Wednesday, December 26, 2007

26th December 2007 European Boxing Day

At home I am surrounded by alcohol, chocolates and grow your own Indian herbs (marjoram!!!) so it's a good job I am working over Christmas. On Christmas Eve I was asked to get a head collar on a three year old imported Dutch Warmblood filly that had said an abrupt no or the equivalent in Dutch. The touch and move away technique (advance and retreat) worked instantly and she was soon being touched with the head collar and allowing me to put it on over her neck and then doing up the noseband. I was glad that I hadn't had to start with a hand on a stick - I'm not sure I had one long enough to avoid her back legs if she been more adamant. My European week continued with the beautiful Lusitano that I've got in for fittening and re-starting. She is an all terrain follow you anyway sort of horse and happily jumps the logs and ditches out on the Forest. She's a bold horse and fascinated by everything including a dozen lively pigs that maraud my field from time to time. With two to fitten after the New Year I should get fitter too so it's bubble and squeak for breakfast today and another large dinner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

18th December, 2007 Loaded!

I'm don't know whether to laugh or cry but I got this feedback today...."I'm afraid that you did too good a job with Big Boy (Consort)!! A couple of weeks ago we were in his field with the trailer that I use for the sheep, hay etc. - 4' x 8' with 3' sides, no ramp, just a hinged flap. Without any warning Big Boy trots up the field and jumps straight in, tries to turn round, but hasn't got enough room and so bursts out of the side, just about wrecking the trailer. Having got out he turned round and would have jumped in again but we managed to stop him! He didn't have a mark on him!" And this is a pony that refused to load into a huge horsebox!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

16th December, 2007 Christmas

I thought I was over the loss of my Dad last Christmas but as we were unpacking all our c.d.'s after our house build, I discovered little slips of paper inside some of them indicating my Dad's favourite tracks which I had played at his funeral "party" including Lady D'Arbanville by Cat Stevens and Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. Floods of tears of course. I have always found Christmas tough so we are doing the works this year and the tree looks great.

Latest reviews (which I hope would have made my Dad proud):

We had Sarah come to our place when we had four youngsters, A filly off the forest from a wild mare who avoided people at all costs, so the foal was the same, a filly and a colt that just reared as soon as they had any form of contact, and one who was too cuddly and in your face, would walk right over you.( No personal space respect.I can only say it was brilliant results! So interesting to watch, all very nice to do with the youngsters, very calm and relaxed!!They haven’t looked back, even after being turned out again for a while. They all lead and load... just love the trailer! Happy now to just follow you where ever!Just yesterday, we bought some rugs, they have never had them on before, absolutely no problems, they just now trust anything we do with fear at all, it just makes everything you teach them a complete pleasure.I would definitely go for Sarah’s help with these youngsters… and let us know how you get on. Good luck..:0) Claire Kitcher xx 6.12.07

I think you should take all of the credit for putting the 'I' into my 'H'! Sheila Reed 7.12.07

Thanks so much for a wonderful session! It's good to feel confident about this technique as it's such an important part of initial training.From Anna Shepherd 7.12.07

Thanks for a great day. I think everyone enjoyed it even though the weather was horrid.
Clinic feedback from Tracey Hartland 8.12.07

Just had to let you know that I managed to long-line Obie today!!! So I wanted to say a big THANKYOU to you for getting me started and giving me the confidence I needed to support Oberon. Have a great Christmas, I think mine's come early!
E-mail from Anna Shepherd 13.12.07

I'd just like to say a really big thank you for travelling down to see us on such a bloody awful day and for the really useful report you sent.I have studied it at great length and have been practicing the exercises every day with Rufus. Albeit for short periods of time at 6 in the morning before work . When I needed him to take a step back I moved to his shoulder ,looked at his leg and he was really clever and took a step back very politely. His leading has also improved and will stop when I stop . He is also learning to keep his feet on the floor and I have been able to use the tendon technique to get him to bring his foot up . He is responding brilliantly to only coming forward when I'm asking him too and is not trying to mouth me as much and invade my space. .I'm so thrilled with what you have taught me and really hope to have a visit from you in the New Year . Hope you have a lovely Christmas ,
From Maria 15.12.07

Hello Sarah & David, A huge thank you for giving up your precious Saturday to help us with the foals, especially in such freezing weather.Rob enjoyed working with Conker and appreciated David's tuition and encouragement. It was the first time he has ever done anything with a horse before.Sarah you were brilliant and give me such a boost of confidence. It is so good to have positive feedback when I get it right. My driving instructor told me in 1979, that if I didn't remember to look into the rear view mirror each time I did something like indicating, he would punch me. Needless to say it didn't inspire me with confidence. Jane Howard `15.12.07

Friday, December 14, 2007

14th December, 2007 In which Blue rejoins her herd and Rosie goes walkabout

Well, that must be the most untraumatic weaning I've ever seen. Blue has wandered off to re-join Oliver and his band up at Longcross and her boobs have already gone down after being rather swollen yesterday. Kanuthi seems to be oblivious to her absence and is happily tucking in to hay with his Auntie Nell. Rosie on the other hand has gone missing and I have a strong suspicion that she is making her way back to her old haunt at Abbotts Well some eight miles along Hampton Ridge as the pony trudges. I have a policy of feeding any of my ponies that turn up at the gate in the hope that they would come home if they were in trouble. Rosie will probably turn up at her old house!I'm looking forward to Sunday when I have a Lusitana mare and her companion coming in for work. That will keep me occupied over Christmas then.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12th December, 2007 NFU Mutual Insurance

Business insurance is one of those subjects that is guaranteed to increase the blood pressure of most Recommended Associates. Until recently I have been insured with NFU and was happy. However, I wrote to them and asked whether they would cover me to run Handling the Wild Pony Courses. They wrote back and said that they didn't want to cover me and what's more they'd looked at my blog site and didn't really want to cover me for semi-feral, rescue or unbroken ponies either! Well, as most of the ponies I work with would tick one, two or even three of those boxes if they had opposing thumbs that didn't look like a fat lot of use to me. I pulled out my original proposal form and was able to prove categorically that they knew I was going to "break" ponies in - by definition they must arrive unbroken and they grudgingly said they would cover me for everything until the policy ran out. Needless to say I have gone elsewhere this time. The South Essex Insurance Brokers were the only company I contacted that were prepared to go through a list of the day to day things that I do and indicate that they would cover everything - all of the others just threw a bog standard policy document at me and said erm, that might do it. I can't afford to have that uncertainty. I need to know that if I am working with an Exmoor pony with a star in the middle of his face that I am just as insured as if he were a middle of the road, well mannered, well-bred and psychologically sound cob. And if I'm on the telly, or loaning my round pen panels or giving long-reining lessons with Petra, the queen of long-reining, I need to know that we've got it all covered. There's a curious thing with insurance policies which is called "Uberima Fides" which means that you have an obligation to inform your insurance company of anything that could affect your insurance policy; if you don't tell them everything, they have the right to avoid liability if something goes wrong. I do wonder how many people who are involved with horses as professionals or amateurs are properly insured for what they do. As an ex-lawyer I am very cautious - everyone is your friend until they have an accident and even then it's not them that sue you - it's their insurance company or their lawyer or their family.

12th December, 2007 Bryn Win Situation

I had a lovely trip to Horsham yesterday. Little Bryn was an Exmoor pony with a difference, he was born with a whacking great star in the middle of his forehead - not really part of the breed standard! Fortunately for him he was spotted by Diana when she was on holiday in Exmoor and she arranged to buy him before anyone could decide that he could only be sold for meat. His breeder stuck a headcollar on him and off he went. My job was to get the headcollar off again as it had been put on much too tightly and he was adamant that no-one was ever going to get near his head again. By the time I left yesterday evening, he was being cuddled all along his left hand side and down his face and was competely naked. Hoorah!I weaned my own foal today. It's not an easy or a nice job. I have put him in with his Auntie Nell for company and let Blue (and Rosie) back out onto the Forest. They can still hear and see each other. In the old days we used to take the mare as far away as possible but current thinking is that it's better to wean nutritionally and then emotionally. In an ideal world, I would have liked to have left him with Blue for longer but she is sick of him, he's growing too quickly and she's pregnant again and could lose condition rapidly. He is going over to his new owners during Christmas week where they have a filly to keep him company. In the meantime Nell is trying to be patient with him and was even sharing her hay with him when I left. I shall go and check them all again later.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

6th December, 2007 It's all coming together

I have been travelling about all over the place for the last couple of weeks. Hayling Island, Deepest Berkshire, Somerset and now Horsham. Although there is a fair coverage of RA's across the country, it does seem they all go to ground when there's an Exmoor pony! Seriously, I do like to carry on working with the fosterers when ponies leave the Exmoor Pony Centre because I do know the whole picture or at least the biggest part of it. Yesterday Butternut and Conker were turned out into their new field at Whitchurch-on-Thames having consented to having their feet picked up and being led about beforehand. Hopefully they will love this new environment which is in a beautiful valley surrounded by trees.

Footnote: Sadly within three weeks of this picture, little Butternut had an unexplained bout of Atypical Myoglobinuria Hepatology and renal failure and had to be put to sleep. This rare condition is thought to be related to ponies eating frosty grass (something you would think they would have evolved to deal with).

Monday, December 3, 2007

3rd December, 2007 Why choose an RA?

As a Recommended Associate my work is constantly reviewed by Intelligent Horsemanship Limited. I am expected to submit regular evaluation forms and to attend courses throughout the year. I am also obliged to be fully insured for every move that I make. It's only when a student attends Stage II of the Monty Robert's Preliminary Certificate in Horsemanship that their performance is objectively examined and marked. In my case I got a distinction for my work. After that I had to complete and submit case studies to prove that I could not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Since then, I have worked with over 500 horses. It worries me that there are a lot of people that have simply attended the courses and their true understanding hasn't been tested. To me it is critical that they have picked up the fiddle and put down the gun and that they see everything from the horse's point of view. Most of my work with horses is done instinctively; I seem to think like a horse. I'm not bound by any particular system and I have a innate ability to choose what works for a particular horse. Nevertheless, I am also determined to find a way to make this accessible to the owner and to give them the confidence to continue and to trust their own ability. I am utterly committed to helping both the horse and it's owner. Accordingly I am always generous with my time, often tweak my charges and then give the owner a full report not only of what we have done, but how they might take it forward. I may be £5 an hour more than an unqualified person but I give far greater value for money.