Sunday, 7 February 2016
The Plight of Picard
My blog today is very different to the ones I usually write. No mention of history or books but my post today concerns something even closer to my heart.
This is Picard in his younger days. He is a Welsh Mountain Pony, the most well-mannered little man you could wish to meet, which is surprising considering his history.
We first met Picard when he was a foal. We were at a horse sale in West Wales, buying buckets and lead ropes for the ponies at home. We were horrified when a large over-crowded livestock lorry turned up and men with large sticks began driving yearlings from the back. They were terrified. It was a horrible sight, the sort that makes you shamed to be human. Every year the surplus wild ponies are rounded up on the mountain, they are squeezed into trucks and sold for silly prices at sales around the country. The low prices often mean they are bought on impulse, go to unknowledgable homes, or end up as fodder for the meat man, shipped to Europe for the horse meat industry. It seems a sorry waste of life for these beautiful ponies to end up as dog meat.
Needless to say, when it was Picard’s turn to be hounded into the sale ring, frightened with whips to make him prance and show off his good points, he was the last of a very long queue. The few people who had come in search of a cheap pony to rehome had already bid, their pockets were empty and the only person (I use the term lightly) bidding on Picard was the meat man. The meat man never bids high so I took my hands from my pocket and decided to take this wide eyed, terrified baby home.
My daughter already had a Shetland she was growing out of so I thought maybe Picard would turn out to be a good second pony. I won him with a £12 bid – a muddy, dark grey pony with burs in his coat and terror in his eye. He didn’t want to get in the truck; there was no way to load him without scaring him even more but with great difficulty we managed to get him safely home.
He trembled in the corner of his stable for days, freaking out each time we went in to change his water and replenish his hay. The burrs and mud had to remain in his coat while I sat on a bucket with my back to him and sung nursery rhymes and lullabies so he'd become accustomed to my voice and presence. This went on for days and still he wouldn’t look at me. Each time I turned round he stuck his nose in the corner and put his head down. He was so unhappy in those early days but eventually we noticed a change. He no longer tried to scale the stable wall when we went in; he began to trust the bucket and snatch a little hay from the rack.
When he was ready to emerge from the stable his first friend was Rudolph, the Shetland, his second was Jazz, another Welsh Mountain Pony, and Cynon the cob cross. His time was spent with them in the field where he could gallop about, kicking his heels, happy in their company. It was a brilliant thing to see.
Whenever we rode or groomed the other ponies, Picard watched from a distance, ready to flee if we so much as took one step toward him. But, slowly, he came to realise we were never going to wallop him over the head with a pole, or force him to do anything he wasn’t happy with. Little by little he grew calmer, we were allowed to brush him, we could lift his feet one by one, scratch his hind quarters but never his head. He remains head shy to this day and getting a head collar on was a nightmare but by degrees, we managed it. My eight year old daughter could lead him around, sit on his back, tack him up but he was never really happy with it and we could only progress so far. After a year or so, we desisted but he remained with us, a companion to our other ponies.
That was twenty years ago, hopefully things have changed for ponies like Picard but I don’t think they have. There are far too many greedy, unkind human beings and too many unwanted ponies. One by one our ponies died of old age and now Picard is the only one remaining.
Age is catching up with my husband and I now. Our children have left home and, due to health issues, we have had to give up our beloved smallholding. We sold it at the end of last year and the new owners kindly allowed Picard to stay until the new home we had sorted for him was ready. He was due to move to a lovely home next week but to my horror that has now fallen through and the new people who now live in the lovely smallholding want him moved.
So this blog is a plea for a good forever home for a much beloved veteran who requires gentle handling and understanding. He lives out all year round, survives on air and doesn’t require lush grazing. Picard is very gentle. He has never kicked or bitten and will follow you to the moon if you wave a bucket under his nose and he is good with the farrier. We are happy to help with his costs and essential veterinary care. Most of all we want the last years of his life to be as happy as the last twenty. He needs a safe, secure, caring home, preferably with other horses.
If anyone can help or knows someone else who might please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org or message me on facebook. Please share this blog widely so that we might find reach a good Samaritan.
Thank you for listening.