Kermit does his inimitable best to make new companions feel at ease
Christmas came early for us in the South Hams. A smart horsebox took the place of a sleigh with reindeer. Our brilliant horse transporter, Dave Dormer from Ivybridge, like Father Christmas, was in good spirits despite all the miles he had driven.
Both horses must have wondered where they were going twisting down the South Hams lanes on the last part of their journey. Elvis and Pixie, as they are known in the yard, had had a long journey from the North of England. It is always exciting seeing the horses for the first time and they didn't disappoint.
Elvis is a handsome dude – a five--year-old chestnut gelding, just out of training. He is certainly show horse material although having seen his paces he will also make a good eventer. His talents did not lie on the racetrack but he is a great athlete with the most wonderful temperament so will be a great pleasure to bring on.
With Elvis came Pixie. A two-year--old, backed and broken and working on the gallops, Pixie clearly had no appetite for race training. She is a big, strong, kind filly with a great sense of humour hence her name, needing time to mature. I have to say it gives me immense pleasure to come across such a nice horse with so much potential who you can turn away for a couple of years to let her be a baby for a bit longer. Pixie is particularly special as she is the daughter of another horse I have in the yard for training, Poppy.
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Poppy is a beautiful mare with paces to die for. Placed over hurdles and fences Poppy's legs took a bit of a battering during her racing career but with her temperament and her paces she will make a lovely dressage horse. Not to the highest level perhaps, but certainly to a respectable level and she will be one of those horses who is simply a pleasure to own.
Turning out new arrivals for the first time is always an anxious moment particularly when they have been in training rather than out in a field. Lively young horses and a big wet field is a hair-raising prospect. Enter the yard's secret solution for excitable racehorses – Kermit! Standing a daunting 6 hands high, Kermit is a very pretty dun coloured miniature Shetland. Kermit is much loved and adored by all who meet him but perhaps, without being unkind, one might say he is not the sharpest tool in the box! Ideal then for youngsters. As each horse gets turned out with him one at a time, proceeding to buck, rear and dive past him with all the energy they can muster, Kermit stands blissfully relaxed eating grass wondering why his new companion wants to expend so much energy when there is grass to eat. Elvis thought Kermit was amazing! Clearly similar to himself but so small with such little legs. Pixie was horrified. Her first reaction, much to Kermit's surprise, was to bolt in the opposite direction. Coming from the North she must have thought that if a horse stayed in Devon long enough it shrunk to the size of a sheep. Not only did Pixie show off her paces but she also demonstrated "airs above the ground" which the Spanish Riding School in Vienna would have been proud of.
Like many horse owners before Christmas, we wondered if it would ever stop raining. With the fields saturated it was only a matter of time before our little brook overflowed. Branches and leaves stuck in the sheep wire meant that the track from the stables to the field became a raging torrent. Elvis and Pixie demonstrated good technique for cross-country water fences as they waded out to their field. Kermit and the other ponies had to resort to "pony" paddle!
The two new arrivals are really good movers. Pixie will have a couple of years out in the field with Kermit and his relations as her "funny little friends". Elvis and Poppy will be brought on slowly over the coming weeks joining Seebald or "Baldy" as we know him, doing flat work and hacking when the weather permits. Let's hope it stops raining.