We have completed four days in Australian quarantine. Today we saw temperatures of around 30 degrees. The day starts early at 6am when all horses are fed. The horses’ temperatures are taken twice a day religiously with a Head of Government Officer overseeing to make sure all is done correctly. The horses are being looked after extremely well and are turned out in small grass pens in the morning, before the heat of the midday sun sets in.

Vet Andrew Argyle, who is looking after Hilly here in quarantine, is very happy with how he is coping and is impressed by his overall physical condition after such a long flight. Andrew even said he was in perfect condition, which made me smile a lot!

I would love to show you photos of our quarantine base, but the Australian Government forbids it and I don’t really want to get into trouble with them so you will have to use your imagination. But please don’t think it’s like a prison camp – it’s quite nice really!

Hilly arrived tired and I’ve been extremely careful with his routine. I’ve only been walking him in-hand during the past three days and today was the first time I lunged him in the lunge pen. I lunged him with just a bridle on – no side reins or roller – as I just wanted him to have a gentle jig jog round to loosen up. He had a 20min walk in hand and a 10min lunge this morning, then this afternoon a 15min walk and another 10min lunge. He looks a lot brighter today and even had a little buck. His temperatures have been good ever since he has arrived and the vet is happy with him.

Hilly has his own field that is a little bit bigger than some as he’s sensible to turn out. When he is turned out Jenny or I have to watch him as the rules are that no horse is ever unsupervised. I make sure Hilly has at least two hours of grazing each day. If they can be out for longer, then that’s better in my opinion.

The grass is somewhat different here and Hilly was not amused by this to start with, but now he is munching away happily. I wonder if the grass here is like Vegemite to Marmite or Tim Tams to Penguins? To be honest Hilly, I don’t blame you. I perfect Penguins too.

The staff here are friendly and have made Jenny and I feel welcome. Even the Government Officers are not as fierce as you might think! I had images of the programme Boarder Control Officers reducing you to tears because you forgot to declare a boiled sweet.

The routine is strict though and I don’t think I’ve had as many showers in my life as I’ve had in this last month during UK and Australian quaratine!

Life in quarantine

To try and explain how quarantine works, you have a clean side and a dirty side. The clean side is outside the perimeter fence of quarantine and the dirty side is within the permitter fence. You are able to bring clean clothing and items into the dirty/quaratine base, but nothing can leave until the 14 days have finished and everything has been approved.

Yesterday I walked through the clean side and signed in to the log book with the date, time, name, security number, my purpose for visiting (to cuddle my pony) and signature.

I undressed at my clean locker and left my vest T shirt on as it was such a hot day knowing that in my locker on the dirty side I only had a long sleeved T.shirt and my dirty jeans.

My afternoon was then spent cuddling Hilly on the dirty side (quarantine side) in jeans and the vest top.

We have to be signed out by 6.30pm as that’s when the Government Officers finished work and only they can sign you in and out. You are able to stay in quarantine later, but then you can’t sign out and you would have to stay in for the whole night.

I got undressed in the dirty locker side, left my clothes in locker and showered. As I stood in my towel, I unlocked my clean locker to only see a pair of jeans!

“Jenny!” I shouted above the noise of her shower. “JENNY!!” I screamed having images of myself walking out with the guards through Quaratine in just my jeans and a rather unsightly ageing beige bra (it’s comfortable!)

“JENN..”

“Yes Dunsdon,” Jenny interrupted mid screech. (Dunsdon is a name my friends nickname me and it’s kinda stuck.)

I explained to Jenny my dilemma about having no top and asked if she had a spare I could wear. Without so much of a twitch, she calmly replied: “No”.

My face dropped. My eyes widened like a rabbit in head lights. I’m going to have to walk out half naked. I’m going to be know as ‘The English Naked Girl’ and for years to come the officers will be telling the story of ‘remember that English girl who forgot to bring a clean top to wear and she walked out in the hideous beige bra!’

Jenny then burst out laughing.

“That was hilarious,” she said through breaths in her laughter. “Yes, I have a spare!”

Oh course Jenny would, she’s that type of person. She has a spare of everything! My relief was so great I could have kissed her. Instead I played it cool and said: “Whatever. I didn’t panic..”

So from now on I have a whole mini wardrobe in my clean locker.

Hilly’s day-to-day care

The accommodation is somewhat basic and after seeing two Huntsman spiders and a red back by the living quarters, Jenny and I feel much happier at our hotel 20mins down the road. If there was a problem with Hilly, of course we would stay, but I trust the experienced IRT grooms to check him through the night. Quarantine sign in is 6am. The IRT grooms feed Hilly in the morning so he is fed along with all the other horses and Jenny and I see to him otherwise.

Feed companies Mitavite and Keyflow are very kindly and generously supporting me through this epic journey. Hilly was gradually introduce to Keyflow feeds while he was back in England, which is very similar feed to the Mitative feed he is being fed now. The same family, the Prices, run both Mitative and Keyflow and it has been brilliant working with them. They are 100% behind what I am doing and the family are extremely knowledgeable when it comes to horses from all walks of life.

From the moment Hilly arrived, he has been eating well. From my point of view it’s a huge relief to know he’s enjoying his feed, which in my opinion is of the best quality. He looks amazing, the best I’ve had him looking, and I can only put this down to his feed and supplements. I use Lintbells for my supplements and they also sponsor me. I swear by their Yumega Oil and the gleam on Hilly’s coat speaks for itself. I also use their Active Joint and I believe Hilly really benefits from this too.

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In quaratine we have two types of hay. One type is Lucerne hay (above); this is more like English haylage although it’s much greener and is very much like alfalfa. Alfalfa is native to warmer climates and it has been cultivated for livestock fodder since the era of Ancient Greeks and Romans. All the horses seem to love it including Hilly.

The other hay is not as green in colour so therefore not so rich (below). Hilly does have a tendency to bloat (just like a human) if he eats too much rich grass or hay. Also his legs fill with rich food. So I am feeding a combination of both hays and I wet the hay too just to keep Hilly as hydrated as I possibly can.

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My aim for the next few days is to up Hilly’s workload very gradually. Longer walking out in-hand, lunging for longer periods and introducing canter work. I am not able to ride him at all him quarantine for their health and safety reasons. I am concerned about the effect this will have on his fitness, but there is absolutely nothing we can do.

At the moment Hilly is doing well and loving life. Meanwhile Jenny and I are getting used to the spiders and things are looking on track.

Until next time when hopefully we can see the light at the end of the showering in quarantine!

Alice xx