Saturday, December 3, 2016

3rd December, 2016 Of Rubies and Angels

I have never seen a horse so keen to be caught as Ruby this morning, she came down her field like an Exocet missile, absolutely straight all the way. Her owner, Rebecca, wanted to do some work on confidence for the two of them and also on ground manners. Like a lot of people she has been given plenty of free advice but she wanted to get something that worked for her and made sense.

Within no time, Ruby was standing still and leading nicely when asked with no pressure in the line. I explained to Rebecca, who works in the financial sector, that it's a bit like accounting, there are conventions and regulations which need to be applied consistently and transparently.

The yard is a busy one with horses going in and out, and past the front gate, all the time. This gave us an excellent opportunity to apply the same rules over and over again.

Far from hitting her with a big stick, we're using a garden cane here to rub along her back and then down her legs. As you know I tend to use a feather duster but Ruby is the second horse I have known to have had really strong objections to the feather duster by squealing at it like it was a strange horse!

Ruby has to go up the road to go back to her field. Once there, she let off steam.

We had a small audience for our afternoon session.

We were working with new arrival, Angelo, who has until recently been a showing horse in Arabian classes. Unfortunately these classes, or at least the modern form of them, seems to be all about deliberately escalating a horse's behaviour so that they are completely on their toes and flying all of their flags. This seems to have left Angelo pretty confused and inclined to become hysterical if anyone uses anything less than really subtle body language.

His new owner, Emma, and I worked on some very mild groundwork to prove to him that all of that is over and he can afford to relax.

Sometimes I had to draw things in order to illustrate some of the finer points...

Finally we moved on to his fear of syringes using clickered treats to reward him for even entertaining it near him. By the end of this very first session he was allowing Emma to mock inject him. However, there is no rush as his annual vaccinations aren't due until January and she will need to practice regularly until then.

Friday, December 2, 2016

2nd December, 2016 Back to Front

With greater use I am working on the theory that the jumps, or at least each jumping effort, are/is coming down in price. For example, Henrietta's beautiful leap here cost just £50 and next time will be down to £25.

I am always telling my clients to stand like a farmer not a model when it comes to grounding themselves and their horses. However, we all like a little go on the catwalk from time to time.

On a more serious note it was time to work with Zebdi again and to help him get over his needle phobia. He is starting to unwind in his new home and is in safe hands with his owner, Rosy.

Today I was able to start off more or less where I finished last week - with the door open and using the pointy end of the needle-less syringe. I started to push the plunger in as if injecting him and also began to take hold of a small fold of skin as if looking for a vein. He took all of that without showing any aggression although sometimes you could see that his mother, God, and instinct, were all telling him it was not a good idea. Now he no longer feels the need to shout, this body language was just the quietest whisper expressed through his ear, head carriage and his eye.

With that all established I began to do the same with a Dually on, lead rein only on the headcollar ring. I shortened my lead rein and also held the end of the noseband in order to imitate the restraining hand that he might face from a vet, but just held lightly so that he did not feel forced. With and without a choice, he never moved his feet today and only took his head away if he was worried.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

1st December, 2016 Leading Lady

Every day with Henrietta is like opening an advent calendar, there's always something small but sweet on offer. For instance today was the first day she has ever neigh/brayed a greeting to me. Cupboard love I am sure.

Having inspected the quality of Room Service she positively trotted into the pen and allowed me to pick up each of her feet while she was loose. Nowadays she alternates which side of her body she offers me for grooming and touching as if making sure that she is evened up.

By osmosis she is now effectively wearing a halter and lead rein and she gives to a light pressure when asked. This makes it a little bit safer when working around her as I stand a chance of turning her back end away if she decides that she might just kick me. She is not stubborn, she is just frightened, and like a donkey more likely to kick than run - although she can run too.

With the cross country jumps in a different position, training for the Tokyo Olympics is going well.

Her tail may be growing but her neck seemed a little short for some reason...

...and then just to be even more endearing, she cantered up behind me when I was about to leave.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30th November, 2016 Jump!

Beswick Mule

A very quiet Wednesday with just a bit of cross country jumping before I set off to take Sammy out...

My hay coloured friend. Very easy to walk with today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

29th November, 2016 Tack and Tact

Exmoor was looking particularly cuddly this morning...

First stop today was near Romsey, to see Dottie. Whilst Vanessa weighs up which saddle she might get for Dottie I have loaned her my Western one and we needed to make sure that Dottie was alright with it. I have only known one horse that objected to a Western saddle but as that objection was very big I had to be cautious.

Fortunately she was fine and Vanessa could enjoy a session where Dottie could really stride out. Once again we worked on going from place to place within the field and next time we hope to be able to take her out.

This afternoon Lynsey came over to have a groundwork session for which Théoden came out of medical retirement. He was very good although he did think he might flirt with Lynsey, gently taking hold of her jeans with his teeth, and she was very good using her gentle stockmanship techniques to persuade Théoden to move here and there.

These are her normal subjects and today was the first time she has handled a horse. Her knowledge of body language and energy and her lack of preconceived ideas about horses all made her a bit of a natural.

Hattie was fine this morning and has now been turned out with new field mates including fellow mule, Betty.

I came home to some lovely flowers sent by my wonderful friends and clients, Kerry and Chris. They live in Germany with their two Exmoors, Finn and Hazel, but the flowers are Scilly flowers and smell amazing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

28th November, 2016 You Beauty

Hattie will soon be a Leicestershire girl and therefore come to know the relevance of the above phrase. We fall in love far too easily at Fritham and so it was very sad to have to say goodbye to her this morning when her stopover came to a stop.

"Do you think you might be able to put a head-collar on her?", said her owner when she arrived. "I can try," I said tentatively since I hadn't tried or been ask to try while she was with me. Indeed I had tried to keep my hands off her on the basis that she wasn't mine to play with! Luckily Hattie is a lot less kicky than Henrietta and less frightened, more humanised, and just quieter. In fact I wondered whether Helen might notice if she arrived home with a small gingery pink mule rather than the one that she had ordered.

In the event it was relatively easy to get the head-collar on using a feather duster for initial touch and then putting a lead rein over her neck using the other end of it. Once I had both ends of the rope in my hand I could gently hold her while I put the head-collar on over her neck and then up her nose.

The head-collar was a bit big so I did a bit of a wrap-around to make it fit better but at least it is leather so would break if she got caught up.

With panels set up all over the place it was easy to load her onto my trailer and then take her out into the inclosure to decant her into the hired 3.5 tonne horsebox that she would be travelling home in. Although it came with a full bulkhead at the back, to prevent any prospect of her jumping out, it had no inner gates next to the ramp so leaving her loose and getting out that way was not an option. Instead I had to scale the inner wall and get out through the tiny door at the top. Luckily I didn't get stuck like Winnie the Pooh in the rabbit hole and have to starve until I was thin enough to get through.

Jack and Henrietta were a bit bemused when she had apparently disappeared. They are beginning to think that the middle door in the barn is the door to Narnia.

Ps. I am pleased to be able to report that Hattie has arrived safely in her new home. She did apparently make quite a fuss in the horsebox and I am so glad that the owners and I insisted on an enclosed box and that they didn't travel her in a normal horse trailer - mules can and will jump!
"Thank you so much for stepping up, collecting Hattie and caring for her." HT

Sunday, November 27, 2016

27th November, 2016 Good Morning Vietnam

With David just back from his motorcycle tour of Northern Vietnam it has become clear that he does think about me while he is away. He stopped to take pictures of every horse he saw...

...and every other interesting creature he met too.