Saturday, October 30, 2010
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Back to Vale Farm yesterday for our third visit. The next time we go it will be for the first of our courses but with 45 equines about the place, a zorse and a zonkey all set to arrive in November, we are not going to run out of horses, ponies, donkeys and things beginning with Z to work with for some time. The zeedonks were already quieter yesterday and much more curious and confident than the week before. We also began work with a cob called Blue who is headshy and difficult to catch. She lives in a huge field as a brood mare before moving to the farm and probably didn't need humans all that much or like them particularly. I started clicker training her. We are very much at the beginning with many of the animals but progress is already significant with Dot accepting touch on his right legs and ready to be touched with a hand next time. Students will experience a whole range of work without the animals being compromised and the emphasis will be on working steadily, eithically and gently.
Monday, October 18, 2010
I am now offering Equine Awareness Course at Vale Farm (between Blandford and Shaftesbury) over the winter months on Wednesday or Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. This will include working with the zebra, the zeedonks and various other equines (mammoth donkeys, Quarter Horses, foals) on areas such as halter training, handling (in particular leg handling), leading, catching, long reining and loading. This is an amazing and unique opportunity to get close to some beautiful animals using gentle and ethical techniques. £50 per person with a maximum of 4 students per day. Please contact me if you are interested. Gift vouchers available.
Saturday, October 16, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
The draw of the animals at Vale Farm is pretty irresistable so I dragged (hardly!) Jenny along to meet them yesterday. We did some valuable work with Dot and the Zeedonks and learned something new; when ZZZ's think, they wag their tails! We also discussed setting up some private courses over the winter and the first two are already full. Details of the courses will appear very shortly. This is an amazing opportunity to work with equines of all types, age and sizes and is just an utter joy. Jenny described it as the best day of her life!
Monday, October 11, 2010
With Taita you begin to wonder if there is more to it than that; something genetic. I know of another foal with the same father who was also quite aggressive and it could also be that her mother was an alpha type mare. Beyond nature there is nurture and Taita could have copied her mother if her mother engaged in the same sort of behaviour particularly around humans.
I am great believer in cause and effective-ness and I think Tiata's behaviour was brought out first by a fear of being eaten (we know that she went through the drift, was branded, went through the sales and then was put in a crush twice -once for her microchip and once for a headcollar to be forced on. She was also wormed.) Once a prey animal can no longer run away from a predator, it can only bite the predator, kick it or squash it. Secondly it was activated by a very strong desire to take and then protect her food. The behaviour manifested itself when there was food around. The most important factor though is that the behaviour has been successful in making people go away. I also suspect that she is sore in her neck (having probably been swung) and she may even have gastric ulcers from the stress of having been handled roughly and moved so many times with a sudden change of diet each time. This would be enough to make any pony grumpy.
I have no doubt whatsoever that given time and training this behaviour will go away. In her particular case, I would never connect food with her training and would simply give her her feed and move away. In time I would make sure that I could stand by her and even touch her while she was eating but I would not use clicker training at all.
It would be important to make sure that the biting behaviour was never, ever, successful in making people go away or making people give her food. This isn't going to be easy for the owner in a shared field surrounded by people who will want to feed the pony over the fence. Whilst I would let her bite the feather duster so that she learns that biting it never makes it go away, I would react to any attempt to bite a human with some meaningful body language - underneath she is still timid and all it takes is a little kiss kiss noise and arm movements like an angry blackbird, nothing more. I would never turn my back on her or not have her in my peripheral vision whilst working with her or moving about in her field; once she is being led I wouldn't want her behind me. Once Taita knows that the behaviour doesn't work and most importantly that she has no need to use it, I am sure she will be fine. Yesterday proved that she is very trainable and that she does like the right sort of touch and will accept a headcollar readily.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
This is Taita a New Forest yearling (probably a late foal) that came to her present owner through Beaulieu Road Sales and a subsequent dealer. She would have been placed in a crush at the September sales in order to be microchipped and then was placed in a crush again for a headcollar to be jammed on (within three weeks it is becoming so tight that it is rubbing her face). The dealers said that she lay down in the stable when they grabbed her. More recently she has been defending herself against humans by threatening to bite and she looked to me as if she really meant it. As usual I started off using a feather duster and she bit this with some force four times before accepting that it wasn't going to go away just because she told it to. Using the techniques from No Fear, No Force and being careful to leave a copy behind, I moved on to touching her with my hand, the scarf and then putting her headcollar on. By the end of the two and half hour session, her owner was also able to do the same. Moreover, Taita was really enjoying being touched - scratched and rubbed - along her back, neck and head on both sides of her body.
On Thursday, Jenny, Celia, Heather, Kate and I were needed back at the fire station to help with the final practical exercise on the Animal Rescue Team course. Officers from Essex, Berkshire, Yorkshire and Strathclyde took part and our job was to make it as realistic as possible. Heather, our newest recruit, who has been deafening me during her auditions by screaming very loudly indeed, not only got carried away but actually got carried away.
Wednesday, October 6, 2010
This morning it was off to Fir Tree Farm to watch Becky Holden in action with two of her clients. The first, a big mare that has had a seven year break. She's doing really well and was moving very softly and really listening to her rider. Next Clare's little skewbald pony, Peni, who started off with some lateral work which she picked up really well . Amongst the spectator's June's enigmatic black cat.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Before anyone shouts hypocrite, I accept that I have two in foal mares this year and I will do everything within my power to make sure that the foals get fabulous homes just as the last two did; after that, the mares will not be breeding again.