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Shoes mask weaknesses, barefoot highlights strengths

Saturday, 6 December 2008

Perpetual motion

With the all the restrictions that go with rented grazing and our fierce planning laws and fiercer neighbours, creating a Paddock Paradise is something akin to chasing fools gold. But we continue to experiment with what can be done rather than fret too hard about what can't.

The drainage (if there ever was any) on the land has failed, big time. Now every time it rains a a continuous sheet of water blankets about a third of the field. Naturally this portion includes our hay storage area, the stable, the field shelter and the thick hedge. The average monthly rainfall is 2.75 inches, but the last three months have average over 4. So with the lack of sun, falling temperatures and dodgy drains, the water that falls is taking much longer to clear.

So we/the horses have a dilemma, either the 'bodies' have shelter, but the feet dissolve in the liquid mud, or we can have dry feet, but the 'bodies' have to withstand torrential rain/howling gale.

So far we have managed to keep the actual stable floor dry, but to get to it involves a long trek through quite treacherous conditions (for me anyway). The field shelter, newly roofed by the magnificent MOH, seems to have developed a spring in the middle. So we are rather short of suitable dry standing, especially as the two QH have big personal space requirements.

In the short term the posse are being decamped to Rockley Farm. Both for some intensive foot tending and to give us some breathing space in which to decide how to deal with our watery dilemma.

Our landlord is very tolerant and quite obliging, but I don't think there is a lot of scope for serious field renovation. Partly because of the expense, partly because of the short term mess, but mostly because of fear of hassle from the neighbours.

The 'circuit' we have is mobile. That is we can move both the inner and the outer perimeter fencing. Next year I shall make better use of this flexibility to avoid grazing the horses on the wetter areas in the winter. Provision of shelter will be more challenging as the stable and field shelter positions are not negotiable. Ideally I would like to drain these areas and lay pea shingle. It all depends on how far the landlord will bend and of course finances.

But for today I have moved one of the perimeter fences to cut off the worst of the mud. Unfortunately it has also cut off the best hedge, but I am hoping that the weather will stay dry and the wind will stay away at at least for a couple of days.

I did dig a trench in front of the field shelter, which helped stop water flooding in, but it didn't cure the spring and it did break my very expensive spade.

But tomorrow is another day. I will go and buy another, cheaper spade (maybe it will last longer) and try and put in some interim drainage ditches. I need to dry out the access to the sheltered areas to give the posse somewhere to go when the weather gets rough.

The field guard mats have long ago given up the struggle. I wish I had spent the money on pea shingle instead, it would have been a better investment.

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Southern England, United Kingdom