Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Chulmleigh Fair

Thank you everyone for your support at Chulmleigh Fair today!  A few days ago the weather for today looked horrendous but thankfully it wasn't too bad - a bit of heavy rain every now and then - but thankfully people weren't too put off and came out to support the various stalls!  We're so thankful for our waterproof gazebo too - it makes such a difference to running the stalls.

Archie and Margaret came to help run the stall and did a great job helping to raise £173.49 for the ponies - Archie's specialty being the tombola!  Our thanks to Roy too for looking after the ponies and sorting out the yard today - it makes such a big difference to the day!

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Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Wolfie and Breeze Visit

It was great to be able to visit Wolfie and Breeze at their new home yesterday to see how they are getting on.  They are loving their conservation patch and have really bonded together.  Alison and Steve have done a great job and have even made the ponies a big track way around the site.  The ponies look fantastic and have really made a big impact on the site.  There are some amazing thistles there as well - tree-like at about 6ft tall - the super prickly sort that are even too prickly for ponies to eat!  We've had so much rain recently I was expecting the site to be a bit boggy in places but it turns out there has hardly been any rain at all over there so it was pretty dry! When Wolfie was back at the main yard his hooves were perfectly self maintaining, but over on the site they have not been getting as much wear so it was a good opportunity to have a hoof tidy up. Happy ponies and a happy loan family :0)

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Monday, 24 July 2017

Ponies As Conservation Grazers – A Good Idea?

Ponies are absolutely amazing conservation grazers in the right circumstances – they eat the right plants to maintain the habitats, let the wild flowers grow, and therefore encourage insects and wildlife to flourish - which is great if you are someone who is into conservation and wildlife management.  It can be brilliant, and brings benefits to both the ponies and the sites!

What is extremely frustrating is our awareness of wildlife groups across the country who have often bought in conservation ponies as management tools – literally with the idea of them being eating machines to keep the grass down on their reserves…but time and time again problems arise (and the same reoccurring problems across the country).

Management of ponies is quite different to other livestock and it is not just as simple as having a large area of long, luscious grass that needs to be eaten down.  Too much grass will lead to laminitic ponies.  Unfortunately we have seen too many cases now of conservation ponies with severe laminitis and pedal bone rotation – including older ponies with severe damage to their feet.  One national organisation had the management strategy of waiting until the pony was so laminitic it stayed lying down (still eating the grass!) and then they could take the pony a bowl of food with Bute in it each day until it could get up and walk again.  Year upon year, this led to irreversible damage.  

I recently saw a herd of 2 year old conservation ponies who all had pedal bone rotation – so frustrating to see, especially when they are so young.  The right species and varieties of plants and landscapes are amazingly beneficial to ponies…but overload them with the wrong food and there will be health consequences. 

Certain areas of Bodmin of course are the other extreme of this!  Whereas most calls we have are in the summer after ponies have consumed too much grass, there are sometimes circumstances where in the winter there is not enough food.  Even in lowland areas we have seen conservation ponies left with NOTHING to eat – a barren landscape - the excuse being the ponies can’t be fed hay because of the conservation status of the land.  

There needs to be a balance – with the numbers of animals and the suitability of the land.  Ponies may need to be restricted in spring/summer months, and they may need to be removed from certain areas for a period of time – in the winter if there isn’t enough to eat…or in the summer if the area is too intensively grazed to benefit the site long-term.  If the site is just right - variety of vegetation, landscape, and the right number of ponies, then it is very possible to achieve healthy ponies with no restriction - but this is not true of all sites.

We absolutely love to have ponies conservation grazing but it needs to be a harmonious scenario between the ponies, the people and the wildlife sites.  The sites can be managed in a way which is harmonious to everyone.

Ponies also need to be checked every day just as other livestock are – checked for health problems, availability of water, and to make sure all ponies are present (no problems with fencing, accidents etc).

One of my personal frustrations is the ethical sourcing of ponies – it seems astonishing to me that despite the number of equine welfare organisations/rescue centres across the country with ponies for rehoming, conservation organisations have been paying horse dealers hundreds of pounds per unhandled, non-pedigree pony from the moorland areas – ponies worth no more than £10 at market.  The dealers do well making a handsome profit and the deal does nothing to stem the mass overbreeding on certain moorland areas.  Through such deals, conservation groups have a herd of wild ponies arrive - that are unloaded and disappear off into the distance – which works OK until there is a problem.  The wardens (who often have no equine experience anyway) are then left with the conundrum of what to do with a poorly, unhandleable pony…or even one that just needs its feet trimming…which in some cases has led to health and safety nightmares! …Not great for the pony…or the people either.   Having ponies which have already had basic handling makes everyone’s life so much easier – it is safer for staff and much easier to trim feet or have routine healthcare issues attended to.

So…ponies are amazing conservation grazers…under the right management and circumstances.

If you are interesting in acquiring conservation ponies we recommend:
  •  Assessing the site and its suitability for ponies throughout all the seasons of the year.
  • Be prepared to adapt the management of the site to the ponies – do not to expect the ponies to cope with any amount of grass/food – particularly if introducing them for the first time to a site with large areas of long, luscious grass…To stay healthy, the ponies may need to have areas of grass restricted.  
  • Choose ponies without previous history of laminitis or sweet-itch.
  • Choose ponies which already have a level of basic handling – it is possible to have ponies trained to a level where they are “wild but handleable” in that they do not approach people willingly but can be handled safely (headcollared, led, have feet picked up) once in an enclosed area (good for areas with public footpaths etc) BUT their handlers need training in order for this to be possible.  Some sites/handlers may prefer tamer ponies.
  • Have a plan of what to do when a pony is poorly– number of vet, safe enclosed area to remove the pony to, headcollar and leadrope available etc.  Also consider other extreme events - is the area prone to flooding, if so where can the ponies be moved to so they are not at risk; if it snows all winter how will the ponies be fed and what will they be fed on?
  • Ethically source ponies – look at charities who have ponies available for conservation grazing, try to stem the overbreeding rather than encouraging it.  Depending on your experience, it may be better to loan ponies from charities who will be responsible for their healthcare, handling, transport etc but rely on landowners/wardens to ensure daily checks, fencing, water provision etc.
  • Ponies must have daily checks, safe and secure fencing, and a clean/safe water supply (if in a mining area or if you are located downstream from one it might be sensible to pay for a livestock water check to ensure there is no pollution/heavy metal content).

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Sunday, 23 July 2017

Is Autumn Arriving Early This Year?

I hate to say this...but has anyone else noticed there are signs of autumn already?  Today's the first day I've noticed leaves on some trees starting to change colour and some ferns dying back...Yesterday Frodo was showing signs of starting to change his coat...and there have been mushrooms growing in the field.  It's a bit early to be thinking of autumn yet!  Pleeeease can the summer last a bit longer!!

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Sunday, 16 July 2017

BBC Reports "Horsemeat Racket Busted in Europe"

The Europol press release states:

"The Spanish Guardia Civil, in coordination with Europol, has dismantled an organised crime group that was trading horsemeat in Europe that was unfit for human consumption. The operation was carried out in coordination with Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom. In Spain, 65 people were arrested and charged with crimes such as animal abuse, document forgery, perverting the course of justice, crimes against public health, money laundering and being part of a criminal organisation....

...During the investigation, Guardia Civil was able to locate the Dutch businessman related to the Irish case of the beefburgers containing horse meat, in Calpe, Alicante. From there he led the activities of the organisation, putting his most trusted men in charge in every country affected by the scam.   Investigators concluded that the Spanish element of this organisation was a small part of the whole European structure controlled by the Dutch suspect. The arrest of the leader of the criminal group was carried out in Belgium. This action was coordinated by the Federal Police, the Federal Food Agency in Belgium and Guardia Civil. Different police actions were simultaneously carried out in France, Portugal, Italy, Romania, Switzerland and the United Kingdom".

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Saturday, 15 July 2017

Mid July Catch-Up

Star and Topsy back out to their normal field

 Topsy and Star headed back out to "their" field on Thursday and are enjoying having the whole field back to themselves now that the haymaking is complete.  There are lots of long patches of grass around the edges and it's surprising how the cut grass which was brown is starting to green up already.

Beautiful Star....Lots of annoying flies this week!
We must send our condolences to poor Angela who despite all efforts has had to abort her trip from Lands End to John O' Groats and back on her quadbike.  She had managed to get a very long way north, to Blair Atholl -  the quadbike broke down and she ended up in a campsite for a month...a very long time to live in a tent(!)..waiting for a part to arrive from China for the bike.  Poor Angela!  Once this was fixed and she was on her way there were more problems so she ended up having to abort the mission.  Thankfully Green Flag got her home safely!  Such a brave effort!  Thank you so much to Angela for the £66 she raised for P4P along the way!

Munchie in the sunshine
We also need to say thank you to Clive and Jill for coming out to see us this week and to Clive for really listening to us and understanding our trimming needs for Munchie.  Poor Paul has had a back back for a while now so hoof trimming isn't a great help to it.  It is extremely important to us that a pony is not sore after a hoof trim.  Paul never made them sore from a trim but unfortunately there are very few people locally who seem to be able to achieve this - so it was a great relief for Clive to come and help us out.  Here's Munchie in the sunshine the day after his trim.  Great to see how far this chap and his feet have come over the last 7 months.

It was nice to visit Babe, Jaffa and Maisie yesterday too...again looking beautiful in the sunshine :0)

And finally a photo of Frodo for his fans!  I don't think he's ever been quite as trim as he's looking this year!!

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Monday, 10 July 2017

Haymaking Is Complete...Phew!

Roger "rewing" up the hay
What a day it's been today!  We were all ready for the baling of our hay today - the hay was all dry, the baler was booked and everyone was on standby to come and help get the bales in the barn.  We knew the forecast for Tuesday was heavy rain so if we didn't get the bales in today then it would be a set-back of quite a few days!

Early this drizzled...not a lot, but enough to make the hay damp so it was going to need turning again...and this meant that the baler wouldn't be able to come - it was booked for a lunchtime slot and after this it was committed over at Jane's.  Once the hay was turned, the sun came out and the hay was drying nicely...Roger came to the rescue again and managed to find us a baler who could come this afternoon at short notice (amazing!) and Roger also came over to rewe up the hay for us.

The baler hard at work
The whole scenario had been off and on all day with the weather and logistical arrangements...but thankfully we were so lucky...Paul and his son arrived with the baler 4.30pm on the dot as promised - Archie arrived about a minute later to join Roy and John who were already onsite.  Over the course of the next hour we had an army of helpers which we are so grateful for - Catherine, Victoria, Edward, Faie, Rachel, Izy, Simon, Rupert and Peter.  There were 336 bales in all which we managed to get stacked in the barn by about 7pm.  They are a bit heavier than usual and we were grateful for the weather being in the high teens in temperature so we didn't get too hot.  We finished with the usual delicious snacks prepared by Margaret and Jenny to reward the workers for all their efforts.

THANK YOU so much everyone for your hard work which now means we have a barn full of hay again for the ponies.  A big thank you to Ted and Jenny who donate the hay for the ponies and for all the work Ted and John have done the last few days to get the grass cut and hay ready!
Archie, Edward and John with the big trailer, Ted supervising!

Chain of people getting the hay to the back of the barn

Munchie tried to persuade Izy into letting him try some ice-cream!

Thank you very much to our team of hard workers,
including Rupert and Peter who aren't featured here!

We had to include some photos of Oscar the dog supervising the hay in production!
Very cute!

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Friday, 7 July 2017

Hay Preparation And Archie + Munchie's Challenge

The weather wasn't sunny today so there was only one turning of the hay...lots of work in the yard.  Margaret and Archie set up another patch for Star and Topsy to make sure they have plenty to eat whilst "their" field has been taken over.  Roy came over to move the bales in the barn and collect up all the loose we now have a lovely clear area to get everything stacked.

Archie took up the challenge of making an obstacle course of his own design to complete with Munchkin (our current rehab pony).  5 obstacles of any construction he wanted as long is it was safe and not too difficult to put up and take down again!  Archie came up with a very interesting and diverse course for them to try.  One of the obstacles was putting a hula hoop over Munchie's head so Archie was using advance and retreat to show Munchie this was OK and he was rewarded with Munchie achieving this - ears back in the second photo to show he is concentrating on the hoop rather than him being cross!  There was also a very interesting castle obstacle with a gateway section to walk through - all made out of boxes so very inventive!!  Apples for Munchie to finish with!!!

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Thursday, 6 July 2017

Haymaking Is Underway!

After thinking that we definitely wouldn't be making hay this week...yesterday the weather forecast changed from weather warnings for torrential thundery showers, to no warnings at all and lots of plans change and now hay making is underway!  Topsy and Star have moved fields and thankfully we have enough spare patches of grass to keep them going for a few days.

It was extremely hot this morning so it was a sweltering job getting all the electric fencing down - Margaret braved the heat to help.  John and Ted had already serviced the grass cutter and hay turning equipment about a week ago so it was ready to go.  Ted cut the hay this morning, John turned it and then Ted did a last turning late this afternoon.  There'll still be a lot of turning to go before it's ready...

...So we have a "call to arms" anyone who can lend a hand to help us get the bales collected up off the field and stacked in the'll be a late afternoon/early evening job.  There is likely to be somewhere between 200 and 250 bales to move (not over a thousand like last year but still a lot to move).  If you think you can lend a hand, please get in touch - or 07968 071179.

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Saturday, 1 July 2017


The July calendar has brought us beautiful Topsy - a photo taken last year - sadly there wasn't a lot of sunshine last year but Topsy still looks beautiful no matter what the weather!!  Amazingly Topsy seems to look younger every year - must be all those lovely herbs - she's in her mid 30's and doing great :0)

Topsy June 2017
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