Wednesday, December 31, 2008

31st December, 2008 End of term report

I was pleased to receive a Christmas card from a client I only met briefly back in the summer and haven't heard from since. As the session had gone well and I had even gone out and bought her a couple of full length bars for her trailer prior ot her arrival, I did wonder what had happened.

In any event, this is what she said: When going through my cupboards I discovered a 'Thank-you' card I forgot to send. I am so sorry this has been so long coming, but I would like to thank you for coming to D-pony's rescue at the _____ stud. I was beside myself with worry, but with your handling and direct instructions to myself and my sister the loading couldn;t have gone any better. A far cry from a few days previous. I still have nightmares about sending her there to be backed, and about the day I tried to bring her home. D-pony settled back home immediately, and things have improved slowly. Hopefully all Monty's associates are as nice and kind as you! Keep up the good work.

Over Christmas I have given e-mail help to three people (at no cost to them), one who was having difficulties treating a wound on an unhandled two year old, one that is having loading difficulties and one that was being bucked off because her saddle kept slipping forward. All I ask in return is a thank-you and if they get stuck to call me out sooner rather than later.

This is what I said to the first one, followed by her replies to me...

I am very happy to help if I can. It sounds to me like you have done all the right things so far. You could try using warm salty water and bathing his whole face very gently - as if he were your best boyfriend and he had a fever! If touch and move away (advance and retreat) doesn't work then you could try just using a little more pressure in your touch - I am learning more and more that some horses prefer a deeper, flatter touch. Try using a dark clean cloth - a flannel - rather than bright white cotton wool and use all your powers of seduction. Tell him very quietly that he is fine and tha you are trying to help - keep your adrenalin down and breathe! I am sure you know all this stuff but it bears repeating.If this doesn't work then you need to weigh up the options (as you have been). If it isn't a very serious wound it will probably look after itself - if you can't bear to leave it to its own devices then you could ask the vet for antibiotics to see whether you can get it to heal from the inside out. Obviously I am not a vet and you need to err on the side of caution if it isn't healing. If he was really in the wild he would have to cope.....Please keep me informed!

Thanks so much for that! Some excellent ideas there - I hadn't even thought about using something dark. And its very interesting what you say about some preferring more pressure when being touched. I think this may be the case with Impy as we didn't make much progress in our early sessions when I was being especially light when touching him as I assumed he would prefer that. Since being a bit more matter of fact and pressing slightly more when touching him, we've made much faster progress.I'll have another go with him this afternoon and I'll let you know how we get on.

And later:
Just wanted to say a big THANK YOU! Impy LOVED having his face gently washed with warm water and my best flannel ( not tell my husband where its been!). He was still being protective of his eye but I managed to give it a little wipe without too much distress so I think I'll leave it alone now unless it looks infected.He's a very sweet boy but very shy. He was taken off the Yorkshire moors as a yearling and then just turned out in a field for the next year with minimal handling and I've only had him just over 3 weeks so it was a big ask really.Many thanks again, your advice was absolutely invaluable. Nikki

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

3Oth December, 2008 New Year's Resolutions

As this year draws to a close, I am looking forward to another year of being able to help horses and there owners to overcome problems and get it right first time. This will include David as he has decided to have Chancer on loan. Despite both being novices, I am hoping that by taking things gently, especially with David (!), we will be able to forge a good relationship. Chancer, who was born in America and trained to race, has the stature of a Quarter Horse so I am hoping they will both look cool in a Western saddle. We'll see.......

On 1st February, members of the Herd will be getting together for the first time at a venue in Verwood. As well as a short demonstration of horsemanship with an Icelandic foal, there will be an opportunity for everyone to set goals for themselves and their horses throughout the year. Anyone interested in joining the Herd can e-mail me for a membership form. Membership is free.

In the meantime my resolutions include staying away from Discussion Groups where the standard answer to any pony problem seems to be to hit it - the pony not the problem. Despite having made a significant improvement to every horse I meet, I am still accused of being too soft with horses by people who have never even watched the way I work. If people were quicker to use their brains than their fist the world would be a much better place for horses. I sometimes think that Anna Sewell would be turning in her grave if she saw some of the things people do to horses. There may not longer be an economic imperative behind the abuse of horses but this has been replaced by a competitive imperative which some think gives justification for hitting a horse. Even once is once too often. I do not think that my way is the only way - it most certainly is not - but a violent way is no way at all.

I have also resolved to be even happier....and more positive.....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

24th December, 2008 A Quiet Christmas?

Having lost my voice since Saturday, it has been very quiet around here! I have met with all the usual jokes about how nice it must be for David and people in shops who instinctively whisper back at me when I go in for my cough medicine and Soothers.

I've got a couple of weeks off now which I seem to need - I am so tired.

Monday, December 22, 2008

21st December, 2008 Tale ends

Last week I went out to load Wellow Leaf (Baby) so that he could go to his new home in Buckinghamshire. He has arrived safely and is clearly adored by Linda's grandaughter. Such a personable little chap.

I received this e-mail from his new owners on 5th January, 2009:

My baby boy has settled in so well I just cannot imagine life without him. I have got into a routine with him I stable him at night and he goes out first thing every morning. When I go round to get him in the evening he is waiting at the gate for me. He walks very well beside me I have followed all your advice and I was saying to R tonight your way really works. I know problems can crop up but I know you are always there on the end of a phone. The only problem R says we have got is the lack of housework, he says its gone to pot since that foal arrived.

I have advised them to get a cleaner.

A couple of weeks ago I also went out to see Monty, a horse that I taught to load about two and a half years ago just as he started his career. I was somewhat dismayed to hear that he had gone on strike and wasn't willing to load into his new owner's horsebox. Age old problem here, the very new smelling horse-box is rear facing and Monty just couldn't work out where he was meant to go. Once we had treated him like an articulated lorry - you need to walk into the left hand corner and then turn right(!) in order to make sure you have enough swing , he was absolutely fine. This took me back to my early days when I met Goliath, a beautiful coloured horse that was having the same conundrum.

I got this e-mail from Monty's owners yesterday: Yesterday, 20th, we took Monty on his first trip to the Fortune Centre outside Burley for a Dressage test. We brought him in the previous evening, because there was to be a very early start. He was fed just after 7am after which he was groomed, plaited, etc. and the box prepared. He loaded at 8am impeccably. He just walked into the box with zero fuss. It took an hour to get to the Fortune Centre which is big and busy. He did a very controlled and positive test so we were both delighted. We left around 10am after another immaculate loading, and got him back to his mates in the field not long after 11am. On Tuesday the mail should bring us the test results so we’ll find out what the Judge thought of his performance.

Friday, December 19, 2008

19th December, 2008 The Tooth Fairy

Bit of an epic day at Ann's helping her with her six ponies who were all due to have their teeth done. Ranging in age from 18 months to 18 years, they really did highlight why it so important to have a good vet or dental technician. The eldest one has started to get gaps between her teeth where the grass gets wedged and could start to cause real trouble. Leo, who has his jaw broken when kicked last year, has a completly rotten milk tooth and a permanent tooth that is heading off in the wrong direction. Despite being a baby, Freddie had really sharp hooks on his milk teeth. It brought it home to me just how early they could start to have problems if their teeth were just left to their own devices. Fortunately Chris Pearce is a real expert in this field.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

18th December, 2008 Brace yourself for Sheila!!

Huge congratulations to my friend Sheila who has just passed her Monty Roberts' Preliminary Certificate in Horsemanship and was last seen bouncing around the yard where she is groom to four horses, with a smile as a wide as Wiltshire.

Having started her courses back in 2000 this has been a long time coming especially as she has to postpone a further year because of the sad loss of her Dad at exam time last year. Sheila and I have been working together on her days off from her real job for about 5 years so she already has masses of experience. She's excellent at clipping, foal handling and loading. I am hoping that soon we can be working together under a more formal arrangement and that she too will be working towards becoming an RA. In the meantime, Julie, who had already worked for another horseman before me ( a slightly feistier one) is off to start her IH courses in January. In time we'd like to be the mental health branch of the local veterinary service.

Monday, December 15, 2008

15th December, 2008 Everywhere I go.....

I have heard some sickening things over the last week or so. It seems to me that there are very few limits to the things that people will do to their horses to make them do something or stop them doing something else. I didn't know for example that horses are kept moving on horse-walkers by an electric shock. A client tells me that in his previous home her horse learned how to kink his tail in such a way that he could avoid it - who on earth would think that was okay in the first place? I also heard that there is still someone in this area who uses the W rope when training horses - if the horse moves forward when they don't want it to, they pull up one of it's legs with a rope so that it has only got three available. I am told that I wouldn't want to see how they load the horses at a local racing yard and that twitching is the norm when horses are being clipped in an event yard. If a horse is trained well, none of these things would be necessary in the first place and it seems to be all about power, capitulation and saving time rather than partnership and co-operation.

"Everywhere I go I hear what's going on and the more I hear, the less I know." Oysterband.

These days I have to concentrate in the horses I can help and not get too depressed about those that I can't and when I do get disheartened, I think of another of their songs which may be about relationships but is also about having choices - just knowing you have a choice makes it easier to stay:

We could leave right now,
we could just walk away,
it wouldn't cost a thing,
hardly anyone would see,
the wind would hide our tracks,
the clouds would fill our shoes,
don't be afraid,
don't be afraid.

We could leave right now,
any step could be the first,
any word could be the last,
any door would do,
we can forget our names,
forget each other's faces,
don't be afraid don't be afraid.

Put down the music and talk,
your rumours and regrets,
fading silhouettes,
all you need to do is walk away...

We could leave right now,
maybe it's getting light out there,
papers in the alley,
just a little rain,
we can forget our names,
forget each other's faces,
don't be afraid,
don't be afraid.

A third song of theirs is about Irish conflict and the need to 'Pick up the fiddle and put down the gun' which is a brilliant analogy for putting down the whip. Once you know that hitting is never an option, being around horses is no longer confrontational.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

13th December, 2008 Just when you think.....

it's all over..... with one more week to go before my Christmas break, I thought it might all go quiet. Along with visits from the farrier and another Amanda Barton clinic, I'm doing a short demo at Sparsholt. Douggan is going to have his second clip, Diva is going to go in the trailer for the second time and Wellow Leaf (Baby) is going to his new home in Buckinghamshire. I'm just a few pages away from finishing my book and hoping that it will be accepted by the publisher. Lily, above, is one of the foals that should appear in the book.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

10th December, 2008 Away Day

Yesterday I went up to Bicester to run a foal and yearling handling course with two ponies recently bought at the Beaulieu Road Sales. The little one, totally unhandled, proved to be very straightforward to work with but the 18 month old was more reticent. She has been through the sales yard twice already. Although she arrived with a headcollar on, she was very worried about anyone touching her head at all and would only let people in to work on her right hand side. By the end of our sessions she was accepting touch on both sides and starting to bring her head around to talk to us. Hopefully she will come round quickly now that she has met some gentle handling. I love the look in her eye as she chooses to engage with her owner for the first time.

It was also great to work with all IH people - all friends, no foe!

E-mail received 16.12.08 :
Thanks for your advice, the quarter rope worked well. Led them BOTH out to the menage yesterday, it was lovely for them to stretch their legs and have a play together. I think that they'll be out in the field with the others in no time.

E-mail received 8.1.09 (less than one month after the course)
The ponies are doing brilliantly, they're both really friendly and trot up to me in the field, I can't do anything without them both coming over to find out what's going on. They are out with the 'big' ponies which is an education in itself for them! They come in every day and are both eating hard feed.

10th December, 2008 Common theme

As I have said before, every week there seems to develop a common theme in my work. I have just received news that Cassie, the horse above, has been as good as gold for the dentist and the vet. In common with a lot of the horses I meet, she has an owner that is prepared to work with her quietly and consistently and to take advice when she feels she needs it. The horse has come a really long way from the nervous creature she was when she first arrived with Kim. I can take a little credit for helping with the last bit but it is the commitment of the owner that can really make a difference.

Today I have been back to see Zimbral and once again, his owner has done everything I would have asked of her and more and taken used her discretion as to which bits of the training are working for her (and him) and discontinued those bits that weren't. As a result, Zimbral is now working beautifully on long reins.

Monday, December 8, 2008

8th December, 2008 Foals en France - Distance Learning

I was recently contacted by a lady now living in France who has recently imported two semi-feral New Forest ponies. Although I was quite prepared to travel over to help, I sent my notes over in the first instance to see whether she could train them by remote control! All has been going well and both have made good progress. This was the raison d'etre behind writing a book on the subject and I have almost finished it save for a few stories about individual ponies - I hope to include Freddie, Clio, Billy Milton, Rowan, Dunnock and Magnum.

Hi Sarah,

just a quick update on Sugar and Treacle for you. They are both doing really well, Sugar responded quickly to the clicker training and seems to understand what it's all about. She's developing some real trust now and is beginning to come over to me when she's in the field just to say hello which would never have happened before! She even lifts her head and whinnies to me when I come out to the field now so things are getting better. Treacle is as nosey as ever, she's now wearing a headcollar quite happily but we still need to do some work on being lead as she's a bit of a primadonna but certainly not scared! I also managed to get a wormer down them with relatively little fuss which I was very surprised with- I think they just classed it as extra food as it was going in their mouth! It got washed down with lots of apples so I hope it wasn't too traumatic an experience. The farrier came last Saturday and managed to trim and rasp her front feet, thank goodness. He's a tiny little chap, the size of a small flat race jockey but I think that was in his favour as she seemed less stressed than I thought she might be so it's been quite a positive couple of weeks over here.

This is all thanks to you Sarah, your kind advice has been invaluable to us and I will keep you up to date as we still have a long way to go! When is your book being published? Please let me know as I definitely want to buy it and would love to meet you too if we get the chance!

With much love and gratitude,

Nikki and Sugar

PS and me, and me, and me, and me : TWEEKAL.XXXXXX

Saturday, December 6, 2008

6th December, 2008 A gift shared

I worked today with a woman who has a real gift with horses - although it as to be said that she has worked hard to get her gift; watching and practising her horsemanship. Some people do have a real gift with horses - common sense mixed with horse sense that the horse can recognise from a mile off. In these hands horses can feel really safe and get over all sorts of ill-treatment in the past. If you have such a gift you cannot give it away or lose it - although you might choose to share it. A gift shared is not a gift halved.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

3rd December, 2008 Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star

Just thought I'd drop you a note to let you know I used clicker training for Twinkle today at the vets - while she had her feet x-rays done, she stood beautifully, her first trip to the vets without having to be doped! The funny thing was after her reaction to injections last time, the vet seemed relieved not to need to dope her.
From Jenny 3.12.08

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

2nd December, 2008 Grim stuff

The Verderers' statistics for the last week make very grim reading and I cannot imagine how awful it must be for the agisters to be humanely destroying ponies struck by speeding vehicles night after night. It is appalling to learn that one pony was hit so hard it was actually decapitated and it's head has not been found. Needless to say, the cowardly driver didn't stop at the scene or report the accident.

24th Nov ~ Grey filly destroyed ~ Howen Bottom B3078
24th Nov ~ Chestnut mare injured (wearing a collar) ~Longslade View
25th Nov ~ Brown filly destroyed ~ Stoney Cross South
26th Nov ~ Bay/roan 2 y.o. filly killed. ~ completely decapitated. ~ Vereley Hill

I continue to report speeding drivers to the police and to ring the transport department where commercial vehicles are involved.