Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday morning spring cuteness

I thought I'd share some Sunday morning cuteness with you that's totally non horse related.

It's not just horses we have on the farm, we have an assortment of chickens, ducks, dogs and geese as well. Its spring,and babies are on the mind of all the animals.

Mother goose has been sitting in her eggs for the last three weeks, high up on the hill and tucked away under a thorn bush. Geese for those who don't know them, are some of the most loyal and family orientated animals I've ever come across. Every day her menfolk, the ganders, make the trek up the hill to check on her and sit alongside, sharing the vigil and waiting for the babies to arrive so they can take on there protective duties. You can always tell when goslings hatch because the whole flock goes up to welcome them into the world.

This year something went wrong, mother goose didn't leave the nest. The gosling hatched and were walking around, but mum continued to sit on egg shells. Two days went past, the geese all came to welcome the babies, but mum still wouldn't budge.

Then something incredible happened,two males paired up together, and took the goslings. For a week now they have been raising them just as a normal pair would, except instead of mother and father we have dad and daddy gander.

It's been a week, and the gay gander dads,are doing terrific, they fuss and fluff over their babies constantly. Finding the newest shoots of grass to graze on, and safest puddles for the babies to paddle in.They take turns chasing off threats and letting the gosling sit underneath them, just as the babies would a goose mother.

If any teenager was annoyed about overprotective parents, they have never met these two geese.No other animal including other geese, can get within 20ft of the babies,( im not allowed within 50ft as they obviously remember me stealing there children last year and selling them) without a dad flying at you in a fury of beaks, honking and feathers. Over the years I have never seen such devoted and caring parents as these to. It's inspiring, they love these three little babies, and would without a doubt do anything to protect them. It truly is inspiring to see these boys work together to, not just mother goose's mate, but two boys working as a team, equally devoted to bringing up the kids.

Gay rights are always on the news and always controversial, but isn't it inspiring to see something so completely unique and innocent like this happening without any human interference at all. Who's to say it isn't natural, if it isn't hurting anyone, why worry,is my philosophy.

Anyway just thought I'd share this cuteness with everyone, something a wee bit special, just goes to show how universal love is...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I'm back from Fiji, I have been for a few days. There's nothing like traveling, to make you realize that paradise, is in your own backyard. Before it was miserable wet winter weather, now spring is starting to show and everything feels better than when I left.

The whole valley is starting to grow, the paddocks have turned a dark shade of green, and the grass is starting to claim back the areas, the rain turned to mud. All along the drive daffodils are emerging, all shades of yellow,peach and cream, there sunny faces a cheerful reminder of summer and sun, not that far away. The fruit trees,after spending the winter months as branchy skeletons, are now awash in fluffy white and pink blossoms, peaches, plums and pears celebrating with me, the fact we've survived, making it through another winter.

But nothing says spring more than sittings on the deck, cup of tea in hand , watching a paddock full of young colts gallivanting and cavorting across the paddock.

In winter horses eat and shelter from the rain, in spring they play. All five Kaimanawa boys plus my warmblood colt, live together, i call it the boy band. . The young ones all play constantly. Galloping full speed across the the hillside, until they reach the fence , then wheel around without slowing, and gallop back the way they came. Sometimes it's just a fit of exuberance kicking there heels in the air, bucking leaping, twisting and turning, a series if aerial acrobatics just because it feels good. They all chase each other, play fight, rearing, nipping and pawing, without any real blows or fight being had. If they get to disruptive,
Bear, the mature and sensible old solidier comes, and breaks its up. By the time ive ridden my first horse, they are played out, all stretched, flat asleep on the ground enjoying the moringin sun. it looks like total bliss.

Even nicer about coming home is feeling wanted, these crazy,playful wild boys, when I walked into the paddock with them, I was all most crushed, by horses trying to get in first for there back to be itched, a scratch or a pat on the neck. Obviously a two week holiday didn't no dampen the newest wild horses enthusiasm for attention. Miro and Oscar were at the front of the pack sticking there heads in the way constantly, as I tried to greet everyone. Even solemn bear stood quietly to the side, watching and waiting to be seen, for him this would be the equivalent of crying with joy.

None of the wild horses have worn halters in the paddocks, or been difficult to catch,since the first month they we're here. But it's always interesting to see how they are after a little break in training. The overwhelming greeting in the paddock, was more than I expected, my wild horses were happy to see me.

Better yet, they have been getting along with other people, endearing themselves to my sweet mother, who was in charge of caring for them while I was away, throwing hay over the fence every night. She said that they were all gentlemen, Miro and Oscar following her everywhere, and Bear being caught easily, and led around when she changed paddocks. Mum not even realizing that he's usually pretty wary of strangers.

Now it's time to get back to working them, Miro has already been ridden again, and was his usual stress free, laid back self, I have plans to start doing with more with Bear under saddle, when I have the time, and really life just goes on as usual again. Fiji was amazing but it's good to be back, and with my wild horses, who make me happy, and always draw me home again.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Snapped these pictures the other day at Yanquara station. 11,000 acres and eighty plus horses, most running feral. Better yet no horses were hung while we there... Most amazing place

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Life throws you all kinds of curveballs.

One of the things I never thought I'd be doing was running to stop someone, hanging a horse from a tree. Sometimes you just never know what the day has in store for you.

It started with a trip bumping, and grinding away in the back seat of a cheap japanese rental, along a series of potholes connected with gravel, and winding up a mountain side, which is what the Fijians called a road. It was taking us into a remote part of the country called the Nassouri Highlands, to treat some village horses. an hour long journey, and only halfway there, were we told that the last foreigners to come this way had rolled there van down the mountainside, killing everyone. We felt lucky to only have a flat tire, although I had doubts the two spare tires we were carrying would be enough to get us home again.

But this is why I do these trips, the adventure and being able to help in some of the most remote locations, are what I live for.

Eventually our cars arrived at the end of the earth, a little village a top a mountain, surrounded by jungle and rocky cliff faces. A school on one side of the road and a handful of colorful, ramshackle houses, and a little church on the other.

Usually when we arrive at these villages we were whisked away to have a sit down and the obligatory cup of Kava with the chief, something we were dreading, as a shared bowl of mud tasting water, that leaves your mouth numb, is never a pleasant way to start a days hard work.

But today was different, i was unsure if we were just not as welcome, if they understood out kava reluctance, or had more pressing matters to attend. Our local guide was fast talking, pointing and having a conversation that involved lots of waving hand gestures, and head shaking before he beckoned us to "come, come " and set off on foot up the road with a few locals in tow.

What we found was what we refer call "dead horse walking", a no hope case, that has limited time left in terra firma no matter what we did. This one was a young foal, that had fallen off a cliff, injuries and scrapes everywhere, and it's body wasting away from the infection, leaving it a skeleton with oversized head, oozzing sores and a matted coat, yet somehow still alive. It's mother stood watching from the school sports field and would meander between grazing and checking on its baby, who was to weak to move from where it was standing.

What do you do, here we were trying to help the animals, and the first horse we see we can't do a thing for, instead we find ourselves explaining that this horse needed to be killed, and quickly to ease its suffering. Never a good way to start the day, or try and gain trust amongst the people your there to help.

The adventures of the day could fill about five blog posts, but il give you the quick, shortcutted version as best I can. We talked to the chief and the horses owner and convinced them to give us permission to have the horses euthanized.Half the team went back down the mountain this time in the rain and mist, and carrying the punctured tire, to get the drugs we needed. The rest of us stayed behind to treat  the horses in the village, as well as teach the locals some basic hoof care skills. We kept an eye on the little foal and through the day checked on her, what we saw only made us more eager to end her suffering.

By the time we finished it was the end of the day, the car with drugs still wasn't back and we were beginning to wonder if they to had fallen off a mountain side. We were sitting on a porch exhausted all wondering what to do next, and if it was time to start worrying.

The next thing we know there was the sounds of a horse in distress, a weak gasping horse. We leap up and go running, our farrier leading the way, to find one of the locals starting to hang the sick foal from a tree, winching her off the ground by a rope around her neck. In case somebody doesn't understand what I'm saying, they were going to euthanize this horse, island style, like we used to do criminals.

We were there in the nick of time, got the foal back on the ground and stopped the noose from choking her to death. Now dead is dead, whether by needle or noose, but watching a horse strung from a tree choking to death, is not something we wanted to see, or could sit by and watch happen.

Fate is a tricky thing though, as all of this was happening, the car drove up with our team mates and drugs, and we were able to put the foal out of her misery humanly and quickly. Timing could not have been better or more urgent, as the little horse was swaying on her feet by this stage.

So we saved a horse from hanging, and did what we could to ease her suffering. Not a situation i thought I'd ever find myself in, but it's amazing what you learn to cope with, when you have to. I don't really blame the villagers either, no one has guns, there is not a single vet in the whole country that deals with horses, ways to kill an animal humanely are pretty limited, they were just using one of the only things left to them, it was either that or slit its throat which was equally undesirable.

So there you go, horse hanging a curve ball I never expected to have to catch or witness.

Here the pic of me, and the foal, you can still see the noose around its neck going up over the tree. Sorry if this upsets anyone, but such is life.

Monday, September 10, 2012


Horses are horses no matter what corner of the world your in, they speak the same language.This is something I'm eternally thankful for, because no matter where my travels take me I can train a horse the same as I do at home. They learn the same way, whether the owner is speaking English, Arabic or Fijian.

I have just spent two days working with unhandled horses, mustered off an 11,000 acre sheep and beef farm, in northwestern Fiji, Yanquara Station, may be my new place of paradise. The scenery is amazing and so far removed from what tourists see, there are horses everywhere,  tied on roadsides, wandering through the villages and loose all over the station. My job is to teach the ranch hands, better horse handIng techniques. This is where paradise ends, because the treatment of the horses is shocking, well it would be shocking if I hadn't seen it all before in Egypt, now I'm just used to it and get on with work.

It all comes from ignorance with a good amount of bravado mixed in.  It's men who work with the animals, and they have never been taught anything about horses, it's never been part of their culture,  the attitude is that horses needs to muscled around and dominated, there is no concept that these are prey animals, and  what they are really doing is creating terrified animals. It really is ignorance and not cruelty however, as there is zero access to outside knowledge.

Hopefully me, a little female, using the exact same techniques I use with the wild horses, can show that there are better ways of doing things when ti comes to training. 

With horses it really is the same everywhere though, you take a little bit of time, keep your body language non threatening and horses learn  fast. Get them running in terror and they aren't learning a thing.Once we had convinced the men that chasing the horses around a huge pen trying to rope them, was counter productive, progress was good, within  half an hour, we had a previously un touched  horses leading and picking up there feet. Just as easily as we would any horse at home.

I will just say it again, that the people we are teaching are not cruel, the problems come from lack of knowledge, they were actually very receptive to learning. With a bit of coaching they were all trying our techniques  and most understood the concept we were trying to be explain. 

Working in these places does mean you have to be fairly adaptable though, using what you have access to. Halters for horses is one thing they do not have, and working with harsh 30ft synthetic ropes does not make my job easier but we managed, although it wasn't pretty.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Yanquara station

This is the beautiful Yanquara station on Fiji's northwestern coast. We are spending two days teaching basic horse handling, as well giving medical aid.

Stunning location, and an amazing experience this is really like the old wild west, with cattle, cowboys and horses it's like traveling back into an old western movie. No time to write but thought id share photos.