Saturday, August 29, 2009

29th August, 2009 Change is as good as a rest

I hope you like the new colour scheme - I was bored with the last one. Let me know what you think.

I could do with some help/feedback on another couple of things. I am after some cheap but good quality pony saddles to send out to Kenya. They need to be wide fit and no more than 16 or 16 and a half inches long. I don't mind paying a reasonable amount for them, nevertheless, the cheaper they are the more I can send.

Also, does anyone want to support the Masaii by buying a beaded browband like Chancer's (see older posts). They will be £10 each and ALL proceeds will go to the Masaii that make them. I have ordered 10 at the moment and will photograph them when they arrive - after that I hope to be able to offer a choice of colours and sizes. Ideal Christmas present?

I have done a couple of days work towards the end of this week (trying to keep my posture right at all times). On Friday it was off to see Rosie Grover and her splendid three year old Appaloosa Merlot. He's a beautifully marked horse with a fabulous temperament. Rosie's aim is to get it right first time and so we just went through to see if there were any obvious gaps in his education before concentrating on groundwork. Rosie has done a pretty fine job with this horse so far and so it was all very positive. Similarly, this morning I went off to work with a two year old Connemara pony called Tom. Another delightful pony - full of personality and curiosity. This afternoon it was off to work with a Czechoslovakian horse that has been a bit reluctant to load (and who can blame him after such a long journey) just to get him flowing on and off again. Once he's loaded he travels fine. All of these horses have only recently been purchased by their owners and I applaud them for not waiting until they have problems or I am the last resort.

E-mail from Rosie: Merlot has been doing well! Groundwork progressing, and just taking it slow. Thanks again for your help! Its really changed the way we work together : )

Friday, August 28, 2009

28th August, 2009 They said I had to go to rehab...

And I said yes. Wessex Rehabilitation Centre is more for the injured and achey than the drunk and the drugged (although there's an idea) and I have been sent there because I have chronic pain in my shoulders and neck. Spending so much time using inviting body language with a heavy riding hat on my head can't be helping but the hours on the computer are probably the main culprit. It's been brilliant and I find my self looking at the parallels with horses - the need for core stability, the need for pacing so that muscles are allowed to recover from micro-trauma, remembered pain and so on.

In the meantime, Chancer ended up at the veterinary hospital on Wednesday night having over-reached really badly and cut himself so deeply that looking at it made me feel peculiar. I went to see if Cello was alright without him the following morning and found Petra standing with leg off the ground. One vet visit later and she was wrapped up in bandages with instructions to hose or ice for twenty minutes twice a day and of course, box rest. Now, I am not a fan of box rest because of its isolating effect and tendency to send horses insane, and with two of them crocked and only one barn, I talked to the vet about pen rest. She was quite enthusiastic and so we are giving it a try. Petra is in the round pen with Jack outside to keep her company and Chancer is in a squarish pen with Cello to talk to.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

23rd August, 2009 Britford Part II

I really enjoyed working with Vinny, a big coloured cob. There is a tendency to think that cobs are stubborn and unresponsive but it simply isn't true. After just a little groundwork, Vinny was really light. I understand that he has been difficult to load for a long time especially when his owners are under pressure to get somewhere. I got him going on and off to begin with before starting to unload him through the front door.

23rd August, 2009 Britford Demo

My second demo at Britford this week went very smoothly. I worked with five different horses and ponies in five hours and it was as if each of them had read a book on the subject. Little Bailey (top) showed how acknowledging the first offer to be caught can greatly increase your chances of catching a pony. Bailey was left tethered at the side of the road a few years ago and crowds of children used to vault onto his back and torment him. He has got over all of that and is much less wary of people than he used to be. He also enabled me to show clicker training for catching and amused everyone by walking up and asking me to put his headcollar on. I first met Gracie (third one down) about a year ago. This pony was found orphaned under a bush and was then fed sheep milk. When Josie got her, she was pretty malnourished but she had benefited from other pony company. Today I introduced her to long reining. The two Foresters, Forrester and Diplomat (second and fourth pictures) demonstrated groundwork and desensitisation techniques. These are both really nice ponies and great examples of the New Forest breed.
I have to confess to a sleepless night last night following the discovery that my "Madonna" headset had packed up. Fortunately David took over the commentary and I was able to have quite a restful day - for once I am not sick of the sound of my own voice!
Thank you so much for an excellent and informative demo. My two friends have both already tried out various things you suggested/demonstrated and have been amazed at the results! LB
Just a quickie to say that once again it worked! – A new pony arrived on our yard and everyone was patting – yes patting – him hanging on him etc! – poor 18 yr old boy Welsh/TB/Arab nice looking but a bit – where’s my mum gone? So I asked the girls to watch & showed them how you did it! – Walked up with hand palm down towards him, not making eye contact etc, he walked up sniffed my hand, I turned away he followed! Wouldn’t leave me alone then !! His new mum tried it & now he is more settled and seems happier with her, still nickers at me though!! LB

Saturday, August 22, 2009

22nd August, 2009 General Advice

Here it is:

General Advice as to How to Approach a Behavioural Problem

Step 1: Check the physical
If you want to work in an ethical way with your horse you need to rule out as far as possible whether there could be a physical cause for any behavioural problem. If in doubt, get a second opinion.

I am happy to come out and see whether I think your horse might have a physical problem. However, I am not a qualified back person or saddle fitter and can only spot the obvious.

Horses can only express their physical pain through body language and changes in gait/ performance. Back pain is a common cause for ridden problems and often coupled with a poorly fitting saddle. Gastric ulcers are common in horses that are stabled for a significant of the time. Teeth problems can be a cause for resistance or even rearing.

Who to contact
The vet is a good first port of call along with a Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist or McTimoney-Corley Practitioner for back problems. You might also want to consider contacting a good saddle fitter. Consider the vet or a qualified dental technician for teeth.

Step 2: Check your underlying relationship
Does your horse see you as his leader?

If your horse moves you around and you can’t move him around, it could be undermining your relationship. If your horse is bargey or takes you for walks, snatches at grass, bites, kicks or is otherwise aggressive then you could benefit from a groundwork session with me.
Horses need good leadership.

I specialise in helping people to establish leadership with their horse. Using non-violent methods I can help you with good groundwork exercises that do not involve a system or drilling.

Step 3: Is your horse frightened of anything?
Has your horse got confidence issues brought about by a fear of people or things?

If your horse is generally nervous or worried about specific things then you could benefit from learning about desensitisation techniques.

I can provide sessions addressing general or specific fear and show you how to continue with that work in a sensitive and logical way.

Step 4: Has your horse missed out on an important stage in his education?
There is a strong economic incentive to break horses in quickly so that they can be sold on or competed.

If your horse is struggling with confidence levels or fitness or you suspect that he has been pushed into an outline before he was ready then it might help if you were to go back and fill in any gaps in his education.

I can provide sessions covering long reining, confidence building and basic ridden work which are designed to be relaxing and fun for your horse.

Quirky problems

Do you find that you are having to cope with or manage problems on an everyday basis or avoid doing things because you know your horse will be difficult?

Many problems get worse over time if they are not addressed. For example, ear shyness, reluctance to have a bridle on, catching issues, difficulty worming, biting, bitting, aggression etc.

If your horse has any quirky problem that you would like to have addressed then I may well be able to help. Many problems can be resolved fairly simply once you are shown how and more complex problems can be addressed over time. Time and patience are very important with horses, but time, patience AND technique is the real key.

Wild ponies

Semi-feral, rescued or traumatised ponies have often had poor experiences with people in the past.

Semi-feral, rescue ponies or even the occasional domesticated pony may be difficult to get near, to catch or to lead.

I am considered to be an expert in handling and training semi-feral, rescue, traumatised and shy ponies and can provide one to one or group training in how to handle these ponies. I have also written a book, No Fear, No Force, detailing how to work with these ponies in a gentle and ethical way.

Specific problems: I cannot give detailed advice on how to deal with a specific problem with a specific horse without seeing the horse concerned. A typical visit would include a full assessment and to make a good start in the work needed in order to leave you in a position where you can continue. Further sessions might be necessary depending on the nature of the problem and the level of support that you need. All visits are followed by a detailed report of the work that we have done and the suggestions that I have made.

22nd August, 2009 Give and take

Two more new and lovely customers towards the end of the week. Kelly has a delightful, steel grey, seven year old New Forest pony called Cassie who is sometimes a bit ambivalent about being caught. It was just a matter of honing Kelly's technique so that she could acknowledge Cassie's first offer to be caught. Yesterday saw me working on loading with a big Warmblood called Boris and his owner Maisie. He had taken to stepping backwards out of the trailer rather smartly whenever anyone approached from behind and we had to prove to him that we had no intention of doing anything horrid.

I've been keeping a bit of a note and worked out that I am giving at least 12 hours free advice per week often on the telephone in the evening when David is home and sometimes quite late or at weekends. This is the equivalent of working an extra day every week and much as I don't mind giving a bit of extra advice to current clients, the rest of it is going to have to stop or I will end up poor and single. Accordingly we would ask people to e-mail about their horse wherever they can and certainly not to phone after 8.30 p.m. I will put up some general advice, for free, on this and my main website In any event, it is really difficult to give specific advice about a specific horse without having met it, as there are so many variables to take into account. I would say that I can help with most horse problems and help to get it right first time and that it is always worth having a visit.

We have also been having at least six telephone calls a day from telemarketers and my original ploy of asking them for their home telephone number so that I could ring up and talk to them about their horse wasn't making me feel any better. As well as registering with the telephone preference service, I am now going to ask for the address of the complaints section of anyone that rings us and then threaten them with aprivate prosecution for behaviour likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress. Just call me Mrs Meldrew!!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

20th August, 2009 Arresting experience

I've had a fun afternoon with the Wiltshire Police who came to Britford Livery Stables to gain some horse handling experience. The main aim was to talk to them about the horse's natural prey response in emergency situations and, if it were appropriate to approach the horse, how they might approach, catch and handle the horse from there on in. I was able to alert them to the Emergency Services Protocol which was drawn up initially by Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service in conjunction with organisations such as the British Equine Veterinary Association, the British Horse Society and DEFRA. The lovely horse is called Spoticus.
E-mail from Kerry (Police Officer) to Gale:
Thank you so much for arranging for the input from Sarah- we all gained a lot from her, she really has an amazing way with horses. We all thoroughly enjoyed the training and found it valuable. Thank you also for the loan of your ponies for the training, field and offer for more practice for the attendees. You have a lovely friendly yard and must feel extremely proud.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

19th August, 2009 Up day

Christopher Robin (top) has had half a gap year during which time he has had his back treated by Kate Boe and a new saddle fitted by Nathaniel Underwood. His owner, Lorraine has been taking him out for walks, practising her groundwork and long reining him to get him fit. He is certainly moving a lot better at both ends. Yesterday she got him for the first time with me on hand in case there were any problems. He was perfect and it was great to see him relax into the bit and realise that nothing was going to hurt. All credit to Lorraine for putting in so much time and let's face it, money, so soon after buying this pony.
Later it was off to see Hannah's latest acquisition, Lucky Lane Clover, who is very similar to her other pony Georgie. This 15 month old filly is pretty friendly already and just needs some some work on gently putting the headcollar on and taking it off and then on to leading. As Georgie carried off the best novice and best Forest-bred pony at the New Forest Show, Clover is bound to find herself in the ring pretty soon.
Fish and chip supper for six last night as I tested out my African photos on a kind audience. 10/10 for stamina.

19th August, 2009 Time it was, time it was, I have a photograph

It's been a funny old week if you start it with Sunday. David and I went up to see my Mum and then to see my Nan who is in a nursing home. Nearly 91, she was a phenominally intelligent woman but now she has Alzheimer's. She struggles to remember what happened a minute ago and is finally losing her long term memory. Things that used to trigger all sorts of stories have gone. I took our photograph album from when we went to Canada 20 years ago but she had fallen asleep by photo three so I just held her hand instead - in fact I held both of them and just tried to re-charge her batteries. I'm not a good grandaughter though, I haven't been to see her for ages. The fact that its a seven hour round trip is no excuse.

Monday was a day off and a trip to the dentist's in the morning. Don't you feel vulnerable just before you go in and as you lie back in the chair? The fact that the dentist and I went to the same University makes no difference whatsoever! In the afternoon I was just about to set off to see my horses when I got called by Jenny G who lives in Woodgreen. Her pony Rosie had bad colic and needed transport to Liphook. It would have taken an hour to organise my trailer but I raced down there to help load the pony or do anything else that was needed. By the time I got there five minutes later there were at 6 people plus the vet and his assistant all on hand to help and a horsebox on it's way. Horsey people are funny folk sometimes but it was amazing to see how everyone rallied round. Very sadly Rosie didn't make it but it wasn't for want of everyone trying.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

16th August, 2009 A come on from the horse on 7th avenue

Chancer's new Masai brow band looks very fetching and makes him a fully Afro-American horse. David has ridden him twice since we got back. We'll keep you informed.

The end of the week saw me long lining Ludo and Pippa for the first time. Both took to it really well and should be able to progress from here. On Saturday it was off to Swanage to meet a lady with so many ponies she has probably lost count! We made a good start with her Suffolk Punch mare and foal and a two year old Dales cross.

Friday, August 14, 2009

14th August, 2009 Every step you take....


On Wednesday I went off to see Rafargo, the Andulusian horse, to work on his loading again. His owner hasn't had much chance to practice since the last time I saw her, nevertheless, Raf was happy to load and to stand in the trailer. Instinctively I felt that it was really important for him to be confident enough to back off the trailer rather than take him out through the front ramp. I felt that he would surge forward and out rather than taking one step at a time. Evey time I put even the slightest pressure on the Dually, his into-pressure response would be activated so that he would go forwards rather than backwards. I decided to try clicker training him so that he was rewarded every time he moved a back leg backwards and then by using the click as an intermediate bridge for the behaviour I wanted, I was able to ask him to be more definite and more confident about moving backwards. He picked this up extremely well and was soon stepping backwards step by step, very quietly. As a result we were able to ask him to stand anywhere we liked within the box and I am sure that he will now unload forwards just as steadily and accept the partitions within a couple of sessions.

I got this from his owner this morning: Thank you so much for coming over. We all think you are terrific! We love seeing you. Mum and Dad were so impressed with your work, yet again, and it really helped to be able to talk through the plan for Rafargo. I have done more clicker training with Raf, and it's SUCH fun! Perhaps we have found the motivator we needed. He was at my shoulder at different paces, backing up beautifully and following instructions so carefully.

After that, it was off to Galloper Horseboxes to talk to the manufacturer and Steve Mills, our local horse transporter, to see what could be done to create the ultimate horsebox. Galloper are working with light but very tough materials that they import from Germany which mean that their two horse horseboxes can carry a much higher load. I liked the fact that they will try to create exactly what the owner wants and in Steve's case, that is a really safe horsebox. It was great to be asked to help.

Yesterday I went up to Princes Risborough to work with Wellow Leaf (Welley) and his small friend Elmo. Welley is a pony that I halter trained last year and it was great to see just how confident he is in his new home and quite quite beautiful of course.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

11th August, 2009 Clickety-click

This evening's demo went well in glorious sunshine. The audience donated a total of £120 which will go to Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service. Jack, Petra and Chancer were all please to become re-acquainted with click and treat.

Letter from Nancy at Wessex Classical Riding Group:

Thank you so much for doing your demo for the club. It was very impressive to have raised so much money for the Hants Fire and Rescue. I thought the horses were fascinating and I'm sure there has been a run on feather dusters in the local hardware stores! The weather was perfect for your demo and I think everyone was given something to think about.

Monday, August 10, 2009

10th August, 2009 Upright again

Off to work this morning - feels a little odd. I got this e-mail this morning about Rincewind who you may remember from last Winter. I really didn't think we had done much good - just asked him to connect a halt to a click and a treat. His owner has avoided the temptation of rushing things and this is what she's now got:

Hi, thought I would update you. Rincewind is now hacking in walk trot and canter (just little canters) alone and in company. He loads without any fuss and has been to Hurn Bridge Equestrian Centre for a play day and I rode him for 10 minutes in the school after lots of fun with ground work. I have ridden SO MUCH I had to shoe him. Thank you for bringing my pony back to me. Tara

Friday, August 7, 2009

7th August, 2009 No news is not good news

Unfortunately I have been too ill all this week to work and therefore this is the blogsite equivalent of a test card. The middle picture shows typical horse transport in Africa - I wouldn't like to load a horse onto one of those for the first time! No wonder we heard of so many accidents and permanent injuries to horses travelling, loading and unloading. The bottom picture shows the typical spotty botty of the Ethiopian and Somalian wild ponies.
Hopefully I will be better by the end of the weekend as I have a full diary for next week.
I am giving a clicker demo on Tuesday evening - it will be interesting to see whether my horses remember how to respond given that I haven't even caught any of them for six weeks never mind done any specific clicker work with them. It's my belief that they will be with me in less than a second as clicker training seems to really stick in their minds. I have been reading Karen Pryor's Book "Reaching the Animal Mind" which suggests that the noise of the click registers directly with the amygdla, the most ancient (and instinctive) part of the brain.

Monday, August 3, 2009

3rd August, 2009 Dorian the Donkey

Donkey (foreground) and Dorian. You can clearly see Dorian's half cut and notched ears here.

I have received this e-mail from Debbie since my return. It's so good to hear such positive news on what was a really terrified donkey.

"Dorian's doing brilliantly, he stands by the door now in the mornings and when I go in he doesn't move and he just loves being brushed every morning and is also letting me clean out his feet! I have also managed to get near him and stroke him out in the garden a few times, he is really coming along. I went to the KSPCA this morning as they have a female donkey that doesn't want to be near people - not surprisingly as she has been 'hobbled' by her back leg - I did the glove on a stick bit until she was calm and relaxed, I even managed to put a hand on her three times, but thats all. I have shown the guy there how to do it, but I don't know how he'll be. I'll have to keep trying with her and try find her a nice home somewhere with someone who will try with her. She is so pretty too, really dark with almost black legs.

It was so great having you here, I have learned so much from you, you've been brilliant. And David is the best 2 legged horse I've ever seen, 10 out of 10 for him too! Keep in touch, lots love Debbie"

Sunday, August 2, 2009

2nd August, 2009 Out of Africa

Finally it was off to Manyara again but unfortunately by this time, both David and I were pretty sick. We managed to go on one more safari, this time at Tarangire, but I had to lie down and rest inbetween each animal. A Tanzanian doctor had insisted that I drink a litre of re-hydration solution which tastes like orange flavour sea water and made me feel far worse. Our journey home via Arusha and then up to Nairobi took a day in itself and this time it was David's turn to lie prostrate across the back seat of the coach. I had a very unfortunate fit of the giggles when his boot, minus his foot, toddled and trembled it's way all the way down the aisle, obviously deciding that if David was going to be boring, it would go and visit everyone else. My turn again on the flight home and I had to lie across a whole row of Virgin's seats. Back home I feel like I have been run over by a steam roller.
Our horses are all well although Jack and Petra are desperately fat and have to be confined again. I'm worried sick that they will get laminitis and adamant that they will get no extra food this winter unless it snows.

2nd August, 2009 The non-stripey horses

Andre very kindly let me ride his Warmblood, Domingo one morning. This horse, like Amarosso in the bottom pictures, was imported from Namibia. Both are very very tall! I worked with two horses in the afternoon. The first was Bahati (Lucky) who is half Appaloosa. He was the very first bargey horse that I met in East Africa - a product of a large amount of testosterone and a lack of leadership and consistency. Apparently he is leading the syces a merry dance and he came out rearing. I worked with him and his owner setting up some basic but clear ground rules. Bless Bahati's cotton pink and black willy (!) he got it pretty quickly and seemed a lot more settled straight away. He worked very nicely through all of the groundwork exercises and then led back to the paddock in a much calmer manner.
My last horse towered over me. This horse is very difficult to shoe and doesn't like having his legs handled, indeed he is not very happy about being touched at all. He went completely boggle eyed when I produced my feather duster (ostrich please note) but relaxed a lot as we carried on. By the end he was accepting it all over his body and all four legs and seemed to enjoy being rubbed at the fetlock with it.

2nd August, 2009 Bring on the non-stripey horses....

I must say I was a little taken aback to find a dead zebra on my bedroom floor at Caroline's complete with mane and tail - I felt like I had to apologise to him whenever I accidentally trod on him. There were two more at Andre's. We were also greeted there by a little black snake and, having been told that baby mambas are fully poisonous the moment they hatch, I wasn't going to hang around with my Observer's Book of Snakes - it turned out to be an Palm Olive Housesnake, complete with freshly swallowed mouse. Andre popped him into the laundry basket where he had his photo taken before being turned out in the garden. I'm normally fine with snakes but I became very jumpy after that and nearly had a heart attack when a ghecko popped out from behind the clock.