With the new year comes plans and resolutions and hope for the end of the pandemic. While resolutions are so hard to keep, we do have a list of projects at the farm that we plan to get going or get completed this year.
In 2020 we got access to some more grazing area by
leasing and fencing 25 acres of land from Mavanalla village to be able to take on some more rescued and retired ponies with Animal Rahat and to also keep part of it for growing hay for the dry season.
In addition we have leased and fenced another couple of acres higher up the
hill, on the way to Ooty, for growing oats to supplement the feed of our
almost 300 grazing animals; buffaloes, cattle, ponies, horses and donkeys, during dry
Fencing these lands has been a learning experience we because we have used a new kind of fencing model; solar-powered electrical fence that is set as hanging wires, thin steel wires hanging from 14 feet high poles, instead of only using horizontal wires from pole to pole. This type of fencing is necessary when you want to keep elephants away from your fields without causing them any harm. Originally designed in Sri Lanka, this type of fencing has been used also in some other parts of India where people need to keep elephants away from crop-raiding their fields. We are presenting this fencing model in our area as an example that we hope other farmers could also begin to use to reduce risks for human-elephant conflicts.
With the new pony shed also ready on the new grazing land, the 40 retired working ponies that used to pull carts and be harnessed 24/7 are now free to gallop around free and enjoy the company of so many other ponies. It is really beautiful to watch them to enjoy this space and the freedom.
We have had a feeling about it for some years now but it has become more and more clear over the last year and with the new group of rescued ponies arriving – the Hill View Farm Animal Refuge is increasingly becoming ‘specialised’ as a retirement sanctuary for working equines and ex-racehorses. This is what we are keeping in mind as we repair sheds and fences and re-arrange daily logistics of the horse movements from their night sheds to the paddocks for grazing. With our limited facilities, we always want to make sure that the spaces can have multiple functions. Round-pen can function as an additional day paddock for 1-2 horses when the pen is not used for young horse or young rider -training and our biggest stall is used as a large animal operation theatre when we do horse surgeries, such as castrations. We have a large washing pen that doubles as an isolation pen for an in-patient horse, a treatment area for any animal large animal, or as a classroom when having a WVS India group of vets or horseowners visiting the farm for their vet practice or farriery course.
A big goal for this year is to get solar panels to the farm. At least for the bathrooms for hot water. That would be the start. This is also a plan that we have had for many years actually but somehow it is also one of those projects that so easily gets to take the backburner place when the everyday carousel of feeding, cleaning, treating, repairing etc comes always first. There is no doubt that we are massive fossil fuel burners with all the driving we do for work, to get anywhere from this jungle, to get feed for the animals and so on. So I have no illusions about the impact that solar energy would do to our carbon footprint but it is still one, reasonable low-hanging fruit, that we can do and with the sunshine that we get here, it does seem almost sinful not to use solar more.
Personally I am very excited about having met Mr Vishal – a natural horsemanship -trainer – who just happens to live in this same district. I am looking forward to various ways in collaborating and bringing his skills and demos to the farm to provide horse-handling training to our staff, Ooty tourist-horse owners and associated horse handlers, WVS vet participants who come to the farm to learn basics about equine practice and handling horses, or any children’s groups who could be interested to learn and get to experience a little about how to communicate with horses and ponies. Besides of demonstrating these skills to others, I am looking forward in learning more from him myself, especially with my own colt Rilian, now 18 months.
A smaller goal is to bring back our annual pony club event for our increasing number of pony riders. And perhaps it is not a very small goal at all? For the children who have begun to take lessons regularly, it would be a fun experience to take part in a pony show and compete in ‘egg-and-spoon’ –race or on an obstacle –course, for example.
One of the great gifts we have received at the beginning of this year is the arrival of JIO – internet tower in our village. We are super excited because it just might mean that my blog posts could become more regular with easier access to internet.