Welcome to My Little Foal Blog.
My little foal blog is going to give you recent updates on what is happening in the new life of the little foal we have decided to rescue. I saw him born and so he is a little bit special. If you don't want to read the background skip to the bottom for dated Blog News.
So, why does he need rescuing may be your first question?
Every year the New Forest Commoners have a stallion put out in their area. His job is to impregnate all the mares he can find over the few weeks he is put out.
This is carefully monitored so that only a stallion which is suitable for a particular area is out. What does this mean? A stallion may end up impregnating one of his own off spring which from a breeding point of view is not acceptable. If you are a Commoner and you know the stallion may be related and able to impregnate some of your fillies you would take them off the New Forest whilst the stallion is out.
In 2012 we didn't have a stallion in our area but one from the neighboring area made a few trips over! Although he didn't make all the mares pregnant he managed to capture a few.
The result this year in May 2013 was the birth of Sunni - our little foal. No problems genetically but there is another serious problem if the foal is male (a colt).
Horse charities are in crisis at this time. Horses are being abandoned or left malnourished as their owners can't afford to keep them. New Forest male foals have such a low market value at the moment they go to animal parks etc as meat. This is what would have happened to Sunni.
My lovely friend Rosie recently took me to task saying I'd taken ages to add to my Blog recently... so here's an update from Sunni and his progress.
The good news is that we've gone through a teething session over the last 6 months. He presented himself at our garden gate, gave one of his tooth - showing grins and I was amazed to see that he was actually giving a gappy grin.
I must admit my first thought was - Oh blimey not more vets fees! What has he done with his front teeth! On close inspection and after cleaning the grass and grunge off his gnashers I discovered that he'd lost a couple of front teeth and was growing a nice new set. The only worrying thing was that the smaller teeth at the edge of his front set seemed to be at an unusual angle and flicking outwards!!!
Again vets bills started to whirl around my brain!
Head in the sand took over wallet and when he wandered away from the gate I decided to keep and eye on him over the next few weeks.
When he returned later after a few weeks he gave an accommodating lip curl grin and low and behold a new set of gnashers were in place and they all lined up beautifully! ....Phew thank heavens!
Towards the end of 2016
The last few months have luckily been free of incidents involving Sunni. Sadly, this hasn't been true for some of the other New Forest ponies who roam the forest. We have had road accidents which have resulted in injury and also death from horrific road accidents. Every loss is a tragedy whether to a pony, donkey, cow, pig or deer. All the animals (except the deer) are owned by Commoners and as you've seen from my Blog throughout Sunni's life a lot of love, money and energy goes into owning a New Forest pony. Keeping our ponies safe from road death and healthy under all the challenges they face on a daily basis is hard work.
On a brighter note, Sunni is now teething and so gives a happy grin when he curls his top lip back when he scents the air! Very fetching. Hopefully he'll have a good strong set of adult teeth to help him munch through the tough, prickly gorse and heathland in the future. His tummy is full of rich, summer grass that is luckily still lush and so he'll hopefully go into the winter well. He's had a worming session and so we know that he's only feeding his own stomach rather than a few unwanted gut guests - ugh!
His coat is dense but much shorter this year - he's lost the shaggy look which some foals have for the first few years they're out on the New Forest.
Thank you for following Sunni's Blog and we'd like to wish you
A Very Happy Christmas and a Healthy and Happy 2017 too!
My Little Foal Blog
I can't believe how long it's been since I last added to my Blog. I've been putting a lot of time into my children's eBook which should be ready to publish in the Autumn.
I've loved writing it and hope it can be enjoyed by children, either by being read by an adult or if they're a competent reader, taking it away to a quiet corner and reading it themselves.
It's a tale about a New Forest foal (what else would it be?), and an enchanted forest where magic and evil fairies live! Watch this space - or better still the main front page of my website where the details will be.
So, back to life on the New Forest. What's been happening? As usual lots involving the ponies and their welfare. Sadly, some of this years foals have lost their lives on the road.
Please take extra care, they love running around and if you see them anywhere near or on a road they may come out in front of your car!
I've been involved with a friends New Forest pony who had a roofing nail in her foot - yes some idiot had not taken care and left it on a path, road or track! Also a beautiful yearling gashed her leg on probably barbed wire which resulted in her being taken off the forest to recover.
Never a dull day here!
My Little Foal Blog
Early May 2016
Today we've had the stallions put out in the New Forest. A bit of a worrying time for us as Sunni is a gelding and the stallion in our area may take against him, especially if he is in the way of him servicing the filly and mares.
With this in mind I decided to go out and find him and see what was happening with the stallion.
From a distant hill I saw the stallion with a herd of fillys and mares. Lots of high pitched whinnies and squeals as some decided they liked him and were happy to accept his advances and other weren't so happy.
Munching happily in his own little world was Sunni. I walked over through the valley and as I got closer to him he spotted me and came over. As he walked towards me all the gang had wandered off, including the stallion.
Out of the corner of his eye the stallion spotted Sunni and so he sauntered over to him. Sunni turned round to see him and stopped!
Flipping heck Sunni keep walking! I thought. I watched as they exchanged nose sniffs, waiting for the stallion to kick off. Sunni did a little mouth twitch that foals do to appease and after a few more breath exchanges the stallion looked at him, decided he was no threat to his amorous timetable and walked off.
Phew. Sunni looked at me, looked where the stallion had set off to and after a good munch of heathland wandered off in the direction of the stallion.
It seems that this laid back gelding who really is only interested in food and a peaceful life may be OK and not be seen as a threat to the stallion for the month he is out in our area this year! Fingers crossed.
My Little Foal Blog
It's been a while since I've done an update of our New Forest foal, who's now a furry little gelding, feeling his feet.
Nothing has changed with his eating habits and he's still a greedy and laid back lad who loves carrots, hay (thanks Jacqui and Brian) and basically anything he can get his molars on!
The exciting news is that my ebook featuring a New Forest fairy story for children is well on the way to being completed. It's been real fun writing it and really tedious finding out the best way to publish it and via which medium etc. I'm going to keep total control of it and put it out via this website.
There will be photos as well as the story itself and hopefully you can read it to your children or let them read it themselves. The format will be simple and hopefully easy to scroll through and read, for all ages, but its a fairy story for children primarily.
Over the last few days what looks like a couple of pregnant donkeys have been put out near us. The the New Forest ponies have had fun trying to bully and chase them off! Such bad behaviour.
Sunni just kept eating!
My Little Foal Blog
It's been a strange couple of months, good in one way as the weather has been mild and so the New Forest ponies and other animals have had a lot of wet, dreary days standing in water soaked areas of the forest but no snow.
The bad aspects have been road deaths of our New Forest animals. Once again the awful B3078 claimed 2 animals and last Saturday 19th March 2 female donkeys were mown down at approx 10.40pm. near Beaulieu. One donkey was pregnant and both caused a great deal of debris at the scene of the Hit and Run.
Do you know anyone who returned home on Saturday night with "new" body damage. £1000 reward for the conviction of a Hit and Run successful prosecution so think hard - do you know who did this and just drove off?
Although hopefully road deaths to our animals will be less than last year by the end of the year, every death is a tragedy. Each animal is owned by a Commoner who have usually spent a lot of time, money and often love on the animal.
My Little Foal Blog
A lovely gelding, very close to our hearts was hit on a New Forest road during February.
Unusually there was a happy, but expensive outcome for the owner (our friends). When we got the call from our local Agister, we walked over to the area, checked the pony over and very slowly attempted to walk him back on the mile long journey across the forest to the safety of a paddock.
At a time like this it's important to retain the trust of the pony (which is why unless absolutely necessary you don't use a horse box). New Forest ponies lead a feral life and so have varied levels of handling. Our ponies are handled quite a lot and so the trust has been built up over the years which helps when an emergency, like this, happens.
This pony was lucky. Despite being injured and suffering a chunk out of his eyelid and some blood on one of his legs, a visit from the Vet cleaned up the eye (a slice of flesh had to be cut off which is growing back nicely!) and after a few weeks in, he was out and about again on the forest. This is the very worst part of being a New Forest Commoner with stock, of any sort, out on the forest.......
The roads can easily kill and injure. Please take care but enjoy your visit too. If you're a local who drives too fast or a rat-runner? Slow down or go another way!
My Little Foal Blog
January/early February 2016
All is well with Sunni and I thought it was time to reflect over the last 2+ years since this photo of his birth was taken.
He's a lovely boy and still greets us with a lick everytime we see him. He was awol over Christmas and we found he and his 2 lovely lady friends had all decided to go to a more dangerous area of the New Forest. Instead of grazing and wandering on our local roads they've all decided to graze on the roadside close to roads which have a very bad history of New Forest pony deaths!
All part of owning a New Forest pony and being a Commoner but frankly I find it worrying. We've made a few futile attempts over the last weeks to lead them over to what we think is a safer area of the New Forest but to no avail.
The ground is waterlogged and the area they are grazing is slightly less wet so you can understand them preferring it - as long as they can avoid speeding motorists. The good news I heard recently is that the mobile speed camera set up is catching lots of speeding idiots so hopefully this will help keep our New Forest animals safe? Fingers crossed I think.
My Little Foal Blog
Late December 2015 - time to say Thank You
We've had an amazing year in many ways and there are people who have gone beyond kindness to help us keep Sunni safe and well allowing him to continue to be the laid back little New Forest pony he is today.
Thank You to.......
Endell Equine Vets - Wendy, Vicky, Silvia and Richard gave Sunni so much care and attention when the Strangles infection led to a very nasty eye problem following his encounter with a gorse bush! Wendy was so kind with all her follow up calls to make sure he definitely was on the mend.
Vicky and Silvia ensured Sunni lost the additional visitors he had arrived with and he looked less like a tatty little waif and more like a rather handsome New Forest pony by the end of his (very expensive) stay.
My Friend Rosie - who dropped everything (hopefully not literally) to drive her horsebox/trailer over to pick Sunni up the day he had to go to the hospital. Loading a New Forest pony who had never been boxed up before needed a calm but firm approach, which Rosie certainly provided. And then she picked him up at the end of his treatment - a true friend.
Our wonderful friends Jacqui and Brian who over Sunni's life in the last 2 years have been there each time we needed them. They've offered advice, food, accommodation and sense when we've been very stressed. He's been made welcome instantly if a paddock, stable or anything else has been needed.
Finally, to my lovely husband Dave - who paid the vets bill!
My Little Foal Blog
We had a visitor at the gate today. Sunni turned up to watch some work being done, was fascinated by vacuuming the inside of the car then wanted to get stuck in when the hose came out to wash the outside of my car. He found the light mist from the hose really fun and loved the splashing. Then he found he could have a good drink from the end of the hose. Finished with a groom of his gorse laden mane (please no more eye punctures Sunni!) and also had his tail spruced up a bit.
My Little Foal Blog
Autumn 2015 - what a lovely start to the day - Sunni arrives at our gate at breakfast.
It's been some time since Sunni has added to his Blog. He's had a great summer and managed to keep himself safe.
His eye has been checked every day if we can find him and is doing really well.
Some days we've found him with his head rammed into brambles or gorse so we're not sure if the brain is engaging about his eye injury and how he got it!
Now we're in full blown acorn season with no pigs around to gobble up the green acorns we've all been really worried about our Commoners ponies.
They have been eating loads but we all hope that as there's lots of good grass about they will have had enough of a mixed diet to send the toxic acorns through without causing a colic/toxin build up.
There are lots of fat bellies about so hopefully the New Forest ponies and other animals will start the winter with a good reserve of fat for warmth and survival.
My Little Foal Blog
August 12th 2015
It has become a bit of a dustbowl on the New Forest and we've noticed the herds have changed and moved, looking for areas of good water. Luckily they haven't gone too far and if they have been standing in the sun on the dangerous road, it hasn't been when we've been out to find them!
Sunni has appeared at our gate, as he looks above, but covered in a light dusting of someone else's dried manure - yes, I can hardly keep my hands off cuddling him!
The little shaved patch between his eyes is fading and his eye looks good, despite loads of flies and dust - fingers crossed he keeps himself healthy and safe.
He's nearly back to "chunky" again after his strangles and eye puncture episodes earlier in the year. If we are out looking for him he may appear from behind a gorse bush when he hears our voices and greets us with a very long lick. I was looking at all the photos of his birth recently and he had his tongue out the whole time as soon as he was born - very tactile chap!
My Little Foal Blog
July 23rd 2015
Into day 4 of not seeing our boy and so took the drive round option. Found him near the dangerous road with 30+ others who all belted into the shade of a large beech wood. Wonderful sight to see the New Forest ponies racing through the heather and heathland. (And away from the road).
Yes, even Sunni gathered a bit of speed!
His eye looked good which is the best result of our often futile searches for him so can relax for the rest of the day - as long as he stays away from speeding drivers!
Can't believe how streamlined he looks in the summer. He's still wearing his little shaved patch from where the lavage pipe and stitch went up his head and into his mane and neck.
My Little Foal Blog
July 9th 2015
Sunni is enjoying the hot weather and managing to cover himself in dry mud ( I think it's probably dry poo as it's got a green tinge to it!) which may help if he has got his lice back now he's been out of hospital for a few months.
We check him 2 or 3 times a day and his eye looks good so fingers crossed he wont do it again!
He's still with his own little herd and keeps very close to his surrogate mum filly and tends to slightly bully the sweet little yearling fillies he was turned out with too. As you can see he makes visits to our gate occasionally which saves us pacing miles around the forest looking for him. luckily our thighs can always do with the exercise and it means we can have that extra biscuit when we get home, often after a futile search.
My Little Foal Blog
June 15th 2015
Sunni goes back out on the New Forest after 5 weeks of trauma.
Sunni is back out on the New Forest today. His eye seems OK and he's chomping away at the grass and heather as fast as he can eat.
I hope his eye will be good from now on.
It was running slightly with clear water when he put his head down but the amount of midges flying about and the intensity of the evening sun was awful.
Once the sun went behind a cloud and it became a bit duller it was a relief (especially to me!)
Can't help worrying about him after all he's been through.
We'll see how he is in the next few days.
He is his normal self - he'd been out of the paddock for about 2 minutes and nearly stumbled over a felled tree branch.
He's always been clumsy and is still carrying on with this characteristic by the look of him.
His little filly companion is keeping a close eye on him and if I spy on them I often see them have a little nuzzle of each other.
I'm so pleased he was able to stay near her during his convalescent time.
Putting him back out on his own after all this time could have been quite difficult for him to find a herd to run with.
The last thing he needs now is not to be accepted back out there or any conflict which may cause further injury to his eye.
My Little Foal Blog
June 12th 2015
All is going well with the progress of Sunni's eye. We've been way for a few days and he's been kindly cared for by our friends. He's been wearing his fly mask until Wednesday when he took a hissy (very mild one though for him) and refused to have it put back on after 3 attempts.
He'll be going back out next week as by then the stallion will have been taken off the New Forest in this area and his lovely filly companion will be safe from a future pregnancy.
Thanks to the hard work at the equine hospital (thank you Rachael and Silvia for your grooming efforts during his stay) he is now looking pretty sleek. Just a few fluffy bits (technical term) to lose and he'll be looking like all the other New Forest ponies in their summer coats.
He's been through the wars with his eye and it's only when you have a bit of grit or a fly in your own eye that you realise just how much pain and discomfort he must have been in whilst we tried to medicate his eye. Wendy his vet did try to warn us during these attempts but because of his temperament, which is trusting and calm I don't think we had appreciated what his pain must have been like.
New Forest ponies are resilient - they have to be - they are feral and must adapt to all conditions that life throws at them. When I count up the ponies I know I've tried to rescue and sometimes failed, due to them suffering injuries from gorse bushes, stupidity of grass mowings being left out for them to eat or road traffic accidents the figures are quite high. Some have recovered like ours and sadly some have had to be destroyed.
To me, each is a tragedy but when you see them running free in their herds (often over unsafe ground) you realise that despite these hazards in their lives they have a wonderful existence in the New Forest.
My Little Foal Blog
June 12th 2015
If the lovely people at Endell's want to see the latest image of his eye here it is. As we've discussed it still has a cloudiness to it. This is part of the healing process and may go on for a few more weeks.
The white dot in the centre is the daft photographer lining the camera up in a light coloured T shirt - not cause for concern - I hope!
My Little Foal Blog
30th May 2015
Sunni has now been back from his equine hospital adventure for a week. He's back into his routine of hard work - eat, sleep, eat, sleep followed by measured pacing around the paddocks when absolutely necessary or if he hears a bucket being prepared for his delight!
His new "pony-size" fly hood is doing a great job keeping the flies off and hopefully the eye protected. We've had good news from Wendy and Richard from Endell's that the photos I sent through to them of his eye show it is recovering really well.
Phew! Thank heavens for that.
Latest update May 2015
We brought Sunni home on Saturday and I think he was sorry to say goodbye to the fantstic care and attention he'd received at the equine hospital. The wonderful caring staff had given him his hourly treatment and also a daily spruce up which meant he didn't look like the scruffy little lad from the New Forest anymore.
He needed his own (proper pony sized) fly hood to protect his eye, but he still looks a lot like a small jester!
The drive home in the trailer, driven by the lovely Rosie (what a friend!) was uneventful and when he popped out of the back when home and realised where he was he moved pretty fast - for him anyway.
We'd disinfected, scrubbed and fresh bedded his stable (not with the luxurious "hospital corners" he'd been getting at Endells) and so all was ready for him to stay in for a couple of nights.
Sunni had other ideas and tried to get out!
He'd always been content to just laze about whererever he was put but this time he had escape on his mind. We had to screw an additional piece of wood across the door and keep the food coming!
Yes, a spoilt NewForest pony but we are very fond of him! (I can hear our friends laugh - they think we're mad!)
Update mid May 2015
We took Sunni into the equine hospital on Saturday afternoon and he was set up for his Subpalpebral Lavage treatment to get his medication directly into his eye. We visited him the next day twice and he greeted us with a little whinny and seemed quite relaxed and not in any stress.
This way the medication can be sent along the tubing directly into his eye, unlike our valient attempts which failed more than they were successful to treat his eye.
While we were there he had a treatment and it was astonishing to both he and us that his eye started to water quite extensively all on its own as it was flushed through!
Poor little lad, despite being in extreme pain and discomfort he's remained his sweet little self throughout all this. He's now on pain medication and healing medication every hour.
We hope that the treatment will be enough to save both the eye and his sight but sadly there are many animals (New Forest ponies as well as cows) out on the forest with past eye injuries which may mean they have lost the sight in their eye.
Update mid May 2015
It looks like we will have to take Sunni into the Equine Hospital. Today his eye was so sore that we could not administer his eye drops etc. They will insert a tube into his lower eyelid and feed it under his mane to his back, they can then administer his medication via the tube direct to his eye. He may be in for some time depending on how successful his treatment is.
Update early May 2015
Bad news for our little Sunni.
Having survived an attack of Strangles and having started to gain weight again he has unfortunately managed to puncture his eye, probably on gorse or even a tree branch.
We have had to bring him in from the forest and have had the vet out to check him over and he is currently having various treatments which we are administering 4 times a day to stop the eye going into trauma etc.
A second visit by the vet today showed very little improvement but it is still very early days but we are hoping that his eye can be saved.
Luckily he retains his sweet nature and although he doesn't like his treatments we have built up enough trust to allow him to have it done by us. Sadly, it means he's been sedated twice for the vet to examine him thoroughly.
We now wonder if we've got a court jester or even a donkey when we see him come towards us across the field for his 4th bucket of the day.
A positive from all this is that he is quickly regaining all the weight (and hopefully condition) he lost after the bout of strangles, and his fat little belly is reappearing!
It's early days for any improvement yet to the eye but we'll certainly be much happier when it's turned a corner and we start to see an improvement.
Despite being in some discomfort he grazes happily all day on grass broken by quarterly hard feeds from his bucket.
Update end February 2015
We were so pleased with ourselves that Sunni managed to survive such a devastating attack of Strangles. We'd checked under his chin and apart from a large area of hairless skin it all looked nicely pink, bald and healed.
His nose and one eye had a tiny bit of yellow but he was eating well and spent all day grazing.
I couldn't believe it when I just checked his chin the next day and a lump had appeared again. The next day it was bigger and I just hoped it would erupt, as before, to allow the abcess to drain. Luckily next day there was some pus and a bit of blood so it had opened and was draining out.
What a palaver! Poor lad. He's putting on weight slowly by us trying to get 2 buckets a day into him, lots of hay from friends and also the New Forest heathland. I haven't seen him eating too much nutrient rich gorse but that's understandable if you've got a condition called strangles in your throat!
I haven't heard of any of our local New Forest ponies dying of this disease but a thoroughbred horse in a field nearby sadly had to be put down after the disease went internally into its body rather than come out as abcesses. A very sad outcome of this horrid condition.
My Little Foal Blog
Disaster has struck!
Strangles has come to the New Forest and many New Forest ponies have become seriously ill. It often affects those under 2 years old, although any age pony can get it and it is highly contagious. Some ponies may be carriers but not show symptoms themselves.
It is also known as equine distemper as it causes severe inflammation of the nasal passages and throat. It is a respiratory disease caused by the bacteria Streptoccocus equi. Sunni went virtually overnight from a fat bellied happy little chap to a depressed, lethargic little soul who obviously had great trouble swallowing. Here are his symptoms.
We immediately started 3 feeds a day of soft food, Molly Chaff herbal and Cool Mix soaked. Luckily there were no flies around as the temperatures were low which meant his open abcess wounds were not in danger of becoming fly blown.
After a couple of days he started to eat more comfortably (we'd held his bucket up so that his neck took less strain) as he ate his small mouthfuls. There was literally pus and snot everywhere. His eyes were streaming with it and so were his nostrils. More and more ponies succumbed and one little Shetland only just managed to pull through.
Sunni became less lethargic although the pus continued and his breathing slowly became less laboured. He started to look for us when we came out with his bucket and even made his way towards us. Still the discharge continued. Although he didn't really have much of a cough throughout there were many ponies who did.
Strangles can reinfect again but usually an older (than 2yrs) pony may have already had it and so the symptoms may just be a clear runny nose and a bit of a cough.
It was vital during this time that the neck abcesses broke open to relieve the throat restriction and to get the poison out. If the abcess heals without the site clearing completely the infection may pass to other parts of the body i.e. the legs and then it may prove fatal to the pony.
Sunni became a real mess under his chin. His long, shaggy coat hung in dripping, wet, congealed clumps or if it was sunny weather dried into clumps of dry spikes. I didn't want to touch or introduce any medication as it was vital it carried on draining. He lost his lethargy quite quickly and although his eyes and nose continued to drain out in yellow pus he soon became a much happier pony. Antibiotics are not used as it seems they have been found to not be very successful in penetrating the abcess sac or core. Allowing free drainage for as long as it takes seems to be the better treatment. It certainly seems to have worked for Sunni.
So now I have a much skinnier but thankfully still alive New Forest pony who has faced yet another New Forest challenge in his young life and survived. I saw under his chin yesterday and he has clean, pink hair free skin which looks good! I've yet to see where the site of the abcess was but that should be easier in the next few days.
All the ponies who were or are ill are getting through this nasty disease and hopefully they'll have some immunity for the next time it strikes.
My Little Foal Blog
Winter hit with a vengeance! As I woke one morning it looked like someone had put the lights on outside - so much bright light. Once I opened the curtains I was stunned by the level of snow which had fallen overnight.
After checking the roof was still on and the thatch looked OK I set off (with my lovely new rescued dog Lottie) to find Sunni and check he was OK and able to find food. We found him looking quite happy and managing to have mouthfuls of heather and gorse. Although the New Forest ponies have a delicate way of eating the gorse - who wouldn't take care with the thorns on these bushes! - gorse is a highly nutritious form of food for them.
He was still fat bellied and his thick shaggy coat was doing what it should do, and keeping him warm and dry. Good news all round we thought.
Little did we know what February had in store for us all.
To read my previous Blogs on his progress please skip the background info below and scroll down the page.
My New Forest foal wears his reflective neckband which will hopefully save his life if he ventures on the road. Animal accidents are up for 2013 (104 deaths and injuries now listed)
My little New Forest Foal - sleeping in the early March sunshine
My little foal would have fetched just a few pounds when he went to the New Forest pony sales.
Here's why he wouldn't be taken on by most people.
My little foal Blog - how?
If (like me) you haven't taken up your Commoning Rights to put New Forest ponies out you would need to spend on the following procedures
My little foal Blog - why?
Financially it is a no brainer. Why would you spend so much money on one little foal that is worth nothing?
My answer is that he is special to me and most of the cost involved is because I haven't put ponies out before. Even so the gelding cost would put most people off which is why New Forest fillies(female) ponies are kept and not the males each year.
Why am I rescuing My Little Foal?
My little foal blog will be constantly updated with the progress of our New Forest foal. I hope you will enjoy reading about his progress and that I can share it with you to give you a better insight into my New Forest life.
November and December 2014
As winter got into full swing we were really grateful it wasn't such a wet year as last year. We had a chance of keeping feet fairly dry rather than standing in water all day on the forest heathland. Bright, sunny days meant the grass kept going and food was plentiful.
Sunni of course spent most of his days doing what he loved most - grazing and snoozing.
The time has come for a little snipping of certain parts of my yearlings anatomy. I didn't want him to go through the Drift and so I booked him in with a local vet who came out and castrated him today. I must admit I was nervous but so far all seems to have gone well and he is now a little gelding.
He's a very laid back little chap and it was hard to see a difference at first from sedation to normal calmness. Gradually his head lowered and he had to make more of an effort with his balance.
This is what he had done and roughly how much it cost. I'm giving you details to try to explain the responsibility level a Commoner has to have towards their animals. It also explains why the little colts are not kept each year.
Why do it?
No "whole" or ungelded New Forest colts are allowed out on the forest after they are 2 yrs old. A mare can be impregnated by one of these youngsters and the stock levels then become unmanaged. A poor quality colt and mare breeding would mean a foal who for example had passed on poor anatomy, and many other genetic traits.
By getting the gelding and microchipping done I can get the equine passport which means I can take my yearling off the forest or have him treated by a vet either on or off the forest, at any time in the future.
I have no intention of taking him off but feel it is what a responsible owner should do.
Did you know all dogs will have to be microchipped in 2016? I think it will hopefully be introduced for equines too and will hopefully help welfare issues.
We have had a wonderful summer with hot, sunny days and an amazing amount of grass and other New Forest vegetation for the ponies and other animals to eat. The result? Fat bellies all round! This means they can go into a winter and whatever it holds with some fat build up again the cold and wet. Every little helps when you're out in all the elements. That's also my justification to have that extra biscuit or bag of crisps.
We've had some worrying days as for a few weeks loads of the herd decided that the grass was literally greener on the other side and crossed the horrible, dangerous road and grazed, or if it was really hot, stand in the middle of the dangerous road and sleep.
This is visitor time and so thank you to all the careful, kind visitors who drove slowly around them and treated them as the erratic animals they are and didn't mow them down like some idiots do. Still the road death figures are high and more reflective collars are being put on by Commoners.
May 2014 - Part Two
Well, Stallion Day came and we set off to the dangerous area to see what would happen. There were masses of New Forest ponies milling around in various herds through a long deep valley. On the ridge overlooking the valley the stallion was in his box ready to be let out. Squealing and kicking amongst the mares meant the hormone levels were very real. These ladies were ready for some excitement.
Eating sedately amongst this chaos was our boy. Never one to pass up a good graze he appeared nonchalant to everything around him. As legs and squeals kicked off around him he moved away. The stallions this year are 2 years old. They are inexperienced and we were worried how they would be accepted, especially by the geldings who have their own herds of mares and fillies which they run throughout the year.
Battle ensued. A beautiful, lithe, prancing boy came belting out of his box and all heads went up - except for Sunni who kept eating. For the next hour there were ponies either being chased or chasing the stallion all over. Clashes of herds were met with shreaks of either delight or anger and hooves flew everywhere. The clicking sound of hooves meeting bone and flesh was horrible. In the midst of it all was our boy.
We could see him in the valley and suddenly we couldn't believe our eyes. The stallion had not been successful in any of his conquests and it seemed he really wasn't sure how to achieve the final result. Some older mares had rejected him on the grounds of inexperienced youth and others although appearing enticing, just didn't get an end result either.
We suddenly had to watch as Sunni approached him amongst the melee and offer him his most subservient mouth movement (they open and close their lips without showing any teeth). The stallion stopped in his tracks and gave Sunni a sniff. Sunni got closer and gave him a reassuring little lick on his neck. The stallion was obviously aroused and stamped his front foot. Sunni found this fascinating and stared innocently into his face. The stallion stamped his foot again, thankfully not as hard or as high as he could have done which could have dealt Sunni a death blow!
The next thing we saw was the stallion go round to the back of Sunni. Sunni looked round and at last sense got through. A fully aroused stallion who had no notches on his bedpost so far was just about to score his first success - and it wasn't going to be with a mare or filly but our boy!
We looked on
in horror as understanding dawned and Sunni took off up the hillside towards us
with the stallion in full pelt behind him. Sunni had never moved so fast! The
look on his face was priceless and we'd never seen him travel at such speed. He
weaved and ducked left and right and then threw himself into the midst of an
onlooking herd who immediately dispersed. The stallion seemed to come to his
senses and realised he was on the wrong track with this youngster and calmed
down a bit and took himself off for a rest. Sunni gathered his senses and lost
the look of terror and promptly started feeding. As well as the danger from
behind, literally! this valley has many deep mires and bogs. It would have
resulted in broken legs if either of them had tried to race through one of these
during this misguided seduction.
Once the immediate danger to him was over we did see the funny side. Of all the girls in all the forest this young idiot had to try it on with our boy!
Two days later Sunni has returned home to our area and hopefully away from the dangerous road. The herds are still all mixed up but he is now mixing in a new one which means in the last day he's been near to our cottage which is nice.
There has been no sign of the stallion which is very sad for the owner.
Happy Birthday 1 year old!
It's official my foal is now a "yearling" and is no longer a foal. What a time we've had with him recently. Over the last year of his life he's been wonderfully looked after by his little filly friend. She's guided him through mires, seen off anything she saw as ending in a bit of bullying, given him affectionate nuzzles and lots of mutual grooming and generally kept a very motherly eye out for him.
All things change and over the last week we can't believe the amount of walking we've done and nervous energy we've used up.
It all started when spring sprung and the mares and fillies got a bit excited. Lots of hormones kicking in and also lots of squeeling in delight (at nothing which is weird) and legs kicking about all over the place. Some misguided girls were actually trying to mount other not so misguided girls.
Sunni just observed and carried on eating - nothing new there then!
The result of all this hormonal change was that the herds started moving around into much larger areas. No big deal except that eventually they would take themselves closer to a very dangerous road which is responsible for many animal deaths every year. Not a place you want your New Forest pony grazing anywhere near.
We hadn't seen him for a while so after a good look round our normal patch we set off in the car to head towards the more dangerous area. We spotted them from the road eating in a plantation on scrubby grass - what idiots! the grass really is greener on the other side - our side!
We walked them back to safety with a bucket but his filly friend had to be taken in as the stallion was going to be put out in a few days. This would cause havoc but eventually would result in all the hormones calming down a bit.
Sunni was left outside the gate looking forlornly in at his little friend chomping away at all the fresh grass in her new paddock. We worried about who he'd now team up with and for a couple of days he became a little bit "Billy no mates". It was interesting to see how he'd subtly try to attach himself to a herd on the permitted outskirt of their grazing area by stealth. Sometimes he was chased away immediately and at other times he was allowed to graze, but at a distance. Great lesson in on-the-spot animal behaviour.
2 days before the stallion was going out we noticed that we had very few of our usual herds of ponies anywhere around. In fact when we went out there wasn't a single New Forest pony to be seen, even if we searched quite a wide distance. We were left with a New Forest nursing home scenario of 2 ancient geldings, without a full set of teeth between them munching contentedly outside and not another pony anywhere.
We drove out to scout for them and as we got nearer to the danger area we spotted our boy. Grazing on the heathland with another "friend" this time, a gelding, who would keep an eye on him. This didn't work out at all well. Although his friend was protective towards him the next thing we saw was them both saunter across the busy, dangerous road to graze on the other side - very bad news.
Traffic was coming past in a steady flow and luckily it was Sunday so tourist traffic - thank you so much visitors for taking care on our New Forest roads - the locals belt through and so do the rat runners! There was nothing we could do but leave them there. To interfere could have caused an accident and the chances were if we got them to cross back over they'd return again as soon as we left.
We went home and I had wine! This is what owning a New Forest animal is all about (not the wine bit!) they roam freely and you have to set up as much protection for them as you can but they are basically out on the New Forest and can roam anywhere.
Our major concern apart from the road was that all our local herds were now in an area not only where we didn't want them to be, but also we knew the following day the stallion was to be put out, so chaos would reign and in the midst of a dangerous road!
That's part two of this Blog which I hope you'll find interesting.
After Easter April 22 2014
Managed a day without seeing my boy on Sunday as it was back to back rain and could only imagine he was doing his drowned rat impersonation, poor chap. Easter Monday he and his chum turned up for their supper and he had dried out nicely. He's starting a little bit of colt growth so is starting to be a bit bolshy at times, but still always ready with a little lick which is nice. Also enjoyed a mutual nose rub, but that's another story!
My New Forest foal having a bad hair day in gusting winds!
The month started well with some bright, dry days and the New Forest National Park started to dry out. I went out for a few days in walking boots instead of wellies as the mud became a bouncy, drier surface rather than a deep sludge - sound enticing?
Gusty winds also helped to dry everything and everyone out and Sunni found himself looking unrecognizable in his thick, fluffy winter coat. For the first time all winter you could see how a New Forest pony coat should be. Dense body coat, smooth and silkier top coat with long fine hairs all over to catch and deflect the wind and rain.
At one stage I was expecting to see him panting in the heat of the sun in his thick winter warmer!
The last 2 days (April 7 & 8) have been foul. The New Forest has reverted back to deep puddles of deep mud and Sunni is soaking wet again. He looks half his size again (apart from his rather round tum!) and sploshes about dejectedly.
I keep telling myself he will dry out again soon and summer will come!
These were terrible months for the New Forest but again compared to other parts of the country we were very, very lucky. My little foal blog has some hard truths and shows the dangers for a foal on the New Forest this time.
More and more rain scald appeared and many ponies had patches of bald fur on their backs and sides. They stood for days with their feet constantly in water with their coats sodden, not drying out at all for days.
The New Forest pony has bred to be a tough breed and this weather was testing them. We had trouble with Sunni with a depth and danger of mud he just couldn't avoid. Sometimes the mud was a foot deep. This can cause sprains, pull tendons or even break a leg. During this time and since he had been let out we had checked on Sunni 2 or 3 times a day, feeding him twice a day with a large hard feed and hay. He was always accompanied by his new "Mum" who had been turned out with him. She looked out for him and they both turned up twice a day for their feeds.
On 15 February we went out to give him his feed and he was holding his rear leg up very awkwardly. We were terrified - was the leg broken?
He limped towards us, very slightly putting the injured leg tentatively down, putting just a tiny bit of pressure on the base when he absolutely had to. This was a good sign as it meant (hopefully) there was no break.
We just had to take time to see if it improved. There was very little heat in the leg which again was a good sign. Sunni was taken in to a stable which he took to instantly, especially as all this was done when a gale was blowing and rain was teeming down. I think he very quickly summed up where the best place to be was. By the next day there was a slight improvement and he seemed to be putting the hoof down more.
He wasn't shut in (some New Forest foals and ponies wont stay in the confines of a stable so we were lucky Sunni took to it like a duck to water(?) When we arrived to feed him his little head would peep out to greet us then it was "Where's my bucket please?"
After a week he was back to normal but he still had to go back out into a very muddy environment. We also had to make sure his "Mum" would still keep an eye on him. A bit of a worry. We'd fed the "Mum" filly everyday when we fed Sunni so the bond stayed (we hoped).
Sunni was let out, fed and the two of them went back off onto the open heathland. We worried and were relieved every morning when we found them and they were both OK. The mud was thick and still dangerous. We noticed that Sunni was very careful where he stepped and did his utmost to avoid the deep mud. This made us think he'd pulled his leg in mud rather than received a kick, but its something we'll never know.
Mid to end of January 2014
These weeks were awful, mainly due to the wet days which seemed relentless. We had day after day of what seemed like constant rain. We were however very lucky, unlike Somerset and Dorset, we didn't suffer extreme floods. It was just deep, deep mud everywhere. All the New Forest ponies were soaked through every day.
Rain scald started to appear, even on the older New Forest ponies. Sunni, my foal had already started to get it along his neck and back earlier in the year. It appeared as really big lumps of dandruff looking clumps on strands of his coat. As the time went on a small patch of Sunni's coat started to become smooth and we had to watch every day in case the skin broke open.
14 January 2014
Here's my New Forest foal today trying to get the January sun to dry his wet coat off. We went back to feed him in the late afternoon (his 2nd feed of the day!) and he was much drier but for how long? I think this photo doesn't show him at his finest but as I adore him to me he is a perfect little New Forest foal! I don't think we'll ever win any prizes but he is a lovely little chap.
4th December and up to New Year 2014
Wow I can't believe how the time has flown. We've been feeding and finding Sunni twice a day and the other day toted up that out of approx 70 feed times we had only missed 3! Not a bad record. His tummy continues to get rounder and luckily his mane has grown from a short little number to about 9 inches of thick lush hair.
Boy does he need it! We haven't been able to keep up with keeping the waterproofs dry when we feed him and many, many days he's looked half his size and like a drowned rat. We've been lucky because although one of our bedroom ceilings sprang a leak in many places and onto the Christmas bed arrangements we haven't been like other poor areas of England where the floods have actually washed filthy sewage water through peoples homes.
A couple of days his feed bucket floated away in a newly formed stream before he could tuck in though.
The New Forest is awash, like many areas of the country and so if you are visiting please be very careful near streams and take extra care that you aren't in a bog - they're even harder to spot and can be lethal.
Tuesday 3 December
Started the day walking out on the New Forest trying to find Sunni, our New Forest foal. We found him heading back, on his own, towards the gate where he is fed. Was this good or bad news?
I viewed it positively - he knew that in the mornings he needs to head towards a certain place to get extra food from us.
He is confident enough to head off on his own and actually he was away from all roads and traffic danger. His usual companion stayed with her long time mate while he headed off but by the evening all 3 were ready to follow us back for the evening feed.
Overall I'm classing this as a success - although it was a bit nerve-wracking too. Oh the joys of being an over protective foal owner! He is also confident amongst other New Forest pony groups (although he knows when to give way thank heavens). This morning he received a shoulder nip - which looked bad but was only to get him to move, which is what he did - quite quickly!
Tuesday 26 November
Today the weather is cold to start with a ground frost but has turned into a lovely sunny day. Sunni is now out and starts his day with a good hard feed, apples and carrots. He spends his days out socialising with all the other New Forest ponies, cows, donkeys and even pigs and then returns for another nice bucket of food.
He spent his last couple of weeks in with a lovely filly called Tonic, who found him extremely annoying at feed time but took to him when there were no buckets of food around - very typical behaviour. Now they are out finding their way around the New Forest again and Tonic is doing a wonderful job of looking out for Sunni. She gets angry and protective if she feels he is in danger, which is really sweet but yesterday there were flying legs as he thought he might face a bit of bullying from some curious shetlands. It looks, so far, as though he can look out for himself well (fingers crossed!).
My New Forest foal - up close
My little foal Blog
Thursday 14 November - Sunni has been wet for many days
Sunni has had a wet time over the last few weeks. He has had to endure wet days and an occasional lovely, bright sunny day. The New Forest foal needs to be strong and endure all weather as they stay out all year.
Sunni has now achieved
My New Forest foal after enjoying one of his first bucket feeds
Sunday 20 October - Sunni is very, very wet and so am I!
You have to be hardy to survive the wet and mud of a New Forest autumn day. Sunni was wet through when I visited him earlier and as I walked past all the New Forest ponies they were all pointing their rears in the same direction which made me think a gale and torrential rain was on its way - fantastic a weather summary given by someone with hooves!
This is the sort of weather he will have to put up with when he lives out on the forest and at the moment it is mild temperatures - feel a bit sorry for what is ahead of them all and hope we have a kind winter!
Wednesday 9 October - Sunni is happy eating from his bucket
It seems impossible to imagine that a little foal like this would need to be coerced into eating from a bucket, but he has been used to feeding from his mothers milk and eating the grass, heather and heathland. For the first few days he needed to test everything put before him, which was sensible really - he may have eaten something on the New Forest which may have made him ill or even killed him without this degree of caution.
He's got his own green bucket . Can you see how he is changing - his foal coat around his face has disappeared in a big patch leaving him looking a it moth eaten but still lovely to me! His winter coat is nice and thick which is good as it will have to protect him in all weathers during the winter months ahead.
Sunday 5 October - Sunni comes in - eventually!
D day for our little foal - the day he has to be taken away from his mum and weaned off her milk. He has had 4+ good months of mums milk so has hopefully built up a good resistance to future trouble living out on the open forest. His mum is being dragged down by having to produce milk for him now and is getting a bit fed up with his quite harsh attempts to still suckle. I feel sorry for her - his front teeth are well developed - ouch!
We found them walking along a New Forest road, mum grazing the road edge and Sunni walking in the middle of the road amongst a bike race! Mum was enticed away from the danger and Sunni reluctantly followed behind.
Before very long he was stopping to graze and completely took his mind off his mum. She was walked away to the holding paddock which was quite a distance away with no sign of Sunni following.
The distance became greater and greater and he still had his mind on other things. He called out a few times but was very, very laid back about being split from mum.
Not a good sign.
Mum was calling but by now he was confused - we needed him to go east towards the paddock and when he heard her voice he wanted to go west to find her. This would be back on the road and was not what we wanted to do for his safety or road users either.
It became a case of one step forward and two steps back. At one stage he managed to get up a slope and surrounded by a barbed wire fence! this was not working out well at all.
We met a lovely lady with 2 little whippet dogs who recognised him and said he ofter followed behind her dogs when she was on a walk. At that stage just to get him 1 foot at a time in the right direction was going to be a bonus.
I'd wanted to see his movement for a while and that morning I saw it many times. Jumping, skipping, running away from me in the wrong direction whenever we seemed to be making a little progress.
What did it teach me? Patience!
We tried to use his lovely half sister to lure him along, this worked for a few paces then he ran back towards the road again. Unlike a mature New Forest pony who at some stage of their lives have eaten solid food and out of a bucket Sunni hadn't ever been fed this way - he has only drank mums milk and selectively eaten safe New Forest grass, heather and leaves.
2 hours later we eventually got him going in the right direction. We used the bucket on his sister and she followed and at last he decided that there were no other of his herd members around and he'd be safer following her.
Of course each step was perilous because we wanted him to follow close and not get distracted or belt off across the open heathland and she didn't want her bucket of food to be shared by him and stopped and gave him a kick every few steps.
Once he realised he was going in the right direction and heard his mum calling we made better progress and after what seemed like forever both Sunni and his mum were reunited.
I wasn't sure whether to have a stiff drink or lie down in a darkened room.
It all went very well in hindsight - isn't that a wonderful thing?? He could have run off, gone onto the road or who knows what else.
If you see people walking over the New Forest looking exhausted, anxious and with buckets they too may be trying to catch one of their New Forest ponies or foals - wish them luck as they will certainly need it!
Sunday 29 September
I went out to find my little New Forest pony foal , as we do twice a day to check he is OK and hasn't had an accident. He was happy with the rest of his little gang having a munch of all the heathland grass etc.
I spent an hour with him under this tree.
I think I've found the answer to dealing with stress. Cuddles and stroking the soft fur of an animal is totally relaxing and a very special time. The world and all its worried stops and you are in the moment!
Wednesday 23 September
We've been out this morning to catch up with Sunni and he was eating happily with his mum and other herd members.
Managed to drape a lead rope over his ears and hang it down so he gets used to a head collar eventually. He has let us run our hands down his legs and along his back for many weeks so hoping it will be successful when we bring him in - only a few more days to go.
I feel really sorry for a couple of little colts who look a lot like him - will they be taken in at the Drift?
Or will they go for meat? They are lovely little chaps and their lives may soon change, but it is part of the New Forest way of life and has been going on like this for hundreds of years. Like all areas of farming too - male newborns aren't needed.
I hope you've enjoyed my little foal Blog and have discovered more about the New Forest pony and the New Forest National Park too.