Thursday, December 30, 2010

Near Christmas 2010 Newsletter. Year 2009-2010

The farm and research centre continues to develop. The good news is that we have almost finished the infra structure, hurrah! We have built a small dam for a little lake this summer, which nearly lost us Jake and the Mini digger falling off the wall, and then the whole thing was nearly was washed away in the October storms after repairs, we await with baited breath, it’ s filling up in the new year.

The grass grew quite well in a wet spring, and we made our first silage, only to find that all the plastic covers of the 10 bales (compared to the easy of making over 100 @ Little Ash) had holes in from all the thorns in the grass (patching up with tape seems to have worked, but will have to await the grand opening after Christmas to see). We made around half the needed hay, and have planted wheat and oats this year. Last years oats was not a great success, the wild boar dug most of them up and the plants were not happy to set oats, but, nevertheless, we have a sack to winnow and then grind for porridge, we hope. The garden continues to improve, but it
was a poor fruit year.

There was erratic weather in the summer, and the swimming pool was not used a great deal, this may have been encouraged by the presence of a family of garter snakes that took up residence in the bull rushes, they were very good swimmers, and provided one did not trespass on their domain seemed friendly enough!

We had many WWOOFERS & people for courses of all kinds from many countries, ending with a US family who stayed for 2 months and helped make the lean too on the side of the big barn/manege so we can have the horses and cattle nearby and done have to shlep up in to the mountain every day to feed them. However the wind has been so strong in the last few days , the final touches have been abandoned and we are just hoping that the roof does not blow off.

We have completed the Observation room so can study the Chamois without freezing to death outside, and have had several researchers, in particular a couple of Italian vets doing their projects and doctorates on the horses, and 2 post MSc students who are working with the centre on welfare questions of captive elephants in South Africa. Marthe has been off to SA several times with circus and elephant work, and at last the courses on the science of educational psychology are getting off the ground while Jake and Sarah have helped finish & present a backlog of research papers whose abstracts are now available on the internet site.

We are really aiming to obtain some South Devon heifers next year, meanwhile the cattle herd is cut down to 6 with Velue the Jersey.
Her grand daughter Ulma is giving us milk and some not bad cheeses too. The sheep reproduced so we have the beginnings of a half merino flock, but will get a Suffolk ram next year for better fat lamb. The dogs are reduced to 3, with Kongo excelling himself as a gun dog in Suffolk, and Kananga ( last years pups) going to live in London with Jake after the new year. Kaz and Bear continue to be themselves, and certainly Bear although a little short on confidence, is a great help with the cattle and sheep, Kaz a useful hot water bottle and finder of lost things.

This year we have taken part in a number of 30 & 60km competitive rides in some beautiful spots. The high light was Shindi, Lilka and Shimoni doing a 60km at Alp d’ Huez, a ski resort right up in the Alps. Of course they got out and ran off into the Alps just before the event, but the organizers kindly let us do it the next day, and even though not official our times and recovery rates were first second and fourth overall… not bad for Shimoni’ s first! Shindi has won every one she has done this year, but Lilka has not always been sound and she is gradually changing disciplines to dressage and cross country. Shiraz had a superb colt in June, Shatish, 4 white socks and black like his dad. He has received plenty of attention and will have a serious educational programme this winter. However, the most terrible and most important event of the year has been the loss of Oberlix who had a terrible accident in September. Somehow
nothing seems the same, he was such an ikon for what we do. The Arab Horse Society have published his obituary, and I will always continue to relive those great days with him.

All that remains is to wish everyone a very happy new year, and invite all who wish to visit us next year in this beautiful place.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Obituary Druimghigha Oberlix (Aboud x Omeya) AHSB v17

We bought Omeya, Oberlix’s mother, at the AHS auCtions in 1978. She was a skitty, terrified, slim, typey 3 year old Crabbet Arab who had been kept alone in a field since she was around 1 year old. She rushed into the ring and jumped about on her skinny legs with her convex head in the air, and tail straight up. We had seen her outside and decided that she was a filly we wanted to see more of.. but we had already bought the sensible pure bred filly we had been saving up for, for years. But Omeya floated and whirlpooled into our lives, Chris turned to me as she wizzed & cavorted passed in the ring and said ‘I will lend you the money’ so I bought her for £700; we then realized that neither of us had the money! In addition the autioneer said “You’ll never get her in the trailer, that is for sure!...” but we did and she arrived home with her companion Crysthannah Royal (Crystal King x Hannah of Fairfield) , two pure Crabbet fillies of very different types. One gentle, solumn correct in behaviour and conformation, one typey, wild, incorrect in both behaviour and conformation and not in the least solumn!

The following morning I went to feed her, we had left them in the stable overnight to accustom them to their new surroundings. Omeya , terrified, turned and kicked me, my reaction was fury and rapidly I hit her back … she looked askance at me, turned around and we made ourselves lifelong friends. For the rest of her 26 years of life she trusted humans and would do anything they asked, often an enormous responsibility! So quick are decisions made and mental habits formed!

Omeya grew up and learnt to balance on her scrawny legs a little better, she did endurance, arab flat racing, a little cross country and jumping, she worked in the garden pulling ploughs, sleighs, light vehicles, harrows, logs or anything else we cared to ask her and she did it all in a head collar with no bit. She took part in many endurance rides and races winning some , 7th in the 160km summer solstice one year, 3rd and another time 4th in the marathon. We were asked by Mrs Lancaster who was at the time the owner of Aboud in Soctland if we would like to send a mare to a free covering to one of her stallions, so we visited and chose Aboud who at that time must have been around 2 or 3, before he had become a champion in hand, and the following spring we sent Omeya to him.

In the spring of 1989 she gave birth to Oberlix, at our new ecological farm and research centre in Devon Omeya gave birth to a dashing colt with the correct conformation of his father, the glorious movement of his mother, and his own rippling burnt chestnut coat and strong personality At the time we were just beginning a what has turned into a 20 year research programme on improving large mammal handling and teaching, and young Oberlix was a pilot subject for our research based on in the department of psychology at the university of Exeter. His participation allowed us to design the methods for years of study in how to measure and improve the handling and teaching of equines, ( and other species including elephants, bovids, camelids and canines). We used methods that had been shown to be very successful with preverbal children. This involved, in particular, talking simply to the subjects, to encourage them to begin to listen and understand language.
In 1993 his daughter Druimghigha Shemal was born, the 6th generation of our breeding of part bred arabs, (she won the marathon in 2000, and 2x won Man versus Horse race, and several 50mile race rides). Oberlix continued to learn to understand human language all his life and traveled around UK and Europe giving displays and demonstrations at such venues as the Cadre Noire, ( the elite French riding school at Saumur) , and many other influential places. He was tested to understand 250 words and not only commands. The result of his and his daughters comprehension of language has been written up in scientific papers, and invited talks given at international scientific meetings. One of the most interesting new things found was that all our subjects quickly learnt to imitate the teacher to do simple actions. This is particularly interesting since to do this, they have to have some idea of self, something that previously has been considered unique to large apes and sea mammals.

There were many more discovers concerning horses minds that Oberlix contributed to (see pictures and examples in Horse Watch, what is it to be equine? J.A.Allen 2005), but above all, he became a quite delightful companion, and one of my very best lifelong friends. I could take anywhere and do almost anything with him and when it came to competition he would generally win, or come very near it! He worked our garden for us so we did not have to dig or weed, he harrowed the fields, he pulled a light vehicle when we wanted him to, he taught beginners to ride, he rose from Novice to Inetermediare dressage level ( one before grand prix) in one summer (obtaining more than 50% before progressing to the next level, and doing them all au de combat).

In the same summer he was in international endurance competitions, coming 6th in the Summer solstice, 100m race, one year 2nd to his daughter in the man versus horse and the marathon, the next year 3rd, and so on. We took him to the Arab Premium Performance Tests and he became a Premium stallion, performing by far the best in the free jumping, and showed of his language comprehension to the conformation judges.. but I stupidly hired a professional to jump him. She destroyed his confidence at the second jump, by hitting him ( I had told her not to!), something that had never happened when jumping before. As a result, he got around, but not with the top marks!

He was perhaps the nicest horse to ride under any conditions, happy to go along with what was required, fast or slow, with mares in season or out, with his own mares or others, with other stallions or alone, quiet confident, glorious paces and arab through and through. He taught me more than anyone else I think about life and how to live it. He was an ikon of our stud, and through his offspring, the Druimghigha Stud lives on, and we keep learning more.

He is more than missed, but lives on in our memories of glorious times together.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Druimghigha Stud newsletter

The spring was a good one for the horses as we had more rain than usual and the grass grew reasonably well… for here. As a result we have made about half the hay that we need for the winter off the farm and surrounds, and even made some silage to help Oryx who suffers from a cough with dry feed.

Marie Dussaux, who has a house in the village, contacted us about having Fanny a Barb x Arab mare that she had bred and handled when young, but had been untouched until now, 7 years. She wants to sell her, but needed her to be educated to be ridden before she was likely to find a buyer. We took her on and she is now a quiet, very pleasant ride although she needs more work before she would suit a complete novice. I thoroughly recommend her to anyone who will continue her education and wants a pleasant companion, friend and to do randonnes. She is not expensive and could well breed a very nice foal, particularly with one of our stallions.

We started endurance training in May with Shindi and Lilka, two mares, and had various teething problems with soft soles and sore feet, but these have now been put to right and the pair of them are seriously fit, coming first and second in the 60 k Alp d’Huez ride in the alps, up and down over 2,000m with recovery rates in the low 40’s, and Shimoni (who is for sale) also taking part with Jake who is now running his horse ethology and safari business (see, shortly to be translated into French).

We have done a couple of other rides of 40k at 15k/hr and been placed with all horses in the first 3 so far this year, the last one was a ride across Ardeche which was delightful ending up at a Western Riding festival!

The high light this year so far with the horses has been a 5 day ride around the Vercors we took Shindi and Oberlix and then replaced Oberlix after 2 big days of over 40 k climbing and dropping over 2,500m/day, by Lilka for the last 2 days. We camped and ecologized as we went. The country was quite spectacular in fact quite scary mountaineering sometimes but the horses were like mountain goats and never worried, unlike the humans who often had to shut their eyes! We found some lovely spots for lunches of tomatoes cheeses and fresh bagettes, and a final night in a welcoming hostel with a great dinner, bed, breakfast and hay and as much food as one liked for the horses… we were all very well pleased and hope to make it an annual trip if we can persuade others to come along with us, perhaps some who have been to our workshops?

We have had various people wanting to come on workshops of various kinds, including working horses on the land, young horses, and those running horse therapy centres, and have mainly been writing up research articles which are now available on the internet site (

Another development has been the purchase of a piece of land in South Devon UK, where the grass grows. It is mainly for Oberlix to have a belly full every year, but we are developing it as a small ecological farm, Pip my son is already starting a market garden and wood workshop, and we will be available from time to time to run workshops in the UK from there.

Horses for sale now are :

* Druimghigha Shimoni (picture) 5 yr old gelding, faultless and a delight. (Druimghigha Shemal x Druimghigha Oryx)

* Drumgigha Lantana
(Lilka x Oberlix) pure arab, 15hh.(150cm) Mare, 3 years. Ride & drive, a real goer. (picture)

* Druimghigha Lan Yu
(Lilka x Oberlix) pure bred arab, 15.1 ( 152cm) mare, 2 years. Being backed.

* Lilka
(Lillifee x Eldon) pure bred arab, 15hh 9 150cm) mare (11 yrs), competing in endurance this year, marathon & working at medium dressage, beautiful & lovely paces. A real champion.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Luxor (Oberlix x Lilka) won a bronze award in the Exmoor Experience ate the Golden Horseshoe Ride in Exmoor

Druimghigha Luxor is a son of Oberlix and Lilka. He just won a bronze award in the Exmoor Experience ate the Golden Horseshoe Ride in Exmoor. Andrea Champ tells us how joyful she feels about it :

"Luxor and I took part in the Exmoor Experience ate the Golden Horseshoe Ride in Exmoor, and won a bronze award, having missed out on silver as his pulse rate was one digit too high!

In fact this was the 2nd time Luxor had competed in this class,the last time being in 2008 with his previous owners,when he achieved a silver,so he is proving himself to be a very consistent horse! I have had him for just over a year now and he is the best horse I ever had the pleasure to own. Temperamentally,he is second to none,having a very gentle spirit and at times being extremely laid back. He sleeps a great deal and has an impressive snore! He only does as much work as he feels he has to,but when it comes to competition,he lights up and goes for it! He loves his job of endurance and is a great joy to ride. Luxor is brave and will try his hardest to overcome his worries in strange situations,even though he is very much a hot blooded arab at heart. I feel blessed to have such a horse."

Monday, May 17, 2010

Shemal got a new foal !

Le Stud de DRUIMGHIGHA has a new baby :

Shemal got a foal on May 15th,

he's bruin and adventurous,

with 4 white socks like his mother.

Both baby and mother are well.

Monday, May 10, 2010