Hillash Shetland Ponies &

Miniature Donkeys


By jasonbolger, Aug 1 2008 11:00AM

Sorry it's been so long since the last entry; really don't know where the time goes. After a fairly wet spring we were all really looking forward to a warm to hot, reasonability dry summer, but we're still waiting! It has been difficult, at times, to keep the really young foals warm, popping them in and out of the stables so they are dry, but so mum also gets enough grass.

Had a really good foaling season, but we still lost one foal, which was born dead. We had three foals each born with a leg back, another foal which was really tight and required a bit of tugging, and finally one which decided to stay in the bag then born, but all of these we managed to save, either through good management or pure luck! And, all this without the aid of cameras, but we do spent a lot of time wandering the fields at night, as the ponies do not seem to settle when stabled.

Last year we had mostly colts, so this year we thought it would be a better balance, however, we ended up with a 4 to 1 ratio of colts to fillies, perhaps there is something in the water! The strange thing is the cows have been producing nearly all heifer calves; only the ones starting to calf now are having bull calves, so hopefully next year it will be all change!

What a dreadful year for making hay, we still have a lot of rubbish left over from last year, so after a lot of waiting and watching the weather forecasts, we made silage for the cows and the ponies have some haylage, but really annoyingly the forecasted rain never came, for once, and we would have had some really good hay. Hopefully the ponies will enjoy it, they can have some of the old hay until it gets cold, and then start on the haylage.

The foals are beginning to get weaned now, the first two have been taken off mum. This year we tried letting mum back in at night for the first few days, hasn't made much difference, if anything it has made the foals clingier, as they spend all their time waiting for mum to go back in. So, now the mums have been taken away completely, and the foals are pleased to see us when we go into their paddock.

We rang the Shetland Society to enquire when the passports would be received, but they are so far behind preparing ponies for Society sales, they have not started on ours that were sent after the cut-off date for the sales, and as they are all taking holidays at the moment, I do not think the passports will be back for quite a while. We know what you're thinking, why don't we send for the passports earlier, but you have to wait until the foal sheds its foal coat as they often change colour, not usually to dramatically, but it can be enough to get the colour wrong. This year, again because of all the rain, the foal coats are not coming out very early, and I can't stay I blame them!

We are receiving a lot of enquires for foals, and several have already been booked. We have had a lot of visits from really nice people, for some it is the first time they will have owed a pony, and it is lovely to be able to offer them a foal that will be a delight to own. Some ponies follow the potential owners around, as if it were them who are doing the picking!

By jasonbolger, Nov 1 2007 12:00PM

What a gorgeous autumn we are having, hopefully the winter will seem that bit shorter now. Most of the foals have now been weaned. This year I have been weaning them two at a time, getting them used to the halter and a bit of feed, before going on to the next two. Most of them were quite happy to leave their mums, only the filly Whisper got a bit wound up and sulked. Her mum, Emma, also did not want her to leave, which is quite unusual as I think she's in foal again, and they normally do not mind leaving the older foal then. Some of the mares actually seem relieved when the foals get taken off. I have seen them wondering around the field with the foal chasing them, getting quite grumpy with the other mares and not letting the foal suckle!The stallions are settled in their winters quarters. Squirrel has Fudge (Molly Bloom) for company, and Muffy (Zak) has Jinnie. Teddy is enjoying a rest in his small paddock and barn, which over looks the fields to his girls and the cows in the yard.

By jasonbolger, Aug 1 2007 11:00AM

Just finishing off the last few loads of straw. We finally made our hay in the first week of August. One field should have been made in June, so most of it resembled a carpet, as new grass had grown through the old and matted it together. It certainly isn't good hay, but it will fill them up. The second field was second cut so it should be nice, even though we had one bit of rain on it! The foals are growing and enjoying more human contact but we would all benefit from some sunshine! As with everything it is much easier when it is not raining. Some of the foals have not bothered to shed their foal coat and are now getting a winter coat, so it is much more difficult to see what their adult colour will be. The stallions have been moved from the mares and are looking really well. I think 'Teddy' looks forward to leaving the mares as he gets a rest and a bit of extra feed, such a little gent!

By jasonbolger, Jun 1 2007 11:00AM

Welcome to an insight into a small farm in Somerset. Initially I thought writing a few lines about the ponies would be easy, but as they are so easy to care for it will be more about what I hope will be interesting stories!

The ponies foal outside without cameras or monitors, they don’t get over-fat as the cows east the richest grass. The only downside this year has been colts currently at 4 to 1, but don’t think there is much I can do about that!

I do not show my ponies, not because I don’t think they are good enough, but because with my experience of my parents showing dogs, I know it is not always the best animal that wins.

It is the middle of June now and we are still trying to finish silage making and bringing back the seemingly endless loads of black silage bales. Haymaking seems a long way off after a really dry April we are now getting payback with not enough dry days to start.

The foals are growing well and its lovely to see them tearing around the field morning and evening in a gang, with Teddy (the stallion) trying to keep them under control, as the mums are not bothered now! The young calves do the same thing, running and jumping around. You never seem to think of them enjoying themselves not in the same way you see lambs playing on the television, but calves and foals have just as much fun. They particularly like an old bucket or broken roadside bollard to play with!

Hillash Diaries