A few days ago, in the middle of an ordinary morning, the ponies suddenly became very agitated. The old mare lifted her tail high, tensed her neck and looked towards the high hedge between her paddock and the open Forest. She stood for a few seconds, snorting with terror, and then shot off around the field at a gallop that belied her age. Soon the others followed and were high-tailing around their fields as though a tiger were behind the hedge.
Here is the Grey One when he stopped for a second or two to size up the situation.
I went to investigate and found the culprits. A family of commoner`s pigs were down in the ditch below the far hedge, rustling and snuffling among fallen leaves and feasting on the masses of acorns that have fallen from the oak trees this autumn.
We rarely have pigs around here, but I recognized these ones, who had wandered across open Forest and through the woods, from their home field in a village not far from us. In the Pannage season, New Forest Commoners can put out their pigs to eat as many acorns as possible. This helps to clear acorns that can poison the New Forest ponies, while providing a natural, healthy diet for the pigs ( who seem to be unaffected by eating a diet of acorns).
Here is the Gloucester Old Spot sow who was leading her weanling piglets along the leafy ditch, grunting softly to them as she walked.
...and finding a treat of small, green crab apples from a tree behind the hedge.
Eventually the sow wandered through gorse bushes into the lane and lead her piglets up the hill.
She was anxious to stop and talk to us and enjoyed having her back scratched, as did her friendly piglets. They were all remarkably clean and a delightful family, enjoying a life of freedom in the woods until the the time Pannage season ends and they are found and returned home by their owner.
In the meantime, the ponies were convinced that Wild Boar with fearsome tusks were about to attack them. They stayed excited and unsettled for hours, not quite trusting the shadows in the hedgerows.
Horses seem to have an innate fear of pigs, perhaps from prehistoric times, and can sense their presence long before we can. These Old Spots were not a bit smelly and hardly made a squeak, but they were still The Enemy and not to be trusted!
On a technical note, I did try posting these photos on the X Large sizing, but they came out cropped on the blog and pigs lost noses and tails. Large seems to work...... Is there anything I can do to post X Large without an automatic cropping taking place? Thanks for any suggestions!