Monday, November 30, 2009

30th November, 2009 Leading Ludo

This is lovely Ludo who I have been working with about once a month since May. He's 3/4 New Forest and 1/4 Arab - a great cross. Today he wore a saddle for the first time and was totally blase about it and then we talk him for a walk out on his own for the first time. He took it all in his stride.
Once again I have been contacted about three horses that people have been prepared to give away free in just this last week. The first, a New Forest cross coloured pony was bought from the sales in October. Within weeks it had become aggressive possibly because it was being kept alone in a garden, possibly because it was just discovering testosterone. The appointment I had to go and see him was cancelled when the owner's landlord said that she must get rid of the pony. I had just two days to circulate his details before he was sadly posted back into the sales to face a very uncertain future. I hope that he has in fact found a good home. There is no room at the inn here with four of my own and two on loan.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

28th November, 2009 Stars of Our Show

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.
The groundwork and desensitisation techniques seem to set ponies up very nicely for showing where manners and calmness are highly prized (did you see what I did there?).
This is what Audrey said about Magnum on NFED after he went to his first show:
"Here is Magnum, one of the 3 Musketeers in the book. He was at his very first show - the New Forest Pony Breed show - where his manners were impeccable, the judge was mad about him, and bless his cotton socks, he came 2nd in a very strong class of yearlings. Proud - I could have burst, and I am convinced that it has a lot to do with the ground work of training and manners taught to both him and me by Sarah."
And Ann, who owns Lovelyhill Landmark said of him:
Here is my boy lovelyhill landmark. This photo was taken at his first show where we were placed 6th overall and took best yearling in the WHP young stock class with the judge commenting on how well behaved he was for a youngster. Landmark and I attended Sarah's foal handling clinic and I firmly believe her advice and approach have influenced our success."

Friday, November 27, 2009

27th November, 2009 Everything you ever wishfor-d

Having been rained on and blown off course almost all week, it was good to get some work done today and to have the luxury of an indoor school. Lisa, who produces little show ponies at Little Wishford, asked me to teach some of her ponies and their owners and trainers to long rein. With two glorious Welsh Mountain ponies and a Dartmoor to work with, I was in my element. The two above are Rosie and Murphy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24th November, 2009 Gallaber Farm

Having gone to the quiz night with Sarah on Sunday night (we lost!) I spent most of Monday with her watching and helping her and Clare (riding above) with three of their current residents. Red (the horse above) is a blue Dually wearer - so, pretty tall and imposing - he has been having a bit of a crisis of confidence so lots of desensitisation work with various obstacles around the farm. Another horse, William, has been succesfully avoiding having his feet picked up for a good long time. Yesterday we took turns to clicker train him or to pick his feet up and rest them against our legs as a trimmer would. It's working a treat if you pardon the pun. It's good to see that as RA's, often working in isolation, we do things pretty much the same way. Sarah also works with young racehorses for local trainers. Sarah has great facilities including an indoor barn with a round pen and some brilliant riding country around the headlands of her own farm and around the local village:

My lot got another credit note today as the wind was blowing the trees sideways and throwing all my kit about. Hopefully it will calm down by tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

22nd November, 2009 Atypical myoglobunuria

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

20th November, 2009 Cello - Let's Go

Cello went off to his new home this morning and I am feeling all sad. No need really as I can go and see him any time I like and he has got a fabulous home. No more crab flies or deer ticks! He has arrived safely at the other end of his journey and is now turned out with another youngster called Max. Stevie is going to keep his name as he knows that it is really Hindi for "Let's go" rather than just a musical instrument.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

19th November, 2009 Getting On with Davy

Today we took a step by step approach (did you see what I did there?) to mounting with Davy who has recently started to move around when his owner gets on. With the aid of my mobile mounting block we had the problem solved in no time at all. One of my answers for Horsescene Magazine was in this subject:
Horses may begin to fidget at the mounting block for a variety of reasons - because they are experiencing or have experienced pain when someone has mounted, because they have not been taught to stand quietly or, for example with racehorses, because they have always been mounted on the move.

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

17th November, 2009 What happens when you let a man name a horse

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

16th November, 2009 Bristol Fashion

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

14th November, 2009 In search of the Pony Grail

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

12th November, 2009 T for Three

Top: We torture Tim Piper by making him work in the torrential rain. In the meantime, David is warm and cosy in Dubai.

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.

12th November, 2009 Fixed by phone

The other call I had was in relation to a New Forest pony bought at Beaulieu Road Sales. The owners have been able to handle the pony and to clip on to his headcollar but when they do he reverses at 100 miles per hour. I suspect that he has been halter broken by tying him up to something solid, a practice which is still carried out in this area, and that his poll is terribly sore. I explained to the owners how I use a scarf these days to teach ponies to accept pressure on their neck and head and to teach then to come forwards into a pressure. I got this e-mail last night:

"We have used your advice and the scarf worked brilliantly with Jellybean. We have built up from leading round the stable to going in and out of it. Today we led him in and out of several different stables and he was fine. We are going to have another go at turning him out tomorrow morning. If it goes well there wont be the urgency for you to come out asap, however, we would still like you to come out and do a bit of work with him anyway."

And the next day...."Jellybean was very good today leading out."

They have also bought a copy of No Fear, No Force via the BHS.

12th November, 2009 Fixed by E-mail

I have had a bit of a quieter week this week partly due to the fact that two people that I had spoken to by telephone or e-mail have cancelled because I have already fixed the problem. The first was a travelling problem and her e-mail went like this:

"Hi Sarah,I have been to a couple of your clinics and was very impressed.We have a 15-2 tbx 8 year old gelding called R who my daughter competes Pc level and BSJA and we are at the end of our tether!.We have owned R for a year and half but recently his behaviour in the trailer has been horrendous. What he does is he puts all his weight/leans on the partition (I have an Ifor Williams trailer) and crosses his legs and basically lifts his hooves up and down on the spot and his bum dissappears. He hasn't fallen down yet but the trailer is rocking like mad and the noise is very upsetting and he kicks out as well. It's like he can't keep his balance but I drive very carefully. We removed travel boots as he wasn't keen on them and now has bandages with gamgee and overreach boots as he definately needs some protection as the damage he can do to himself has been awful. We travelled back from WW yesterday and it was worst so far and
when we got back to the yard ,he had broken the back partition which was hanging and back breast bars were down. I have not changed the trailer since we've had R so nothing nasty has happened to him. It probably started around corners a bit so I go very careful around corners and now its on the straight he seems to wind himself right up. Sorry to waffle on but if you think you could help us that would be great."

I replied as follows:

"I come across this sort of problem two or there times a year and I am sorry to tell you that it is not one that is easy to solve. By the time a horse gets to this stage of anxiety, going into pressure against the partition and effectively galloping along the walls of the trailer or on the spot, they are in quite a lot of trouble. Unfortunately in R’s case this has now been reinforced by the partition actually letting him down. I am very happy to come and out and see what I can do to help. However, the only way I have ever found of solving this problem is to take the partition out altogether and to travel the horse cross tied with full width front bars and back bars Horses that have this problem seem to like having more room made available to them and you are right to think about the type of boots that you use – the big thick boots seem to cause more problems than they solve. This does mean driving even more slowly as your load will be less secure than with the partition in. I cannot say for definite that it is legal to travel a horse without a partition but the fact that Ifor Williams make full width bars (they cost about £100 for the two) tends to suggest that they think their trailer is designed to work that way – they do however make it clear that horses should not be travelled totally loose in their trailers or forward from the front bars as the front of the trailer isn’t as strong as the rest of it.

If you want to experiment with this with me present then I am happy to come and help and advise. I an also willing to come and try to see if we can get him to travel with the partition again but I think it is only fair to tell you that it’s a tricky one."

The owner and I then made an appointment over the telephone and I urged her to get a CCTV if she was going to try this method. I then got this very happy e-mail:

"Hi Sarah, just to say that we tried R yesterday without the partition and have full width bars and took him for a little drive, and I have a camera fitted now, which is fab! He was really good and it was great watching him.We have just got back after taking him out again and a bit further and again he just stood there his ears were forward and he was very calm. We are happy to travel him like this for so can I cancel our appointment and thank-you for your advice kind regards L"

I have asked her to send a donation to the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre out of any change she has from her full width bars and CCTV!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

8th November, 2009 Flo and Jo

No lie in yesterday morning as I went off to work first thing with Malaika her pony, Harry, and her Dad. The aim was to ensure that they are both taking a consistent approach with Harry whose manners have improved immensly with just a couple of sessions. They've now got a great relationship.
E-mail from Mark: "Just a quick note to say thank you for Saturday. I really enjoyed myself and I feel a lot more confident around Harry. Used the the left hand head collar technique on Sunday and it worked a treat! Thanks for your help with Harry and Laika they both seem to be getting more confident and relaxed around each other - which is good for both of them!"
Malaika is Swahili for Angel, so it was poetic that my next stop was to meet up with jo and Tom who are over from Africa. I feel so immediately comfortable with these two that I start to feel homesick for Kenya. Incidentally it has rained there for the first time in three years - can you imagine how welcome it is? Lake Naivasha is filling up and the elephants and hippos have got something to eat. I imagine they are dancing. I picked up another 23 Masaii browbands to add to those that I have for sale.
Next it was off to my Mum's and a visit to my Nan in the nursing home. She's not too good to be honest and slept through most of my visit today. I had a little sleep while I was there too and just held her hand for a bit. While I was at my Mum's I did some work for her good friend Rosemary and her fairly wary foal, Flo. Flo is definitely only happy with people on her right hand side at the moment and very worried about the headcollar. Accordingly I commandeered a scarf from Rosemary's car and showed her how she can be desensitised with that. Rosemary has a small collection of alpacas in my Mum's fields which are always a delight.

Friday, November 6, 2009

6th November, 2009 Gilfey

Razzledazzle - roamin in the gloaming.....

Today I went out to a Shetland pony called Gilfey. He's a substantial chap with a proper Shetland horsey head. His owner has come a long way with him since she got him. When he arrived he used to stand and shake in the stable and he just didn't want to be touched at all. He has reached the stage where she can touch him on his left and put a headcollar on him and even pick up his left front foot providing she is really careful and makes herself pretty small. Using the "touch and move away" technique that's described in my book, we were able to desensitise his right hand side and to touch him all the way down his back legs. I picked up both of his front feet and I don't think it will be long before Fiona can pick the up the backs - they just need lots and lots of desensitising first. Once all this has been consolidated, she should be able to get his feet trimmed by the farrier.

In the meantime, Jack is having his front feet lifted off the ground and I hope it won't be long before I can hold his foot. All of this was achieved in just one session since Guy, the farrier, was rude about his feet. They don't need trimming but they do look a bit rough around the edges; he's never had the done in 12 years. Incidentally, he's also jumping doubles now!

Razz is being long reined out into the Forest and seems to be really enjoying himself.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

5th November, 2009 No fireworks here

Maisie brought Boris over to the Forest today for his first proper trip out. He loaded well at home, travelled well with his friend Saracen, unloaded quietly and then loaded again to go home. All very serene.
"Thank you so much for everything you have done for Me and Boris - you have turned him into a dream horse and restored our friendship. I never thought this day would come when I could pop him into the trailer and take him on an outing and without your help it would not have been possible." MM 5.11.09

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

3rd November, 2009 Unravelled?

This week I have been out or am going out later to several horses with complicated histories and complex, interlinked issues. For one, she panicked when she was overtaken by a large group of cyclists when she was being long reined. Since then, she has napped along that same piece of road, can't cope with being long reined and is rearing and bargey at home. Another struggles to stay in the stable and sweats copiously, churns up the ground when tied up outside and can't being herself to walk between two parallel poles. She is apparently great to ride, does dressage well but panics over jumping poles. A horse I am due to see tomorrow is devastated when his friend goes out without him, forces his way out of any stable and is spooky and out of control when he is ridden. His friend won't stand still to be mounted, is ear shy and frightened of shiny things. Sometimes, it is hard to know where to start. Whilst I don't believe in systems of horsemanship, I do like to have a structured approach to horses like this - a flow chart almost. It always starts with the physical before going on to groundwork for leadership. If you are not in control on the ground, I wouldn't even want to get on a horse because you just might have to get off and walk home! After that I would look at desensitisation and, if appropriate, long reining. Basically, all I would want to check and then double check that the horse hasn't missed out on any vital aspects of its education or had them so badly knocked that they need to cover it again.

Postcript: After meeting all of these horses and their owners I am optimistic that they will be able to make a significant difference. All of these horses have only just arrived at their new homes and will benefit greatly from some clear and reliable leadership.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2nd November, 2009 Masai Brow Bands

The Masai brow bands are here with more arriving on Saturday.

Beaded by women of the Masai in Loisaba, Kenya. All proceeds (everything except the postage) from the sale of these brow bands will go directly to them. The browbands are made from African leather and come in two sizes - 14 1/2" (37cms) or 16" (40 cms). £11 each (inc. P & P at £1)They look absolutely great on any horse.

Press on slideshow and make a note of the code. You can contact me at to check availability and pay either by cheque or paypal.