fencing circuit!  After a big effort by Jenny, Ted and Faye we managed to get the current going and the sheep are now happily munching away and eating the lush grass for us.

Ted's also been out on the tractor moving our current muck heap (or mountain!) so it should mulch down into nice compost and we can start all over again on the current site.

Margaret did some investigations into sourcing rubber mats for the field gateway.  We had some donated last year which were brilliant because they rescued us from struggling to push wheelbarrows through the mud to the muck heap.  We need to say a big thank you to in Coventry who gave us a charity discount.  Even though we've just put them down, the mats are already looking quite muddy and we're thinking of putting some gravel down where the spring is to help the water drain away.  All this rain is bringing back the rain and mud memories from last winter!

The ponies are having a lovely time as they have lots of time out grazing during the day, and at night have the option of the yard with hay, or the stable, barn, field shelter or a small section of field to mooch about in!  As you can imagine, Frodo's been out making the most of the muddy conditions making sure he has a good roll!

Faye visited Ebony and Apache last weekend and they are looking just right for going into the winter - just a shame she forgot to take her camera!!

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Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Clarification From Defra About Hot Branding

Thanks to our MP, Neil Parish, we have just received a reply from Lord de Mauley (the Head of Defra)  with clarification about hot branding.

"The exemption in The Mutilations (Permitted Procedures) (England) Regulations 2007 provides for hot branding to be allowed for the purposes of identification.  In practice this means for semi-feral moorland ponies that are specifically exempt from the passport arrangements.  However, once such ponies are moved off the moor, they must be subject to the passport arrangements.

I can confirm that domestic ponies should not be hot branded because they are subject to the passport arrangements and therefore do not need to be hot branded. The Exmoor Pony Society has indicated that they have ceased using multiple hot brands.  The Society now uses a unique visual mark of a maximum of four characters, applied by a single brand, to identify the herd and individual ponies within a herd".

It’s great to have the clarification from Defra regarding the ponies coming off the moorland…it’s not the full ban we want but it will certainly make a big difference to a lot of domestic Exmoor ponies this year! This will also mean that warmblood breeds can no longer be hot branded in England.

For now, Scotland and Northern Ireland lead the way in having already establishing full bans on the practice of hot branding equines.  England will eventually follow...
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