Monday, October 24, 2016

24th October, 2016 That Monday Morning Feeling

I was going to call this blog Monday Morning Disease because I think I am becoming rather addicted to the camels and all of their lovely camelid, equine and ovine friends. There are not many days when I fly out of bed, hop into the car, and even don a pair of decent jodhpurs to ride in!

It's all really thanks to Martine (and her friend Sheri who put me in touch) that I have been given such a treat, and trusted with the breakfast arrangements for the animals as well as going out riding on and with the camels.

Arizona, on the right, is a safe set of hooves, on which to enjoy the near and distant scenery...

...and she doesn't mind being in the middle of a Polo Pony sandwich either.

This morning we were out with Martine's employer, as well as Charlotte, Temojin and Therese and Loopy, the grey ex-racehorse.

Temojin is extraordinarily handsome...

...and Therese is beautiful too - especially when she closes her nose against desert storms.

Can you really eat these Therese? Watch me now!

So what do I know about camels now?

They express themselves quite subtly with their eyes, their ears and less subtly with grumbling, frothing, and spitting if really annoyed. It is likely that they communicate with each other more than we will ever know, by a grumbling at a lower frequency than we can hear. The can also kick and bite with varying degrees of accuracy and intent. They don’t seem to be so different to horses but seem to be more responsive and sensitive. You can't mess with a camel!
They seem to be very intelligent and can spot ‘problems’ a mile off or more – you may miss the signs of a problem but they will express it through changing sides, turning round, veering off, or ‘bounding’ – rather than bucking or rearing. Therese worries about hedges in particular but then deals with millions of people in the centre of London, and tanks following her around the arena at Olympia.
They are capable of great sensitivity and responsiveness – to all of the aids used with horses. Camels can do dressage.
I haven’t sussed whether they have an into-pressure response yet – I am told that they don’t pull back when they are tied. They lead very nicely but sometimes spot some tasty food and try to pull away – they can be strong!
They seem to be extremely loyal – they know who and what they like and don’t like – can be possessive over people and horses.
They get up back legs first and in a series of almost hinged motions.
Most camels lie down when transported, even on very short and very long journeys – Therese does not.
Although they can cope with most types of terrain, they don’t fare well on slippery or very sloping surfaces.
They like a variety of food but not always the same as each other – for example beech nuts, nettles, horse treats etc. They don't have bad breath!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

23rd October, 2016 Dan the Man

I was particularly impressed with this coloured cob, called Danny, who was being driven along the B3078 today and coping with all the traffic...

...and the wild ponies on what was a very windy day.

Nice to see his drivers both wearing hi-viz too.

We were catching up on some chores while the horses all relaxed...

...except for Bella, who thought she might like to help.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

22nd October, 2016 The Horse in the Camelhair Coat

A misty sort of morning up at the fields. The horses seemed very happy to be back in the big field.

This is Sarah's concentrating face. It is a month since we did out first session with Puffin so we wondered whether we might be back at square one. Not only did she load easily...

... but we were soon putting up the back bar...

...and the ramp itself.

She's certainly a lovely girl. She is due to practice again on Monday and then go off on her first journey on Friday.

Sammy originally came from Ireland and although we cannot be certain that he is a Connemara, he is definitely a Celtic boy. He is such a beautiful colour and a very quiet, amiable pony too. Today I worked on his groundwork out on the open Forest and woodland tracks and I am delighted to have been asked to keep him ticking over over the winter months.

Friday, October 21, 2016

21st October, 2016 Mars Probe

The gardeners were in at the fields this morning, picking up the acorns...

...and cutting the hedges. Henrietta didn't know who to supervise the most.

Another session with Khalil who didn't turn his bottom on me at all when I entered his stable today. Indeed he offered to come closer for a lovely rub, although he couldn't quite persuade his ears to come forward...

...and thought maybe I had gone far enough when I reached his waistband.

His favourite touch so far appears to be mane bunching; taking hold of a bunch of main and then gently weighting you hands as you drop it down. This practically send him to sleep.

It was nice to see him giving things ago even his tolerance is very narrow. The yard owner said that there were three situations in which he seemed more inclined to kick: when he is in the stable, when he is tied up in the yard, or when he is being held by one person and handled by another; the three exact situations in which horses feel the most vulnerable.

He went back out for an hour and a half before bedtime.

I grabbed Julie while I had the chance this afternoon to see how she would get on with Mars. She has worked with me on nappy horses in the past and is very good at being passive when needed, guiding with the reins ONLY when necessary but also allowing the horse to go forward when he decides to.

It's absolutely critical that no-one uses legs to push Mars forward at the moment. That is just the signal he is waiting for in order to start a fight and it is one that he might win. As yet we haven't seen the behaviour that I have been called out for but we are hoping to by-pass it quietly rather than confronting it directly.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

20th October, 2016 Juniper Berries

A long but worthwhile road trip this morning to see Laura and her Fell pony, Juniper. Laura has worked with me on a number of occasions and also helped me with the graphics for the BARTA/IH report on Horse Transport. Aged three, Juniper came direct from her breeder and since she arrived Laura has been working with her using IH techniques. Today we worked on desensitisation techniques and preparing Juniper for long reining.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

19th October, 2016 Ruling the Roost

Fifteen year old Arabian, Khal, has a bit of a reputation for being aggressive in his stable. With an expression like Albert Steptoe, he looks pretty convincing and he has been known to kick out at anyone who ignores his admonition that they should stay away. This is none too convenient on a livery yard where he may be handled by people other than his owner and not too easy to cure either when people quite literally have a different approach.

He has been like this for nigh on a decade and behaviour like this, which may stem from pure instinct or from past events, is heavily reinforced if he feels as if it works. I think we probably have to meet him at least half way and think about the way that we approach him so that he doesn't feel threatened - this may mean lowering our intent, not being so direct, and not doing things in twos; horses don't like efficiency.  Lots of horses become wary of people approaching in twos as it is usually a sign that something uncomfortable may be about to happen.

I needed to find a way to ask him to turn his bottom away at the same time as encouraging him to bring his front end around. I was going to use the feather duster to desensitise his hindquarters but in fact it turned out to be an easy way to say please take your bottom away as he was slightly more wary of it than he was of my body language.

Once he brought his head and front end around I needed to find a touch that he really really liked. At first he didn't seem to like any sort of contact but in time he was prepared to let me experiment and once he found that I might actually be useful he looked a lot happier.

Odd as this picture looks, this was the point at which he came over to me and asked, nicely, for more, gently curling his head around my shoulders and relaxing. He almost had us all in tears.

Understandably his owner has become more and more wary of going into his stable while he is free to move around and at a loss as to how to stop his behaviour. We spent some time analysing what he does and doesn't like so that at least touch can be used to reward him for the behaviour we want to see. I have steered away from clicker in this instance because there is so much emotion in this situation already.

With a hat on, just to be n the safe side, his owner began to go in with him when he was free to move, staying reasonably close to the door for now. This horse is so genuine in every other way, happy to be ridden, caught in the field, that is would be nice to reduce his defensiveness in the stable even if he can never be entirely trusted.

He's certainly a beautiful boy when his flags are flying and has competed at HOYS in the past.

Although we have had a gap because Codie had been injured, Izzie has been practising her loading as often as she can. As a result Codie now enters the trailer very calmly without the partitions in place. Today we started to practise with the partitions in place. Since Codie has panicked and run out of the front before I became involved with her, we keep the front ramp shut while we work, and we also have the front bar (happily covered in a Bar Buffer) in place. Codie is so sensitive to change that she was worried when Izzie started to duck under the front bar so we had to repeat lots of limbo dancing during our session.

By the end of the one hour session, Codie was calm about Izzie going under the bar and standing on the other side of it.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

18th October, 2016 Kulu Art

Loading two old acquaintances, Teddy and Tequila,  this morning after their period on loan had come to an end. One of those situations in which loading in a hurry, in a worry,  or in an emergency can lead to some terrible decisions about how to load a reluctant horse. In this case Molly had bypassed all of that by making use of me and my panels. Load and go situations are never easy but having a safe place to work can take all of the the tension out. Incidentally, without rushing at all and only Molly's Mum, Sarah, and I working together, it took just 30 minutes to load both ponies.  Tracey was at a travel fayre at school, learning all about Kulu Art.

By the afternoon we had our act back together and so enjoyed another adventure walk around the inclosure with Henry and Jack.