Thursday, 27 December 2007

Happy Christmas all!

...even if I am a couple of days late in posting :-)

We had a lovely few days, with Christmas Day itself very quiet, but hunting on Christmas Eve (Charlie and Bailey, who were both superb) and on Boxing Day (just me and Felix, as Andy was off visiting his mother).

I was especially proud of Charlie, who was at his biggest ever meet with lots of people, traffic, and excitement. He was 100% settled at the meet, and seemed to really enjoy himself, and then we were out almost all day, getting home about 4pm, after going up hill and down dale, as always, and home in time for a huge tea for the horses :-) He is turning into such a fun hunter - sure-footed, confident and with a surprisingly good turn of speed; he will be a quick horse certainly next season, when he is stronger and even fitter.

Felix and I had a short day on Boxing Day, as low cloud and poor visibility cut short the day, but he had a few good blasts, which he needed, and we will be out again on Tuesday, so he does not feel too hard done by. I am not sure he approves of me hunting Charlie as well (!).

Finally a quick update on the others: Jack is still doing well, but has had a quiet week, along with Monsoon and Lucy, and has just done some nice work on long reins. Conto and Ghost have worked lightly- I was going to hunt Conto today but decided that the week has been busy enough, so he will go out next week. All in all a lovely week, and I hope all of you had a lovely break as well!

Anyway, happy Christmas and happy New Year to everyone, and there will be more soon...

Saturday, 22 December 2007

Time is flying!

Can't believe its the 22nd December already...

We have had proper winter here for the last 10 days, but today its suddenly got milder and cloudier - a shame, but the ground is thawed, which is no bad thing really, and makes riding out more pleasant.

I have had a UKNHCP farrier with me for the last couple of days, and had an interesting time looking at and trimming hooves, obsessing about diet, and talking about balancing feet - always fascinating to a hoof anorak ;-)

Jack Frost got his first trim here, and was a star, and he has also continued to work very nicely over the last few days, so I hope we will make even more progress with him over Christmas.

The other horses were also all trimmed, and work-wise have been ticking over, although the hard frosts of the last few days have limited the exercise for all of them. Thank goodness for the tracks, which have allowed them to move around as much as possible on good surfaces.

Monsoon and Lucy are the only ones not in work at the moment, as both of them are still recuperating (in Lucy's case from the original tendon injury she came with, and in Monsoon's case from a knock she acquired a couple of weeks ago). Both have improving feet, so keep your fingers crossed for them!


Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Jack Frost more ways than one :-) Its been freezing here for the last 10 days - literally - but beautiful, almost perfect winter weather, as long as you have a dozen layers on.

None of us are complaining, because the sun is shining and although its windy and cold, its fantastic to have dry weather (!)

Our own personal Jack Frost is also doing well. We have mixed his work between leading him out from another horse and long-reining on his own, and thats been working well for the last couple of weeks.

He had learnt an effective evasion in his previous home, which was to turn his shoulder into whichever side he was led from, and then simply trot off to wherever he wanted to be (usually back in the barn with the other horses). He didn't object to being caught again, so presumably it was just his way of saying he would rather be doing something else.

Using the long-reins means he can't just whip round, and it is also a good way to build his confidence and get him working through from behind.

We are doing everything very gradually, as he is very green for his age, but he is being a very good boy, and apart from his original trotting off, has excellent manners :-)

Foot-wise, he is rock-crunchingly sound, and trots happily over our flinty yard and tracks, but has an evident twist to his right front. I am hoping Mary Bromiley will be able to help us work with this in January, but for now its not a problem for him.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Western Morning News article!

We were thrilled that Susannah Commings and the Western Morning News wanted to run an article about barefoot and navicualar horses, and it came out last Friday with a lovely photo of Ghostie jumping at Pontispool to illustrate it :-)

If you are in Devon, Cornwall or Somerset, its page 2 of the West Country Horses section. For those of you elsewhere, here is the link to the article on their website:


Thursday, 13 December 2007

Crisp, clear, sunny - unbeatable!

The forecasters were spot on - as from Monday morning the weather has turned completely, and we have been sitting under some fantastic high pressure, with cloudless blue skies, crisp frosty morning and, thank goodness, everything has had the chance to dry out :-)

All the animals are much happier, and the horses have resumed mooching about up and down the tracks rather than being glued to the barn, and are loving the chance to sunbath both on the tracks and in the fields.

Jack Frost and Lucy are now intergrated in with all the other horses, and seem to have settled in well. Lucy won't do any work for a few months, but Jack has been led out several times now on exercise and has also started doing some work in-hand.

He seems to lack confidence on his own, but is a very quick learner, and as he is settling in is calming down rapidly.

Charlie and Felix have been superstars, both going hunting and having a ball, and Charlie was an especially good boy to rise above Bailey's bad behaviour, who was a complete minx on Wednesday and wanted to tank everywhere instead of being a well-behaved nanny...Bless her...At least she feels better...(!)

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Bored of this weather now...

...and we have 2 more days of it, according to the BBC forecast :-( The horses seem much more resigned, but are still very reluctant to venture out of the barn.

I got Conto and Jack Frost out yesteday, and they were both very well behaved, and Charlie did some work in the school, but I gave Felix a day off hoping to get out hunting this morning.

As it turned out, there was driving rain, a howling gale and thick mist (what else is new!), so I didn't venture up to the top of the hill, where the meet was, as I assumed that they didn't get out. I am not sure what I will do with them today, as there are severe weather warnings out for the rest of the day, and I am running out of waterproofs!

Ghost and Felix will definitely be OK to go out, but I will probably not take the chance with the newbies or youngsters, as it wouldn't be terribly fair on them.

Here, anyway, is a picture of Jack Frost, and I will post a photo of Lucy shortly - both are definitely on the wild and wolly side at the moment :-)

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Storm force....

Well the wind here is howling, the trees are swaying, the stormwater is flowing at flood levels, and its been like this for nearly a week...!

The horses are in the barn - they have free access to the tracks and for the last 3 days have refused to set foot outside the barn - despite the fact that they all have thick, waterproof rugs on. Even the dogs have spent the minimum time outside (Rufus' total - 5 mins in 24 hrs) and everyone is agreed that the only thing to do is batten down the hatches...

As if there wasn't enough going on, we have 2 new horses who arrived in the midst of the worst weather on Sunday night. They have been very brave and very good, and have behaved impeccably since then, despite the dark and rain...

The two orphans of the storm are Lucy ( a 15.3 TB ex-flat-racer) and Frosty (aka Jack Frost), a 16.1 fluffball who used to live in Yorkshire :-) They are pretty amazed by the weather, but are well rugged up and are very happy with unlimited organic haylage rations, a lovely sheltered yard, and each others' company.

More on these charming new additions once the weather eases!


Saturday, 1 December 2007


I haven't had a chance to update the blog for a few days because we have just had a 2 day clinic which Mary Bromiley very kindly agreed to do for UKNHCP.

We had the first day at Mary's centre, and the second day here, and we spent a mind-blowing couple of days trying to soak up a tiny proportion of Mary's vast knowledge, and wishing our brains were bigger...

Too much to even think about posting for now, but more soon!

Monday, 26 November 2007

How Charlie learns

I was hacking out on Charlie today, and he was absolutely great - confident, steady, forward-going - its now just over a year since Charlie arrived, and it struck me how far he has come.

When he arrived, he was so spooky that his former owner was concerned about him bolting out of our yard, and he had a reputation for freaking out when he encountered new things. He had been sat on, but couldn't hack out and couldn't school, because he had become so frightened of their arena that he panicked whenever they took him in.

It was very clear that if you pushed him beyond his comfort zone he would lose it, panic and stop being able to learn.

We were happy to take him back to basics, and do everything slowly, but the interesting thing about him is that provided you give him time and build his confidence then he actually learns in huge leaps.

I had expected we would have to do everything with him in tiny increments - for instance, I thought it would take several stages before he was happy to be compete or work in a new environment, and that we would have to build up very gradually. In fact, it was over 6 months before we even tried to load him, and when we did he loaded and travelled brilliantly; just the second time we took him out, he came out of the trailer very confidently, giving us a very clear feeling that he knew what he was doing. As proof of the pudding, he not only coped with the travelling but was also happy going into an indoor school for the first time and doing a dressage test in a brand new outdoor school, very similar to the one that had worried him at his first owners.

[As an aside, you always knew when he had lost confidence, because he flat out refused to move, and if you tried to force him he would explode(!). We learnt to listen to him the hard way...!]

It was the same with hunting and hacking him out on his own - once his confidence is established, he seems to be able to generalise very easily and actually is an incredibly fast learner. All credit to our chiropractor, who sent him to us, and said she had a feeling he would be a star ;-)

Friday, 23 November 2007

Good feet, great owners!

Saw a fabulous horse yesterday...His owner had emailed me a few months ago wondering if a crumbly footed warmblood could go without shoes. We talked about diet and she did a great job revising his feed and setting him up for having his shoes off.

So 6 weeks ago his shoes came off, and thanks to his owner's preparation he was happy on grass straight away and on roads within a few days. Since then his owner has ridden him every day, always within his comfort zone and on surfaces he was happy with.

When I saw him yesterday you would have sworn he had switched feet with a different horse...Although he still has weak digital cushions he has superb hoof wall, great frogs and lovely concavity. There is no trace of the weak hoof wall, flare and white line infection he had a few weeks ago. He is fantastic :-) and so is his owner :-) I will try and post pics shortly!

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

Much better!

Phew, my hopes that our run of bad luck is over, at least for now, seem to be realised.

I took Charlie hunting - first time on his own - yesterday. We cheated, as we did have an escort (our kind hunt secretary!) who hacked to the meet with us, but he did not have any of our other horses to nanny him.

Luckily for me, he was awesomely sure-footed slipping and slithering down some horrible little paths for the first half an hour or so, and was unfazed despite my saddle at one point slipping down towards his neck (!).

What Charlie hadn't realised, however, was that sometimes when one is out hunting one gallops - very fast, with several other horses, and (yesterday anyway!) on home ground... :-) he thought this was marvellous and for the first time ever got slightly strong, but his manners overall were impeccable, so I am not holding it against him! We will see how he goes over the next few times, and we can easily change tack (literally and metaphorically!) if need be.

Today was a lovely day - I was trimming horses in south Devon and had booked in to go and see a new horse whose owner was concerned about him. I was only scheduled to go and have a chat to her, but turned up to find a very handsome grey cob, with terribly high heel, long toes and a horrible, wasted digital cushion and frog...

His owner said that she had found his stride shortening over the past few months and he had started tripping and being very reluctant to go forward, culminating in him going lame. I don't normally agree to take shoes off horses then and there, but today was an exception as the horse was clearly unhappy and was only going to get worse if he was left.

I trimmed him, and we spent (as usual!) a long time talking about his diet, exercise routine and management, and then came the moment of truth when I asked his owner to take him out and walk and trot him on the road.

Both his owner and I had the feeling that he was much happier out of his shoes, and it appeared we had got the right impression as he immediately moved off better and actually trotted up level on tarmac. He and his owner have a lot of work to do to build his hooves and especially his digital cushion back up to full health, but he is already (literally!) on the road to rock-crunching hooves.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

Waiting for the next thing to happen...!

After a really trouble-free few weeks, the last few days have been a bit more problematic...!

It turned out that Andy has cracked a rib, and so has been struggling all week with riding, but by the end of the week he was a lot better. So on Friday, after a day of trimming other people's horses, I spent the evening getting ours ready for the opening meet on Saturday...

All seemed to be going fine, and we decided to take Felix and Bailey as the opening meet isn't really the place for green horses. Saturday morning came, and Conto was the first casualty, as he had a slightly puffy hock...Its not really bothering him but he has obviously either knocked it or got kicked by one of the others, so that is him off games for a few days...

We then got the meet and it looked as if it was going to be a beautiful day in amazing countryside...and it was, until first I made an operator error and got myself and Felix in between a bog and some low trees, which resulted in me being swept off and landing in the bog myself (!).

It was mucky and embarrassing, but the day got worse when Bailey and Andy came a cropper on a very steep narrow path and she slipped down and thoroughly cut herself, from quarters to fetlock and everything in between. Shehad to be stitched up, and was very good, as was our vet, but all in all not a terribly enjpyable couple of days...

Added to the fact that the weather has now definitely changed for the wetter, and waterproofs are go... :-( Roll on next week, and lets hope for an improvement(!)

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Everyone on their best behaviour...

I had a bit of time yesterday afternoon to practice loading the Conto and Monsoon, neither of whom had gone in the trailer since they arrived here in May and August respectively.

Both were a bit sticky to load in their old yards, but they are so chilled out now that I was hoping for the best, especially since I wanted to take Conto out to a meet again on Wednesday to give him another quiet hour or so hunting as his second day out.

Both of them were angelic, walking straight in with no fuss or bother, on their own, and I was really pleased with them both.

Proof of the pudding today, when I took Conto over to a local meet - he walked straight in, travelled like a perfect gentleman, unboxed nicely at the meet and off we went. He behaved impeccably, even letting me jump off to do a couple of awkward gates and standing nicely to let me get back on. What a darling!

We had a couple of nice little canters and kept out of everyone's way, then came home on the buckle...Lovely. If he keeps this up the next few times I will be VERY happy!

Monday, 12 November 2007

Fun in the sun...

The weather down here at the moment is glorious - for me its more than worthwhile having a wet summer if we get an autumn like this as a pay-back!

The news over the weekend was that Conto had his first day out hunting, and was a very good boy, although his eyes were out on stalks - a party as good as this was not something he had previously encountered!

I took Felix out this morning, and we had a happy few hours out - it always feels really naughty sneaking out on a Monday morning to go hunting, but since I work on Sundays its not as bad as it sounds ;-)

Wednesday, 7 November 2007


Today was a first for me...Monsoon has been in work for a few weeks now, and is proving to be a real lady - brave on her own, fun but calm in company and bomb-proof in traffic.

I've ridden her out a fair bit, but today Andy and I took her and Charlie out for a mini-blast, on a route where we have the opportunity for several canters on wide open fields with perfect going :-)

I have ridden thoroughbreds before, and their length of stride and relaxed way of galoping is always lovely, but this morning was different...

We set off very quietly, just trotting round the margin of the field, and then Andy and Charlie tipped into canter...well so did Monsoon, as you would expect, and she was just bubbling along in the quietest possible canter, barely ticking over...but then I looked across at Charlie - to find he was stretching out and cantering with a focussed look on his face - not flat-out, but definitely putting some effort in. I suddenly realised that I was on a different sort of thoroughbred - the sort that has actually won :-) I'd not had that feeling before, and boy, is it good!


Saturday, 3 November 2007

Back from the US, and great to be home:-)

We had a fantastic time in the US - it was a privilege, as always, to be able to spend time with Charles Hall, farrier extraordinaire from Tennessee (he, Sarah and I had not met up for a couple of years so had loads to catch up on!). Paige was the perfect host, combining amazing hospitality with almost continuous hoof-stuff, including dissections, trimming, riding (yay!) and some fascinating time with Dr Ray Goer who is carrying out research into laminitis and insulin resistance at Virginia Tech.

It was brilliant to get home, however, and find that Andy had decided to extend and improve our track system yet again (!) and to effectively double the size of the gravel yard...he demolished a horrible Leylandii hedge in the process (with the help admittedly of a JCB) and it looks great (if you are a hoof anorak with a passion for pea gravel and shillet!).

The horses were all on fine form, and Felix was super-keen to get out hunting this morning, with Andy and Bailey, for the first time in a couple of weeks...

I gave in and clipped Conto and Monsoon, the only 2 horses to escape the clippers so far (!) and "unzipped" them, as they are both boiling in this glorious unseasonal sunshine...It can roll on, as far as I am concerned - we are owed it after this summer :-)


Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Up, up and away...

Conto is absolutely fine after his jumping, and we are both raring to do more, but we are going to have to wait for a while, as I am away for the next week. I am off to the US tomorrow, in the company of 3 other UKNHCP bods, to talk hooves and more at the invitation of Paige Poss, who I have talked to by email on many occasions but never met.

It will be an exciting "busman's holiday", as Paige has lined up some fabulous people for us to meet, and it will also be a great chance to catch up with old friends Stateside, including some of our field instructors. I am preparing to be well and truly "hooved out" :-)

More on the trip once I get back!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

The rehabilitation of Conto...

After our inaugural trot-and-pop yesterday, Conto showed absolutely no ill effects, so today I took him round our XC jumps. Actually we only tried a couple, as most are about 2ft 9 which was a bit too much of an increase on 18 inches, I felt :-)

He was a sweetheart, and seemed to be very pleased with himself as he popped our baby hogsback...I think the thought it was too small though...He went on to fly our tyre jump, but Andy was too far away to get a shot!
If all is well with him tomorrow (he was happy as larry when I turned him out tonight) then we will start to do a little more over the next few days...!

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Charlie and Conto!

Two bits of wonderful news today...

Charlie got back today from his 3rd - yes 3rd!! - day out hunting with the Exmoor Foxhounds and on every occasion he has been an absolute pro...So I now feel reasonably confident in saying that Charlie has found at least one vocation :-)

I don't have any photos of him in action yet, but bless him, he is loading as if he has done it all his life, watching hounds all the time, and being terribly grown-up about all the random horses zipping about in front and behind. Today he fell in love with a fabulous black cob mare called Ellie - turns out she is part Welsh so perhaps she reminds him of some of his relations...Anyway, couldn't be more pleased with him...he seems to love having a proper job, not least because of the enormous breakfasts and teas he gets as a proper working pony :-)

Here he is, for those who don't know him...

Conto has been wonderful today too - after being up since 5am to go hunting I hadn't got the energy to do much with him, but decided today would be the day I found out what he felt about jumping...Bear in mind this is the horse who came here lame all round after being evented hard and probably over-jumped in his early days, so I was ready for tantrums, refusals or mad rushing (!). Put up a teeny tiny cross pole and trotted up to it - plopped over as nicely as you like...came round again and he was focussing on it this time, jumped it properly, very mannerly, enjoying himself and as nice as you please.

OK, it was only about 18 inches, but its the principle that matters, and all seems very well so far...! Will do a bit more tomorrow :-)


Sunday, 14 October 2007

Up to 3ft 6...gulp!

Felix and I went off to Southcott XC today, which is a course near us that runs both BE and unaffiliated events, and is a lovely course.

I planned to enter the 3 ft 3 Open, as he pinged the Treborough course at that height last week...Hadn't walked the course though, so it came as a bit of a shock to find that it was "approximately" 3ft 3 and lots of the jumps were actually 3ft 6 - doesn't sound much of a difference butI have a bit of a failure of nerve at that height!

Luckily for me a friend was there whose daughter was doing the same class on another pocket rocket - this one a 14.2 pony, so I decided I had no excuses and Felix knew best...Just as well really as he gallopped and pinged as if the course was 2ft 6...Put me well and truly in my place :-)

I'm attaching a pic with apologies for the quality but I didn't have an electronic version!

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Magic wins AGAIN!!! And Ghost is Peter Pan...!

Awesome awesome news from Jane Tweedie today, that she and Magic have won their British Eventing Intro class at Broadway...After winning at Moreton Morrell last time out - YIPPEE for the barefoot eventers!

Even more fun - last time the ground was hard and dry, this time it was wet and slippery...Did it bother Magic? NO - won his dressage and beat all the horses with studs in :-) All the gory details will be on Jane's own blog - congratulations both of you!

And Ghost - well I took him and Felix to be demo horses at a talk Mary Bromiley gave last night. Both boys were very well behaved and Ghost particularly was on his best crowd-pleasing behaviour...Mary's insights and understanding of horse conformation, anatomy and movement were breathtaking - I had not seen her before, and was bowled over - if you evern get the chance to see her work on horses, JUMP at it.

The comment I will treasure though was when she was looking at Ghost, who (to be fair, even to my biased eyes) looks very well for his age, and she asked "How old is he, 12?". In fact he is nearly double that, so it was a big compliment to him and to Anita, as well of course as giving all credit to the god of barefoot (since Ghost was lame as a dog and underweight 5 years ago) ;-)

And as if things couldn't get any better...even more good news this evening - FMD restrictions are being lifted on Wednesday, so we can start hunting again :-) Look out world, 'cos Charlie is coming...

Summer's day...

Back in August, our friends Anita and Yorkie got married, and Ghost was guest of honour, as he is in some ways as much her horse as he is ours :-)

The wedding photos finally arrived, so for posterity here are all of us looking frightfully smart...of course Ghost had a special dispensation to walk all over Lee Bay Hotel's beautiful lawn as he has no shoes on ;-)

Monday, 8 October 2007

Flying barefoot...

Sorry about the quality of the photos, but this is what flying without shoes looks like :-)

This was a hunter trial on Exmoor last weekend, and I was so impressed with my pony...can you tell?! There are some great foot shots, but I need a way of uploading better quality shots before I post those...

For the record the pony is 15.1 and the jump is about 3ft 3 -3ft 6!

Sunday, 7 October 2007


I can't quite believe it but have managed to start the blog and also to upload it on our website...Remarkable given my usual technical inadequacy... ;-)

We have had some great photos through in the post (fortunately arrived before the postal strike...) of the hunter trial we were at last weekend, and I will try and upload one or two later on. It was a great day for me, as it was the first time I have taken Felix (the 15.1hh pocket rocket) in an open class, and the jumps (xc, 3ft3-3ft6) seemed huge to me...Luckily not to him, and he was flying!

There is also a lovely shot which the photographer took with us going away from him, so you can see these bare hooves flying over the jumps :-)

Anyway, more of that later, and for now off to make the most of our fabulous weather - sunny and as warm as summer today...

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Rockley Farm - Barefoot horses

5th October

Felix and I had a blast over the moor with some friends, and we both enjoyed the fantastic weather. We were up on Shoulsbarrow Castle, which is the highest hill behind us, and you could see for miles in every direction - breathtaking!

I rode Monsoon today for the first time on her own, and she was a sweetheart - very brave especially when some inconsiderate pheasants ambushed us from a patch of nettles :-)

Lets see how the blog goes, and there will be more later if I've managed this OK!