Sunday, 10 February 2019

Life After Betty

Since we lost Betty the herd has slowly gotten used to her passing. It has been nearly a month since she left us and I can say we are missing her greatly. Although she was a very small pony she had a BIG personality that is definitely missed. We are taking comfort in the fact however she is at peace now and we have her grave to visit in the field whenever we want some time to sit and remember her.
The dynamics of the herd have changed slightly in that Barbara is definitely becoming more confident. She did tend to hide behind Betty a lot, so now she is unable to do that she has had to find her own place in the herd. Just after Betty's death she was alone a lot, she wasn't really ever standing with Star and Fella, but as the days and weeks have passed she has become very much part of the new herd of three; as exemplified in the picture below.
Feeding time is clearly the ponies favourite time, especially Barbara's. As it is winter and there is very little grass left in the field now the ponies get carrots in the morning and a tea consisting of fast fibre, apple chaff and carrots at night, as well as hay. Due to Fella's breed he gets lots of carrots and a huge tea as we have to work to keep weight on him. In contrast we have the opposite problem with Barbara and Star, so they get a couple of carrots and a very small tea each. The morning feeding time ritual goes as follows; Fella gets his carrots first, then Star and then Barbara. They eat their own piles and go back to grazing. Below is a picture of a typical morning feeding time.

At teatime the feeding order is the same as Fella is head of the herd, then Star and then Barbara. Barbara usually finishes first and then stands in wait to try to get to Fella's bucket once he has finished. Star finishes next and goes straight over to her her hay net and starts munching away. Fella then finishes and makes his way over to the feed room where he gets a horse treat called a 'Stud Muffin'. They are a small molasses based treat that look a little bit like a small Christmas pudding. They are his favourite and help to keep his weight up. Whilst he is getting his treat Barbara will make her way over to his near empty feed bucket to see what left overs she can help herself to until I come along and ruin her feasting by collecting the buckets in to be washed; much to her annoyance! Below is a picture of an average teatime feeding. 
I have also tried my hand at doing a bit of filming recently so below is my first ever YouTube video of the horses feeding at teatime in the snow! Watch this space for more videos as Mother bought me a head cam for Christmas!!!!
As you will see from the video we have had some wintry weather hit recently. Thankfully it didn't last long, but we were fully prepared for it thanks to our forward planning with the bulk hay delivery we took in September. We haven't actually had much snow so far this winter. I do hope I haven't just tempted fate by saying that! As you will see from the video and the pictures the herd have recovered from losing Betty and Barbara who was our biggest concern has coped well. Betty's memory will most certainly live on with us and our herd. I will leave you with a wonderfully wintry snap of our steeds. 

Saturday, 19 January 2019

R.I.P Little Lady xxx

It has been a heartbreaking week up at the farm this week as we very sadly lost Betty. On Tuesday I had gone up to the farm as normal after work to check on the horses and give them their tea. I arrived at the farm at about 5pm, it was dark, cold and windy. I opened the gate and walked round to the feed room to find Star, Fella and Barbara waiting for their tea. I instantly knew something was wrong as there was no sign of Betty. Normally Betty was the first at the feed room and she always stayed close to the herd so I knew it was a bad sign she wasn't with the other three. I searched the field in the dark shouting  her name until I finally found her lying down. I went straight over to her and tried to get her up. She couldn't, her back leg was clearly injured as she couldn't put any weight on it. I quickly rang my vet Nick who straight away asked the obvious question if I thought it was colic. My response was no as she wasn't showing any signs of colic, I knew it was her leg. He said he would contact the on call vet, Nick's practice partner Dave who would give me a call ASAP once he was on his way. As it was cold and windy I went to get one of Fella's rugs and wrapped it round her. I then sat with her stroking her face and talking to her. I think she was in shock to be honest as she was quite calm. I rang my partner Neil who said he would come straight up. I then contacted Helen who unfortunately was away with her partner. As Helen is Betty's other mum I felt it imperative to keep her abreast of what was going on. My friend Kate happened to call so I told her what was going on so she offered to come straight up too. Dave the vet rang pretty soon after and asked for directions, he advised me he would be with us in about 25 minutes. It wasn't long before Neil and Kate arrived. Kate stayed with myself comforting Betty and Neil went to keep watch for Dave. I was very glad to have both of them with me and will be forever grateful to both of them.
Once Dave arrived he did an initial assessment of Betty, he took her temperature and checked her heart beat but they were both close to normal. Like Nick he also initially thought it might have been colic but he quickly ruled it out, so he asked us to try and get Betty up. I said we could try but I didn't think we could as I thought her right hind leg was injured. Straight away as soon as we tried, he agreed it was her back leg causing the problem. Upon closer inspection he informed us unfortunately Betty's leg was broken and there was nothing he could do. He said it was the type of break you would see on a race horse who has fallen whilst galloping on the track. It was a clean break at the joint. With a break of this type I was fully aware there was nothing Dave could have done other than put her to sleep. Whilst he went to his car to get his kit we all kissed, hugged and talked to Betty. I also rang Helen to give her the sad news, she was understandably incredibly upset but agreed it was the only option and the kindest thing to do for Betty. I felt awful delivering that news to her when she was supposed to be on a romantic break away with her husband. Dave was lovely with Betty and us. He showed great compassion and empathy. I held Betty as she went to sleep, kissed her and said goodnight to her. She went very peacefully. Dave told us he felt it had just been a freak accident. There were no signs of kick marks or anything of that nature so he thinks she must have been galloping around and she has just fallen awkwardly, unfortunately breaking her leg in the process. He did not think she had been there very long as the swelling wasn't very noticeable yet which indicated it had only recently happened. This made me feel better as at least she hadn't been there for very long. Whilst all this was going on Barbara was very distressed, I think she could sense something was wrong with her sister. Dave advised us to leave Betty's body where it was for the night so the rest of the herd could say goodbye and come to terms with her passing. The next day Neil witnessed Fella biting at Betty's leg to try to get her to stand up. On the Wednesday when we arrived to move the body Fella was licking her face and Barbara was pawing at her try to get her to stand up. This is a natural reaction of horses when one of their herd falls, but it was heartbreaking to watch. Since Betty's passing the rest of the herd have been very somber and subdued so I think they know she has passed. 
After a conversation with Helen we decided we would bury Betty in our field, then she would always be with us and the rest of the herd. In England horses and ponies can be buried if they were pets. The next day Neil took a half day from work and started to dig her grave and I asked some of my friends Michael, Adam and Cory to come and help us move her body down to our field and next to where Neil was digging her grave. Myself and Helen will be forever grateful to those lads for helping us move her with dignity. On Thursday Neil finished digging her grave-for which we will be eternally grateful to him for, so we decided we would bury her today, which was Saturday morning. Myself, Helen, Neil and Helen's husband Kev arrived at the field this morning to lay our little lady to rest. We carefully lowered her into her grave along with a carrot and some horse treats as she loved her food. Helen and I then both said a few words as we threw the first handfuls of earth over her. Neil and Kev then did the rest until she was fully covered and her grave was complete. They made a lovely job of her grave and we are both very thankful to them both. Helen and I made a cross out of some wood and buried a tree in remembrance of her and to mark the spot of her grave. We then said our goodbyes and laid some white roses for her. It is nice to know Betty will always be with us and the rest of the herd in our field and that we have a place we can visit and remember her. 
Helen rang the RSPCA shelter to let them know what had happened. They were lovely and said they were happy we had been able to give her such a lovely life while she was with us. I am very grateful for Helen contacting the shelter as I think I would have found this too upsetting. Betty was an absolute legend and in the short time we had her, which was a year and four months she brought such joy to our lives. She was the type of pony that didn't let anything phase her. She was more than happy to help herself to Fella's tea on a regular basis, which I don't think he was ever very pleased about! She was always first at the feed room at tea time, she loved her food! She was a master escape artist, she could get through any type of fencing. She would happily stand of her own accord, untied and get a groom, she loved to be fussed over. She took the starring role in my work Nativity and she got 1st and 2nd in her first ever show with us. She loved to go out for hand walks, any type of traffic would pass us and she would barely raise her head. She would have made a fantastic children's pony as she was bombproof. Below are some pictures of Betty showing happy memories during her time with us. 

On Thursday we received a lovely card from my vet Nick offering his condolences. I thought this was a really nice touch and just exemplifies why I have been with his practice for over ten years. We also received a lovely card each from our friend Vic. As well as the cards, Helen and I also received a lovely bouquet of flowers each from our friends Alex, Cory, Leanne, Michael, Adam and Lauren. What a lovely group of friends we have to make such a thoughtful gesture.
Below is the last picture taken of Betty a couple of days before we lost her.
Rest in Peace Little Lady.
RSPCA Felledge Betty Boop 2012-2019

Sunday, 13 January 2019

My Shining Star

I have owned Star for over ten years now and there hasn't been a day that has gone by that I haven't felt incredibly lucky to have her. A lot has happened in my life over those ten years including losing several of my family members and going through a really difficult breakup, but Star has been by my side every step of the way getting me through. It's ten years this year since I lost my big brother Hugh, pictured below:
I was absolutely devastated when Hugh died as it came as a complete shock. I can still remember getting the phone call from my older sister Kathy to tell me he had died. I slid down the wall into a heap on the floor, dropped the phone and stayed there crying for what felt like hours. Hugh was a soldier in the British Army. He served in Kosovo, Bosnia and Iraq, but he suffered terribly from PTSD that was never treated. From the outside you would never know he was struggling as he was always the life and soul of the party. Sadly Hugh felt he could no longer live in this world and on the 19th August 2009 he took his own life. I think a piece of me died the day he did as I honestly have never gotten over it and I never will. The days, weeks and months that followed his death are a bit of blur to be honest, but what I do remember is the one thing that would get me out of bed was Star. Helen and I were on a livery yard at the time with our other friend Kate on part livery-this meant full livery Monday-Friday then DIY Saturday and Sunday. It was a brilliant yard to be on at the time, it was run by a lovely family, had a great bunch of liveries and the facilities were excellent-it even had an arena with a full set of show jumps. It was a really good thing at that time that Star was on part livery as even if I wanted to hide under the duvet on a Saturday and Sunday I couldn't as Star needed to be looked after. Seeing to Star gave me a reason to get up and a purpose. It kept my mind occupied, gave me time with my friends who were up at the yard seeing to their horses, it was fresh air and it was great exercise. I genuinely believe having Star at that time was a real blessing as she really did help me work through my grief, and she has done in times since. There is a lot of research to suggest that contact with an animal is therapeutic. Plus the good thing about Star is I can talk to her and she doesn't answer back!
The last twelve months have been pretty hard as my Dad's battle with dementia came to an end in July 2018. Below is a picture of Dad in happier times on his birthday.
Yet again Star is one of the main things that has kept me going through the grief. Watching Dad battle such an awful disease over a number of years has been absolutely heartbreaking. There have been times when I have just gone to the field hugged Star and cried into her neck and she has just stood there and let me. Sometimes the back of my jumper or my pony tail would even get a little groom off her! The bond I have with Star is unbreakable. I would go as far to say I would take a bullet for that pony. There have been so many times when I have been worried or upset about something and she has helped me through. She is always there to cheer me up with that cheeky face, that sassy attitude and those ears pricked forward. She's my baby girl and I couldn't imagine life without her. In those times when life is dark with grief she has always been my 'Shining Star'.

Sunday, 30 December 2018

Nativity Ned

It has been a busy few months since my last post, as unfortunately that always seems to be the way on the run up to Christmas! This year at work I decided to write a localised Nativity for my Drama Club students to perform as part of a festive evening for parents at school. One evening whilst writing the script I had an idea! I though it would be a great shout to have Betty play the role of the donkey! After checking with Helen first to see if she would be able to transport Betty to school I sought permission to have Betty as part of the Nativity. It was a bit of a risk given we would have no time prior to the day of the performance to rehearse with Betty but I just knew she would be great. As predicted Helen rocked up to school with Betty on the afternoon of the performance and true to form she was absolutely no bother during rehearsals. The only initial problem we faced was the flooring at school was too slippy for Betty to walk on. We soon rectified this by making her a pathway of mats for her to walk on. To pass the risk assessment it was agreed I would perform with Betty rather than risk any incidents occurring with the students. I purchased myself a lovely little Shepherds outfit so I could take to the stage with Betty. As you can see from the picture below we really looked the part!!
The students absolutely loved the fact Betty was appearing with them in their performance. In between rehearsals and the actual performance Helen was an absolute legend standing outside in the orchard with Betty so she could get some quiet time to graze and prepare herself for her starring role!! Poor Helen was stood outside in the cold for several hours and both myself and the students were very grateful to her for her help, as without Helen it would not have been possible for Betty to appear in our Nativity. When it came to Betty's big moment she was an absolute superstar as I knew she would be. We had over a hundred people in the audience, stage lights plus all the cast in costume and she did not bat an eyelid! She walked up and down the front of the school hall following 'Mary and Joseph' looking for a place to stay with absolute focus on the carrots I was holding in my hand! I knew she would be brilliant but I was so proud of her!!! At the end of the evening we had a collection for the RSPCA equine shelter-Felledge that we re homed Betty and Barbara from. I had picked some collection tins up from there the day before the performance. Members of the cast stood with the tins whilst the audience left. Everyone was incredibly generous and Felledge were over the moon when I returned the tins feeling rather full of donations.  Once Betty's performance was over Helen and I packed her back onto the trailer and Helen got on her way back to the field. Unfortunately once Helen was back at the field she was unable to get the trailer back in through the usual entrance as it was just too muddy. It took a number of hours for us to get it back in via a different entrance which I felt really bad about as Helen had given up her day off to help us out so it wasn't an ideal end to the day :(
Apart from the trailer drama however the rest of the day had gone to plan. Given how well Betty did I really think she would be great for other things such as 'pets as therapy'. It is definitely something we will look into for the future as she really isn't phased by anything!
After all the excitement of Betty's starring role the festive period has been quite quiet up at the field. The ponies have enjoyed a couple of weeks down in the bottom field. Helen used this as a distraction tactic whilst she was loading Betty for the Nativity that worked incredibly well. It meant the rest of the herd weren't trying to follow her as she exited the trailer out of the field. Their festive feasting however came to an end on Boxing Day when we closed the gate to the bottom field. Star had started to resemble a semi detached house on legs and the miniatures had begun to look like a pair of flats on legs so it was definitely time to limit their grazing again. Plus we want to save whats left for when the harsh winter kicks in, which according to recent weather reports could be fairly soon. Helen and I split the daily duties over Christmas with her mostly doing the mornings as she was coming home from night shift and myself taking the afternoon checks. On Christmas Day the neds each got an equine Christmas pudding and some parsnips. Fella was over the moon with his parsnips as they are his favourite vegetable and I got the impression Star couldn't get enough of her Christmas pudding. Pictured below is the herd wishing everyone a very horsey Happy Christmas!!

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Hay Time!

Last week was pretty busy up at the farm. There was a lot of poo picking, a jumping lesson, a hack, a hay delivery and a spot of stable DIY!
Due to the weird wintry weather we experienced recently we thought we needed to stock up on hay ASAP before any more bad weather hits us. Due to the weather over the spring and summer this year it could mean there is a shortage of hay for the winter so this was another reason we wanted to stock up. The farm shop we normally buy our single small square bales of hay and straw from agreed to do us a bulk delivery. We spotted the farmer whilst we were on our hack and managed to sweet talk him into doing us a delivery. We ordered 30 square bales of hay and 5 square bales of straw. The hay is for the ponies to eat and the straw will be used as bedding for the two shelter stables. Sure enough the next day the farmer delivered us our order.
As you can see there were a lot of bales to move into the stable where we are storing them! We placed several pallets down on the floor; as if you laid the hay directly onto the concrete floor it would get damp and go mouldy. We then started stacking the bales inside the chosen storage stable. Once in we covered one side with some tarpaulin as one side of the stable roof leaks. I think we did a pretty good job at our improvised 'hay barn'.
We now feel much better about winter and the worse weather approaching as we feel prepared. We now don't have to worry about where we are going to get hay from when the weather turns or the ponies run out of grass. As well as sorting the hay we also upped security on the make shift stable 'feed room' as shown in the picture below.
Although there is nothing of any real monetary value on there, as we keep all tack etc. at home we did not want anyone including the horses to be able to gain access to the feed. Feed can be a dangerous thing to horses. If they eat too much they can colic and die. It won't go unnoticed that Betty decided to photo bomb the shot!!
As the weather was nice and Helen and I both had some time off work we decided to take the ponies for a jumping lesson at a local riding school. We managed to get booked in for a joint semi private lesson. I love showjumping, it is my favourite thing to do with Star. I don't like jumping very big however, I won't normally do more than about 65cm. Helen on the other hand can tackle much bigger jumps on Fella. The instructor we had opted to do a bounce jump lesson with us. Bounce jumps are when two or more jumps are placed in a row. They are a really good way to help horses with balance and can help slow a horse down on the approach to a fence. The instructor was brilliant, she had a great style of teaching and the arena was fabulous! We both really enjoyed the lesson as much as I think the horses did!
I think it is really important for both horse and rider to continue to have lessons as we never stop learning and it can stop bad habits from forming. It also helps to keep things interesting and is a great way to prepare for competitions. I think we are planning to take the ponies out to do some Christmas Showjumping in December so watch this space!!
Helen drove us to the riding school in her trailer. Helen got her a trailer and towing licence a number of years ago now. I am forever grateful to her for all the lifts she gives to Star and I, as without her we wouldn't be able to go anywhere. I think anyone who knows me will say it is a blessing I have never tried to get my towing licence as I think it's probably worrying enough to have me on the roads in a small car, never mind a 4x4 towing a horse trailer!!!!
The horses were quite excited to visit a new place and were very inquisitive of their unfamiliar surroundings. Below is a picture of them post lesson waiting to be loaded onto the trailer to go home for a nice roll and some chill out time in the field, which is exactly what they both did when we got back! 

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Weird Weather

This weekend we saw some rather bizarre weather up at the field. Saturday morning Helen checked on the ponies on her way to work at the ungodly hour of 5.30 am and said it was sleeting and snowing but it was quite wet so wasn't sticking. I awoke at 8.30 am to find it was snowing quite heavily so I decided to head up to the field. The picture below shows what I was greeted with upon my arrival.
Above is the road the field is on. I immediately decided to head to the Farm Shop to purchase a bale of hay and some emergency carrots. Luckily I currently have winter tyres on my car so I was able to quite easily get to the farm shop and back. The farm shop sells a variety of fruit and veg as well as hay, straw and horse feeds. It's only five minutes drive away so it is very handy to have, especially in emergencies! Once back at the field I shouted for the ponies. They were down at the bottom of the field instead of up at the top near the shelter!!! Common sense is not something our steeds seem to possess!!
Once I had shouted them they soon came up pretty quickly and headed straight for the hay and carrots I had placed out for them. I put three piles of hay out; one for Fella, one for Star and one for the miniatures to share. I also put a net up on the outside of the stable block. On top of each pile of hay I placed some carrots also. Fella was first to the hay. Being head of herd this was expected. 
He was closely followed by Star and Betty, then Barbara. Barbara is always last bless her. It doesn't help she is the smallest, but it's almost as if she is still figuring things out. Sometimes we wonder if she even knows she is a pony! Betty on the other hand is the complete opposite. She is everywhere and into everything, and has absolutely no concept of personal space. She regularly gets shooed away by Star and Fella, and occasionally even Barbara!!
Once the ponies were fed my next task was to crack the ice on the water trough. Next followed a rug change for Fella to a thicker one, as after all he is a Thoroughbred and lets face it they were not designed for English winters! Once Fella was sorted I removed Star's fly rug. After they had finished off all the carrots and had a taste of hay the herd decided it was time to retreat away from the shelter and back to the bottom of the field. I left the field feeling satisfied the herd would be fine until Helen visited them again in the afternoon after she had finished work. Believe it or not by the time Helen did arrive at the field the weather had made a sudden improvement and all the snow had literally disappeared!!!
It was as if it was winter in the morning and then back to Autumn in the afternoon. I wonder if this is a sign of a harsh winter to come.........The next day Helen and I were both off work so we headed out for a nice afternoon hack. It was very cold but there was no wind and the sun was out, so it made for a very pleasant ride out. Once we returned we discovered the reason behind the herd's eagerness to return to the bottom of the field. It seems the herd from the field next door has returned from their summer away.
 Our ponies, particularly Fella absolutely love to have 'Ned Natter' over the fence with them. It's quite nice actually to know they have company again over the winter. There are also a couple of new foals that have returned which are very cute to look at and a welcome distraction for Helen and I from the poo picking!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Beach Day!

As Helen and I both had a free weekend and there were no shows we fancied competing in we decided to take Star and Fella to the beach this morning. We met at the farm at 9 am to get them ready for the road.

Neither of them seemed particularly impressed with the idea however, as exemplified by the ears back pose in the pictures! They weren't the only ones who were unimpressed by our intended plans. The miniatures were pretty miffed they were not being given the opportunity to partake! They stood watched and whinnied their way through the loading process.
After a successful loading of Star and Fella we set off on our trip to the beach. We are very lucky that both are very good loaders and travelers. It's very rare we have any issues with traveling either of them. Once we arrived at the beach their mood had improved greatly. 
We quickly got them unloaded and tacked up. Once mounted we headed for the beach! Out first attempt at access to the beach was a fail, but we soon found an entrance point. I think they were both a bit bothered by the sound of the waves to start with as neither of them would go near the sea! Star has been to the beach before so I knew she was just pretending to be scared, she is very good at that! Fella however, bless him wasn't just scared he was terrified!!! This is definitely the first time Helen has taken him to the beach. We have no idea if he was taken when he was racing but judging by his reaction today I would suspect this was maybe his first trip to the beach at the ripe old age of 12!!!!
When we arrived he would not go anywhere near the sea, but by the end of our ride Helen managed to get him to dip his toes in the ocean! Helen is a very accomplished rider, far better than I will ever be! She rode Fella incredibly well today as the little monkey even threw in a full on rear at one point that she sat to and managed to remain in the saddle despite losing a stirrup! 
The above picture was taken post rear. As you can see he seems very proud of his attempt to dump his mother!!!! Besides the initial 'fear' of the sea Star on the other hand took the whole ride literally in her stride! She's not a fan of water in general, but she did have a little dip in the sea towards the end of the ride after doing her token 'I will pretend to be scared' routine! 
I feel very lucky to live in the North East as it really is a beautiful part of the world. The coastline is simply stunning. I grew up in the North West quite close to a beach so it reminds me of home when I go to the beach, which I love. I never take anything for granted and count myself very lucky to be able to do the things we do with the ponies, such as taking them to the beach. 
The beach we were on this morning was gorgeous and a perfect coastal spot to take the ponies for a ride out. One thing we were very impressed with today was the dog walkers. Everyone was very considerate as we passed them. All the owners either put their dogs back on their leads, or got a hold of them whilst we passed. We did have one little follower at one point in the form of a very friendly little french bulldog, but he didn't bark or get aggressive he just followed us along for the ride until his owner caught up with him! 
Overall the ride was very enjoyable and it is definitely something we will be doing again in the future. The ponies certainly enjoyed it! We were lucky with the weather it was dry, warm and sunny with no wind. 
After the ride both of them needed a quick sponge off before we loaded them as it was very warm! Once we got back to the farm they both had several rolls which I am sure would have felt very satisfying for them. We were also greeted by two very noisy miniatures who were very glad to get their companions back! 

Life After Betty

Since we lost Betty the herd has slowly gotten used to her passing. It has been nearly a month since she left us and I can say we are missin...