Sunday, May 31, 2009

31st May, 2009 More book reviews

"Just a quick one to say that the book is fantastic- just like having you in the room! I love all your phrases (mother, god and instinct, long strap left back, smile in the line... etc), they still repeat in my head whilst I am working!!! I am sure that many people are going to find it really useful- It is always so good to have stuff like this written down. Not only does it mean you can recap and refresh, but it may also reach the eyes of people who have not previously considered these methods or those who have dismissed them without really understanding the logic behind them. Fab- hope you are pleased and that you are selling lots of copies!!!" JM

"I am hoping to start work this week end on my youngster, I have read your book and found it extremely helpful."RC

"...thank you so much for the book. I’ve devoured it. Absolutely brilliant, Sam loved it too and his mum’s on the waiting list for it! We have some land by the Thames which we graze and may in the future be looking at putting semi feral ponies on so I’m sure your book will become another bible to us!"LD

"Great news! The 'hand on the stick' worked wonders, I was in complete control and by his body language he didn't mind a bit. At one point he was even prodding me on the arm to do it more.. Any way I'm stroking him all over with my hands apart from on his face and nose, it took no longer than 10mins. When I walked away to go home he put his head over the stable door and watched me until I drove off around the corner. I just wanted to say your book obviously works brilliantly and you certainly know what you are talking about; £16 is nothing on the feeling I got after that first touch it was incredible!"TD

"And very good it is too- not only just for feral foals, but a lot of sensible advice there for those born in a domestic environment!! Great book, Sarah!!" Heather (Moffat)

"It's excellent, so educational. Is a must read, congratulations and thank you for this."SB, Sweden

"Keep meaning to let you know how great your book is - have been telling everyone so hopefully you will get some more sold. The main feeling I get is that it is so specific and like no other book I have read. Your humour comes through to personalise it and make it a joy to read - but not to belittle the passion you obviously feel for the subject. A real credit to you!" AW

Saturday, May 30, 2009

30th May, 2009 May Ball

Another fantastic Kelly demo at Kingston Maurwood this time. With the book stand inundated throughout the breaks, it was great to see so many people I know and have worked with: Ally S (IHDG), Alex (MGFT), Annie, Ann NF, Audrey S-H owner of the Three Musketeers, Bethany, Carol (my publisher), Carolyn (who owns Jos and keeps him at KM), Cheryl (Widget), Celia, Colin and Charlotte (both Icelandic owners), Eli, Ella and Holly (MGFT), Heather Moffat (EE), Jane W, Jane Van Lennep (Simple Systems), Jennypenny, Julie N (Comfort Blanket!), Kayleigh, Karen (who worked with the Exmoors), Lorraine B (Sika), Lorraine J (Ludo) and Lorraine H (one of the Magistrates I used to work with), Linda W (from Exmoor), Linda McD, Liz (IHDG), Lesley D and Lesley R, Mandy J, Mandy S, Mandy (with Frosty) and her friend Mandy, Mandy M, Maddie, Matt, Olivia (Cara), Rebecca H-F (vet), Rhys, Paul, Sarah A, Sarah B, Tanya, Tara, Wendy (Dani) and Yaniola!!

After that roll call, you may already be bored but this afternoon Jack accepted the 12' lead line on his headcollar and walked around with me using a little pressure and release as well as clicker. He didn't try to leave once. He also let me touch him all over for the very first time. Just his legs to go!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

28th May, 2009 If you walk away, walk away - I will follow

Yesterday Frazer and I worked with Aquilino again. He is now leading beautifully on his own and with his Mum. He towers over both me and Frazer. Later, Ludo had his first rug and coped too. Today has been another day of leading work with a two year old Welsh Cob x Throughbred this morning, Lilyloo this afternoon who was led in the field, had her legs and feet handled and now accepts her headcollar from the left, and then....wait for it......12 steps on the lead rein from Jack this afternoon. I am so pleased with him. I can't use any pressure at all as he just has the strength to leave whenever he wants to so pointless to try and make him stay. Accordingly I am completely reliant on him wanting to be with me and, apparently, he does. Pictures to follow.

"Good to see you at the weekend. What incredible progress you have made with Jack, it really is lovely to watch, you are so at one with each other. He is just enjoying his work so much . I am so pleased he will be staying with you. Its just beginning to register that I no longer have to worry about what if Jack needs a vet/has an abscess/needs the farrier etc. No more sleepless nights wondering if I might find him injured one morning and knowing it cannot be dealt with. I hope that you are also achieving all that sadly you could not to achieve with Piper. You should be very proud of the amazing work you are doing ,which is hopefully going to offer this good natured pony with the kind eyes, a bright future. Am enjoying your book -wish it had been around 10 years ago. G agrees with David, thinks you are definitely a horse." ST

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

27th May, 2009 Walking Out

Yesterday, the theme of the day was separation anxiety. Codie (above) has formed a deep attachment to his donkey friend and after a period of no work, decided that he couldn't bear to leave him. Similarly, Bess, that I went to see in the afternoon, has moved home after 15 years and become very attached to her new herd; in her case she has rarely been ridden alone as she worked in a riding school. By setting up the owners with consistent and clear groundwork, both horses have been taken out for a walk on their own today without any trouble. Codie met three huge tractors and couldn't have cared less. I see walking out as a training opportunity rather than just a walk - the horse can be asked not to overtake you (ever), to stop and to go using body language and to meet all sorts of "hazards". We always use hi-viz these days as the traffic is rarely sympathetic to horse owners.

"That's a nice photo! In fact you can see how chilled out Codie is, he looks like he's about to fall asleep! Thank you so much for today - a real confidence boost and I cannot wait to get him walking out more and more. I really felt like my old Codie-boy was last!" SD

Unfortunately I have received a complaint about my book: The weekend weather was lovely, I decided to sit outside and read, picked up your book (although I have already read it once). As it was so warm I sat outside in my undies (not a brilliant image!) and read. The book is so good I ended up reading the whole thing from cover to cover and didn't notice my bra was wonky! the result is righty is whitey lefty is pink!! - your book has ruined my tan!!! JC

The next e-mail came with the heading "Book of the Year"....."So I am not the only one who could not put you marvellous book down, yes I read it from cover to cover too, such a good read and so reinforces all that I learnt on the courses, THANK YOU." SA

"Hi Sarah received your book this morning. Only had time to read to chapter 5 - love the book so far, makes so much sense. I fall in the over compensated on the poor state Ibought her in and she now has no fear of me to the point she will lay down right in front of me, push me around and not respect my space. I am hoping that understanding where I have done wrong will help me put this right as she needs to learn boundaries. I look forward to putting the knowledge I have gained in to practise." RN

"Sarah's book looks to be a really good read - and even if you can't read the photos are lovely." SB - not quite sure this is a recommendation!!

"Well I have started reading your book already - and I am hooked, I wont ever rear or start a foal myself, but this book is wonderful for anyone who is interested in learning more about all equine behaviour because of course, it all starts with the foal, at whatever stage we aquire our own equine friend - so it helps all of us understand Equus - brilliant, will give you more feedback whenI have finished it!"CJ

" I have spent the rest of the weekend reading your book! Just finished it this afternoon and I can recommend it whole heartedly. Your knowledge and empathy for horses shines through. Really excellent, informative and a superb read! I need a foal to practice with now!! I had a real 'light bulb' moment when I read your comments about horses having picture memories like photo albums. That makes so much sense to me and my time with Manny. Work to replace bad photo's with good ones, and don't be surprised if a seemingly (to me) insignificant event sparks recollection of a bad photo - just work through and replace it with a good one. I've been doing that, but suddenly made sense of what I've been doing if that makes sense!"AS

Rosie went home today having had front shoes put on yesterday. She loaded very well and apparently fell asleep most of the way home. She should be able to go straight back in to work in the next few days and I am looking forward to hearing how she goes. Her owner said: A huge thank you to you for giving her such a great, rounded, positive experience and making us feel so welcome. I've learned loads from you just by listening and watching.

Monday, May 25, 2009

25th May, 2009 Mutual Appreciation

I shall start with Saturday when I was phoned by a client telling me that she had been trying to load her horse for two hours and hadn't got anywhere. Fortunately she had managed to keep her cool and to keep anyone away that was likely to get out a big whip. Taking control like that is not easy. We arranged that I would go over to load him the following Monday, but, I said, you could just try clicking and treating him on since he is familiar with that technique (we'd used it to desensitise him to syringes). Not much later: "Thanks so much for your advice. You're a star!! I'm so glad he remembered the clicker training. It was great that we succeeded and only wish we had less people around. He is travelling happily and munching haybag I can see he is standing well in centre of trailer looking out. He isn't hot and is eating. I think we did fairly well at keeping him calm. Nearly at farm now, been a good journey with not too much traffic."

This morning I went over to Exton to load a horse that is going on a course for a month. This is the one I inadvertently didn't turn up for last Wednesday. The owner had gone ahead and practised anyway and done a really good job. This morning it was great to work with a calm owner and a relatively calm horse. The horsebox is owned by Steve Mills (Horse in Motion) who is also calm and patient and without an ego. Having put us under no pressure, he gave the horse a lovely journey. His horsebox, which allows the horse to travel rear facing or loose, is light and airy and yet robust. Hampshire Animal Rescue Team are really worried about rear facing lorries where the partition into the "living" areas are so low and so weak that horses end up having nasty accidents and getting stuck over them. In this case the horse cannot get through to the living area at all. Steve's website is

Later on I rode Petra Perkins and worked with Jack. He is now accepting a very short lead rein threaded through his headcollar and very mild pressure and release to ask him to come forward. He's not totally convinced but he is getting there. I have had another read all the way through Ben Hart's book "Clicker Training for Horses" to make sure that I am going about everything the right way. Apart from needing to write down my "shaping plan", I think we're doing really well. It's tempting to think of a shaping plan as a sort of step ladder but it is more like a cobweb - as the horse learns to learn his training can expand in all directions at quite a rate. My job is to guage what he is ready for and those stages where I need to break down the steps into miniscule stages.

Both Petra and Jack need to lose weight so they are confined to the two small paddocks. Where did all this grass come from?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

24th May, 2009 101 books

With 101 books already having gone through the door, I am hopeful that I may have an influence on the lives of a few foals. The Exmoor Pony Centre are happily doing all their training in house but kindly state that it is largely due to the previous support provided by me "and the excellent skills passed on to myself, Linzi and the volunteers". Given that they had 48 ponies to train last Autumn of both sexes and varied ages, that's no mean feat.

"I highly recommend the book. It's easy to read, very detailed which is a great bonus for people new to IH principles. I've really enjoyed reading it Sarah and congratulations I'm sure this book is going to make a huge positive difference for many,many foals and their owners." (Mandal - IHDG)

" work yesterday and sat down, read the book from cover to cover and promptly ordered another for my daughter. Marvellous, straightforward, sensible, says it like it is without undue emotion. Can't recommend it highly enough! " (Felicia - IHDG)

"Thank you so much for the beautiful book. I just love it. I was thrilled to find Hobbit and his friends standing under the tree on Woodgreen Common in one of the photos. It is a wonderful book and I am thrilled with it." SB

"Thank you so much for sending us a copy of your wonderful book 'No fear, No Force'. We would be delighted to promote your book at our Open Day in July and we hope that it will be a hugely successful book" Secretary of the Society for the Welfare of Horses and Ponies.

The downside is that the bill has now come from the printers.......

24th May, 2009 Highs and Byes

(1) Kelly collects her prize at the Windsor Show (2) Kelly, Hilary, Zoe, Caesar and Pie discuss details at the Masterclass. (2) Horses outside Wellington's indoor school can't quite believe their eyes.

It was a day of highs, lows, hi's and byes yesterday. The vet, Martin Peaty came to see Rosie and to check that her foot was okay. Rosie trotted up sound and can go home as soon as she has has front shoes on. It was left to Jenny to explain to Martin why we don't do patting - as he drove her across the field she demonstrated her best lovely rub (!) and told him what a good vet he was and he looked very taken with her. Next second, he almost crashed the car as she bashed him hard on the arm and shouted "Good vet!!" in true Badminton winner style. I hope he got the point.

There is a real dilemma for Rosie's owner with the vet and her barefoot trimmer having diametrically opposed views. The vet, who has taken a good chunk of foot away in order to expose and root out the whole infection, is keen for Rosie to have front shoes on and no filler so that the site of the infection can be kept clean and there is no chance of any anaerobic bacteria setting up again. The barefoot trimmer would have been more conservative in her original trim, less concerned about it tracking up to the coronet and is advocating no shoes and plenty of antimicrobial filler.

Next, Fern went home. She loaded like an angel and was soon trundling off down the track. had a little cry about her going and then went to work with Jack. Jack accepted the headcollar again today but this time in the paddock rather than the pound. He also followed me about the field at walk and trot and was quite playful. I have been quite exacting with his clicker training and am deeply impressed with how much progress he continues to make each day. Having offered to keep him at cost as a working livery, I am pleased to say that his owner has accepted and he will be staying put until the two of us are satisfied that the perfect home with a knowledgeable owner has been found. In the meantime he will give wild pony lessons to people who want to learn about techniques for older ponies, clicker training or simple body language.
Then it was off to the first Kelly Marks' May Masterclass at Wellington Equestrian Centre. Until last weekend, Kelly had been preparing for the Pro-Am Le Trec Competition at Windsor Show which incidentally she won. As a result she donated £1,000 in prize money to the Lambourn Riding for the Disabled Group. This meant that there were some last second planning sessions for the ridden part of her demo. These all came off - and so did Rosie (Jones) when Caesar got rather excited and bucked.

Quick synopsis - beautiful coloured horse for starting. A Warmblood cross Cob called Rio. She seemed very chilled and accepting and could have lulled anyone into thinking she was fine about everything and into making a grave mistake. In fact she was quite worried about things on her right hand side and she did buck with the saddle on. Kelly and Rosie (who is so light and balanced over the horse even when she hasn't got her body in the saddle) used systematic desensitisation to calmly ask her to accept things on her right. The session was completed with Rosie quietly walking round the round pen on this lovely little horse.
Next was the ridden session with valuable snippets of information on topics as varied as how to ask your horse to walk fast and to canter slowly, how to encourage a horse to approach jumps with confidence and how to slow down a horse that rushes its fences.

The next little horse was fascinating and educational. An ex-racehorse only six weeks out of racing, he was very fit and lean. His owners described how he wouldn't stand still to be mounted and how they wanted to get some more weight on him. While Kelly did a finely tuned Join-Up with him, Ian explained how racehorses are always mounted on the move and asked to go straight away but not only that, this horse was over at the knee, and therefore conformationally programmed to keep moving forward. His owners confirmed that he was fidgety in the horsebox and just found it very difficult to stand still at all. Ian went on to explain about quick release and low release energy and how products containing molasses and barley can cause a horse to be high energy themselves. He pointed the owners at Simple Systems who were there with their trade stand. At the end of the Join-Up, during which the horse became much more connected, the horse stood quietly with Kelly.
The last horse was a non-loader and Kelly worked directly with the owner throughout this session to help her find pressure and release; her yes and her no. She asked her to turn her hand over so that it was a "motorbike hand" and to give the horse a "smile in the line" so that he could find the release. It's hard to stand back like this and not to take over but within no time the horse was loading for the owner time after time. I'm always grateful to owners like this who are prepared to be taught in front of a large audience as it means that we get to hear as well as see every detail.
I have recently been described as fiercely loyal to IH (I'm not sure it was intended as a compliment!) but demos like this just reinforce this for me. Kelly does nothing but give, give, give - I know of no other trainer that is so generous with their information.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

22nd May, 2009 Fern's last day at school

Fern is due to go home tomorrow. She went on her final Forest walk today so we took her up to the A31 to look at the really big lorries. She was fine. I shall miss this little horse when she goes - she hasn't put a foot wrong in all the time she has been with us and she has been a pleasure to have around.

21st May, 2009 Jack

Jenny and I were elated this afternoon when Jack overcame all of his fears and let me put a headcollar on him for the very first time. Just to remind you, this pony is ten and has only had a headcollar on him once before when he was two years old and was then gelded. I doubt it would have been a good experience. After just 11 hours work, an average of only just over one hour for every year of his life, Jack accepted the headcollar without any fuss. Once again, clicker training has worked for me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

20th May, 2009 No strings attached

Jack accepted the lightest of string halters for the first time today - okay so it's really a fillet string in a figure of eight around his head but the principle is the same; at least he is coping with having something on both sides of his body at the same time. Tomorrow I will see if he can go up a gauge. Bree, had her headcollar on pretty easily and we have started handling her legs - not bad considering that Clare has been running a maternity ward for Miniature Shetlands for the past three weeks since I last saw her and hasn't had time to do much work with Bree at all. These horses don't forget things that are done nicely.

I thought I was in trouble this morning when a communication problem meant that I didn't turn up for a loading horse. Fortunately the work we did last time stood her in good stead and I was able to offer a bit of advice over the telephone. The horsebox driver, Steve Mills, did an excellent job too and I was much pleased to hear that the horse had been going in and out of the lorry without a problem. I hate letting people down and would never do it on purpose.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

19th May, 2009 Safer Horse Rescues

I jumped at the chance to attend the Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service's training day on Safer Horse Rescues and in particular, Josh Slater's lecture on Sedation and Anaesthesia. I now know that both the procedure and the drugs used for Piper's sedation were definitely inappropriate. Of course, it still doesn't bring him back. I would urge any vet at any level to attend a similar course. Josh fully understands the opposing forces of the flight response and sedative drugs, drawing an analogy with a dimmer switch being turned up and down, and emphasising the absolute need not to wind a horse up before sedating it. He also described the synergy between different drugs and how the right combination can ensure a much easier recovery for the horse.

A few nights ago, I also attended a clients' evening arranged by The Barn on the subject of laminitis. They emphasised that the three biggest factors in this disease are (1) overweight; (2) overweight and (3) overweight. Laminitis is so dangerous and so painful for horses and yet we continue to overfeed and over-rug our horses.

Monday, May 18, 2009

18th May, 2009 Ignominious, that's what it is.

Had to mention the strange start to today. David fell asleep during extra snooze time this morning when he was cuddled up to me and managed to drop the alarm clock on my head! I don't think it's meant to be used to wake people up like that. Still it meant I could pay Rosie and early morning visit and check that she was okay (and she was). Jack came up to say hello and allowed me to stroke his neck even in the big field so that's progress. The tree man from the National Park Authority has just been to see me and confirmed that the big beech tree which has graced our garden for hundreds of years is terminally ill and will have to come down. So sad.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

17th May, 2009 Starters stopped sort of

Unfortunately Rosie has developed a foot abscess so we have had to stop a week early. She's now tucked up in bed with some sort of moon boot on her near fore. She doesn't seem to mind and is a lot happier now that the infection has been released by the (no doubt expensive) Sunday vet. At the same time we have been having saddle trouble with Fern and short of opening a saddle library are stuck for the time being. She's happy in her work anyway so I can concentrate on traffic training for this last week and plan to take her down the track by the A31 to look at the juggernauts.

I started clicker training with Jack today in the hope of persuading him that the headcollar is not to be feared and he can cope with seeing something out of both eyes at the same time. By the end of just one session he was accepting the touch of the headcollar and the flat strap against his cheek and behind his ear. He was also coming up to ask me about the headcollar. Please cross your fingers that I can get somewhere with this special little horse.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

16th May, 2009 Three ladies and a trailer

From sunburnt to wind-burnt in six days, it was a blustery horrible day at Sparsholt College today for the Countryside Day and Trailer Safety Campaign. Fortunately the sun came out for Zoe's demo this morning and again for mine this afternoon and our pony, Roanie, behaved impeccably. Despite the awful weather there was a decent crowd and a fair few people gathered around for each of the demos. Things degenerated after that with the three of us - me, Zoe and Lynn - having marvellous fun with the Fire Service's plastic horse and then playing with their fire engine. I think we all did a good job along with the British Horse Society and the Trailer Training Company

Friday, May 15, 2009

14th May, 2009 Another day, another loader

Today it was off to Bath or nearly Bath to work with a couple of horses. Yet another Welsh Cob that has gone on strike about loading and a horse that is really frightened of donkeys. In the case of the loader we got her loading nicely using very gentle pressure on a quarter rope. In her case, I think she had learned to go into the pressure of quite a sharp knotted halter (hard and thin across the poll) and was getting endorphins from it and planting. By asking her back legs, rather than the front we were able to take that pressure off her head. Nevertheless, I have asked the owners to practise lots as she is clearly worried about being in the lorry having had an incident in a trailer and I've also asked them to get her checked out physically. Travelling is hard work if you are sore - I should know!

With no "tame" donkey to work with, we were somewhat limited with the other horse so just concentrated on asking him to be present with us rather than away with the donkeys - both on the ground and when ridden. Every time his attention went away he was asked to bring it back. The donkeys are in the field next door but obscured by high fencing - he knows they are there, he can smell that they are there and he can hear that they are there and he is convinced that they are predators. By coincidence, the donkeys were at the far end of their field so we were able to get his concentration early on and then do some pretty ridden work using breathing, counting and relaxation to get the connection between horse and rider. I really enjoyed it as I don't get to formally teach ridden work very often.

I can't actually remember when I had my last day off and my next one isn't until 24th May. A shame then to have been criticised for not being able to take in a starter until August and to feel guilty for not wanting long telephone conversations about horses in the evenings. As I don't finish my horse reports until well after 9 p.m. and I get up early in the mornings to answer e-mails, pack books and to update this blog, I think I'm doing my little best. In the meantime, David has cooked supper for the last five nights in a row and had his favourite television programmes interrupted by the telephone as late as 10 p.m.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

13th May, 2009 Shaking all over

We went out to an interesting girlie this morning. She had apparently refused to load on the last couple of occasions and when we arrived, the horse was shaking from head to toe from just hearing my little trailer arrive with the panels on it. I started off by establishing my leadership - moving her around just forwards and backwards until the shakes went away. I keep saying that ther is only one letter difference between loading and leading and in this case it was the leading that was the key. After some clear and consistent groundwork asking her not to invade space and to be simply present, the owner was able to prove that she was a 100% leader rather than an 80% leader so the horse could afford to relax. Although she planted herself to begin with when we asked her to load, she was soon going in and out easily and she accepted all of the bars and the partition and the ramp being closed around her. It will be interesting to hear how she goes on.

E-mail: It was great to meet you and Jenny also. It was honestly like watching a miracle being performed!! Haven't stop raving on about you and your work since. Stacey.

Jack was touched all over his neck, face, shoulders and withers with the silky scarf yesterday but couldn't cope with it draped over his neck. He likes to have all his problems on one side of his body not both! Still, he's only been in for a week so far and he has been wild for 10 years.

Rosie was ridden in the field with no napping at all. She looks like a little cowboy horse right now as we are riding her without a noseband. Fern was ridden out on the roads and coped with all the traffic. Despite the fact that Julie (rider) Jenny and I all had hi-viz gear on, it didn't stop a car and caravan driving at full speed past us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

12th May, 2009 Book reviews

Just spent the afternoon reading your book. VERY, VERY good. 10 out of 10. Well written and everything clearly explained. LR.

I love your book, every bit of it. You have done a great job of getting your message across. I have no right to, but I feel so proud of you and so very proud to say that you taught me. My horses would also want to thank you for making me a better horsewoman. DJ

Let credit go to where credit is due!!! I just received my copy of Sarah Weston's long awaited book - No Fear, No Force. It is brilliant! I sat down and read it from cover to cover. I would like to congratulate her on bringing out such a lovely handbook on handling and training the semi feral foal. It is a joy to read, and I shall refer back to my copy often when I am having a bit of a wobble with my youngsters. I could be accused of being a little biased as our gorgeous 3 Musketeers do feature in it, but brushing that aside, it really is worth getting hold of a copy and enjoying the lovely photos and the plain English way that the whole thing is set out. As a novice to the New Forest foal I have found her training methods a godsend. We have 3 boys, now yearlings, all with lovely manners which are a joy to own. This book will also be a marvellous way for those of us not lucky enough to live near her to access her work. learn and practice her methods. Well done Sarah, I look forward to the sequel - both book and foals!!!! ASH on NFED

Congratulations on your superb book what an achievement for you .Loved page 11 with Wellow Leaf. Thank-you so much for featuring him in it . Rob and I have learnt so much from you and now I have a book I can now refer to as well its brilliant. Wellow Leaf had such a good start with you it made it so much easier for us. I'm sure I will be using your book a lot when my other little chap arrives. LA

I'm just loving your book! Although, actually you should have written it 4 years ago and then my life would have been oh so much easier! :) LBP

I just wanted to say "Thank you" for my copy of your book. I started reading it on Friday evening and I didn`t stop until I had finished, at almost 2 am ! It really is excellent. You describe the methods so well and with just the right blend of humour and anecdote to keep the reader`s interest. I could not put it down! It is beautifully produced too. Very "classy" and professional. I hope that Kelly will put it up with the IH front runners( like "Perfect Manners" etc) when she is selling books at Demos and to students on the Five Day and other courses. AE

Absolutely loved the book - so straightforward and sensible. AT

Monday, May 11, 2009

11th May, 2009 Back to school

Jack allowed me to touch him with my hand today - on his face, neck, shoulders and withers. Every day he makes some stunning progress.

Rosie and Fern were ridden in the field for the first time. Both will be ready so start some more formal schooling when they go home. I like to get them out and about going forward at walk, trot and canter and most of all, happy. They need to understand how the bit works and to accept direction. Both had a little nap after about the first circuit in the field - it's my belief that this is entirely natural particularly in newly started horses. At some stage they will ask questions - out on a ride they may say "Don't you know there's a quicker way home; are you lost?!" and in the school or field, "Do you really want to do the same thing all over again?" It's how we react to this that will determine whether they continue to nap. If the behaviour works for them and you give in and do what they want, that's what they'll do in the future but if you get all heavy with them you'll just escalate the behaviour and reinforce a belief that forwards is not a good way to go.

When a horse naps, there is a mental brick wall in front of them and you cannot push them, pull them, kick them or hit them though it. There's a wall! If they feel they can't go forwards and you insist on them going directly forwards then their only option is to rear, buck or even lie down. The only way is round it so they need to be asked to move to the left or the right - using the reins and not the legs. The very easiest way is to ask them to turn in the direction of the front leg that is furthest back - because it is easier for the other leg then to move. If you move them in the direction of the leg that is furthest forward, they have to alter their balance completely and there will be a satellite delay in which you might get frustrated. The temptation also is to take the arm out in the direction that you want to move - an open rein. Problem is that that shifts your weight onto the inside fore and makes it difficult for the pony to move. It can take time to get a horse unstuck and the best reward is to really relax when the horse is moving forward so that he can feel the difference between your black and your white. In the early days, we might ask the person on the ground to "pick up the stitch" by just leading the horse around the brick wall or use another ridden horse to do the same.

The absolute key is to remember that horses have to know what every aspect of their behaviour can achieve. Like the 4,000 muscles in a baby elephants' trunk, it's important for them to know what each one of them can do.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

10th May, 2009 Horseworld Faith and Misty

Another sunny day at Horseworld. I worked with Faith and Misty, two formerly semi-feral ponies that were rescued by the RSPCA in 2008. They have found it very difficult to accept human contact and yet look at Faith;s face in the middle photograph. So willing to try and accepting that in a sea of faces, I might be a safe haven.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

9th May, 2009 Hectic-ness

Last night I went to meet my publisher, Carol, to collect my books. The dining room table has now been turned into a distribution centre and I don't think we will see the woodwork for a while! Copies can be ordered direct from me at: and paid for by cheque or paypal.

A great day up at the fields. Jack has progressed so quickly and is letting me touch him with the feather duster all around his face, down his neck and along to his bottom on both sides. He stands calmly and engages with me every second that I am there. He is still jumpy about things around him - falling leaves, ponies peering round the corner and human voices in the background - but he seems happy to be near me and indeed Jenny who helped me today.

Fern wore a treeless saddle today. We did a short session in that before taking her our with the van at close quarters. She coped well when it overtook her at a slightly higher speed each time. Rosie had her first canter and was ridden with the reins attached to the bit for the first time. She was also ridden by her owner. With Ian long reining Petra, David doing some fencing and Jenny turning up to play with Jack, it's been a bit of a social club. Pictures to follow - camera's battery has gone flat while I was packing books.

Friday, May 8, 2009

8th May, 2009 So who's this?

This is Jack, age 10, and he arrived on Wednesday. To all intents and purposes he is a wild pony having only had a headcollar on when he was 2 and gelded (so that won't have been an easy experience). His owners have left him to his own devices although he will take food from the hand and allow them to touch his face, neck and shoulder....sometimes. Up until now he has been able to choose when he leaves and thats what he's done. In terms of complexity he appears to be a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10 but he has accepted his first touch with the hand on a stick and was very in tune with advance and retreat. He's a very beautiful pony and he is looking for a home. Anyone thinking of taking him on would need to realise that he's a long term project and that time and pateince along will not do it. You would need time, patience and technique and the right facilities to be able to contain him safely while you asked him to engage with you. It will be interesting to see how far I can get in the limited time that I will have him. Needless to say, I like him a lot already but I don't want or need a replacement for Piper.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

7th May, 2009 When Rosie and Fern met Esther (the motorbike)

1. Fern chases the motorbike; 2. Rosie really chases the motorbike; 3. Fern copes with the motorbike approaching from behind.
Both ponies went out for a lovely ride yesterday with Sheila on board. When Rosie met a herd of cows she really wanted to follow them - a Western Welsh Pony?

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

5th May, 2009 Chapter two: In which Tigga saves the day

Hi Sarah,
How are you doing? Well you know I've always been a big fan of the clicker training... and my 3 show miniatures have all just been fully clipped out, 2 with the use of clicker training. (And with my parents buying me new clippers that are slightly louder than the old ones, although miles better I was slightly worried!)

Firstly Spirit, my homebred 2yr old, an angel as per normal, clipped tied up and done by myself... my biggest problem is convincing him to stop trying to eat the clippers! lol

Secondly Chaos. Homebred 3yr old who last year tried to kill us all when we tried the clippers on her near side and injuried 3 people.... we reverted to the clicker training after this and this year started with the clicker training. So easy 7yr old Hannah helped me to clip her using the clicker training... without fuss.

And lastly Tigga... who last year was clipped with my experienced helper Naomi using the clicker training after attending your demo... this year we started with the clicker training, and I started solo with him just tied up with me using the clicker and the clippers (I only managed to clip 80% of his body like this before my friend turned up to help but its a big start!) and both of us said a big improvement from last year and he was a lot calmer and really trying on the bits he didn't like being done.

JH 5.5.09

5th May, 2009 Oh pooh....

A day of mixed fortunes. On of the owners that I have been supporting in starting her own pony at home was well and truly bucked off this morning when he said he couldn't cope with a rider and saddle. He was fine when sat on bareback and there is no reason to suppose that there is anything particularly wrong with the (brand new treeless) saddle; there wasn't time for him to register that. There is a real dilemma about starters and whether it is better to have them in or to work with them at their own yard. If they come in, there can be fits and starts as we deal with other issues such as sore backs or desensitisation and it is cheaper for the owner to have them at home. On the other hand the facilities are rarely as good when we go out - we don't have a round pen, the school may be as hard as rock and usually the owner will not be as experienced at getting on newly started horses. Most of the time it all works out but this time it didn't. We've all got to take a step back now and work out whether it would be better for him to come in. Incidentally, I am not too keen on treeless saddles for starters but this one fitted really nicely and he looked totally at ease in it. My concern has always been that a rider has to lean so far down to do up the dressage girth straps - not a good idea on a newly started horse - and could frighten them or just unbalance them. Also, it is too easy to overtighten the girth if the saddle is inclined to slip - and you can't afford to have that happen with a youngster either.

Following yesterdays training session, Fern is a little better with traffic approaching her from behind. I found that she is more likely to try to overtake when I lead her from the right than the left and this is resulting in her feeling less secure. I have found that by not letting horses overtake me when I am leading them, no matter which side I am on, you provide them with a brick wall of security and prove that you are "there" for them at all times. Once we had worked on this, she was so much more relaxed and we shall go and find some more cars to look at in the next few days.

Rosie did some clickered stretches today followed by a clicker training session with the worming syringe and then the massager. She was happy to be touched by both and for the syringe to be inserted into her mouth and the plunger plunged several many times! If there had been any wormer in it, she would have received sufficient wormer today to work a 14,000 kilogram horse!

This evening it was off to meet lovely Ludo, This 3 year old NF x Arab is really gorgeous and has a very nice character. He was bred by the Hankinsons at Fritham, the same people who bred Nelly, and they have a lovely way with their youngsters. They are so unflappable.

Monday, May 4, 2009

4th May, 2009 Note to self

Bank holidays are called holidays for a reason. With 7 of us up at the fields this morning it did at least feel more like a holiday than work. Rosie and Fern both went for a little ride before returning for some traffic training. Both of them took it in turns to "chase" David on the motorbike and then to have him do fly pasts in both directions. Rosie likes the concept of chasing things and Fern coped really well too. We finished the session by getting them to take it in turns to chase and cope with the 4 x 4 and the motorbike on the perimeter road. Pictures to follow.
This afternoon it was off to see Rachel and Frosty at Ladycross. She and her friend Karen have done all of their homework so that getting Rachel in the saddle for the first time was a non-event. We worked on establishing halt and walking on with minimal aids and lots of thinking and that all went well too. By just thinking forward and down, Rachel was able to ask Frosty to lower his head so that he could use his back to the best advantage. He's looking absolutely great too.
E-mail 5th May: Yippeeee x x x thank you so much xx x x I am over the moon ;_) RG.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

equestrian news | Intelligent Horsemanship demonstrated at HorseWorld open day 2009 | This is Bristol

equestrian news Intelligent Horsemanship demonstrated at HorseWorld open day 2009 This is Bristol

2nd May, 2009 A lighter day

I have just worked with the starters today. Rosie had her first trot off the lead rein and she is happy to be ridden without a "leader" and is listening to light aids. Fern went off with Julie on her own this morning and had a couple of canters. She came back looking very pleased with herself and Julie was all smiles too.

Percy has gone home after a three week stay. He is much happier to be around people. His owner has got him to the stage when he is willing to touch her for a clicker treat but will still not let anyone touch him. He could win an Olympic medal for his ability to follow a bucket - no problem at all to move him from place to place. She has now taken him home and will be building a "wild horse pen" where hopefully he can be touched safely.

2nd May, 2009 Wight Welsh

Pretty tired again today following a 12 hour round trip to the Isle of Wight yesterday. Still, I was able to make significant progress with two out of the three horses that I saw and just a little progress with the other one. All of these horses - two Welsh D's and a Welsh Section A have developed well rehearsed and effective behaviours to postpone things happening and to get people away from them or to release pressure. Whether the trigger was their insitinctive into-pressure response to touch or a way of avoiding discomfort, painful or fearful situations, it has definitely worked for each of them and become a pattern or habit. The first horse turns and squashes people against the walls of her stable if she doesn't like the way she is being touched or feels threatened by something new - a tickly brush, hoof oil or the scissors. In her case I made sure that this behaviour no longer worked by pulling her head round quickly to me so that her bottom went the other way but then made sure that her owners new how to go about desensitising her to new things. I was able to cut a bridle path in her mane without too much trouble and to start to ask her to accept having her chin hair trimmed - note, not her whiskers.

E-mail received 4.5.09: Thanks for coming over we all enjoyed the session a lot, especially A she has been practising some of the leading/handling exercises already. SP

The second horse really struggles to have a bit in his mouth and I don't know whether this stemmed from a poor and forceful approach when he was orginally "broken" or even from the way that he was wormed. The touch and move away technique works for worming syringes and makes that process completely untraumatic. There is no need to jam a syringe into a horse's mouth whilst restraining forcibly. In any event, this horse has learned to flip his head violently when approached with the bit resulting in the bit being thrown in the air and sometimes coming down and banging him in the face - this only serves to reinforce his beliefs that the bit is something to be avoided. I must admit that I struggled to find a strategy with this horse - every time a bit is forced into his mouth, it is simply a management situation and sensitises him further and yet he needs to be ridden to keep him fit and happy. Because he is entire, I was wary of using clicker training - stallions are inclined to become very exciteable about their two hobbies of sex and eating. However, this stallion never bites, is generally polite and has never been randomly hand fed. I made a start with clicker training on the basis that we would stop it if we felt that he was becoming overbearing. I set up the association in the first place - asking him to simply touch the bit in order to hear a click and to receive a treat. He got this pretty quickly and in time he would accept a syringe in his mouth in order to receive a click and a treat and would mouth the bit between his lips in order to receive a click and a treat. Nevertheless, it was hard to get and to keep his attention as he has a beloved mare running with him at the moment and felt that he had better things to do! I should add that he has had his teeth and poll checked very recently and the owner has tried different bits.

The little Section A stallion, that quite frankly would look fantastic in any mantelpiece, was also a head flipper but in his case it got him a release from pressure on the lead rein, postponed his bridle going on or in his mind got him to a mare more quickly. Whilst being cautious about whether there was a physical reason for his behaviour - he has had his teeth and poll checked - this behaviour was addressed effectively with a distracting noise or some big body language each time he did it and a refusal to give him the release in the lead rein until his head was still.

E-mail received 4.5.09: So far so good with Rex, he's stopped the headshaking and is much more relaxed. Erin is as usual a superstar. AC

Friday, May 1, 2009

30th April, 2009 Another early start

Popped down to Sue's this morning to put a headcollar on her wild mare, Mary, who was due to have her feet trimmed under sedation. This is the third time I have worked with Mary and I it took approximately 30 seconds to put her headcollar on. She's a lovely old girl and enjoys a good groom. I left before the vet arrived but I hear that all went well.

It was then off to take the starters for a walk in the morning mist. I call these I-Spy walks as the idea is to find as many novel objects as possible en route. With Rosie, we met and gently moved three young steers (she has been frightened of cows), said hello to four beautiful donkeys (she was most impressed with those) and stood about 3 foot away from a Jewson's lorry that was backing into a long drive (boring, said Rosie). Fern couldn't care less about steers or great herds of Shetland ponies sweeping majestically across the green. She is however, slightly worried about traffic so again we followed a (TNT) lorry up a long drive at trot and then inspected the vehicle while the driver delivered a parcel to the Nursing Home. She particularly liked "driving" it back down the track as it was reversing and she could easily keep up with it. Thank you to the drivers of both of these vehicles.

Yesterday evening, Maria Owens came out to take a saddle fitting for Fern, Petra and Chancer. She is extremely thorough and has a stock of templates that look like television aerials that she moulds to the shape of the horse's back, this acquiring a pattern for the shape of the whole saddle area not just the head. Petra, who can look like an angel most of the time, gave the "aerial" a very old fashioned look and wasn't quite sure she could cope with it near her. A bit of touch and move away technique and she was prepared to take the risk. The templates will be used to find the very best fitting tree for our Western saddles.