Then last Monday a friend of mine phoned. He does pest control and had been called out to pick up and dispose of 5 feral kittens who's mum had just been run over. They were only 3 weeks old and none of the rescue centres would take them so the people who's muck heap they were living on didn't know what else to do with them. My friend said he must be going soft in his old age as he didn't really want to do the deed and wondered if I knew anyone who'd have them!
I've been very lucky as they were already very fit and healthy apart from having conjunctivitis which quickly responded to antibiotic eye ointment which I had in stock, and they were just getting past the 'needing to be toileted' stage, which wasn't so much fun! They were also just starting to walk (they now run and climb as well!) I've been bottle feeding them every 4 hours but they've just started eating a reasonable amount of solid food so today I cut down to every 5 hours. Mike really wanted to help but he's very allergic to cats so couldn't much.
They are very, very cute and incredibly friendly. They purr like mad when picked up and are all over visitors like a rash! We've already found homes for all of them at weaning. I'd have kept them all otherwise but our 2 old cats might not have been very amused and the dogs would have hassled them so they'll be better off in good pet homes.
On the horsey front I've been thinking a lot about what I'm trying to achieve with Bella. I'm not really interested in competing at lower level dressage - I've done a lot of that in the past and really enjoyed it but I'd like to move onwards and upwards in my latter years! What I'd really love is to train Bella (and myself) to do all the advanced movements (piaffe, passage, tempi changes, etc.) and take her out and show what a lil' ol' Dales Pony can do! I wouldn't expect to do any good in competition but if Bella and I could just be there with the big boys, doing a passable job, that would be my dream come true!!
It's a big ask and a long term one, I know, but Bella is now fully mature and has never had a moment's lameness in her life. She's keen and eager to learn, very balanced and supple with an superb, elevated, cadenced trot and all the lateral work in place in hand and will turn herself inside out if necessary, thanks to clicker training, so why not?
Having had a lesson with a well respected classical instructor last year which was less than successful (she didn't approve of CT at all and Bella had just about lost the will to live, let alone work, by the end of the lesson) I'd rather find my own way there with her, using CT and keeping her enthusiasm and good will. I know her so well that I know how much to ask and when to press on or back off and its a fact that I'd never even have realized a fraction of her potential if it wasn't for clicker training. If I can't keep it fun for her then I don't want to do it so I'd rather learn the skills required and work away on our own together, for now at least.
For that reason I've just signed up for Marijke de Jong's Straightness Training Home Study Course. My plan is to work through it using Merlin as a blank canvas for the introductory work and at the same time try to advance Bella towards piaffe and passage which I think she's more than ready for, in hand anyway! I'm very excited about this course and I think working through it using CT will be the icing on the cake!
This is a link to the free stuff on the website: http://academicartofriding.com/free-online-course/
Now all I have to do is find the time between mucking out and kitten feeds!!!!!!!!!