Hello again. I know I have been away for a long time.
The plan was to continue the blog with a “diary” around the events of the Heavy Horse Project. Well it’s not started yet or anyway the first spadeful of earth hasn’t been turned. We are at the planning and permissions stage. The game plan is still to have it completed by lambing next year. The time frame for the project will depend on the planning permission time frame.
Still all of us down the Horse end continue to be optimistic.
We had our first carriage drive of the season last week and the troops are getting back into working mode. Lots of long-reining and sledging and some practise carriage rides. The horses seem happy to be back at work after the boredom and restrictions of winter.
Another plus for the HHD is that Emma will be able to recruit a full time Groom.HR is in process of producing the Role Profile so that the post can be advertised.
The Stable Block shop now has Shire Horse book marks as well as postcards and will be getting Jigsaws to sell soon.
Sorry been absent for a while – holidays and so on.
Anyway we have started winter operating at the farm. We are closed to customers Monday to Friday and open 1100 to 1600hrs Saturday & Sunday.
For the Heavy Horse Dept. it’s a time for losing weight and getting fit.
At this time of year we bring the horses in overnight and then let them out during the day until around 1500 hrs. So for us that means we get to muck out the stables of 7 Shires, 2 Donkeys and 2 Shetlands. We normally use the small tractor and trailer for disposal of the presents that are left for us on to the “heap”.
The other added bonus we get this time of year is that all the horses appear to develop a sort of mud magnetism and invariably come in coated from hoof to nose. So grooming takes a little longer. All the troops like to be nice and clean and shiny before they go out the next morning to continue their plan of bringing as much of the field as they can into the stables, so that we can put it back into the field. It’s a kind of symbiosis: they get clean I lose weight.
You gotta love em
Here’s mud in your eye
So there I was ( i’m Jacob) minding my own business in the field when Mummy called me over and took me in to the stalls.Little did I know that it was bath night.First off my hooves were picked out and cleaned,then I was brushed all over to remove mud and loose hair;then my feathers (the hairy bits at the bottom of legs) were washed and made shiny white and lastly my main and tail were brushed.
And then I was put back out in the field.
Well whats a chap going to do when he’s all clean and sparkly.
“Mud mud glorious mud nothing quite like it for curing the blood”
If you look closely you can see Captain hiding by the side of the tree.Not sure if he is embarrassed or just dodging his bath.
Keeping going with the personal care theme.
Murphy and Jacob making sure they are perfectly groomed
Maybe you can’t teach an old dog new tricks but you can teach them to a mature horse.
Queenie who is 12 yrs old has never been ridden. Now that Lady her latest addition to the Heavy Horse Dept. is enjoying her teenage years mummy is exploring new adventures.
For the last couple of weeks Emma has been getting Queenie used to the idea of being ridden. To start with Queenie was introduced to the weight and feel of a saddle and harness in the stalls – basically she just wore them for a while.
Queenie showing off her saddle
Next came lunging with a single and a double line while carrying a saddle (with stirrups hanging but secured so as not to rattle about).
Queenie enjoying lunging
The next step in the process was to add weight to her back, basically Emma lying across the saddle and then Emma sitting in the saddle and riding her.
It’s all gone extremely well Queenie is now being ridden up to a trot and seems to be taking to it like a duck to water.
Who said being ridden was difficult!
Which just goes to show that there’s a lot more to a Shire horse than just good looks and a lovely temperament
Murphy our biggest Shire continues to get fitter after his long lay off due to a hoof problem.Nobody told Murphy that part of his ongoing recovery is regaining his fitness and muscle tone.This week saw Murphy having his first go at being longreined for about a year.He came through it like a star.
Emma longreining Murphy
Also enjoying new training was Jasper.This year the plan is to introduce some agricultural demos using the troops.To start with they will be asked to pull a roller and a harrow.The harrow is by nature a noisy bit of kit so we need to get the horses used to it.For training Jasper was connected to the sledge and walked around the field followed by Holly making noises with the chains.To start with it is a gentle noise to give him time to adjust to it ie not frighten him, then the noise level is gradually raised.The target being a happy Jasper who ignores the sound of the chain/harrow.
Jasper successfully ignoring the chains
Jasper without the sledge
Been away for a bit but have maintained my fitness levels by helping out during lambing again.
Two catching a ride from Mum
So what news is there? Well the farm staff / volunteer welfare facility a.k.a the new tea room is due to become a reality amongst those present on the 11th May. It will have wondrous white goods, tables, chairs and a carpet. As we will need to remove our boots to enter this palace of cake and sundry comestibles, there is a plot afoot to make us all resplendent in Turkish slippers at the bottom of the stairs.
Will my slippers fit?
Over the next couple or so weeks I will be able to run a commentary on the progress of the Heavy Horse Project.
Watch this space . . .
Queenie (standing) keeps an eye on Lady two years old this June (catching some rays)
The good news is the Heavy Horse Project has been given the go ahead. Much joy in the horse department and carrots all round.
As part of the planned enhancing of the HHD’s contribution to the estate and the visitors enjoyment (and knowledge of the magnificent Shire Horse) we are planning to show off the troops agricultural skills this year.
I guess pretty much everybody will know that you can’t just stick a plough on the back of horse and tell it to pop off and do a few straight lines. Training is needed for the horses and for the “driver(s)”.
The boss (Emma) has spent some time at Gressenhall learning how to Harrow, Roll and Plough with their resident Suffolks. Recently 12 of the HHD volunteers went with Emma to spend the day at Gressenhall and have a go. http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Visit_Us/Gressenhall_Farm_and_Workhouse
Here we all are waiting on Richard Dalton, Gressenhall Farm Manager, to tell us how to steer a straight line behind the horses. There are two Suffolks harnessed up nearest is Reg the most experienced and the biggest at a metric ton .On the other side of Reg is Jimbo who is a tad smaller.Reg is standing in a furrow and Jimbo is on the ledge. For those of a certain age it helps to remember how they filmed Alan Ladd and his leading ladies. The two different sized wheels are adjusted to change the height of the furrow.
Below is what it’s meant to look like.
Apparently in the good old days the horses and the ploughman – or woman my mum did this in the war while in the Land Army- would plough 11miles in a day. One furrow and I was cream crackered, well almost.
As well as ploughing we had a go at harrowing – no I am not going to say it. That was a bit easier. I went first on this and I particularly enjoyed after the first turn being told to overlap on the previous run while maintaining a straight line. It was at this point that I told the instructor that I couldn’t see the previous run. Luckily Reg could see the last run so we went off in the right place and I managed not to take him too much off the straight and narrow. That’s not me below by the way.
All in all we had a great day and are all looking forward to putting some of the more charming agricultural methods on display at the farm.
The boss is going to start with rolling and harrowing which will be the easier ones for training to start with, I am assuming she means for training the horses but she was looking at me when she said it.