Sunday, November 30, 2008

30th November, 2008 Beware of strangers

Towards the end of this week, I went back to do some further work with Rowan, the most shy of the three foals that we handled at the course. Magnum and Dunnock came round so easily in comparison it's hard to know whether it is nature or nurture that determines how readily they can be trained. This time I worked with Rowan using a ribbon which can be draped over his back and neck before gently going around his nose. Of course it cannot be used to restrain him and in a way that is the most important message - I don't intend to force you to stay with me by holding on to this thing around your face. Having accepted the ribbon he found it much easier to accept the headcollar.
E-mail from Aud 29.11.08 I brought them in at 2.45, split them up as usual and set to work with Rowan. I fiddled about for a bit to help him to relax, he was very wet again, so a bit of time with the towel, and then I played with the bit of ribbon. He progressed very rapidly to the ribbon halter and lots of face scratches. I then started with the open halter up the neck with lots of face scratches. I did 10 repeats, and then I decided to see how he felt about the headcollar going straight up his face closed. I worked on standing at his right and getting him to have semi cuddles as part of his reward. He now likes to lean heavily into my side with my arm over the top of his neck scratching the opposite side of his face. He likes kisses on his face and at the base of both ears (possible due to my height). Once he really got into that and was so relaxed that I was having to lean forward to reach him, I then was able to take the head part over his neck, pass myself the buckle underneath his chin and then put my arm clean round the front of his face, partially obliterating his left eye and knocking into his left ear whilst I fumbled to do the buckle up. Big click treats throughout. I then let him have a breather prior to taking it off, click treat, then start all over again. I managed 17 repeats, was watched by Sian for 3 repeats, and then I did 3 repeats each with Magnum and Dunnock and put them all out again.
Sian was really amazed at the progress that they had all made. She hasn’t seen them for a week, but she thought that the change in Rowan was truly astounding!
Thank you so much Sarah.
E-mail received 3.12.08....Just to let you know that the 3 boys met the farrier today.
He is Guy Reynolds, Amy - the vet at the Barn’s - OH. He was so sweet with them.
Magnum and Dunnock met him in the yard in a most business like fashion.
Halter and leadrope on, big strokes, sniffs of farrier apron, legs stroked, front and back legs picked up. He then tapped their hoof with the trimming tool, and Dunnock even allowed him to pick his foot out with it. Good boy! We went into the stable to meet Rowan, he required a little bit of click/treat, but no biggy.He had a leadline on for the first time. Guy just stroked him all over, let him sniff him and his apron and ran his hands halfway down his legs.We left it at that as he had been a good boy and we did not want to fluster him. A very successful visit overall. He was actually here to do the minis.
Speak soon.
Regards from Aud.
A good advert for Guy too I think.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

27.11.08 Ins and Outs

Nelly is quite clearly pregnant again so she has been in for a few weeks to make sure that she can still feed Cello and the invisible one. I had hoped to put Cello in with Chancer while he was weaned but unfortunately Chancer gets more upset about Nell leaving than Cello does and gallops up and down the fence bucking as high as he possibly can. For now I have left Cello with Nelly and turned them out for a while. The plan is to get them hooked up again with Blue so that Blue can keep Cello company when he is weaned instead. Musical ponies!!

Incidentally, I have decided to keep both Blue and Nell in next year when the stallions are out so that neither of them get pregnant. It just seems risky breeding foals with the current economic climate and too many horses are ending up at rescue centres and the abbatoir. In the meantime, Cello is staying put until I can find him a really good home.

27th November, 2008 True romance is not dead

David is a very romantic man but not in a conventional way - buying flowers is not for him, especially as he travels by motorbike and a bunch of stalks isn't a particularly attractive gift. Instead I get a series of useful gadgets - a wind up torch, a tow rope for the car and an emergency battery booster. He wouldn't want me to get stranded in the dark in the car or is it that he can't face putting his leathers on to come and find me? The best present ever though has been heated insoles for my decrepid working boots. They may let in water, but at least it's warm water!

David also does fantastic impressions but you have to get him drunk to see the cross between David Bowie and Mick Jagger going down the probably have to be there to appreciate it. This is him doing the chap off Dragon's Den. I quite fancy him like that.

Monday, November 24, 2008

24th November, 2008 Going over old ground

Today I worked with a 7 month old minature Shetland that has recently arrived with Jodie at the Calekio Stud and is proving difficult to lead. Once again we were shown the value of going old ground to make sure that nothing significant has been missed out of his training. By gently using a quarter rope around his hindquarters, akin to a figure of eight rope that we would use with a very young foal, we were able to get him to lead nicely by asking both his front and back end. At this age, foals are still very vulnerable at the poll and it isn't appropriate to use a lot of pressure on the head. I had a lovely time wandering around the paddock with him as if we were off shopping together.

E-mail 26.11.08: Ponies are coming round... the quarter rope works wonders... trying to work out what I use to do that didn't have the same effect. Ami & Kyte are leading sweetly with that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

22nd November, 2008 Don't you know that Tamarillo is part Arab?

Just look at the confidence in the faces of Cara and Olivia when they started long-reining for the first time today. Neither of them are quite so sure of the log! Cara is an example of the eight-year-old-four-year-old horse that I meet so often. The age of a horse is rarely an indication of how much experience they have. The good news is always that they have not done too much too young. By working on all the foundation work - groundwork; de-sensitization and long reining and then consolidating it, you get a much braver riding horse and at least you know they are ready for it.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

20th November, 2008 Two fat ladies

Petra and I don't need any supplemental feeding this winter! Today we went for another lesson with Amanda and I took the opportunity to borrow her Western saddle to see how Petra would go in it. It looked and felt lovely.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

18th November, 2008 It Takes two

I have just spent two days running a Handling the New Forest Foal course. Aud has three beautiful and well grown foals with completely different characters. Here is Magnum with Jenny being taught to give to pressure.

E-mails and NFED threads from Aud:
Many thanks to all of the members of the NFED. As a result on your many posts singing Sarah Weston's praises I contacted her, and asked her to come and discuss helping me to teach my foals to trust human handling. Sarah went one better, and ran a course here at my home today and will be here again tomorrow. It was just amazing and really emotional. Rowan proved to be quite a challenge, and has made huge progress, hopefully he will be showing off his new halter bravery by tomorrow night. He went from an "oh my god, don't come near me" to "scratch me cos I love it" boy under Sarah's training and guidance. It was wonderful to watch him allow several total strangers work with him quite happily. Dunnock went from quivering with horror and offering a rear foot to "easy, peasy, lemon squeazy", scratch me if you will. Magnum, who started out having been handled a little already, took to it like a duck to water and was sporting his headcollar like an old pro. Every one fell for him, but then he is just plain gorgeouliscious and he knows it!!!!! So thank you one and all for bringing this amazing lady into our lives, and roll on tomorrow - all very exciting!!!!
ASH (NFED 17.11.08)

My 3 New Forest foals took part in a course run here at my home by Sarah Weston over the past 2 days. It was a busy time, and everone seemed to enjoy taking part. One of my totally unhandled foals - Dunnock went from offering his rear end and foot to one and all on the first day to offering his face straight into the halter on the second. That in itself was amazing to see - however. Imagine the moment when I took a friend to meet them this morning. They were all 3 running loose in a very large field. Magnum, handled in the past, but taught to be scared by his 2 unhandled friends comes straight across the field for a scratch and a cuddle by both of us - he had never seen Ruth before. That was pretty amazing - however - He is closely followed by Dunnock - "my Mummy told me you are going to eat me so stay away" foal - comes straight up to me sticks his face in my jumper, has a big scratch ALL OVER and a cuddle, is very relaxed and seems to want to stay with us! I was GOBSMACKED!!!!!!! Had I not had company there could easily have been tears too, but I swallowed hard and pretended to be a grown up. How does that lady do it?????? Sarah - thank you so much. Rowan has come on in leaps and bounds, but he still has a way to go. I am going to get them in right now and try and practice my new skills. What a buzz!!!!! NFED 18.11.08

I have had the boys in for a couple of hours and in that time Magnum has been leading round the yard – no issues. Dunnock, headcollar on with a couple of clicks, lead rope, no problems, and ended up being led up to the garden, round the drive and back. He met Granny through the window, watched the farrier working on Victor and calmly walked back down to his friends. Big click, a little more work and back in with Magnum. Rowan has begun to find the clicker a bit of a game, and will cross the stable to come and touch me/halter. I got him as far as willingly choosing to put his nose in the noseband hole about 20 times, and left it there.

Hi Sarah.
I definitely made progress with little Rowan today. I did the stick, duster, hand bit for a while and got a little further up his neck. Then I went and leant on the stable wall by the door to see whether he wanted to work. He came straight over and did touch/click/treat for a while, followed by nose in the hole, click/treat. By the time we stopped he had the head collar noseband all the way up his nose, click and treat while he still had the band up his nose.
He seemed to be really into it, but we stopped at that as the light was fading.
The other boys had 10 minutes each of halter on/off and leading, but I put most of the time into little Rowan. I am really looking forward to seeing whether I can move on a bit further tomorrow, but I will run it at his pace so as not to scare him. He is such a dear little man, and so pretty. He was really chilled out today, he frightened himself at one point and went and buried his head in the hay net till he felt better. Bless!!
ASH 22.11.08

E-mails from participants:
Thanks for really good day yesterday. I made everyone at work very envious when I told them. I thought the foals were gorgeous, and its made me think about reminding R of some of the work you did -on a dry day! I hope you had an equally enthralled group today. It is fascinating watching and listening to you.
CC 18.11.08

Many many thanks for today Rob and I didnt stop talking about you all the way home .We enjoyed and learnt so much from you. LA 18.11.08

Just to say a big thankyou for a lovely day yesterday!!! I'm soooo tired now It was great to see how you work with the ponies and use what, to me, seems a very logical approach to taming any animal - what on earth do people do to tame their horses normally? JMcS 19.11.08 (my sister-in-law!!)

Saturday, November 15, 2008

15th November, 2008 Strictly Foal Dancing

Susie and Gina came over today for a foal handling course. Mellow Mink is a handsome and sturdy chap and behaved beautifully. His owner seemed very pleased with the results. Three more on Monday and Tuesday and under cover (not like spies) too......what a luxury!
E-mails received: Hi Sarah! Thanks again for yesterday. Wish I'd seen one of your foal handling demos before I bred my first foal 14 yrs ago & also 12 yrs ago when I impulsively put my hand up & bid for the highest priced filly foal at the BR sales. After enticing him into the pen things went very well. Used the clicker training at first but then put the headcollar on & off a few times without.Did pressure and release on lead rope & he followed me around the pen in response. Kept the session short. Will keep you updated in a few days time. MH 17.11.08
MM's education progressing quite well. Am now catching him in small electric taped area {not electrified of course.}. You may collect pen anytime now as hopefully no longer needed. MH 24.11.08
E-mails from participants:
Thanks so much for sending all the pictures end the notes so quickly..I had an absolutely lovely day, and learnt so much…thank you.
GS 19.11.08
Just wanted to say thanks for course last Saturday, G and I enjoyed it v much and felt we learnt lots. The foal was such a smart little chap!
SF 20.11.08

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

12th November, 2008 They think it's Christmas

Today it was off to Oxfordshire to meet Anne and her new Dartmoor Hill pony and New Forest pony. These ponies have really landed on their feet and are now part of a menagerie which includes cats, dogs, pigs, goats, alapacas and reindeer. The reindeer above is called Stig but he tells me that he has never appeared on Top Gear.

E-mails received: Good grief Sarah - that was quick! You are so proffessional but so easy to be with - thankyou so much for everything you did - I am so grateful and so so lucky you could come today. I can't tell you how much better I feel about managing my ponies . I will go and read the report - I think it could be described as very comprehensive and substantial !!

And later….

What a difference a day makes!!! Had to tell you how today went. still felt some trepidation yesterday - hoping I could carry out the training you gave me. Went into the stable this morning, put the leadrope on and took Henry out and practiced everything you showed me and it worked! He went along with everything I did and I felt so pleased! He and Merlin had their feet done by the farrier and although I thought they were fidgety the farrier said they were good. Thank you so much Sarah I feel so much better and so much more confident, it's incredible. AW 13.11.08

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11th November, 2008 Write!

Victor, one of 62 horses that have already taken up residence at the Glenda Spooner (World Horse Welfare) stables near Somerton, Somerset. We were very kindly allowed to use this as a venue for a meeting this morning. Having been here a few years ago when the yard was owned by a racehorse trainer, it was interesting to see the changes they are making. It will be a while before it is open to the public.

So, (read this quietly), I had a meeting with a publisher friend this morning to make plans for a book on handling the wild foal. All I've got to do now is write it.......

E-mail received: Thought I'd tell you that I used your "laying the table" technique on a little-touched 18-mnth-old Exmoor today, and it went swimmingly from both sides. There is a small - mini, really - herd of Exmoors grazing Greenham Common (well, they had to do something with the land after the Greenham Common Women left) and I was contacted by the couple who manage the ponies on behalf of the District Council. A very sweet little chap.
Joanna O’Neill 12.11.08

Sunday, November 9, 2008

9th November, 2008 Here come the boys...

Zimbral, Lusitano stallion with immaculate manners.

I've now got a collection of clients who have taken on stallions with the intention of keeping them entire. The word stallion is derived from the phrase "stalled one", indicating that traditionally, stallions have been confined to barracks. Stallion owners have to make an informed decision about the way they want their stallions to live their lives and how they are going to balance the need to keep them safe against the need to keep them sane. Ideally stallions should be turned out regularly and allowed to socialise directly with other horses (or even a sheep or a goat) This way they are much less likely to become aggressive around humans and good consistent groundwork and varied ridden work means that stallions can be just as easy to handle as other horses.

E-mail received: I worked Zimbral yesterday but I just used body language for upward and downward transitions. He was so much calmer & very responsive. Afterwards my mum lead me round using the dually and he was very calm. We kept breathing out and he did too!
EB 12.11.08

Saturday, November 1, 2008

1st November, 2008 250% at least

I've come to the conclusion that at least 75% of good horsemanship comes down to the right facilities. If you have a good pen with safe fencing and a way of funneling a horse into it, you can work with the wildest of ponies. Whereas, if you have manky fencing, no way of separating out other horses or only have 10 acre field with nothing smaller in which to direct the horse, you don't stand an earthly. If you're stuck on a yard where there are corridors between the fields made from barbed wire fencing and a gate which is falling off it's hinges at one end, you're not going to find it easy to insist on good manners when your horse is being assailed by geldings on one side and stampeding youngsters on the other.

Another 75% is technique - if you don't know what you should expect from your horse or how to ask him then you're a bit stuck too.

The next 75% is the right horse - if your horse is too big, too fast or has too many issues then that can make life difficult and a further 75% is money - it's so important to budget for training and knowledge when buying anything other than the most straightforward horse. Lots of people expect to pay for riding lessons at some stage in their riding career but groundwork lessons can be just as critical.

All of this adds to way over 100% but each block always appears to be bigger than any other when that's the one you're facing.

Talking of blocks....when I talk to an owner about their horse, I am often met with blocks. Sadly many are imposed by yard owners - my horse has to go out at such and such a time and come in at such and such a time and have his hay in a haynet and no, I can't put an electric fence corral up by the gate so that I can take my horse out of the field without being attacked by others. It is worth considering the blocks to see which are real and which are self imposed and how you might get round them. Could you get some hardcore for that muddy gateway, could you build a wooden bridge over the stream (Linda??) or could you build a pen with 6 foot high railings? I do wonder if our horses feel these blocks too and decide that it's not worth communicating with us at all.

1st November, 2008 Mental abuse?

I have been thinking about horsemanship systems which use the same equipment, for example a rope or a stick in parallel, to de-sensitize and to sensitize. For example, using a long rope to whizz over the horse's head and body whilst requiring the horse to stand stock still and get used to it and then using the very same rope to flick the horse very hard if it doesn't move off as quickly as the handler would like. It's not a good analogy but imagine a small child sitting in the kitchen - sometimes mother gets out a plate to put a delicious meal on it and every so often she breaks the plate over the child's head. Isn't the child likely to become very wary of plates whenever they appear but at the same time be too frightened to move? I'll try and think of a better analogy.

1st November, 2008 Brrrrrrr!

A cold, windy and wet end to the week. We managed to avoid the hunt this morning and Julie sat on Buster for the first time (if the picture was bigger you'd see the rain lashing down!). He then went home again after a week here being long-reined out on the Forest. We all got taught yet another lesson in trailers - as the back bar in his trailer is fastened by two clips which allowed the bar to lift and the pony to leave backwards. Very fortunately no harm done and he did re-load fairly readily. This time we put the ramp up immediately after the back bar and before the front bar. Not very keen on this Sinclair trailer that his owners had hired for the day. The partition only moves to one side at the back, the front and back bars are thin and mean and allowed this to happen. No wonder that Ifor have stolen the market on value for money trailers - they are very easy to work with. The only problem I have heard about is the pins coming out of the bars when travelling. Some horses don't seem to like the skirting on the partitions either.

I sometimes feel like a Health and Safety officer and try to do a dynamic risk assessment whenever I'm working. It annoys me when purpose made equipment like this, lets me down. Fortunately Buster was wearing a New Zealand rug and went under the bar cleanly.