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Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sports Relief.

On Sunday I ran in my first event - a 3 mile run for Sports Relief. I ran it with a friend and it was really good fun.

Since joining the running club we have gone up from the beginners group to the serious runners and I seem to have started going twice a week now. I meet such interesting people and you have plenty of time to talk in a relaxed way when you're running.

I have made friends with a lady who is a civil engineer in charge of waterways and reservoirs and she has worked in places such as Madagascar and Afghanistan. I asked her if they were surprised when a woman turned up and she said no, she had more surprised comments in this country, which is a bit sad. She has Alpacas and is going to come and see mine over Easter.

She is a Triathlete and her long term objective is to still be doing Triathlons in her 80's and she wants to be the first Triathlete to complete one at 100! She is a very inspiring person.

Running also makes me think about my breathing and I am more and more convinced that a lot of feeling content is down to good breathing. Shallow breathing makes me feel anxious and panicky.

I help with the local Riding for the Disabled once a week and was talking to a woman who had a stroke 7 years ago. She lost all her speech and the use of one side of her body, and one arm is still paralysed at the moment. I asked her if she had ridden before and she told me she hadn't and that she had started riding after her stroke because her diaphragm was partially paralysed and she couldn't breath properly. Someone suggested riding and she found that her breathing synchronised with the horse's and the horse taught her how to breathe again.

Another woman I have been very inspired and humbled by is in her 30s and went blind recently and very suddenly. She had never ridden before but decided to learn. She is rigid with fear every time but gets on each week and does it anyway.

These people take my breath away.

Here I am at the finish with my friend. The mayor is a friend of hers and she is going to help me get my Animal Soulmates charity going.


Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Bertie.

The Fells are all very settled now and go out in the fields during the day. They are all good to lead and very amenable. They jump a little when you touch their hind quarters but none of them has ever shown the slightest sign of even thinking about kicking.

The 6yo (who I have now started to call Bertie as that's what his breeder called him and he does know his name) is blossoming and becoming more confident everyday. He was the most nervous and was hard to catch but he now has a friend to set him a good example.

Bertie reminds me a lot of my old beloved pony, Ben. Ben was a surrogate parent to Russell, the chestnut I bred, and helped bring him up. I hoped Bertie might remind Russell of Ben a little too.

Bertie was never turned out much at the stud as he would jump 4ft fences. He once got in with his previous owner's other stallion and they nearly killed each other.

I noticed that he is very nervous of other horses and tried turning Russell out with him and it's been a great success. He comes with Russell to be caught at night and to see visitors. Russell seems to like the responsibility too.

Here are some photos of Bertie on his first day out in the field.





Friday, 19 March 2010

Fell Ponies.

I phoned the breeder of my Fell ponies tonight to find out how they ended up in the predicament they were in. She is an elderly lady who has had a spinal injury and had to cut down on her workload. She had no response to private adverts last October so sent them to the local horse sale where they went for a very small amount of money.

She was nearly in tears when I told her that they are well and safe as she had heard that they had already gone for meat.

The oldest, a six year old, she had gelded last summer in an attempt to find him a good home but he was unbroken so no-one wanted him. She says he is a very talented jumper and regularly jumped 4ft fences to get to the mares before he was gelded.

She said they had all been loved and treated with kindness and respect when they were with her. They are all registered, vaccinated, micro-chipped, gelded and passported, and they all sold for next to nothing at the sale. She asked me to send her photographs and to keep in touch.

There is a Fell Pony show near here on April 18th and I'm going to try to get the six year old, Bobby, ready to take there. The secretary is a friend of mine and says she will give me honorary membership of the society as a thank you for buying the ponies. She is interested in buying Bobby for herself if he is suitable for her.

Here are the photos I took yesterday when they first arrived. They came in the badly fitting headcollars which I have now taken off. One of the youngsters has bad rain scald but they are otherwise in good health if slightly thin. Bobby is as well covered as I want him to be. I think he had been eating all the pies!!!!!!



























Thursday, 18 March 2010

My Fell Pony Herd!!!!

A friend and I collected my four Fell Ponies today and I am SO pleased with them. They loaded really well and have settled down straight away and seem very content and happy.

There are 3 rising two year old geldings and a six year old who was only gelded last year and is the sire of two of the youngsters.

Even if they hadn't gone for meat in the sale they were to be auctioned at they were all going to be broken to harness which I think would have been most unkind as two of them are only 18 months old.

I also bought a one eyed New Forest 4yo mare because I couldn't bear to leave her there and a friend of mine has already bought her to keep her here with her old mare. She is incredibly quiet, steady and kind but painfully thin as she was still feeding last year's foal.

The responsibilty of taking on all these extra horses has been frightening me half to death but I looked at them tonight, all cosy, warm, well fed and watered, and safe and I felt proud of myself. My friends are all being very supportive, kind and understanding which makes me feel a bit more safe myself and more in control, and they are sweet, gentle, lovely ponies who are worth all the angst.

It's taking a long, long time for me to get used to being in charge and making decisions about money, and it's still very scary stuff for me, but I am getting there slowly. I think most people feel the same really, they just got used to it a bit earlier in life than me!!!!!

I'm very tired tonight so will post photos tomorrow.

Monday, 15 March 2010

My Alpaca Herd.

We collected my new Alpaca herd yesterday morning, Sam, Leo, Crystal and baby Saphire, and they are just adorable. I love the way they seemed at home straight away, murmur to each other all the time and look out for each other. They all watch over Saphire, who lost her mum a few weeks ago, and keep sniffing her and checking that she's OK.

Leo was not quite so adorable when we were loading him as he decided, having gone straight into the trailer once and then out again, that he didn't want to go back in and covered us with green gunge when we insisted that he did. Unfortunately poor Sam also got into the firing line and his head was plastered in it, and it even went right down inside his ears!!! It was also incredibly smelly!!!!!!!!!!!

Leo was the only one who did spit at us though, inspite of us having to manhandle them all into the trailer as they are very tame and well handled so wouldn't be herded into it.

Crystal, the white one, is due to give birth in August. Sam and Leo are both 'gelded' wethers and Saphire is 7 months old. The three adults are all halter trained and all of them eat from your hand.

Saphire is incredibly confident, probably because she feels so secure from the constant care and attention that she gets from the others.

I am already in love with this little family and spend as much time with them as I can. They are so steady and confident but really gentle with it and I find their tremendous herd spirit very inspiring and comforting.
















Monday, 8 March 2010

Fell Ponies in Need.

I went to have a play with the Clydesdales again yesterday and enjoyed both long reining Mystic for miles and talking to his owner as I did so. I realised on the way back that, although I wasn't really concentrating on Mystic, we had developed a dialogue down the reins as we went. He began by more or less ignoring me and listening to his owner's voice but began to listen more and more the further we went until we had some sort of harmony by the time we arrived back at the yard.

Mystic's owner told me about a friend of his who is trying to save four registered Fell Ponies, among scores of other horses and ponies, from the meat man. I begged him not to tell me more as I have no-one to restrain me now but ended up arranging to go and see them on Thursday.

I have thought long and hard about this and I can't not go. I am the person who can't look at those ILPH adverts and I am always protecting myself from pain that I can't do anything about. This time last year I couldn't have done anything about these ponies either. Now I can.

Fell Ponies are closely related to my Dales and even more rare. They suffer from a genetic defect that results in many foals dying at birth. I can't let these survivors die unnecessarily now.

My plan is to try to get volunteers to help tame them and work with them, both because I need time for my own animals and because I aim to re home them and not let them become my own animals.

I also am going to get Kate going and find a kind home for her too, with her own person to love and entertain her. She is a lovely mare and one of the most polite horses I have ever met, which is why she couldn't tolerate her previous, very impolite owner. She deserves more time and attention than I can ever give her and my heart belongs to Bella, Jack and Grace.

The owner of the Clydesdales says that he could never be happy without a horse and that's how I am too. I can't go for more than a few hours without severe withdrawal symptoms that can only be relieved if I stroke a horse. No other animal will do for me - it has to be a horse.

Mystic's mum and constant companion for 13 years died just before Christmas and he wouldn't eat for a while and he is still sad and not himself. I said I knew just how he felt and I couldn't eat for a month. His owner, a psychologist, said that we are all mammals and all run on emotion. That made me feel much better and more normal somehow.

He said that Mystic is over the worst now and will be fine when he's worked his way through his grief.

Mystic and I have a lot in common. No wonder we developed a conversation along the reins so quickly.

We have walked a lot of miles in each other's shoes.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

My Alpaca Herd!!!

Ben, Megs and I went on a big adventure today. We went to see some alpacas which were for sale. It was only a 60 mile round trip but it was my longest solo drive by far and it also included some motorway which I had never dared to do in my old Series Three Land Rover before. Now I have discovered overdrive it cruises happily along at 55mph so I can more or less keep up with the traffic now.

We got very lost because, although I had never been there before, I have this thing where I think I know which direction to go in by instinct and I am almost always wrong!!! Even when I asked and someone told me to just keep turning right I had to fight with myself not to turn left at one point!!! I don't know why I do it - just don't like doing as I'm told, I suppose!!!!

The owners of the alpacas are moving to France so are selling their herd. They are lovely people and told me they could tell I would be a good home for them. They also thought I was about 40, which was very flattering!!!!

I have bought four alpacas from them. Two neutered males called Sam and Leo who are halter trained and can be taken for walks, a six month old female cria whose mum died two weeks ago, and her surrogate mum, a four year old pregnant female called Crystal, who is due to give birth in August.

The boys are just lovely - brown in colour and very bold and friendly with the most enormous eyes, even by alpaca standards - and all four love people and are very used to being handled. The girls are both light fawn in colour.

Their owner, after meeting me, agreed to my plan to try shearing them standing, as I do my sheep, to save tying their legs together and laying them out on the ground, which I wouldn't be comfortable with.

Rebecca also said that she trained the boys to lead by treating each step forward to begin with (clicker training minus the click!!), and said if I leave them there for another week she will train the girls as well. She is definitely a woman after my own heart - very animal welfare conscious but very determined and open minded with it. She isn't one to follow the crowd. I hope we will become good friends.

Megs and Ben were brilliant and I was very glad of their company. Meg has only just started travelling and she just chills out like Ben. Flora gets car sick so I feel mean taking her too far.

It has been a very happy, exciting and successful day. Planning for the arrival of the alapacas will make parting with the Aberdeen Angus cattle much easier.

A new dawn and a whole new enterprise, plus one step nearer to my people with animals centre.









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I am a clicker training addict and there is no cure - thank goodness!!!