Thursday 2 October 2008

October brings the ponies down from the moor

I thought I would post a picture of the view from Middle Tor towards Frenchbeer, showing the moor at it's most welcoming, in July. Just to remind me that the sun does shine occasionally!

But for now, brrrr! The weather has definately turned here on the moor. The skies have darkened ,bringing icy rain in, and the air is full of the smell of woodsmoke , as stoves are lit in every house you pass. The bracken has died back, and is crispy underfoot when I walk Magpie over the back of Meldon. The hills are empty of ponies now, all rounded up over the past week, driven down the lanes to stone pens and crowded farmyards, to be sorted and checked, weaned and evaluated. Most of the suckers will be taken down to the sale in the town next week, and mares turned back onto the commons. Most of the ponies these days go for riding ponies, since the outlawing of the transport of horses for slaughter to the continent, and the concerted effort of commoners and supporters to improve the stock. This is Phoenix, my superstar , who sadly was lost to colic 3 years ago, aged 17. She was a hill pony mare, of a good Dartmoor type, though slightly overheight - closer to 13hh than 12.2hh. I bought her at pony sales for 45 guineas when I had just turned 15 and she was a wild 6 month old sucker . I had already chosen her earlier in the summer, as she was born to the herd that runs on the commons next to the town, and I, a pony mad teenager, watched eagerly for the first foals each spring. My friend and I had saved up the money from our Saturday jobs , and spent hours watching the ponies and deciding which foals we wanted. Phoenix proved the best choice I could have ever made.
Until a few years ago, when cattle grids were installed to protect peoples gardens, the ponies often came into Chagford for shelter in bad weather, or looking for food when pickings were short. It was a common sight to see them in the churchyard, or on the primary school playing field. I have a magical memory of waking up one cold, icy, moonlit night when I was about 9 and running to my bedroom window because I could hear hooves. I opened the window and looked out, and there, flying down the narrow street, led by the big grey stallion, were about 30 wild ponies, on a midnight dash through the town.

These ponies are still the same herd, and though the stallions are now changed fairly regularly ( every few years) the mares are nearly always retained and many of them now carry the stamp of the big grey that sired Phoenix. Every year I feel tempted to bring another one home from sales, but can't imagine how I would begin to justify it to my family!

And finally, my middle daughter , a passionate 6 year old artist, who finds it difficult to function without a pencil in her hand, has been badgering me incessantly to show you some of her work! So here is her latest drawing - a fairy princess being delivered a magic message while she admires the beautiful ring on her hand.


Tessa said...

Like mother, like daughter! Wonderful, imaginative, joyful and beautifully drawn.

swhiteart said...

That's pretty exceptional for six!

Leola - Southshoreartist said...

Love these!!!! Southshoreartist.

Linda said...

I've so enjoyed reading your wonderfully memories, you should start writing these down and illustrate them.
Such beautiful ponies.


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