WINTER AT FLEETMEAD '07- SLOUGH OF DESPOND AND THE AFTERMATH!!
The best laid plans and all that!! I had hoped to have a nice winter doing some dressage and concentrating in particular in turning Summer of Torlundy into, once we got the canter better, my next potential dressage pony but then the elements took over and everything went pear shaped. We are on clay soil here an as my grazing is limited when the ponies are at home I shut my fields up early so I would have plenty of spring grass and this included the paddock I rent kept exclusively for the foals before they move to Kitty Lucas’s lovely fields for the summer.
Then the rains came, foal field almost totally underwater, mine not much better and despite the fact Kitty’s are on quite a slope and normally I can keep ponies there till Christmas they too became a quagmire. So ponies had to come in earlier than usual with only limited turnout, hay bills horrendous but luckily despite the shortage in the south the farmers who have supplied me for a long time have kept me going when other people round here have had nothing. I doubt if some of the people up North realise just how much the drought during the summer hit those of us living in the South East.
Next problem was the gales, wind once or twice nearly 100mph and although it is a very short distance I sometimes wondered if I would make it to the barn where the ponies lived. Inevitably the wind removed some of the barn roof, frightening the ponies and humans with the noise when the sheets bounced over the roof as they became loose and once gone the water came in in torrents, the only lucky thing being that the roof over the stables was not damaged so the ponies could sleep in the dry. Next problem insurance and storm damage, profits of doom said you may have a problem as the roof is old and discoloured as it was mainly the panels that let in the light that lifted and went, others said I should try and break a few more etc etc!!!!!!!!!!!!!
However the whole place is insured with NFU who were brilliant, rang local office, sent assessor two days later, luckily for me although I have been insured with them for a long time I had never made a claim, he told me to get an estimate which I got from roofing firm who had done a lot of work replacing the roof last summer (much younger and changing to Yorkshire boarding in lean to extension where most of the ponies live), got estimate a couple of days later, nearly died when I saw it, sent it back to assessor and he said go ahead, to cover myself told roofers to liase directly with NFU as I could not pay the bill and it was up to them to agree how many sheets were to be replaced. My luck was in as all the plastic sheets in the roof were replaced plus a number of asbestos sheets that were also damaged. The building is quite large, 105 feet by 60 so quite a big roof, roofers had said they would do half at a time so I thought no problem can move ponies to fit in with work, wrong again. I had not anticipated the impact modern health an safety regulations had on any job and the fact the entire roof had to have nets under it and these would have to be put up by hand with luckless men doing the job and involved huge machine to lift them up and down, this accounted for nearly £5000 of the estimate.
Next blow as ponies did not appreciate hat was going on they all bar the three stallions had to be turned out in my now waterlogged fields and just come in at night, they were not amused and end of this year’s keep, for good measure to amuse themselves they managed to bore a hole into my foal field because I was late bringing them in and galloped round it doing as much damage as they could before we managed to extract them, with the wind and rain the electric fence became more non functional each day. The stallions had to stay in the building but despite the fact they were not amused to be moved into different bedrooms they were actually very long suffering what they put up with the noise inside and out and men working with a huge JCB outside which lifted things, crawling boards, roofing materials over their heads to get to the damaged part of the roof and so on. Pigeons too were not amused as once the nets were up and holes in roof were repaired they were either shut out of their usual sleeping quarters or shut in.
The whole job took over three weeks as the wind kept blowing spasmodically and apart from health and safety again they obviously could not work on a high roof in a strong wind. After all the problems when the work was being done and yes a few minor irritations like machine inside getting stuck in one of the bog holes caused by the rain and having to be pulled out by the JCB the result was brilliant. The building is now totally rejuvenated and people cannot complain they cannot see any more. Full marks too to the NFU for settling the final bill quite quickly which came to more or less £10,000, perhaps what upset me the most was the fact the actual labour and materials were only a very small part of this and the large cost was health and safety, special skip (£1800) to take away scrapped roof material which included dreaded asbestos and so on.
When I looked at the devastation outside I could have wept, I had been thinking for quite a long time of having field divided into small sections with fencing as safe as possible for belligerent ponies, I had a couple of years before had quite a lot of electric fence done professionally which had failed to contain some of the escape artists when they saw greener grass elsewhere and decided to go the whole hog and get it renewed. I finally settled on Equifence a stock netting specially designed for horses and approximately four feet high, the mesh is small and in theory a pony should not be able to get its foot caught in it, I have had ponies turned out in good post and rails when they have been away from here and there always seems to be the odd highland who can manage to break, go over or under no matter what height or how strong the fence.
Now the fencing is finally finished we are going to have one strand of electric fence on the top and the small bit we have done like this is very effective as McInness discovered when he thought he could see if he could lean over. So it seems there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel and from now on life should become much easier although I must admit it has been a lot of hassle and hard work, if anyone is contemplating new fencing and wants to come and see mine they will be more than welcome as I can highly recommend it.
I have only two foals so far, both colts from Succoth Holly and Hope of Kewstoke, I had ordered two fillies, the other mares are playing games and are all now very late so much so that I begin to wonder if they are having a phantom pregnancy although for those of you who have seen Sanda’s thread on the talkhighland message board the ring test said they were in foal so we will see who is right and I will let you know the result in the next magazine. Just as the weather played havoc with the very mild wet winter, then frosts to stop the grass growing, then no rain for six weeks one cannot help but wonder if this is what is affecting all livestock and accounting for the misfortunes so many people have already had this spring.