Let me introduce you, with pleasure, to the equine element of Ffarm Fach…..
As with everyone else on the Ffarm, they too ‘earn their hay’ as they also have important jobs to do! Toto & Sabe, the Shetland Ponies, are both draught animals & have in the past been used for wedding transport with a difference; we are considering this option for diversfication to the business in the longer term. Meanwhile after Tony’s dealt with any felled trees on the property they are cut down into logs for the woodburners which heat our home during the chilly part of the year; & then piled on the small cart the Shetlands bring up the hill into the Long Barn for seasoning before the onset of those long Winter nights….. But enough said, here are our boys, in a little more detail!
Donabi Lakota (aka Toto): Toto is a feisty little piebald (black patches on white) Shetland pony of only 34″ high at the withers (humpy bit just behind the saddle). His ‘official’ name is North American Indian for ‘Free Spirit’, & he was certainly aptly named!
Originally purchased by the Golden Oak Stud as a breeding stallion, it soon became apparent that this willful little chap did not quite possess the tractable temparament required for a ‘bomb-proof’ children’s pony. As a result, Lindy made the difficult decision to have him castrated & to sell him as a small ‘companion’ for a larger, retired, horse. However, when we visited the Stud, we not only fell in love with Toto, but also recognised his potential as an excellent carriage pony.
We subsequently brought him home in May 2004, where he was kept at livery at a stables about a mile from our Cotswold village home, which was owned by a retired Riding School headmistress who, at 87 years’ old, had lost none of her skills as a disciplinarian! After plenty of groundwork Toto spent a couple of months under the expert tutelage of the World Champion female four-in-hand Whip (competition carriage driver of four horses), Karen Bassett, whose skill ensured his quick brain was soon channelled to a useful work ethic pulling a super little Hartland Shetland Sport four-seater carriage, either on his own or as a pair with best mate, Sabe.
Cariadfach Khemosabe: Sabe, Toto’s rotund little companion & the archetypal Thelwell pony, is of Skewbald colouring (golden chestnut patches on white) with a gorgeously long mane & tail (although his tail inadvertently suffered, in Spring 2007, from being lovingly munched by the Stud goat, Merson!).
A real character, Jo ‘discovered’ him after getting stuck in a traffic jam on the way home from a meeting at the (then) Headquarters Strike Command at RAF High Wycombe, realising that Toto would fare better with a friend for company. When she saw him, Sabe (then named ‘Driver’, on account of his skill & enthusiasm in harness) wasn’t for sale; but having visited the other ponies at the stud, Jo realised that Sabe would be Toto’s most suitable soul mate, & his owner agreed, on condition of a swift sale before she could change her mind!
Sabe joined Toto, at Court Hayes Farm, in July 2004. The pair had a rip-roaringly fun time with Karen Bassett, who introduced them both to cones competition (the carriage driving equivalent of show jumping) – & Sabe quickly became her favourite valve for letting off steam, he enjoyed his work so much.
Since then, apart from Sabe’s sterling Wedding performances & sheer grit with logging, he’s proved a consummate professional in the show ring as Tony’s ‘partner in crime’, even winning a Championship medal, & has patiently taught a number of enthusiastic young jockeys the art of horsemanship, both under saddle & between the shafts. What a star.
Gwyrddcaebach Darwin: Darwin is a handsome Wesh Sect D (Welsh Cob) of championship lineage, very much the ‘Black Beauty’ of the horse world with his glossy coat & white star. His previous owner, Pam, was a novice horse owner who purchased him when he was only a foal; however, by the time Darwin was aged nine she made the reluctant decision to part company with him, as she had been bitten by the Arab Horse Racing bug & wanted to buy her own racehorse.
On the recommendation of our marvellous farrier, John Bryne, we visited & subsequently purchased Darwin, as a horse on which Tony could not only safely learn to ride but also enjoy the pleasures of hacking, & competing in showing, dressage & jumping competitions once he had gained suitable experience. After settling down, Darwin has proved a super horse, being not only tractable in temperament but also willing & able as a saddle horse, for rounding up & checking stock on the Ffarm. He’s currently enjoying life working at Monach Farm Stables in Cambridgeshire, teaching adults the joys of horsemanship.
Cariadfach RolyPoly: Roly’s the ‘mystery man’ of the FF equine equation. He arrived with us in July 2006, after Jo spotted an advert in a local Saddler’s window for a horse of near-identical description to Darwin. Further, the 15-year-old Roly had considerable experience, not only under saddle, but also as a draught horse, complemented by his formidably stout musculature & exceptionally ample pulling power (he’s not known as ‘Old Fat-Arse’ for nothing, having already bent & knocked over two gates just to scratch an itch!). However, we know little of his former history; other than that, prior to giving him a home at Ffarm Fach, he was owned & loved by Jenny Jones at Pengaer where he was used predominantly as a carriage horse, after she’d purchased him from a friend who’d bought him as a young horse from the local gypsy community for her children, who subsequently grew up & lost interest.
Roly & Jo just ‘clicked’; since then, Roly’s proved an exciting but safe & enjoyable ride, as well as a real character (with a soft heart & head to match!) on the ground, as well as being much admired for his robust health by the local vet. Whilst almost twice Darwin’s age; like Sabe, he’s very much ‘young at heart’, & a horse with a great personality & bags of ‘gentle giant’ talent. He’s currently with his chum Darwin in Cambridgeshire, living life to the full & thoroughly enjoying himself – being spoiled rotten as everybody adores him!