Today I arranged to meet an old friend. Sarah is an equine trainer who uses non-violent methods to help horses, ponies and their owners. She initially trained with Kelly Marks and Monty Roberts, but she also uses the methods of other natural horsemanship trainers and has, over the years, developed skills and expertise of her own. She is especially keen to promote gentler and more humane ways to handle the many wild foals who are born on the New Forest, Exmoor and Dartmoor every year.
Here are some of Sarah`s New Forest ponies ( plus a white grey Welsh pony who lives with them). Sarah has commoning rights and keeps these ponies on the open Forest, but they stay near to home and come in for a feed of hay on most days in the winter. They look well and it was good to hear that the mares are not in foal this year. The recession has meant that good homes for foals are becoming harder to find, so the mares were kept away from the stallion last summer.
Sarah`s stable and barn is a World War Two Nissan hut which was rescued from one of the local airfields at the end of the war. Many local farms have restored wartime huts which are still doing stirling service as store rooms or shelters for animals.
Here is T, Sarah`s new horse. She started his ridden training last year and has recently bought him. He is Quarter Horse x New Forest . He seems a kind, sensible sort and has a summer of further training in front of him.
Sarah seems to be collecting chestnut horses! This is C, a former racehorse. When he arrived, he needed complex dentistry to sort out his teeth before his rehabilitation could begin. Now he is a lovely, increasingly confident horse who is beginning to enjoy life again.
A year ago, this photograph would have seemed an impossibility. J is a larger type of New Forest pony. He spent years running wild on nearby marshland. No one could get near him, let alone handle him. He came to Sarah as his last chance. Here she is, putting ointment into his eye which was sore but is now healing well. He can be handled and led out for walks on the Forest and it is clear that he adores Sarah. We had hoped to take him out for a walk, but the rain kept on falling today, so we abandoned that idea.
Instead, we drove along the village lanes to the Royal Oak, which is the smallest pub in the New Forest and was the best possible place to warm up in front of a log fire. We had thick, spicy home made soup and bread for lunch. Perfect food for a wet, grey day of penetrating cold rain.
An elegant village house across the lane from the Royal Oak.
On the top of a hill, with views of rolling green farm land all around, the Royal Oak has been a meeting place for Forest people for centuries.
A peep through the front door. The bar is on the left, while a good log fire burns in welcome. Through the door is another small room where visitors can eat, drink and catch up with news in a warm and friendly atmosphere.
Beside the pub are three coralls, where horses can be left when their riders or handlers need to stop for refreshment.
Farmland and grazing ponies next to the gardens of the Royal Oak.
An ancient oak tree , its branches green with lichen, has stood by the green at Fritham for several hundred years.
On my way home again, I passed a herd of commoners` Shetland ponies, grazing near Janesmoor pond.
The old runway. The road heading westwards from Fritham is a runway left over from World War Two. Fighter squadrons were based on the wartime airfield here and were a vital part of the war effort towards D Day and beyond. As you drive along the straight, empty runway, it is easy to imagine being in a Spitfire and getting ready for take off!
A rainswept view across the north of the Forest, towards the distant hills of Wiltshire.
On a wet day, shades of rust, deep brown and green have a rich beauty of their own on the slopes of Rockford Common.
Birch trees, wet bracken and the lane going westwards, towards home.
More day to day stories of Sarah`s horse training can be found on her journal blog
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