Saturday, June 30, 2007

30th June, 2007 Mystery Man

At last, some pictures of Andy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

29th June, 2007 Bits of News

Sometimes I work with a horse and never find out what happened next. Last year I went to see a big black Hackney type horse that really was pushing his owner to the limits, running her over, rearing out on the road and being really quite dangerous. I did some groundwork with him but then advised that I thought he should go to Ian Vandenburghe because he really was beyond me. Off he went to Ian's and he came back six weeks later with some hope but his progress would be completely dependent on the ability of his owner to carry things on. I bumped into her this morning and by gum she has become feisty. Without being violent, she answers every question her horse asks and slowly but surely he is accepting that she is the leader and that he can rely on her. She took him to a local show and picked up a handful of rosettes. I also worked with a lady at Sixpenny Handley who seemed very keen on all the IH mularkey. I didn't hear a word from her for two months and then got the following e-mail: "Lunar was remarkable after your visit, too good really, after showing her to a friend who was visiting, she was bought on the spot....." That's not really the way to get repeat custom but it solved a dilemma for her owner.

Four years ago I bought a foal off the Forest and named him Vigo. I sold him to a friend who said that she would keep him for life but her circumstances changed and she sold him on again without telling me. I haven't seen the pony or the friend since but then the pony can't use a telephone or e-mail. Last Thursday a lady telephoned me to ask whether I knew anything about a pony she had bought called Vigo. I went to see him last Friday and he is well and happy. Hos new owner has spent the day with me today whle I've been working with various horses and I think we will be friends too!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

28th June, 2007 Join-Up

I always think very carefully before I do a full Join-Up with a horse. Often I can achieve the same results by simply moving the horse around and very often the facilities are just not available or secure enough at a customer's yard. I think it's healthy that there are many views even within the narrower equestrian field of so-called natural horsemanship and I keep an open mind about all techniques. One of my favourite quotes is that a closed mind is like a closed parachute, not much use to anyone! Join-Up had a miraculous effect on Petra all those years ago and changed the course of my entire life. Like many IH students, I would Join-Up with everything while I was training (in fact I think that's how I persuaded David to marry me). I am very grateful to Kelly for giving me permission to publish her most recent advice re: Join-Up


Why might we want to do a Join Up with a horse?
Because doing Join Up can help create a bond of trust and respect with your horse by communicating in a way that the horse understands. It can encourage the horse to want to be close to you and see you as his SAFETY ZONE. (Think this through carefully if you have a horse you don’t want to get too close to you).
How does it work?
In the wild, the only way one horse can show ‘leadership’ over another is to move the other horse around. In the herd you have the lead mare who leads from the front and so we can use leading exercises to achieve the movement we desire. There is also the stallion who drives from behind and this is why we also find long lining a really useful tool. Join Up is a way for us to move the horse while he is loose and this gives us a really useful way of assessing and learning more about him and might help us decide the best approach to take as well as making that initial connection that can be so helpful. Join Up can alter a horse’s attitude because by you controlling his actions he looks at you in a new light. By ‘speaking in his language’ it opens up to him the possibility that humans may be showing signs of intelligence and it could be worth listening to them!
Remember if we want a horse to feel fully comfortable with us we need to be in an emotionally ‘good’ place as well. If nothing else make sure you breathing is deep and comfortable and your movements are relaxed when you are with the horse.

Who is it good for?
It can be useful and appropriate with a young horse ready to be started, a horse that has ‘problems with people’; particularly if he is sceptical or has any trust issues. It can be useful to start or cement or assess the relationship the horse has with humans. It should be pointed out here that to the horse Join Up is generalised to all humans, so for instance he won’t only now respond to the person who has just done Join Up with him. Of course, if someone comes in with bad body language and bad intention the horse is not going to respond to them. It is extremely good for THE PERSON to learn how to do Join up as it can improve their body language and the way they can relate to horses immeasurably and start a whole new understanding of horses. The lessons you learn through Join Up will stand you in good stead with all your other work with horses (providing of course you use and remember them!)
Being Realistic
Be aware what Join Up does NOT do! It does not mean the horse is now hypnotised and will do everything you say. It does not mean the horse will not be frightened of things any more (although if it goes well he should certainly be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and as said before see the human as his safety zone). If the horse is bucking because he in pain from the saddle or it’s ‘what he’s always done’ it’s not going to be miraculously cured without a great deal of additional work.
How Often?
Generally a horse doesn’t ‘need’ more than 3 or 4 Join Up’s, and you can over do it. If you haven’t made the connection you would like with the horse in that time it’s very unlikely it’s going to improve by just repeating the process over and over again. It is not something that is achieved by ‘drilling’ a horse. If a Join Up doesn’t seem to be going to plan do not send the horse away for longer than 5 minutes. The way we do Join Up is never about tiring the horse out or ‘forcing him to submit to your will’. If it’s not working within 5 minutes find a comfortable way to finish the session and take time off to re-think the situation.
Assess the horse with each session. The average horse (particularly the younger he is) will, in fact, go away less freely after just a couple of Join Ups and will be asking to come in at quite an early stage which is perfectly reasonable and normal. If a horse runs around very fast this is not appropriate behaviour and usually indicates he’s been frightened from behind at some point. A horse running blindly round the pen is NOT in the process of Join Up! Working on long lines (if possible) with lots of changes of direction may be better for that horse at that point. You and he may be better with halter work and desensitising training.
When it might be best to NOT do Join Up
Some horses are less suitable for Join Up than others
1. Bottle reared/hand reared/over handled foal
2. Aggressive horse
3. Untouched horse
If you have not worked with colts and stallions before – don’t start off doing your Join Up’s with them! They will be much better at body language than you!
It is not compulsory! i.e. you need to make an individual assessment with each horse as to whether or not it is the right thing to do with that horse at that particular time. The point is not the Join Up the point is achieving the relationship with the horse.
Signs that you might look for are:- the inside ear pointing towards you and the horse making the circle smaller to come towards you (particularly as you take the pressure off) another gesture we are looking from the horse is a lowering of the head, as this is, amongst other interpretations, a sign of trust, we must realise it is something that cannot be forced – again it is more likely to come about through a release of pressure. The licking and chewing from the horse can have several interpretations, look out for it but not every horse does it readily (particularly after the first join up) and often a horse will do the sign as you take the pressure off and invite them into you.
If Join Up is not suitable for a horse there is halter work you can do to achieve ‘follow up’.
We are only teaching the basics of Join Up on this course. There are more subtleties to be learned. i.e. when is it right not to send the horse away but just to use advance and retreat? What might you do with an over pair bonded horse? Or a horse that is very overstressed or anxious? When might you use changing direction several times in succession? What do you do with a horse who is over lunged and doesn’t look at you?

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

27th June, 2007 My Name is Luker

I am so pleased to have found a really good, quiet, kind new man..... to get on the starters and remedial horses at the yard. Andy (Diggy) Luker is light and agile and much much braver than me. Yesterday he sat on Charlie the starter for the first time and Charlie made no objection whatsoever. Andy has ridden all his life and comes from generations of Commoners for whom riding is a way of life. I hope to provide a picture later.Last night I was fretting because I now have six horses in my fields - five assorted geldings and Petra P. Three bigs ones, three small ones. Two shod, four unshod. Three with catching problems and three without. Four cuddly shall we say and two that could eat for a while before there's a problem. One, dominates smaller ponies but is small himself. He also needs to get fit. This morning all my problems have gone - all six are in together - the fat ones are having to share their grass, the shod ones are not kicking, the dominant one is being dominated himself and that is keeping him fit. The wild ones have palled up with the friendliest ones and all is well with the world.For a while now I have had my fields shaped like three fitting jigsaw pieces. There's a sort of sticky out bit which leads on to the round pen. As a result, ponies come through the gate into an open but contained area where they can be worked next to their friends. This seems to settle them all with an interested queue forming in the ante-pen and at the field gate. This morning Charlie was eager to get back to work and was long reined. He was followed by Willy the wild pony who came in completely voluntarily. Jester the new boy came next having watched everything before and I took him out for a confidence walk on the Forest returning to ride Petra in her new bit and then to long rein Arnie. Piper put his head round the gate at one stage but unfortunately I hadn't got time to do any work with him today. He excelled himself yesterday when he volunteered to be first to be caught when he and Willy were both in the round pen.

Monday, June 25, 2007

25th June, 2007 Bahrainian Flu

Somewhat inevitably I now have Bahrainian flu, a strain of man cold that David brought home from his latest trip abroad and gave me instead of a bottle of perfume from the Duty Free. I don't suppose it helped that I sat in the rain with Perry Wood all afternoon yesterday or that we were starting horses in the rain in the morning. Ah well, poo-picking in a deluge of rain (and snot) today followed by Lemsip and an early night.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

23rd June, 2007 Wet knickers!

Just come home from the Perry Wood clinic on a total high. Petra has improved immeasurably since last year. It was chucking it down throughout our lesson but I was oblivious to it until I got off. I suppose I could say that Perry Wood gave me wet knickers! In the meantime, David went for a float on Maurice's boat and ended up involved in a rescue drama. It's back to Perry tomorrow but not until we have sat on the two new boys, Charlie and Arnie. These two big cobs are so similar and yet so different. Charlie is a black Friesian cross Fell and Arnie is a Dun Welsh cob. Arnie looks like a carbon copy of Charlie but dunked in meal.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

21st June, 2007 RA Days

This year I have had the pleasurable company of several IH students and followers (no, it isn't a cult) who have come down to spend the day shadowing my work. Some of them have come back the following day. Special mention should be given to Fiona Gummerson who brought M and S food with her, Suz Collett who really should have been concentrating on her wedding plans and Lisa Tucker who I felt like I'd known for ever. It's great working alongside like minded people who then keep in touch to find out the outcome for the owners and horses. I shall certainly offer this invitation again because I've got as much out of it as the people who came down. Anyway, this is what Lisa had to say:
I wanted to drop you a quick note to say thank you very much for the weekend. I had a brilliant time and really enjoyed myself, you were fantastic company and I learned loads (even if I couldn't remember it all when you asked me)!!!

I was really struck by just how beautiful the area is, I can't believe you walk out of your front door and have such amazing wildlife combined with those gorgeous ponies and their babies on your doorstep. It really was a very inspirational weekend, helps one get things into perspective and appreciate what is really important in life (having got back to the mad house of the office on Monday I appreciate this even more now).

All of the clients and their ponies/horses were lovely, it was a pleasure to meet them and I hope that everything works out - I am sure it will. I would be really interested to here how Arnie and Joanne do and also the lovely Puck!

Working with Piper and Puck was great, I really appreciate you letting me have a play with them it was great experience and I loved every second of it.

My mind went completely blank when you asked me what I had learnt during the weekend, I was tired and slightly overwhelmed by everything to be honest. But I wanted to let you know what the key things were that I took away with me:-

Bits - hearing you explain about the bits really opened my eyes (swallowing/pinching/nutcracker action), I had no idea how the gag bit worked previously or that is gave confusing messages in terms of poll pressure down 'v' palette pressure up. I am really looking forward to the biting clinic at the Margaret Green Foundation Day and hope to learn more - I'm seriously looking at Mylers for my lot, just need to look into best type of myler for them.

Clicker Training - didn't know anything about it before hand and was always worried that it might promote biting but can see that in certain cases its a good tool to use and definitely works for Piper who is fab. Also now understand the process better in terms of timing of click/treat and that treats should only be offered after the click.

Life on the Forest - I always assumed that New Forest ponies were wild and not handled in anyway until rounding up for sales etc. Hearing about the experiences they have in relation to learning to tie up, branding, weaning, sales ring etc. helped me understand more clearly the background of my two and how their experiences might effect them in future training/physical issues which may arise (in particular Victors sensitivity around his head which I'm going to look into). The information on the way of life on the Forest and the Commoners/Verderers/Agisters etc. was fascinating and something I plan to learn more about.

Seducing the Horse - I loved this expression, made me think differently about how I stroke/rub and touch the horse. Put some meaning into it and saying good boy/clever boy and making sure don't do this to effusively or they will back away from this.

Teaching to Lead - The supporting from behind technique to get the forward motion without constanding pulling the head, going in a straight line to teach leading rather then the side to side motion all the time as this is confusing - pony needs to feel like we are going somewhere.

Trailer Loading - Liked the way owner did it themselves multiple times with Mum getting involved as well so they both had certain roles and were clear of what they needed to do. Buliding up to full partitions/ramps up/fake journey and also giving thoughts on best way to proceed with follow up journeys, coming off the trailer as a practice and doing this somewhere you can help out if there are any problems. Also thought way you broached the subject of safe/smooth driving was great. The fake journey and stopping when horse showed relaxation made perfect sense in terms of desensitisation but not something that had ever occured to me before, also the 20 min adrenalin period when body can't continue to pump adrenalin after this 20 mins and how important this is to sensitisation/de-sensitisation.

Subtlety and Gentleness - Thoughout the weekend your empathy and just how gentle and subtle you were with each horse was something I plan to strive towards.

Foal Interaction - The slight touch/sniff (letting them touch your hand) and move away you were doing with the foals to get that first touch in using pressure and release. Also, way you used this with Arnie/Charlie in the field

Once again, thank you so much I would love to come back again if you will let me!

Hope the meal went well on Sunday night,

Best Wishes


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

20th June, 2007 Warm blood

On Monday I went out to see a Warmblood horse on the Isle of Wight. These horses are real conundrum to me - full of talent, energy and intelligence and yet they can be quite passive until they go bang. In this horse's case he was happy to repeat something a few times and then he'd just say "enough!". But then he is only 3 and at that critical point where you don't want to do too much with young bones but he is desperate for a job. I can quite see why Warmbloods on the Continent get started so early and are worked so intensively. So often this means that they don't go out for walks or just have fun hacking and I am contacted regularly by people whose horses just can't cope with going outside their comfort zone; it's a shame if they have to live their lives being contained mentally and physically. There is a lot of pressure to succeed on this kind of horse (and it is only a kind rather than a specific breed) because they are considered to be a posh performance horse. I have found treating them like a New Forest pony works quite well. I have to say I'd rather have a smaller horse if it means that I don't have to cope with an unexploded bomb towering over me and I certainly wouldn't want to go out on busy roads with one.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

16th and 17th June, 2007 Happy Days

What wonderful days......Started at 10 a.m. with a New Forest pony that may come in for re-starting and the onto another horse 1/2 mile away that has been rearing when mounted and may come in for training and then onto Dorset Charity show where I saw lots of people I know and have worked with and loaded a horse a lady was having trouble with and then took Horace in the riding for the disabled class with Christian on board and he came fourth and then went to the yard and talked to Blue, Kanuthi and Nell and then Charlie, a starter came in followed by one of the horses from this morning all accompanied by Lisa who had come down for an RA Day and certainly got one. Curry and flop. Get up and check all the horses before going to New Park to the NPS show to see a non-loader that now loads in it's second show and then off to Puck, the wild pony who is now leading and then to teach another horse to load before going off to meet Arabheaven, Lucitania, Cubik, Womble, Hannah, Fee and Hannah from the IHDG group at the Indian! Curry, drive home and flop!

Friday, June 15, 2007

15th June, 2007 Oliver

Oliver is an unsung hero on the Forest. This pony has accompanied Blue for the last year and been steadfast and true. Apparently he used to be a riding pony but he has been out on the Forest for many years. I thought he deserved some credit....

Thursday, June 14, 2007

14th June 2007 Hayne's Manual

Horses, horses, horses. Amazing creatures. Dear Blue is out on the Forest without a Haynes manual and yet she knows how to look after Kanuthi. I am still not allowed near him because he is far too precious to her. Nellie-noo however let's me get on her without a saddle and bridle (or hat, sorry Kelly) and just thinks she is being cuddled from above. Willy the wild-pony has decided that people are okay and allowed six of us watch him being massaged yesterday. Dani, the condemned wild pony from last month thinks that clicker training is cool and let's his best friend Wendy touch him all over. Linda the accountant discovered that she has being using different accounting conventions from her Haflinger this morning and once we got them on the same software they gelled immediately. And then there's the little polo pony I went to see this afternoon. If only she could do the polo without the polo contraptions.....she loves the game but can't cope with the pressure on her poll.....she's daring us to trust her enough to take the gadgets away.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

12th June, 2007 Drifting

I took Petra drifting this afternoon when I bumped into Andrew and Peter, the Agisters. They were after the Shetland ponies that live near Janesmoor at Fritham. Petra was almost overwhelmed with the fun of it and I didn't dare let her go flat out. However as an introduction it was great and I can quite understand why people get such pleasure from joining in. I was probably neither use nor ornament but I didn't get shouted at and I didn't get sent home so we can't have done anything wrong. I doubt that the driven ponies would agree that it was so much fun - today was very low key and the ponies were simply seperated out so that some could be taken home to breed again. The little spotty foal was taken off with his Mum. Pie was caught up in the melee but released again this evening. I don't suppose I will ever be accepted by the true commoners - they see me as an outsider and someone who doesn't pull their weight. They also catch me doing weird things with horses, feather dusters and umbrellas and think I'm far too soft. Nevertheless there are some Commoners that are interested in what I do and happy to promote me when they think I can be useful to someone. Andy and Katie who own Duke are particularly supportive. Andy is going to be my rider when new starters come in. He is light and quiet and has a natural balance through years of drifting.

12th June, 2007 Horseworld

I had a very interesting visit to Horseworld, Bristol. Imagine having over 100 horses to work with, all with different physical and psychological issues. The Centre loans out a lot of horses and it was good to see the horses being worked and prepared for re-homing. It's an equine practitioner's dream - the Equine Touch team were there, a dental technician and a vet, equine college students and me all putting time in with these horses. Although the place is busy there is no shouting and the horses live out most of the time. They have post and rail fences, smaller paddocks for the fatties, a horse-walker, round pen and outdoor school. It was great to see Megan Turner who is taking her Stage II in November (no pressure there then) and Sasha Holden who did her MRCPH at the same time as me. It amuses me to see which horse names appear most commonly as "problem" horses - never call a horse Monty! (Or Molly, Olly or Holly or Fred, Freddie or Frank).

Sunday, June 10, 2007

10th June, 2007 Long Distance Ride

Petra and I did our first Long Distance Ride at Rockbourne yesterday. We did 26 kms in about 3 hours. The going was pretty stony in places and I was anxious not to bruise Petra's soles. What struck me is how relentless the pace has to be in order to do the time and how much pressure this puts you under to compromise the horse's welfare - in this case just for the sake of a green rosette. This sort of debate (and many more) regularly feature of the IHDG on the Intelligent Horsemanship site.

Friday, June 8, 2007

8th June, 2007 Pie-d, Piper

Having held the front page for Kanuthi (pronounced Canooti) yesterday, the others felt I should give you an update on them. Pie turned up at the field with 20 small friends and I promptly whisked him away to have a jolly good bath and a haircut. The poor lad has started to look like a New Age pony so he had two shampoos and a conditioner before being wrapped up in Petra's cooler which went twice round. I also exterminated 100 crab flies that had settled in his nether regions and covered them (the regions) in Neem lotion. Properly wormed and well fed, he went back out on the Forest and was so sparkly at first that they didn't recognize him.

Piper is also a great Neem lotion fan and has been persuaded that humans may have their uses after all. He lets me rub the insides of his ears providing I go with the nap of the hair and don't let the debris drop inside.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

7th June, 2007 Kanuthi

I can't go to bed tonight without showing you what arrived in the post for me this morning. Having traipsed across Longcross and Howen Bottom, I found Blue with her new foal, Kanuthi. Isn't he beautiful?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

6th June, 2007 Miscellaneous

This time last year I had spent the day in casualty with a suspected fractured pelvis and I wondered whether I really wanted to carry on. The Doctor just laughed and said "Well if you will go riding on 666 it's your own fault!" One year on and I'm having a brilliant time. This morning I set of to work with Jacqui and Horace and drove past the Mouland Clydesdales who were all being bathed in the yard. I stopped and asked if it was okay to take their picture.....

After that, we took Horace and Jasper out for their first trip in a trailer. Jacqui had prepared really well - checked the tyres, oiled all the joints, full haynets, carrots, spare headcollars, map, emergency telephone numbers. I half expected to find a whistle and some flares. The ponies loaded first time, we took them down to Mockbeggar where we unloaded them and took them out on the Forest and then we loaded them again and brought them home. Perfect.And finally I drive over the Forest to work with my own horses and found Cinder's foal out on the Forest practising her ballet. Still no sign of my own foal though.

Monday, June 4, 2007

4th June, 2007 Latest Reviews

Freddie is Freddie! He neeeeeeds you! D'you know the stuff you teach him he never forgets. He is a dream with his feet and he never swings round when brushing his sides now.
LRB May 2007
Thanks for a really good long reining session today. What a lovely horse, Petra was so good with me and I enjoyed riding her.
EB 11.5.07
Morgan is doing very well with me now. I am very confident with her, around the stable and riding too.
YR 11.5.07
Kennedy was on his best behaviour - the vet actually commented and congratulated me on how far Kennedy had come
Sharon Yale 19.5.07
Anyway had to tell you how good Crackerjack was yesterday, 1st time we have done anything since your visit last Thursday. We got him into the pound and Andy soon had the headcollar on then walked him up to the top field. A big thank you for your help and guidance as we would not be anywhere near doing what we are without it xx
From KL 18.5.07
Dear Sarah,A very big thank you for spending the afternoon with L-horse, it was as if you were inside my head, doing the things that I wanted her to learn without being told, a very humbling experience.... if only every horse owner bringing a youngster in to this world had the foresight to spend just one day at one of your demonstrations.
From VB 23.5.07
We had a fabulous day and learnt lots, thanks for taking the time to organise it. The setting was absolutely perfect - you are very lucky, I can't believe how quickly all the horses settled. I am now looking forward to settling T-horse into his new bit and binning his flash!!!
From Jo Sawford following the bitting clinic 4.6.07
Thank you so much for inviting me yesterday it was for me a perfect day good organisation, good company, and venue and nice clients.
From Hilary Vernon 4.6.07

4th June, 2007 Hilary Vernon Bitting Clinic

What an excellent day. Hilary was in fine form - vast quantities of important information about bits and horse's mouths. Seven horses took part in the clinic. It was like Great Britain -v - the World as the horses in the morning were local new Forest ponies and in the afternoon we had an Irish Sports horse, a Criolla and a Lusitana all of which had been imported. Fascinating horses.

4th June, 2007 Not fair, not fair

It seems that all the mares on the Forest have got their foals and I want one too. I saw Blue today and there is no doubt that she has now got milk. Any day now then....In the meantime, here is the most unusual baby I have seen on the Forest so far...

Saturday, June 2, 2007

2nd June, 2007 Bye-bye Rushy

Dear Rushy has gone to his new home in Northamptonshire today where he will be cared for by a delightful little girl called Maizie. Although I was sad to see him go, I think he will love having interesting things to do and will enjoy going to pony parties. As he left, the first of the horses for tomorrow's bitting clinic arrived so his field wasn't empty for long. I went out to see Kennedy's owner yesterday. It's great to see her feeling so confident around him and her other ponies - it's easy to feel disheartened when one of your ponies seemingly rejects you. Kennedy was absolutely fine and I am just using this as an excuse to put up a picture of Sharon's other beautiful pony, Roly.