Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Serendipity, the Curly foal is Lorraine's new pony and I am hoping to meet her in the New Year. The breed standard of this North American horse says this:
Yesterday our Christmas plans were interrupted by a beautiful blonde called Tequila. Sarah, her owner, had brought her down to the New Forest so that she could ride out with her daughter in Christmas day but unfortunately, when it came time to go home, Tequila was adamant that she wouldn't load. The little trailer on which I normally store my panels was full of firewood and so we had to barrow that all down to the house before dashing up to Fritham to pick up the panels. We arrived Sarah and Tequila in just over an hour and loaded her into the horsebox pretty quickly. Despite looking relatively calm, Tequila's bottom lip was pretty tight and once in the box, with the partition closed, she began to rear. I felt that it would be better to travel her loose with the partition pushed all the way over to the wall so we took her out again and rearranged everything. She loaded readily this time and was fine while we closed up the ramp and the top door. She had a good journey home, being able to spread her feet out and stand like a table. We went off to Bournemouth and got some thermal lined curtains in the sales.
From Sarah: "Your presence yesterday, helped us all so very very much and I can't thank you enough for abandoning your plans for the day to come to our assistance. Of course getting Tequila in the box was the ultimate goal, however, so much more was achieved. Your communication and handling skills with all of us, horse and human, ultimately, put us all at ease.
Tequila traveled home calmly, mostly choosing to stand facing the rear of the box, however Gem tells me that she did turn and have a look through the cab window before turning away to munch on some hay.
When we all arrived home, it was me who was drained and shaking, our pony was as cool as a cucumber. I climbed through the back door, gave her a hug, clipped her onto the lead rope, gave Steve the thumbs up to open the door. Tequila stood by me, had a look to see where she was and waited for me to lead her out and home. Thank you so much, both of you. You've done so much more than just load our lovely pony!"
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Amongst the Christmas cards we have received, we have this cheerful looking picture of Welley (Wellow Leaf) and Elmo (with Rob and Linda). It's over a year since we loaded Welley to go to his new home.
For those of you that like jigsaws, there's a few more here.......
Sunday, December 20, 2009
A full fourteen days off this Christmas - makes a change from horse training and horse sitting. I am looking forward to riding my own horses and to settling down with a good book in the evenings. I've got Born to Whisper, By Nicole Golding and Adam Goodfellow, the sequel to Whispering Back. Nicole and Adam are both RA's; Whole Heart, Whole Horse by Mark Rashid - in hard back with huge writing; and Wild Horses of the World by Moira Harris - I would love to train a foal from each breed.
Next year is already starting to get busy with horses to go and see every day in the first week. I'm really looking forward to 2010. I think this year I have really got my head around the difference between self esteem and ego and much as I like positive feedback, it's whether I am doing the best I can for the horses and people I meet that counts.
Merry Christmas to anyone that is reading this and a very happy New Year too. I am very happy to receive enquiries about appointments for next year and curious to know what resolutions you are setting for you and your horse.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I slept with Jenny for the first time last night - she had the top bunk and I had the bottom bunk, taking me back to when I was about seven when my friends and I would lie awake giggling nearly all night. Jenny and I were staying with Tabitha and George at Chard where we were training their two Bodmin Moor colts, Magic and Merlin. Thank goodness that they didn't turn the telly on an hour later or these beautiful ponies would be called Anton and Brendon!
Spider put me in mind of Amarosso, the 11.2hh warmblood in a 17 hand suit that I met in Tanzania. Like Amarosso, it appears that Spider has been hit quite badly at some stage in his past and he is terrified of anything that looks remotely like a whip. Although Guy doesn't even carry a whip, this fear gets them both into trouble from time to time.
As usual I started off with the feather duster before Guy continued with a plastic bag on a stick. By then Spider thought this was all old hat. We then worked with the umbrella and the tarpaulin which Spider tackled with great courage before allowing me to touch him all over with a whip. I wouldn't normally use a whip to desensitise a horse unless I know for certain that one will never be used on him ever again - I maintain that is not fair to desensitise and expect a horse to be sensitive to the same object.
He may not become a police horse overnight but I am hopeful that this and further work will help Spider to get over his phobia.
"Thank you very much for the time you spent teaching both me and Spider, we both enjoyed it. Hopefully, it will prove to be a good base from which we can move forward, literally! I have to say that I was most impressed, something I will pass on whenever I get the chance." Guy Reynolds
Monday, December 14, 2009
I often think about rational versus emotional in our treatment and training of horses. Many of the people I meet are very emotional about their horses - not just joy, happiness and sheer excitement about having them but negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and anger when things aren't going right or they fear failure. I often say, leave your emotions at the gate as they won't help and will almost certainly hinder. You can pick them up again on the way out if you want to - but you might find that you don't. Before this sounds like a sermon, I will tell a story against myself. Petra has only just come back into full work for a variety of reasons. Instead of starting off a few steps back from where I left off, I decided to ditch the clicker training that has worked very well in stopping her rushing and to be more forthright about owning speed, direction and destination. Forthright is a euphemism for cross and not only am I ashamed of having got cross with her, but, three weeks later, I am still having to put things right because that cross-ness reinforced everything she has ever believed about humans and made her want to go home even more. (I am back to clickering her every 50 strides and on Saturday, she only rushed for 1/3rd of the ride rather than 1/2 of it - basically the bit where we were facing home!).
Negative emotions get in the way of rational thought and our ability to work things out so that we can make it easy for the horse to do the right thing; the make it more likely that we will punish rather than using measured pressure and release, more likely that we will forget to reward the instant the horse has done the right thing. They affect our patience and our ability to be in the moment with the horse. I went to one lady who was really worrying about the future and lamenting what had happened in the past to such an extent that we struggled to talk about what was actually happening now and how we could train incrementally from there.
I am sure it is harder with your own horse as we are more emotionally involved with them and at risk of feeling slighted or rejected when they don;t do what we want them to do. I often say, if love was enough there would be no behavioural problems at all.
I think positive emotions can help training if they are used to notice, release and reward the instant the horse gets ot right. Instructions need to come from the head and rewards, of whatever kind, from the heart - literally, heartfelt. A lovely rub or a "goooooood booooy", or, like in Harry met Sally, yes!yes!yes!!!!
By the way, the pony in the picture is Blue, and she would like to point out that she has never driven me crazy. How could she?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Today I am going to be testing out a set of Old macs on Petra's front feet. I really really hope they will work as I would love to keep her barefoot. I have been doing a lot more riding recently and her feet have really worn down and I was heading towards a set of shoes. My "traditional" farrier is utterly supportive and all for it. If they work for Petra then Chancer will be getting some for Christmas too. Wish me luck - if I lose one in the first muddy puddle I will be very disappointed. The Western saddle is lush but I am still waiting for the blanket to go with it and am having to borrow Chancer's in the meantime.
* A reference incidentally to Ian Dury's album just in case you wondered.
Part II - having turned Petra out in them for a little while this morning, I then went out riding in them. Apart from looking askance when I asked her to stand on a carpet while I fitted them, Petra didn't seem to mind them at all and was certainly more confident on the gravelly ground. Whilst I have a very open mind about horse's being barefoot, I am adamant that horses should not have to be very sore at any stage of their transition or indeed in the long term. I was pleased to see in the Horse and Hound this week an article that confirmed my belief that horses that are sore in their feet will change their gait and end up compensating in other parts of their body, particularly the back. A few years ago we had a horse in like this where the owner was absolutely resolute that the horse would not be allowed to have hoof boots and in the end I had to become equally resolute that in that case she wouldn't be ridden nor long reined. Not only was she starting to go short, she was losing her confidence about crossing streams and tracks - anywhere where the underlying footing was stony.
Yesterday it was off to Swindon to meet a three year old New Forest Pony called Achilles. He came off the Forest when he was eighteen months old and has recently changed hands again. Although he has settled a bit, he was inclined to climb the walls if anyone went into the stable with him and if pushed, threaten to kick. When turned out he jumps out of his field for a pastime. I explained to his owner that I could only work on making him want to stay rather than stopping him leaving - the only thing to prevent that would be higher fences.
We had a great afternoon basically working our way through the technique described in No Fear, No Force. It transpired that Achilles wasn't completely averse to being touched he just had some substantial gaps in his training and was very apprehensive about people's intentions; his muscles tensed whenever we laid a feather duster or a hand on him to begin with. By being careful and subtle about how we approached him, making sure that we rewarded him for softening and allowing things to happen we soon got him leaning into us for more touch and bringing his head round to accept the headcollar. He's actually a very sweet pony and I only wish I had a photo - blimmin' camera ran out of battery. (Apparently it didn't - I got this single picture before it died on me).
Leanne is going to carry on with this work and gradually increase the are where she works with him. In the meantime her boyfriend is going to get busy with a hammer and nails.
E-mail received today:
"After you visit yesterday I popped into the local saddlery and found a rope halter that when undone is a very long rope with a loop in the end very similar to the one we were using yesterday (a bargain at £5!!). This morning armed with a feather duster, new rope, and a headcollar with buckles I went to visit Illie. When I entered he was a bit jumpy and pulled himself up to his full height!! but when I produced the feather duster, he immediately visibly relaxed and walked over quite confidently and sniffed the duster. I was with him for 40 mins and in that time, I rubbed him with duster all along his back both sides, rubbed him with my hand, put the headcollar on and off twice, looped the rope round this neck and he followed me round, then looped the rope through the headcollar. He was a complete star and I can't wait to get down and do some more work with him :-D (I'm going to have to stop myself doing to much!!!)" LK
E-mail 16.12.09: "Just thought I'd drop you a update on Illie. I have continued working with him most days for anything between 5 and 40 minutes. Headcollar going on and off is no issue now, I am continuing to lay it across his neck and move it up but this only takes a few minutes. He is still a little wary of rope but improving daily. We went for a little walk on Sunday and he was star. Approached him tonight and he allow me to rub his shoulder and touch his headcollar without working with feather duster first so I have now removed his headcollar." LK
E-mail 4.1.10: "Illie continues to improve daily, we have progressed to being able to approach without working with feather duster first, we can now put headcollar on over his nose and going for daily walks, he gets turned out in the small gravel yard for a couple of hours daily and can be caught quite easily again. Several of the girls can now approach him in stable and put headcollar on but he will only allow me to catch him in the yard so this is what we are now working on.
We have been working on being tied up and he will stand quitely for 10 mins to be fussed over before he starts to get bored, I can now pick both front feet out even when he is loose, I can comfortable to pick up his near hind when tied up and working on his off hind as he is v-touchy about it still. Saying that the farrier visited last week and he stood calmly to allow all his feet to be trimmed. (very v-v- chuffed that day!!).I can now touch him almost all over - including ears, he wore his first bit last week just on a headpiece, so no nose band etc but he was a complete star again. He even wore Paul's cow boy hat on his head the other day after naughtly snatching it of Pauls head when Paul was mucking him out. (wished I had caught it on camera as v-funny)
Thank you so much for visiting us as none of this would have been possible without you, I feel we have really unlocked his v-cheeky personality and can't wait to see how he further develops."LK
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Friday, December 4, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
This is Woody's little sister, Zala, aged about 7 months. She is being prepared for showing next year and is already trotting out beautifully. We spend some time today getting her used to the tarpaulin and the brolly in readiness for some of the strange things she might meet at a show. She trained Dave to stand on the tarpaulin first of all and once she was satisfied that it was absolutely safe, she went across it herself. She was fascinated by the brolly and got quite cross when Sally wouldn't stop to let her inspect it properly.
Friday, November 27, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
This weekend I have flown up to Leeds to meet up with David who is working at RAF Linton-on-Ouse installing air traffic control equipment. This also gives me an opportunity to see my friend RA Sarah Dent, whose farm is only four miles up the road.
This has all been overshadowed by the dreadful news that Jenny's brand new 5 year old pony, Peppercorn, died very suddenly of atypical myoglobunuria yesterday morning. This awful disease is little understood and is nearly always fatal. I am devastated for her and feel like crying all the time. I met Peppercorn last Tuesday when she was out riding him. He couldn't have looked more healthy and alive and Jenny was brimming with plans for his future.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Before training your horse to stand still for mounting, it's really important to rule out any physical cause and it is worth having your horse's back checked and making sure that his saddle fits well and is placed properly. Consider the girth too.
It's much better for your horse's back if you can always use a mounting block to mount from and I find that a mobile mounting block of a decent height is better than an static one. Where the mounting block cannot be moved, it is really easy for the horse to just take one step away with his hindquarters to thwart your attempts to get on. With a mobile mounting block you can move it with him so that he doesn’t gain anything. You can even reward the horse for standing still by moving the mounting block away when he does stand and repeat this a few times.
In the same way you can then lift your leg up against his side and if he stands, take it away again and repeat this a few times. When you finally prepare to mount, think about holding the offside rein slightly more tightly as if you pull on the inside rein, you will inadvertently turn his bottom away from you; you could also ask someone to quietly hold him while you get on. Once mounted, ask him to stand for a good 30 seconds or so and be as relaxed as you can - remember to breathe! This will teach him that he doesn’t have to move off the instant you are on board. Give him a lovely rub to reward him for standing still.
If you apply this approach consistently and never overlook the mounting problem because it isn’t your priority for the day, you should find that he gets better and better.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
This is Yamaha, one of the Ethiopian ponies that I met at Loisaba when I was in Kenya. The only stallion amongst the 14 they bought, Tom was allowed to name him. He's got some interesting scars from the abuse he has received at the hands of men in Ethiopia. I was saddened to hear from Jo that he had been missing for three days; she feared that he had been eaten by lions. The ponies at Loisaba tend to stay close to the farm but can actually go where they like during the day. At night they come into the stable area where the only worry is caused by the elephants raiding the water trough.
Good news from Jo today: "Yamaha was found after more than a week of tracking! Our tracker vehicle eventually caught up with him unharmed and a bit spooked in a place called Baragoi in Northern Kenya. If you have a look on a map you will see it is hundreds of miles a away and we can only conclude that he was on his way home to Southern Ethiopia! We are not sure why he ran in the first place, mid morning before a major rain storm, I assume a predator spooked him. He was then chased by children and dogs from the Samburu tribe because having never seen a dunn pony before they thought he was a bad omen and belonged to the Pokot (the tribe that Sams are at war with) so he narrowly missed being speared too. I have been in the stable with him for a few hours a day and he has settled but did snatch the duster out of my outstretched hand with his teeth and trampled it, he has a terrible temper.I am sure in time I will win him over again." Phew, that's okay then. He must have nine lives.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I followed a rainbow all the way to Bristol this morning to meet two clients and their respective grey ponies. Look familiar? Silver the first pony has clearly got some Highland Pony in his breeding so there were echoes of Razzledazzle. Silver is only four but has taken to running rings around his owner (quite literally) when she takes him out in hand. We worked with different levels of pressure and release - some lighter than she had been using (for backing up) and some stronger than she had been using - to establish her body space and it seemed to work very well.
"Thank you very much for your report and the pictures. Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the time you spent with Steve, Silver and I yesterday.It was really helpful and enjoyable. I will make sure that I continue everything you taught us. Incidently, I think Feather must have been making notes other the fence as I did some groundwork with him this morning and he was a little star!" SD 17.11.09
The second pony was half Arabian and almost ready to start her ridden work. My role was to look at what they had done so far, to get her going long reining and then to suggest how they might progress in the future. So difficult for owners when they are not even allowed to ride in their field and have to do everything out on the roads. Not ideal.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Photo courtesy of Audrey Scott-Hopkins
The more I watch DVDs such as The Path of The Horse and talk to other horse people interested in non-violent techniques, the more I see that we are all on this quest for the Holy Grail of horsemanship. I don't think I have ever met anyone yet that has all the answers for me and I certainly don't think I've got them all either. I might be amongst a growing group of pioneers but I rarely have an original thought. I suppose my major contribution so far has been the fabric and feathers around the fur of foals! The rest of the time I am using things that I have picked up from other people and following them on their tangents, hoping that they don't meet with a dead end. I'm wary of fashions and prefer to add to my tool box rather than drop one technique in favour of another - I'm very wary of being a butterfly too.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
On Monday I went out to a little set of New Forest ponies to do some groundwork. The first was 16 years old and the youngest was 6 months old. I did some very basic work with the two youngsters including a bit of foot handling. Twig, Tarquin and Tilly were all very amenable.
Tuesday evening saw seven of us having a Girl's Night In (David is in Dubai). We watched Hilary Vernon's Informed Bitting DVD which I suppose is our equivalent of Top Gear! We also ate far too much.
Wednesday saw the arrival AT LONG LAST of Petra's Western saddle. I have only been waiting six months for this. I gave it a little test drive yesterday and am really looking forward to taking her out in it soon. I earned my keep a little by answering three questions for Your Horse and one from the Natural Horsemanship Magazine. Still a bit of a deficit though when compared to the price of a new saddle!
Today a group of us are going off to Tim Piper's yard near Somerton to see the set up there. I can only take the most straightforward starters and so I always look to Ian (Vandenburghe) to take on any horse that is more tricky or remedial. I am hoping that we'll now have two good options for our clients. Better to get it done right first time and sadly I can't recommend anyone really local as I can't guarantee that the horses won't be hit or shoved into gadgets.
p.s. It started to rain almost the instant we arrived at Tim's and yet he still volunteered to work with one of the horses so that we could see what he's about. Tim's a lovely quiet guy and his wife is so calm too. The whole yard has a great atmosphere for horses.