Thursday, 31 January 2008

Cob power!

I took the shoes of a great cob mare today - the owner was the sort of person that I love to work for - she had spent literally years researching barefoot, and making sure it was the right decision for her, she has friends on the yard who are supportive and very knowledgeable about barefoot, with years of epxerience of challenging hooves, she has done everything right on the dietary side, and she has a horse who works regularly and has been well shod in the past :-)

I saw the mare about 6 weeks ago, and we put together a plan for taking her shoes off; today was D-day. The only slight hitch was that the weather was truly filthy - gales, sleet, cold, and to top it off there was a shoot going on nearby.

Like many cobs, this mare was both sensitive and lively, and despite having excellent manners, she found the morning a challenge, especially when the rain started hammering on the roof like machine gun fire.

She tried very hard for us though, and was making a visible effort to be brave. Once the shoes were off and she had been trimmed up, her great hooves were evident - she has fantastic new hoof growth coming in from the coronet, and already has the typical cob foot, with a strong, healthy frog and digital cushion.

I'm already looking forward to seeing her again - she stomped off full of the joys of spring once we had finished today, and I am hoping she will go from strength to strength :-)

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

Little angels

Today the equine dentist (Rob Batson) came and went through the yard like a dose of salts :-)

He is great, and the old lags are always reliable, but its interesting (!) to see how the new horses react - we've had one or two who have obviously had bad experiences in the past.

As if to make up for the fact that my truck is terminally unsound with a slipping clutch (and the garage who were supposed to replace it at great expense have totally failed to sort it - not once but twice....AARGH!), the horses were all on their best behaviour today, and even the newbies and the babies had their haloes in place and were models of equine etiquette.

Felix and Conto were described as practically perfect, and the worst any of them did was have a little lean and fidget.

Its fun talking to Rob, as he has a great memory for which horses were doing what a year ago. With Charlie, for instance, he remembered that he was terribly green and nervy a year ago, and yet now here he is - Hunting Charlie, full of confidence with great teeth and perfect manners (well nearly!). Lets hope another year brings great things for Jack and Lucy - fingers crossed!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Can't keep up - life too fast for the blog :-)

I'm doing a miserable job of keeping up with the blog - too much happening and too little time, but I can't complain, especially as I was able to take horses out on exercise till 5.30 tonight - yay! Admittedly I came down the drive in the dusk, but its all getting better from here on in.

Jack is the best news from the weekend. He went out on Sunday and instead of the short hack we planned, we ended up doing a full hour as there was a rally of vintage cars going up and down the hill, and although they were terribly polite and the horses were terribly bomb-proof, it got boring having to get onto the verge as they all came steaming down our single track hill.

So Jack got a proper hack out, much longer than he had done before, and across much more interesting terrain - fields and sheep and everything :-) He seemed to really enjoy himself and was fascinated with what was round the next corner, which is a great sign.

Charlie was also a star on Saturday, as we had a fast day hunting and went over some real mountain goat territory. Charlie was foot perfect and had no problems, even when I couldn't really see how we were going to get up or down some sheer pieces of rock - he reckoned that I shouldn't interfere because he knew what he was doing, and he was right - what a gem he is.

We've been interviewing UKNHCP students today, and they have been very inpressive - its also great for the organisation that we are getting more applicants than we can accept, even though its hard for the people we have to turn down.

The equine dentist is here tomorrow, so its a day on the yard and a chance to get on with jobs like clipping(!)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Back and catching up

Got back on Sunday night and spent the last 3 days catching up - lots of clients' horses to trim, plus lots to do on the farm. Still, it was a fantastically useful 4 days away, and as always it was brilliant to spend time with Sarah, Matthew and Paul and to brainstorm about UKNHCP and barefoot horses in general.

Here on the farm, there is lots of hedging due to be done this year, and it all has to be completed by the end of March, so thats a priority. The horses are pretty unimpressed with the weather - Andy said it rained continuously while I was away :-( and we are all looking forward to a bit of dry weather soon, I hope. It was salutary to drive down from the north and see how bad the flooding was around Shrewsbury and Gloucestershire - we have definitely been lucky down here by comparison.

On the positive side, the daffs are starting to emerge - shoots at least - on the negative - what on earth are they doing up at this time of year - we live at 1100 feet, for goodness sake?!?!?

One bonus of the bad weather is that I have managed to update the Barefoot Horses website with some new case studies, and have reposted the video clip of us riding on flint on Exmoor, which had gone AWOL somewhere in if you are interested :-)

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Off for a few days

The last week has flown - not sure where it has gone, but despite torrential rain the horses are all doing fine. Jack has done particularly well over the last few days, and is now hacking out fairly happily, albeit behaving like a just-backed 3 year old and finding everything amazing :-)

I am off to meet up with the other UKNHCP directors in Cheshire, to interview our prospective intake of students and to work out what the UKNHCP's objectives are for 2008. Andy is looking after everyone on the farm and a friend is taking Felix hunting on Saturday for me, so I am hoping Felix will be on his best behaviour...I am sure he will be (!)

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Moving the blog

Sorry if you mislaid the blog...I had to re-host it as it wasn't working well where it was (not sure why, but then I am a bit of a computer muppet), so here it is in its new home... and I hope its happy here!

We've had a wild few days weather wise, but its been a great opportunity for Jack and Charlie to demonstrate how brave they both are, as Andy took them out individually in a howling gale yesterday. Although they found it rather challenging, they both excelled themselves and behaved beautifully.

Conto has been hunting, and the penny has dropped (previously he thought it was a bit pointless but he now realises that sometimes its fun to go up and down the same lanes a few times with your mates!). He hunts in a snaffle, and has such lovely manners that he is a real pleasure. The only thing I find it a bit worrying is going down the steepest hills, as he tends to just sit on his backside and ski down them, very calmly... Still Andy and Bailey are very understanding and catch us at the bottom if need be!

Monsoon was lovely to hack out yesterday, but I am still not totally happy with her, as she finds going down a slope, on any surface, very difficult. I am hoping Mary Bromiley will be able to shed some light on what is happening when she next comes.

Wednesday, 2 January 2008


Sudden change of weather today - very strong easterly winds, much colder and we may apparently have snow on the way. The horses are not impressed, and are all in the westerly yard, the barn and the firs, protected from the worst of the wind chill and refusing to come out!

I spent the first half of the day beating my paperwork mountain into order (new year's resolution is a scorched earth policy for my desk...) then gritted my teeth and went out and exercised Conto and Monsoon (who were both very good) and Ghost and Jack (who both thought it was a terrible idea to go out just before teatime and dragged their heels all the way out and sprinted all the way back, naughty boys).

Back to trimming tomorrow, and I am really looking forward to seeing one horse in particular, whose shoes came off 6 weeks ago. I'm hoping to see much improved hooves, so will post an update about him shortly.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Happy 2008 :-)

...2007 was definitely Charlie's year, and he went from being incredibly green, unsure of himself and physically weak to this :-) We are really pleased with him..

Today Andy took him, and I took Felix, to our neighbours' lovely New Years Day meet. Andy hasn't hunted Charlie for a while, and I have possibly made a mistake, as they both had far too much fun and I have a feeling I may have lost the ride... Still Felix was raring to go and was a joy, as always. We weren't the only ones having fun and taking photos, either, though I'm not sure how successful our young colleague was...
The other horses had a day off, of sorts, or at least self-exercised, as the hounds and field came through the farm a couple of times and kept them all trotting along the track and watching with interest!