Since the herd were forced off the levels just after winter solstice when things got a bit flooded, we had been hoping the land would dry up this month, frost over even, but when the nation had snow we had more rain here in Meare. Winter routine is certainly challenging with 12 members of the herd all living off the land, with copious amounts of hay nets to be filled, refilling water buckets, mucking out, shaping the muck heap and so on. We are very grateful this month to welcome our first volunteer Alyson the first member of ‘Friends of Paintedhorse’, a group who will help us on Friday mornings with winter chores before spending time with the herd. We hopefully have another friend coming this Friday to join Alison. If you are interested in volunteering for us, free 7-9 am Fridays and love to get on horse time, please contact us.
What have the herd been up to this wet January?
Generally Danny is living in half of the old hay barn, with the small Dartmoor Hillies; Epona, Grace and Hope 24/7. We have used haylage bales one side as a temporary wall and straw bales with sheep gates and ‘pretend’ electric tape the other side to protect other people hay from being eaten. Sometimes when Danny needs some ‘time out’ from the little ones in the day, he either goes next door in the ‘wind tunnel’ with Gunner, or on his own for some peace and chilling out. Occasionally he will go in the field shelter with Prada and Gunner if they are ‘sensible’/its not too windy.
Gunner has his stable as usual at night time and is now next door to Jac who annoys him by stealing his hay through a gap. During the day Gunner usually comes into the ‘wind tunnel’ bit (which is normally the pathway to one of the fields which has cover over head but is now being utilised this winter for extra dry ground). Gunner also spends time in the field shelter that farm owner Jack, aged 81, kindly made for the herd, with Rio and Logan or occasionally Prada and Danny instead. If Gunner is in the field shelter, he is often seen spying on the hay barn as the only one tall enough to do this.
Free spirit Prada has a stable this winter which she seems to enjoy despite our initial worries about being boxed in. She seems to like that she is always guaranteed her share of hay as back on the land outside of grass growing season she is often chased off the hay piles by Ulha. Prada gets to stretch her long legs during the day in the field shelter with Rio and Logan/Danny and Gunner, but she now stays out of the wind tunnel as she decided to have a roll one morning and got herself stuck scaring us all. Thankfully she got out and wasn’t injured. She enjoys having a run around the arena with the others to let off steam.
Hope is living in the hay barn with the other Dartmoors and Danny. She has enjoyed our occasional winter visitors, particularly if the head collars appear as it means they go for a walk and forage and maybe a run around in the muddy field or arena. Hope has now smelt her first coffee and tea, as our newly formed senior group break for a cuppa between helping us and chilling out with the herd. Livvy left her gloves within easy reach of Hope one morning and one was found at the bottom of the water bucket.
Grace is living in the hay barn, and is the only Dartmoor allowed to ‘steal’ Danny’s breakfast and dinner. The Dartmoors typically do not need extra feed as they are do well on hay alone, whereas Danny gets a bit underweight so needs a bit extra. Grace is very sweet and charming which seems to melt Danny, the other two however do not get a look in. Grace enjoys it when we fill up the water bucket with the hose pipe and begins to play with the water.
Ulha has her own stable and unfortunately can not go into any of the communal areas due to her aggression with the others (bar Danny). Out in the field there is space to keep out of her way, but that changes when in a confined space. She also has a habit of jumping over the arena fence and making her way to the lawn of one of the farm residents. We are doing some work with Ulha to help her let go of trauma which occurred around her second year which is believed to be the underlying cause of her aggression towards other horses. She released a lot on tension in a recent Essential Oils Session. With people Ulha is very lovely and gentle, and our visitors have spent some time brushing out of loose winter coat as she appears to be the first in the herd to recognise spring is on the way.
Fluffball Jac now has his own stable after getting a black eye whilst in the hay barn. The vet investigated his eye for any other issues and informed us he was blind in his left eye due to cataracts and had been for some time. I now recall a conversation with his first owner a couple of years back who asked if he was blind in one eye as her vet said it was possible but dismissed it because he always reacted as if he had sight. Our vet said he may be able to detect shadows but as it was winter and the hay barn was darker it probably reduced this ability. Jac not usually one for stables has now embraced the idea this winter and is next door to both Ulha and Gunner. Occasionally when Danny is out of the hay barn, Jac will go in during the day as with Danny gone Jac moves everyone else’s feet so is less likely to bump himself. He has enjoyed visitors and gets them to scratch his neck.
We are really pleased to have his PPID under control with prascend. So the traditional Cushing’s coat hasn’t returned since his first clip back in October, as all hormones are balanced (due to the medication) and our vet has now been confirmed him on the right dosage. Logan started to suffer being on concrete with his seedy toe which is growing out slowly, we thought about investing in hoof boots but with 7inch feet it puts him in the biggest size cavello boots which are £200. Thankfully, Polly and Blossom’s owner donated her old rubber mats for the field shelter and a stable was made available for night time. The farrier checked him out and is happy things are still moving in the right direction. Now he is in a stable at night and in the field shelter in the day he is walking fine once again. Logan also seems to have turned a corner and accepted that people love him and he does have a bit of a fan club. Logan has had trauma in his past and would walk off when people complimented him but he is now starting to stay around and accept love from people. He even had a painting drawn of him this month, which we think he thought was brilliant.
Epona lives in the hay barn with the other Dartmoors and Danny. She has definitely come out of her shell now and started interacting with people more and more. She enjoys having visitors to the barn and also likes to get out for a roll whenever possible. Epona will run around the arena if she is forced to by the others, but is more likely to be the culprit breaking the arena fence to find any grass on the edges.
Lovely gentle Rio makes us smile every morning with how vocal he is when we arrive and it signals a bowl of feed for him. We had never heard a horse growl before, but Rio made that noise this month when the vet came out to check his sheath swelling. He is a bit arthritic due to age and lifestyle (ex polo pony) and has fluid retention, so like Logan, he needed to come into the stables at night but can return to the field shelter in the day time. Rio needs to move around a bit more to help the swelling as he would have done on the land, so occasionally we will put Gunner or Prada in with him (and Logan) which achieves this as they both move his feet throughout the day. Rio enjoys being in the arena to have a roll, a runaround and sometimes a lie down.
Polly has Logan’s stable in the day and is out in the shelter at night with Blossom; on change over she gets to spend a bit of time with the boys. Polly stomps one of her feet, her owner says she once had a mite issue and now has this habit – unfortunately it is keeping one of the farm residents awake at night, despite the rubber matting now placed around the shelter. Hopefully it won’t be too much longer before we can get back out into the fields! Polly is now losing her winter coat at an incredible rate, and has started to feel comfortable with us brushing her since coming to join us and it won’t be long before we invite our visitors to offer her a brush too.
Blossom has Rio’s stable in the day and is out in the shelter at night with Polly. Blossom has really begun to lose her fear and settle in with us, even showing us her cheeky side a bit more. Unfortunately Blossom can not go into the field shelter with Rio and Logan, as it is too small a space as she has shown aggression towards Logan in there. So for now its a quick change until we get back out onto the land. It was nice to see Blossom so relaxed she had her first lie down in the stable this week.