Monday 28 April 2008

He has every right to be cocky...

It was the end of our hunting season today, and I got what I think is a lovely photo of Felix...

I was riding Charlie, who was lovely, but today was really Felix's day.

He has had an amazing season - he has been hunted by everyone from our very own Sarah Braithwaite to a 13 year old friend, and has taken out at least 6 different people, giving each of us a fantastic experience on the moor. He has opened the eyes of visitors from all over the country to what barefoot horses can actually achieve, and has been almost a perfect hunter...

He had his first day's hunting this season on August 4th 2007, and finished today, having hunted the last 9 months, and twice a week for the last month - the last 2 days were 6 hours and 5 hours, both fast, and neither atypical - he is one fit little horse, and finished both days as fresh as a daisy.
Today he was pointed out as being a horse that "floats over the ground", and our friend Richard, who was riding in the photo, says that Felix always knows exactly where his feet are - not bad when you think that neither of these people have any particular interest in barefoot horses :-)

Felix is undoubtedly a cocky little chap, but after all he has every reason to be... :-)

Sunday 27 April 2008

Fun in the sun

Con is much better, and was sound enough to be ridden out quietly today, so fingers crossed we got away with that one.

Felix, Charlie and Bailey were all hunting on Friday, our last day of the season, and it was a great day, with a field full of visitors - most of whom were intrigued by our lack of shoes :-) All our horses were on good form, and Felix in particular sparkled all day - he really hates it when the season is over, although the odd day XC usually cheers him up...

The weather this week has been much more Spring-like, and the warm weather has brought the grass on as well, so we are being far no feet have fallen off ;-) Ponies have all been doing lots of sunbathing and the unclipped ones are shedding fur like yetis...

Tuesday 22 April 2008

Wounded soldier :-(

Poor Conto...

He was out hunting with me on Monday and was a little star. We were out most of the day, and spent the first hour and a half catching up with the rest of the field in the mist and fog, but he was fabulous. He has certainly learnt the lesson that sometimes we need to keep on a narrow path - last time out he ignored me and fell into a bog up to his middle, but he has got the message now, and was definitely more mountain goat than show-jumping warmblood, which makes both of us much happier :-)

We were having a lovely day, and he was not putting a foot wrong, but then in the middle of it all, through no fault of his own, he was kicked by another horse (which of course had shoes on) and whacked him good and proper :-(

Poor Con was hopping, with blood pumping out of his leg in the middle of nowhere and miles from home - isn't it always the way... After some first aid, we limped home looking very sorry for ourselves. Andy took over once we got home, and fortunately, it turned out to look a lot worse than it really was; Con seems lots better today, although his leg still has a nasty bruise and cut, but he so doesn't deserve his bad luck...

Wacko Jacko....

Jack is a bit of a dark horse - not literally, as he is fleabitten grey, but he came to us with all sorts of labels and a reputation for being a bit unpredictable.

He has really been a bit of an angel since he arrived, and seems to have enjoyed broadening his horizons by going out and about on the moor and round the farm, and even hunting a couple of times.

Today was a typical day for him - he went out with Dexter, and we decided that we would take them down through our back fields, which are very steep, and test most horses' balance and confidence the first time they go down. Usually they are like Ghost and Bailey, and flatly refuse to go down the first time, napping and standing on their back legs, as its obviously impossible for anything except goats.

I rode Dex, and led him down the hill, as I had to get off for gates anyway, but Andy was on Jack, who carefully stomped right the way down, without putting a foot wrong. We made much fuss of both of them at the bottom :-)

The next test was some boggy ground, with 3 narrow gates and an awkward track to negotiate, but again both Dex and Jack were absolutely fine, and told us they were more than able to cope, can we crack on please?

On up the hill, through more boggy ground and thick fir trees..Jack was fine 'cos he was out in front, but Dex thought something might come out of the woods and grab him if he didn't stick close to Jack ;-)

Finally, up over the hill, round some fields and back through our neighbours farm. Andy's comment "Jack is practically a perfect horse. He is so willing and honest and his confidence is growing every day" :-) He went everywhere, on a loose rein and with his ears forward, not putting a foot wrong, no matter what the ground. Not bad for a horse who was supposed to be dangerous :-)

Dex was super cool, apart from wondering what was in the wood about to bite his ankles...but then Dex (as he keeps telling us) is an eventer, who has seen it all before, darling.... :-)

What good boys :-)

Saturday 19 April 2008


Following on from Dex's star performance on Thursday, there was another big day for us yesterday. Felix, Bailey and Charlie were all going hunting - nothing unusual there - but Felix was going as the mount of our ex master, whose own (shod) horse had been injured.

Although he is a star, and I knew he would behave well, I was still a bit nervous on the way to the meet...but then I switched on the radio, and the Beeb were playing "Barefootin'" on Radio 2 :-) I couldn't have asked for a better omen ;-)

There were lots of visitors at the meet, down from Cheshire, Ledbury, Newmarket - all over the place - and as usual there were lots of comments about the fact that our horses had no shoes on, and comments like "So, you just don't bother with shoes then?" Sometimes you just feel that there is not enough time to explain all about natural hoofcare, so on those occasions I just smile and say that the horses seem to cope really well without them.... :-)

The weather was pretty evil, with a biting east wind and horrible sleety showers, which Charlie hated, especially when it was in his face - well, who could blame him? I wasn't enjoying it either...We had a good day, overall, though, and most importantly, Felix and his new rider hit it off brilliantly. I'll hope to take some photos next time!

Thursday 17 April 2008

Dexter rides again ;-)

Dexter's owner came up to see him today, and we went for a ride round the farm...

He has been getting fitter, as we have been able to start canter work with him over the last few weeks, and our hills are sufficiently steep that even walk and trot are reasonably hard work :-)

Today was warm, and although he still has some winter coat he didn't even get hot...

...then as it was such a beautiful day, with perfect ground, and Dex was moving so fluently, they popped a couple of our jumps :-)

Dex was terrifically pleased with himself, and quite right too, since only a few months ago he was too lame to work.

We and his owners are delighted with his progress so far, but we know there is lots more work to do. Its a great start, though, and lovely to see him doing what he does best :-)

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Scores on the doors...

Our neighbours are doing some building work, which means that there are various exciting things on the lane at the moment - a digger, a dumper truck, several vans, a trailer or 2, some piles of sand and a big mound of scalpings. In addition of course to extra people milling about and whacking things with sledgehammers.

All this provides the horses here with excellent opportunities to demonstrate their impeccable manners, as they have to pass the building works to go out up the lane...(!)

Over the last few days I have been scoring them on their behaviour, and giving them extra points if there are extenuating circumstances:

Dexter: flawless manners, bombproof, 10 points; bonus points as he is a relatively new arrival (5 points) and goes past just as well on his own (5 points): Total: 20

Ghost: rushes slightly, and would think about spooking if something happened dramatically; nevertheless good to go past; 8 points. Deduct 3 penalty points as he is 24 and should know better. Total: 5 points

Charlie: holds it together, slightly worried, but goes. 8 points. Bonus 3 points as he is genuinely worried and trying hard. Total 11 points

Lucy: Perfect - brave and willing: 10 points; bonus as she is newly in work (5 points) and just as good on her own (5 points): Total 20

Jack: Bombproof about the building works, but can be reluctant to go past, especially if its nearly teatime and could be more fun to stay at home: 7 points. Bonus as he is green, but genuine: 5 points. Total 12

Felix: Confident and why should building work worry anyone? 10 points. No bonus as he is too cocky already :-)

Bill: Perfect gentleman. 10 points. Bonus as he has only been here just over a week (5 points) and is trying his heart out, whether on his own or in company: 5 points. Total: 20

Con: Bombproof, lovely manners: 10 points. Bonus because he is the most long-suffering of all the horses here! 5 points. Total 15

Bailey: Minx. Spooks and shies, whether alone or in company. Had to have one-to-one tuition on how to pass the digger...Did eventually stop being so melodramatic, so 3 points. Deductions as she has seen all the kit many times before: 3 points. However is in season, so no doubt Andy will say she should have a bonus 5 points for being able to even get up in the mornings...!

Saturday 12 April 2008

Charlie the superstar

Andy and Charlie went hunting yesterday, and got home some time after 6pm :-)

Both were looking as pleased as punch, and Andy said they had one of the best days ever - fast, fun, and Charlie was an absolute superstar.
What a good boy he is now that he has found his niche, and he has boundless confidence now and is convinced he knows everything about hunting (Charlie, not Andy...).

He is like a mountain goat across the moor, up and down the steepest terrain, and unlike Bailey he is never melodramatic (!)

There was a photographer from the Telegraph out as well, so look out for pictures of the pair of them on the front page ;-)

Saturday 5 April 2008


...has just started work, albeit only longreining along the road. She seems to have a lovely attitude to work, though, and I hope she will carry on being as keen to go out as she was the first time.

She is losing winter coat at a rate of knots, so I am hoping that the forecast hail doesn't actually materialise, as she is looking rather smart in the bits where she has summer coat, and I want to encourage it :-)

She won't be doing anything but walking for a good while yet, so we've plenty of time.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

Dexter and the air suspension :-)

What a lovely day today :-) First of all Dexter's owner came up to see him today, and we had a lovely hack out on him and Ghost. Actually Ghost was his normally (in company) slightly naughty self, but Dexter was great.

He has been doing quite a bit of roadwork over the last couple of weeks and so is more than capable of striding along on the lanes, but it was nice for his owner to feel for herself that he is improving, and feeling so happy in himself. It would have been nice if it had been a bit less foggy, and then we might even have been able to see where we were going...

We talked about Dex, and the fact that the only thing he is really lacking at the moment (and it will come with time and work) is really good shock absorption in the back of his foot. He is getting better every day, but he still has a realtively weak digital cushion, compared to a long-term barefoot horse.

This afternoon however a local journalist, who is interested in natural hoofcare and barefoot horses, came up to see us, and we took Charlie and Felix out for a stomp across the moor. She had not ridden barefoot horses on stony track before, and came up with the brilliant description that it was like having "air suspension" :-)

This perfectly fits - Charlie and Felix are hardworking barefoot horses who go over all terrain, and they have fantastic digital cushions, which provide them with perfect shock absorption (this is what Dex is still working on!), so riding them is like being in a pair of Nike Air trainers after wearing your Green Flash daps :-)