Saturday, January 29, 2011

29th January, 2011 Tractor training

Tractor training with this splendid horse today. We followed it and then it followed us until he was much calmer about it toddling along behind him. The main aim was to be able to ask him to halt without him turning his bottom and touching the fencing on either side of the track or lane. I found that if I attached a second rein on to his right hand side (and actually short reined him) I could use the right rein first in the halt with just my ring finger and he kept straight. Obviously I made a lovely fuss of him whenever he did this and David, who was driving the tractor, made sure that he didn't creep up too close. Still more work to do but his owner should be in the saddle on the next occasion.

Friday, January 28, 2011

28th January, 2011 Special currency

My turn to visit Guilda this afternoon so that Kym and could take her out long reining on her own part of the Forest. Considering she hasn't been out and about here since she was a foal, she was amazing, and didn't put a foot wrong. She really seemed to enjoy herself.

28th January, 2011 Sun loungers

There were over 30 Shetland ponies sunbathing in Fritham today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

26th January, 2011 Another family affair

A very successful morning with Beau, Brandee and Champ. Following a positive long reining session, Beau was backed for the first time without any drama whatsoever. Brandee was caught easily and stood with her son for her photograph to be taken and then Champ had his second session of short reining and worked really well, listening very closely to what he was being asked to do and no longer pulling as he did with the long reins.

26th January, 2011 Sensationalism and superstition

New theory coming up although I am sure it has been said before. Horses cannot differentiate between sensations caused by different sources - they can't say, oh, that's caused by electricity, or static, or the end of a whip or a human hand for example, particularly if they receive a sensation from one thing which they can't see which coincides with the appearance of something else that they can see. Confused? Take for example a horse such as the one I saw on Monday and am going to see again on Saturday. He backed up when slightly spooked by a tractor and came into contact with an electric fence which zapped him. Since then, he has become worried about tractors even though we know it wasn't the tractor that zapped him - just an unfortunate coincidence although the two events were connected. He has become superstitious about tractors and now reinforces his own fear by turning his bottom into any tractor that approached him from behind, making it more likely that it will get very close to him as it goes by and frighten him even more - a sort of self fulfilling prophecy.

Same with Jenny and Splash. Jenny fell off Splash when she spooked at something and as she did so Splash jumped to the side and was stabbed by a piece of twig - something that reinforced her fear of things falling against her side rather than of twigs.

I think horses like to know what it is that has 'got' them and will look for something to 'blame'. I don't think they can see the end of a lunging whip that is about to hit them and instead start to look for what they can see, i.e., the movement of an arm swinging towards them. When a horse is afraid of that movement it tells me a lot.

Monday, January 24, 2011

24th January, 2011 When IH met the Agister

Despite it having already been a hard winter, the New Forest ponies have been doing surprisingly well. I know that many of them are being fed on the quiet and every little helps. However, a few are starting to drop back dramatically. I spotted this one on the way over to my own horses and having contacted the Verderers was pleased to find Andrew the Agister only half a mile up the road catching another one. As this one was very friendly, I had a headcollar and lead rein on him by the time Andrew got back and was stuffing his face with my best haylage. He was loaded into Andrew's trailer with a quarter rope and a bit of a shove from behind and was on his way home for some more food. It's hard not to be judgemental when you see one like this but they can lose weight very rapidly once they are on their way down.

24th January, 2011 Getting into Mischief

The men in the Hampshire Fire Service Animal Rescue Team have had a busy weekend with an extrication on Friday night and this little horse in a swimming pool on Sunday. Without them people might be tempted to take impossible risks to save their animals. To see more pictures of various rescues (and fire engines!) go to the Friends of Hampshire Animal Rescue Team page on Facebook.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

22nd January, 2011 I'm a Fell Pony Get Me Out of Here!

This morning Julie and I went out to a little herd of Fell ponies near Wimborne to work with a couple of them. Both were really expressive about everything they felt. The first, was really bold and quite strong and took matters into his own hooves whenever he felt that the people around him needed leadership. Just a little groundwork for him and rewarding him with lovely rubs in places he had pointed out earlier. The other pony was born on the Cumbrian Fells and had had his right ear notched when he was a foal (now illegal). As a result he is still worried all these years later about strangers. Although he is ridden, he reacts badly if walkers pass him on both sides at once. The first time Julie and I simulated this scenario, he grew a couple of hands, tensed up and cocked a running foot on his left hand hind leg. At the end of the session he was standing calmly while Julie and I did a very slow jog either side of him. This is going to need some more work though if he is to accept people who are entirely new and we are thinking we might set up a social event at their field where people will wear hiz viz, garish clothing and peculiar rucksacks and headgear. The good news is that he is only frightened of people and not of new and novel things.
E-mail from MB and AB: "Thanks for the session this morning and for sending on reports, factsheets and photos (which have been much admired already - a big thank you to Julie too). You've given us plenty of things to play around with for all of them - perfectly mannered ponies (and owners) here we come! (Though I think Bond is in shock he can't have his own way any more!)"

22nd January, 2011 Distracted

I'm not sure that Julie was concentrating on her work this morning as these are the pictures that were included in my session with the Fell ponies. Every pony should have a pet robin.

22nd January, 2011 Ladies wot lunch

I went out for lunch with Diana yesterday ( that is not her at the top!) before going up to see her ponies including the new colt, Nettles. Both he and Mussells are looking for new forever homes if anyone is looking at all! I have managed to divert Mussells away from the sales throughout the winter and just hope that she won't insist that he goes in April.

Friday, January 21, 2011

21st January, 2011 Okey-Dokey

This splendid chap whose real glory is hidden under his pyjamas, is Okey. His owner telephoned me on Saturday because although Okey had won his dressage competition, he then refused to load to come home. Eventually she rode him all 14 miles. Lots of horses seem to refuse more often away from home which would seem to be counter-intuitive; you'd think they'd be pleased to go home and relax. I don't know whether it is the excitement of the event or the weariness of the owner or the thought of more work (travelling is definitely hard physical work for horses) that puts them off. However, in Okey's case it seems that he wasn't entirely happy to go on at home either and tends to piaffe and bounce when the ramp is closed. As with all these things, I think there is an initial cause for the behaviour and an effective-ness to the behaviour which work in unison.

Today we made a gentle start on both. It had been evident to his owner that Okey wasn't very happy to be approached from behind when he was in the trailer. The temptation had been to get him in and the ramp closed pretty quickly without using a back bar. For safety reasons I prefer to work with a back bar and accordingly I needed to persuade Okey to trust people at his rear. I spent time making friends with his bottom - approaching him, rubbing him and then walking away, before doing some desensitisation with a fake bar (pipe lagging). Once he accepted this I began to use the real bar and to ask him to take a step forward when he felt it's presence behind him. Once I was able to put it in place and secured it without him minding, we had more time to very quietly and slowly close the ramp. The net result was that when the ramp was closed there was no drama, no piaffing and no bouncing. All the time that we were practising, Okey was being asked to load with very gentle pressure on the Dually with a very obvious release for each positive step and a clickered reward once he was all the way in. Very subtly we were asking him to flow on and off more readily and to trust us not to make it frightening for him. Now that all the foundations are in place, his owner and her husband will be able to practice on their own and I may or may not be needed the first time they decide to load him elsewhere.

Incidentally, I also got this e-mail from Jane with Mars recently: "You won't believe this but I loaded Mars into a lorry today and we went for a little ride! We put another horse up first who we knew would travel well, loaded his lordship, tied him up, shut the ramp and went! He did a couple of half rears but then settled, and unloaded quietly at the end! So now I need to buy a lorry ... x"

Thursday, January 20, 2011

20th January, 2011 Good Guilda

Guilda came up today for her second long reining session. She was so good that we took her out on the Forest where she was confident and happy. This is a pony with a very sensible outlook on life. Hopefully it won't be long before we put a rider on her.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

19th January, 2011 Not been there.....

....not done that and not got the T-shirt. Today was another family affair working with a six year old 7/8 TB x 1/8 Arabian who actually looks nearly all Arabian. So far he has led a very sheltered life although the hope is that I can train him to load so that he can go off to be broken in. The fact that he has never left his family or field is one consideration and the other is that his sister, who shares a field with him, has never been left on her own either. This meant that all of the groundwork I did had to be done within a very short distance of her so that she wouldn't get herself into trouble. The next time I go it's hoped that she will have a nanny so that we can practice what we did today a bit further away and gradually extend their comfort zones. Then I will need to teach him to tie up, accept boots and a poll guard. If he does as well as he did today, I shall be very pleased. He is certainly mentally ready for his education and engaged with me throughout.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

18th January, 2011 Bicton College Demo

This should be good as I shall be working with two horses that I have never met before!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

16th January, 2011 Maia

A family occasion yesterday when I went to work with Maia the pure bred Arabian foal. Now 9 months old, she is still with her Mum and her brother who watched the proceedings over the door. Maia has had a couple of unfortunate incidents with a headcollar including veterinary visits where she has had injections. Yesterday I worked on gently desensitising her head with my fingers and the scarf and asking her to accept the headcollar voluntarily. Part way through I introduced clicker training and this encouraged her to engage with me. By the end of the session she was accepting her headcollar and even coming up to ask for it to touch her.
Telephone call received 19.1.11 to the effect that Marie had first touched Maia with a feather duster and then put her headcollar on all in under ten minutes in the field.

16th January, 2011 Nancy Cooper

Very sadly my Nan died on Wednesday after a very long fight with Alzheimer's. My Nan was a very bright and brainy lady who didn't miss a trick. She left school at fourteen to run the family ironmonger's shop. She used to help me with all my homework including integration and differentiation at 'o' level and degree level law. She also let me stay up to watch Upstairs Downstairs and That's Life and loved it when they used to push fridges off a cliff. We used to make collages of animals by cutting up old wallpaper books too. She's back with my Grandpa now.

Monday, January 10, 2011

10th January, 2011 What are you doing in October?

Click on the poster to see more detail. Book early to avoid disappointment!

10th January, 2011 Holly

"Thank you Sarah for writing that fantastic book!!! As you can see Holly is happy and finally wearing a headcollar. She is coming on so well now and is out in the big field with her two little Dartmoor friends." Vicki C

10th January, 2011 Champion!!

This little powerhouse is Champ whose long reining is coming along well however he occasionally pulls like a train. Our plan is to short rein him for a while to ask him to be a lot lighter and to get used to the feel of a body along his sides. He'd make a great little driving pony so we will be following him around with a wheelbarrow shortly too.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

9th January, 2011 The further adventures of Jack

In short (well 3.66 miles) Jack met a pony which had got its foot caught in a fence (rescued by David), jumped a huge log, met a pack of well behaved dogs, said hello to a young filly but resisted the temptation to run off with her and her family but then ran off with a strange man who offered him sweets. The man was my good friend Yann, so that's okay!

9th January, 2011 Good things come in small packages

Yesterday I went to meet a very cute Miniature Shetland with what you might call a lot of character. At only seven months old she is charging up to her owners, turning and then backing up towards them kicking out. This has succeeded in moving them all out of the way. It would be quite amusing if she had soft feet. This behaviour may have started when she was much more uncertain about life and felt the need to defend herself but by now she is very confident and even the loudest body language has no effect on her. However, several shakes of the rattle behind her until she moved forward seemed to do the trick and the moment she turned to look at me I made a lovely fuss of her. Hopefully the rattle bottle can be put away very early on in her training because one day she may be asked to pull a small trap and we don't want her to be afraid of rattly noises. By the end of the session she was allowing the owners to wander around her paddock without chasing them and to move her food around. We also did some work on her leading so that we could end on a good positive note.

"Hi Sarah! Million thanks for your help yesterday. We're attempting to follow your instructions to the letter--its already made a vast difference. And of course once its been explained it all makes perfect sense! I must say also what a brilliant teacher you are--both of equines and humans. Your lesson was worth ten times your fee--love D & A & C."

Friday, January 7, 2011

7th January, 2011 Fair weather rider

I haven't been doing much with my own horses in this dreary weather - it's much easier to concentrate on survival and basic animal husbandry. I am impressed by anyone who has continued to ride throughout the winter. I don't have to and I don't want to!! I have been dodging the rain drops with a few clients. Beau and Champ are now long reining really well and it won't be long before we can put a rider on Beau. Guilda's owner came up for a long reining lessons with Petra - it took me an hour to get the mud off her (Petra not Kym!). I went to do some loading training with Gizmo and saw Duke, a pony we started about three years ago who has just come second in the New Forest point to point. Yesterday I did some work with a little New Forest foal called Teddy - he's a darling. Today I am having a day in the office at the Fire Station so I'd better disappear soon....

I have been very pleased with Chancer who is living out full time without a rug. This is the best he has ever looked during the winter. With Mussels for company and the Nissen hut to shelter in and lots and lots of hay to eat, he seems to be absolutely fine.

Many many thanks to Lorraine who gave me a big bale of hay yesterday for the New Forest ponies and also to Jan who sent me a book memories, my favourite photos, for my birthday.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

4th January, 2011 Pony tracking!

For my birthday yesterday, David bought me a GPS tracking gadgetty thing that I will be able to use not only for my training with Jack but also on one of my wild ponies to see where they have been. In this way I should be able to collect a more accurate picture of the exact dimensions of their haunt and whether there are any distinct patterns to their orbit. (At present I know they involve daily attendance at the fence line to see if Sarah has put the hay out yet).

If only there was a device that would tell me where they ARE rather than where they have been. There are satellite tracking devices which can be fitted on a collar and logged at great expense (and the collar needs to be breakable - and is therefore lose-able - if the pony gets caught up) this still doesn't allow identification from a distance nor does it provide any deterrent to theft. Microchips are only worth anything if the police, ports and abbatoirs scan every pony.