New Forest Pony foals Two little fillies are on their own!
Welcome to my New Forest Life Tales Issue #009 December 2011.
The New Forest Fillies are on their own now - how did it go and how are they coping?
Jody and Jilly are now back out on the New Forest, ready to face whatever this winter may throw at them. Putting them back out was both exciting and also a little bit worrying.
Would they cope? Would they try to return to the safety of the paddock which had been their home for the last 6 weeks? Would they return to their old herd with their mums or join new ones and would they be accepted without too much kicking and biting?
All questions which were going through our heads on release day.
We needed to walk them along a small, quiet lane to get them onto the open forest. Hopefully they would walk sensibly without too much rearing or kicking out. We'd already discovered that
Jody had a really accurate left hind leg when she wanted to use it! The last thing we wanted was pony or human casualties on this epic task.
As you can see by the quality of the photo it was a pretty dull and dismal day to start your first day of freedom and independence!
We were all really pleased that apart from a few minor stops and starts the journey to the open forest went without incident. A mixture of coercion, treats and the odd tug on the lead rope and we were there.
We stood back, cameras poised and ready to jump back out of the way of flying hoofs and freedom induced bucks once the halters were taken off. We were expecting a bit of a floor show as they realised that their new life of freedom was about to begin.
What actually happened was that we all, people and ponies stood around in a semi circle, waiting for the action which after 10 minutes obviously wasn't going to be like anything we had expected.
As you can see weeks of delicious feed buckets meant nice round bellies for the winter ahead.
The little fillies were urged to leave us gently and had the whole vista of the open heathland ahead of them. They were actually very sensible (if a little dull to us as onlookers)
They stayed together, they sniffed the ground and they very tentatively moved forward just a few steps at a time.
They were scenting out their terrain and hoping to pick up a recognisable scent. Obviously these two girls were not quite as feisty as they had acted in the paddock.
We all slowly moved forward. They raised their heads a few times to look for other ponies and continued on the slow exploration towards freedom.
After a couple of hundred feet they were near to where the heathland heather grows and they decided with this in view and the whole heath infront of them it was time for a graze.
We decided it was time for a cuppa!
Teetering at the edge of freedom but still sensible enough to take time to have a good graze.
The good thing about leaving them grazing was that they were secure enough to graze. These girls are good little eaters and if they had still been back in the paddock they would
have been tucking into a tasty bucket of food by now.
We checked them a few hours later and both were still together and grazing - you have to eat a lot more forest to get the same feeling of fullness a bucket of hard feed can give you!
The next morning and over the next few days they had split up. Jody had returned to her mum and had optimistically tried a few failed attempts at feeding from her again, as though the last
6 weeks of weaning had never happened. She was quite harshly shown this was not going to happen by her mum and then gave up and was happy to graze alongside her mum on her new diet of forest fodder.
Jilly didn't go back to her mum but at the moment has chosen to join a little herd of young geldings (maybe she isn't so daft?). They appear outside our cottage most days or if I'm walking out on the New Forest I look out for them.
We're all really pleased the release was successful, although dull, and that they are both surviving well. They will be closely monitored by all the Commoners who have played a part in their lives so far.
They are very lucky little girls who have already been loved and cherished and will continue to hopefully feature in future New Forest Tales for you to share with me in the years ahead.
I hope you've enjoyed this small insight into living within the New Forest UK National Park I've been able to share with you.