Thursday, May 28, 2009

1 rein fun

I seem to be doing a lot of walking these days. I am hoping to eventually teach the ponies to come when I whistle and get their morning bucket feed. The grass is way to interesting, though, so that's not very dependable. If I walk out to them, then they are happy to walk back to the yard with me, at least. Coming back, we go along the track, which can be a bit of a hike, but I want to train them to come in when I whistle, and I know that if I brought them a shorter way in by opening gates and things, it would probably just train them to go and stand by the nearest gate. Happily a lot of mornings they are waiting for me near the house!

Sara came over today, and we rode a bit in the arena. I had offered her Iona to ride for practising her one rein riding, as Iona seems to actually enjoy having people learn about Parelli riding on her. Sara's horse, Sis, is still a bit green and she recently found a few holes in her foundation that she needs to fix before they ride again.

Sara and Iona did great, and I rode Bruce. We did great, too, which pleased me no end, as he is not always very thrilled about schooling work in an arena. Toward the start of the session he did some great follow the rail. That has always been incredibly hard for him to accept, and I think today was by far the best we have ever done that together. A couple of times I jumped off and took him over to the pedestal to stand on it, which he loves, as a reward. One rein riding is sooo much fun!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Visiting Nancy

A few days ago I sent out an email to a number of PNH students in the area, introducing myself and letting them know that I am developing a Parelli-oriented place here. From that came a very enthusiastic reply from a lady northeast of me, named Nancy. We rapidly exchanged a few emails, the upshot of which was that Nancy invited me and Sara to her place yesterday, to play with her horses. That in itself was a very freindly gesture, but, oh, did I mention that she had 2* Parelli instructor Kime Conkright coming for the afternoon? When I spoke to Nancy on the phone last week, I said that we would love to audit the lesson. Well, we were welcome to do that, but "why not join in?" she said. And, oh, did I mention that Nancy insisted that this was HER TREAT! Aren't Parelli people great?

At first, I felt that this was too generous an offer, and was a little embarassed to accept, but then I thought of all the Parelli instruction I had paid for, for other people in the past, and decided that we are all just "paying it forward" and that it was just fine. Also, like Nancy, I usually did this so that my own horses had the chance to participate in instruction. Nancy has 13 horses and donkeys, so at the end of the day, she was thrilled when 5 horses had been played with, and 4 had been seen by Kime.

In the morning, after showing us around, Nancy, Sara and I played with horses. Nancy played with her lovely Arab gelding. He has been her levels horse but is nearing retirement now, with a few health issues. He is that really nice old fashioned type of Arab and a very sensible guy. Sara played with Zippy, and I chose Dancer. I am sorry that a) I never managed to take any photos, and b) I can't tell you anything about Sara and Nancy's play sessions. Dancer kept me too busy to think about anything else!!

Dancer is a Mustang mare. Although she was not bred in the wild, apparantly both her parents were Mustangs. It doesn't seem like she had a great start in life, and Nancy inherited her from a friend, but has had little time to do more than care for her. My first impressions of her were that she is really my kind of horse. Short, stocky and short backed, and extremely well put together. She has a beautiful feminine face and kind eyes. In her stall she kept busy eating her hay when I approached, and didn't want to acknowledge me. So while the others headed out to play, I spent just a few minutes helping her to choose to greet me and accept her halter, rather than just grabbing her. That was relatively easy, and she even helped me a bit by finding the right "hole" in the halter to put her nose in.

Outside, she was a little tense, but pretty okay with basic friendly game. Someone else playing a more extreme version nearby upset her a bit, though. I was able to touch her all over, with stick and hands and she was pretty light in her response to the porcupine and driving games. Yo-yo was good as well, and she had lots of very light draw - however, she also had a tendency to want to be within about 6 inches of me all the time, so no surprises there! As we moved further away from the barn and I started asking a little more, things would fall apart a little.

Most of the herd had been let into their stalls to eat hay while we played (I think to give us more room and "peace" outside) and Dancer obviously felt that the barn would be more comfortable than out in the field with just a couple of other horses. I tried obstacles and changes of direction and letting her move her feet, etc. as there was an obvious need to let her move and also to try to get her thinking. And, oh boy, could she move! She is a really athletic horse. Bounces, high stepping trots, some very collected canter, and once or twice a few steps of the beginnings of piaffe. No mental collection to go with it, unfortunately!

The high stepping resulted in her getting her leg over the line once or twice, and that was the only time she became really difficult to hold onto. The deal then was to run back to the barn, where she was willing enough to be caught. So while she could handle having her legs touched when she was standing still, feeling that one might be "caught" somehow in the rope while she was moving was scary. I didn't feel that I made much more progress with her in the session. She was feeling pretty "barn sour" and bracey.

However, when it was time to put them up and have lunch I felt I discovered something very worthwhile. As we headed back into the barn she wanted to rush a bit. So I thought, let's do a little work here. So we walked in the door and down the very wide aisle with lots of little halts, and she accepted these well, seeing that we were going her way, just taking our time! By the time we reached her stall she was nice and relaxed, so I decided to see whether I could back her in. Her actual gate wasn't terribly wide, and had a small rail that had to be stepped over. A bit challenging, but I knew that it was also very familiar to her and a place of comfort. We played with this for a bit. She let me line her up easily, but got stuck when her back feet hit the rail. After a few failed attempts, I led her in and then partway out, where we played with backing the front feet in and out. That was easy, but when we tried the back feet again, we still got stuck. Something then made me try backing her OUT of the stall and over the rail, and she gave an enormous try and figured out how to lift her back feet over this tiny rail!

I was so pleased that I had stuck with this, as I felt she recognised that she had succeeded, and also it had been our best and calmest communication of the day. Being in the environment where she felt comfortable had made all the difference. We all chatted a bit while Nancy sorted a few things out in the barn. Dancer was still firing questions at me when I left the barn!

In the afternoon, when Kime was with us, I played with Dancer again. Wow, what a great opportunity to get some help in dealing with her! Kime first suggested that I give her more rope. I had become a little worried about this because of the foot over thing, so I am reminded that I need to improve my rope skills, so that this doesn't happen! I have become a bit careless, because my own ponies aren't the least bit worried by ropes between or around their legs. Now I have some bad habits to undo. Another rope skill reminder was to slip and grip the rope rather than just grabbing, as that was much better for the feel Dancer was receiving on the rope. Again, I knew this, but it was great to be reminded and I had a lot of opportunity to practise it with Dancer, so maybe next time my muscle memory will "know" it, too!

As the lesson continued, I didn't feel that Dancer and I made a lot of progress. She had moments of calm, if I would stand beside her, but distance and movement just wound her up. However, she needs to work through this stuff. I was willing to accept that it wasn't all going to happen this day, though. She is a lot of horse, a lot of athletic, extraverted and unconfident horse. I was going to be happy if we both simply came out of it learning some positive things.

Toward the end of the lesson, Kime asked if she could play with Dancer. Heck, yes!! She started out, as I had also done, offering Dancer a falling leaf pattern, allowing her to move, but asking that she move on this pattern. However, while Dancer liked changing to the right, she didn't like going left. When she finally did, Kime let her continue on a left circle and try to "find halt" there. It took 5 or 10 minutes of play (not all on a left circle!) before Dancer volunteered to stop moving her feet. Even then, you could see it was a bit fragile, but she made it, and some obvious processing was going on. Kime pointed out that even though she nibbled grass a couple of times, this didn't mean the processing was finished.

Kime and I then sat talking about things for a couple of minutes and Dancer chose to come over to me. Kime said that this would be the perfect time to lead her back to the barn, with "no more lessons today" and so we quietly did just that.

Sara and I have been having an ongoing discussion about "true unconfidence" vs. "learned unconfident behaviour" and I asked Kime about that with reference to Dancer. She felt that the unconfidence was genuine, but that much of the behaviour probably was learned, too. A case of this behaviour works, allows me to avoid things, etc. The choice to run off, etc. was a left brained choice, but Dancer was not confident while she acted it out.

Kime also pointed out that if the horse isn't in a learning frame of mind, the things you think you are teaching it don't tend to "stick" and you find yourself going over the same ground again in the future. I think that to some extent both Dancer and I had ended up out of the learning zone and out in the scary wilderness, by trying to play in the big field, where she wasn't confident and I had concerns about losing her or her hurting herself tripping over the rope. I think she would benefit more from having her learning zone expanded a little more gradually if I get the chance to play with her again.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Fell Ponies

I got into Fell Ponies by accident, really. I was looking for a horse to buy and having no luck finding a nice cob, which is what I thought I wanted. Someone said "Try the different native pony societies, they often have a sales list." The Fell Pony Society was really efficient in sending me theirs, and before I knew it, I owned Iona!

Looking back, a Fell was probably exactly what I wanted. I used to help out at riding schools, escorting the paying customers out on rides and things like that. Although I enjoyed a variety of horses, there always seemed to be a hairy black pony that I was drawn to at each place. Probably a Fell or Dales cross. By the time I was looking for a second horse (pony) it had to be another Fell. Besides just liking the look of hairy black ponies, I like Fells for their well developed horsenalities! I also value their hardiness and all the attributes they have derived from their semi-feral existence on the Pennines. While some very skilled selective breeding has made them what they are today, it is perhaps the result of a high degree of natural selection in their earlier history which gives them the attributes I like most.

Recently, a few Fell owners and breeders have been in touch with me because of this blog. As it turns out, a couple of them are also people who have done a lot of thinking and writing about Fell Ponies, the history of the breed and the future of the breed. I would like to post a few links here to their websites and books. They have not asked me to do this. But I feel that what they have to say is important. interesting. and well written.

So first up - Jenifer Morrissey. Jenifer has owned and bred Fell Ponies in Colorado for a number of years. I admire her because she enjoys putting ponies to a purpose, and is a careful and caring breeder. She has a lot of thought provoking things to say about breeding Fells, and especially about doing this so far away from their native habitat. She is also an excellent writer. Here is a link to her website Willowtrail Farm . While you're there, check out the newsletter section, she has written some great articles over the years. Jenifer has also recently published a book called A Humbling Experience about her personal experiences with Fells. If you are enjoying this blog, this book will probably be right up your street. Jenifer and I have recently been discussing the possibility of a "summer camp" for some of her youngstock, here at my place. Watch this space!

I was also pleased to hear from Sue Millard that she had enjoyed looking at this blog. Sue is a well known writer and tireless promoter of Fells. Her book Hoofprints in Eden is one of the best, if not the best, book ever written on Fells, Fell breeders and their traditional way of life. One of my all time favorite books!

It was also nice to hear from Jennifer Costa, a Fell breeder in Oregon. Here is a link to the website about her place Stirling Ridge Farm


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Phew, it's hot!
Back in Scotland, when it's too rainy even for Scots to get anything done outdoors, we say the day was a complete washout. I can only describe yesterday as a complete burnout. At least for me and the ponies. They were actually in the loafing shed trying to cool off at 9am.

I thought that by getting up super early this morning I might get something done with them, but we only managed a bit of grooming in the shade. Bruce lay down during that, and let me finish while he lay there. That was kinda fun.

Meanwhile, when the heat wasn't too bad today I worked on the roundpen a bit. It's coming along faster than I imagined. Clearing the hazards and old weeds away. I've placed it so that it can be an extension of the arena, and if I want to play with the gate open and they leave they will just end up in the arena. Later I will also clear the area outside it, so that if I leave the arena gate open I will be able to ride out of the arena and do a circular ride the rail around the pen. That will give us a little more variety while I develop the bigger play areas.

One thing we have been progressing with is liberty, though. I want to get to where I can move them around the farm without lead ropes. So I thought a good start was to only have a rope on one of them. Yesterday I led Iona and Bruce had to stick to me. He was so hot I wondered if I'd get him moving, but once he understood he got quite interested (treats were involved) and did a lovely job, even though since we were coming from the loafing shed it wasn't our usual morning route. Turned them out later the same way. This morning it was Iona's turn, and she did a great job, too.

By about 7 this evening it had cooled off, and after an afternoon spent watching some inspiring PNH stuff on DVD I really felt like getting Iona and playing. I want out to the track to get her, and of course Bruce assumed just what I have been teaching him, that he should come with us at liberty! Or maybe he just wanted the nice grass on the other side of the gate we tried to go through. Anyway, he was pretty easy to catch and redirect, so it was fine. I will have to work out some clearer signals about my intentions!

We cut across the pasture rather than going along the track, but that meant that I was seperating them, so Iona got a bit high headed and bracey. I just kept giving her things to do and she managed to keep it together. In the arena she was still a little uptight, but we managed to do some friendly game with both the ball and flag. Actually, I think we had a bit of a breakthrough with the flag. When she got worried and turned zone 5 to me (to leave, not to kick) I actually increased the pressure and played a sort of catching game. That interrupted the leaving pattern, and I think it was the right thing as at this stage I feel she is more offended by the flag then really fearful. Gee, maybe I am finally learning to read horses! I think my timing was better tonight than in the previous session. We managed to end on a lick and chew and relax.

It was a great moment to challenge myself with some bareback pushing passenger, because as soon as I got on her, she just wanted to dash to the gate (a piece of old rope, remember) toward Bruce. Not quite bracey, but a nice jolting trot and very determined. So then I would have to stop pushing and turn her, as I didn't want her to test the "gate". (Okay, I'll get a better gate!) It was good practise, though!

We finished up with some point to point on the 45' line. Wow! That was really easy! Cool! We walked back out to the track at liberty, and I was very proud that she waited while I shut a gate and never offered to run ahead to get back to Bruce.

Just to cool us all off, here are some photos I forgot to add last time. It's Bruce and Sara having a laugh with the hose after the ride on Sunday.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

First Pony Party

A little preparation

Knowing that I had friends coming to ride this week certainly galvinised me into action. I finished clearing the yard in front of the "visitors shed" and put up a pen there. I finished clearing the arena, too, and removed a number of hazards that I wasn't happy about.

In between that I also took Iona out around the farm again, and with better preparation we much improved the grass diving thing, We also had some fabulous canters! And I rode Bruce a bit, as the plan was for Sara to ride him today, and I just wanted to check him out a little. She was on him bareback recently and they looked great together, but I wanted to be sure of him. He was just his usual self, however.

On Friday JR was here helping me. He removed a number of dangerous metal posts out in the pastures that I hadn't been able to get out with my post puller, and also set the last few turning posts for the track fence. On Saturday he even came out for a couple of extra hours and fixed some further hazards in the arena that were slightly bigger projects, and I don't think I would have got them done without his help! Big sigh of relief!

I just have to digress a bit here, and tell you about how great Iona was on Friday. She and Bruce each have a tie up place, where I have been grooming and feeding them recently. Friday I was grooming Iona's mane, so I took her halter off. No big deal, I have taught her to stay put at her place on previous yards, and she still knows what to do. However, she managed to do it with JR filling water cans, moving his truck around, loading it, and running power tools all right next to her, while I wandered around finding grooming stuff, etc. so I was well impressed with her. Then, much to my amazement, Bruce managed to do the same when it was his turn for the hairdresser. Now that's an achievement! Then, Iona stood completely quiet and relaxed, with the rope draped over her back, out by the "water hole" while I shampooed her tail and hosed her teats and belly where she has fly bites. She isn't always a happy bather so I was really pleased.


Today was hot, and I really wondered how the Fells would cope with an active day and early afternoon ride. However, they took it in their stride and gave us a really good day out. Sara and Linda both arrived just after lunchtime. Linda's horse, Ducky, was his usual cool, calm and collected self! Bruce and Iona greeted him with a modest display of running around and bucking. They are old friends. It was great to be able to pop him into that visitor's pen while the three of us shared a cold drink and a chat.

Linda and Ducky arrive.

We got our horses and headed for the arena. Somehow it was too hot to feel really inspired about playing, but we warmed up, saddled up, did our pre-flight checks and so on. Even managed to have a chat about Rapport, Respect, Impulsion and Flexion, and how that should really be part of the pre-flight checks. I got a little busy taking Sara through the mysteries of Bruce's tack , and didn't manage to take many pictures. The poor girl survived her first time with a Theraflex pad, first time with a crupper and first time with a treeless saddle, and took it all in her stride.

I did manage to get a nice shot of Sara putting Bruce on the pedestal while Iona stood by looking suitably unimpressed!

So we were all mounted up and after a little warmup in the arena we headed out into the pasture to ride and have fun. Sara hadn't ridden in a hackamore before, so we talked a little about the basics as we started out of the yard, and she did great. She just needed to be reminded that it's still one rein at a time.

I knew that we were likely to have a few discussions with Bruce and Iona about that tasty grass, so I suggested that we stop at the very first nice patch and make sure that they waited for a signal from us to eat. We did that and walked awhile and repeated this a few times.

Linda said that one of her goals for the day was to improve how she was riding both the trot and canter. So Sara and I took the lead in trot so that she could work on it. After a couple of these, she still wasn't happy. I think the Fells trot a lot faster than Ducky normally would. He's not lazy, he just has a rather polite little Western jog. When he has to follow the Fells he must think "Gee, what's this? Should I lope now?" I suggested to Linda that maybe if she just asked him to canter, then she would know that it was no problem if he did. That might help her relax in trot. I said we'd do another fast trot and she could experiment and play with trot and canter transitions behind us. So off we went. She looked great, and how I know is that she and Ducky overtook us! Not out of control, but looking pretty sorted. We were on a nice stretch of ground, so I suggested we turn and do some more. Then I felt like I really wanted a fast canter, and Sara was ready to try it with Bruce, too. So when we turned again, Linda went on ahead at her own pace, and once she was well away Sara and I let the Fells go. Bruce exploded with joy, and Sara rode it like a pro. She had to circle a bit to disengage him at the end, and his feet were hardly touching the ground. Wheehee!

By now we'd ridden a mile or so of rail. and we were at the east side where the road that follows the fence is on a bit of a high bank. We all did serpentines up and down the bank. (Iona thinks this is absolutely the biz!) Then we stopped for a little photo opportunity.

Linda and I
Linda and Sara

Sara and I

This felt like enough follow the rail, so I suggested that we ride around more in the middle. That was fun, and we all started doing things like using two patches of bindweed or two anthills for Figure 8 markers. I reckon it is about the most useful those two items will ever be!

Sara asked me about carrot stick riding. I had given her mine to help Bruce get zone 1 out of the grass. So I did a quick demo. Once we got over the semantics of direct and indirect "rein" when you aren't actually using your reins, she picked it up really quickly. Iona was a little star! Then we decided that we were thirsty, so we headed back to the house, and I rode the whole way with no reins. Yay!

Time for iced tea

And buckets of water
In spite of the heat we headed out again. Primarily with the plan of taking in the area where we hadn't ridden yet. It's got some of the best grass, so we thought we would just head out there to let them graze for a bit. Bruce and Iona didn't look very energetic as it was pretty hot. However, Ducky was still fine, so he and Linda led us on the next canter. Then we walked along to the nice grass, and just spent some undemanding time chatting while they grazed.

Sara tells a good storyLooks like Linda's enjoying it.

Don't they look relaxed!
So we headed back. Iona and I have been practising working the electric fencing gates without touching any of the polyrope (even though it's switched off). That one needs to get into the muscle memory. That skill came in handy and gave us a bit of a shortcut home. We all agreed that we'd had a brilliant time. For me, it was just fantastic to see other people having fun and benefitting from this place. Everybody stayed for dinner, and JR came, too, with the kids. (Did I mention, he and Sara are married?)

You'll probably laugh at this, but after everybody was gone, I went out with the wheelbarrow and fork to "tidy" the yard and arena. It just felt perfect! The place looked lived in and used, which is exactly how I like it! I felt so inspired, I went into the next little side yard and put in posts for a roundpen there and started clearing the ground. It's so sandy back there, it should be great!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Is my track on track?

Although I let the ponies into their grazing cell last night, by this morning they had gone back onto the track. That's a first, so I'm wondering why. Are they not finding enough to eat in the cell, or did something just attract them back onto the track?

I also noticed that they have been moving a lot on the track today. Maybe something yummy is just popping up. Or maybe they're making up for yesterday, as it was very hot, and I'm not sure they ate as much as usual. I'll need to have a good look at things tomorrow, and see what's what. The whole plan of 10 acre grazing cells changed monthly is totally arbitrary. It will be interesting to see whether I need to adjust that up or down to keep them fed but not fat.

I haven't managed to extend the track any further this week. I can't really take that forward until some more posts are in at corners and turns on the final stretch. I am well over halfway around, though!

In spite of the heat, I managed to spend some time yesterday with Bruce in the arena. I tried to work on some very accurate hind and forequarter yeilds, using the porcupine game. However, he wasn't concentrating, and just couldn't keep those back feet planted during FQ yields. I think it probably does have to do with the way I'm using treats as rewards, but I thought I had all that worked out a couple of months ago. Obviously not! It's tricky to balance his need for motivation with his need to actually listen to me. I guess that's always been our "issue". I remember when I first had him, feeling so frustrated because although I could ride him he just refused to be steered. Somehow, this feels like a version of the same thing. He enjoys being together and doing stuff, but doesn't really accept leadership or direction easily. He's a smart boy, and I know that nothing he does means nothing, and everything means something!

I was thinking recently about when I first met Bruce. He was in a pen at the annual Fell pony auction, and I remember there being some sort of comment as I went in to look at him, like "He won't kick you, but he might step on your feet," as he tried to do just that. When I got him home he was stepping on everybody's feet - the vet, the farrier, the dentist... Now, he is obsessed with putting his feet on things. Not just pedestals, which he loves, but things that most horses would never consider attempting. Logs and poles that threaten to roll or tip are just an interesting challenge for him. The other day my friend Sara was leading him. We had quite a way to go, and I guess he got bored. He stopped dead, and when she turned to see why, he had one foot planted on an old cow chip. Look! I found this! Can I get a treat for doing this?

Today I played with Iona. She seemed to be having a bit of an RBI day, where there was a whole lot of spaced out licking when she got a treat for something. Don't know where that came from. She wouldn't follow me if I pushed the ball around, especially if I bounced it. But she was willing to push it with her nose. And last time she was okay with me putting it on her back. It felt more like "Can't be bothered," than anything. However, she gave me some lovely FQ yields, so at least it's not just ME! I rode just a little (bareback) and then we went to try to put back feet on a low pedestal. This was in a nice shady place, so we enjoyed that, as it was pretty hot this morning. I can get her to leave her back feet on if she walks across with her front feet first, but we didn't manage backing on. I will let her build up her confidence first, and then I think we will be able to do that, too. Neither one of us wanted to leave that shade after we finished, so we just hung out for awhile, and it was great to spend time together like that.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Back in the Saddle

Today I decided to spend some quality time with Iona. Time riding. Hopefully, time to remind myself why I took the trouble to bring us here in the first place.

I hung the saddle over the arena rail and we started with the ball. I hadn't had it on her back in ages, and I was really pleased to find that she had no problems with it. I moved on to some work with the flag. You can shake it around all day and she doesn't mind, but start to stroke her with it and she is convinced that it is only a matter of time until you will touch her right ear with it - and THAT WILL KILL HER!! When it got too much for her she would start walking around, so I just kept going and would stop when she stopped walking. Interesting how she stopped walking by a gate. Let's go out for a ride! The next time she stopped by her saddle C'mon, let's go!! So I thought "Yeah, let's saddle up!"

We also tried some lead by the chin, which went pretty well, then lead by the mane, which was harder, as she kept lowering her head. Perhaps I was pulling down, but I didn't think so. So I mounted and we warmed up with a little passenger lesson and some Figure 8.

When we got out into the pasture I was pleased that she doesn't seem worried about leaving Bruce now. I took her out on line on Saturday, to work on this, thinking that we would have a lot of thresholds, and she didn't seem to have any. Guess she must be feeling more secure about things now. However, we had a lot of discussions about diving for grass today - something that really hadn't been a frequent problem for awhile. It kinda caught me unprepared and we had a few tussles. Darn! Next time I will remember to establish the groundrules before we start riding around. I don't want lightness to go out the window because of this.

Otherwise, she was really good. No spooks, and pretty willing to do what I asked, which wasn't very well organised. Next time we will do some point to point and stuff to make it more interesting for both of us. I really am more rusty in my thinking than I expected! No wonder she just decided to eat grass, it's not like I had a plan! Next time I will be a more prepared leader.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What a difference leaves make to my outlook!

Saturday was a busy day. My trimmers, John Graves and his daughter Sara came out and did the ponies' feet. Their feet are doing great and I'm sure the track will only make them better, although they have pretty great feet anyway, I'm happy to say. They were very complimentary about what I have done with the place since they saw it eight weeks ago.

In the afternoon I put up a fence for the second grazing cell. I really have no idea how often I "should" move them from one cell to the next, or how big the cells should be. Right now my system is that I have 16 cells, eight up each side of the property, and will try moving them once a month. They would get too much to eat, however, and also simply "camp" in the cell rather than move on the track, so I'm only opening the cell at night at the moment. If they are still getting too much, then I can reduce the size of cell or the time I allow them in. With only two ponies, I am more concerned that the land will be undergrazed than anything, but it is in need of a rest, too, so I hope it will work out.

Since the ponies have been strip grazed and had electric fences moved around in their world a lot over the past few years, I assumed (oops!) that they would be curious about this new fence, and find their way into the cell during the night. Nope! They must have checked the gate of their old cell, found it shut, thought "Humph!!" and not bothered to explore further as they were still on the track on Sunday morning, It's okay, there's still quite a bit of eating on the last section I opened up.

Sunday night, I made sure that I opened the gate when they were nearby, and showed it to them, and in fact, just moseyed with them for a bit in the new cell. This morning I fed them and shut the gate. I went off to a birthday lunch for my aunt an hour's drive away. When I got back about 3:30 they were still camping by the gate. Of course they may have been all over the farm while I was gone, but I don't think so. That area is a bit of a favourite lounging place anyway. But it got me thinking about whether they thought that I opened the gate because they were near it. Had I accidentally "trained" them to wait by the gate? Did they think that they had "trained" me to open it?? I made sure that they were leaving the area this evening before I opened it, but also tried to catch their attention just enough that they would notice.

I'm sure all this is just teething and that eventually they will see a routine to the whole thing. They will begin to understand that they will be moved from cell to cell, and to look for open gates. Heck, in Scotland it got to where they worked out when we were about to move them from their main field with the track to their relief grazing half a mile away.

I just loved this big sky!

On track. Spot the ponies!

New grazing cell open for business!

P.S. - I have also added some new pictures of the track to my page on Paddock Paradise site here

Saturday, May 2, 2009

My place from space

Thought you might enjoy seeing a satellite view of my place. I made this little map for the Paddock Paradise website that I mentioned in a previous post. No doubt the picture will come out smaller here than it did there, but it will give an idea of my layout.

The red line around the outside shows the perimeter and driveway/yard fence. The white line is the track fence. As you can see, there is already a track for car/tractor access to the old arable fields, which runs most of the way around the property. The fields themselves are less evident from the ground than they appear in the photo. I think this photo is a couple of years old, and the land has been pretty heavily grazed in the meantime. The width of the track is not to scale. Each side of the property is about 1/2 mile in length. The track is about 25' wide, except on the east side, where it is much wider (see E).

A - These are the temporary grazing cells which I make with step in posts. There is at least one permanent gate onto the track for each proposed cell. There are so many gates, including a number to accomodate roads and access to the farmyard, that I haven't bothered to show them.
B - Loafing shed spur on the track.
C. - Temporary safety fence, to keep horses out of tree area, where the perimeter fence needs repairs and wire and downed trees need to be hauled out.
D - Farmyard. House, barns and sheds, a small arena.
E - There is an old ditch access road along the east side, which is built up several feet above the height of the rest of the land. I widened the track along this section so that I can use this bank as a play obstacle.
F - This marks the line of a small ditch and a car track which follows it.
G - Two other car tracks which don't show up on the photo.
H - A large irrigation ditch. It actually runs the length of the North, West and South edges of the property, but I have only shown the section that comes inside the fence. The North and West sections, where they run outside the fence, are still in use for irrigation by my neighbor, who has managed to retain his water rights.