Thursday, March 30, 2006
I went to work at the Margaret Green Foundation Trust in Church Knowle, Dorset for the day. All the staff and the volunteers at the Trust are really nice people and some of them had come in on their day off to do the training and to see me work with the horses. The Trust does it's best to re-home their horses and wants to put them in the best position to settle in with someone new. I worked with ponies called Flame, Squirrel, Velvet, Belle and a big Bulgarian donkey called Maisie. All of these animals have difficult stories and yet their capacity to forgive is remarkable. Because of the way that they have been treated in the past, many of them have had to be "the leader" when a human is around and some of them have learnt to barge through people and move them around. With a little groundwork it was great to see them accepting their human leader and being able to relax for the first time in a long time. At the end of the day I worked with a little black Shetland pony that had been kept in a tiny pen for 8 months so that children could pet it. The Trust is doing its best to rebuild the pony's confidence and physical health. Alistair, the Trust manager and Amanda, the Stable Manager are very enlightened and want to do all their rehabilitation work without recourse to violence in any form; these ponies have been through enough.
The last week in March was filled with emergency cases - a 15 month old Dartmoor colt, an exquisite miniature version of the Lloyd's Bank horse, that was too wild to handle and an Appaloosa cross who launches himself at people to bite them. On the last day of March, Patty, Nikki and I took advantage of our free ticket into Somerley Park horse trials and had a lovely day watching fit and beautiful horses jumping solid and daunting cross-country fences. At lunchtime we managed to sit at the same table as Bettina Hoy - Patty started to talk to her in German and then Bettina was asking us about the type of work we do and how the New Forest works. Her first competition pony was a New Forest pony. This tiny lady was so warm and friendly and genuinely interested in what we do. I told her all about the biting horse and she wanted to know the outcome. It really made our day, week and month.
I am looking forward to a new ponies arriving on 1st April and then two more on the 8th. All three have already been started but for one reason or another two of them have had a break for a while and the third one is just lacking in confidence. I shall really enjoy comparing and contrasting. One is a Hackney Cross, another Welsh Cob cross and the other a New Forest Pony. The little Dartmoor pony, Ollie is also coming in for handling. He is so delicious.......
Sunday, March 26, 2006
Went to see Michael Peace doing a demonstration at Hurstbourne Priors. I really enjoyed watching this quiet man work with the horses. There was no drama and the horses all made extremely good progress from a nervous youngster walking over a bridge, a New Forest pony having its ears touched for the first time in several years and an older horse being asked to listen and go through a gateway as directed. His timing is immaculate and his signals very black and white. I like the way he rewarded horses by taking them for a walk - a horse is driven by instinct to move forwards.
Out on the Forest, Blue has absconded with some Shetland ponies and is making her way up to the Nursing Home. Pie and Nell are still hovering around my fields in the hope that I might let them in to the big bale of haylage again. I have given the them some haylage to keep them warm and happy but have hardened my heart and kept the gate closed. (Later the three of them gave me kittens by wandering off to Telegraph Hill, one of the worst accident blackspots on the Forest. I made them life members of the Tufty Club and was very relieved when they turned up back at Fritham again).
My Safari Party on 25th March was a great success much enhanced by the arrival of a Black Forest Gateau and a lot of wine. It seems we are all getting too old for dancing though.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
The show season must be fast approaching as all my customers this week have been non-loaders. A recurrent problem seems to be horses that will load to go but not to come back (perhaps they don't want to!!). Anyway, I was wondering whether it would be worth setting myself up as a loading service at local shows.......
Patty and I attended a bitting clinic by Hilary Vernon on Saturday, 11th March. What she doesn't know about bitting isn't really worth knowing. She was pleased to hear that I start all my youngsters with Myler Comfort Snaffles. She abhors Dutch Gags the way I do and was able to show me how nasty they really are. Why don't the competition authorities and the Pony Club ban these bits? They pinch the tongue and when the third curb ring is used they drive the bit down into the tongue. When the pony lifts its head up to avoid the pressure then a martingale and flash noseband usually follow. Hilary doesn't work exclusively for Myler and designs bits to suit the horse and rider's needs. We watched for horses being transitioned into new bits and then gently working in them. The improvements were immediate and significant..
Blue, Nell and Pie went out onto the Forest at the weekend. I had hoped that they would stick around so that I could let them in again later and gradually leave them out for longer and longer each day. We were able to trail them for half and hour and then they simply vanished. It's a big decision for me and I just hope they get through their first few days without an incident..... after that they should be fine.
Wednesday, March 15, 2006
This week, Patty, Sheila and I and I have been working with a pony that will load into the trailer but only to travel loose. We had to persuade her that she was fine and to accept contact with the partition and the back bars. This horse had previously been a complete non-loader and had also been frightened of going in the stable or through gate ways. We broke the training down to really small steps, working on entering the trailer with the partition to one side, opening and closing the partition down, ducking under the breast bar and back again, putting up the back bar and so on. On Friday I was able to load her completely on my own. It seems that once she understood that not every movement in front of her, down her side or at her bottom was not significant, she could relax and stay where she was. She is going to new owners tomorrow so it is hoped that they will try to load her sympathetically and not take it for granted that she will load like an old hand.
Trailer travelling is a very bizarre concept to a horse. Any horse, especially one that has been wild, will know by instinct (and because it's mother told it) not to get its head or feet caught up, not to get trapped in small spaces and not to go indoors when it is windy or noisy. Who knows what my creep up and eat you?! You'll note that we don't use full length travelling boots as we find these cause more trouble than they cure; horses feel as if their legs are tied together and that they can't move and they may also get too hot. We find a travelling rug does help ponies who avoid touching the partition and walls.