It has been a hard winter for the ponies grazing the SSSI land, especially for little Rufus as this is his first year without his mum or a herd of other horses to shelter him. He seems to be coping well though and as the picture below shows he has grown a thick winter coat. A horse's coat is double layered. The first layer is dense,warm and grease laden and the second layer is made of long shiny hairs which stick out and direct the rain away from the body. In addition, the skin over the loins and hindquarters is thicker so provides good insulation...this is one of the reasons horses turn their backs to the wind.
The ponies are doing an excellent job clearing the unwanted scrub and long grass in readiness for the spring chalk downland flowers. It is interesting to watch them pick out what they want to eat and how they shake their mouthful and bang it on the ground to end up with just the tasty bit they wanted. Very clever when all they have to rely on is their sensitive little mouth.
The wild plants are beginning to make an appearance now but this also brings a few problems as some, like bluebells and cuckoo pint, are poisonous to horses and both are beginning to make an appearance in the woody area.
Luckily they are not desperately poisonous, unlike the Yew tree that I also came across last week in the woody area, which can kill a pony within a very short time. Needless to say it is no longer there.
During our last few stock checks we have seen a person standing, motionless, in an area of neighbouring SSSI land that is in the process of being cleared. We have assumed him to be a keen bird watcher or maybe someone trying to photo the deer that frequent the area but as he was there again on Friday and as the weather was so nice we decided to investigate. We quietly crept along the track so as not to disturb his viewing too much...no wonder he wasn't moving...he turned out to be a wooden man someone had cleverly made out of logs :-))