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Thursday, 29 April 2010

Animal update.

I have my first paid job with my animals on July 31st. I am being paid to take some tame animals to Linslade Canal Festival for the children (and adults!) to make a fuss of.

Along with two of the Alpacas (Sam and little Saphire), Teddy my tamest sheep, the Barnacle Geese, Felix the lamb (who thinks he is human anyway), I wanted a pair of Kune Kune weaners and a goat.

I found both at a smallholding a few miles away and the father and son there are in return buying my last tractor (not the Manitou, I hasten to add!!). They also wanted to buy my bull but I've already sold him to the man who gave me Felix the lamb.

The Kune Kunes are both female, adorable and no trouble at all! They have a big (for them) paddock and a huge brick built house which used to be a goose house, then a turkey house. Everybody loves them to bits, including me!

One of my two old goats has cancer and is not going to be around much longer so I needed to find another goat as a friend for the other old girl, plus a friend for Felix. I have bought a very young Toggenburg nanny goat with a two month old kid at foot. I put the nanny (Ruby) in with the two old goats during the day and her kid (Amber) in with Felix, then they go back togther at night. This is working really well and they are all getting on well together.

Photos!!!!! The two piglets are called Truffles (the darker coloured one) and Toffee.

Amber and Felix



The Fells babies enjoying the sun with their new mentor and guardian, Tom, 25yo and wise beyond his years!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Time to Slow Down and Take Stock.

I went into the local shop yesterday and asked the man who owns it and is a friend of mine if he was having a good day. He said that he was bored and fed up and he wished that David would come in and cheer him up. He said that no-one else does it quite so well.

I said that I missed him too and he seemed very surprised, which shows what a good job I do of staying cheerful and positive! He asked was it David's sense of humour I missed and I said that it was everything, fighting back the tears until I got home.

I text a friend and said that I'd give up everything I have and everything I've achieved if I could have David back. He said he knew I would but life can be s**t at times and we just have to make the best of it.

I have tried so hard to always be positive and keep myself 'up' that numbness was starting to become standard. I realised it's why I can't read or connect with my horses too much - anything that threatened to break through the emotional barriers I'd put up was to be avoided.

I'd got to the point where I was starting to have no idea how I actually felt about anything or what I really wanted anymore. As usual I had taken a good coping strategy and overdone it!!!!!

I've decided to slow down and make no more changes for at least the next couple of months. I'm very worried about the number of horses I now own because I am starting to love them all to bits again and I can't make all of them my 'forever horses'. It's too much work, expense and responsibility, plus not enough individual attention for them.

I have just started to ride Bella every day, do a little with Bertie every day, and to read the odd book again, which is very good and is making me feel more like myself again. I know that I need to find the ability to take pleasure from small things again, not just from the huge challenges I've taken on in the last year. I don't want to have to rely on adrenalin to keep me happy all the time.

My 'problem' is that I have a lot of energy, drive and enthusiasm and David did a good job of keeping me from getting too carried away. I have to learn to do that for myself now and I am learning slowly, with a lot of help and advice from my friends.

One friend who knows I am quite competitive suggested that I turn doing accounts and budgeting into a challenge and I know I can make that approach work.

I have always been basically a happy, positive and optimistic person and I know I can get back to sustaining that without the huge highs and lows I've been plagued with for the last year. I was beginning to find some inner calm again slowly anyway but I want to speed the process up now and learn to 'chill out' again.

Pleasure from small things and time to enjoy my horses, dogs and other animals again. A bit of 'stopping and staring' time, both with friends and on my own. I've avoided 'me' time like the plague but I'm doing OK and I am not going to keep on avoiding my own company any longer.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

The Really Big Adventure!!!

I have had a lovely and eventful weekend.

On Friday night I went to a pre-show dinner with the Fell Pony Society and met some kindred spirits - native pony enthusiasts and people determined to enjoy themselves and their ponies.

Today I went to watch the show for a while and was treated like a long lost friend. They had heard about my rescue Fells and gave me a present for taking them on - a £20 book about the breed. I was very touched. They also told me that Bertie had been a well thought of stallion and thought it was sad that he has been gelded.

Talking to so many friends, old and new, over the weekend has clarified my plans for a really BIG adventure, and I already have people keen to get involved. We have 2 years to organise it.

I have finally worked out why I am so determined to do something for the greater good with the farm and with all my assets here. I have this huge feeling of not having earned the right to inherit this place. David's parents sank all their money from a lifetime of hard work into buying it along with David, and he dreamed of selling up and retiring in 2012, and enjoying some peace and leisure. None of them was really happy here whereas I am really happy here - I was for the last ten years when we had the farm to ourselves and I am again now. It doesn't seem fair.

A good friend of mine has been telling me for some time that he thinks I feel I have to prove myself and he's right. I have to earn the right to be as lucky as I am with my friends and my lovely animals. I have felt that need for most of the last year. Now I have a real plan and I believe it's do-able and it would be the adventure of a lifetime for me!!!!

The friend I took with me to the dinner last night has a dream of long-standing. She wants to ride from Lands End to John O'Groats with one of each of our native breeds of horse and pony - 18 horses in all.

That seemed a bit too ambitious even for me so I thought about cutting it down to the rare breed horses and ponies. When I got home last night I looked on the Rare Breeds Survival Trust website and couldn't quite believe my eyes - nearly all our native breeds are on the rare breeds list! I thought that was quite shocking.

The list is as follows:

Critical (in greatest danger of extinction) - Cleveland Bay, Eriskay and Suffolk.

Endangered - Dales, Exmoor and Hackney (horses and ponies).

Vulnerable - Clydesdale, Dartmoor and Welsh Section A.

At Risk - Fell, Highland and Shire.

So now the plan is, in the Spring of 2012, to set off from Lands End and do the off road route to John O'Groats (1300 miles) with at least one horse or pony from each category and encouraging others to join in for local legs of the journey but have at least one from each category for the whole journey.

It will take about 3 months at a slow, sustainable speed and I don't suppose any one person or horse will do the whole journey but I see it as a sort of Olympic Flag event, just before the actual Olympics, to carry the native pony flag across the entire country and draw attention to the wealth of heritage, talent, courage, economy, hardiness and potential that the horse owning public is often overlooking.

One of the riders I was talking too at the show today comes from the racing industry and has a four star event horse of her own, and she said what a scandal it is that these breeds are rare. She pointed to three ponies tied to the side of a lorry, side by side, dozing happily in the sun and said who could want for more - placid, easy to look after, cheap to keep, sound, hardy and adaptable, and love being around people. The perfect family pony in every way. To know one is to love them and yet they are rare breeds and getting more rare on the whole.

A friend of mine's other half went up to one of these ponies, a complete stranger, having never been near a horse until he started coming here, and gave it's bum a big hug. The pony loved it.

Another friend organises cycle rides from Lands End to John O'Groats so he will be a huge help in organising it although he is cycling across America in 2012 himself, East to West coasts.

Our ride will primarily be in aid of a cancer charity, because I would have none of these ponies and opportunities if it wasn't for David, and because I believe that people should come first, and to raise the profile of our wonderful, kind, intellegent, generous, people loving native breeds.

I intend that Bertie and at least one of his sons will be a big part of it, and, of course, Bella will be in charge, as always!!!!

I also intend to have Bella and Bertie doing liberty displays in public before then, and I need to aquire a small horsebox before then too and become expert at driving it.

Two years to plan, train the horse and enthuse all the support and publicity that we are going to need!!

It's big and ambitous - just the sort of challenge I thrive on!!!!!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Bertie's Blog.

I've begun a new blog for Bertie.

It was confirmed today that the Fells do have strangles but I refuse to be downhearted or despondent. So far only Bertie has been really ill and he's well on the mend now, and only my own horses have caught it at all. I can only hope that continues to be the case.

With earthquakes and wars and people dying an outbreak of strangles is not the end of the world and I can't change anything now. It just has to be lived through as best we can.

Since he's been ill Bertie has developed an air of melancholy about him - "Nobody loves me, everything goes wrong and I'm so sad!!!" - or so his eyes tell me.

Today I began a little clicker training with him and within a few minutes s I saw the switch flick in his head. His brain went into deep thought mode as he tried to work out what I was asking and found that he could with ease.

My faith in clicker training, which I had questioned the necessity for as I have questioned everything I used to believe in, has been restored. Real, solid, strong communication between us has been established and our journey together has begun.

My dream is to get Bella and Bertie to be friends and to do liberty displays with the pair of them - a Dales and a Fell - to raise the profile and popularity of these two delightful, wonderful, intelligent, versatile native breeds that should never have become rare breeds.

Bella is very dominant with other horses and Bertie is terrified of her, and of all other horses, so it's a big dream but I like to dream big and I love a real challenge!!!!

Bertie's blog. The training of a six year old, unbroken Fell Pony who was a feisty working stallion until last June when he was gelded after being nearly killed by another stallion, and who has had his whole world ripped apart ever since.

I am more excited about starting this blog, and to trying to win the heart and mind of this new and very attractive character, than I have been about anything for a very long while. Please do join us for the ride:

Tuesday, 13 April 2010


A man came to see Pascoe, my bull, today with a view to buying him but he ended up giving me a week old lamb and a bag of milk powder and I still have the bull as well!!!! The lamb's mum had no milk and the man didn't have time to feed him often enough so he was looking for a mug to take over and he found one!!!!

Felix is a Dorper Sheep - a Persian cross Poll Dorset. They are a wooless breed so they don't need shearing and are supposed to be very hardy and easy to keep. Felix is already very feisty and very noisy, and very, very cute!!! He will need feeding at least 4 times a day for the next few weeks.

I have got very worried and anxious about acquiring all the other animals I have collected since David died but Felix is entirely within my comfort zone. Rearing lambs is something I have spent countless hours doing and I know all the associated problems and risks. That's not to say that I haven't lost the odd lamb in the past but I am confident of my abilities to look after him at least as well as anyone else could and much more competently than most people could.

For once I feel confident to cope all by myself. I think Felix is just what I need at the moment.

Here he is a few minutes after arrival:

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Volunteer Workforce.

My friends and I have been doing loads of work around the farm. One of them is a very keen gardener and she has taken charge of the greenhouses and vegetable garden, to great effect. She has cleaned and is repairing the big greenhouse and she is laying a path to the smaller greenhouse.

I also have two volunteers here from an Internet scheme called HelpX, where people stay and work in return for board and lodging. One of them has been here for 3 weeks now and he is just brilliant. He had never done any fencing before but has erected a curved post and rail fence by himself, and hung four new gates so far. He is from Romania.

My second helper arrived yesterday and has already poo picked 2 paddocks and begun to creosote the new fence. He is from Seattle in the USA.

One of my farmer friends is overseeing the proceedings and is a constant source of support, advice, technical and practical help. He is also fencing the school.

I had a kitchen full to busting with people and laughter today. The contrast to this time last year, when the farm was still in chaos and I spent most of my time alone, is unbelievably massive.

I am so grateful to everyone for their hard work and their companionship. I don't even want to think about what sort of state I'd be in without all my fantastic friends.

I was talking to my new helper tonight about a brush with death he had just a short while ago. He needed major abdominal surgery for a torsion and very nearly died. He said he was so frightened he couldn't stop crying all through the experience.

It made me realise just how brave David was. He only ever worried about how other people were coping and feeling, and how awful it was for the nurses when he was bed bound for the last week and needed total care for every bodily function.

I have done nothing in his memory yet, mainly because I have avoided really thinking about him as much as possible until recently. I don't know what I'm going to do yet but it will need to be really special.

Here are Bertie and the boys looking much better.

Monday, 5 April 2010

A Sustainable Future.

First the best news - Bertie is much, much better. His temperature is back to normal and he looks much brighter and happier. He even thought that he wasn't going to be caught tonight and trotted off around the field, which was great to see if slightly trying as I was going out and running late as usual!!!!

Kate has shaken off her high temperature and just has a slight cough at the moment, and so far the others all seem fine so I am hoping for the best now.

I was rushing to go out tonight as I was going to a Goat Society meeting. The talk was on Permaculture and I have come away feeling inspired and at peace with myself for the first time in ages.

I chatted to the person giving the talk afterwards and it turned out that I have met her mother as she breeds Dales Ponies and hers are closely related to Bella and Jack.
Her daughter is a lovely girl and gave me loads to think about. I think she may have just given me the sense of direction I've been searching for.

Permaculture brings together all the diverse threads I've been playing with and musing over. It's all about sustainable living, working with nature in an easy, harmonious way, making the most of what you have and being true to yourself and your ideals.

It's all about positive thinking and positive energy, creativity, and about community and giving back, to other people and to the earth.

Friends have told me that I have been spreading myself too thin and I should concentrate on one thing at a time. I can't do that. I've spent my whole working life obsessed with horses and all things equine and there are SO many other things that I want to learn about and to do. That's what permaculture is all about.

It seems to me that it all fits in perfectly with clicker training, positive thinking and using all of your assets and talents to the full. The ethos is also all about taking your time and assessing your priorities and needs. This strangles outbreak is forcing me to do that which can only be good. I have been rushing around like a headless chicken trying to live life to the full when I don't even know what I want from life anymore.

I have never been able to do anything just for the sake of it. For me there has always had to be a purpose and a reason. All my former dreams seem meaningless since David died and I haven't found any new, lasting dreams to dream yet, but I think that permaculture will be at the heart of them.

Saturday, 3 April 2010


Things are not too good here at the moment. The 6yo Fell Pony, Bertie, is very ill with a temperature of 105. I phoned the yard that they came from fearing the worst and it's Strangles. One of the babies has already had a mild dose and Kate, my 6 yo coloured mare has a temp of 104 as well.

I have been really stupid. I should have made some attempt to isolate them, knowing they came from a high risk of infections yard but instead I did what I always do - just over-rode my cautious istincts and hoped for the best.

All my liveries but one have been wonderful about it, even though they were looking forward to planning shows, hacking out, etc. and are now in isolation for months. The person who let rip at me only said what I was telling myself - that I have messed up big time.

Strangles is not usually as bad as it sounds but it is a notifiable disease, very infectious and can take a long time to get free from. In all the years I've worked with horses I've never been in an infected yard before.

The yard where they came from must be in an awful state. They have 60 horses and were going to have a sale in May. Hay is running out everywhere now and they must be panicking even more than I am. Right on the edge of London they will be paying a fortune for it, if they can get any at all.

I'm having to tell all my neighbours and there is a chance I may have infected the Riding for the Disabled's horses too.

This is going to be another big test of my strength of character but I am far from alone. I've had phone calls, text messages and visitors all evening, just when I was starting to feel totally useless, lonely and isolated.

I told myself earlier that I'm not fit to run a yard on my own and I should sell up and disappear but the truth is I don't run it on my own. All the people here help me every step of the way. I just need to trust my own judgement more and not over ride every negative thought because some of them are just good sense. Life is not a fairy tale and everything is not always happy ever after.

I'm very worried about Bella and Jack as they haven't mixed much with other horses until recently but they are very fit and well. I'm also very worried about 2 very old mares here but they too are in very good health at the moment.

I'm also very frightened for Bertie. He looks so ill but I have had horses with temps of 106 recover quickly and completely so hopefully he will too. He is a tough native pony and he's survived a lot of trauma and distress already in his life. He can beat this too.

We are going to do it together.


About Me

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