Saturday, 29 March 2014

Frodo's Invitation

I don't think this photo does justice to Frodo's figure...sorry Frodo!
 He's actually rather trim...although he really is covered in that much mud again!
This week Frodo received his official invite to take part in the St John's Fair parade so Peter thought he'd start doing some more practice with Frodo.  Frodo was a bit more challenging today though - testing Peter's skill level.  Frodo had an all out refusal at first.  He said he'd rather not go anywhere and liked the idea of just standing thinking about eating the grass at the verge...but when he realised that eating grass wasn't even an option, he got into the swing of things quite quickly.  Peter even had a little run with him.

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Contraception Of Dartmoor Ponies

There's been a lot of publicity this week (again!) surrounding the contraception scheme on Dartmoor and how it is likely to fail without more support.  It's so frustrating because I don't understand why the BBC are so biased in their coverage and will not do a more widespread, balanced report on these issues.

So many of the breeders have removed or vasectomised stallions and this is one of the best ways to stop breeding (by separating mares and stallions) but there is a small core of people who refuse to remove their stallions...which then go and cover everyone else's mares resulting in hundreds and hundreds of unwanted foals.  These people effectively sabotage the efforts of the responsible breeders and they have quite clearly shown that they are more committed to setting up a permanent slaughterhouse than they are to stopping breeding on Dartmoor...but you will never hear a reporter question any of these issues.  Why can we not hear reporters asking more probing questions...Why do you keep your stallions out on the moor, chose a scheme that is likely to fail (you know that most breeders are unwilling to pay for the drugs because the ponies aren't worth anything, and it' s unpractical) and sabotage the responsible breeders causing them to have unwanted foals...surely to legitimise your plans for a slaughterhouse and permanent meat outlet????  If you really were committed to stopping breeding, wouldn't you take your stallions off the moors too???  Where's Jeremy Paxman when you need him!

Having been around these issues for a while now I think the only real answer is for all the ponies on Dartmoor to be owned by a central organisation (such as the national park) who then take responsibility for the welfare and management of the herds.  People love coming to Dartmoor to see the ponies but I think they'd love coming even more if they knew the ponies were being ethically managed - living in the park as conservation grazers keeping Dartmoor as it should be and not constantly part of one scandal or another.  There are separate commons where the stallions could be kept.  There could be a managed policy of responsible breeding only - almost with a "breed to order" type system - for the moor and some to private homes.  Then of course, they would argue how would it be funded...but I do think people would donate to a system that ensured the ponies a life on Dartmoor, where they should be - with ensured welfare and ethical management.  The ponies are supposed to be the symbol of the national park and if they are considered special enough to be the symbol of the park then they should have a more central and more ethically managed role.

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Saturday, 22 March 2014 On

Well, it's back to the pre-"tropical" weather again.  You'd never believe that we were rolling the fields earlier in the week.  It was snowing last night, hailing this afternoon, and the mud is back again...we'd never get the tractor into the field now.

The 3 older boys were playing stallion games today - particularly Bobby and Dan.  Bobby was trying to hamstring Dan (only playfighting!) which led to Dan sitting down like a dog before getting up and moving Bobby on.  There was also lots of rearing up and squealing - similar behaviour to that shown in the April calendar photo.  Every time I went out with the camera however, they just stood calmly looking at me, as though nothing had happened at all!

The Sathya Sai Sanctuary who have been such an amazing help for our live transport article have just published their Spring newsletter and they are doing such amazing work dealing with the seemingly never ending supply of abandoned animals in Southern Ireland.  It's such good news that they and Hungry Horse Outside have secured funding from LUSH to give discounted gelding operations to try and stop the level of overbreeding.  Thank goodness for Sue and Hilary and their amazing work.  Here's a couple of my favourite photos from the Sathya Sai newsletter:
Look at those donkeys go!!

Foals are soooo cute - but we really don't need any more baby animals at the moment (horses, ponies, donkeys, dogs, cats, rabbits...) at least Sue and Hilary's overbreeding scheme should help.  Would be great if there was something like that happening more widely here too...
The link for the Sathya Sai sanctuary is and you can find their newsletter here:

We also need to say thank you to the wonderful ladies at Naturally Animals  who have helped us this week and given us a discount on our purchases.  Somehow or the other we seem to have acquired some sort of "super" lice that seem to have been immune to absolutely everything we have tried to get rid of them...including the wormer...and it's very disappointing that they have reached this level of resistance!  Our trusty Neem ALWAYS used to get rid of any lice at the slightest hint of their arrival.  This year, although we have beaten them back temporarily by using all sorts of different formulas and lotions, it's only a very short set-back before they return.  Frodo did clear his by using a homeopathic remedy that Beate gave us...and Rocky seems to have mysteriously evaded them altogether (clever pony!).  To finally get rid of the "little critters" the ladies at Naturally Animals recommended a recipe using food grade diatomaceous earth, which is very intriguing stuff.  Although it's very soft and powdery for us to touch, it's fatal for insects.  The diatomaceous earth is made from the fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms and they are made of a natural substance called silica.  The silica is so sharp it can kill any bug with an exoskeleton easily, but is safe for any mammal to eat or touch (as long as it's food grade!).  DE works under the shell of an insect and punctures the body, which dehydrates the insect and then it dies. There is no possibility of a buildup of chemical tolerance because the method of killing is mechanical.  Apparently it gets rid of all sorts of unwanted insects - fleas, cockroaches for instance...I know it can be used for worming too.  So far application has been fairly we'll let you know how it goes.  Apparently lice are a big problem everywhere this year - on horse yards and on farms with cows...perhaps the lack of a cold winter gave them a boost??  The ponies are looking super healthy but I think their super thick warm coats are a very attractive environment for little critters.

On a more positive note, Carol emailed to give us an update on Basil...she says   "Basil is a real little star- I love him to bits, he seems happy with his lot and seems to be with Chester and Herbert all the time...They have been seen playing with a stick - Basil would pick it up and tear off followed by Herbert and then they would change over!! The receptionist at our doctors told me what they were up to."  They must have been such an entertainment for everyone in the doctor's surgery.  Poor Carol has been out of action from an ankle injury so we hope she feels better very soon!

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Monday, 17 March 2014

Time To Roll!

Today it was time to start rolling the fields - we've had a couple of weeks of dry weather - hardly any rain, and the ground has been drying out nicely.  In a similar way to haymaking...timing is crucial.  If you wait too long then the ground is too hard and you've missed your chance.  Margaret, Jenny and Faye had a big effort moving the electric fencing out of the way and then Ted set to work on the little tractor.  It's just the perfect size to pull the roller and it's lighter than the other tractors so doesn't mark the ground as much.

As you can see, it made quite a difference very quickly.  The area next to the yard is where all the drainage excavations were in the autumn so the ground is still all churned up and rutted...and of course there are all the pony hoof prints.

Unfortunately someone happened to mention during the tea break that it was all going perfectly so far(!)...and about 10 minutes afterwards the tractor was stuck in the mud!  There are still some very wet, boggy patches - even though the ground surface deceivingly looks out came the Massey Ferguson and the tow rope and we were soon back on track again.  We needed to be rescued again on two more occasions!  Despite the getting stuck, it was an overall success.  We just need to wait for the boggy areas to dry out a bit more before we roll those!

Frodo was a very good pony - he had to stay in the yard as we couldn't risk him with the fences having no electricity running through them.  He was quite happy with his haynet and Margaret gave him a brush - now he's extra soft and fluffy!

A big thank you to Margaret as she's been over at the farm the last couple of days to help with lots of extra jobs - including spring cleaning and helping sort out all the electric fencing...

...And of course, we must say Happy Ponyversary to Jeremy and Rowan!

Ted set Faye to work with the tractor too

A clean Frodo!

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Saturday, 15 March 2014

Peter And Frodo

Peter's been with us today so he's been spending some quality time with Frodo.  Peter's been putting his newly learned skills into practise - tying up haynets, headcollaring, grooming and he's learning how to pick out hooves.  Today Frodo and Peter went for a walk in the sunshine up to the top of the road and back...and they had a lovely time together.  They make quite a team!

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Friday, 14 March 2014

Happy Anniversary!

Looking through my diary last night at the events of last year...I believe that this weekend is the anniversary of Jeremy and Rowan who have been together for a year now!  I've only just discovered that Jeremy has a brilliant blog of his own that Rowan keeps updated for him...I can't believe we've missed out on it all this time!  Here's a link  - they're learning lots and having great fun together which is wonderful.

Meanwhile...back at the farm...this lovely weather means that the grass is growing and any second it will start shooting time to start restricting grazing.  Faye's spent the last two days putting up a long stretch of electric fencing.  This year we've decided to use part of the "winter" field as the type of grass isn't as lush so we'll see how that goes.  It takes ages to try and get everything as "Frodo ready" as possible with tape and wire to make sure he stays where he's supposed to be.  Ted helped Faye to get the electricity from the pony field to the winter field using insulated wire so everything's connected far so good...

The mud is drying up nicely so soon it'll be time to get rolling.  Yesterday the midges were out too so Bobby started his lotion - it was so cold today though that there wasn't even a hint of a midge!

We need to send "get well soon" wishes to Bertie as sadly he started showing signs of kennel cough so it'll be a while before we see him and Catherine - such a shame!

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Monday, 10 March 2014

Nicola And Katie's Visit

We were so pleased that Nicola and Katie came to visit us today, and of course the reason for their visit was to see beautiful Topsy who they haven't seen for a while.  The last time they came to visit, they could stroke Tufty but not Topsy because she was still today we were able to change that.  Both Nicola and Katie were both able to stroke Topsy and they were so pleased with how well she looks, how nice her feet are looking...and they also said how Topsy looks much younger too (must be all those delicious herbs)!!

We are so grateful to them for all the rugs and headcollars they have donated to us - so very kind of them.

Stupidly I didn't have my camera with me so Katie's going to send me some photos and I'll post them here when they arrive...

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

Spring's Arrived!

Apologies everyone for the delay in blogging again...we just don't know where the time goes!  We've been busy sending out newsletters, and thank you everyone who has written or phoned to say how much they liked it.  We've had some lovely feedback.  We had an email on Thursday from our MP Neil Parish thanking us for our hard work putting together our report about the illegal export of ponies (and the loophole in the law) and he wants to take this forward to Lord de Mauley and Defra for us.

We've missed having Peter today - he did some great work with Frodo last week and I think Frodo was a bit sad that his new friend didn't come today to give him a brush!

It definitely feels like spring and with the lovely warm sunshine most of the ponies are starting to lose their winter coats.  Topsy did brilliantly this afternoon - letting Faye brush her in the sunshine with no headcollar or lead rope needed, and again later in the pen.  So much hair was coming out!  We're looking forward to meeting Nicola on Monday and it'll be the first time she's seen Topsy in quite a while.

Beate has kindly donated a Strada saddle for us to sell to raise money for the ponies - we've given it a clean this week - one more to go and then hopefully we can put it on ebay so that it will find just the right home.

It was very exciting to meet Catherine's new dog Bertie today - a gorgeous young whippet from The Dog's Trust at Ilfracombe.  He is very friendly and not phased at all by the people, different surroundings and animals - Catherine only picked him up yesterday!  What a lucky dog he is.  He doesn't seem to like mud very much though so hopefully all this nice weather will help to dry it up!

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Friday, 7 March 2014

March Has Arrived

March features Ebony (left) and Apache (right)
This month's calendar features two of our sponsor ponies - Apache and Ebony.  These two ponies have lived together for a while now and are very happy in each others' company.  Both ponies have ear notches and so arrived with a high level of trauma.  Both were already adults in the original herd that p4p rescued.

Ebony has probably had quite a few foals in her lifetime.  She already had an older coloured foal with her when Paul and Cilla first saw the herd...and then there was Munchkin.  Although the mares and colts/stallions were separated as soon as possible, Ebony was already pregnant.  She had the last foal to be born to the p4p herd.  Ebony had a very loving foster home, but tragically the foal fell ill and despite veterinary treatment and all the caring efforts of their fosterer, he died.  Ebony's fosterer Debbie had struck up a strong bond with Ebony and they mourned the loss of the foal together.  His name was going to be "Ultimus Minimus" - The last little one.

Apache was one of the main stallions in the herd and he was Dad to Frodo and Lulu amongst others.  He was the third stallion status wise in the group. He was one of the 4 stallions who were "run" along the roads back to the farm from the herd field a few miles away.  As a means of protection, Apache would try to bite Paul (hard!) when he was handling Paul invented a new technique of protecting himself wrapping his arms in magazine and newspapers.  When Apache realised that biting didn't cause people to go away, the biting stopped.

Both ponies are on our sponsorship list and now live together happily conservation grazing at a site near our main base.

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