Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Hopefully it won't be long before the Friends of the Hampshire Animal Rescue Team Charity is set up. Jenny and I went down to the fire station to finalise the aims and objectives for the charity yesterday. The forms should be submitted to the Charity Commission soon. A talented graphic designed called Andy White is working on a logo for us. The fund got a good boost (£650) last night from friends who attended a talk by Jim Green at Godshill Village Hall following on from the rescue of Mischief the New Forest Pony from a swimming pool.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Yesterday Guilda was introduced to a saddle for the first time before being ridden in the round pen on and then off the lead rein. Beau was ridden all the way around the field and then unclipped too. It was fabulous to actually watch him switch his left ear off to me and give them both to Jenny - he was concentrating so hard. These are wonderful moments. Our experiment in starting ponies just one a week or even once a fortnight in Guilda's case, is going extremely well. In a few weeks I have got two starters coming in - Freddie and Puck - and they will be on the three day week with two sessions of groundwork in between. It will be good to be able to compare.
"What an amazing day. There is so much to be said about kindness and understanding of animals. It's taken you and Jenny no time all to get to the saddling up stage. The confidence that Guilda has is a real credit to you both. Can't wait for the next lesson. x" K.G. (Guilda's owner)
Life is never mundane. Today the chiropractor is coming to check that Chancer and Theoden are ready for more work. Tomorrow I am off to the Royal Veterinary College with Jim the Fireman and back to the fire station on Friday to finalise the objectives for the charity. Saturday I am off to Bicton to do a demo with horses I have never met or even talked about and on the way back I'm going to see Magic and Merlin, the Bodmin moor ponies that we halter trained last year. Two loaders and a Teddy at the beginning of next week and then off to Mallorca to see Xanthe and her mules!!
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Saturday, March 19, 2011
Both Alby and Teddy (who gave the kit a good inspection) have been taught to long rein this week and both have been leant over for the first time without appearing at all perturbed. In the meantime a stud-bred New Forest pony that I went to see a few weeks ago is going out and about for walks on the Forest and getting used to traffic.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Saturday, March 12, 2011
On Thursday I went off to see two 'loaders' which included one experienced horse and one not. The one that was experienced was yet another that had previously been 'tapped' with a whip by a horse trainer in order to get her to come forward and load. (The trainer stands at the front of the horse and taps with a schooling whip on the hindquarters until the horse works out that it needs to move forwards). Once again, the net result is a horse that is no longer afraid of loading but is afraid of what happens at the bottom of the ramp. Lots of agitated kicking out and piaffing with her back feet. We told her that this was never going to happen again, used gentle pressure and release, rewarding even the tiniest move forward with a lovely neck rub and a click and treat, and there she was loading happily. Once on the lorry she was happy to stand, turn to the correct position for travelling and stand at the top of the ramp playing I'm the Queen of the Castle. The second horse simply needed to know where she was supposed to go. The lorry has a side ramp and she simply couldn't see where there was any space for her to fit. Both horses were entirely calm in the box itself and apparently travel well.
Thursday, March 10, 2011
While Jenny and I were out and about today, we decided to call in at Turbary Park where there are six conservation Exmoor ponies. The look extraordinarily well and their feet are in good shape. They are getting pretty friendly after three years of being in close contact with people who walk their dogs and take a breath of fresh air in the park.
At a secret location, on a triple SI site, somewhere in my area, I was asked to meet two rather special ponies. Gromit is a New Forest stallion who has being living out on this small but wild environment right next to housing and an industrial estate for many years. He lives with a New Forest mare but they have never produced a foal and they both perform an important role in conserving this site as naturally a possible. However, Gromit's feet have grown very long and although he will let the ranger put a headcollar on him, he pulls back and either breaks or slips his halter every time the poor farrier tries to get to his feet. Although seemingly friendly, the pony is highly reactive and apt to kick when he says no. My job was to see whether he was trainable. In most circumstances it is questionable whether it is wise to train a conservation pony when there are likely to be lots of people using the site for walking their dogs or taking a breath of fresh air. The ponies can become pushy and dangerous if they are indiscriminately hand fed. However, this site is so boggy that people don't tend to go there and the ponies are already happy to be touched around their front ends. Gromit is simply being a typical wild stallion when he objects to his legs being touched - his natural, automatic instinct is to bite or fold his leg as he would with another horse. Unfortunately he couldnt be persuaded to go into the pen on this occasion so I had to see what could be done out in the open. I used advance and retreat with the feather duster and gave him a click and treat when he allowed me to touch him. In time I was able to go all the way down both of his front legs and the backs too although he did demonstrate his mighty kick on one occasion. This at least proved that progress was possible and I am hoping that I will be asked to be involved in the future. In the meantime however it is likely that he will have to be sedated or confined in order to get his feet trimmed as a matter of urgency.
One of the downsides of treating horses like stock is that they become more and more difficult to handle over time rather than staying the same as cows may do. Like it or not, horses are not stock animals; they are more sensitive and reactive.
Using ponies for conservation grazing definitely has its pros, cons and ethical dilemmas. Mike Graper (2005) says: "My philosophy is that 'wild' horses get to live and die like wild horses, and tame horses get to see veterinarians; it is up to the owner to make conditions safe for the horse and for the vet". For conservation organisations it isn't as simple as that, whilst they can live in hope that the ponies will never need a vet or a farrier, one day a pony will need medical assistance or to be put down and the eyes of the public are upon them, especially on these small sites. People grow fond of the ponies and are more alert to their disappearance or neglect than they would be with cows or sheep where (most) people accept that they go off for slaughter. For this reason, Exmoor ponies make fantastic conservation animals as they rarely get into trouble with their feet but they are often so wild that medical treatment for ailments such as colic are almost impossible and sedation/anaesthesia is terribly risky. New Forest and Dartmoor Hill Ponies are also excellent conservation animals but more likely to become over friendly and far more likely to need attention for their feet.
The value of ponies as conservation animals has long been recognised. These unpaid employees do an amazing job and avoid the need for mechanical farming techniques on environmentally sensitive pieces of land.
Sunday, March 6, 2011
It's been three years since I last worked with Nina. At that time she needed my help with Graylie her four year old Forest-bred New Forest pony who was really frightened of being around people at all. That weekend we got him accepting the headcollar easily for the first time. Since then, she has done some cracking work with him and her now five year old Quarter Horse, Pep. This weekend we looked at lots of little issues and bits of work including standing in the wash room and leg handling for both of them. Pep seems to feel quite vulnerable in the wash room (possibly because he thinks 'wash room' is a command - see top photo!!) and we spent some time walking him through, asking him to stand absolutely still for an instant and then leading him away again. We then lengthened the time for which he was asked to stand incrementally and then made sure that he was committed to standing still before he was taken forward again. It didn't take him long to become much more relaxed. Graylie has developed a strategy of determinedly putting his back feet back down one they have been picked up and that has been working well for him. We used the walking stick, which can be padded, to lift the foot up and hold it for a little while before gently putting it back down again. This saves the handler's back during the training stages and is less risky than using a rope. In the final photograph of this set, Graylie is accepting the approach and touch of an electric toothbrush as pre-preparation for clipping. As he has never had a battle with clippers or being twitched, he had few qualms about this.
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
A TALK AND VIDEO PRESENTATION by Jim Green
FRIDAY 25TH MARCH 7PM GODSHILL VILLAGE HALL
AUCTION OF RIDING LESSONS / FISHING ON THE AVON
Tickets £5 adults £3 children (inc nibbles)
ALL PROCEEDS TO HAMPSHIRE FIRE AND RESCUE SERVICES
For further details contact Sara Boyd 01425 650360
It won't be long until Alby's horsebox is ready and so today we worked on asking him to tread on different surfaces in preparation for the ramp. He's a horse that is very aware of where his feet are and very conscious of keeping them safe. We built up from just stepping over a log, to a rolled up piece of carpet, an unrolled up piece of carpet and then the tarpaulin.
Having stalled in my training efforts in the middle of January, I have started work again with my own horses and have come to the conclusion that it would be easier to just rough them off at the beginning mid-November to the end of February every year. All they want to do is eat anyway. It does mean that I have to start at the beginning again but it doesn't take long to get field-fit horses going. A month of walking out and long reining will easily get us to the point where they can be ridden. Theoden and Chancer aren't young horses but they haven't done a lot in their lives so they are both pretty green. I will need to convince them that the world hasn't turned flat in their absence and gradually increase their comfort zones.
I was discussing this with a friend on Monday and whilst we can have admiration for people who manage to keep their horses fit throughout the winter, getting up at first light to ride before work and riding two more in the evening, I'm just not up to that and I don't want to be made to feel guilty. No-one can actually make anyone feel anything but there are those of us who are susceptible to a bit of guilt and it is a useless emotion. I read somewhere that only the good feel guilty.
All of the horses have come out of the winter well including the New Forest ponies. There are seven turning up at the 'drop-in' centre every day, all pregnant by the same stallion, so the spring should be fun. Mussels seems not to have faltered once since he had his pockets picked and if we cannot find a home for him, he will be going out on to the Forest in a month or so.