Friday, 20 November 2009
Thursday, 19 November 2009
In the winter months, we run our horses and ponies in the stubble fields surrounding the house.
There are many advantages to this arrangement: using the stubble fields (where there is plenty of rough grazing) rests our grass fields - good for the pasture and minimises parasite problems.
As the stubble fields are nice and close to the stables, it's also easy to get youngsters in for some handling, or geriatrics in for a few hours' respite from the rain which has been pelting down recently. This is especially valuable during these short hours of daylight.
We've been getting the foals in regularly for some handling - as they didn't get much over the summer while I was away. This helps to prepare them for weaning, which we'll do around Christmas, and also is preparing them for (shhhh!) being microchipped next week, as the law now requires.
We haven't as yet started supplementary feeding (bar a little bite of hay if something's in) as they absolutely haven't needed it: one or two mares are actually waddling! Tsk. Seriously, it's our only opportunity to get some weight off the Highlands before they face the spring grass again. The mild weather however, means that the grass in the stubbles is still actually growing - as I type this, the thermometer outside is registering 12 degrees (grass starts to grow at 6). I wonder if we'll end up like New Zealand, with year-round grass growth?
Another advantage - or perhaps not- of having them all near the house is that I can watch them from my office window. (I'm supposed to be writing, but hey...)
It is fascinating to watch closely the herd dynamics - who pals up with whom as a grazing buddy, who prefers to graze on their own on the fringe of the group. The foals and yearlings are getting bolder and more cheeky towards the older horses, until they overstep the boundaries and are sent scuttling by an exasperated adult.
It is a very settled herd, where each individual seems to know their place. I never witness kicking or biting (bar the foals, in play). The most aggression is the odd bit of face-pulling.
I know how lucky we are to be able to keep our animals in a semi-natural way, with plenty of space for all. I recently refused to sell a 2 yo to a buyer who wanted to keep him in a yard with no winter turnout at all. I know many horses are kept like that from necessity, but it's far from ideal, especially for a growing, boisterous youngster - probably for any horse, come to that.
We have bought in thoroughbreds out of training in the past who didn't know how to graze having been kept in stables all their life: they would just mooch around by the gate, not eating (food only comes in a bucket or haynet obviously) staring wistfully at their box door. It wasn't long before they got the hang of it and started to get cheeky about being caught though!
Monday, 16 November 2009
Saturday, 14 November 2009
She was an absolute star, taking everything calmly in her stride (in spite of literally being dragged out of the nettles with only a few days' notice.)
You might also remember that she was initially 'dumped' on us by her owner and we had to go through all the tedious legal channels to gain ownership of her so that we could decide what was going to happen to her in the long term.
Since her expedition down to the borders on the trip, she has been away being professionally schooled and is now ready to go on to a new owner, provided we can find the home she deserves. If she were a little bigger (she's 13.3) or I, alas, were a little smaller (!) I wouldn't part with her - but she needs to go somewhere where she can be used and enjoyed to the full.
She's 5, and currently has all the basics in place: walk, trot, canter and is happily hacking out on her own and with others and will go first or last. She hasn't started jumping yet, but is comfortably coping with all sorts of varied terrain out on hacks. She is of course also trained to carry packs! She has the most lovely willing nature, but due to her youth is not really suitable for a novice: ideally we are looking for a long-term home with a small adult or a confident older child who has support from a horsy family. She has lovely straight movement and excellent conformation and would show.
Her one drawback is that she sometimes cribs, probably as a result of how she was kept in an earlier life. She has been improving, especially as she has now got other things to think about, but she would be better in a home where she has full turnout. She gets on well with other horses.
She is easy to catch, box and shoe, and has the potential to be a cracking all-round pony - so if you are looking for one (or know someone who is) and would like further details, you can contact me, Kate Godfrey, 0n 01828 632463 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thursday, 12 November 2009
Thursday, 5 November 2009
Firstly, apologies to those many many people who have been in touch to give me a hard time for leaving those poor ponies stuck on Mount Keen for so long!
Yes, we're safely home - but the combination of three months in the pure mountain air, followed by a shopping trip to Dundee, resulted in a dreadful bout of flu for me - obviously my system was no longer able to cope with twenty-first century urban bugs.
I'm feeling better now (thank you) although still a bit feeble. I rode the boys out today for the first time in company with my friend Felicity - the ponies set off as though they were intending to do the whole thousand mile route backwards - so obviously still feeling pretty fit!
There's still a lot of 'finishing off' to do on the blog, and I will get there I promise.
One of the most common questions has been ' so how much total weight DID you lose/gain'? You will remember that there was a splendid scoff for two riding on this, at the Kinloch House Hotel Blairgowrie.
The answer is we lost a total of 39 kgs - nothing at all really, given that the ponies had NO additional feeding on the trip. For those who really want to know, it broke down thus: Doogs lost 30 kg; Yeoman lost 8 kg; and I lost...well, you do the maths. All I can say is, I must have been in fantastic shape before I left. Nothing to do with the splendid round Scotland hospitality, then...
The boys were delighted to get home. Somewhat to my surprise, I haven't had any trouble catching them since we got back either! Doogs was immediately surrounded by his gingernut thoroughbred harem, where he has remained ever since. I swear I've caught him saying , "and you'll never guess what we did next..." as the mares flutter their eyelashes and look impressed.
Yeoman - well I think it's fair to say that he left home a boy and came back a man - such a change in a horse, from a somewhat dippy delinquent, to a senior and responsible member of our little equine community.
Now we're back in cyberspace, check into the blog now and again to find out about the gear we wouldn't be without (and what went in the bin); what I'll do differently next time (and what that 'next time' is going to be - very exciting!) and equally exciting (to me anyway), the full-length unexpurgated book version of the trip which is due for publication in the spring. The profits from the book will go to World Horse Welfare International Training. There are also lots of great photos to catch up on which I'll post as I go - sending pictures to the blog en route was a little challenging at times.
Hope all you grief-givers are a little happier now!