Sunday, August 31, 2008

31st August, 2008 Beautiful things come in small packages

Here Chaos demonstrates the power of a calm companion when getting a pony used to clipping. Sheila and I, sat on buckets, used systematic-desensitization and the pleasant association of food to persuade Armarni that clipping doesn't have to be a horrific experience. Just one session like this can teach us and the pony so much - for example:

1. Armarni is less emotional and therefore her adrenalin levels are lower when she is clipped outdoors. This means that you can achieve far more before she even gets slightly concerned about the clippers.
2. Gently enclosing her – just getting in the way of her movement, is much less worrying for her than completely restraining her.
3. Like all Miniature ponies, she seems to be happier when we are at eye level.
4. She responds well to a calm voice and hand. If her emotion levels go up, then ours must go down to match. We really need to work with empathy for the way that she feels.
5. She is calmed by the presence of other quiet ponies.
6. Clicker training will only be appropriate if we can teach her in the long term that head still equals click and treat. This is not achievable within one quick session
7. Distraction seems to work very well – it might be worth trying something like a Lickit so that the handler doesn’t get nibbled along with the pony nuts! Although I am not keen on “bribery” it may be that it would be fine just for when we are working on her head and will create a pleasant association with having her head clipped.
8. She seemed to prefer the big clippers to the little clippers (which may be more tickly) and it would be worth trying them first next time – she certainly isn’t bothered about the noise.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

28th August, 2008 Shiny happy person (not on Prozac)

Got last minute tickets to go and see R.E.M. last night. Absolutely brilliant of course. Only thing is, most of the audience has grey hair and the lyrics are so obscure most people have to make the words up.

Just a little tired to day (see, that's age too) but we did a lovely clinic down in Throop with a collection of horses, the littlest of which was about 40" tall and the biggest 17 hands. More miniature Shetlands tomorrow with one to get over it's phobia of clipping and then a week off....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

26th August, 2008 Good breeding

Well, Cello's father won the Best Forest Run Stallion Class at the New Forest Breed Show and Blue is in foal (hopefully) to Furzley Marinade who won the Best 2/3 Year Old Stallion Class. So good news all round. Both mares are in at the moment, Nell because she was looking a little peaky and Blue just to avoid the drifts. They'll both go out again in a couple of weeks. In the meantime Chancer is doting on the foal and happy to play all day.

Unfortunately arrangements for Cello's new home have fallen through so I shall be looking for another home for him. Preferably a permanent IH one. Now I could keep him as a stallion........

Monday, August 25, 2008

25th August, 2008 ASBO?

Little Astro, who was nicknamed Asbo by his breeders, went to his first show this morning and his behaviour was exemplary. Last week we did a de-sensitisation session and some showing practice for Astro and Rachel (thank you Tina for the showing advice). We used the school at Ladycross which is lovely!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

23rd August, 2008 Recent feedback

It was great to see Sarah work with Farley, very talented and very caring with Farley, completely put her all in to the work with him.
J.C. 2.8.08

Great Day with Sarah Weston... (thread on NFED)
August 2 2008 at 10:02 PM
Just wanted to say a huge thank you to Sarah Weston for a great training day today. Sarah came out to my place, with her lovely assistant Julia (ooh, that makes them sound like Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee ) and worked with myself, some friends and our horses - we had a great time, learnt lots, had fun, and we want her back sooooon to do more! I am so pleased with my babies who worked very hard for a yearling and 2 yr old and went back to their field much more mannerly and 'polite' - you can judge the results for yourself if I make it to the breed show with them which is the plan (depends how diligent I am at maintaining a consistent handling approach, so in my own hands )! I quickly realised (ironic that ) that my problem with Mary rushing off as I got on her was entirely due to my high energy mental attitude I rush everywhere so she is simply reacting to my 'hasty' approach - silly mummy , and Rocky (whom many of you know I've had some problems with this year as he suddenly seemed to lose confidence in the world around him) showed how brave he can be if I set him up properly by strolling confidently over the tarp and letting me twirl umbrellas in his face with total contempt.Everyone else said how helpful the day was, even cynical "I don't do NH stuff or anything that requires me to commit" Lucy, who'd given up hope of Lincs even approaching a pole on the ground - she now believes he may even yet become willing to pop a jump happily. Archie arab was happily allowing scary things to move over and above him, after just a few minutes of click/treat, when just a few days ago Julie daren't even lift her hand to the top of her head whilst riding for fear of him bolting, and Tony and Thomas just breezed through every exercise after starting the day with Tony convinced that Thomas would just plant or ignore him So thank you Sarah and Julia, and hopefully we can do some more work together soon (if we can find a pony/trap to get Rocky past that particular hang up I'll be chuffed!).
TC 2.8.08

Re: Great Day with Sarah Weston...
August 2 2008, 10:11 PM

I had a great time for the hour or two that I was there - lovely to meet everyone and I have lots of respect for Sarah, she has a lovely quiet way with her and the horses looked really trusting of her. I went away with some ideas and decided to have a bit of a play with Murphy when I got back. I fixed up a scary fluorescent yellow sheet on the ground, which at first he wouldn't go near but after walking quietly round and getting him to back up - he eventually decided it wasn't scarey at all and walked normally over it. I then did the umbrella thing, previously he's always thrown a wobbler when he sees one but by introducing it slowly in stages he accepted it totally and also walked over the sheet.
He also seemed very much more relaxed on our ride - don't know if that was anything to do with our ground work - but I had a fab ride on him.
GR 2.8.08

We had fun, learnt a lot, everything was clearly explained with no confusion or disagreement (people or horses!) and everyone that took part said they felt a lot clearer about a more effective way to handle and communicate with their horses - 5 handlers and 6 ponies came away having had a very positive experience! Sarah's manner was quiet, gentle, helpful and clear – she is a credit to the IH organization
TC 7.8.08

Hacked out yesterday with Julie on Archie and he was soooo much better about not rushing, especially when we turned for home - she randomly paused him to click/treat and occasionally just click, stroke, then move on.
TC 7.8.08

We have just got back from Pony Club camp where Frosty won the prize for the most improved pony from last year which is all down to your help. He didn’t put a foot wrong.
ML Telephone message 9.8.08

Hello Sarah,
Just a quick email to let you know of the good progress that Bailey and I have been making.
Bailey has been rather poorly recently. The vet reckons an insect bite that he has been rubbing has caused an infection which resulted in a large pocket of pus along his side. Anyway, the abscess was lanced on Friday and I have had to clean his wound twice per day, inject him with antibiotics twice per day and clean his sheath into which, for some strange reason, the infection is draining from. All rather messy and a lot of handling! Anyway, this morning I was able to attend to him and do all the medical care I needed without having to tie him up. He was loose in the bull-pen and stood like a trooper! No big deal for most people, but considering that once upon a time I couldn’t get anywhere near him, it is a huge advance! When I first made contact with you I just wanted to be able to catch him and put a head-collar on him in the field, remember? But how much more have we achieved!! It makes me feel so much more ambitious for him – perhaps we might even attempt some showing, you never know!

Bailey is a dear little soul and we are having a much more secure and trusting relationship which I have no doubt is down to your intervention.
Thank you Sarah.
GG 10.8.08

Thanks so much for today! As usual, everytime I see you, you boost my confidence with Bailey and I really do understand how important it is to be clear and consistant with him. My space is MY SPACE now and I will try and keep it that way. I will keep up the fly spray work and let you know how we get on. I was so pleased to do the long-lining on the lanes with him, and really pleased how confident he was. I've got lots to work on now and know where to come for a 'reminder' if I get a crisis of confidence!
NB 11.8.08

What a lovely report too, charming, sensitive but also important details of how you need to toughen up!
Comment on my report to NB on the Richard Maxwell site: 13.8.08 Mogwai

Just to inform you of another successful show that Joe and I competed in at the weekend. Joe was amazing and we walked away with the novice youth hi point champion award for the whole of the west coast circuit which was a fantastic achievement. It seems that as soon as Joe gets into the show pen he just knows what to do and he behaves perfectly.
TB 14.8.08

Keep meaning to email you, we took Molly to her 1st show earlier this month, she loaded like a dream both there and to come home. She was such a good girl I could not have asked another inch from her.
LN 19.8.08

I was beginning to feel negative about riding my horse out but in two sessions Sarah had me feeling very positive by showing me how to deal with problems when they arose. She taught me how to breath, relax and be more confident which made m horse relax and begin to believe that she had a herd leader. Sarah talked of all the options for the future which was great. In a couple of sessions I learnt so much. I asked Sarah lots of questions and got lots of answers. Sarah’s relaxed mind attitude instantly put my horse at her ease. Out on the Common when problems arose Sarah stayed calm and taught me to stay calm and deal with the behaviour. The written report was very helpful and very detailed.
OK 23.8.08

23rd August, 2008 National Park Authority


The National Park Authority have recently and quietly released a consultation paper on their plans for the future of the New Forest National Park. Hidden away towards the end are a set of proposals which will have a massive impact on anyone who keeps recreational horses or has bought or rents out land for recreational horses. Fortunately horse owners on the Forest have been alerted to the threat. Last night I went to a meeting arranged in four days flat by stalwarts of the New Forest Equine Directory and the meeting was attended by 200 people including representatives of the New Forest Equestrian Association. Anyone who keeps horses on land within the National Park needs to go and have a look at

In brief:

1.One Equine (regardless of size) will require one hectare of land (2.5 acres) for EACH equine.
2.Supplementry feeding (including hay) of equines will consitute a "change of use" if kept on traditional agricultural grazing land and will require planning consent-which is unlikely to be granted!!
3.Regularly Rugging of your horse in the winter will consitiute a "change of use" to recreational horses keeping.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

21st August, 2008 I come to praise Caesar

This afternoon I went out riding with Kelly and got to ride Caesar, the four year old coloured cob that stole the limelight from Pie at the May Masterclasses. He was a star today as we spent quite a lot of time being photographed for Kelly's article about hacking for Your Horse. Honestly, it took longer than the average wedding album! We ended up mucking about trying to create a Pushmepullyou effect.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

19th August, 2008 Keep smiling

Tonight I attended a talk by Tony Rose, Equine Dental Technician. We are blessed in this area to have so many equine specialists with really good reputations. Tony described the sort of problems that you can get with a horse's teeth and the type of work that can normally be carried out without sedation. It was good to hear that he takes an interest not only in the horse's structure, age and condition, but also the purpose for which the horse is used and the bit that it normally wears. My own vet, Chris Pearce is a dental specialist and trains horse dentists so I shall be sticking with him but Tony's talk was really informative and definitely worth listening to. A plug here also for the Wessex Classical Riding Group that always has such interesting talks.

Monday, August 18, 2008

18th August, 2008 Pony swingers

I have caused a major furore on the New Forest Equine Directory for daring to suggest that tying an untouched foal to something solid (swinging) in order to teach it to "respect" the halter is not acceptable. Amidst strong support, there are still those that insist that this so-called traditional method works and that there is nothing wrong with it. This isn't an argument between Commoners and non-Commoners although this practice tends only to be used by some of the people who breed semi-feral ponies on the New Forest, Dartmoor, Exmoor, the Welsh Hills and the Cumbrian Fells. People who breed much bigger and probably more valuable foals that may be equally as unhandled do not resort to this and many prefer a figure of eight rope or even fabric around the foal's hindquarters rather than putting any pressure on the poll at all. This first encounter with the pressure of a halter and rope inevitably causes the foal to go "into-pressure" and to pull back as if it's life depended on it - there is no reason for it to think that it's life doesn't and they will go far beyond any pain that they feel.

This practise is illogical because it certainly doesn't teach a foal to like being touched, to accept humans or to be caught, and in my view it is unnecessary and harmful to the short and long term mental and physical well being of the pony. The majority of horse owners would be astounded to find out this still goes on and I doubt that many buyers at the Beaulieu Road Sales are aware that this is how their pony could have been treated. Halter broken does not mean halter trained or happy to have a halter anywhere near it.

I asked Kate Boe, Corley-McTimoney Chiropractor what she thought of it:

Hi Sarah

EEK! I can't believe people really do that!!

If, or should I say when, the foal panics it will pull back, all of the pressure from the narrow halter will be felt across the sensitive structures over and around the horse's poll. As well as bruising to the superficial layers, there will be muscle damage, bruising and associated inflammation, which in turn will cause pressure on the nerves, resulting in what must be a very severe headache with associated heightening of light and sound, any migraine sufferers will empathise with this, it is not a pleasent feeling! Under the muscle at this point is the joint connecting the skull to the first vertebrae through which the spinal cord runs and nerves run from. Pressure, especially pressures from pulling back can cause a misalignment of this important joint, often referred as the poll being "out." This misalignment of the poll, or atlas vertebrae, causes the nerves to be impinged causing pain and inflammation, leading to behavioural responses such becoming headshy, nervousness, trouble catching, nervous when tacking up, high head carriage, to name a few. It is important to remember horses can not verbalise their pain, so the only way they can let you know they are uncomfortable is with such behaviours.

Also, add to all this that the horse in question is a foal, the structural disturbances described above would effect the growth and development of healthy tissue as the very young horse continues to grow. Any physical disruption to young growing tissue could have a negative effect on the horse physically, not just from performance and gait but may cause chronic discomfort. All this is just a physical view point, I can't even begin to imagine the mental impact upon the young foal who has limited contact with humans.

I hope this helps, I hope I have come across professionally and calm, because inside I'm raging!!
I don't mind if you use my name,

Kate Boe

Thursday, August 14, 2008

14th August, 2008 Beaulieu Road Sales

I ventured down to the Beaulieu Road Sales this morning to disseminate some of my leaflets on Handling the Wild Pony Courses. There are very few foals at this early stage; the drifts don't get going until later in August. Instead there are odd yearlings and older ponies and the odd tired looking mare, thoroughbred or donkey and you wonder what they've done to get there. One throughbreddy horse had really bad feet with massive cracks and you couldn't help wonder about his fate. I know that Commoning is meant to be a business but I think I'd want my old brood mares put down at home when they'd done me the honour of producing a foal every two years rather than putting them through this and then off to the meat man. I'm bemused at anyone seeing the sales as a nice day out - it's heartbreaking. I also believe that it is stressful for the ponies. Once again, not a bucket of water to be seen and just the odd haynet here and there for halter-broken ponies that are tied directly to the fence. Ponies that don't know each other are put in together and there are frequent kicking matches particularly when pens are overcrowded. The RSPCA were very much in evidence, in fact I had a good chat to them, but there is very little they can do.

I defy anyone who has been to a Parelli demo not to have tried riding their horse without reins. I rode Petra freestyle with a saddle this morning and we had great fun. The clicker trained stop with the seat is really useful when you've got nothing attached to the horse's head. Petra turns with my body so there was no need for a carrot stick either.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

11th, August, 2008 Clinics

The day long clinics are proving to be great fun. We can work with from three to six horses (once seven!) with group and one to one slots throughout the day. They're pretty informal so for example yesterday we covered groundwork and de-sensitisation techniques and also had time to take Bailey for his first long-line out on the lanes; for safety reasons we use dual controls at first. Even lunchtime is full of horse-talk! When I get home I usually need to lie down in a darkened room for a while because I'm shattered.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

10.8.08 Parelli Celebration

For me, attending the Parelli Demonstration is a bit like sitting at the Liverpool end wearing a Manchester United shirt. It would be churlish not to acknowledge that there was some beautiful work - especially when the Level 2 and 3 Instructors were working with their own horses at liberty and ridden. Pat's demonstration with the spooky horse took that horse futher than anyone could have expected. He used very accurate and consistent body language albeit with the carrot stick as an extended arm. Too often I have seen Parelli technique become just a series of cues that in themselves mean nothing to the horse and the horse totally switiching off inbetween. These days Parelli comes with it's own health warning with Pat Parelli urging students not to to turn the 7 Games into the 7 tortures by endless repetition. There were no examples of the excesses of Parelli where ropes are flicked and swung into horses' faces - as in even recently issued Parelli DVD's.

The American evangelical-religious outpouring - relentless marketing approach is really off putting. I'm not comfortable with anything that feels like brainwashing. Linda's session on Finesse, coaching a rider on Rema, was much more inspirational and it was fantastic to see a horse performing dressage moves without fighting the rider. In comparison with the first day when Rema looked heartily sick of all the Parelli games, he looked really happy and in absolute harmony with his rider.

There's very little teaching in these demonstrations so anyone wanting to take it up is obliged to buy all the knowledge and the kit and to attend the courses. This costs a large fortune. The danger in what Parelli says is an all or nothing system, is that anyone who stops half way or picks and chooses what they use, could end up seriously confusing their horse. Timing, technique and consistency are critical and wishy washy Parelli is as bad (or worse) than wishy-washy anything else.

Friday, August 8, 2008

8th August, 2008 No Limits?

During my lesson on Petra yesterday (which was more like, look what my lovely horse does for me now!), we were discussing what works and what doesn't. Amanda feels that a horse needs to know that there are no limits, so it needs to know that you are sure and resolute about what you are doing and that you will keep going and do what it takes to get the message across and the work done. This doesn't mean that she immediately goes from 0 to 60 in terms of pressure; indeed she has a great many excellent strategies for developing softness in the horse and empasises that we need to make sure that we are offering softness ourselves. I have always felt that it was important that horses did know there was a limit, so that the horses we work with would know that they would never be hit. It's a promise I say out loud to the most damaged ones "you're fine, we don't do hitting here". Perhaps you can say both providing you have enough options available to you to make sure you never have to go there except in an absolute emergency.

8th August, 2008 Analogy 2: Legal and General

On a recent IHDG post I was trying to explain why I was uncomfortable about someone saying that their horse that they were having problems with was just being a bloody mare and was a tart. It seemed to me that they were seeing her as an adversary rather than as a partner or team mate. It made me think about my old job in the courts where criminal cases were decided on an adversarial basis, i.e. the two parties would fight it out and the judge would decide who had won. In domestic and care cases concerning children, the emphasis is on truth and the proceedings are inquisitorial, i.e. aimed at getting together as much information as possible to decide what was in the best interests of the child. In law, the best interests of the child are paramount. What if we worked with (and not against) our horses in the same way? It would still be our decision as to what was in the best interests of "the child" although some weight is always given to what the child wants taking into account that a child may be biased by which parent is likely to be the most generous and easy going but everyone involved would be working as a team to get the best outcome for that child. In an adversarial system, there tend to be outright winners and losers and they are rarely able to be friends again afterwards.

8th August, 2008 Analogy One: SPD for boys (or girls who know about electricity)

Having Sensory Perception Dysfunction is like your sense are wired up to the mains. There is one circuit for each sense: olefactory, auditory, visual, tactile and taste and they are wired up in series so that if one fuses, the others may become overloaded. There are two main problems: sudden power surges and the manufacturer's plug which was fitted with a 13A fuse. When the fuse goes in one circuit, your family and friends may be left in the dark and have to potter around with a short candle trying to work out what's gone wrong - because the other circuits are still live, there is a danger of electrocution. Simply replacing the fuse like for like may not work because continual overload may damage the wiring so that it becomes stiff and brittle, compromising functionality and with an increased risk of a catastrophic fire in the future. The problem in my case goes back to 1963 when there was a blip in the quality control system (I was born premature and didn't see my Mum for three weeks [long story])but modern technology means that I can self-diagnose and alert users to the particular problem so that it can be avoided. We are now looking at transformers to bring the voltage down and fitting me with a 3A fuse instead.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

6th August, 2008 Flat Out

Having been flat out for most of last week, Julie and I finished off with a clinic at Beaulieu working with seven lovely horses. Some of the horses had been Parelli trained so it was interesting to be able to debate and compare the use of cues versus direct body language. The organiser (who really deserves that title because she had everything we needed and a supply of good food too) is as keen as I am to explore different types of horsemanship to get the results she likes with her horses. We discussed the need to have a central backbone to everything you use upon which to hang the key things that matter to you: e.g. use of body language, pressure and release, constency and breathing. In the end you have to have your own book of horsemanship. I was then flat out on Sunday too, watching the Hungarian Grand Prix - you know, Louis Hamilton and I have a lot in common, when I went to fetch my take-away in the evening I had a flat tyre. Sadly, my pit crew consist of just David and a car jack so it was somewhat more than 8.5 seconds before we could go again.

This week is turning into foal week. Bryn's owners came down to see me on Monday and we went to find Cello on the Forest. Yesterday I was working with a foal that has taken to divebombing the farrier and double-barelling him too - he's not even asking to do her feet, she just doesn't like it when her mother is otherwise occupied. Today I am going with my other man, Fraser, who is taking me to see his Andulucian yearling and new colt. Tomorrow I am off to teach a six week old New Forest foal with very posh breeding how to lead. Richard Maxwell's book: Train Your Young Horse, has some really good stuff on teaching baby horses and has evolved out of his earlier book "From Birth to Backing". At the weekend I'm off to a Pat and Linda Parelli event although I can't promise to stay if they start hitting horses in the face with ropes.