We had a sharp frost last night. I looked outside just before midnight and the sky was clear. Stars flickered brightly against a black night sky and through the haze of the Milky Way.
This morning, bird baths and water troughs needed ice to be broken, but the sun soon warmed and thawed light frost on unmown grass.
Out on the Forest heath, the commoners` ponies relished the growing warmth. After breakfasting on gorse and the new sprinklings of grass growing amongst bracken, several of them were lying down to rest. Sunbathing.
Our Ginger and the Lion Pony feasted on their breakfast hay. They are beginning to lose their winter coats and life is becoming itchy, so their rugs were taken off and the sun warmed their backs.
Through the hedge, I saw Fudge, the young mare, fast asleep in her bracken bed, her nose resting on the ground.
She and her companions flicked an ear and stirred as the two grey ponies came up to the gate and peered in.
...and her daughter. Both are waiting for new foals in another month.
The rusty chestnut pony dozed in the lee of flowering gorse.......
....while her closest friend, the black mare with one blue eye, slept not far away.....
....her hooves tucked up as she opened her one brown eye to watch me walking by.
Over a neighbour`s back gate, a tiny, deep blue scilla flowered by an upturned wheelbarrow......
....and back in the garden, pear buds are swelling, waiting to burst open, as the warming sun brings spring closer by the hour.
The New Forest Pony and Cattle Breeding website has more information about the ponies and the Gallery page shows examples of the breed who have become prize winners and who have excelled in a variety of equestrian activities. Many of them were born out on the Forest, like the new generation of foals who should arrive in April and in May.