A little while ago I wrote a blog post about our plans to protect Whistlebare’s soil from compaction and nurture this farmer’s well being by parking our tractor and using draught ponies for field work instead. Having spent a fabulous week at ‘Hitch In Farm’ down in Devon learning the basics of draught horses I have been really keen to get into real horse power.
Traditionally in the North East agricultural work was not done by huge Clydesdales or Shire Horses but by smaller, compact but still powerful Dales Ponies. Not one to mess with tradition and anyway preferring smaller more accessible beasts I set out to find some suitable Dales ponies for Whistlebare. However, in modern times Dales Ponies have been prized in the show ring and so been bred for elegance and refinement which aren’t the foremost characteristics required of a work horse. A type of pony that is still bred for brawn and docility is a traditional gypsy cob of the type I so enjoyed working with at Hitch In Farm.
Even finding a little cob turned out to be more complicated than I anticipated. This time the problem was Mr Whistlebare who announced that large farm animals with black and white, or brown and white, patches are cows and as such would not be pulling my cart. Well most cobs are either piebald or skewbald (patchy)! Ironically when I mooted the idea of a ‘Blagdon Splash’ cob (still two colours but not so much patchy as smudgy in appearance) Mr Whistlebare pronounced them delightful as they closely resemble his favourite longhorn cattle!
Luckily I was able to find a charming little blagdon splash filly for sale locally. Her name is ‘A Splash of Rain’, she is two years old and now resides at Whistlebare. As she is still a baby Rain had had no further training than wearing a headcollar and being led about. Starting Rain’s education is an exciting adventure for me. Whilst I have bred mares in the past I have never schooled a horse from the beginning and so was/am slightly terrified of doing it wrong. I have read various highly recommended books and watched a great deal of YouTube.
So far my worries have been groundless. I think that Rain is one of those ponies who was born wanting to please. After six weeks of lessons she will now wear her harness happily, drag a tyre round the field, stop, start and turn on voice commands and even allow the second junior goat slave to ride her down the lane! I decided to stop on a high note and put her in the field to give her time to grow and mature over the winter. Meanwhile both I and Mr Whistlebare have been excitedly scheming about all the jobs Rain will help with.
I was warned at the outset of this little adventure that where there is one pony usually there is two. It turns out to be true. Enter ‘A Splash of Blue’ but her tale is for another day.