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Posts Tagged ‘Shetland pony’

It has been a hard few weeks: poor Minstrel has left a huge void.

Three weeks ago I scattered his ashes along with those of Spot, his earlier amd most beloved companion.  We had planted a tree for Spot in a place where he loved to rest and I scattered the joint ashes around this tree in the little spinney.

But we now have little Chester/Jester who has come to keep lonely Saxon company: from the same animal sanctuary.

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As you can see he is a Shetland.  He came on trial but has fitted in well and is a very amenable chap although not backward in coming forward!  As our vet said, “He is a leader isn’t he?”  And that is just what Saxon needed: they got on well from the beginning.  As Chester/Jester was unloaded and came into the field he just took off and inspected everything with no qualms, basically saying, “Come with me or not, it’s up to you but I’m going this way.”  Saxon looked bemused at first but then followed on behind and now they are inseparable.

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We prefer the name Jester but as we have not yet been given his Passport we can do nothing about that.  He is a rescue from the Shetland Isles, as yet we do not know his full back story.  He is 12 years old and 35 inches at the shoulder, only 2/3rd the size of Saxon.  In fact when he stands in front of Saxon he looks as though he could almost stand under Saxon’s tum!

The temptation is to treat him like a large dog but we need to remember that he is in fact a large horse, just in a small body.  He now whinnies at me when I go out to the field and seems very sweet but it is important that he knows who is boss.

We had the vet out last week to file down Saxon’s teeth which were giving him trouble.  Our vet, Chris, has had Shetlands for many years.  At Easter he had to have his two put down, they were 34 and 36 years old respectively.  He was heartbroken.  He said they used to wander wherever they wanted, often coming into the kitchen.

So he went and adopted seven Shetlands from the Sanctuary that Chester/Jester and Saxon come from.  Chris and his wife began taking the ponies into Old Peoples’ Homes and to Schools for children with special needs.  But because of Health and Safety rules the ponies have to wear socks and horse nappies.  Two of the ponies did not enjoy this so they were left at home to graze peacefully, but the others loved it.  One old lady spent her last months knitting socks for the ponies: when she died Chris asked her family if they would like her favourite pony to come to the funeral.  They were overjoyed, said yes at once, and the pony led the cortège.

One particular incident which moved Chris profoundly was when a boy of 8 who was deaf and blind was shown one of the ponies. The lad felt it all over and then just leaned over the pony’s back with his arms around its neck, feeling it breathing and stayed there for ages, at least forty minutes.  The pony remained still the whole time.

Chris confirmed that, unlike most horses, Shetlands can live out in the worst weather because they have two coats of hair, rather like water birds have with down and feathers.  The base coat is very dense and soft like down, with the longer coarser hairs making up the top coat.  So we have bought Saxon a new, very thick, padded winter coat with a cover which goes all the way up his neck to his ears and fits round his neck so that he can stay outside more in winter with Chester/Jester.  But Jester will just have to come in and spend the night in the stable if the weather is too bad for Saxon, even though Jester gets bored and wants to be out and about.

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(This is not Saxon’s new coat, but gives the idea.  His is navy blue with green edging.  This photo comes from Google images.)

So there we are, the continuous circle of life moving onwards.  Sometimes comforting, sometimes feeling rather cruel when we might rather get off and take time out.

But it is a great blessing to have two happy ponies once more grazing in the field behind the house: to look out at empty fields would be desolate.

 

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They came to take Minstrel’s body away yesterday.  I remembered the day 20 years ago when he came to us.

I had driven over to Matlock to fetch him in a horsebox which had an open internal body so that the horse could see the driver and vice versa (my choice).  There was only a short partition between us meaning he could lean over, just, to us. He did not like the journey much and was shivering with stress so we stopped early on in the journey at a Newsagent to buy him some mints: horses usually LOVE mints.  Minstrel certainly did and my companion fed him polo mints all the way back to our house.  Minstrel’s stomach always ruled his life!

Saxon our remaining pony was adopted from a local animal sanctuary when Spot our first and oldest pony died.  Spot had been Minstrel’s companion and when Spot went blind Minstrel became his guide and security, leading him around the fields and standing guard over him when Spot lay down to sleep and rest.  When Spot died at the grand old age of 32 Minstrel was beside himself with grief: it came off him in waves so tangible that it affected all who came near him.  Before that I never knew that horses could shed tears.  Minstrel became iller and iller with grief, hence the adoption of Saxon.

Now Saxon is left alone.  He does not appear to be grief-stricken as Minstrel was all those years ago.  We left Minstrel’s body in the field for 24 hours so that Saxon could come to terms with what had happened and so that he was in no doubt that his friend had not just left, but had died.  For the first day and night Saxon stood beside Minstrel’s body but after that he drifted around the field.  After Minstrel’s body was taken away we brought Saxon into the stable for the night: the place where he felt secure.  But yesterday afternoon and today he has been standing at the top of the field looking for – what?  Something.  He is constantly scanning the horizon.  Is he looking for Minstrel or any horse/pack that he can find?

Saxon has always been a nervy pony and clearly hates being alone: in the horse world this means that he is vulnerable to attack by predators.  Some horses can cope, some cannot.

So what to do?

Husband resolutely states that this must be my decision.  However, he refuses to let local farmers run other animals on our land, which would provide company for Saxon.  He also refuses to let anyone else come and pasture and stable their horses with us, which would have also helped.  He suggested getting a pig or a goat, but they would be lots of work and more vets’ bills.  If I were younger I would leap at the chance but having a gammy knee is not the time to take on more work.

This appears to leave two alternatives.  One is to return Saxon to the Sanctuary.  But he has been here for over 12 years and is at home here.  He is also bonded to us.  I rang the Sanctuary today to find how they were doing and it appears that things were so bad this summer that they were one month away from having all their animals put down.  The last thing they can manage is yet another animal.  So that one is off the agenda.  Of course there are other sanctuaries but it seems hard on Saxon who is an old horse (27) with not many years left to him.  The second choice is another horse.  The lady at the Sanctuary said that they have a 12 year old Shetland pony who is beautifully natured and will get on with anyone.  He was abandoned some years ago on Shetland itself.  Forewick ChesterI don’t know much more about him yet.  He is only 35 inches tall at the withers (about 8.75 hands) so would, in theory, be easier to manage than a large horse.  Saxon himself is only 12 hands.

Also it appears that Shetlands are good-doers, hardy and easy to care for.  Tick, tick, tick.

The upshot is that Chester, for that is the name of the Shetland, is coming on Sunday morning to see how he and Saxon get on.  Of course this will be explained by husband to family and friends with uplifted eyes and a deep sigh, as being my choice:  I suppose it is, but only because all other avenues were closed off to me!

I hope that this will help Saxon to be happier, give Chester a good home and help the animal Sanctuary.  Nothing will fill that particular hole in my heart though.

(Husband has just come in and said that he dislikes Shetlands! OK but what does he want to do?)

As for me, apart from the internet I am holed-up and taking some days off away from the world.  I cannot speak to anyone yet without breaking down and it is taking all my energies just to get through at the moment.  Minstrel was cremated today and his ashes will be coming home in a few days.  I will scatter them along with those of his oldest and greatest friend, Spot, whose ashes I still have.

I have asked for a tiny piece of his forelock to keep in a drawer because it still smells of him.  These animals, they do so get into your heart.

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