As we approach the halfway stage, and inspired to consider matters by the visit to Samye Ling, I thought it was a good moment to give a general update!
The ponies are in great form, well muscled, sound and (apparently) enjoying themselves...I am very proud of the way they will happily settle anywhere and cope with each day's challenges so calmly.
Staying at the welcoming Brigton Farm at Bargrennan with the delightful Fiona and Ian McCall, I had the opportunity to go over every inch of them. The ponies, I mean - not the McCalls!!! Feet in good order (although Yeoman will need shoeing in the next few days (arranged - thanks to Carol, we're meeting up with Jim Ferrie, the farrier we last met at Balfron. I'm sure he thinks we're stalking him - but wow, he doesn't half cover some territory). The shoes are holding tight although clenches are now up and the shoes are paper thin...but still a tribute to Jim Balfour's shoeing all those weeks ago!
Much to my surprise (and pleasure) the boys have NO injuries, scrapes or rubs - and our tick defences seem to be holding out so far. The ponies have had no additional feeding but I have paid attention to allowing them good grazing during the day (no chance of me forgetting, even if I wanted to, eh boys?) They have definitely lost some weight but nothing to worry about and they are full of going - they covered 17 miles yesterday, much of it trotting as it was so damn wet and are in good fettle after a night's rest. Both are now very settled in the daily routine, and -for once- they are allowed to eat however much they like!
The gear is holding well together so far: the saddles still fit well (Barefoot and Ideal) and Trailmax panniers are simply excellent and have withstood rough treatment and the odd gatepost assault. Only minor problem is a burst girth keeper but duct tape is a wonderful invention.
For myself, I feel fit and well and definitely toned! Mentally I feel relaxed and still enjoying it all. So far, no blisters on feet or bottom! The hardest things have been coping with poor weather at times (and by the looks of things, we'd better be prepared for more for the next couple of days) and fatigue at times (long days and not always sufficient sleep).
The best things have definitely been the people we've met (and the many generous donations for World Horse Welfare) and the sights we've seen. My relationship with Doogs and Yeoman has just got better and better - we are operating very much as a team - although Doogs is certain he always knows best at key navigation points and has been known to march off without consultation or even looking at the map.
Over the next few days we will reach our last southerly point and then take the momentous step of changing direction and heading North! (well - westish - northish -westish. Looking forward to paddling in the sea!
Thanks for all the messages and emails folks - I really value them all so much and try to respond to everyone...signal permitting - which it isn't very much, at the moment - very unstable here but hopefully will be better soon. We have been interviewed by some local papers and are hopefully to be interviewed by the BBC, (once they find us!) so all good publicity for World Horse Welfare.