This morning when I went to feed the ponies, they came skittering down the field like leaves in a gust of wind. They are nervous and edgy in this weather, imagining monsters behind gate posts and gorse bushes, alert and fidgety as they eat their hay, poised on the brink of flight.
Red prances around the big field, plucking up the courage to dash through the narrow gateway at top speed, just in case something darts out to grab him.
I watch and wonder. Is it purely their primal instincts kicking in - or are their heightened senses aware of things we cannot see?
Bethan is a princess, whatever else is happening. Pretty as a picture, she steps delicately and always presents her best side to the camera, even when dodging trolls. It's difficult to believe this is the same pony that arrived here a year ago. From being such a quiet introverted little pony, she has really found her feet, and finally found her natural place in the herd. She is cheeky and full of herself, and bursting with confidence, which is a joy to see. Even better, since beginning her on Spirulina in the autumn, her wheezing has cleared up completely. She is living out full time, and eating dry hay with the others, with not a trace of a cough or a snotty nose, even after galloping round and round the field in wild exuberance!
Marlene too is twitchy. Always the bottom of the pecking order, she has to wait until the others have decided which piles of hay they want. She dodges from mound to mound, avoiding Red's ferocious scowls, and Bethan's bossiness, always submissive and wary. Poor Marlene, I think this is what makes her such a fabulous 'people' pony. She much prefers the company of people to ponies - I think she would rather live indoors with us given the chance! Calm and patient, she loves to learn and play. She is uncannily like Magpie, my dog, in her character. Bright and lively, affectionate and desperately eager to please, and yet her position at the bottom of the pecking order means that she is always polite and aware of personal space. This little pony will follow me anywhere I ask her to go, up steps, through dark and narrow spaces, anywhere. I adore her!
Four miles away, Piper is on 'big sister' duty with the babies. Here she reigns supreme, and doesn't she know it! She is wintering well ( actually, she is as fat as butter!). She will be four this April, and really needs to start work as soon as I have time. I have actually sat on her a few times, but what with the chaos of this winter there hasn't been time to put in any consistent work.
Kestrel is doing ok, considering it has been a very hard winter so far. The poor little fellow is teething at the moment. When I went to check them a couple of days ago, I noticed a swelling the size of a golf ball on the side of his face, and he was looking rather glum and sorry for himself. At first I thought it was an injury, but on closer inspection I found he had a wadge of forage jammed in his cheek, and a tooth erupting. I removed all the hay, and so far the problem hasn't recurred. He is unfazed by the bitter winds and torrential rain, as he has the Highland coat, a legacy from his father. A thick fleecy under layer, with a top coat of long silky guard hairs. These are nearly six inches long, and ripple in the wind like long grass in a meadow. I am hoping he does some serious growing in the spring, as he is terribly small at the moment. On looking at him you would think he is part Shetland - I think he is going to be lucky to make 11.2hh. I don't hold out a great deal of hope on the growth front though, as his legs are very short!
Perry, on the other hand, is tall and leggy. He is coming through the winter well, and is a very calm and polite young pony. He currently stands at around 12.1hh - 12.2hh. He reminds me of Matthew ( not surprisingly really, as his dam was the spitting image of Matthew, and Matt too came from the local herd) He even has the same slightly choppy action that Matt has. It's quite feasible that they could be related. Matt is 17 now, and was found on Meldon as an orphan/abandoned foal. Perry was the last foal from his dam, who was well into her twenties, and was put to sleep this autumn due to a leg injury. Stallions change fairly regularly on these hills, to avoid inbreeding, but many of the mares stay in the same herd all their lives.
Soon the foals will start to arrive again, the wheel turns, and cycle begins once more.