Thursday, 8 May 2014

Part of the animal menagerie here at Cerenety includes five horses and ponies of all shapes and sizes.

First of all there is Nana, a miniature shetland pony. She is very cute and cuddley and possibly the tiniest pony you will ever come across. She's very inquisitive and often tries to get involved when I'm working with the horses in the field, although this isn't always very helpful!
Due to her size the other horses are a bit baffled by her and seem to think of her as more of a sheep than a pony. It is rather sad as she loves to play with the other ponies but they don't seem all that interested. However, I noticed the other day that she has employed a new tactic to get their attention, namely running around as fast as her short legs will carry her after the others, a bizarre squealing noise emanating from her mouth. After a while the others get so annoyed with this they eventually have to notice her existence, even if it's just to make her go away. It's not all bad news for Nana though as she gets more than her fair share of attention in the summer as all the children that camp here adore her and love to see her at animal feeding time.

Secondly there are the two welsh section A ponies, Torrie and Maisy, who both come from a local breeder. Maisy was already broken in and was being ridden when she came here but, as there is no one here small enough to ride her, she seemed to be destined to munch her way through life relaxing in a field. Therefore she wasn't all too pleased when I started working her again. I've been getting her back in to the idea of being ridden by tacking her up and long reigning her out on little hacks. I have also been lunging her as she has gotten a little too fat for her own good! She was also ridden for the first time in a long time the other day by another volunteer and, I'm pleased to say, was as good as gold. Maisy is a typical mare, sweet as anything one minute an absolute pain in the rear end the next. However, I have found her to be interesting and very entertaining to work with. She can also be extremely endearing when she wants to be.

Welsh Section As are often bred specifically to pull and this is our aim with Torrie. As none of us have any experience in this I have relied on the good old tinternet to get started. I have begun with long reigning him so he gets used to being controlled by someone behind him rather than on top of him. 

I have had some fun setting up small obstacle courses for him and putting him through his paces. I have also been long reiging him out a lot on the lanes so he becomes used to this and to desensitise him of all those malicious plastic bags out there! The next step is to get him used to the harness and to pulling weight, starting with an old tyre or two and working it up. Hopefully we will have some help once we come to the point when we want to put a carriage on him as it is not advisable to do this with no previous experience. We hope we will soon have him pulling a cart round the field delivering wood to the campers for their camp fires.

Another one of the ponies here is Rupert, a beautiful moorland pony. When he was taken off the moors he was destined for the knackers yard. However, a friend saw him at an auction and took pity on him. Therefore, he came to cerenety and was broken in for riding here. He now gets ridden everyday out on the country lanes and gets stopped repeatedly to be petted and told how beautiful he is. Rupert is a typical baby boy, active, extremely inquisitive and a little bit boisterous. He's a nice steady ride and is perfect for beginners. He's also a joy to ride as he's always eager and interested in everything he comes across. We would like to train him to pull as well. So far he has been very nonchalant about having the harness put on and has happily pulled a tyre round the field. The plan now is to carry on with this to build up his fitness and appropriate muscles. Hopefully soon a little pony and trap will be seen meandering down the lanes around Bude.

Lastly, a horse that I've spent a long time working with and have enjoyed every minute of it, our ex-racehorse Red. Red turned out to be a thoroughly awful race horse, coming last in every single race he was in. Therefore he was soon sold off to a young girl who planned to use him for hunting. However, she found she couldn't cope with him as he's not the simplest or calmest of horses. So, sadly, she neglected him, leaving him for a long time without food, water or any sort of care and attention. Therefore, when he came to us he was extremely thin, riddled with worms and his feet were an absolute mess. Not many people thought he would get better, but we have proven them wrong! He's now an excellent weight, even keeping the weight on through the winter, he has a beautiful shiny coat, he's fitter and seems so much happier. His feet, sadly, will never be perfect but are a lot better. We have now even started riding him. I dealt with this challenge slowly and cautiously as he has had so many problems in the past and, as a result, has a habit of rearing. I started off using the Monty Roberts method of 'join up' to gain his trust and respect. I believe this was the most important step as after so much maltreatment he needed to feel safe and loved. It also helped with the rearing as I believe this was a response to how badly he was treated. It took a couple of tries before he joined up properly but once he did I couldn't keep the smile off my face for the rest of the day. To make a breakthrough like that was extremely satisfying. 

It felt the same the first time I rode him as he didn't play up at all, he was perfect. I have now ridden him out a few times and he's been a real gentleman, all the work leading up to this point has most certainly been worth it. 

As I have spent so much time with Red I have gotten to know his character extremely well. I know it's wrong of me but I have to express a certain favouritism towards him. He's a very intelligent and sensitive horse, he picks up on everything. Even after all the things he's been through he remains strong and still has so much fight in him. I think he's very special and I'm so glad I have been able to work with him.