Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Serendipity, the Curly foal is Lorraine's new pony and I am hoping to meet her in the New Year. The breed standard of this North American horse says this:
Yesterday our Christmas plans were interrupted by a beautiful blonde called Tequila. Sarah, her owner, had brought her down to the New Forest so that she could ride out with her daughter in Christmas day but unfortunately, when it came time to go home, Tequila was adamant that she wouldn't load. The little trailer on which I normally store my panels was full of firewood and so we had to barrow that all down to the house before dashing up to Fritham to pick up the panels. We arrived Sarah and Tequila in just over an hour and loaded her into the horsebox pretty quickly. Despite looking relatively calm, Tequila's bottom lip was pretty tight and once in the box, with the partition closed, she began to rear. I felt that it would be better to travel her loose with the partition pushed all the way over to the wall so we took her out again and rearranged everything. She loaded readily this time and was fine while we closed up the ramp and the top door. She had a good journey home, being able to spread her feet out and stand like a table. We went off to Bournemouth and got some thermal lined curtains in the sales.
From Sarah: "Your presence yesterday, helped us all so very very much and I can't thank you enough for abandoning your plans for the day to come to our assistance. Of course getting Tequila in the box was the ultimate goal, however, so much more was achieved. Your communication and handling skills with all of us, horse and human, ultimately, put us all at ease.
Tequila traveled home calmly, mostly choosing to stand facing the rear of the box, however Gem tells me that she did turn and have a look through the cab window before turning away to munch on some hay.
When we all arrived home, it was me who was drained and shaking, our pony was as cool as a cucumber. I climbed through the back door, gave her a hug, clipped her onto the lead rope, gave Steve the thumbs up to open the door. Tequila stood by me, had a look to see where she was and waited for me to lead her out and home. Thank you so much, both of you. You've done so much more than just load our lovely pony!"
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Amongst the Christmas cards we have received, we have this cheerful looking picture of Welley (Wellow Leaf) and Elmo (with Rob and Linda). It's over a year since we loaded Welley to go to his new home.
For those of you that like jigsaws, there's a few more here.......
Sunday, December 20, 2009
A full fourteen days off this Christmas - makes a change from horse training and horse sitting. I am looking forward to riding my own horses and to settling down with a good book in the evenings. I've got Born to Whisper, By Nicole Golding and Adam Goodfellow, the sequel to Whispering Back. Nicole and Adam are both RA's; Whole Heart, Whole Horse by Mark Rashid - in hard back with huge writing; and Wild Horses of the World by Moira Harris - I would love to train a foal from each breed.
Next year is already starting to get busy with horses to go and see every day in the first week. I'm really looking forward to 2010. I think this year I have really got my head around the difference between self esteem and ego and much as I like positive feedback, it's whether I am doing the best I can for the horses and people I meet that counts.
Merry Christmas to anyone that is reading this and a very happy New Year too. I am very happy to receive enquiries about appointments for next year and curious to know what resolutions you are setting for you and your horse.
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Thursday, December 17, 2009
I slept with Jenny for the first time last night - she had the top bunk and I had the bottom bunk, taking me back to when I was about seven when my friends and I would lie awake giggling nearly all night. Jenny and I were staying with Tabitha and George at Chard where we were training their two Bodmin Moor colts, Magic and Merlin. Thank goodness that they didn't turn the telly on an hour later or these beautiful ponies would be called Anton and Brendon!
Spider put me in mind of Amarosso, the 11.2hh warmblood in a 17 hand suit that I met in Tanzania. Like Amarosso, it appears that Spider has been hit quite badly at some stage in his past and he is terrified of anything that looks remotely like a whip. Although Guy doesn't even carry a whip, this fear gets them both into trouble from time to time.
As usual I started off with the feather duster before Guy continued with a plastic bag on a stick. By then Spider thought this was all old hat. We then worked with the umbrella and the tarpaulin which Spider tackled with great courage before allowing me to touch him all over with a whip. I wouldn't normally use a whip to desensitise a horse unless I know for certain that one will never be used on him ever again - I maintain that is not fair to desensitise and expect a horse to be sensitive to the same object.
He may not become a police horse overnight but I am hopeful that this and further work will help Spider to get over his phobia.
"Thank you very much for the time you spent teaching both me and Spider, we both enjoyed it. Hopefully, it will prove to be a good base from which we can move forward, literally! I have to say that I was most impressed, something I will pass on whenever I get the chance." Guy Reynolds
Monday, December 14, 2009
I often think about rational versus emotional in our treatment and training of horses. Many of the people I meet are very emotional about their horses - not just joy, happiness and sheer excitement about having them but negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and anger when things aren't going right or they fear failure. I often say, leave your emotions at the gate as they won't help and will almost certainly hinder. You can pick them up again on the way out if you want to - but you might find that you don't. Before this sounds like a sermon, I will tell a story against myself. Petra has only just come back into full work for a variety of reasons. Instead of starting off a few steps back from where I left off, I decided to ditch the clicker training that has worked very well in stopping her rushing and to be more forthright about owning speed, direction and destination. Forthright is a euphemism for cross and not only am I ashamed of having got cross with her, but, three weeks later, I am still having to put things right because that cross-ness reinforced everything she has ever believed about humans and made her want to go home even more. (I am back to clickering her every 50 strides and on Saturday, she only rushed for 1/3rd of the ride rather than 1/2 of it - basically the bit where we were facing home!).
Negative emotions get in the way of rational thought and our ability to work things out so that we can make it easy for the horse to do the right thing; the make it more likely that we will punish rather than using measured pressure and release, more likely that we will forget to reward the instant the horse has done the right thing. They affect our patience and our ability to be in the moment with the horse. I went to one lady who was really worrying about the future and lamenting what had happened in the past to such an extent that we struggled to talk about what was actually happening now and how we could train incrementally from there.
I am sure it is harder with your own horse as we are more emotionally involved with them and at risk of feeling slighted or rejected when they don;t do what we want them to do. I often say, if love was enough there would be no behavioural problems at all.
I think positive emotions can help training if they are used to notice, release and reward the instant the horse gets ot right. Instructions need to come from the head and rewards, of whatever kind, from the heart - literally, heartfelt. A lovely rub or a "goooooood booooy", or, like in Harry met Sally, yes!yes!yes!!!!
By the way, the pony in the picture is Blue, and she would like to point out that she has never driven me crazy. How could she?
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Friday, December 11, 2009
Today I am going to be testing out a set of Old macs on Petra's front feet. I really really hope they will work as I would love to keep her barefoot. I have been doing a lot more riding recently and her feet have really worn down and I was heading towards a set of shoes. My "traditional" farrier is utterly supportive and all for it. If they work for Petra then Chancer will be getting some for Christmas too. Wish me luck - if I lose one in the first muddy puddle I will be very disappointed. The Western saddle is lush but I am still waiting for the blanket to go with it and am having to borrow Chancer's in the meantime.
* A reference incidentally to Ian Dury's album just in case you wondered.
Part II - having turned Petra out in them for a little while this morning, I then went out riding in them. Apart from looking askance when I asked her to stand on a carpet while I fitted them, Petra didn't seem to mind them at all and was certainly more confident on the gravelly ground. Whilst I have a very open mind about horse's being barefoot, I am adamant that horses should not have to be very sore at any stage of their transition or indeed in the long term. I was pleased to see in the Horse and Hound this week an article that confirmed my belief that horses that are sore in their feet will change their gait and end up compensating in other parts of their body, particularly the back. A few years ago we had a horse in like this where the owner was absolutely resolute that the horse would not be allowed to have hoof boots and in the end I had to become equally resolute that in that case she wouldn't be ridden nor long reined. Not only was she starting to go short, she was losing her confidence about crossing streams and tracks - anywhere where the underlying footing was stony.
Yesterday it was off to Swindon to meet a three year old New Forest Pony called Achilles. He came off the Forest when he was eighteen months old and has recently changed hands again. Although he has settled a bit, he was inclined to climb the walls if anyone went into the stable with him and if pushed, threaten to kick. When turned out he jumps out of his field for a pastime. I explained to his owner that I could only work on making him want to stay rather than stopping him leaving - the only thing to prevent that would be higher fences.
We had a great afternoon basically working our way through the technique described in No Fear, No Force. It transpired that Achilles wasn't completely averse to being touched he just had some substantial gaps in his training and was very apprehensive about people's intentions; his muscles tensed whenever we laid a feather duster or a hand on him to begin with. By being careful and subtle about how we approached him, making sure that we rewarded him for softening and allowing things to happen we soon got him leaning into us for more touch and bringing his head round to accept the headcollar. He's actually a very sweet pony and I only wish I had a photo - blimmin' camera ran out of battery. (Apparently it didn't - I got this single picture before it died on me).
Leanne is going to carry on with this work and gradually increase the are where she works with him. In the meantime her boyfriend is going to get busy with a hammer and nails.
E-mail received today:
"After you visit yesterday I popped into the local saddlery and found a rope halter that when undone is a very long rope with a loop in the end very similar to the one we were using yesterday (a bargain at £5!!). This morning armed with a feather duster, new rope, and a headcollar with buckles I went to visit Illie. When I entered he was a bit jumpy and pulled himself up to his full height!! but when I produced the feather duster, he immediately visibly relaxed and walked over quite confidently and sniffed the duster. I was with him for 40 mins and in that time, I rubbed him with duster all along his back both sides, rubbed him with my hand, put the headcollar on and off twice, looped the rope round this neck and he followed me round, then looped the rope through the headcollar. He was a complete star and I can't wait to get down and do some more work with him :-D (I'm going to have to stop myself doing to much!!!)" LK
E-mail 16.12.09: "Just thought I'd drop you a update on Illie. I have continued working with him most days for anything between 5 and 40 minutes. Headcollar going on and off is no issue now, I am continuing to lay it across his neck and move it up but this only takes a few minutes. He is still a little wary of rope but improving daily. We went for a little walk on Sunday and he was star. Approached him tonight and he allow me to rub his shoulder and touch his headcollar without working with feather duster first so I have now removed his headcollar." LK
E-mail 4.1.10: "Illie continues to improve daily, we have progressed to being able to approach without working with feather duster first, we can now put headcollar on over his nose and going for daily walks, he gets turned out in the small gravel yard for a couple of hours daily and can be caught quite easily again. Several of the girls can now approach him in stable and put headcollar on but he will only allow me to catch him in the yard so this is what we are now working on.
We have been working on being tied up and he will stand quitely for 10 mins to be fussed over before he starts to get bored, I can now pick both front feet out even when he is loose, I can comfortable to pick up his near hind when tied up and working on his off hind as he is v-touchy about it still. Saying that the farrier visited last week and he stood calmly to allow all his feet to be trimmed. (very v-v- chuffed that day!!).I can now touch him almost all over - including ears, he wore his first bit last week just on a headpiece, so no nose band etc but he was a complete star again. He even wore Paul's cow boy hat on his head the other day after naughtly snatching it of Pauls head when Paul was mucking him out. (wished I had caught it on camera as v-funny)
Thank you so much for visiting us as none of this would have been possible without you, I feel we have really unlocked his v-cheeky personality and can't wait to see how he further develops."LK