Monday, October 31, 2011

31st October, 2011 Three good little witches and one warlock

A last practise at foot handling today prior to the farrier's first visit on Wednesday. Muffy and her two daughters, Milly and Molly, and son Puck, all lined up at the gate asking to be caught and then let me pick out and scrub their feet. They all need a good trim and treatment for thrush.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

30th October, 2011 Success!!!

End of the week. Another really successful course with head collars quietly going on foals within a short time of  starting work and the ponies all looking much happier about the proximity of humans. The top graduate was Suki, a pony that had taken to clicker training immediately. All of the students did an amazing job: no fear, no force, no drama and no ego.  The feedback was really positive:

“...anyone who wants to be empathetic to horse-kind would benefit from attending the course.” HW

“Loved, loved, loved it! The opportunity to work with the foals is priceless.” CT

“Just all round wonderful, tutors, ponies, Sarah W. Really inspirational.” SET

“It was very good to swap tutors as they all have different ideas and all tutor in a different way” DH

"Thank you so much for the most amazing week. I went through such a range of emotions from fear, doubt, lack of confidence to love, trust, acceptance and belief in my ability. Wow!" JH

"We learned so much about ourselves, such an honour to work with such magical little souls, I feel very humbled. How generous of them to teach us so much in such a short space of time. Therapists would have charged us a fortune for that amount of treatment and diagnosis!" GC

30th October, 2011 Hedgehogging

Slight embarrassment on Tuesday morning when three of the ponies has disappeared overnight. Hedgehog, Magic and Layla, three much older ponies - two tame and one wild - had quietly undone the knots on the gate and wandered off up the track. Having tiptoed across the cattle grid, they had headed off to the nearest moor and apparently evaporated. We knew that they would be fine and their owner just through it was funny. Half way through Wednesday morning Ro came to tell us that she had spotted them on the roadside at Hollow Tor just above the farm, but by the time we had gone back to bring them in, they were nowhere to be seen. A brief search revealed two bays and a grey standing on a rocky outcrop and fortunately it was them. Armed with a bucket and head collar we were able to persuade Hedgehog to come and be caught and she led the way down the road with the other two following behind. Perhaps the torrential rain had something to do with it but even the wild pony thought it was a good idea to come home.

David and I had the afternoon off and visited the Devon Wildlife Hospital where we met several real hedgehogs rescued following various accidents and incidents. We were encouraged to open up a Hedgehog Street (visit for details)

30th October, 2011 Pony Wrangling? I don't think so

A joyful return to Dartmoor this last week for the Foal Handling Course. With 9 students and 12 ponies, 6 tutors and 3 members of the DPTC team, 3 was the magic number. We were able to set up on Sunday in record time having planned ahead for over a year. 

We are always striving to get to the softest, safest method of training foals. At the beginning of the week we were joined by Zoopharmacognosist, Fiona Habershon, to see whether the foals would benefit from oils, herbs and macerates. On Monday morning Yarrow and Valerian were dropped on to our feather dusters as we began to work with the foals and they certainly seemed to be very chilled out.

There is no pony wrangling here in any event. No pulling ponies around or over with ropes around their necks or insisting that they face their trainer with both eyes; where ponies are happy to accept food from the hand we begin clicker training straight away and for those that are worried about being so close to humans we use the feather duster to establish first touch. As a result both ponies and people are very quiet and there is the air of a library about the whole thing. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

22nd October, 2011 Spots before their eyes

I am helping with a small experiment on the Forest which means that this morning I have stuck reflective stickers all over my New Forest ponies. This was the brainwave of Steve Kitcher, Editor of NFED, who first noticed that ponies that had been bought through the sales and turned out with their lot numbers still attached were highly visible in the dark. He has arranged for a supply of white ones that people can attach to their ponies to see how long they last and whether they do make the ponies more obvious in the dark.

Friday, October 21, 2011

21st October, 2011 Get Carter

Probably not the best angle to take a picture of one of the most beautiful horses I have seen. This is Carter the Connemara and he really is a delicious creature. Trouble is he knows it and thinks that some things may be out to eat him. Today we did some very simple groundwork and made a start on desensitisation with a shoot going on in one field and a dressage compeititon in another. It will be good to allay some of his fears and turn him into a mini police horse.

Where a horse has a habit of shooting forward when he is worried  it is worth giving up carrying a whip at all even if it is only ever used as an extension of the hand or at a distance when lunging. The problem for these horses may be that they have met a whip used for a very different purpose and they find it very hard to forgive and forget. Many horses are hit for being frightened for example and then they are not just afraid, they are afraid of being afraid. I haven't carried a whip for well over ten years now and have never missed it. I understand the argument about the whip being an extension of the hand but, if that is the case, why are we using something that is thin and sharp and invisible to the horse, rather than something that is clearly visible and hand-like - surely not just because of the weight of it? When a horse has met a whip in punishing circumstances, it will always be a strong aversive in his mind. This is why I don't accept the argument from jockeys that the racing whip doesn't hurt - it might not (although I doubt that too) but the ones used at home in training certainly do.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

19th October, 2011 Descending into chaos

Extra Special clicker training in the field

Tetua's groupies
A kiss for Jenny

Patrick dismounts
Somewhat out of order, these are the photos from the second day of the foal handling course. After 3 p.m. Tetua stole the show and has us all fawning all over him. He is one noble horse that maintains his dignity even when standing on a tub wearing a purple scarf and a pixie called Patrick! Such fun as they say on Miranda.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

18th October, 2011 Well over half way there

Sometimes there is no need to start afresh with a pony or horse. In Bea's case her owner was more than half way there in training her to load more easily. She had realised there was absolutely no point in getting heavy handed with her and that the pony was susceptible to carrots. With a bit of patience, Bea would already load providing there was another pony with her. We just needed to move things on and get her to load happily on her own. With a few changes to her owner's leading and loading technique, the addition of a click before the treat and the initial use of the panels, we were able to get her flowing on and off.

Meant to add that I was really impressed when hearing that this client had disqualified someone from a cross-country event for abusing their horse. Needs to happen more often. 

Sunday, October 16, 2011

16th October, 2011 Let's 'Man Down'

Patrick Kempe's gorgeous Lusitano, Tetua

Banksy meets Wendy and his first feather duster...

...experiences his first touch...

...and tries out a new scarf

Extra special has his face touched

Special Edition talks to Kathryn about her plans for his feet

Pictures from the first day at the Handling the Foal Course which I ran over the weekend by kind permission of Suzanne and Patrick Kempe. Patrick and Suzanne have bred sturdy, performance New forest ponies at the Rodlease Stud for a long, long time and the three youngsters we were working with were no exception. Full brothers Special Edition and Extra Special are both by Longcopse Elton out of a lovely mare Special who has bred 18 foals in 25 years and looks fantastic. Banksy is by Pondhead Panshine, making him a half-brother to the foal I bred, Sherekhan Kanuthi. All of them did really well. Banksy had his first headcollar on which he accepted very easily and was led for the first time. Extra Special was clicker trained and by the end of the two days allowed me to walk up to him in the field where he put his nose in the furry hoop in exchange for a click and a treat. Ed was starting to pick his feet up without wafting them about.

The phrase of the moment seems to be 'man up' and I would just urge everyone involved in the lives of young horses to 'man down' and just work with them carefully and slowly. It is worth it in the end.

"The course was brilliant . Also got to see the amazing Tetua ... he is stunning- and I wanted to take home a gorgeous little foal called Banksy who was just adorable." KW on Facebook and then email: 
"Just wanted to say thank you again for a fab weekend and to say how much I appreciate you giving your time, experience and knowledge into making courses like this happen. Thanks to your patience, great teaching methods and humour, you make it so worthwhile and to gain such experiences like I had this weekend is priceless."

Thursday, October 13, 2011

13th October, 2011 Born Free

Having worked hard on the magazine, I felt I deserved a break and decided to take Jack out for his first 'ride' on the Forest. Petra seems to like his company and the fact that she is fed all the way round whereas in the field she just sees him as taking half of her food. She got a bit excited when he galloped up behind her but fortunately held it together. I rode her in a Dually in case I did have to resort to old-fashioned brakes!

13th October, 2011 Taking the P

A non-horse day today as I am working hard on the Intelligent Horsemanship Magazine. Year ago I lost out on a very nice boyfriend because he said, "you think too much!". Ah well, now I am free to think as much as I like! Some thoughts then on 3 P's

Postponing behaviour - some horses will put off being caught, being touched, being bridled or mounted even though it is inevitable that it will happen in the end and even though when it is done, it is done kindly. It's easy to live in hope that one day they will give up their behaviour because they will see that it always happens in the end. However, working on the theory that behaviour starts for a reason and then perpetuates because it works, I think that horses will continue to postpone things even though the release it gives them is temporary. To them, if it postpones things even for a second, then it has worked and it is worth it. Once again, this doesn't make them naughty, they are just being a horse. The best postponing behaviour I ever saw was a horse that had learned to lick his owner copiously to delay her going along with his body with a big spiky dandy brush. In the end this behaviour becomes a pattern and it is only if you can come up with a alternative but kind strategy which means that the behaviour no longer works that the behaviour will go away.

Practice - advertising my book recently on a New Forest pony website I was told that there was no value in books, all it took to train a foal was practice. I beg to differ - it takes good practice, best practice and it is ulitmately the ponies that pay when we choose to practice bad practice - for example, grabbing a foal to force its headcollar on or tying him up to something solid to teach him to 'respect' the halter, chasing a horse to catch it or beating him to get him on to a horsebox. There are so many wrecks on the market all at risk of going in the wrong direction. We owe it to them to learn good practice. I wonder if the ponies ever get together and say, "When will they ever learn?".

Produced for selling - beware the pony that has been produced for sale. The foundations of its education may be very shallow.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

11th October, 2011 Back to Black

Petra: "This is a subliminal message, OPEN the GATE!"

Theoden in long lining class

Head boy

Great report

Mari-Lisa and Blackie
A ten hour day yesterday with six hours driving to and from Jim's to see Theoden. Luckily I had the company of Mari-Lisa who is coming for work experience next February but has seized the opportunity to come out on her days off from college. Theoden is doing really well and is much more fluid, willing and soft. The osteo is working on the muscles at  the base of his neck where some of the braces seem to appear when he is asked to turn to the right. I rode him at walk and trot and felt that I could put my legs on him and ask him things without him taking offence and bucking me off. He's going to stay a lot longer so that he comes back ready to go anywhere and I can just enjoy having a 'yes' horse rather than one I've got to do lots of work with.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

9th October, 2011 A is for Amador


A is for Amador and at his last session yesterday he walked calmly down the ramp every time and ended the session just standing on the ramp quietly eating some horse cubes. Today his owners practised again and took the panels away section by section. Amador continued to unload calmly and carefully. He goes for his lesson next weekend so it will be interesting to hear whether he is just as good at the other end of a journey.  "We are thrilled that you were able to help us and Amador". NB and LB

Update 24.10.11:  
"We are pleased to say that V managed to load him without any fuss, he travelled well and unloaded a little bit quicker than hoped but far better than previously. This we think was contributed to by a lot of activity around T’s yard and car park including M going round with a leaf blower!Having had a good lesson and feeling very tired, Amador again loaded without fuss and travelled home where we parked up in the drive in such a way that the ramp opened down towards the hedge to form a visual barrier. This worked well and he unloaded 100% walking down the ramp so we will continue to do this and hopefully get to the point whereby he will walk out even when there is no barrier."

B is for Boris. Two years ago I worked with a non-loader called Boris.  I recently met his owner when I went to see another horse at her yard. Boris has loaded ever since and is now competing at eventing. 

B is also for Blue, who had gone on strike about his headcollar.  Anton wrote, "Nadine is making very good progress with him and she's now able to put on a head collar normally out in the field. She has also put on a bridle with bit a couple of times so as far as she's concerned a great job done by your good self."

B is also for Bertie.  "Bertie seems to be doing fine thank you, (touch wood!) we have taken him out a couple of times, each time he stops at the ramps and E just gives a little tug and he goes on in, but at home he never stops just goes straight in.  (Funny little boy).  So hopefully we have got over this little problem.
Thanks for your help, it's really made a big difference." SH

H is Havanna. Havanna had her bridle on using clicker training within 10 minutes IN THE FIELD on the second day that she was home with Jane after a six month break. Horses don't forget their clicker training.

K is for Kanuthi. I was delighted to hear that Blue's foal from four years ago has been trained to drive and came second in the BDS 'Sunday Best' class at his very first outing (only four days after he came back from training). Incidently Cello is also being taught to be driven so it will great to hear how he gets on.

L is for Leo. An Andulusian stallion that I halter trained when he was 10 months old, won the three year old's class at the new International Championship PRE show.  The show was a qualifier for SICAB (the Spanish Championships) in Seville!!

M is for Milly and Molly who are now both having their feet picked up really easily and are ready for a visit from the farrier. They have never had their feet trimmed before because they lived out on the Forest and their feet looked after themselves. Now that they are in paddocks, their feet have become overgrown and we needed to do a lot of catching up with halter training never mind leg handling before they could have their feet done.

M is also for Magic - "Successful, calm long reining out [on the Forest] this morning, a ****** miracle!!"-

O is for Onca, the polo pony who has been terrified of having her back legs touched and particularly bandaged. Her owner has contacted me this weekend to say, "Onca is doing really well, I am able to easily brush her back legs all the way down to her fetlocks and she doesn’t bat an eyelid even if tied up. She has also become much more trusting of new people as a groom from the yard over the track has been catching her daily and putting her on the horse walker so hopefully we can play a little arena polo on her. She now comes up to the gate asking for human contact which is very unlike her. Interestingly she has also become a bit more assertive in the paddock and not getting bullied quite as much. I have no idea how much of her progress we can put down to the smelly stuff vs the clicker training but she is definitely motivated by food and quite enjoys her aromatherapy sessions!"

P is for Phineas. I haven't seen Phin for two years but I have been in regular contact with his owner and her daughter and in fact we have become friends. It was great to be asked to introduce him to long reins and to check over his groundwork. Jan wrote:

"What a fabulous morning today! Thank you so much for coming to us and for your patience with us and Phin. It was a shame we didn't record this session as I could see such huge changes in Phin's  responses as the morning went on and could see for myself the 'little' things you demonstrated so clearly which result in massive changes."

S is for Splash, Jenny's pony. Jenny continues to make amazing progress with Splash and today rode out on the Forest. I went to see her in Tuesday where we worked on mounting as Splash was starting to move away as Jenny went to get on. She has had Splash's saddle checked and so my job was to analyse what whether there was anything obvious causing her to move away. All I could see was that Jenny was tending to point her feet toward's Splash's rear as she mounted and that as she got on her toe was just pressing into Splash's side very slightly as she got on board. By asking Splash to stand just 3" forward the problem was solved! Jenny sent me an email today: " will be pleased to hear today I rode Splash on the forest, quite possibly the calmest she has ever been, and the getting on, she gave me her right ear and just waited patiently for me to get on with it, clonked her on the bum with my foot (slipped slightly on the bank I was using), she didn't give a damn, nor did she care at all about the purple treat bag I left on the saddle.   Quite possibly the best session I have ever had with her.   All these little things make the difference - thankyou, from an extremely happy Jenny :))"

W is for Woody actually Wicklea Wakanda. He recently came 6th in his class at the Horse of the Year Show and has won all over the place this summer including Supreme at BSPS Wales, I taught Woody to accept a headcollar and to lead when he was a foal and to load later on.