Tuesday, 8 February 2011


Inspired again to get on with the blog still not completely understanding any of this and thank goodness I’ve got Jo. Everyone should have a Jo! At last we have broadband in the farm house, yes wireless! No more fighting with dial up or stood on a windswept hill searching for a signal. Yipeeeeee.

Last weekend in January 2011 freezing cold, no mistake with this statement it was freezing raw and damp, real Dartmoor weather, gets into your bones. The frogs must have known this, still no sign of spawning I was starting to get concerned a good two weeks late fromlast year. The snowdrops only just peeping above the ground. Whilst missing the tadpoles i did have a bonus and see at quiet close range two fallow deer grazing, the wind must have been in my favour to get close. Poppie soon thundered in and scared them off up across the moor.

Sunday 30th Dartmoor ponies again, Michael having his usual hissy fit at basically anything Dartmoor pony related. So walking back Gracie from the other side of Widecombe with her two foals Grey Admiral and Emperor. Weaned off Admiral dispatched to the barn for a date with the Vet Microchip & passport tomorrow. I previously commented Mike and I never get used to performing this enforced separation. The pitiful anxious calls from Mum walking away from the farm and baby separated securely in the barn, this goes on all night and most of the week! Next running in the foals with a lot of help as they enjoy giving us a good run up the road. Separating out the two I did not have the heart to cull Little Joey and Sir Lancelot great names don’t you think? Ironically I have persuaded two friends to take on as foster homes. I do hope after this experience we come out still as friends. I will post on photos to plot their progress this year for all to see. Not finished yet loading up five foals for handling with the DPHT centre in Bovey Tracey delivering. Will be gone now for three days. By now another half of day gone by, plus part of the evening.

31st Jan arranging for a Mike and Helen to take charge of the Vet chipping, pass porting and the removal of what is now the “infamous” green ear tag from my darling sweet mare. I cannot comment further as still I am furious with this incident. Moving swiftly on, this took yet another half day away from work for both Helen and Mike, not to mention the Vet fees.

2nd Feb back in from day’s work, it is cold and dark late and we are tired and hungry, but onward hitch up and drag into Bovey to collect the now handled foals. Met with Dru and had an interesting up date, characters their development with socialising encountering us for the first time on the end of a rope!

5th Feb the mare with a hole in her ear plus the weaned foals to go out of the barn and back to the field and the other foals. I must ring the farrier and get out to the three mares that I’m currently spoiling with VERY expensive feed. Another half day plus the cost. I can feel another argument coming on!

6th Feb GREAT just great the moors now alive with the spawning frogs and its everywhere. Thank goodness I was worried we had been deserted. Clearly the frogs knew better and worked around the previous weeks freezing weather conditions. The boys coincidently have disappeared from the moor gate. (the Dartmoors Bob Andy & Sunny) Snowdrops well up now. There is hope; spring might be on its way.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Diary 2010

Well here it is at last my “new years” resolution to keep a note of my diary and write it as a blog – whatever a blog is? Today I’m inspired to write this with an exceptionally beautiful Dartmoor day cold and frosty but the sun is shining surprising warm with a clear blue sky.  I guess tonight darkness will not fall until well after 5.00  Great stuff!  On my daily walk onto the adjoining moor I met with my prize Dartmoor ponies “the Geldings” behaving like naughty kidz.  Bob, Sunny & Andy
6yrs 2yrs and 3 year olds.  Bob is out as the caring older uncle to supervise the group.  Young Arthur gone off summing up the neighbours mares.   After meeting these hopeful for an open gate in I saw on the higher moor in the bog Jlo my grey mare she is always on her own, it has to be said Jlo is pretty bad tempered to man and beast. I guess I should have kept a diary for the past 40 odd years noting the natural changes on this part of the farm’s home moor.  This year for information the frogs are spawning late well a week later now then last year, no sign yet of the activity which brings the moorland bog to life after the long winters wait.   Catkins hanging and branches starting to bud.  The wild snowdrops about an inch above  ground showing on the moorland banks and in the spinney just off the farm.  I’ve yet to visit Beatrice garden the Hermitage, I’ll explain about this another day.
Part of the reason for the blog and recording information on a daily basis mainly concentrating on the Dartmoor ponies is because when at a meeting of the farmers a comment was made regarding the contrast to cattle and an opinion as to how little work and expense went into managing
feral Dartmoor pony herds, I was so enraged so here it is and I will be bombarding the blog with facts and figures!!! Do people really believe this!  I need to dispel this myth once and for all.
OK some facts and figures starting from the annual drift in of the ponies off the moors from the work diary notes.
Having now come back to this main page I realise that I’ve been at work on the diary notes of the work done with the Dartmoor ponies for 2 ½ hour, there is so much content that whilst useful to us and to make a valid point so much detail I believe will not of interest for the blog.  Suffice to say that I can give the detail that many man hours for both Mike and I have been lost to this venture at considerable cost which will be difficult to recover in this economic climate.  The keeping and management of feral Dartmoor ponies must be viewed as a traditional occupation and a tool for sustaining the moorland grazing environment,  not forgetting the endless enjoyment the Dartmoor ponies give to the visiting public to the National Park and those living here walking and following the ponies through each season.  I have to remain positive and believe that we can sell at least eight foals and youngsters each year, I cannot leave this subject without mentioning that this work would
not be possible without the very kind help and support of individuals from a base of volunteer foster homes compiled by the Heritage centre. I cannot thank these foster homes working with us enough likewise organisations supporting with conservation grazing.
I will post the diary onto our web site along with other news.
Sept 2010 - 22nd Sept.  Drifting in our two young mares with foals at foot from the Duchy scheme being inspected. This stock running with a pedigree stallion to over three generations achieve grading up the feral Dartmoor type to pedigree.  Both Mike and I taking a day off work first up to meet with Natural England for a moorland walk discussion on all matters concerning grazing cattle sheep and ponies.  Back to the farm to collect two approved mares with foals having run last year with a Pedigree stallion Sherberton Lightening Flash off then out to the Duchy Newtake at Dunnabridge to meet with the Dartmoor Pony Society Officers to inspect the livestock the vet there to microchip and details for passports.  Load first two mares and foals trailer back to Venton.  Then same again 18 mile round trip each time.  The day now gone for any other productive work.
27th Sept. Organising to collect three fillies from RSPB site at Shaldon for hoof trimming.   Mike and I arrange to drive down with  the trailer to meet with John (who is so kindly looking after the girls whilst they indulge in conversation grazing on this site) Load ponies drive back round trip mileage 28.
28th Sept. Farrier booked for 1.00pm trimmed all three at a cost of £15 + vat each 4.30pm Mike back loading ponies back down to the Shaldon site and back to John eagerly waiting their return. 
Oct 2010 - 4th Oct.  Dartmoor pony drift on Widecombe   Michael and I both taking a day’s    holiday from work as week day.  Successful drift brought in 15 or so mares with foals at foot our geldings and the stallion Rebel.  Whilst shifting through the ponies  I realise someone has incorrectly ear tagged my dear mare Honeybags and I needed to go into battle!  With that resolved driving home the ponies from another farm in Widecombe.
6th Oct   Hameldown side of Widecombe drifting in Dartmoor ponies.  Michael again a day off, we only have a couple of ponies on this side of the moor.  Another day gone for Mike.
Oct 2010    With the Butterfly conservation arranging to meet with our neighbours in the next village of North Bovey to walk a site which needs grazing off from now until December.  Arranging to bring down 10 mares and foals.  Four trips with the trailer over the next couple of weekends.  Mileage.
Nov 2010    Phone call from Foster home 2 young fillies ill bad tummy colic,  Mike and I took ½ day off to collect sick animals bring home in isolation box, no real idea what happening, both very sick, possible bacteria very concerning, Mike and I nursing night and day with meds left by the vet.  Very emotionally drained the small one of the two dies!  This part of the job we never get to grips with.  Nevertheless we have one still alive and she needs us, so on again.  Vet bill in excess of £350 never mind our time!!!!
Nov 2010    Ponies walked back from North Bovey grazing, on a sunny day with a lot of help, mainly to locate the escaping mares off the site into the adjoining woodlands.  Life never easy, a couple of sleepless nights worrying where they had gone and how we were going to get them back?  Easy in the end, appeared on the road side of the woods.
Nov 2010     Ponies now back so time to wean off the foals and send the mares back up onto the moors.  Again Mike and I never really ever get to grips with this process, seems so unfair to wean off and turn mum away back up onto the moor which is such an hard existence for them.  I know this is what makes these feral ponies so unique but my heart goes with the mares in true admiration for their spirit.  All the geldings now branded and any mares and young fillies as now longer accepted a trimmed initial and ear tagging.
Nov 2010     Now the moaning starts with Mike, 12 foals in the barn eating through a large bale of hay a week straw for the bedding and catching me buying them hard feed.  The hay is in short supply this year, I think we are going to have a problem as the ponies eat so much of the cattle and sheep supplies.  This year we also agreed to keep in the stallions as part of a gentlemen agreement to control breeding so many un wanted Dartmoor foals.  I won’t expand on this a widely recorded in the press and on many pony organisation web sites. I also have the two riding horses in not content with this the “boys” in the process of not having been sold as youngsters and being handled for sale as kidz riding / driving ponies.  Really draining us of much needed feed.
Nov 2010       First set of four foals all off the Duchy newtake scheme that already have been micro chipped and have passports with the DPS. Loading worming and driving into Heritage centre Bovey Tracey for first lessons in handling.
Dec 2010      Dec 1st.  Vet out to the farm, to Microchip the remaining 8 foals and fill in the passport applications.  Mike and I day off to complete this task catching each foal, inserting chip by the Vet and writing down the base outline information for passport. Worming whilst handling each one.  Not only the vet call out cost + chip cost and on top of this the cost of passports with the DPS.  
Nov/Dec 2010  A call in for three heritage graded ponies to go off on conservation grazing in Cornwall.  The three picked all currently on the Bellever Newtake site running a with the Heritage herd.  With help from the Dartmoor Heritage we spend the next two weeks on a Sunday in  -9 degrees snow and ice on the extreme high moors finding and drifting in the herd to meet the order.  Another trip for Mike and the Trailer out to collect the ponies.  Once pick up arrangements made for the farmer in Cornwall to collect from a farm over the moors in the village of Sheepstor( who where supplying the other three to go) another morning off work to load ponies worm and a return journey drive to Sheepstor, with a much appreciated cuppa and chat.
Dec 2010  By now the snow and ice and freezing weather conditions have set in.  -16 before Christmas, such hard work moving around carrying hay and water into the barns.  For the Dartmoor’s out keeping feed going out but essentially breaking the ice for drinking where possible if  not draying out water!  Really hard and severe conditions, many of these ponies not having experienced  these hard winters but they amaze me with constantly pull through.
Dec 2010   Snow and ice for over a week now, eight of my Darties down by the moor gate above the farm and I’m able to take up hay for supplement feed. The stream running still inside the gate for water.  I’m starting to get concerned about the Darties not having made their way back? 
23rd Off today and walked over high moor to try and find ponies not back?  Can’t find, almost certainly down on lower ground, sheltering. On road side banks evidence of the ponies digging out snow for grass and snow knocked off gorse bushes.
 27th Snow and ice thawing but thick fog down -  five days of this, ponies at the moor gate now disappeared back up onto the moor.
Jan 1st   Not a great start as usual,  a phone call!  a mare Jasmine – last of Mike’s family ponies reported hit and lame by the road and in a poorly way. Jasmine was a well known mare and being part bred Dartmoor larger than the regulated size, light cream in colour which made her popular with those who know us regularly walking on the moors.
Jan 9th   Five of the foals parted out and driven down to the Heritage centre, Bovey Tracey for handling.
Jan 15th collecting the foals bringing back.
Jan 17th we need to get the weaned foals out.  Straw and hay so expensive this year bedding
for the barn is killing us financially.  Need to bring Rebel and mares in to sort and trailer
Rebel down to join the geldings.  Wormed along with the three mares, currently in needing
Hooves trimming.  All stock have been handled, makes life easier for us.  I should have seen to this before now but weather a factor and they have been company to Rebel, who is climbing the walls to get out, he has spent all his life out running wild with the herd on the higher moors.  Rebel is a bay roan stallion, only average size is kind and sweet his foals have all been easy to handle and grow on exceptionally well, I will come on to his off spring in another instalment.
Jan 19th  Ideal weather to think of putting out the now 10 foals into the fields after 2 months of being in.  Separating 2 needing passports and Micro chips + 2 going off to foster home on Sunday at Moretonhampstead.   All wormed again as the “after Christmas botts” process, 6 tubes used.