Tuesday, January 17, 2017

18th January, 2017 Opportunity Knocks

Moonhills is my favourite place name on the Forest; unlike Woodgreen it shows a little more imagination. Tracey and I took Sammy out for his 'Wednesday' walk, even though it's Tuesday.

I can't work out if this is irony
There are always lots of dog walkers out with their dogs and so the grass surrounding the car park is liberally sprinkled with dog poo, requiring a bit of fancy footwork if you are to miss it. If people are not going to pick up after their dogs I'd prefer them not to bag it as then there are just piles of poo-filled bags all over the place. It isn't practical to have bins everywhere on the Forest so litter of all varieties has to be taken home.

We took the opportunity to look at someone's big horsebox today. Sammy wasn't in the least bit perturbed even when the horse inside stuck his nose out of the window to whinny at him.

With the road closed we took advantage of the lack of traffic and walked down the centre of it.

We also had a good look at the work that the Highways Authority are doing. They are replacing the cattle grid entirely which will hopefully make it less noisy.

Sammy wasn't concerned about the noise that the pneumatic drill made.

Back home Sammy had some bridle practice. Yvonne is trying out a new contoured bit which hopefully Sammy will prefer, however, he expresses his concerns through throwing his head around. Using the hand between the ears approach can encourage a horse to hold his head still or even lower it.

17th January, 2017 Writer's Block

The book is going well and on days when I don't have a horse to go and see I am quite happy scribbling away, albeit on the typewriter. I'm up to 43,000 words and with my Mum editing hopefully they'll all be in the right order with the appropriate number of commas. She, and Tracey to whom I have read excerpts, both seem to be enjoying it, so I am hoping it will please my 'target audience', those people who enjoy my blog.

Yesterday I was interrupted, something that I am encouraging, by two owners ringing to ask for advice about their horses, one of which is a Dartmoor pony and the other an Irish Draft Cross. At different ends of the spectrum size-wise, I found myself suggesting clicker to both of them and wonder if my half of the conversation sounded like Morse Code (Horse Code says Tracey) as I clicked and t'locked down the phone at them.

The first, was born on Dartmoor and trained throughout using No Fear, No Force techniques. Along with the pony's friend, another Dartmoor Pony, both were being backed and everything was going extremely well until the vet botched an injection when sedating to have her teeth done. Four attempts later and the pony was really stressed. Something in that process has triggered memories of being captured and restrained and now she is afraid of the head-collar. I have referred her owner to page 55 of my book and suggested that she go back to some of her earlier work in order to get the pony back on track. Hopefully clicker, along with a soft scarf, will make the difference in this instance and also be useful once established for when the vet comes back.

The Irish horse has an intermittent but potentially dangerous problem when mounted. He has had every physical check you could think of including a complete x-ray of his withers and spine and an assessment by a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist. He has had a saddle tailor made. The lady is having some success with hand treats as the horse is mounted by a little jockey and I have suggested that be formalised, as it were, by the discipline of clicker where the behaviour that is wanted can be clearly marked by a click, and patience taught through the use of an intermittent treat.

I am 'open' again for advice this afternoon and on Friday. All I would like in return is a donation via Paypal to one of the charities that I am supporting: British Animal Rescue and Trauma Care Association, HorseWorld, Shy Lowen and The Stars Appeal (Salisbury District Hospital).

Monday, January 16, 2017

16th January, 2017 Quackery

When I first started working as a Recommended Associate, having studied, practised, been examined, approved and evaluated,  there were just a few pioneers using techniques based on the psychology of the horse, even though people like Lucy Rees had been writing about it decades before in the Riding Magazine. I longed for the day when there would be more than one person in every yard using these techniques so that they could have support and reassurance that no, in fact, they were not mad! Now, everyone who owns a horse is an expert it seems so that anyone consulting a Facebook forum could think that the advice they are being given, usually off the cuff, is what they should be doing with their horse. Instead of being met with a horse that has met some poorly executed traditional methods, I sometimes meet horses that may have met those first and then some poorly executed 'natural' horsemanship methods; the horse is even more messed up and the frustrated owner is losing faith in any method at all. I'm more interested in the underlying message that the horse has received, which should be "Relax, it's okay, I'm here to help you..." To achieve that the handler has to be rational with their rationale.

Because he says it so well, and maybe because some people seem prepared to listen to a man more than a woman, here is Ross Jacob's take on it:

"I believe in order for somebody to be a good horse person they need to have a strong sense of their training principles. There needs to be a consistent path that guides their every decision and by which they judge their results...I don’t believe it is possible for a horse to be emotionally okay without a high degree of consistency and clarity in their work..."

So that I don't take this out of context, here's the link to his Facebook page which is full of advice and contemplation: Ross Jacobs

Nowhere is internet advice more dangerous or evident than in the field of veterinary medicine where the waiting room at Chit, Chat and Tack is packed with people giving advice on how to treat a sarcoid ranging from applying toothpaste, dried coffee, or a very nasty cream called Camrosa for which there is no evidence that it can cure a sarcoid. Sarcoids are a skin tumour which should be taken extremely seriously if they are not to spread, multiply, or reoccur. This Horse and Hound article: H and H on Sarcoids highlights the main types:

Types of sarcoid

  • Occult: a flat patch of hair loss with a grey, scaly surface, which can be confused with ringworm, as they are often circular. Common on the face, neck and between the back legs
  • Verrucose: wart-like, grey and scaly but extends deeper than the occult sarcoid. More irregular in outline; multiple lesions often appear
  • Nodular: lumps under thin and shiny skin. These vary in size, some being more than 5cm in diameter, and occur commonly around the groin and eyelids
  • Fibroblastic: aggressive fleshy masses They can begin as a complication of a skin wound and sometimes grow rapidly, often ulcerated and “hanging” on a stalk (pedunculated) or extremely invasive into the surrounding skin
  • Mixed: a variable combination of two or more types of sarcoid, often of different ages, forming a “colony”
  • Malevolent: A term used to describe the most aggressive type of sarcoid. These spread through the skin and even along lymph vessels, with cords of tumour tissue interspersed with nodules and secondary ulcerative lesions. They can become large and difficult to manage.

The top sarcoid vet in the country, Derek Knottenbelt, in another article says: Derek Knottenbelt

“It is completely ludicrous; this is cancer that we are dealing with...Imagine if you went to the doctor with cancer and they sent you to the supermarket to buy toothpaste.” Approximately 10% of horses recover from sarcoids naturally — which is what Prof Knottenbelt believes may have led people to believe that the toothpaste treatment works. He warns that not only does the remedy not work, but it is also dangerous because it delays treatment and can irritate the tumour. “I see cases all the time where it has failed and it’s much worse,” he added. “These people claim to ‘love their horse’ yet they are prepared to treat them like this. It is complete madness.”

If your horse has a sarcoid, please call the vet. The appropriate treatments are: surgery; ligation; cryotherapy; immune therapy, topical treatment, radiation therapy, or laser removal. Not witchcraft or wizardry.

Chancer, having an injection of BCG which cured a sarcoid on his eyelid.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

15th Jnaury, 2017 In Their Element

An afternoon outing to the Army Air Corps Museum where there was little evidence of horses, strangely enough, but I did find this bit of interesting information.

On the way back we called in at Danesbury Fort to see how Nuthatch (bottom right) is doing in his new home. All five ponies were tucked away, out of the wind, in a little section where they were well out of the way of al the dog walkers too. They seemed very happy and relaxed. It's good to see that his mane is growing back and it will be interesting to see if he has sweet itch next year.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

14th January, 2017 Gears!

On a horsey forum recently I read that it was important for a horse to be taught the aids: legs, whip and hands. I was disappointed to learn that horses were being thought of a such a simple machine. There are so many lower gears available before you even use a physical pressure, gears that enable you to avoid the less subtle, clunky gears - thought, breath, and feel, energy and intent, even tone of voice.

This morning we worked on some of this with Dottie as well as getting her used to her new bit which is one of a range made my Hilary Vernon.

The bit is a Harmony D cheek snaffle which is has the benefit of neat joints and a round lozenge. The D cheeks give some guidance for steering. This too is a lot less clunky than the Fulmer flat plate French link tat she came with. In any event we have some work to do on asking her not to brace against the bit, something that is instinctive but also a product of being reinforced.

Although we did the same as last week, Vanessa and Dottie have made a lot of progress and went off line for the first time. Dottie seemed very calm and happy.

Friday, January 13, 2017

13th January, 2017 Use it? Or Lose it?

Cold metal!
It was so bitterly cold this morning that the pins in my hand were conducting the frost into the inside of my thumb! Thank goodness we had somewhere covered to work. The lady we were working with, Claire, is much more used to working with horses that she has to reach up to rather than down, but has taken on a set of Dartmoor Hill Ponies.

Barney and Arnie
These ponies were not bred on the moor but their mother was fairly wild and so they have picked up some of their instinct and temperament from her. Barney, the one we were working with today, had a finely tuned energy and intent radar.

Catching, groundwork and single line work.
With any horse that is responsive to human body language, and some of them aren't either through training, habituation, systematic desensitisation, or just continual white noise that they learn to ignore, you have the option to use that responsiveness or lose it, i.e. try to keep the bits that are useful to you, and reduce those that are not. You can't take the whole horse out of the horse, nor would anybody want to, but you can harness those traits that enhance your joint experience whilst overriding, retraining, redirecting, those that don't. Whilst we might not want a pony to flee when we approach him, it would be good if he could move away gently, and without fear, when he is being driven or directed. There, I have said that about four different ways now so I hope it all makes sense.

Before we went in to thaw out by the fire, we had to say hello to all of the Percherons, all of which I could take home and settle down next to my fire.
"Caught without him even moving!!! so happy he loves me!!!!  I think we definitely turned a corner yesterday." CK

13th January, 2017 The 'Con' Artist

Tracey worked with Sammy, the Connemara, again this week, and the theme was feel. I wanted her to feel everything that she wanted to do and to convey to Sammy before she took any action with the lead line, or even picked up his foot, or put his head-collar on in the first place. Working this way reduces effort and leads to softness since the feel in your mind is reflected in the feel of your hand. It worked very nicely. Sammy picked his feet up beautifully (he used to be reluctant and awkward) and was even more of a pleasure to take for a walk and trot around the Forest. No great challenges but it's good to have a very peaceful session rather than meeting new things every time you go out.

A big thank you to these lovely dog walkers who put their dogs on leads when they saw us.

The wild ponies were enjoying the sun

"When I think back to when he first arrived he was extremely pushy, bargy and you literally had to be on your guard watching for the teeth whenever you were around him and his feet were a no no - so much has improved over the Winter which you have both played a big part in." YS