Well, it's been a long time since I talked about the ponies, so I think it's time I updated you.
(The truth is that the painting work has been painful and personal of late, and I'm not quite ready to explain it here yet !)
Anyway, this is a great long, rambling post, so please accept my apologies for waffling on ....and on.....
There have been a lot of changes afoot in the last year. I think the last update was here, just over a year ago, explaining where we had got to with Captain. He has gone from strength to strength this year, still ridden by the Fey Daughter, despite having to fold her great long legs up. He has represented our Pony Club in Area Dressage and Mounted Games teams, learnt circus skills and really discovered cross -country jumping.
I'm so proud of the pair of them!
And, despite my slight anxiety, and him being by far the smallest, at 14.1hh, he managed to keep up with all the big horses in the top ride at Camp this year.
Thankfully the fey daughter still adores him, and doesn't want to relinquish him for bigger and fancier horses, for which I am inordinately grateful!
The next project this summer was Peregrine who I bought at the drift sales in 2010, to keep my own homebred weanling Kestrel company.
Both boys were 4 this summer, and well over-due to start work. Plans had changed somewhat for these two. In the early days I had assumed that we would break them both in, and the girls would ride them on for a year or so, and then I would be selling them to raise funds for bigger ponies. Sadly, I hadn't bargained on the children growing quite as fast as they did - both girls are now way taller than me, despite the owl daughter still being only 12. So this scuppered the plans somewhat.
Kestrel has only made 12.3hh, although I expect he'll come up another inch as he matures. He is very striking, nicely put together, and moves beautifully, and has the potential to show at county level. But sadly, not with us. Luckily, my aunt has taken him on, to produce for her grandchildren.
Peregrine, on the other hand, surprised us all by reaching 13.3hh. So we broke him in, slowly and gently, and he has turned out to be a superstar. Brave and eager to learn, with an insatiable curiosity for life!
He has been amazing, and we were very lucky to find him a lovely home too at the end of this summer.
However, the most amazing and wonderful story of all has been that of Will. You may remember when he came to us 3 years ago.
These 2 pictures show him on the day he arrived with us.
There was a lot of work to do, and we very slowly began it.
Then disaster struck. He went badly lame - it turned out to be inflammation of his annular ligament (the circular ligament around his rear fetlock, which was in turn rubbing on the tendon). He was very overweight, and that, combined with starting work albeit walking, and moving onto a hilly field is probably what caused it. It tool nearly four months for it to flare up, and go down again, and then the other leg did the same thing.
So I put him on a strict diet and turned him away for nearly 8 months.
When he finally came sound, having lost enough weight to find a saddle that would fit, I began again, and THEN he trod on a blackthorn, which meant another 6 weeks off work.
I was starting to think it wasn't meant to be.
But finally, more than a year after he arrived, he came right in early February 2013, and I was able to start riding him.
Here he is with Captain. The two boys are absolutely best friends. They share everything, even their dinner, with never so much as a scowl at each other.
This was great as we started work. Will was like a big baby - 15 years old at this point but having never done more work than a newly started 4 year old. He was very lacking in confidence - willing, but anxious about doing new things, particularly by himself.
We kept on working, in my limited spare time. He was still nervous in heavy traffic, but by mid spring he was ready to escort a pony club ride out over the moor (in the most atrocious bitter wind and snow!)
By early summer he had come on enough that I managed to persuade the fey daughter to start taking him to her training sessions occasionally.
Slowly , slowly, he began to learn how to bend a little, although he was terribly heavy and on the forehand to begin with.
He even managed to learn to jump a little pole, although I have to admit this was very hard work! It took him a long time to realise that he could pick his feet up, and he although he never stopped, he had a tendency to just bulldoze through obstacles.
However, at 15 years old, and with slightly stiff hocks, I was so pleased that he was jumping at all, and to be completely honest, as I intended him to just be my nice forward thinking hack across the moor, I didn't need him to do more than this.
By the end of the summer, he was well able to do a 2 day camp ride across the moor, 20 miles of rough open moor in all. We had a fantastic time :)
And he was unrecognisable as the horse that first came to us!
By the beginning of this year, the owl daughter had grown far too big for her beloved little Matthew pony, so they were having to share the boys.
Captain and Will learned to do more and more.
By this point in time, Captain was pretty bomb proof anyway. I knew he would be quite happy to do a circus skills workshop, but Will has always been more anxious and spooky, and I wasn't sure how he would cope.
We took it very slowly, and to my amazement, by the end of the day, he was quite happy to have the girls standing on him, hula hooping, swinging pois and waving ribbons all over the place.
Such a brave pony!
In the meantime, the fey daughter wanted to reclaim Captain, as she had teams to train for, and fun to have.
So I had a dilemma. The owl daughter needed a new pony. She was reluctant to try Will, thinking he was big and strong, and wouldn't be any good at Pony Club. I promised I would try and save up for a new pony, but in the meantime, camp was only 8 weeks away, so I persuaded her to try Will, and take him along if we hadn't found anything else to borrow, although he wouldn't be able to jump and keep up with the experienced ponies.
And that was the beginning of a great relationship!
They have got along like a house on fire. To everyone's surprise, after a tricky start, she has taught Will to jump,
and he has discovered that he loves it!
At pony club camp they discovered that they could do cross country and have joyfully galloped across acres of rolling parkland.
Will's especial favourite was the lake, where he would happily have plunged in and out of the water all day.
By the middle of summer he was ready to lead the others in a 1st world war re-enactment
(he is not scowling at the bunting, but at Toby, next to him, whom he took a dislike to!)
I never thought that this little horse would be capable of doing so much! He is totally amazing :)
And so here are the boys, best of friends. I have completely lost Will to the owl daughter, who adores him, but I couldn't be happier for the pair of them.
And so, for me, it's time for a new project. As the summer began, I was offered a little horse on loan. She lovely, and I'm smitten with her, but she's not straightforward. She's a Welsh D mare, 10 years old, lovely and kind to handle on the ground, but quite green to ride. She's very nervous with big traffic, and hasn't really done any schooling or jumping. She's pretty anxious about new stuff, and I'm having a bit of a worry about how much I've taken on. She is only on loan for a year, and I suspect it may take that long to get her to settle and start working nicely. It's proving harder than I expected to take on a new horse - the boys have such big boots to fill that I can't imagine a new one ever being as versatile and able as them.
Meet Bonnie - daughter of the great Hendrewyn Deryn