Xato and his First Punchbowl Adventure

On Saturday we took Xato and Cash out for a little walk into the Punchbowl and back.

Luckily for us, mules are all-terrain vehicles.

It was a surprisingly quiet morning and we met no one other than a couple of walkers and one of the feral Exmoor ponies who help to graze the land. This was probably just as well; in an area full of competition horses, I think we would have cemented our status as the village weirdos if anyone had seen us taking a couple of equines out for a walk (I feel like one equine on its own is odd but acceptable; one equine ridden and one led is also passable; two equines led, however, is getting into the realms of the weird. Luckily, wyrd is something that I am entirely open to).

Hollow ways are a good indicator of an ancient path. This would originally have been the road between London and Portsmouth and was a notorious home for highwaymen!

I was exceptionally pleased with Xato. We led almost the entire way, only switching half-way home just to see what he thought about it. He didn’t mind at all – if anything, he began to drag a bit and had to be reminded to keep up!

Heading downhill to the pond. By this point we’d gone through the gates and were in the area grazed by ponies and Highland cattle.

We also separated from Ben and Cash once we reached the pond, partly for a photo opportunity (unfortunately the light and the fact we were only carrying mobile phone cameras did not work in our favour), and partly to see what happened. Xato had no problem leaving the path and his equine buddy and striking out across the thick carpet of fallen leaves with me. He was curious, enthusiastic, and level-headed throughout the entire walk.

Xato’s colour works very well in this kind of environment – he blends in easily.
Much of the pond was still covered in ice (and you can see there is still snow on the ground in places). I might bring him back in summer and take him in it!
Waiting for Ben and Cash to rejoin us. I didn’t take many photos because it involved having to remove my glove, which was a) annoying and b) cold.

When Xato first arrived he wasn’t very keen on being led from his right. Or rather, I could lead him if I didn’t ask anything of him! If I asked him to quit dragging, for example, this seemed to really worry him and he’d angle himself away, lean on the rope, and in some cases would just try to leave and go somewhere nicer that didn’t involve having an annoying person telling him what to do.

I always lead from the right when taking an equine out on the road, so I put myself in that position automatically and it wasn’t until we were coming home that I remembered how this would once have been difficult for him. But as you can see, we did the entire walk with a nice loose rope between us.

We thought he probably hadn’t seen many icy puddles in Mallorca! I didn’t ask him to walk through this one, but we walked through others that had thawed and he didn’t hesitate.

Xato noticed the Exmoor pony before I did, and that was the only moment of the entire walk where I had to get a little firm. I never felt like he was going to do anything silly – he just stood and stared at it through the trees while Ben took photos – but he didn’t set off when I did and I had to remind him to pay attention to me, not feral shortears!

The last time I encountered the Exmoors they chased after Marty and I, but I think Xato looked a bit too big and intimidating for them.

Cash would like to be a wild pony, please. He’s already convinced that he is a Great Silver Stallion.

On the way back, we practised our rock-hopping*.

* Alright, so we have nothing on the American mules! Maybe it’s more mud-scrambling.

For some reason I appear to be going up the steepest route. Well, can’t ask anything of my mule that I wouldn’t do myself, can I!
Xato posing on “Marty’s Hill”. This little bank seems to have a neon light beckoning mules to stand on it. Marty always has to climb up and observe whenever we go past it, and Xato – without any prompting from me – wanted to do the same. Our horses have never paid it any heed.

All in all it was an extremely pleasant way to spend a morning, and I think Xato enjoyed his first foray into the English countryside. He is going to make an amazing trail mule!

What an exceedingly handsome mule.
I love the way the tree roots seem to dwarf him in this picture.

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