In preparation for my trip to the New Forest, where I will be producing a selection of my equine and experimental shoots, I have decided to focus a research piece on the Forest and it’s inhabitants.
Most notably, my trip is due to take place from the 26th-29th May 2017, which falls within the release bracket for stallions into the Forest. The date set for the release this year was the 15th May, with all stalllions to be removed by the 19th June. Fifteen animals have been released for breeding, spanning across a wide variety of Forest sections. This allows a large number of mares to be covered without conflict between the stallions. Furthermore, with the trip scheduled in the Spring, the equine gestation period of eleven months also indicates a likelihood of youngstock from last year’s breeding season. These factors pose added risk when exploring the Forest, since the horses are excitable and protective. Whilst I consider myself to be well-versed in equine body language, I have not experienced working with semi-feral horses previous to this, so I am wary that I may not achieve a large number of successful outcomes.
Stallions Released 2017 (Name – Location):
Lucky Lane Warrior – Busketts
Cameron Luck of the Irish – Acres Down
Halestorm Branston Pickle – Hilltop
Sandhole Whispering Grass – Penn Common
Portmore Thunder Cloud – Wilverley
Sway Scrumpy Jack – Setley
Brookshill Brumby – East Boldre
Woodfidley Top Gun – Balmer Lawn
Haywards Impressionist – Backley
Knavesash Gold Fever – Withybeds
Skywalker – Ogdens
Lovelyhill Hendrix – Linford
Bakeburn Benny – Wootton
Bull Hill Major – Stoney Cross
Limekiln Brigadier – Matley/Ipley
Visitors of the Forest are encouraged to remain a reasonable distance from any animals, due to safety reasons, as they are, whilst owned, left to live ‘wild’. Therefore, most of the livestock may have feral tendencies and react negatively to human interaction. However, communications with a series of locals indicate that certain areas of the Forest are frequented by humans more than others, which implies that the livestock within the section are accustomed to humans venturing into their territory, and are more tolerant. One of these sections is called Appletree Court, located in Lyndhurst, and is the most local part in relation to where I will be staying. My research above also indicates that this year no stallions have been released here.
Although the horses and other livestock are allowed to roam and live freely, agisters monitor the Forest to ensure the safety of the animals. This includes helping injured animals, due to road incidents among other causes, and humane destruction of an animal where necessary. It is well known that within the Forest, the animals have right of way. Despite being regulated to the concept of cars due to ongoing traffic, the animals have a complete disregard to the dangers of cars, and so drivers must be vigilant to ensure the safety of equines and cattle. Additionally, the agisters ensure that the owners, the commoners, of the livestock roaming on the Forest are meeting welfare requirements, and also maintain and construct stock pounds for use in the pony round ups, which it is also their duty to arrange.
The round ups, also named ‘The New Forest Drift’, occur in the Summer and Autumn, and in these periods every equine is placed into one of the several pounds. These occur to remove foals for weaning, and to health-check the animals on the Forest. If an animal does not appear to be healthy, the owner of the equine will be required to remove it until the animal reaches a satisfactory state in which to be released onto the Forest again. Animals who have not been previously branded will also receive this at this period, with their commoners’ unique letter. Finally, the tails are cut into distinctive shapes which indicate which part of the Forest they belong in.