I thought it might be good to explain why I have so many exmoor ponies lurking in my hard drive, even if I've not got around to transferring the herd over here yet!
However - before I get to them there is the tale (or maybe the tails) of 3 Border Colies to tell! I've always enjoyed walking and over the years have been accompanied canine companions - and yes, always BCs!

Meg, our first, arrived within 3 months of us getting married. She was the most obedient and biddable dog you could ever want, she trained our two kids well too. She was born on a farm in Somerset - the result of a little accident, the farmer thought the dog was past it and the bitch too old to have any more pups. Meg was the only girl and the runt of the litter but full of fun and life - I remember people asking me how old the puppy was when she was 12 years old, that sums her up really. She was 14 when arthritis became too painful for her and we made the tough call to give her peace - she'd had a good and long life.

6 months later the kids clamoured for another dog and Mist entered our lives - she was one of 6 pups a local shepherd's bitch had, she'd been mated to a top trials dog and the owner of him was going to have the pick of the litter. There were 4 bitches, one virtually all black just like her mum (the shepherd kept her!) two beautiful tricolours and a bog standard B&W that other shepherd had earmarked to have.. When we went to pick up our pup we found that he'd been swayed by the looks of the tricolours and had picked one of them. We ended up with the B&W pup and what a worker she'd have made!! She could outstare any sheep or ram going! Mist had a glorious long coat and absolutely no idea about cleanliness, she was coeliac and had other health problems from the word go but we adored her - she was as nutty as a fruitcake but so sweet and affectionate - devastation hit hard when at only 10 years old I had to have her put to sleep... 9 years later my eyes still start leaking as I recall that awful moment when the light died in her eyes...

and then after 3 dogless years
there was the 3rd - our daughter very firmly told me "mum! you need a dog', she was right of course ;o) I spoke to the local vets about people with BCs in the area and no they didn't know any but did give me details of a Collie rescue in Berkshire - The Border Collie Spot www.thebordercolliespot.com I spoke to Gill who has rescued ( and still does) many dogs over the years - she had 4 pups that were 4 weeks old that she was handrearing - the mother had not been able to cope with the eleven she had! All of them were spoken for apart from one little lad - Peter wanted to go and see him but I wanted another bitch and knew it would be fatal if we went to see him... We did and it was!
Moss has been a completely different kettle of fish to his predecessors - they were so easy to train, nearly 6 years old he's still unreliable at times, but much better than we ever dared to hope he would be, and yes :o) much loved!! He does agility for fun along with a load of other rescues adn rehabs (and that's only the owners ;o) and has found great courage and confidence by taking part in the displays we do for fun at village fetes - Moss has always been frightened of children, in spite of my best efforts to change that. He also picks up on people's anxiety and becomes very jumpy and noisy, and yes, he's also a jealous baby!

So what has all this to do with Exmoor ponies you ask - well Moss likes his walks and when we came back to the West Country, after nearly 30 years away, re-visitng the area I used to ride regularly became my once-a-week all day walk. It was also where Moss began to learn obedience - you cant do wildlife photography with a canine cannonball on the loose!

It was a day at the end of March last year that made the big difference - walking on Exmoor where there are free living herds of exmoor ponies as well as vast numbers of red deer (and the occasional roe) I spotted a mare who just didn't look 'right', I quickly realised that the stallion was nearby and wondered if she had maybe recently foaled..

Moss and I settled down well away from her on the other side of the coombe and watched. Sure enough there was a tiny newborn foal with her, we sat watching as she came down to the stream to drink - I have never seen a horse drink for so long and she just oozed exhaustion. I was utterly amazed when she brought her newborn foal right up to us and inevitably my heart was captivated.. many of the exmoor mares will do a runner when they spot someone 100yds away so I felt very honoured that she did not consider us a threat in any form.

To cut a long story short I followed the mare and her foal through the year, photographing her development. In mid-Setember I managed to break my ankle and was unable to walk my favourite tracks for a few weeks, by then I had become quite attached to the mare and her foal (lol that's an understatement if ever there was one!!!) and became very worried that come the gather (when the mares and foals are gathered in for inspection, branding and possibly sale) I might never see her again. Prompted by a good friend I sent some of my images to the farmer who owns them and started a conversation with them - the end result being the foal I followed, and named 'Thistle' (because of her fondness for eating their flowers) is now half mine :o)

I will get around to transferring many of my images of Thistle's first year over here soon, but meanwhile I'll try and upload a little movie of that magical meeting - a series of still shots from our first encounter :o)