Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Full Del Monte

It's Sunday and I've given in. Sunday tea is not Sunday tea without tinned fruit for afters. Graham had produced homegrown lettuce, beetroot, spinach and new potatoes to go with the remains of the pot roast, so deprived of my usual Sunday pancake-making I retaliated with Del Monte Fruit cocktail and, well, not ice cream I admit, but Greek-style yogurt.

At least the ring pull on Del Monte is a nice smooth one, unlike the supermarket canned tomatoes whose ring pull slices bits off your finger joint. But inside, oh dear, I had forgotten the miserly attitude that prevails in the fruit cocktail world. There were four titchy bits of something pink lurking among the peach/pear/pineapple bits. I think they were once parts of a cherry. Commiserating with them were seven grapes. I imagine there is a sensor at the Del Monte canning plant, or possibly a little man in a white coat with a magnifying glass, who sets off a DNEEP DNEEP DNEEP warning bleeper if a newly filled can steams past him containing more than four quarters of synthetically coloured cherry or eight flabby pale green grapes. He probably chuckled evilly to see that my can only contained seven.

Next Sunday I'm going to have wild strawberries in my yogurt, and bugger Del Monte.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Posting letters

I waited for the post lady to come this morning as i had three letters to go, but by 12 noon I thought she'd probably not got anything to deliver and would not turn up, so I went out to muck out the stable and of course, while I was shovelling, she arrived and left without my letters. So I harnessed Ruby and trotted down to Orton Post Office (a little over two and a half miles away) where the collection time is 3.40pm. I've found if I time my visits for lunch hour, I can park right outside the PO, which is also a very nice local shop and usually blocked up with parked cars. Then I can get off the carriage, not let go of the reins, and post my letters in the wall box safely.

Ruby was very sober as she trotted in the midday heat. I let her walk through some of the shadier patches along the road to cool off - luckily there were few flies or clegs about.

At Mazon Gill where last week the road had begun to collapse into the culvert over the gill, there were temporary traffic lights to control the traffic passing the large JCB digger and the roadmending wagon and the big hole with men shoulder-deep in the culvert. Ruby stood like a champ while one of the workmen jumped up and down in front of the sensor to try to get it to change the lights for us! She trotted by the wagon and digger, glanced briefly at the submerged men, and went on down to the village cool as you please. On the return journey the digger was working and when he saw us waiting again at the lights, the supervisor of the gang made throat-cutting TURNITOFF gestures to the driver. He kindly stopped the engine and we went by peacefully - however, as I thanked the supervisor I did tell him that really, Ruby has an ambition to drive a JCB. She has an engineering turn of mind and if allowed, she would probably try all the levers with her nose.

She's now out in the field in her "ghost suit" and I've spent ten minutes refilling all the spray bottles with my home-made fly repellent after I realised that during Sonny's visit we used up most of the last batch.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ruby alone

I have been vastly amused by Ruby's reaction to Sonny going home. I kept her indoors all day (mainly to save her from the heat and humidity and flies, in the nice cool stone stable) and her response to the empty box next door is to USE IT AS HER LOO - she has left a huge pile of muck in the middle of the swept floor. Her "own" box is clean.

So much for missing her darling offspring!!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (19 and 20)

Monday 29th June
Jen and I took both ponies for a quiet ride out to Scout Green, with Naomi as my passenger on the carriage. The weather was heavy and the clegs were biting, so we just wandered peacefully up to the top of Whiteholm and across the bit of open fell onto the Scout Green road, and back. Sonny was quiet and steady apart from a startle when he brushed Jen's leg against one of the flimsy "loose chippings - max 20mph" signs on the roadside, so she spent a few minutes walking him up to other signs and kicking them with her boot! Of course he just stood there and said, "whatever..." We also practised leapfrogging each other along the road; Jen would walk or trot Sonny past Ruby, then I'd do the same with Ruby passing Sonny. Both ponies were calm, to the extent that I could brush clegs off Ruby from all sorts of places with the tip of the driving whip. The only time she startled was when Jen clapped her hand over a cleg on Sonny's neck with a tremendous crack! like that of the whip a few days ago. Other than that, it was all quiet.

We washed off the ponies and then put fly rugs on them. I didn't have my camera out but the picture they both made was hysterical - Ruby in white mesh with ear caps and navy edges, Sonny all in lilac with red leg straps. They didn't fuss about their strange attire until they were loose in the paddock, when Sonny took one look at Ruby and exclaimed, "Oh my God it's a ghost!" and Ruby dashed off saying, "Where, where!" The two of them then hightailed it round the paddock, stepping and snorting at each other and generally being silly for a good five minutes before the lure of the grass settled them down. We gave them an hour and then put them back indoors with their haynets.

My bedtime "haynet check" revealed another side of Sonny - when I hung the haynet for him, Ruby came to help him taste it over the partition, and he snapped first at her and then at me. Unfortunately for him, I'd seen him coming so I put up a fist as he swung his head, and he smacked his cheek teeth on it and rebounded with a "What the hell was that for" expression. Unlike the brightest horse we've had he didn't then repeat the misdemeanour to see if he'd connected his action with the self-inflicted punishment.

Tuesday 30th June
Alison arrived prompt at 9.30 and we tacked-up Sonny with his nice clean saddle and bridle.

Naomi helped by kissing him on the nose at every opportunity.

Alison mounted to practise handling the lead rope as well as the reins, and ground tying. We let her take a stick with her, one that some boy visitors had collected a few weeks ago - on the principle that if she carried a stick she wouldn't need it and if she didn't - she would!



She walked him up and down the yard, and then set off for home, with her husband John following in the car.


Bye-bye, Sonny, be good!

And we set-to to clean out his stable...

LATER

Just heard from Alison that she and Sonny had a good time on their ~10 mile ride home; both getting very wet in the heavy showers, but it was nice warm rain! and he's going to get daily rides out from now on. Great.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (18)

Sonny spent breakfast time at the tying tree, with his tiny mouthful of hard feed and a small haynet. It's so sweet how he lovingly licks the bowl, over and over, to get the last trace of flavour. Jen and I shut the roadside gates, and mucked out the stables. Ruby makes an awful mess now Sonny's here, because her soaked hay is at one side (she pushes the half-barrel to where she wants it) and Sonny is then behind her, so she tramples the muck and wet shavings into a right old soup as she turns from food to grooming and bossing, and back again. On her own, she is fantastically tidy. She wandered between stables while we brushed and shovelled, pushing the door to and fro with her nose as required.

Jen found Sonny was fine today - a touch wary of the watching visitors' children, but she took him round the corner to the field gate to mount, and he settled. They went up Bretherdale in order to do "getting on and off and opening and shutting gates". All well. He wants to be off as soon as remounted, but this should settle with practice, and the "rope round the gate stoop" method (see earlier blog entries) works to prevent difficulties. The ground tying is working well - Jen dropped the lead rope yesterday by accident while crossing the yard, and he stopped at once!

Today Jen put him across the fellside grass on Nichol Hill, and he listened and didn't pull or buck. Asking for changes of pace mainly on the voice and not the rein, "up, up up" will lengthen his trot or get him into canter, while "steady" will bring him down. She worked him up and down hill, in circles, rounded up a few sheep, jumped him up a bank onto the road, paddled through the beck, and had a thoroughly good time. Limited grazing time has clearly helped once again - that and a calm yard, of course.

He had another bath when he came back and now we've swopped stables - Ruby is in "Sonny's side" and vice versa - to see if it helps with the Feng Shui...

I took Ruby for a drive over Pikey just after lunch, to check how far the road resurfacing extends, since Sonny will have to go that way to return home. Luckily the chippings end just after Dyke Farm's gateway so he won't have them tearing up his feet after that. Ruby didn't attract too many clegs on our journey, and didn't sweat too badly either, but still quite appreciated a wash off when we got home, which makes a change as she usually fusses a bit. The clegs were bad, so I left both ponies indoors with haynets.

I had to beat part of the tyre back into place on the carriage wheel again though, as we'd needed to turn in a narrow lane at Roundthwaite on account of Jackie Parsley's tractor and hay trailer.

Ruby's side of the stable is blissfully tidy once again. Sonny's is a bit messy. The main thing is that he's almost permanently in the dark as he WILL keep shutting the top stable door. Ruby doesn't bother with it but he does.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (17)

Yawn. A slow start this morning! I fed the two nags but didn't tidy the stable (BAAAD mother!) Jen, Rob and Naomi came today, Naomi having determined that she, too, had to "Boss Sonny!"

We were going to work in the fields again, so Jen opened the field gate and shut the front gate - our cottage visitors having gone out for the day - which meant the "Caution - Lesson in progress" sign was visible to the roadside. Of course, then silly James Beevor, Big Time Boy himself, ignored the sign and came bowling in, leaving his bike at the gate thank God, but getting thoroughly in the way. That meant there was me, Ruby and Naomi, Jen, Sonny, Graham talking to Big Time Boy, Rob taking photos, the Allen family and their farm bike driving a flock of sheep down the road and back to their field after clipping, and Sammy lurking behind my car ready to tell Sonny off if he put a foot out of line.

Poor Sonny, he just couldn't handle all that information at one time. He managed to behave until Jen wanted to mount, then had a small "backing" explosion. Jen got up, and made him settle, then got off and went through it all again. Ruby, Naomi and I didn't see all this, but I heard Graham offering advice so I poked my head round the corner to see if it was ok to set off with Ruby; got the nod and went quietly away down into the field.

Sonny (see Jen's Facebook photos) was gobsmacked that Mother had gone without him! Usually because we've had more stuff to attach (like harness and carriage) we've followed him, and not the other way around. Ruby was pretty chilled. Naomi was asking questions of me about "why did the sheep need to have their fur taken off," so I didn't watch Sonny working in, but Jen says he was pretty keen and for the first time she needed to have a contact on the bit as she circled him at walk around various of the smaller fields, before she joined us in the hayfield. Once she'd brought him along he was sensible and walked, trotted and cantered on either rein without being naughty despite all the clegs that were about. I did wipe a few off Ruby with the tip of the whip, but she wasn't as covered in them as Sonny was, poor lad!

When we got back to the yard Naomi wanted to sit on Sonny, so Rob popped her onto the saddle in front of Jen and Jen walked him around the yard. They took some pics of Naomi sitting on him at the tying tree, and as by this time he'd decided perhaps small children were not actually Martians, he was very calm about it all. It helped that Beevor had gone, too!

Sonny had another hosepipe wash - having got quite sweaty in his tizzing and his workout in the field - and Naomi helped me to take Ruby's harness off (Oooh, grannie just couldn't manage all those big buckles on her own). We turned the two ponies out in the paddock and mucked out (Naomi, Rob and Graham sitting on the field wall like the three wise monkeys) and went off to the pub in Tebay for lunch. We brought them back into the stable after that, as Jen said, "I think four hours grazing yesterday must have been too much for Sonny!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (16)

I woke very early and was up and about by 6.30 so the ponies had not only had breakfast but digested their hay too when we got them out at 9.30 and brushed off.

Jen took Sonny into the field and mounted him by the gatepost there, just to let him be mounted in a different place. I followed when I'd harnessed and yoked Ruby. Jen and Sonny were already walking the sheep off the hayfield so we joined her.

A stag and two hinds cantered out of the Nursery wood and across the river, over Tom's fences, across the road, and away over two walls, running from Mr Allen's motorbike as he "looked" the sheep. Jen was astonished at how large red deer are - it's a long while since she's seen them close up. The horses didn't bother, for once; Ruby has got quite sparked up at times when we've put-up roe deer close at hand.

It was all very laid-back today; the weather was fresh and cool, Ruby was chilled and Sonny relaxed, despite several hours of grazing in the paddock yesterday afternoon and despite the clegs fastening on blood at every opportunity. I didn't get bitten - I must be doing something right! Jen rode Sonny up and down the slopes, circled at trot, and cantered him frequently, which he evidently enjoyed. She also went on working on ground tying - throw down the lead rope and he will halt. He was confused though when I asked if he was reacting to the throw or the rope ... she moved her arm without the rope and he thought about stopping, then didn't. Bright boy! The memory of his crack over the backside evidently held good; he didn't "plant" himself at all today.

I moved the sheep away from the yard gate a couple of times with Ruby, who quite enjoyed being a sheep-herd. Sonny saw Jackie Taylor and her son James walking up the road, and pricked his little ears and asked to investigate, so Jen told him to canter after them, which he was delighted to do. He saw that they had a dog, and was curious but not too bothered. I took Ruby for a nice trot along the wood side and back, and we both really enjoyed that. She wanted to tank through the gateway (also remembering Sonny's crack over the backside yesterday!) but I made her walk back in quietly.

It all made a nice change from sorting out web forums and damn-awkward trolls :)

Photos of tomorrow's schooling session, I hope. Today was too laid back to bother :)

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (15)

The ponies had their usual breakfast, some mix (half a scoop for Ruby and a handful for Sonny), a bucket of fresh water and some hay, while I tidied the stables. I was puzzled by a sploshy-sploshy noise coming from Sonny's side of the partition so I looked over to see what he was doing. He was picking up a mouthful of hay then shaking his nose in the water bucket, dabble-dabble, to wet the hay before he ate it. Obviously the idea of Mother's soaked hay appeals to him.

This morning was cooler with a fresh breeze and the ponies were much more comfortable than they were yesterday in the heat with the flies bothering them. We worked in the hayfield (though it's just being grazed by sheep, that's still what we call it), with both Ruby and Sonny. Jen said Sonny was very ready to go, but she just sat him quietly, with a very light contact on the reins, and walked him round the perimeter of the new territory for a good twenty minutes to let him calm down. Ruby, in the carriage, also walked quietly. Eventually we were walking round each other, passing and repassing, closing in and moving away, standing and moving off again quietly. Jen got on and off a couple of times. Sonny was very well behaved.

We moved into trot work on big circles after half an hour or so and both ponies were obedient and sensible. The only time there was any argument from Sonny was when Jen took him back into the other field and worked him up and down the banks, cantering him up towards the paddock and turning away in trot. Ruby and I were just coming up through the gateway and couldn't see Sonny for the hedge, when there was a loud CRACK! and Ruby shot through the gateway in three strides of a gallop. I picked up the rein and asked her what was the matter, and she calmed down again, "Oh, wasn't that for me?" Jen said Sonny had planted himself once again, so she gave him a proper smack on the bottom with her long whip to convince him she meant it when she said, "Walk on." The crack had echoed all the way down the field! After that she cantered him in a circle, and he was obedient, so then we all walked quietly back to the yard to take some photos. Jen uses a handy technique for remounting, eg after opening a difficult gate - which would be useful in case Sonny takes it into his head to be silly about being mounted in a different situation from our yard.

Keep the lead rope attached to his headcollar - it's easy to carry the rope. Loop it round something (like the gatepost) while you get up. Hold the rope, not the reins.

Throw the rope loose (Sonny allows you to flip it round his head like a skipping rope and doesn't worry).

Lean forward and catch the rope ready to carry it again. Sonny often lifts his head to make it easier for you.
Jen's working on ground tying, but although he is very good about it, he is still likely to wander, so he hasn't got the rules perfectly right yet :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (14)

Sonny and Ruby had their breakfast hay and were comfortably nattering over the intervening panel in the stable when Jen came to take Sonny out. This time, as she's finding the 17 inch saddle that came with him rather too deep for her comfort, she used my Thorowgood 17 1/2 inch synthetic, which is very nice to ride on. With its endurance pad underneath, it gives a really wide bearing surface so is likely to be comfy for Sonny too. She mounted off a tack box outside the stable, and Graham let them into the field. Jen reports that Sonny expected to go wild - after all, this is the field where we let him and Ruby go to graze and play - and he walked "with a quiver" for some time, but when she sat still and let him quiver without picking up the rein or kicking him on, he decided he would rather wait to be told what to do. She does think though, that if she had grabbed him by the bit, he'd have tried having a gallop and a buck.

After they'd been walking big circles for a while, and up and down the rocky bits of the field, I went out to take pics. That was the only time Sonny planted himself! Jen moved him from side to side with her legs, and backed him a few strides, and after that he went forward again nicely. She trotted him in big circles and figures of eight, and up and down the slopes, and he offered her a canter so she let him stride on.
video
They walked in after that, doing more big circles away from the gate, and Sonny behaved well in spite of the 7 or 8 clegs on his neck and flanks. Jen unsaddled him and walked him down to the hosepipe - which he thinks is a snake. He wasn't very happy about being washed, but when he realised that the water cooled him off and got rid of the flies, he tried very hard to be brave (better than Ruby who swings about when washed).

I had cleaned out the stable and given both him and Ruby fresh hay and water, so they are now indoors away from the heat and the clegs.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Later

The afternoon cooled pleasantly around 4 pm so I harnessed Ruby and set off to Greenholme. She was happy on a loose rein, walking nicely, so we just kept going, up the hill towards Orton, left at the guidepost for Scout Green, along to Sproat Ghyll farm where the cows were being turned out after milking. We walked along behind them and behind the boys on the 4 wheeler motorbike who drove them into their field and shut the gate. We passed the couple of cars that had been held up by meeting the cows, and walked steadily on. I saw clouds of pollen being blown from a field of flowering grass, and the gate of the Roman road bridleway was open so we trotted up it, just to the brow; turned there and came back. I was glad we had gone up, because the view across to the Howgill Fells was fantastic, all the way from the Lune Gorge round to Wild Boar Fell beyond Kirkby Stephen. Amazing how the view opens out with just another fifty feet of elevation. Ruby strode on happily back to the guidepost and steadily trotted home. I was very proud of my cheerful, shiny mare.

I put both ponies out for half an hour while the breeze was there to keep the clegs off, and mucked out and put hay and water in for them. They didn't really want to come back in, but they didn't object and Sonny managed to be brave about the dog, without trying to crush up to me for safety.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (13)

Jen's coming later today to teach a lesson so Sonny, officially, was having a day off. However, I thought if he'd been awkward about being harnessed and yoked up yesterday, it would be good for him if I did it today.

He stood nicely and accepted all the harness being put on. His mouth was open, splonk, for the bit well before I got it anywhere near his nose. He didn't make any fuss about the crupper, and he didn't fidget when I put the ex cart on. I untied him from the tree and he started to lean on me, so I tied him up again and got in and out of the cart, and sang, and bounced about, and rattled my feet on the boards, and he just... stood...there. I got out and in and out again, and untied him, and he just...stood...there. So I got in and asked him to come around and move on, and away we went. I drove him to Tom's "black plastic" gateway, then up to Bretherdale cattle grid and back, and up the brow towards home. Sonny trotted nicely each time I asked him, and although he wasn't very enthusiastic at starting, each time he got better.

I drove him past our gateway and he planted his feet and effectively said, "BUT you've passed it! Are you stupid? We go IN here, not PAST."

"Tough luck, Sonny, we are going to Greenholme whether you want to or not."

But he just....stood....there. He was willing to stand forever despite being smacked, but by turning him one way and then the other I got his planted feet to pick up and move. Quite suddenly he gave in and started walking again. Of course I relaxed the rein, stopped tapping him and gave him lots of praise the moment he shifted his weight forward. We walked down to Greenholme and walked a right-handed circle on the green, but he began to resist again when I suggested a left handed one, because it TURNED AWAY FROM HOME. Little banana-brain stood there planted once more. So I turned him right, until a left turn would be "homeward", and we did a left handed circle that way, and trotted home. I took him round the yard and up among the trees, and turned left, and behold, he could do it. He made no fuss about standing at the tree to be unyoked and unharnessed, so I smothered him in fly spray and turned him out with his mum in the little paddock. (She's horseing, and because there's a male pony in her company she is showing it, despite the fact that he's her son, and a gelding!)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (12)

Jen came while I was at work and took Sonny out. She put the Easyboots on his hind feet, and reasoning that if her bum was sore from the saddle his back would probably be a bit uncomfortable too, she decided not to ride. Instead she brought out the black harness and set him up for driving. He accepted all this until she put the crupper under his tail, which made him tuck his bottom in. Graham came and put a hand on his rein and talked to him, and he settled down again all right even with Jen clanking the chains about and fiddling with the harness. She brought out David's ex cart and put it on him - he fretted and fidgeted a bit, but when she stayed relaxed and told him not to be such a fairy, he settled down. He pretended to fuss about going down the yard, when the breeching came into play, but again soon settled into his work. He was a bit lazy going out - hardly surprising after his quite long ride yesterday - but stood well for her to pretend to adjust harness and re-fasten one of his boots at the Selsmire substation layby. Jen reported that he needed "a lot more rein" in the carriage, as he definitely missed the leg contact and "wobbled about" a lot more.

On the way home he trotted steadily past the young ponies and walked down the hill into the village despite there being a large sheep-wagon coming down the hill after him. Jen let him have 30 minutes in the paddock with lots of fly spray but put him back indoors after that because despite the spray, the flies were biting.


I took Ruby out in the afternoon - which was one of those annoying drives that start out badly, not because of anything Ruby did, but because we had only just left the yard when we encountered a large Manitou loader towing a large flat farm trailer. There was really nowhere to go but home, and although our road is very narrow, poor Ruby did her best to screw the carriage round in its own length, and very ugly it all was too, with the wheels scraping the wall behind me and Ruby trying not to get the shafts hooked up in the sheep netting on the wall in front of her. We got turned round and went back into the yard to let the loader go by, and then I had to take Ruby out of the carriage and spend the next fifteen minutes with a mallet and cold chisel whacking twelve inches of solid rubber tyre back into its channel on the inside wheel. F***ing road chippings, f***ing farm equipment, grrr grrr grrr.

I finally got the carriage hooked up again and took Ruby along the road for a couple of miles, hoping the tyre would continue to settle into the channel as we went. Eventually I found a nice, shady, grassy roadside with no biting flies, where she could graze for ten minutes and I could recover my lost temper. She trotted home from there in good style, and I was pleased that when we met the Manitou loader again the young driver pulled in where there was plenty of room, and let US go by in return for our gesture an hour earlier.

Ruby didn't appreciate me giving her a wash when we got home, but a scoop of mix, a clean shavings bed (thanks to Jen in the morning who had tidied up my hasty picking-over) and a slab of soaked hay, soon made her forget her grumpyness. Sonny said he'd rather like some of Ruby's mix, too, but as he still had half a haynet left, I told him he'd have to make do with a clean bed. And so did Ruby.

The tyre isn't right but I think it will hold okay.
.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (11)

The ponies had breakfast and some hay today before we got them out to go down into the village and meet our Treasure Hunters. Sonny wore Ruby's size 2 Easyboots on his back feet, and was happy with them although he was puzzled by the crunching noise they made on the fresh chippings on the road!

We only had two people driving after all. Pauline's horse hadn't been shod because the blacksmith had brought shoes that were too small, and Alicia who had been going to drive just gave apologies. So we had Ann with her grandson David as groom for her black Shetland, and Ann Marie and Roger Harrison with their grey one, and Sonny and Ruby who weren't taking part because I'd set the clues. We walked the ponies to the village and gave out the clues (there were 30 questions) and let the drivers go off at their own speed and their own time, while we just nattered with Pauline, then we set off as well. Sonny was very well behaved. I had meant to take a photo, but the camera was lurking somewhere dark and I didn't have time to go hunting for it, so tough.

We walked and trotted up the hill and over the motorway, and encountered lots of Sunday traffic, some of it much less considerate than weekday traffic. Bikes and motorbikes, people walking, chuffographers sitting with their scary tripods waiting for trains on the main line, parked cars, a wagon, several big vans, impatient car-drivers, and people walking dogs. We diverted from the route to go down the Martinagap track, and Jen used the far end of the track to try walking Sonny in circles in open grassland. He did this very well, responding solely to her body and legs, without needing the rein. He didn't try to rush into trot, or to buck. She left it at that for the time being (too big a field to want to try anything argumentative, and not ours!). We went on down into Orton village, which was busy, with what looked like an entire Mazda car rally parked outside the chocolate factory. We used the Treasure Hunt route round the village, and through the narrows I occupied the middle of the road to discourage a car driver behind us who badly wanted to overtake where it was unsafe. Jen and I both indicated we were turning right, and got out of the way ASAP - Sonny showing good acceleration when asked. Then we took some detours through the far side of the village, and Jen asked Sonny to walk down the beck side, which he did, but he wouldn't put his feet in the water even though it was clear and with a sound bottom. She didn't make a big issue of it as it would have made a mess of somebody's nicely mown grass.

We trotted out of the T junction by the school, out onto the main road again, and walked back through the village, turning towards home. After trotting up Stephenson's Brow we caught up the two Shetlands whose drivers were picking up clues at Mazon Gill Cottage. Ann suggested we overtake her, but I said we'd wait until we got out of the dip, so oncoming traffic could see us; in any case, we were going to trot home by the wider route and let the two Shets go on collecting clues. This worked well, and Ruby and Sonny went on "leap-frogging", overtaking each other at walk or trot, all the way home. Jen trotted Sonny home up Daw Bank (and had a few strides of canter) while I checked the date on Yew Tree farm which I had used as a clue but kept forgetting to write down (1675).

Back home, I unharnessed Ruby and brushed her off; she was hardly sweaty at all, but Sonny was - we had, after all, done a good six miles.

Ruby the Racing Snake

Jen got a bucket of water and a dandy brush and gave him a wash. He was very good about this and didn't make any fuss.

Slimline Sonny

Then we smothered both ponies in fly spray and put them in the little paddock while we buzzed back to the village green with the answer sheet and the rosettes. Lots of chatting and "what a pity there weren't more people to enjoy that lovely drive" etc.

We came away when the midgies started to bite, and we brought the ponies back indoors for the same reason and gave them a slab of hay each.

So Sonny has been to his first social drive out. He was a little star for the whole 2 and a half hours. He deserved his yellow rosette.

Two for tea....

And tea for two...

The only blot on his copybook for today was that he didn't want to go back indoors after he'd been out for these photos! But he only pulled back once and then gave in and followed me. I daresay he was thinking he only had to obey Jen. Tough luck Sonny.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (10)

Jen was here and grooming Sonny before I rolled out of bed this morning, so the poor fellow had to go to work without any breakfast - like he's getting anything other than a tablespoonful of mix on his windowsill. He hadn't polished off all his hay (Ruby leaves NOTHING) so he probably wasn't empty, but he did look a lot more trim than when he arrived a week ago. He needed the lung space however as Jen, having thoroughly brushed out his mane and tail as well as his body, rode him over Pikestoll to Roundthwaite. The idea was to see if the watersplash there was easier to use than the river in Greenholme. It turned out the bank was a bit steep there too (I haven't used it for a month or two) so Jen just walked him around some big puddles until he had to get his feet wet. Then walked him on the other rein, ditto. On the way back they met a sweeper wagon preparing the road for resurfacing, and Sonny stood quietly while it whisked and whined past. They walked back over Pikey and met me and Ruby as we trotted up to Dyke farm. He was more bothered by Felicity's dog Molly, who was running about in the field, than any of the things he had met. He walked quietly on down to Greenholme while I turned Ruby and followed him back. I saw them trotting nicely up the brow to home.

Jen reported he was "running on empty" as far as energy went, which is probably true, but it did wonders for his figure. We brushed both ponies off and turned them out in the paddock, which has a good deal of grass on it, as Graham shut it up for a week to let the docks die back after spraying. They had a couple of hours on there and came in thirsty; when I checked the water tank I found a dead bird in there, so no wonder they didn't drink. I must go and bucket out the decaying remains. Yuck.

Tomorrow's North West Driving Club drive is on, as we all seem to have asked every roadman we met whether they're resurfacing round the village tomorrow - they are not :)

I suggested Jen check Sonny's feet, as if he is being a bit reluctant now on account of them getting short, we might need to Easy-boot him tomorrow on these fresh chippings. Ruby's size 2's fit his back feet, but not the front ones, even though I rasped the outer rim; he didn't bother much about Jen trying the boots on and she turned him out in them so he could accept the feel of them. She's going to ask Ali Morton if she can borrow a pair of her 3's for tomorrow and the remaining week of Sonny's stay with us.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (9)

More blustery, showery weather this morning. In contrast to yesterday, both ponies were sharp and eager to go: Ruby clattering about and not wanting to wait for Sonny, Sonny swinging about and not wanting to wait for Jen to mount. Maybe two hours of spring grass is more than they need. Jen walked off and left Sonny tied to his tree (they must be well acquainted by now), and when she came back he stood ok for her to get up.

We walked from Daw Bank to the electricity substation past Selsmire farm, a distance of about two miles, and back. The idea was to get Sonny quietly across the two motorway bridges, and past a field of young horses whose curiosity can be upsetting as they trot, splash and canter along their side of the field fence.

We met a good deal of traffic, a couple of 4-wheeler wagons, couple of tractors, lots of cars. Everything very circumspect, unusually so, which was fine of course. Sonny was less fidgety once we got going. He was very nosey this morning, wanting to watch the men rebuilding part of Brown Bank barn, and Jen reported that he was fascinated by the idea of the traffic disappearing under his feet on the motorway bridge, and had to stop and watch it reappear - "ooh LOOK" - on the other side. He thought it was the strangest thing he'd seen in ages. Passing the young horses he just quivered, and didn't do anything silly, as the newest of them, a bay filly, trotted alongside Ruby in the carriage.

We trotted a little distance of the homeward journey and Sonny behaved well. He even stood to watch a big heavy goods train chugging up the railway line, and one of the aforementioned wagons creeping past us at Bridge End with its air brakes hissing. He was more bothered by the fact that Ruby was keen to go and was doing some backing, hence squeezing the amount of space poor Sonny had behind us. He led happily as we trotted up the brow to home and Mum hammered after him in racing mode.

As the field is getting a bit wet after all this rain, both ponies are back indoors. It will be interesting to see how they behave tomorrow with no fresh grass inside them.

PS Ruby trod on the back heel of me OTHER Ariat boot with her damn great steel clog, so now I have a slightly ruined PAIR. Do you suppose - like live items - Ariat boots have a Time To Die?

In the late afternoon the weather changed from blustery and wet to blustery and sunny, so I put the two beasties out in the little paddock while I mucked out and did-up for the night. I tied Sammy up short so he couldn't nip any heels as we passed by.

When I came back for them Sonny had a dicky fit because he didn't hear me coming for the wind and I "just appeared" round the end of the field shelter. However, he didn't go anywhere, just leapt a foot in the air. I caught Ruby and Graham looked after the gate while I walked her in, not realising I'd closed the yard gate onto the road so it didn't really matter if Sonny went walkabout. Sonny came out and went back in through the gate, so I walked in and called him and turned sideways so I wasn't threatening him, and he came up to be caught quietly.

Ruby is looking like a racing snake in her summer coat, and Sonny is beginning to shine too, and continuing to lose fat off his neck and belly, so he is starting to look like the pony he ought to be.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (8)

Jen arrived shortly after 9 am and we brought both ponies out to be brushed over and tacked-up, Sonny at the tree, Ruby outside the end stable. The weather was windy with brief, heavy showers but both were relatively laid-back about it. There's a lot to be said for Fell ponies :)

After yesterday's through soaking Jen had cleaned saddle and bridle and saddle soaped them. I had opened up the curb hook on the bit, to make it easier to remove the curb chain when unbridling. Previously it had been tight and difficult to remove, which agitated Sonny unnecessarily. David had spent half an hour teaching him to open his mouth for the bit (because he was being obstinate about it) and now he'll open his mouth, and more importantly his teeth, to let you slip the bridle on without fuss. All you need to do is put the bridle in position with the bit under his nose, and he'll do it when you say, "Open."

Jen had put the reins onto the (Uxeter) bit at the plain ring setting - instead of the lower, curb setting as we'd received it from David. Sonny doesn't seem to need the curb setting. Taking hold and "grabbing him" by the bit just doesn't work. He needs to be ridden forward from the leg, and then will round up nicely into a good outline, and ask, "Where's the bit? I need to know you're there." A light rein contact is all that he then needs, and he'll work in a nice outline on no contact at all if you just trust him to do so.

I harnessed Ruby to the carriage and peeked round the end of the stable to see whether Jen wanted any help with Sonny today. She led him round the mounting block but then ignored it. She tied him with the usual quick release knot to the tree at the high ring that she could easily reach from his back, parked her long dressage whip through the stirrup keeper on the saddle, and mounted him from the ground. He was foiled. She then pulled the quick release, and carried the lead rope as well as the reins for the rest of the ride. (She used to do this when breaking youngsters at Trotter's yard.)

We walked down to Bretherdale road-end, for a change, and then up Pikestoll which is steep. Part way up we met a county council 3-ton pickup coming down, so it, and we, each had to edge over to enable us to pass. At the first farm gateway - where Tom always leaves silage bales in winter, so it's full of black plastic - we made the ponies walk over the plastic, then walked back down to the road-end. Here we parted company: I went to the bridge, and Jen rode Sonny up Bretherdale, then we both turned, and came back to pass each other. This was complicated by the pickup truck returning from Bretherdale behind Sonny, and a tractor with (?fencing?) equipment on it following me and Ruby. I parked in Tom's farm lane, Jen rode Sonny to join us, and the motorised traffic moved on before we crossed, and turned, and joined up again to walk back up Pikey for a second time. Jen put Sonny in front and he walked away and trotted nicely up to the second gateway. Here we turned again, and came back down. It all sounds a bit boring to describe, but enlivened by the brisk breeze and occasional showers, it was actually quite pleasant! At the "black plastic" gateway we met the tractor again and the ponies were both very good about walking over the plastic to get off the road; scary stuff but very much "old hat" now not only to Ruby but also to Sonny. On a loose rein, Sonny in fact stood the tractor better than Ruby, who wanted to make an excuse to jump in front of Sonny. Down the hill again, along the level to the bridge; I suggested Jen use her leg on Sonny to move him sideways across the road a few times, while she had level straight going and no traffic. He responded easily and without flapping. Up the hill to the house, over the brow and down into Greenholme. No traffic, no fuss, all very boring, just as it should be.

Jen rode Sonny down to the beck, where there is a slope into the water. I didn't expect her to pick a day when the beck was running a bit high to ask him to walk into water, or else I would have stopped her, since everything had gone very well up to that point. They had - not an argument - but a minor discussion, on the bank, with Jen asking Sonny to step in, and Sonny saying, quite mildly, that he didn't think so, thanks.

I have to say I think he was right, as the water was still coloured from yesterday's rain and he could not be sure of his footing. We know it's a sound bottom, but he didn't. However, he didn't do anything naughty other than stand still, and he could easily have ducked Jen with a well timed buck. So she got off and got back on him while his feet were planted. No arguments.

We'll save crossing water for a nice hot day. He'll be happy to splash, when we've trotted over Pikey to the ford at Roundthwaite, where I can get Ruby and the carriage across and there is room for Sonny to follow Mum.

We went home, and I trotted Ruby away from Sonny, who preferred to investigate the track to Brown Bank barn - possibly thinking it was like the track up to David's buildings! Anyway, Jen let him look, and then brought him home.

We've mucked out the stables (always easier with 2 people!) and turned the ponies out for an hour's grass while the wind is there to keep off the flies.


Of course, the hour had stretched to 2 by the time I got round to bringing them in. I put up a haynet for Sonny, and Ruby's usual flake of soaked hay in her half-barrel. I shut the yard gate, opened the field gate, and walked down the field to catch Ruby, who walked quietly in, picking bits of grass as we went. Sonny came wandering along a respectful 20 yards behind. I put Ruby indoors with her mugful of feed, leaving a tablespoonful on the windowsill for Sonny. He was still 20 yards from the open gate, but looking for me, so I called him, and he trotted up and let me lead him in ... walk with me, stand with me ... he is better at this than Ruby is, now.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (7)

Yuck - pouring rain and wind this morning. Jen arrived shortly after I'd fed the beasties and tidied up the stable. Sonny ate his carrot and spurned his haynet, wanting to eat Ruby's soaked hay instead (which he couldn't actually reach). Bet he regretted that when Jen marched in and saddled and bridled him.

I was just going out to visit one of my web clients, but seeing that Sonny was circling the mounting block without getting anywhere near it, I went over to give a hand. He tried creeping backwards while Jen was mounting, but a firm hand on the headcollar under his chin stopped that. She climbed up and he settled. We must practise the mount/dismount stuff tomorrow, but p**sing rain is not the time to do it, and so I got the car out of the way and left Jen to carry on his ride after I'd gone.

She took him to Scout Green, basically because it's a sheltered route where you can do a 2 mile ride out and 2 miles back without opening a gate. He was happy to go out, Ok with going out solo, was forward and obedient. Jen was riding him with a very light rein, almost none at all most of the time, just using leg to move him onward. At the road junction where we've twice turned towards Ewelock Bank, he whinnied for Mum, but when Jen gently took up contact on the rein he went on OK. He spooked a bit at the bridge at High Scales (oooh, rushing water and a bridge) but went forward when Jen insisted. She rode through to Scout Green and he walked through big puddles just fine.

Coming back, she put him on the grass at Beckside lawn - mostly to see what he would do - and he offered to trot so she let him, and he put his ears back and bronked, two or three dirty big bucks with his ears back, so she knew it was naughty and not ONLY excitement. She sat him, and when she picked up the rein he put in a sudden stop (which she said was the most unsettling thing he had done!) and froze as though he expected to be beaten. She moved him on at a strong working trot all the way up the bank from Beckside and over the fell at Whiteholm and he gave no more problems.

In the village once more, she asked him to stand and wait, and he did, looking about but not moving his feet. If he fidgets, speaking "Stand" and "Wait" gently, with loose rein, will keep him still - if he does move, simply lifting the rein a touch is all it needs to stop him. Yesterday he fidgeted, and crept backwards, but today despite the excuse of awful weather, he stood well. He walked home fine from there. Jen says, "he just needs to be ridden with seat and leg, from back to front, and not hung onto from front to back." He feels solid as a ride, not wobbly like a young green horse, but a lot of this is down to his physical maturity (8 years) and his square build - very short back and broad chest.

Jen said he flinched at her getting off in the yard, but walked about quietly after her on a loose rein and didn't make any fuss about going back into the stable even though Ruby was busy investigating both stables (making sure Sonny hadn't got anything she hadn't got). Tomorrow we will drive him out, then do some mounting and dismounting practice.

Incidentally, his mother is bossing him too. Ruby was never Top Dog when she was at Sedbergh. She had borne him and Belle, but Boxer (Tebay Vespa) was Top Dog. After Ruby came to me, Sonny's youth and strength must have been more than a match for Boxer as he aged. So the positions are reversed while they are here: Ruby is gaining self-respect, and Sonny is having his dented. Both of which are very good things.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (6)



Not so good today, at least to begin with. I think it's probably the grass yesterday - as on Sunday they only had less than an hour out, whereas yesterday it was nearer 5.

I put Sammy the sheepdog on a short rope in a different place for Sonny to look at and not have the excuse of "oh he startled me". I brought Sonny out just after 10 am, after he'd had his morning haynet (which he isn't mad keen on). I tied him to the "patience tree" and groomed him, and harnessed him up. He was okay. Then I brought out the cross country cart, which he'd seen on Sunday, and let him look at it, then I brought it up and put the shafts round him. Scuttle, fidget, quiver, "oh my, that's dangerous." So I let him settle, and took it away briefly and put it on again. More fidgeting. I fastened him in and let him stand.

He did a lot of wandering from one side to another, so I set him up with the wagon line again in case he got really stroppy. I'd put on coat, hat and gloves to go out driving, but I discarded the idea, and shut the yard gates. I sat with him for an hour while he fiddled and faffed about. Every now and again I went and walked round him and shoved the trap shafts about, bumping them up and down and side to side, and pulling and pushing the trap back and forth. He fidgeted a bit each time, but less, until eventually he didn't really bother. He spent some time rubbing his head on the halter ropes and trying to get his head under them to bust them. It didn't work, mainly because the tie level is higher than his withers and he can't get any purchase on the rope by snagging it over his poll. He's obviously done this a few times and been able to escape.

When he had stood quiet for a while I took off the cross country gig and put the exercise cart back on him, which he didn't fuss about nearly as much. He's now standing for another hour, with a haynet (and refusing to eat the hay). I think the photo for this one needs a caption of Harry Enfield's teenage monster saying "It's NOT FAIR."

It doesn't matter which cart he accepts, since he isn't going to be a driving pony. What matters is that he stops buggering about when he doesn't think he wants to do something.

LATER
Having let Sonny stand for another hour, (like a pot of tea stewing) I went out and put on my hat and gloves and prepared to drive him round the yard. Jen's driving pupil Mike turned up and seeing the CAUTION sign on the gate he parked the horsebox outside and walked in to see what was going on. He introduced himself to Sonny, who'd calmed down by then into boredom, and I asked him to unclip the rope while I drove Sonny round the yard. After his three hours of standing, Sonny went willingly and only tried to second guess the turns once.

Then Jen arrived, ready to teach, and as this little 5 minute trip round the yard was a big improvement on Sonny's earlier attitude, I took the cart off and unharnessed him. Jen saddled him and we put him into the stable to stand with another haynet while she taught her lesson to Mike and his pony Dennis; and I took Ruby out for a drive. His whinnies for his mother were pathetic but we hardened our hearts :) - even Ruby by then had got fed up with him and didn't bother to respond to his shouts.

An hour later again, after Mike and Dennis had done their thing, Jen brought Sonny out, checked the girth, showed him the mounting block once more, and rode him into Greenholme and up the hill onto Whiteholm, and back. She made him walk and stand, walk and stand. He tried shying once to each side and then gave over. She chatted to Willy Kipling in the village ("That's not your Mother's horse." "No, it's out of Mother's horse." "Ah. It's nice though. And is it naughty?" Hmm ....) Sonny fidgeted about but Jen didn't let him eat grass (which was what he wanted) or move on till she told him. They had some discussions about standing still on the way home, but she came back happy with him. She led him back to the stable and he was really listening to her - when she stopped, he stopped, and when she walked on, he walked on, on a loose rope. This is the result we are looking for. So although it was a long day, by 3:15 pm there was a definite improvement to be seen.



I turned him out with Ruby while I tidied the stables for the night, and he had a good roll: "wash that cart right outta my hair!" I brought them both back in after half an hour. Ruby was busy scratching on a low tree branch and made me walk all the way down the field for her, but Sonny came cantering after his mum in case he was going to miss something. While I took Ruby indoors he had a good long drink, and then let me clip on his lead rope and lead him in. Walk with me, stop with me; walk with me, stop with me. He's improving.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (5)

Ruby was scowling and squeaking and stamping at Sonny yesterday evening and he was sulking, not eating his haynet, but by breakfast time he'd eaten up.

More education today. Danny the farrier was due to put a set of shoes on Ruby. I left Sonny standing tied to the big pine tree across the yard. He also had a wagon-rope about 1 cm in diameter round the tree and once round his neck under the headcollar, tied with a bowline so it wouldn't tighten, and placed six inches back from his poll so it wouldn't do any damage. I knew he and Danny had had "issues" previously and he'd pulled tying points out of walls. I wasn't going to give him any excuses.

I picked out his feet ready for trimming, all round, and he co-operated. "This is all getting to be old hat," he said. Fine by me.

Danny arrived and we chatted while Danny shod Ruby, then he moved to work on Sonny. And Sonny, though a bit "numb" about giving his feet to be trimmed, didn't even offer throw himself about or object. So we gave him lots of praise.

When Danny had gone, I put Ruby in the stable with some more hay, and went back for Sonny. As we walked down the yard he shied as though the dog had rushed at him - which I knew it couldn't because I'd tied it up short. He stepped on the edge of my boot and effectively pinned it to the ground so I rolled over. But he didn't go anywhere - just stood there, being a big numb teenager. Graham took the lead rope while I dragged myself off the floor, and then I put the boy away while I had a cup of coffee and a think. I know he did this with David Trotter - stood on his wellie and felled him. So after my think, I tied up the dog elsewhere, picked up a length of alkathene pipe and took Sonny for a walk round the yard. I had no intention of hitting him - the pipe was just the right length to poke him in the shoulder but not splinter if he decided to jump or lean into me. And of course, actually being a wise pony, he didn't. So more praise and he got put away with his haynet (and Mum) once more.

Later on I got him out again (still with the pipe for reference!) and harnessed him up. Lots of fiddling and chat. I put him to David's ex cart and drove him round the yard, turning right and left. He was fine. I made him stand once or twice and wait for the command to move on. Then took him back to the tree and tied up. Chatted, fiddled and faffed (he probably thought, bloody women!) then untied him, and drove round the yard again and up among the trees, and turned in places I hadn't turned before. Made him stand some more. Lots of praise because he was getting everything right. This time when I tied up he was unharnessed and I led him back to the field -- Still carrying the pipe because we were going down the yard where he'd shied both today and yesterday. And he walked circumspectly and behaved.

I turned Ruby out with him and finally had time to inspect my ariat boot - big tear at the welt where his foot had pinned me. Still, it could have been my toes. No complaints.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (4)



Jen (our daughter) arrived this lunchtime, with Rob (her partner) and Naomi (our grand-daughter). We shut the gates, hung the CAUTION - LESSON IN PROGRESS sign, and brought both ponies out and tied them in the sunshine while we fitted harness to Sonny. Lots of fiddling, all very good for him. He stood well and even when we decided to trim the matted bit off his ear he didn't make much of a fuss. Jen cupped one hand round his eye like a blinker while I nipped off the "felt". He tries to lean on you to stop things he finds annoying, but he doesn't thrash about or kick or rear, so gentle persistence is working. He actually rather enjoys having his ears scratched, once he's let you get your hand up there; the eyes go all sleepy and he leans on your fingers. We picked up all his feet again too. He wasn't actively naughty, just a bit stubbornly unco-operative. His feet do need a trim so if Danny isn't coming soon I might get the rasp out and have a go at them where the excess growth is cracking. Mind you, steady work on the roads should sort them out. Interesting how the pony's movement is shown up by the places where wear and overgrowth occur in the hooves.

We fitted all the harness and brought out the carriage. Graham was doing some maintenance on David's exercise cart, so instead we showed Sonny the cross country cart with its big wheels. This involved letting him come up and sniff them, then Jen led him round to the other side (horses' brains need to accept input from the left eye AND the right eye). I walked round the yard like a daftie pulling the cart while Jen led Sonny after it, circling in both directions, so he could see how the wheels behaved. Much interest, but no panics. Good. Rob and Naomi sat on the barn steps and made remarks about Grannie having got the sequence wrong because the pony was following the cart. Ha ha.

We fitted the carriage to Sonny after that. He accepted pretty well everything, which is as it should be, after nearly 3 weeks of trotting round Tebay with David and the ex cart. He was a bit puzzled about the shafts bumping more freely in the tugs (David's cart is a nip fit, rather like a pair of nutcrackers!) but accepted it. More adjustments to the harness followed. More scratching of his ears and picking up of feet. All good stuff. Lots of praise.

Then it was "take it all off time", and Jen saddled up and introduced Sonny to the mounting block (highly portable home made thing) which we'd plonked in the middle of the yard. We edged him up to the block and she leaned across him then mounted. He was okay with all this as he'd been ridden before, and I left her to walk him around the top of the yard while I harnessed Ruby and put her into the carriage ready to go. Opened the gates, walked Ruby up to top yard and let Sonny see the whole thing, before setting off for a quiet walk up to the top of Whiteholm.

Both ponies walked out well and Jen gently convinced Sonny not to try being silly. He tried one shy, and didn't bother again. While we were talking Jen said he had been unusually reactive when she introduced herself in the stable. He had known she was there, but when she touched his shoulder he "turned himself inside out". So the quiet stance and the gently sleepy eyes are not entirely to be relied on. Sudden explosions like that make you wonder if someone has at some time been very rough with a pony.

We walked all the way up to the top of the common with Ruby leading Sonny, or Sonny alongside the carriage to watch the wheels, which he didn't mind at all. He also obeyed when Jen stopped him well short of the cattle grid while I took Ruby on and turned her. She then asked him to lead the way home; classic early mounted work. Put the experienced pony in front on the way out, and the youngster in front on the way back. He walked well and Jen collected him and asked for trot as they went up Daw Bank. Which he did nicely on a pretty well loose rein.

By now we'd been working with or around him for over 2 hours, which would have been too much for a young horse, but as he's 8, equivalent to a fairly mature teenager, it didn't seem to overface him. We gave him a carrot, and Naomi helped give Ruby a handful of feed, then we turned both Mum and son out in the field for half an hour to finish their socialising and have a nibble of grass. Jen didn't let him drag her about on the way to the field - he had to walk away and back several times and behave properly before she would let him through the gate.



Ruby demonstrated her athletic stride for us with huge gusto and Sonny bounded along after her. She's already put him in his place once or twice, the initial delight at seeing him having faded into parental responsibility!

Jen and Rob and Naomi went out to bring them back in, after we had all had a drink and done some jigsaws indoors. Ruby kept looking back - she appeared to be worried that Naomi was with Jen and Sonny, instead of herself. She is so maternal. Sonny followed her into the stable without argument - an improvement on 9 am this morning.

All in all, a good afternoon's work. Tomorrow, I'll drive him.

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (3)

I turned Ruby out early into the field so the two adjoining stables would both be empty for Sonny's arrival. David appeared on the yard just as I poured my breakfast coffee, but I went out to see how things were going. Roger had driven up in the car following David and Sonny with the exercise cart, so he was already standing at Sonny's head while David unyoked and unharnessed. "He came over Pikey just grand," said David. "Got into trot to keep up his momentum and just kept going. Never bothered about the motorbikes either, and we met quite a few."

Sonny was quite sweaty after doing four miles over hilly country, and ordinarily I'd have washed him off, but I thought perhaps that would be a question too far on his arrival in a completely strange place. He was a bit worried by Sammy the sheepdog who made a couple of dashes at his heels as we walked round to the stable, but he only went a stride or two and obeyed the halter.

The stable was another matter. Outside the sun was bright and the stable looked very dark! He jibbed, but David told him firmly to "walk on" and after a moment's consideration Sonny walked in.

I left Sonny to look round while I fetched a haynet, and David and Roger went off back to Tebay, since Roger had to go to work. Once the haynet was up, I walked out to collect Ruby. Typical of his family, as soon as he realised the door was shut, he started trying the latch.

Out in the field, Ruby had her head down and was hoping nobody was going to take her away from the grass, but she came in obediently. At the gate she must have smelt Sonny, because she stood very still and he let out a series of loud whinnies. So in we went. Mother and son met nose to nose over the connecting door and stood like statues, breathing deeply, almost kissing, for several minutes, before Sonny's sniffing became too much for Ruby and she let out the classic indignant-mare squeal.

Graham wandered out to have a look and I went back for my breakfast. The coffee was still hot.

An hour later when both were settled, I took the grooming brushes and gave Sonny a firm going-over to loosen the sweat from his coat. He stood quietly, so that's no problem. He wasn't sure about me handling his right ear, which has a matted bit on the ear-tuft, but i persuaded him it was all right. I'll trim off the tuft, which is probably catching on things apart from my brush. Must find the round ended scissors (you don't use them much with Fells!). Then I picked up all his feet. After I'd handled the left side he said, "No, I know what you want but I'm not going to pick up my right fore." So I moved him about until that foot had left the ground, and asked again. He made me use two hands, but he picked it up, and the right hind, peacefully. That's going to be something to do at least once a day then.

Ruby meanwhile stood yearning over the partition, "Groom ME, groom ME!" and scratching her neck on a handy knot in the woodwork (which she hadn't had access to when in the other box.) I fetched a saw and got rid of the knot, and gave her a fuss and a bit of hay. Silly old dear.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Sonny's visit to Greenholme (2)


9 June
David's done the groundwork and it's just a case of spending a week or two filling in a bit more experience. Sonny is coming here early Sunday morning and David is going to give me a hand to introduce him to my cart with its bigger and more visible wheels. Then I will give David a lift home. I might drive Sonny out later in the day when he's had time to cool off after coming over Pikey [big hill to the south], but before he's thought about getting fresh again. Stabling him with straight hay-and-water and no hard feed has done wonders for his figure and also his attitude :) Like his Mum, he slonks a bit at walk unless you nag him. He still peeps at things, but that's just greenness, nothing nasty. Time and miles are the cure for that. Danny is booked to come and shoe Ruby and I've left a message that I want him to handle Sonny if he comes while Sonny is here. And yes, I know they have had their differences, but I have a strategy ready :)

Sonny's visit to Greenholme



My bay Fell mare Ruby had 2 foals with her previous owner and the younger one is "Sonny" an 8 year old brown gelding. Both have Sunday names, as Shacklabank Sonny Boy and Coppyhill Suzanne, but you can forget that for now as "Sonny" and "Ruby" are much shorter to type! Here's Ruby with me driving and Dylan Winter (Radio & TV presenter) as passenger, complete with fluffy mike.



Sonny is a big grown up boy who hasn't done very much work because his owner is a very busy lady with a walking-holiday business (near Sedbergh). We email periodically about the management of her web site (www.shacklabank.co.uk)....

23 April
I was talking to David Trotter at the weekend and mentioned Sonny and his naughtiness, and David is intrigued. You know how he loves a challenge :)
Sue


24 April
Sonny is still out on the tops with Belle both have lost weight thank goodness so ill call David and have a chat then hope to bring him off and walk him to Davids in the next few weeks (if he will have a go!) he would have someone to ride him im sure, the time has come and David understands fells, Sonny knows im a push over and to be honest he is so lovely its a dam shame not to be out on him ...
A


24 April
That'll be good for Sonny, and I know David likes a challenge. I shall definitely be dropping in on the yard at Tebay to see how the naughty boy is doing. I haven't seen him except at a long distance out in your fields so I'll be keen to make his acquaintance.
Sue


23 May
Well its time David said he could fit him in this week so ill contact and then get him up to David and hope all goes well
my main need is to have him straight and be able to ride him..there is a pressure to have him useable  i know this takes time David seems to think it will be no problem and will drive him! im uneasy about this as i know Sonny and his explosive behaviour and his is a creature of flight! however David has a helper and his many years of fells will come through.
A


1 June
I gather Sunny had a few steckies in the first couple of days but David says he drove him at Lynn's yard today and people were saying how well he was going. I'm hoping to see him in action myself tomorrow afternoon.
Sue


7 June

video
I have your saddle here and DJ says he will drive Sonny over to our place next Sunday (I'm quite busy this week with some teaching and writing stuff, plus web work on Weds; and it is Greenholme Show on Sat) so I can drive him and maybe Jen will ride him. Video here of Sonny working well on the way home.

I wonder what Mum Ruby will think when he arrives!
Sue


8 June
you have made my night thanks.... so  whats the plan now are you to have Sonny for a week or so?? and from when
im so thrilled with the pictures and video..