Monday, 29 December 2008

Happy Christmas...for last week!

What a great Christmas present we have had here - cold, clear, DRY weather since Christmas Eve, and we are all LOVING it! True, the temperature hasn't risen above freezing for the last couple of days, and the ground has turned into permafrost, but the skies are clear, the sun has been shining, the stars twinkling and it has felt wonderfully wintry and Christmassy.

The horses are chomping through haylage at a terrific rate, and are slightly bemused by the fact that for the first time in about 18 months (perhaps longer!) they are not sinking into the ground...None of us are complaining, but we have already lost our first days' hunting to the hard ground and no doubt will lose more before the high pressure leaves .

Meanwhile, we have 3 new horses here, Pickles, Dually (aka George) and Snips, and they are settling in well, even though we are limited in the work we can do with them because of the frozen ground which has rendered fields and the arena off limits. Still they are quite happy for the moment being led out, and not having to put up with the usual rain and fog :-)

Friday, 19 December 2008


Here are some shots of Erik's worst foot, left front. These photos were taken 12 weeks apart, and you can see that his rate of hoof growth is relatively slow, as he was not in full work while he was here.

However, the line of change in his hoof wall once the shoe came off is clear, as is the different way his hoof will load once he has grown the whole new hoof capsule in.

Although Erik has made good, steady progress so far, there is still several months of work to go before his feet are as good as they can be. We hope that now he has a foundation of better hoof health, he will continue to go from strength to strength at home, now that he has the green light to come back into full work.

We will keep in touch with Erik of course, and update the blog with his news in the New Year!

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

A lovely day

...yesterday, when Kelly, Dexter's owner, came up with a friend and we took Charlie, Hector and Felix out hunting. Its been an incredibly busy week here, so it was lovely to get out for a day and it couldn't have been more perfect - the sun was shining, it was almost warm, and horses, hounds and riders were all on top form :-) Stupidly I didn't take my camera, but it was a day to remember!

Saturday, 13 December 2008

Good progress!

Erik has had his pre-going-home check up from his vet, and its good news. He is still at a relatively early stage of his rehab, but is making good progess. He has been here nearly 3 months, but his hoof growth has been slower than normal bcause (due to his hind leg issues) we have been limited in the work we can do with him.

Despite this, he has improved steadily, and both front and hind legs are doing well, and with continuing work over the next 3 or 4 months he should carry on getting better and better.

Interestingly, he is radically changing how his hooves are loading - the improvement in medial/lateral balance has helped him move straighter even though he has only grown about a third of his new hoof capsule - hoof photos are overdue and will be up here shortly!

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

80 inches of rain, and Erik braves the hail

There is at least a reason why we are all obsessed with the appalling weather at the moment - we have apparently had more than 80 inches of rain here since the beginning of May - in other words since the "summer", when its normally (relatively!) dry here...So by the end of this winter, unless it dries up radically (some hope!) there will probably have been much, much more than 100 inches of rain :-(

Poor Erik, who comes originally from a slightly more salubrious climate than Exmoor, has no opinion of being made to go out in the rain (its just about bearable if he has a thick full-neck rug on!), but today he had no choice. His owner came and rode out again, as he should be going home in time for Christmas, and he went out with Felix and Bill for company.

It was hailing and sleeting, and of course both the other two are clipped, and were convinced that the only reason we would possibly set out in such vile conditions would be something really worthwhile, like hunting ;-) Erik shared this enthusiasm, and despite (or perhaps because of) the weather, he apparently felt like a coiled spring the whole way round :-) They were all good boys, though, and contained themselves despite at one stage being covered in hailstones...

Maybe it will be sunnier tomorrow...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Hail, sun, hail sun....

Its been a pretty weird week for the weather...Monday: glorious blue sky, cold but wionderful, perfect visibility. Tuesday: fog, hail, sleet. Wednesday: lethal black ice but wonderful blue skies again by first thing in the morning and another gorgeous cold crisp day. Thursday: sleet, torrential rain, hail, freezing cold. Friday: same - totally vile. Today: glorious sunshine again. What on EARTH is going on? The ground is waterlogged and the stormwater streams, which normally only run at the tail end of the wettest winters, haven't stopped running all summer - they are in spate at the moment. The silver lining is that it is forcing us to seriously consider putting in hydro power for our electricity!

Friday, 28 November 2008

All about Erik

Tuesday was a big day for Erik - his owner came to visit, and the pair of them went for their first ride in a long time :-)

Fortunately for all of us, and particularly Erik (who does not approve of Exmoor rain), it was a beautiful day, with cloudless blue skies and fantastic views across to Dartmoor. Stupidly, I did not take my camera when we rode out :-(

Erik is a very sweet boy and took his first ride out very seriously. He would have been forgiven if he had forgotten his manners after 5 months off work, but he was perfect and worked nicely right from the start. We had a quiet stroll round the farm, with me taking Bill for company, and he didn't put a foot wrong.

Erik is far from rock-crunching - he has only just started to be able to land consistently heel first on hard surfaces, and has only grown about an inch of better hoof capsule over the 2 months he has been here. Nevertheless we are all pleased to see him making steady progress, and he should be home in time for Christmas :-)

Monday, 24 November 2008

Hector looking smart!

Its so much easier taking photos when you are on foot (!). Here's one of Hex looking as if he thinks he knows what he is doing :-) Charlie is behind him, back in his normal role as field horse and wishing he was out in front with Tony ;-)

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Horse and hound...

...the report on the Exmoor Foxhounds is in today's edition, and its a nice enough write up, with a lovely picture of Tony and Tom Fir heading it up, and some pretty shots of the moor looking picturesque, BUT sadly no nice close-ups of our horses (although Felix, Charlie and Jack are in the middle of the wide angle shots, and you can pick them out if you know them!).

The article is particularly interesting from one point of view: the reporter had never ridden a barefoot horse, and comments in the article on what a good hunter Charlie is, but managed to write the whole article without even commenting on the fact that our horses hunt without shoes ;-)

I'm not sure whether she just wasn't interested, or whether it was too controversial to even surface as a one-liner in the Nag and Dog...What do you think? :-)


Wednesday, 19 November 2008

It wasn't enough for the master to be barefoot!

After Monday, I had Charlie ready for our master to take out today, but clearly someone had other plans...

As it turned out, she had to take another horse home after an hour or so, and Charlie ended up as the huntsman's horse :-) Tony is a lovely rider, but I wasn't sure Charlie was brave enough to be out on his own all day, but he rose to the occasion and thoroughly enjoyed having such an important job. He loves hounds anyway, and was more than happy to have them trotting along with him - they were obviously all the company he needed ;-)

For a while I kept pretty close on Conto, in case Charlie wasn't up to the challenge, but it soon became clear that my nannying was redundant, and Con and I would do better keeping out of the way...!

We had a great day, and Charlie has definitely earned himself some big brownie points :-)

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Good boys!

Our master is short of horses at the moment - typically (as horses always do) hers have both injured themselves at the same time...So Felix was delighted yesterday to be promoted to Master's horse :-) He took it very seriously and was obviously determined (even more than usual) not to let our huntsman out of his sight. He would actually prefer to be the huntsman's horse, but as I keep telling him, he is just not big enough :-(

I took Hector, and its just amazing how grown up he is now - we went over really horrible ground in places, as some of the paths were only fit for skiing down, so he did ;-) He is as happy as anything now when he is out, really knows his job. What good boys!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

...and again.....

It must be the short days, that plus the fact that we have had lots of horses out hunting the last few weeks! I seem to be living in the barn at the moment - still, thank goodness we HAVE the barn - its been incredibly wet and without it both we and the horses would be miserable!

Erik has made good progress again over the week, although he hates this weather, poor boy :-) He is strding very confidently on the concrete, and is landing far more correctly than he has done before. I will try and get more photos and post them soon.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

How did that happen?

Can't believe its a week since I last blogged! And what has been going on? Other than wet, wild and windy weather, and terribly short days (dark by 4.30...), I am not sure why the week has flown by so quickly!

Most of the hunters have had a quieter week, after a very busy fortnight, although Bill and Hector have both been out.

Erik has been working nicely, combining short sessions in the school with strolling around the lanes with Conto or A N Other. He went on his longest lead out yesterday, and was volunteering to trot up the hill for the odd short burst. Today he was less than impressed with the weather, and possibly feeling his exertions yesterday, but was cheered up by a visit from his owner who brought treats and gave him lots of extra TLC :-)

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Raising the profile!

As if it wasn't enough to have H&H out with the Exmoor last week, finally yesterday an article appeared in the Telegraph, written by a journalist who came out in March or April last season, which I had given up looking for!

Its not the most well written piece in the world - they got the huntsman's name wrong, for a start (!) but its improved by a great photo of our very own Sarah Braithwaite and Fari (barefoot, of course), and lots of quotes from her about how much fun she has had coming hunting with us :-)

My own contribution was to take Big Bill hunting on Friday - he is the 17.1hh gentle giant who came to us at the start of the summer. He had very significant bony changes in both front feet, and took a long time - 4 months or so - to become comfortable on tougher surfaces. Once he was landing heel first on concrete, though, there was no stopping him and we have now discovered that - surprise, surprise, he loves hunting (!).

I am hoping to get some nice photos of him up on here soon - if the others are all going to be pin-ups in the broadsheets or mags, it seems only fair for Bill to get on the blog!

Thursday, 30 October 2008

Gales and suchlike...

howling east wind and rain today...horses all in the barn and refusing to come out, who can blame them!

Had an interesting day yesterday, when one of the editors from Horse and Hound came out with us to do a report on the foxhounds. She borrowed Charlie, and so had the barefoot hunting experience across Exmoor :-) Fortunately it was a much drier and sunnier day yesterday than today!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Hector's progress

Here for your entertainment are some shots of the orange boy, Hector. At the top, his backside (with considerable muscle wastage on the right hind) the week he arrived followed by the same shot 2 days ago - much more evenly muscled. Then his right front foot on the day he arrived, with a frog and heels which were quite franklygiving up the ghost - again quite a difference from how it looks now (the last photo), in full work on lots of different surfaces.

It never ceases to amaze me how fast horses improve given the chance. Hector came to us bilaterally lame, worse on his left front and with quite clear muscle wastage on the diagonal (right) hind, as the photos show.

Now, only 3 months after his arrival, its clear how close his hooves were to completely shutting down, and how eager he was to get them working again :-) Not only have his hooves improved dramatically, but as a result of his feet improving and his lameness resolving, he is muscling up properly again - all he needed was to be given the chance to sort himself out. What a star he has proved to be :-)

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Farrier fest!

I spent most of Saturday afternoon at a farrier training day down near Teignmouth - and as you can see, it was a proper truckfest, with more vans and pickups than you could shake a stick at!

The main speaker was Alan Bailey, a well known lecturer and remedial farrier, and I was the speaker with the graveyard slot at the end of the afternoon (!).

To liven things up, I took Felix and Hector along with me, and Kelly and Yvonne heroically agreed to bring Dexter as well, so that we had examples of horses with feet at different stages.

I have to say that the horses' behaviour was absolutely faultless - after having to spend a considerable amount of time standing in their trailers, and after long journeys for all 3 of them, they were led into a big, dark barn with picnic tables, farm machinery, forges and about 80 farriers - who all crowded round them and were chatting merrily away :-) They all behaved as if this happened to them every day - Hector in particular was angelic, as I am sure he had never done anything of the kind before. Felix and Dex are old pros at having their feet inspected, of course, but still they deserve gold stars for their flawless manners.

Several of the farriers were totally unimpressed, mostly the younger ones, interestingly enough, and one guy who thought that it wasn't enough that Felix could trot over a track which consisted of large scalpings on a rock hard track (!). He told me that when he was trotting downhill he shouldn't shorten his stride at all, but should just trot with the same stride length as when he was going up hill...

Presumably he has lots of shod horses who trot up and downhill with exactly the same stride length, and he obviously thought this was a good thing...Sadly, his horses will be doing this because they have absolutely no proprioception or awareness of the surface they are travelling over. As a result, these horses won't get the feedback from their hooves that they are travelling on a jarring surface, and so won't shorten up when they trot downhill. Research has shown that this puts enormous strain on their joints from the increased concussion, whereas if they shorten slightly, the joints are protected from impact forces.

Fortunately, as well as the defensive farriers, like that one, there were a number of friendly faces, and I had some outright supporters there as well :-)

One sceptic said, during my presentation (which obviously focussed on performance and had a shot of Andy and Charlie going over stones out hunting) that he didn't believe we hunted on stony ground at all. At this point, luckily for me, there was a farrier who came from up here, and who shoes for one of my nighbours, and he told the sceptic quite categorically that the stones and flints up here were a severe test, and furthermore he knew from his own client that whereever the shod horses went, mine went as well - all day ;-) God bless him - and I definitely owe him a pint for that :-)

As well as unknown friends like that, I was very grateful particularly to Robbie Richardson and Tim Neale who were both very supportive, and of course to the organiser, John Mann, who asked me in the first place!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The hoof rehab timeline...

Erik has now been with is for 3 weeks, and is an absolute sweetheart. His owner came up to see him today, and he was really pleased to see her - he knows full well he is her special boy :-)

He is making good progress, but it is still early days for him, and although he has gone from a pronounced toe first landing to flat or heel first landing (albeit no consistently), there are still lots of surfaces he finds challenging, so its definitely grass or pea gravel which are his preferred terrain!

At times like this, its invaluable to have other horses ar different stages - almost a timeline of how hoof rehabilitation goes. So at the moment we have Erik, newly out of shoes and with little new growth, and only just starting to land correctly; by contrast Bill has a whole hoof capsule, and lands heel first but still struggles on hard uneven ground or sharp turns due to the bony changes in his hoof, which will take more than one hoof capsule to improve. Contrast again Hector, who has over half a new hoof capsule but is much more capable than Bill because as a younger horse, his problems were more due to soft tissue damage than bone damage, and so have improved extremely quickly.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Fur and Hector

What a manic few days, with clinics running, then my parents staying, and in btween all the horses to do :-) Finally got round to clipping Bailey and Jack last night - both grey, both fluffy, fortunately both very good to clip but I still ended up itching and with what looked like an aggravated snowstorm effect in the barn!

Intrestingly, when one of our Danish students was here he confirmed that the odd mark on Jack's left quarter is a brand, and that we would probably be able to identify it once he was clipped. Lo and behold after I had finished him yesterday it was revealed as a quartered circle, the brand used for Belgian Warmbloods. That explains his lovely movement, and the fact that he is such a light horse to ride. Bless him!

Hector has such a fine coat that there is nothing to clip yet - hooray! - so he stayed as he was and went out for his first day hunting on his own today, with none of our team out to support him. There were a few steady horses out, but also one lunatic youngster who bucked like stink and chucked his rider off - fortunately H did not follow suit and in fact behaved very nicely - phew!

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Jacko rides again

I decided that today Jack deserved a blog all of his own...

He has had a quiet summer partly because we have been so busy but also because he had a spell of lameness in August due to an abscess. He has had super-strange shaped hooves in the past, with severe wall deviation, for reasons too complicated to go into here (!) but this left him prone to hoof infections, which he duly succumbed to over the summer.

However, he seems to have come back from this better than ever, and certainly has grown a more symmetrical pair of hooves, though still weird enough to give some trimmers and farriers slepless nights (so they tell me!)...

Still Jack doesn't care, and is busy growing the best possible feet for himself, and feeling better than ever.

So today, now that he has been back in work a little while, Andy volunteered to take him hunting for a quiet mid-week hour or so, with Felix for support.

Jack came to us with lots of "labels", and with a quite ingrained fear of travelling, and although he has improved immeasurably, he had not been hunting or loaded to travel since April, so we were not sure how he would behave.

He got multiple gold stars, as he loaded straight onto the trailer, which he used to refuse to approach at all, and travelled like an absolute pro. His manners were perfect all morning, and hacking home along a fairly busy road (well, by Exmoor standards - so a lorry and coach, plus a few cars!) he was unflappable.

We were thrilled with him, and he seemed pretty pleased with himself as well, and it was great to see Jack's self-confidence so much higher than it used to be. I like this photo so much - it could be captioned "Well satisfied after a very good morning's work!". What a lovely chap he is, and what a long way he has come in 10 months :-)

Monday, 6 October 2008

Who is Bill?

A quick recap... :-)

Bill is another navicular horse, whom we have some great digital X-rays of, from when he first arrived. He has taken a long time to come sound but now that he is able to work and is landing correctly on most ground, he is rapidly improving.

He is "old-fashioned" to look at - big Roman nose, ENORMOUS ears and a very very honest expression :-) He is a poppet, and at Mary's clinic everyone wanted to take him home. Only thing is that he is a good 17.1hh so not everyone had space for him ;-)


Friday, 3 October 2008

Clinics and such-like

A busy week (again!) with Mary Bromiley's clinic today and tomorrow, and orientation for the latest intake of students on Thursday and Friday.

Erik the new boy is well and truly part of the herd now, and mooches round the track with the best of them. He is only doing the gentlest possible work, but is enjoying short walks out led from one of the other horses and his foot landing is already improving.

Bill seems to be rather pleased with his new role as a hunter, and I hope he will go out again for another short day next week sometime.

Meanwhile, although its perishing cold the sun is shining and apart from the occasional passing hail storm, its a lovely albeit very autumnal day.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Now its Bill's turn!

Summer - what little of it we had over the last 2 weeks - seemed well and truly over yesterday, but today is lovely again - sunny and bright, although much cooler than last week. Still, it IS October, so I shouldn't complain :-)

Today was Bill's hunting debut, and he was a very good boy. He may have hunted before, its hard to tell because he is the sort of horse who takes things in his stride and doesn't worry, so the fact that he was relaxed doesn't give us any real indication. He certainly woke up, after a lazy start on the way to the meet, but wasn't silly at all. He found one steep hill tricky, and got his knickers in a knot at the top, so we found a less steep way down, which he coped well with.

He certainly needs to get fitter and stronger, so we only let him stay out for an hour or so of quiet pootling about. He was much admired, especially for his very kind expression. Good boy Bill :-)

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Welcome Erik!

A new horse arrived yesterday, Erik, a handsome Danish warmblood. He has settled in very well, and has made friends with Conto and chatted to the others in the barn, over the doors.

He has been diagnosed with deep digital flexor tendonitis on the basis of MRI, so he will be a fascinating horse to have here, as well as being a very sweet boy.

More on him later!

Monday, 22 September 2008

91 Bales...

Yippee! Haylage has been cut, and really very nice stuff, 91 bales in by 9pm last night, wrapped and safe :-)

Up again at 4am so a short post today! More to follow :-)

Thursday, 18 September 2008

The sun has got his hat on...

...glorious, perfect weather, for the first time in 2months, I think...Blue skies, sun shining, gentle breeze, horses sunbathing with no rugs on, grass drying beautifully...FINALLY a summer's day - and its only September 18th... :-0

Off to make some haylage - and it could actually be rather good stuff, despite the date ;-)

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Well it is SUPPOSED to be sunny...

...this week - and after weeks and weeks of waiting, I am looking out at our grass, which has finally been cut, and wondering if its going to dry before the next lot of rain comes in next week!!

Actually its not too bad - dry here at least, and nothing nasty forecast, but a bit of sun would be nice - its going to take days to dry otherwise, because the grass is so thick!

Keep your fingers crossed for us - its a slightly nerve-wracking few days...

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Hector the hunter!

Well, its been ages since the last blog, mostly because life here has been incredibly busy, with not only all the usual stuff but building work on the house, and we have reached the clearing up stage (!) so at the end of the builders' day, our cleaning time begins...There have been quite a few late nights and early mornings, and anyway its no fun blogging in thick dust ;-)

However, on the horse front its definitely Hector who has deserved the gold stars. He (and Bill) have been working well since my last blog, and gradually doing more and more. Hector has been very good, but it became clear that he was really starting to find hacking out a little bit routine - he was giving signals that it was all just same old same old, and both mentally and physically he was clearly up for a bit more of a challenge.

So yesterday there was a meet local to us, which we could easily hack to, so I took Hector and Andy rode Charlie as our nanny. I thought Hector had hunted before, judging by his reaction to hearing hounds on his last time out, and maybe he has, but his eyes absolutely popped out of their sockets when we arrived at the meet. On of the foot followers remarked laconically "Hmm, he looks a little bit stary". One of the field told me later on in the evening that he thought Hector was about to explode - though I must admit he didn't feel explosive, just a bit high on adrenaline :-)

We spent the first hour and a half quietly moving along, which was just what he needed to settle him down - standing still wasn't really an option for him anyway, due to his excitement levels!

The big challenge though was not the field, but the terrain. After the incredibly wet weather we have had for the last 6 weeks of course the ground was terrible - wet everywhere, not just on the boggy bits of the moor, and the river crossings in particular were horrendous, deep, murky and very very off putting - having to jump off overhangs into swirling torrents is unsettling even for more experienced horses like Charlie - but when Charlie hesitated, Hector stepped into the lead!

Hector astonished everyone, including me, with his boldness and bravery. There was nothing which worried him, and although he was over-enthusiastic he was never rude: even though he was tempted to rush down a very steep hill when he saw the rest of the field going, he agreed to turn away, with Charlie, and go down a few yards back, still down a steep slope but out of sight of the rest of the field. This is no mean feat for a young horse, and his balance and surefootedness were impressive - not only was it horribly trappy ground, but he has only been with us for 2 months!

At one point we were cantering along the road for half a mile or so, and I thought to myself that no-one would ever guess that he had been bilaterally lame and written off at the beginning of July!

Of course, after such an exemplary debut things can only go downhill from here on in, and I am fully expecting him to be a complete muppet next time out! However I am hoping that there are many more great days in store for us both - I can honestly say that apart from Felix, I have not ridden another horse who gave me such a good feeling first time out. Fingers crossed!

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Hector's house

The last week has been a very good one for Bill and Hector, who have both made excellent and very encouraging progress.

Bill has, for the first time, been in work every day and its a mark of how much he has improved that he has not only stayed sound but his hooves have actually responded to the additional miles by getting stronger and more capable.

The work of building up his fitness, not just for his hooves but for his whole body, can now begin.

Apparently he had been off work for over a year before he came here, as he was given time off to see whether he would come sound, and in the run up to his time off he was obviously worked only lightly as he was intermittently lame.

He has built better topline since his arrival in April, probably because he was moving more simply with being on the tracks, and as all our terrain is undulating (to say the least!), that in itself has helped him muscle up.

Hector was already fairly fit when he arrived, and of course was able to start work more or less immediately, so we are much further on with him.

In fact he went out for a very short morning's hunting on Wednesday, at 6.30am. He behaved very well, but it was a tricky day to have a young horse out, as it was misty and still, and there was a lot of standing around. After an hour of good behaviour - despite Hector's suspicion that when you hear hounds surely thats the signal that you are about to gallop about :-) - we came home, and will do the same again next week.

In fact, a few quiet, boring days would be ideal, as it looks as if he has hunted before and found it terribly exciting :-0 We need to teach him that sometimes its all very steady ;-)

Friday, 29 August 2008

Still no hay!

Drizzly every morning, and although its warm and brightens up ok eventually, we still can't cut grass - it would rot before it ever dried out!

Everyone up here is in the same boat, so at least there is a Blitz spirit about the miserable soak-fest that has been summer 2008.

Hope the sun is shining where you are!

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

The large William

I haven't blogged much about Bill, who arrived here in April.

To be honest its because he was not really able to do much but potter about the farm for the first 3 months that he was here. He was very lame on his left front, and although he had been diagnosed with navicular, digital X-rays showed quite extensive sidebone as well as a weak back of the foot and thin sole.

When I get the chance to update his page I will put lots more info up about him, but he is a very big lad, dwarfing all the other horses here and standing at least 17hh, propbably nearer 17.2. Of course when I ride him out I look ever so slightly over-horsed, but fortunately for me he is a perfect gentleman ;-)

Photos show his hooves on the day he arrived and after 4 months. His left front was in fact worse, and I will post pictures of that in the next day or so.

Unlike Hector, who had only been unsound a short time and who had mainly soft tissue damage, Bill's lameness had involved not only soft tissue but also bony changes which were always going to take much longer to improve.

He is now consistently landing heelfirst, and is happy on nearly all ground, apart from very uneven stones. I would certainly not trot him on hard surfaces just yet, but he is more than up for it on the view of his size I am definitely lining up Andy or my very tall neighbour to ride him on a more permanent basis!

Keep everything crossed...

I am checking forecasts obssessively, trying to find someone who can predict the weather with more accuracy than the Met Office...

After more rain and mist this morning, it is finally brightening, and I am wondering whether this is the fabled high pressure which we have been waiting for all week - well, all summer really.

If so, we will try and cut our grass (its nearly September!!!) tomorrow, so keep everything crossed that we get at least 3 days of good weather...

Monday, 25 August 2008

One for the hoof anoraks!

Despite the foul weather (which is continuing today even though the nice man from the met office said it would be dry this week..DOH!), there is lots of good news at Rockley :-)

I haven't had the time to update the website for a few months now, so apologies for that. It means that the new horses haven't gone up there yet, including the latest arrival whom I blogged about in July.

We call him Hector, and he has settled in very well. He is only 6, but is terribly grown up, and when Sarah Braithwaite was down with her ditzy young Arab he proved to be an excellent nanny - possibly because he and Morris were totally colour-coordinated, both in bright orange...

He hacks out on his own or with the other horses, and although when he arrived he had been diagnosed as bilaterally lame and short-striding, according to his former vet, he is now sound on fields and roads, and will pick his way over stony ground.

He was landing severely toe-first when he arrived, and from the photos of his hooves you can see why he had had problems.

The top photo shows him on the day he arrived, with long toes and heels starting to under-run. Even so, within a couple of weeks on the tracks and yards here, he was landing heel-first, which is the main reason he has improved so quickly.

The lower photo shows him 6 weeks later, and you can see how much new and better hoof wall he has already grown.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Guess what? Its raining.....

Bored of the rain now, feel like the whole of Devon (probably the whole of England) is wet and mouldy...Thank goodness for our tracks, because the fields would be getting trashed if the horses were on them any more, and the grass is still growing like mad, so is way too much for most of them to be on, except at night.

Actually they are al jostling to come in and stay in, given half the chance, and are loathing ths weather the last few weeks especially.

Hunting has started again, so at least that has cheered everyone up a bit, and miraculously it has been dry on the days we have got out...

A small silver lining in what is turning out to be an increasingly depressing summer... :-(

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Best puppy dog!

Not about the horses today, as it was the Puppy Show, and we went to cheer on the hound puppies we walked last year, leaving this year's puppies (Rookie, Goldfinch and Griffin) at home with some lamb ribs for company!

It was a wet, drizzly day, and although it was mild it really didn't feel like summer...The hounds, though, didn't care, and had a great day, all looking marvellous and an absolute credit to our huntsman.

Our three, Bingbong, Belfry and Belfast of course looked the most beautiful, to our biased eyes :-) It was just lovely to see them having such a great time at the biggest party they had ever been to!

In total, there were 24 puppies (12 couple), and there had to be a best dog, best bitch, and overall best puppy, just as in any show...It was unexpectedly nervewracking, but Belfry was one of the last 3 dogs, and then was declared best dog :-)

There were some gorgeous bitch puppies, and he lost overall to the best bitch, Dahlia, who was stunning - Belfry certainly thought his luck was in when he found himself in the ring with only her for company!

A great day, despite the rain, and we are already excited about seeing them out trailing!

Monday, 4 August 2008

Oh no not more!

How did another week get by without me blogging? I was hoping to cut haylage last week, but its been PEEING down all week, and the forecast is still grim for the next few days. Its not funny any more, we, the ponies and the puppy dogs are all bored and want some summer... :-(

The whole farm is running with water - the land always drains well, but honestly the streams are running as if its January, not August...Its nice not to have to worry about a water shortage, but its getting ridiculous!

On a more positive note, the ponies are all in good form, and are enjoying being back in work. Charlie had a great week, being ridden by Neil, who was staying with us, and who volunteered to ride out despite atrocious weather - thanks again, Neil, and Laura, his wife, who took the pocket rocket out for me at the beginning of the week :-)

Hunting should start this week, which will cheer up Felix, Bailey, Charlie and Conto :-) The newbies have yet to be introduced to hunting, so we have that to look forward to...

Monday, 28 July 2008

Way to go Kelly and Dex!

...who went competing on Sunday in their first one day event since Dex got home :-)

They did a good dressage test, were clear SJ and then blasted round the cross country, in prime position...Kelly said that Dex was moving beautifully, even though the ground was like concrete, but then they were really unlucky and missed one of the XC jumps, which meant elimination :-( Kelly reckons they would have won otherwise, but she hasn't told Dex yet - he still thinks they went clear :-)

They are eventing again in a few weeks, and he is off competing in BSJA before then - not bad for a horse who was lame and destined for a bullet in February!

Little Hector, the new orange boy, is doing well, and is now one of the gang. He already has a much better band of new hoof wall, which is both better quality and a tighter angle than his old hoof capsule.

When he arrived we videoed him landing very toe first, and then we filmed him again two weeks later. Amazingly, he was already landing much better, and actually beginning to engage the back of the foot.

Hector has done little work yet, but as long as the promised thunderstorms hold off for a few hours more, I am hoping to ride him today...

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Last word for today goes to the horses...

While Bob Bowker was here, of course I introduced him to the horses :-) After all, it was his original article, published back in the late 90s, which was the inspiration behind me taking Ghost's shoes off, when he was lame and diagnosed with navicular in 2002. Bob's research was also the driving force behind us laying down pea gravel as a rehabilitation surface, which has been fantastic for many horses over the years.

We X-rayed Ghost again, a few weeks ago, in May, to see how his good diet and barefoot lifestyle has affected his hooves internally, and it was great to hear Bob confirm what a great back of the foot Ghost has, with strong coffin and navicular bones, which now show no evidence of the damage which was there in 2002 :-)

Of course Ghost is as sound as a pound, and although a bit chubby at the moment, should have many years of life and work left ;-)

Puppy dogs

as if the conference wasn't enough, we have had new puppy dogs arriving here, whom we are walking for the EFH. As part of the house renovation, we were throwing out an old sofa bed, but it didn't quite make it to the skip...

Lots to catch up on...

What an amazing week, with Dr Bob Bowker speaking to a packed UKNHCP conference as the high point!

We spent 3 days at Langford, and all felt that our brains were full by the time we left :-)

I got home on Friday night, and Sarah Braithwaite was travelling on with Bob to the next leg of his UK "tour", in Wales.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

UKNHCP conference

... is starting this week, so chances are I won't be blogging till next weekend, but there will be a full update and hopefully pics then!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Hoof and pony shots

Pics of the whole pone, and his hooves :-)
First photo is of him before he was trimmed - his front shoes were taken off for the X-rays - but as you can see his feet were pretty long, and he was landing toe first, of course. I have some high res. digital footage, but haven't had the chance to edit that to upload on here yet.

The back of his foot is weak, but as he is young and has probably not been shod for too long, he should build it up fairly quickly.

His previous vet said that he was pottery, and showing bilateral shortness in his stride which improved when the navicular bursa was nerve-blocked, which is a fairly familiar story.

The vet said that he diagnosed the horse as having navicular, on the basis of the nerve-block and X-rays, and then he gave me a fantastic piece of advice:

"Remedial shoeing with eggbars shoes and rolled toes is an absolute must" ;-)

Actually, the last thing this horse needs is for the back of his foot to be weakened even further by being shut down with a bar shoe.

Instead, we reckon that with some time out of shoes and on a supportive surface, he will quickly start to land heel first and engage and strengthen the back of his foot.

Already, now that he is out of shoes and flying around on the pea gravel, he looks far from pottery - in fact he has fantastic movement. If he carries on improving this quickly he will be in work at the weekend!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

New navicular rehab horse

One goes out, one comes in :-)

As Dex has now gone home, the god of barefoot obviously decided we needed to keep going with the orange navicular theme!

New boy has come from Exmoor, via journalist Cindy Cowling who did the Exmoor magazine article (thanks again, Cindy!), and he is a 6 yr old ISH by Ricardo Z, and he will be a very nice competition horse if we can get him back on track.

The photos are of him a few months ago, of course, but he has settled in well and we hope it won't be long before we can post new action shots of him! Feet pics will also go up on the website when I get the chance, of course :-)

Monday, 7 July 2008

Rained off!

What a grim weekend - we were planning on building some more XC jumps but it has rained non stop for the last few days...So our steps and drop fence are on hold...

Also on hold is our haymaking - there is no sign of a break in the weather for this week...Maybe this is the way summer will be from now on?!

Anyway, here is a photo from last weekend, which was much sunnier and altogether lovely :-) Dex looking as if a hunter trial is rather beneath him, but he looks the part, anyway!

Friday, 4 July 2008


Had to post this - Andy had the camera out and took this great shot of Felix flying - almost literally - up the road :-)

MRI results

Well, we finally got Dexter's MRI results back and Kelly kindly posted them through to me.

The cool news is that the MRI showed up a healed lesion on the digital deep flexor tendon, which should mean his problems are now behind him, as long as he keeps on landing heel first :-)

The report said that he had poor hoof conformation - but then again they haven't seen how fast his hooves are changing :-) Think they will say he has really rather awesome hoof conformation in another few months ;-)

Way to go Dex!

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Squatting again!

Still no connection at home, so back at our kind neighbour's house :-)

Dex, Felix and Con all went well at the weekend, with Con lots and lots braver, and really having quite a lot of fun in between the odd scary fence which he couldn't cope with ;-) We were eliminated, as there was a particularly scary combo at fence 6, which was a real challenge to get past (!) but that didn't matter, and we had a lovely time bimbling round the course after that and jumping all the other fences!

He feels (and looks, according to Kelly) as if he is jumping much more fluently so it was a good day out.

Felix was on guided missile mode, but again due to stupid pilot error locked onto the wrong one or a range of 3 skinnies, and so we had a run out before I aimed him a bit better second time round. All my fault, as we had a very short approach round a sharp corner and in the time we had I just wasn't clear enough...Doh!

Dex was superstar, and was clear SJ and XC, and looked terribly professional, as always :-) Think Kelly had a fun time too ;-)

Sadly no nice pics of Con or Dex, not sure why, but one of the pocket rocket to be going on with. He was jumping the 3ft 3 course, but it never looks as big in the pics(!)

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Back online!

Wow! Am at my neighbours house, revelling in wireless broadband - its FANTASTIC!!

Off to Winkleigh tomorrow, with Felix and Conto, to do some XC - 2ft6 with Con, as a confidence builder, and open (3ft-3ft 6) with Felix. Its an affiliated course, so its always beautifully built and up to height :-)

Kelly and Dexter are going too - Dex went home last week and has apparently been going brilliantly, so it will be great to catch up with them again.

Hope to have some fun pics tomorrow!

Friday, 20 June 2008


After ongoing connection problems, I have finally fallen out with o2 so have very very limited internet access at the moment - so if I am not updating the blog, thats why!

The good news (well amazing news really for us!) is that apparently Broadband is coming to Exmoor - at least it is going to be reaching the part other Broadband can't reach, and allegedly within the next 2-3 months...

Don't hold your breath, but if it actually happens it will revolutionise our lives :-)

Tuesday, 17 June 2008


I've updated the main website, mostly housekeeping but I've added some fun (I think!) pics of Dexter's feet as they were in Feb and as they are now. Actually they are even better now, as the June photos were taken a couple of weeks ago, but you get the picture ;-)

You'll find them at - just click on "Horses at Rockley" and then Dex's page.

Let me know what you think - isn't he a clever boy? :-)

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Exmoor article

Exmoor magazine has just published their summer edition with a lovely article about Rockley, with lots of pics of the ponies hunting and generally larking about :-)

Have a look at it if you get the chance ;-)


Thursday, 12 June 2008

Latest video... on Youtube and can be found at

Its Dex again, at Treborough, which I couldn't upload before because of my sad PC cable...Enjoy :-)

Road trip!

Kelly, Dexter, Felix and I got back from our epic road trip to Sussex late last night.

We travelled up to Liphook Equine Veterinary Hospital and took Felix as it was a rather long journey for Dex on his own, which also invloved an overnight stay in Liphook's very busy yard.

Luckily for us we took our saddles and bridles, as there is lovely hacking round Liphook, and we managd to ride out on Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning without meeting another soul!

Felix and Dex met many exciting new things, including the fast trains to London which zoom past every few minutes (they were bombproof!), lots of long narrow bridges on the bridleways (by the 6th bridge they were going over them like complete pros) and a large flock of Canada geese on the lawn of Champneys spa (we resisted the temptation to gallop across it!).

The boys could not have behaved better - they travelled perfectly, behaved beautifully in a very strange environment, and flew the flag for barefoot horses to the manner born.

All the staff there were very friendly and put up most patiently with our little entourage, and our giant builder's sack of haylage which we brought with us all the way from Exmoor :-)

Huge thanks especially to Ross Eager, one of Liphook's farriers, and Liz Rabinowitz, who does their behavioural assessments, and who both allowed me to spend large parts of the day watching them work.

Monday, 9 June 2008


...and here is Bailey's pic, showing a truly rock-crunching landing, and Felix in guided missile mode :-)

What a babe :-)

I just got the pics of the hunter trial, through - I couldn't resist ordering one of Con since it was his first ride. He was being terribly terribly brave, and the photo of him is really lovely - trying his socks off and jumping way bigger than he needs to, but he actually looks as if he is very nearly enjoying himself :-)

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Online, offline...

A frustrating week, for lots of reasons...firstly technology - we are not on broadband, or any sort of landline here, which makes an internet link desperately slow at the best of times. This week the whole thing ground to a complete halt, and eventually I worked out that the cable linking the PC to the phone line was missing most of its teeth (!). It took another 2 or 3 days to get a new cable, and I finally got back online yesterday...

Dexter also decided that this would be a good week to go offline...After his brilliant performance on Friday, he was in good form over last weekend but turn out over night at the beginning of the week proved too much for him, and unfortunately I did not spot it until Tuesday. We took him off the grass straight away but it took him a good few days in quod on the track with Conto before he was back to normal. Mea culpa.

The interesting thing is that Bailey, and the other horses, are all absolutely rock-crunching, despite being turned out at night.

On a more positive note, it was great to have Jane Tweedie down at the beginning of the week, and she did a great job not only of trimming feet but also of schooling me and Felix, Andy and Bailey, and of course Charlie, whom she rode herself :-) Thanks Jane ;-)

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Great day at Treborough!

We took Felix, Bailey, Conto and Dexter to the Exmoor Foxhounds Hunter Trial on Friday, and had a great day :-)

I have some footage to put onto Youtube but haven't been able to get a chance to upload it yet...

Meanwhile though there are pics of:

Dexter -

Conto -

Felix -

Bailey - and

All the horses performed brilliantly - Dex and Kelly had the best result, with a faultless clear round, but I was also thrilled with Conto. I've only jumped him once before, last year at home over a couple of jumps, and so I wasn't sure how he would deal with a whole event. He found it quite a challenge mentally but was very brave, and ended up jumping well. We took all the easy options but his attitude was fantastic - what a little star :-) I am hoping this will have b-uilt his confidence for next time.

Bailey was great - calm and jumping really well, and it was the first time she and Andy had done a 3ft3 course, with some much bigger jumps, which she coped well with.

Jumping Felix is like riding a guided missile - once he locks onto a jump its just a question of hanging on, but unfortunately due to pilot error we had a misunderstanding about which jump we should be doing (!) - he had locked onto th fence in front, but we were supposed to be doing one at 90 degrees to the right...! He tried to change for me but the angle was too sharp and I came out of the side door...He is such a pro that he stood and waited for me to get up, catch him and get back on, then carried on a few round clear. I felt a bit of a muppet :-) More pics to follow...

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

More on Youtube

...I've posted some more footage, this time of Felix and Dexter out and about, at

...enjoy :-)

On a sunny day... not yesterday...I grabbed some shots of Dex mooching along a stony track :-)

Mark Johnson came down at the weekend with his highly sophisticated camcorder to film the horses. He can take very high rsolution footage of hooves in motion, which we can then slow down to look at frame by frame. It gives an amazingly clear picture of how the hoof is landing, loading and breaking over - fascinating stuff.

One of the interesting ways of using it is as a way of assessing improving hoof health over time, so with horses like Bill and Dex, it will be great to film them again in a few months and assess how the strength of their hoof structures may have changed.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Back to winter?!?!

After a lovely day on Saturday, with sunshine and blue skies, today has been absolutely wild - howling gales and its been lashing with rain all day (I think they are saying a couple of inches!) and totally miserable. We have exercised, and the horses all thought we were mad to be going out, and went under protest.

They were all good, despite the storms, and I was particularly impressed with Lucy, who has the least experience but behaved outstandingly in appalling conditions - what a sweetheart she is turning out to be.

Conto has had a bit of time off, as he was kicked by another horse and was quite sore at the end of April, but he went out today and seemed thrilled to be back at work.

No doubt once the bank holiday is well and truly over the weather will improve again (!)...Roll on tomorrow...

Friday, 23 May 2008

Another week zooming by....

Thought I had blogged yesterday, and it turns out it was 5 days ago...! Meanwhile, down on the farm...

...we have been liming fields and burning the huge twiggy piles left over after hedging, as the grass has now started growing at a tremendous rate (eventually) and its time to start aiming off for cutting haylage...

...we have builders in, finally knocking the house about more than 4 years after we moved in - and we have said a fond (!) farewell to the 1970s mementoes that were in the house when we arrived...the dark blue nylon carpet, the burgundy curry-house-brocade wallpaper, the anaglypta and, who could forget, the lime green shagpile carpet that graced our for now its dust everywhere, but no pain without gain :-)

...Jack has started jumping little baby jumps when he is out hacking with Andy - bless him, he is not sure they are worth noticing but is making the effort anyway ;-)

...Felix and Dexter spent this morning going XC - they are terribly cocky, and far worse together (!). We are taking a posse to the Exmoor Foxhounds Hunter Trial next week and Kelly and I are wondering whether to risk taking them in the pairs, but not sure if their heads would just get way too big...!

Monday, 19 May 2008


...there are now 3 clips at
for your delectation (!)...2 of Dexter in action, and one of Jack, which is up really just to show what a lovely boy he has turned out to be :-)

Sarah's headcam is great for taking clips when you are out and about, and I will definitely be putting more up as we get more rock-crunching barefoot footage!

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Clip of Dexter jumping barefoot


I have found the camera cable, which Andy had tidied into oblivion in the back bedroom...Yippee!

There is a clip of Kelly and Dex abov, via Youtube, to be going on with :-) and I will post photos of Andy and Bailey later on...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Kudos to Dexter :-)

Yesterday was a day of reckoning for us and Dexter, as his vet came up to check him over, and brought Dex's farriers with him as well.

I was so impressed that they made the effort, as it is a good 3 hour round trip from the practice up to the wilds of Exmoor, they are obviously busy people, and its not something that you can just squeeze into a spare 5 minutes.

Dexter was an angel and seemed to enjoy being the centre of attention (although Felix and Ghost both made a praiseworthy attmpt to muscle in on the action).

He was lunged on a fairly tight circle in the gravel yard, to replicate as closely as possible the last time they saw him back in December, and it was great to hear them confirm that he is hugely improved. Of course, his hooves are still a work in progress - he still has about an inch of old hoof capsule to grow out, and more importantly his digital cushion and lateral cartilages are still not as good as they will be eventually, but he was moving well and only showing up a slight shortness on his left front going down the slope on the circle, which we were all pleased with.

Kelly and Dex went off for a ride while we were doing what hoof anoraks do (ie talking feet for 3 hours!) and it was another gold star to Dex, whose behaviour was perfect even when Kelly had to keep leaping on and off to do gates. Not bad for a horse who used to be so fidgety that she was saying it used to take her up to 20 minutes to get on him, and once on there was no way she could get off.

Dex was clearly a favourite with the visiting team, and we all agreed what a fantastic little horse he is. So all in all...

- kudos to Jeremy, Gary and Tim for trekking all the way up here to find out more about the lunatic fringe :-)

- kudos to Kelly and Yvonne, for having the guts to try this crazy barefoot thing, and for being so enthusiastic about it, and biggest of all...

- kudos to Dex for growing his fab new hooves and being such a lovely boy :-)

Monday, 12 May 2008

Oh the frustration!!

Perfect weather, and an exciting new headcam-type thingie to try out, courtesy of Sarah B...
So off go Kelly and Dexter, and me and Felix, for a lovely gallop around on Monday evening.

I am chuffed to bits with the headcam, and gt some great shots of Kelly and Dex zipping up the fields, and of us intrepidly going down steep hills and up through the woods...

...only problem is, I can't get the footage OFF my camera, 'cos I think I have left the connection lead with Sarah...DOH!!!!! So annoying.

Even worse, Andy and Bailey went jumping at a hunter trial at Winkleigh on Saturday, and I have a couple of lovely pics of them, and I can't get those off either... :-( Sorry folks, I will have to try and get another lead, or else the pics will have to wait till Sarah can send it down to me...

Friday, 9 May 2008

Forward planning

We've had a week now to draw breath after the end of the hunting season, and its time to start planning what the horses will be doing over the summer :-)

Unfortunately we missed several hunter trials and team chases in April, but there are a few more scheduled in May and June, including the Exmoor Foxhounds very own hunter trial, on 30th May, which we will be going to in force! After that there are lots of one day events, but before doing any of those we will all need to brush up on our dressage and SJ (!).

This weekend there are the Golden Horseshoe endurance rides, and for the last few years we have always entered the pleasure rides (and had the fastest times!) but this year we haven't got ourselves booked on in time :-( May still go along to cheer anyone we know out there, as it is usually a great day out.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Glorious ;-)

As usual, the minute the bank holiday is over, and all the surfers and sunbathers have gone back to London, the sun comes out, the weather warms up, and summer actually starts ;-)

I feel sorry for all the people who spent yesterday on their way back to towns, just as it turned glorious down here...We had friends round for dinner in the evening and it was for the first time this year warm enough to sit outside as the sun went down...A bit midgey, but you can't have everything!

All horses' rugs are off, and they are loving being able to roll and scratch out all their remaining fluffy bits of winter coat. Now the grass is shooting up, and they are back on the track during the day and most of them are able to be out at night, although Bailey needs a careful eye kept on her; her hooves certainly won't cope with being out every night, but they are looking fantastic - will post some pics of her new, crack-free look soon.

No sooner does the grass start growing, of course, than we start planning our haylage crop, and the cattle and sheep have to move off the best fields as we aim to cut as early as we reasonably can - last year it wasn't till August, but this year we are hoping things will be a bit easier!

Friday, 2 May 2008

A week off...

...for the hunting pones, and very well deserved. So Charlie, Felix, Bailey and Conto have been hangin' out all week, and have even (oh heavens!) been turned out at night. Ghost has also had a week off, more because we felt like it than because he needed it, but he is not complaining ;-)

The weather hasn't been great, but at least its been warm - no chance to take rugs off yet though, but fingers crossed for the bank holiday...

The others have carried on working, especially Jack and Dex, who are the only ones who have actually broken into a sweat this week!

Dex has been a very good boy, and has built on his great weekend, when his owners came to ride him, and he went jumping again :-) Since then we've been gradually doing a bit more schooling with him, interspersed with his normal hacking out. We are hoping that he will be able to compete along to the Exmoor Foxhounds hunter trial on the moor at the end of this month, as a gentle re-introduction to his competitive career.

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 :-)

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Its AGES since I blogged!

Oops! Although we've finished lambing (thank goodness) its been full on over Easter, but in a fun way, with lots of hunting and lots of break-throughs with the rehab horses...

Jack has been hunting for a couple of very short days - he found the wet ground out on the moor pretty worrying, so only stayed out for an hour and a half, but on the plus side he loaded and travelled like a pro, so we were very pleased with him.

He will go out for short days and then we hope he will gain confidence on the moor over the summer.

Felix had a busy week, hunting full days on Easter Monday with a friend's daughter, and then with our very own Sarah Braithwaite on Wednesday.

Felix and Conto had a rather epic day, as we were out for 7 and a half hours (!). Con unfortunately fell into a bog, and was rather stiff the next day as a result, but Felix was pinging all day long.

It was Charlie and Bailey's turn today, in wild and windy weather more reminiscent of January than the end of March.

Dexter has also had a good week, and after a few days of ups and downs with his feet, has stabilised very well indeed. He is now going out happily without boots, and is very sound and comfortable on roads and concrete. He has been working steadily, and is going out for an hour's roadwork 2 or 3 times a week, as well as working in the school.

His owner is coming to see him this week, and I hope he will be able to really show off to her :-)

Friday, 14 March 2008

UKNHCP conference

Exciting news for us hoof anoraks, as we have booked Dr Robert Bowker to speak at our conference in July this year, and we will have 3 whole days to ply him with questions and hear about the latest research :-)

There will be one day (Thurs 17th July) which will be open to all, and 2 days for UKNHCP members only, and we have ben very fortunate to be able to hire Bristol University's Equine Studies Centre at Langford for the duration, so huge thanks to Robbie Richardson for facilitating that :-)

I will put details onto the events page of the website, and it will also be on shortly.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

There's no such thing as bad weather...

...just inappropriate clothing...or so we keep telling ourselves...

Another horrendous day here, with rain, gales, and general meteorological misery.

The horses are making their views quite clear, as they are firmly in favour of staying in the barn, with occasional forays out to eat haylage in the firs or the yards when the weather is not too bad. They will do anything to avoid the prevailing wind, so we feed from whichever hay feeders are the most protected.

Even those who are fairly low in the pecking order are allowed in to share the undercover feeders, and there seems to be a "Blitz spirit" which means they are all able to eat together fairly contentedly round the most sheltered feeders in bad weather, when on a sunny day there would be rivalry for the best spots.

The sheep seem mostly to be crossing their legs, very sensible, and although we have fished out a couple of lambs over the last 24 hrs they are generally are refusing to come out till its sunnier, at least I hope so :-)

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Dexter, Jack and Lucy

...what stars they have been over the last couple of weeks!

They are the 3 relative newcomers to the yard, and in the last 2 weeks have been involved in:

Mary Bromiley's clinic
Ben Hart's clinic
2 x Active Natural Hoofcare study days, and
UKNHCP Orientation clinic...

It was a new experience for all of them, and all 3 behaved perfectly on every occasion.

Lucy, who is not in work at the moment because of her tendon injury, really enjoyed the opportunity to be a star at Ben's clinic, and working with flags, tarpaulins, and other strange objects. She was also reunited with her old owner at orientation, and it was nice to hear how much better she thought the injury was looking.

Jack, who was formerly not trusted to be tied up or worked in the school has been a gentleman throughout, and patiently standing to be trimmed and whilst we talked about his hooves!

Dexter has a lot more experience than the other 2, and so of course took everything in his stride. It probably helps that he is now living with the "in" crowd - Bailey, Felix, Charlie and Conto - and he seems to be feeling rather smug about this social promotion!

He has not been trimmed, as he is not due for another week, but he was very tolerant of having his feet inspected by all the students, and although his hooves don't yet stand up to comparison with Ghost (the other "navicular" horse here at the moment), they are starting to look very promising :-)

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Boing! Its lambing time...(!)

Of course, when you have clinics running and lots going on with the horses, what you really need is for your sheep to decide that now is the perfect time to start lambing....(!)

My own fault, as we clearly had a ram break out last year, because we are not scheduled to lamb normally til April...

So far we have been lucky and the weather has been amazing, and as we have 16 lambs so far, its just as well. We are only lambing on a very small scale compared with our neighbours, who have hundreds, or even thousands of sheep to lamb - phew!

No chance to post photos yet, but the lambs are seriously cute ;-)

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Ben Hart Clinic

We have had a lovely day today, with Ben Hart giving a one day clinic on equine behaviour and training.

A mixture of UKNHCP members and "normal" horse owners trekked up to Rockley, and luckily for us the sun shone, even though it was chilly at times...

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Rockley Meet

Yesterday we had our meet, for the Exmoor Foxhounds, and it was a perfect Spring day - despite being the 27th Feb (!)...

I love to see riders, hounds and followers all eating and drinking in the sunshine, and we then had the fun of taking out our own horses - I rode Conto, Andy took Charlie, and a friend rode Felix, and we had a wonderful day :-) A lovely break in a really busy few weeks...

Monday, 25 February 2008

Lots on!

We have a really busy few weeks on at the moment...

We have just had Mary Bromiley holding her second clinic here, for the UKNHCP students and practitioners, which was as usual fantastically educational for all of us and enabled us to learn a huge amount more about the horses in our care.

Then next Saturday Ben Hart is running a horse handling and behaviour clinic, open to everyone, and I am hoping we will have some interesting horses here for that (!)...

A few days more and then at the beginning of March there is the first UKNHCP orientation clinic, open to our new intake of students.

In between all this, there are horses to be exercised and trimmed, as always, and lots going on on the farm as well, although I am hoping that the lambs mostly hold off until later in March, so i doubt we will have time to be bored!

Monday, 18 February 2008

New residents, and the sun still shining

Monday, and yet another day of blue skies, warm sunshine and its just a joy to be on Exmoor!

Yes, its freezing at night, but there is nearly a full moon and the stars are incredible, so what does it matter - the horses, cows and sheep are loving this weather, and we had our first lamb on Friday morning, so it feels like Spring!

Another new resident arrived on Sunday, a handsome eventer who has been diagnosed with navicular and has come here on vet referral. He has fitted in well, and is proving to be a poppet, making friends almost immediately with Conto and Felix.

Hoof photos will follow, and we hope to improve those a LOT over the next few weeks...

Finally, Conto has made it to the big time with a full day hunting on Saturday, and he got many compliments on his manners and good looks :-) He seemed to love his day out, and finished up wth extended trot up the road back to his trailer! What a good chap he is.

Thursday, 14 February 2008

Good boy Jack :-)

Jack made up today for his not-so-brave performance yesterday by being extra specially good today :-) Andy hacked him and I took Conto for a quick blast round the fields, as Con only had a very short day hunting yesterday. Jack was very well-behaved, and happy not to be out in front for quite so much of the way, unlike yesterday!

I grabbed a quick photo when we got home, just before the light went...Andy doesn't usually ride in ye olde Englisshe hunting seat, by the way (!)...

A glorious week

..and its been feeling like Spring. T-shirt weather practically, and cloudless blue skies. It has cheered up all of us - humnas, horses, cattle, sheep - its a bit like having a weeks' holiday in Spain without leaving Exmoor :-)

The horses are all going well, and are enjoying the extra attention given to them by Samuel, my nephew who is staying for half term.

Felix and Conto went hunting yesterday, with a friend taking Felix, as he could stay out for a full day and I couldn't - he has been most unimpressed with short days over the last couple fo weeks so deserved a proper balst, and certainly got one yesterday.

We are taking Charlie for his second clear round jumping at the Calvert's indoor school tomorrow - he was great last time, and quickly mastered tiny coloured jumps and the fact of being indoors, so we are hoping to build on that tomorrow.

Ghost has been working nicely for Anita, and Jack has been working slightly less nicely for me - to be fair he was asked to go out in front yesterday afternoon, and this was a little too far out of his comfort zone, so it took us 15 minutes to get to the end of the drive (about quarter of a mile) as we had to stop and look at things in amazement many times on the way. Of course we walked home purposefully and quite happily, but its all part of the learning curve ;-)

I'll forgive him, as he was angelic to clip at the weekend and never moved a muscle :-)