Category Archives: a year in the life

Back to life

I have been busy and very neglectful of this blog.  I don’t think I have ever let so much time pass since posting.

It has been a strange winter: long, Spring creeping up and catching me by surprise.  And storm lashed.  We lost six trees in hurricane force winds, one of those trees crashing on my trailer so I am now without transport for Ben and Cloud (and for emergency trips to the Mart for hay).  But we have got off lightly here.  Generous friends have offered loans of their trailers when needed.  I have neighbours who have had to reach their house by crossing three fields for weeks now.  The west of the county has been badly battered by the sea.  Houses have been damaged by flooding.

But there has been very few opportunities to take Ben and Cloud out.  Cloud has been stranded with post-laminitis recovery and with a teenager who has a full life of exams, music and friends and a diminishing interest in a pony who requires such careful management.

So Cloud is mine now.  I have to put it that way and embrace this pony who is so different to Ben and somehow find a way into his heart and mind.  I remind myself that I struggled with Ben in the early days.  Easy to forget when communication between us seems to be telepathic now.  We have managed a couple of nice Spring rides, or rather rides and walks as Ben is not fit enough for riding of any length.  But he has enjoyed them, rewarding me with a lick on the cheek afterwards.

A couple of weekends ago I drove north to attend a workshop given by Nic Barker (of Rockley Farm blog fame) which was very interesting and encouraging in allowing horses self trim.  She made the point that we should never judge hooves on photos alone, but to take videos, slow them down and look at the footfall.  I did just that when I came home.  Both Ben and Cloud had heel first landings!  (Ben’s slow motion was gorgeous – such hairy legs clopping down majestically on the yard.)

Some things stay the same – each year, no matter in what manner Spring has approached, by the end of March the primroses appear and the hairiest cob in Ireland sheds wheelbarrow loads of hair, day after day after day.  I become slightly obsessed with currying those long silky slides of hair, and no matter how much I remove there is no discernible difference; and yet there will be, suddenly the bones of his legs will reappear, his belly will seem higher off the ground and his face will be beardless once again.  But for now, he rolls and covers the ground in his hair, rubs and leaves hair caught on the bark of trees, and is starting to walk away when he sees me approaching with the rubber curry comb.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under a year in the life, hoof care, riding

A break in the storms

We have had storm after storm batter us this winter.  Interaction with Ben and Cloud has been limited to dashing out, feeding, distributing hay and dashing back in again, with time made for hoof trimming also.  Somewhere in the midst of that Ben has sought me out, making it clear that he wants to spend time with me. Cloud has seemed stand-offish, standing away, approaching only when he sees a bucket in my hand or hay in my arms.

So today, a sunny, frosty morning, gave some opportunity to spend time with the boys before this evening’s promised storm crashes in.

My agenda: to spend time with Cloud, undemanding time, sitting in a chair wrapped against the cold and showing him that I am non-threatening.

I can take my time this morning with my approach with feed buckets and hay. And I see why Cloud is stands off.  He is clearly signaling to me that Ben is his.  Ben, behind him on the track is looking for a way around Cloud and I, standing in the yard am clearly a threat – a threat to Cloud’s control of his herd.  I sense that if Ben were not trying to reach me, Cloud would come straight up for that bucket he sees in my hand.

I turn away and wait.  They come up, but Cloud is lively, not settling to his bucket and this effects Ben also who moves around.  I signal to Cloud to stand by his bucket.  I point to Ben to return to his.  And they do.  And my agenda has changed.

Clearly Cloud has reasserted himself over this winter.  Managing a herd of two at home I cannot have this.  When I am around Cloud needs to know that I am in charge.  I am grateful to Carolyn Resnick for coaching she gave me when I had to manage this situation for Ben and Rosie.  I distribute hay in the picadero in small piles.  They come up and I guard Ben’s pile.  Cloud challenges me just once – we have done this particular ritual before quite a while ago.  I find myself very relaxed as I move between Cloud and Ben.  Cloud moves away to another pile.  It is beautiful up there.  Cold, fresh with a wind picking up.  The hens come to join us.  There is a good view in most directions and I can react to the same sounds as Ben and Cloud almost as quickly as they do.  As I notice these sounds they relax and return to their hay again.

After a while I move to greet them.  Ben first, he turns his head as I look at him and I offer him my outstretched hand which he touches gently with his muzzle. Cloud: I look at him, he turns his head and gives my hand a gentle lick before returning to his hay.

All is well here.

Here are some photos from our storm-lashed winter.  I missed my opportunity to get a rain sheet on Ben but to my surprise and delight, there is no rain scald this winter.  His immune system is clearly stronger.

DSC01892

DSC01896

DSC01895

1 Comment

Filed under a year in the life, General

New Year

I have taken an unintended long break from this blog.  A few weeks ago some gremlins managed to eat not one but two posts, posts in which I had detailed my struggles and anxieties over Cloud’s hooves.  So I lost heart.

Here I am with a new blog editor to try and I will put this post out as a way of sending New Year’s greetings to all who keep ponies at home in the winter time.  For some, you may battle ice and snow.  Here in the west of Ireland we battle rain and storms.

DSC01879

DSC01881

DSC01888

1 Comment

Filed under a year in the life

Hedgerow time of year

The other morning I created a track within a track. The part of the track that runs up the steep hill on the west side is separated from the grass by a thick hedge of mainly hawthorn, brambles and wild rose. September’s harvest is looking particularly bountiful on the grass side of this hedge.

DSC01699.JPG

So I created a temporary lane from one opening of the track to another running along this hedge. I kept the top and bottom parts wider.

DSC01696.jpg

There is some grass and far too many buttercups. They seemed to proliferate after our long wet winter last year. Ben came when I called. He knew I was doing something interesting. Cloud was more suspicious. But in they came and cropped the grass. It will be a while before they get to the hedgerow. But the grass is sparse. This part of our paddock is my favourite part – an oak and a hazel tree grow there amongst a scattering of hawthorn and ash. The ground drains well and limestone is close beneath the surface.

DSC01705.JPG

I lingered to watch. They moved up and down, the narrow lane pushing them forward and the wider parts allowing Ben room to move around Cloud and come back down. It is a short strip but there was more movement along it than there would be if they had the whole paddock and more movement than on the main track.  No matter how I distribute it, they do not move in the same way for hay.  Hay just does not generate the same excitement. I wonder does it taste much more uniform. On a grass track their seems to be a regular impetus to try the next spot, maybe it will be juicier or sweeter or – some other adjective beyond my imagination, not being a grass eater.

DSC01701.JPG

Comments Off on Hedgerow time of year

Filed under a year in the life, track system

Back home

Ben and Cloud are back home and I have reorganised the track. I have widened one corner and made more feeding stations:

one big haynet under the trees:

DSC01654.JPG

three haynets attached to this tree in the next corner (widened):

DSC01655.JPG

a haynet at the top of the track:

DSC01656.JPG

and two here near the arena where they have often been before:

DSC01657.JPG

I am going to experiment with providing ad lib hay and see if Cloud will start to regulate his intake. Today however, they ate hay only from the two familiar areas and then broke through the electric tape in front of the hay barn creating their own feeding station:

DSC01653.JPG

Cloud looked rather round. I must say, when I came home from work today and saw Cloud’s belly, I had to steel my resolve to try this ad lib experiment. I wonder how long it will take him to eat less – or will he ever? He is a pony after all.

Comments Off on Back home

Filed under a year in the life, ad lib hay experiment, track system