Sunday, June 27, 2010

27th June, 2010 Gypsy ponies and caravans

Just ahead of my week off, it was time to hitch up our ancient caravan (sporting it's Caravan Club 1987 sticker) and go down to Tabitha and George's for their annual birthday barbecue. It was lovely to see Magic and Merlin in their summer clothes and both looking well and happy. Both are much easier to handle now and have their feet trimmed regularly. Tabitha sounds so confident when she talks about training them to do new things.

Friday, June 25, 2010

25th June, 2010 My definition of incremental learning

The finest example of incremental learning must be our grey squirrel baby who has learned to negotiate each and every one of our bird feeders whilst always consolidating everything he knows about fleeing the scene if he needs to.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

24th June, 2010 Too hot to trot

The tropical weather is one thing but the tropical insects are really interfering with my work and my riding. All of the horses are totally distracted by them. Jack and I took refuge in one of the inclosures but were still inundated. This morning Anna was given temporary relief by the trusted scarf and then enjoyed a really good brush for only the second time in her entire life. All of the Forest ponies are hanging out by the ponds or the water trough.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

21st June, 2010 At home with the King and Queen

Back at the fields, Ludo has gone home so it is very tempting in this weather to siesta all afternoon. The horses are taking refuge in the field shelters or the Best Weston Hotel as Julie aptly named it as I performed room service for the King and Queen of Imzadi. They even have their own pet swallows (who poo on them for fun). Blue and Nelly are perfectly plump out on the Forest and this little chap, who I have nick-named Pepper, is happy to have someone catch and kill crab flies for him.

21st, June, 2010 Gylfi's progress

This week has started off with a couple of return visits after quite a long gap. Yesterday I saw Quarter Horse Herbie who has been snatiching his feet away from the farrier when he has his feet trimmed. There is no balance or pain problem here, his strategy has been working and so that's what he does. I worked with his owners on asking him to pick up his feet for longer each time and then working with his foot in different positions emulating the farrier. In the end he was achieving "clear rounds" by holding each of his feet up in different positions for two minutes each time. If the owners continue to practice - particularly the man - he should be fine by the time the farrier sees him again.
This morning it was Gylfi's turn. Yet another pony who has had a bad experience with the headcollar at the beginning of his life which has led him to be permanently wary of being caught. Although he had improved using the touch and move away technique, Fiona reported that he was still diffident about the headcollar and certainly wouldn't be caught in the field. It was time to try Clicker Enhanced training and today we established a link between a target (eventually the headcollar) and a click and a treat before thanking him with a click and a treat for each stage of putting a headcollar on. He was less than enthusiastic about the dry brown treats that we used to begin with but became much more interested when we used broken up mints. Hopefully this is the start of being able to ask him to be less "self conscious" and to start to see the headcollar as friend rather than foe.

21st June, 2010 Writer's block

I have found it hard to write anything for the past few days because I have felt quite down. I am haunted by the story of a pony that I heard at the weekend and yet I can't give you any details. I can only only reiterate that Join-Up is not appropriate for semi-feral ponies (and would not be what Monty Roberts would do with them either) and that if you act like a predator the pony will act like prey. It is vital to establish touch before asking the pony to accept a headcollar, particularly if one has been forced on it before. It is the violation of the head that messes up the minds of these ponies - sometimes permanently. In this particular case it is all too late, the pony has been destroyed because he wouldn't Join-Up, could only be handled in a cattle race and his feet had grown too long.

Friday, June 18, 2010

18th June, 2010 Spots before my eyes

Regrettably no photos from today either but this morning I went off to meet four unhandled Appaloosa New Forest crosses - one 3 year old colt and three mares aged 3, 4 and 8. My job was to assess the situation and give some sort of idea of what commitment might be involved and what facilities might be useful. As all of them were willing to at least touch my hand and to let my hand touch their face, I thought there was great hope. The stallion is happy to let people touch him on his right, is more wary on his left and quite worried about anyone making a grab for the headcollar that has been left on him. The owner is quite excited at this summer project and I hope I will be able to help her on the way. Then we might get some pictures!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

17th June, 2010 The one that got away?

Will you believe me if I tell you that my camera battery was flat today when Mars decided to load and let us close the partition for the first time. I wish I had also taken some pictures of him in the mock trailer where, despite the tarpaulin flapping in the wind, he was completely relaxed. I am sure it helped to prepare him for being enclosed in the real trailer.
Later, Ludo went out for his first ride with another horse and behaved impeccably considering that Petra didn't and they were both covered in horrible flies.
Jim turned up later to do a photo shoot with Theoden's feet for an article I'm writing for the Listening Post. Where was he when I needed him?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

16th June, 2010 Hello Cello

Photo by Ella Porter Photography
It's been just over six months since Cello went to his new home with Stevie, so it was great to catch up with how he has been getting on. He went to his first show last weekend and, as well as loading and travelling well, he was really well behaved at the show itself.
This is what Ella told me:
"Here are the pictures of Cello and Stevie at their first show. Cello was an absolute star, putting a lot of the older horses to shame!!! He dealt with the showjumping warm up ring next to where he had to stand, didn’t even blink at his friend Poppy trotting off in front of him for the judges first, and even when someone let their horse go twice and it charged right past him he didn’t flinch!!! He was 5th in Best Condition but should have done better in the other 2 as well, but the judge said ‘I don’t like foresters!’ so we weren’t holding our breath! It was about the experience for little Cello and if he had arrived and been at all fazed he wouldn’t have gone in any classes. He did enjoy the event being on grass also!!! We had been practicing loading him in the lorry for the past few weeks and really paid off, they both travelled really quietly and he was completely chilled out when he arrived. He was also a star for his first bath the day before!

He looks like he has a little bit more growing to do but is around 12.3hh-13hh at the moment. The difference in Stevie since he’s had Cello is incredible. If he has a bad day, Wendy sends him out in the field with Cello to have a chat and within minutes he’s calm again. The other day Stevie finally believed Cello loved him when he came galloping over flat out when he saw Stevie at the gate, they’re like 2 peas in a pod!"
Have to confess I am sitting here with a tear in my eye. I knew this was a good decision and only hope I can find equally nice homes for any foals I have in the future. I took to Stevie the moment I met him.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

13th June, 2010 2/5th of a clinic

I feel as if I have a bit of catching up to do. On Friday I had me second lesson on Theoden and we worked on getting him more responsive to a light leg aid. David then did the same with Chancer - you'd think a racehorse would always want to go but he's a laid back sort of chap.

Meanwhile Maverick has had his first rug on, Jane has built a pretend horsebox for Mars to practice in and Magnus has completed a Spider Ride on the Isle of Wight with Annie. Bree is described as fantastic to lead and Clare is picking her feet up regularly and starting to practice loading her using a bit of clicker. At the fields Flicka is going to go home for a bit to have a rest and Ludo is still doing exceptionally well; he's very tuned in to intent and Jenny is using the footfall technique to ask for upwards transitions and an out breath to ask for downward ones. Jack is now having all four feet picked out at long last although I did think I had blown it when i made the mistake of putting some vetwrap bandage on his surcingle as preparation for accepting a long rein around his bottom. No sooner had I unravelled it a couple of feet than he took off and spent the next half an hour running away from it. For all those people who keep asking me why we are not contemplating riding him, they should have seen him move and just how frightened he was. Fortunately he was prepared to forgive and forget and once I'd rescued him from it, he settled down and we did some jumping to take his mind off it. Riderless showjumping for the olympics please. Funnily enough I am just writing an article for Kelly on the similarities between being a barrister and being a horse trainer and how we were told at Bar School never to ask a question of a witness that we didn't know the answer to. In truth I hadn't really thought what Jack's answer would be to a bright green Vetwrap streamer!

The stallions should all have been taken in this weekend and I was pathetically pleased to have been asked to bring High-Jack in. He spent an afternoon in my pound with Blue and a bucket and he was a gentleman to catch.

Fellow RA and physiotherapist Sue Palmer and her photographer husband Simon came down for the weekend. Simon has taken some beautiful shots of the Forest ponies which included a pepper coloured foal that was really friendly, the grey stallion Furzey Lodge Zennica and some donkey foals. Hopefully he will share nicely and we can put some pictures on here. Like me, you'll have to wait though.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

9th June, 2010 The Bison Centre

David and I went to the Bison Centre at Bush Farm, West Knoyle, this afternoon. Well worth a visit. We were walmly welcomed by the farm dogs and then wandered around looking at the bison, rhea, racoons, elk, sheep, donkeys, kids, turkeys and chickens.

9th June, 2010 Boys and babies

I've been reminded twice today that male horses seem to adore foals. This morning I was long reining Ludo over at Janesmoor Pond when he became transfixed by a little black foal that was across there and this evening I have been telephoned by a lady whose gelding went goo-ey and simply left her when he spotted a foal nearby.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

8th June, 2010 1/5th of a clinic

The original plan was to hold a clinic with Amanda this week and to borrow an outdoor school. Unfortunately the lady whose yard we were using broke several ribs in an altercation with a quad bike, Chancer and Theoden got sore backs and needed new saddle pads which took three weeks to come, David had a bit of bone floating around his knee and then Chancer pulled a shoe off! All did not bode well. So, plan B was a little more modest, with Chancer's shoe replaced and the new Mattes pads in place, I am having two lessons a day with Amanda on two days. I love my lessons - I think I have said they are all about softness, intent, communication, rather than putting my right leg here and my left arm there. I rode Theoden for the first time today and we worked on simply asking him to turn left, right, walking and stopping all with a soft attitude. Theoden has a little "yeah but, no but" feeling about him which probably emmanates from him being nine and having joined a union some years ago. Chancer is a darling but tends to fall asleep and lean on the bit. Today we worked on how to lift his shoulder so that he can back up more easily and part of this entailed getting down on all fours to feel this for myself. Chancer is taking a keen interest.

Monday, June 7, 2010

7th June, 2010 Anna Part III

Anna really made us laugh today. While I was in the house talking to her owners, she emptied my "foal handling box" and made off with the pink scarf; I think she likes it. As well as calmly accepting a headcollar within ten minutes she was brushed for the very first time. Once Matt (Taylor) the farrier turned up, she stood very quietly to have her feet trimmed. She squealed when Matt forgot himself and went under her neck but then forgave him straight away. Matt did a lovely job of turning rather overgrown feet into really neat feet and he has a great attitude to the pony too. She may be sore for a couple of days but is booked in to have them done again in six weeks' time so that he can keep them in good shape. Maybe I will find her some pink glittery nail varnish....

Sunday, June 6, 2010

6th June, 2010 The Jessica and Ziggy Show

This morning I gave a small demonstration to visitors to the Woodgreen Open Day working with two horses owned by local people. Jessica, a 3 year old New Forest pony by Farriers Rambler, and then Ziggy, a coloured cob. Jessica was a little bit worried about new and novel things and Ziggy was very laid back. A great opportunity to do something for the village and contribute to the funds for the community shop.
"Good afternoon Sarah, my wife and I attended the open village day and were lucky enough to see your demo on horse psychology.... I am a bit wary of horses, maybe a bit scared of their size and my ability to control them. Your demo certainly gave us some insight to horse behaviour and encouraged me to try and cope with my wariness."MP
"...thank you so much for the pictures of Jessica. I think she learnt a great deal that day, not just about umbrellas and tarpaulins, but also about bunting, balloons and crowds of people! She was very good, we were all very proud of her, and she looks lovely in the pictures." Niki, Jessica's owner.
The open day raised more than £6,000 for the shop funds.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

5th June, 2010 BHS at Brickfields

The BHS training day at Brickfields went sort of well. Attendance was high and scepticism low which makes a nice change. Sadly the PA system really let us down and the audience either had to cope with straining their ears or put up with the intermittent boom of the microphone. It must have been worse than Waterloo. Kelly was faced with a non-loader that was the trickiest I have ever seen. Putting it mildly, he had previously been loaded using every method available and he wasn't even prepared to walk over a tarpaulin or wooden board. He had apparently trashed three ramps before and even laid down on a ramp. Another example of a 11 hand horse in a 17 hand suit. Kelly persevered for a long time during which the horse went from saying no to even looking at the tarpaulin to loading half way up the ramp.

In the meantime, Rosie and I worked with three other horses. My first horse was extremely spooky but enabled me to demonstrate the use of the feather duster first of all to desensitise him to things with which he can be touched and also to things that he could follow. He got quite enthusiastic about the latter. Whilst Rosie was busy clipping a clipper phobic pony without holding it at all, I finished with a lovely black (forest-bred) New Forest pony that was ear shy and frightened of men. He had apparently been sedated to have his feet trimmed. I was able to demonstrate how to get over both problems before borrowing a man from the audience to pick up his feet. Scooby was brilliant and went on to work with the umbrella and begin an introduction to long lining. If it wasn't for the regulations on the ferry, I might have brought this one home.

I met some more really enthusiastic people on the IOW and I would be happy to spend more time there. I'm happy to work on my daily rate with two customers per day and to do clinics or demos where premises are available.

This is what lovely Annie said about the two days:

"Many thanks for a wonderful two days and for giving your time so generously once again. Fantastic to see you....and yes, I can categorically make for a truly memorable and fun birthday present! I had a fabulous time learning more and more - couldn't have wished for a better birthday present. Kate and I spent a long time reflecting on the demo at Brickfields and came to the overwhelming conclusion you shone like a beacon for all to see. (I don't just mean the slightly sun burnt face from the previous days exertions!). You radiate a passion and love for your work and the horses and ponies you help. It really does show and I hope you are aware of this. Please keep up your inspiring work and we hope to see you very soon."
Annie -x-

and Diana:

"I really enjoyed your demonstration at Brickfields and was lucky enough to be close enough to hear what you were saying. Full of enthusiasm, I tried your techniques on my Haflinger the next day and only took 5 minutes to move from fear of the hosepipe to allowing me to use it to stroke him all over (the water was off)."

and Ali:

"Thanks you for a brilliant IOW demo. I loved the day"

And Kelly (Marks):

"It was brilliant to have you along on Saturday. You were a big bonus for people..."

5th June, 2010 Silence of the lambs - baaaaaaaa!

Some of the other characters I met on the Isle of Wight - Speedy the sheep being eyed up by Poppy the dog - neither of whom were at all fazed by the tarpaulin - and Greta the shetland who was having a bit of a Tina Turner day with her hair. Simply the best!

5th June, 2010 Ground control to major progress

I had two useful reminders this weekend. Only the nicest people live on the Isle of Wight and good groundwork and leadership really do have an influence on ridden work. Yesterday I worked with Annie and Kate and their two horses, Magnus and Willow. Magnus has been a very successful dressage pony (let me say that again, very very successful dressage pony with a stack of rosettes) and yet was nervous about being hacked out. Following just one groundwork session where we worked on leadership techniques, Magnus is now being ridden out by both sisters. This time round, we worked on desensitisation techniques. We were all astonished when Willow positively stomped on the tarpaulin and showed us all just how brave she is.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

3rd June, 2010 Anna Part I

I received an urgent e-mail about this pony, Anna, who is in desperate need of having her feet trimmed after a gap of six months or more. Anna is ten years old and was an unexpected surprise when her owner's bought a New Forest foal that turned out to be pregnant. Although she has been hand fed, she has not been handled and until now her feet have been trimmed under sedation secreted in sandwiches. To everyone's amazement, she turned out to really like being touched and accepted the scarf very easily. After that it was relatively easy to put her headcollar on and to lift her feet up.