Pony diaries: Ambling into autumn 🍂

The last few weeks have been good ones for my fluffball pony, who looks forward every year to the change of season between summer and autumn. Charmer has actually had a really good summer – he has kept his weight well, enjoyed his time both out and in and not suffered too much with the midges – and he does love the great array of grass that summertime brings!!; but between the heat, the flies and his sweet itch, it’s never his comfiest time; and it’s always a total joy when the temperature breaks, the nights draw in, that furry winter coat starts growing and he can relax into the most contented of days.

We’ve not been doing any riding the past few months – partly because he’s been a bit stiffer and partly because I’ve put on a bit of weight myself and would like to lose some before I get back on (I’m always quite near the top end of what’s probably ok for him at his age so definitely don’t want to add any pressure to those old legs!), but the last few weeks we have been enjoying a lot of little walks on his rope.

I had actually been walking him just in and out of the barn the shortest way for a few weeks back in August, having noticed that he was moving a bit less easily and wanting to keep everything as easy as possible for him, but after a few weeks of this he voted with his feet and started dragging me the long way round, where there is lots more to see and he loves just to feel like he’s on an adventure – and, as it turns out, he’s moving all the better for stretching his legs and having his wee brain busier again. One day we even found a little free library just at a cottage on the edge of the farm, and he always likes to stop for a munch of grass and a watch of the horses in the fields across the track especially his old hacking buddies.

I also took him a bit of a longer walk last week to see how he got on, and he absolutely loved it. In October, my lovely friend who works for the ambulance service is organising a fund raiser at the yard for the Scottish Air Ambulance Charity, with a lot of the girls and horses at the yard embarking on a month of long hacks racking up the miles. Every mile counts and can be added to their running total so we thought we would join in where we’re at just now, and went for a mile-long walk in-hand last week to test the ground. We found that it was the perfect distance for Charmer who absolutely loved every second, so we will do that wee loop every few days whenever he’s up for it and see how many we can count up in the month! – (and will maybe help me shed some pounds too, maybe by the end of the month I could be doing an amble on him!)

We’ve also been enjoying a bit of messing around and watching the leaves fall in the little sand school behind our barn, which seems to be a start to the day both of us love. ❤️

… and on the rainier days, it’s just breakfast on the barn and a shelter with a huge pile of hay.

It’s getting darker and darker every night at the moment, and at the weekend after work I had both my girls with me for a just-before-bedtime torchlight visit to the field which the horses and children loved – and I did too, always enjoying so much those first nights in the bright lights of the barn with the rain hammering and the dark fields outside.

I’m really pleased with how well Charmer seems to be doing and looking forward to our month of little walks for a good cause, and to the drawing in of winter. ❤️

Hope you all have a good week. Xx

Pony love – the little heroes restoring the Fells, and all our cheeky companions 💙🐴

I have always loved ponies of all shapes and sizes. It often seems that, for a lifetime now, I have been shaking my head fondly – hands on hips – at example after example of the irrepressible character of ponies that knows no bounds. A swiped mouthful of hay here, a ripped rug there, a pinched sandwich, a stable toy planned to keep boredom at bay for the winter worked out within seconds… Ponies’ intelligence, their resilience and their spirit are second to none and throughout my life with my own boy I’ve become very well acquainted with that unique streak of stubbornness, mischief and loyalty.

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I really enjoy learning more about Charmer’s breed in particular and following other Fell ponies – easily done as I’m by no means alone in my love for them. The Queen herself has a soft spot for them and chooses them for her riding horses. At 92 years old she is still spotted hacking out her pony Cartonlima Emma regularly – a high-profile testament to Fells’ reliability and temperament.

Cartonlima Emma – Bob Langrish

I like to keep up with my boy’s own breed lines too, tracing his ancestry through the Fell Pony Society and following his family – to my amazement learning that several of his half brothers and sisters do very well on the showing circuit, his half-brother in fact champion at the Horse of the Year Show the last 3 years running.

Horse & Hound

It’s absolutely amazing to see and I love to watch them excel while enjoying life at home with their scruffball brother, as defined by his big character as he is his donkey-like ears, shaggy mane and jaunty trot. ❤

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Most of all, though, I just love to see ponies being ponies, living as natural a life as is possible, their hardiness another of their admirable traits. I try to create this in miniature for Charmer as much as possible, letting him live out with his fieldmates when he can and enjoy ambles through the woods; but there is nothing like seeing it on its biggest, truest scale. A blog I absolutely love to follow is Mitch McFarlane Photography, documenting journeys to find and photograph British native ponies in the wild – from the Shetland isles to the Dales to Exmoor – and giving a beautiful insight into ponies at peace in their own little worlds.. ♥️

I would love to visit some of these places myself and have the chance to observe these amazing animals in the wild – starting in Cumbria to get back to Charmer’s roots. Recently, Fell ponies have been making headlines as part of the “Fix the Fells” project, carrying equipment up the hills to restore popular footpaths and keep trails open.

It’s amazing to see these incredible animals doing what they were born to do, so ably finding their path and carrying loads.

Back home, I’m sure my boy would argue that he contributes to society in his own way, entertaining walkers along the coastal path, keeping the grass under control in his field and enjoying a little downtime too…

…Still, we stand in awe of those ponies contributing to such a huge project and harnessing their heritage in their task; and all the beautiful ponies around the country and world flying the flag for our lovely native breeds in so many different ways.

Happy Friday all and have a lovely weekend. X

Back in the saddle again…

This is a post I have looked forward to writing for a long time! This week, a few days short of a whole year since the last time I sat on my little black pony; I was back in my all-time favourite seat, viewing the world through my all-time favourite pair of fluffy ears! 💙

Back in the saddle again!

I had last ridden on the day we put the clocks forward in March 2017, just before I had found out I was pregnant with our little girl and hung up my riding hat until her arrival. It was a lovely little hack; up bright and early on a sunny Sunday morning and clopping down the daffodil-lined track, just me and my boy. I didn’t know then the significance of it, but – since I generally tend to be snap happy whenever I’m around Charmer! – I have photos to remember it by all the same, and have looked at them often in the past year.

Riding, March 2017

It was always at the back of my mind that in taking such a long time off riding a 21-year-old horse – and one who’d come close to retirement once or twice before – I was definitely running the risk of not getting back to it; and I tried to be realistic about the fact that those lovely memories might well come to be of our last sunny day exploring. I’ve never been a competitive rider, and the working side of horse-owning has never been the main drive for me – as long as I can spend time with my boy I’m happy. But it will always be a bittersweet day when we have our last amble together, whenever that is, and as I edged closer to being able to get back on, with Charmer still up for it too, I’ve been so looking forward to it, and so very glad we’ve made it.

We’re still living in the aftermath of the snow and flooding of a few weeks ago at the farm just now, on a 24 hours in / 24 hours out routine to try to help the fields survive; and I’ve been meaning to try to fit in a little ride one of the mornings Charmer’s been in, just safely in the sand school at a quiet time of the day on the yard. But when I got there the night before last – planning just to put him out and get his stable ready for the next day – there was still some light in the sky, there was no-one around and it seemed the perfect moment; so I put off the mucking out and decided to go for it.

I couldn’t believe how happy I felt slinging the saddle over the stable door once again – and couldn’t believe either that this wasn’t met by pinned-back ears from Charmer, who I was very sure considered himself fully retired! He just looked mildly interested, as if to say, “Oh, this again? Fair enough, it’s been a while,” and stood waiting patiently to be tacked up.

It was an absolutely amazing feeling to settle back into the saddle, after the longest break from it since I started riding as a child. More than that, though, being on my own Charmer’s back – reunited as our adventuring team, patting his fluffy neck and watching him toss his head – was beyond wonderful.

We didn’t do much, just a ramble round the yard and grass school, but it was really lovely. Charmer makes me laugh so much – I had no idea how he’d react after such a long time, and was half-prepared for fireworks, but I did have a feeling he might take it all in his stride; and he certainly did, just setting off at his usual unflappable pace. 💙

Tomorrow brings the arrival of British Summertime once again – and this year, thanks to the winter we’ve weathered, the daffodils are not all in full bloom in just the same way; the change in the season seeming to be a long time coming. Yesterday though, the very first of them were beginning to open at last, a sure sign that spring will find its way here, any day now.. 💛🌾🌼

Have a lovely weekend all.X

The first buds of spring 💚

The last couple of weeks have seen some very extreme weather round these parts, with the “Beast from the East” snowing us in for several days as March began and warranting the first Red weather alert in UK history as our landscape disappeared under a thick blanket of white.

After a couple of days spent entirely indoors, watching the flakes fall and venturing out only to feed the birds and take in a steadying breath of fresh air; a neighbourhood driveway-digging session was required to get the village moving again – and even then only the main roads were passable. I was determined to get along to the farm as soon as it was safe enough, where thankfully those more local had kept hay topped up while the horses too holed up inside – but a gloved and wellie-clad hike was needed to get up to the top of the hill and finally be reunited with my fluffy boy. 💙

It’s always such a hard balance to strike in very bad snow between keeping the horses warm and fed and keeping them moving enough to minimise their colic risk from standing in one place too long – something I always fret about with my normally decidedly outdoor pony. We have not had to contend with weather so extreme since the winter of 2010, and for a couple of days I was only managing to get Charmer out for a brief walk around the yard once or twice a day – tottering carefully to avoid slipping and ice compacting in his shoes – before the thick drifts shifted enough to let him get out to his white field – where he was still in places up to his middle.

The volume of snow has taken its toll on the farms and land in our area, giving way as it melted to extensive flooding, and our turnout is being restricted and managed at the moment to try to let the fields dry up a little.

We are all hoping for a turn in the tide sooner rather than later; but, in some small ways at least, it’s beginning already, and I’m so very glad to see it. Getting out for walks the last few days I have been so happy to see the very first daffodils beginning to open, crocuses appearing in the garden, and the snowdrops gradually becoming the only white again at the roadside.

It’s only the odd flash of colour here and there, hardly enough to count, but it’s a promise that the vibrant seas of yellow daffodils and cascade of cherry blossom will come again before too long. It’s amazing that those little shoots could have survived under a foot of snow, and it makes the spring flowers on their way all the more special that they’ve managed to weather that.

For our lovely birds, it’s exactly the same. Having watched them struggle to find food and shelter in those days, flocking to the seeds scattered in a desperate attempt to keep them ticking over, it’s wonderful now to wake to their carefree singing, and watch our resident robin hop busily around the garden, fending for himself again.

I’m so very glad to see the first shoots and buds of spring, and looking forward to the new season arriving properly very much. 🌷

Hope you are all having a lovely week. x

#5photos1day #Horsebloggers

Decided to do something a wee bit different today as came across the Hay-net #5photos1day challenge and #horsebloggers network the other day while reading a lovely post by Gadding About With Galahad. Loved the idea of telling the story of a typical day in 5 photos and getting to see so many glimpses of others’ too, so thought I would join in and give it a go!

Started from the very beginning yesterday, getting up just as it was beginning to get light and grabbing my flask of coffee and keys, pulling on my cosiest jacket and leaving the house to head to the farm for the early shift!

The first flakes of snow of the much-anticipated “Beast from the East” storm were falling as I drove along the road, and by the time I got to the farm there was a light dusting covering the yard.

Charmer was waiting by his stable door as normal when I pulled the big barn doors open – always tuned into to the sound of my engine rumbling in – and I made his breakfast while he tossed his head and banged his stable door in his trademark morning impatience! (Tried to take a photo of this particular moment but just a blur of furry neck craning over the door and being thrown about at high speed!)

While he eats his breakfast I skip out round him, filling the barrow and throwing his bed up for the day to give me a head start for the evening visit; when I can just pull the bankings down and let him in for the night, filling his bed up and adding in hay once he’s in happily dinner-ing and playing with his ball.

I always really enjoy the wander out to the field in the morning light with my boy, taking everything in as we go; generally serenaded by the cockerel, sometimes the farm cat trotting up to say hello too and without fail having to pause to watch the pretty mares gathered around their ring-feeder at the top of the hill.

Charmer is an outdoor pony through and through, and ambles off happily on reaching the field in the morning whatever the weather; but by night in these temperatures he is usually to be found at the gate, another day done and anticipating his stable comforts!

Got him in and settled down for the night, enjoying some time with him before we parted ways; and headed back home, where snow had continued to fall steadily and had settled into a very beautiful and peaceful blanket.

Today the weather is due to ramp up a notch, and not quite sure what the next couple of days will bring! Last night though it was very still, completely tranquil and just gorgeous.

Really enjoyed snapping away all day and capturing all the little moments with the pony, and look forward to reading others’ too.

Hope you are all wrapped up warm and having a good week. ❄️

#5photos1day #horsebloggers