Tuesday, July 30, 2013

30th July, 2013 K.I.S.S.

A very nice opportunity to snuggle up to a full Quarter Horse today (don't tell Theoden). We were doing some groundwork together. The aim of the session was to make everything straightforward so that it is easy to be consistent and clear. The very basic rule is that I can move his feet but he must not move mine although of course he is free to move us emotionally!  I'm looking forward to working with him again next week.

Monday, July 29, 2013

29th July, 2013 Family Outings

Just for a laugh, Charly and I decided to take Petra and Theoden out with Jack and Indiana loose in the inclosure to see what would happen. Theoden considers himself to be a real herd leader so he was a little concerned when Indiana decided to play hide and seek. However he relaxed after a little while and we were able to ride with the two of them following behind (or in front or wherever they liked).

Later Charly's family and his sister and her family came to visit - that's nine children in all - and we went out with Jack and Indiana again. Indiana treated us to her Black Beauty impression and, like most horses, seems to have a special place in her heart for young children. Mind you, they are particularly pleasant ones.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

28th July, 2013 Expansionist Policy

A show ground is a fantastic place to extend the experience of a young horse and this morning I walked Rose to a little local charity show. Her owner had been called away at the last moment but still wanted me to take her.  First we watched Jenny in her dressage test whilst munching on a few leaves.

Then we went in search of other novelties such as this huge skip.

In and out of the wagons playing "What's in the box?"

And then to watch the Young Handler's Class.

Just time to inspect a lorry before walking home again. Rose was pretty calm although occasionally she would get in touch with her Thoroughbred side for a mild woosh before settling down to her normal New Forest attitude.

Friday, July 26, 2013

26th July, 2013 Give me Your Attention

Today it was off to see my namesake again and to work first of all with her lovely Fritham pony, a Connemara cross New Forest, Limerick. Who better to lend his expertise at long reining since he is a trained driving pony. After that we worked with Jazz again. 

Looking at these pictures made me think about ears and the significance of their position. We are conditioned to believe that a happy pony will have its ears forwards but my belief is that a horse's ears are only an indication of where it's attention lies. Thus Limerick's attention is on his handler whereas in the middle picture Jazz seems to have her attention more internally as if concentrating hard on what she is doing. In the last picture her attention is with Sarah who is standing to one side with the camera. If a horse's ears are flat back we know that it's a clear sign of anger but what if ears forward does not mean that the horse is necessarily happy, just being attentive? There are some supposedly scientific experiments which have measured a horse's happiness by measuring how long or how often his ears are forward. That would mean that those experiments are fundamentally flawed. If a relaxed and peaceful horse is a happy horse then it is more likely that his ears would be floppy and relaxed too - putting ears forward requires effort.

26th July, 2013 Travelling Woes and Whoas!!

A common story that I hear and see is where a horse has become dangerous to travel because he almost falls down in the box, leaning hard against the partition, and often scrabbles against the outside wall of the trailer. The first many owners know of it is when they hear an almighty clattering in the trailer as they are going along. One of my clients has very kindly sent me a video of this happening, even at standstill, with her pony. Although the pony isn't galloping against the outside wall, you can see just how hard she is leaning on the partition and just how this might develop into a much more serious situation on the move.


No-one knows exactly why a horse or pony starts to do this but the instinct seems to be to go into pressure against the partition at the same time as becoming very dazed looking; some almost look as if they have fallen asleep. The cause could be physical - poor balance through a neurological or ear problem, a problem with any of the joints; psychological - through abject fear of travelling; behavioural - the horse has learned that panicking like this gets the vehicle to stop although this is most unlikely. Most people report that the first time it happened was on a right hand bend or going around a roundabout but then recurs on all bends and even, as shown in this video, when the box is entirely stationary.

Here is a picture I was sent by Your Horse Magazine along with a question to be answered on one of their Ask the Experts pages.

As yet I do not have a foolproof 'cure' for the problem and only wish that every horse that had the problem could have a full medical examination to look for the most obvious causes. Teaching the horse to move away form the pressure - perhaps using a jumping pole at his side when practising outside the trailer has a limited effect. Experiments with the size, shape and space available within the trailer have had differing results. The most common suggestion, and the one that seems to have the best effect, is to travel the horse alone without a partition and with full width breast and breeching bars cross tied. In an ordinary horse trailer it is NOT safe to travel the horse without those bars since the bars help to maintain the integrity of the structure of the trailer and help to prevent it distorting under stress of any kind. Indeed, the front section of a trailer, in front of the breast bar, is simply not strong enough for a horse to stand there and certainly not in the case of an accident. Even using full width bars and no partition has safety implications since the horse would be far more mobile in the case of an accident and, having a relatively high centre of gravity, would cause the trailer to be far more unpredictable when braking in the first place. Needless to say drivers would have to take this into consideration in their driving style and speed. The fact that full width bars are available would suggest that the manufacturers believe that horses can be travelled in this way but it would be wise to check. In any event it would be open to the police to prosecute for an unsafe load or for a court to find there was contributory negligence in the case of an accident; the Fire service aren't impressed with the idea of travelling without a partition at all. As with every time a horse is taken out on the road, we owe a duty of care to other road users.

I would always be very wary of travelling a horse that is known to have a travelling problem with another one as the net result may well be two with travelling problems. Some horses that do this in a trailer are perfectly fine in a horse-box although travelling them backwards or herringbone doesn't seem to be a solution of itself.

Under no circumstances should anyone travel in the trailer with the horse - not only would it negate any insurance and leave the driver open to prosecution, it is highly dangerous. Everyone heard about the case of the poor chap who was killed trying to calm down a horse in a box just last year. I have to confess I have done it in the past on private land but there are pictures held by the Animal Rescue Team that would put anyone off doing it forever.

You'd think that a horse that behaves like this might have had a terribly nasty accident in the trailer in the past but the converse picture is that horses that have recently been involved in an accident seem to readily load into another trailer at the very scene. It does make you wonder what connections they make between one event and another.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

25th July, 2013 Sardines

To travel for a total of two hours for a job that takes less than half an hour is a great success. It seems we had gauged when Maverick would have had sufficient practice to load easily and stand calmly in the horse-box just right and today he went in and out three times before having the doors closed behind him three times and then ramp slowly closed. He danced on the spot three times and then stopped. This meant that he could go on his way down to Tim Piper's where he will have his ridden education. There he will meet up with Coco who is at 'finishing' school too.

Back at my fields, the horses were playing sardines in the field shelter and should have no problem with confined spaces in the future.

"All went well. Maverick was fantastic. He travelled loose & liked to turn round when we stopped to look out the window. Lynn said he spent most of the time travelling backwards. I unloaded him which I'm really chuffed with cos he listened to me while I steadied him & he came out forwards. I led him to his stable, his eyes were on stalks but he was still calm & I left him eating his hay. Don't think you'll be redundant though cos it would be nice to do some ridden stuff with you as well. Will keep you informed of his progress :-)" N.O'M.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

23rd July, 2013 Nothing New!

Once again Samson enjoyed his long reining work today despite the heat. While he is logging very low mileages once a week, Theoden is now being ridden four or five times a week and seems to be thriving on it. Nevertheless we went out for a ride with my field landlord yesterday and I had forgotten how proper New Forest Commoners don't stick to the tracks but just go in a straight line wherever they want to go. Theoden looked mildly surprised and had to really concentrate on where he put his feet! It was interesting to hear a bit more about the history of the Forest and how it was used for bombing practice during the war. We rode over one of the targets and A described some film footage he had seen of a DeHaviland Mosquito flying over the same target.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

21st June, 2013 Thirsty Work

As the ponds dry up and the streams stop running, the New Forest ponies become more reliant on the water troughs and will wait a long time between drinks. As they reach the troughs they break into a trot and then they drink and drink and drink.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

20th July, 2013 Over My Dead Body

Glorious weather and a very pleasant breeze at the Dorset Charity Show at Three Legged Cross today. As sponsor of the Versatility Class I was very pleased to hand out the rosettes and the winner's round was particularly nice to watch.

Ridden competitors had to get on their horse from the offside before negotiating a small jump.

Then they had to back into a taped off box which some found easier than others. Funny how horses worry more about using their rear view mirror.

This was followed by crossing a picnic blanket complete with teddy bears and again some of the horses found this impossible.

It was time then to put the Dolly Parton hat on the police woman, who didn't seem to mind.

Horses then had to step over a 'dead body' and this proved surprisingly easy for most of them.

Time to pick up a drink and set it down again without spilling it - or indeed drinking it.

Over the tarp and post a letter...

Before taking out the rubbish and putting it down next to the woman with the football rattles.

And finally park within the balloons for 20 seconds...

The eventual winner was an ex-racehorse called Corrie

Friday, July 19, 2013

19th July, 2013 No Need to be Alarmed

About a hundred years ago, possibly longer, I went off to a weekend festival. On the way to Reading I crashed my car into the back of another one and rendered it undrive-able. Never mind, Richard, the guy whose house I was borrowing for a couple of nights said that it was okay, I could borrow his - a perky little red convertible. He worked for the Ambulance Service at the time. When I arrived at the Festival the man on the gate said that the car was hot. "I know!", I replied with glee, "it's fabulous". What he actually mean, I realised later, was not that the car was hot in the sense of cool but that it was hot in the sense of it was badly overheating. Oblivious I drove away from the festival later only to end up broken down in the middle of a housing estate. A man from the AA came out and started to work on the car but something he did set off the car alarm so that it started to wail, "Weeee, weeee, weeee, weeee", quite loudly. "Can you switch that off he said?". "I'm not sure," I replied, and flicked a likely looking switch. This is the bit where you'll remember the bit about the Ambulance Service because straight away the car started to scream, "Nee-nah, nee-nah, nee-nah, weeee, weeee, nee-nah, nee-nah!!!". I don't think I have ever felt more mortified in my life. 

Today was an interesting lesson not just in know you're switches but also just how adaptable horses can be to the different signals and cues that we employ to communicate with them. Dear Lou, a Quarter Horse, has been trained using Parelli techniques and her owner is well aware that she still doesn't know what all of her buttons do. Occasionally she will unwittingly press one and Lou will back up without any pressure on the reins and it was only today that she learned that you could ask Lou to walk on by taking an in breath. Here I am trying her out for myself which was very enjoyable.

Later I worked with Yeshe and Dawn. Dawn has little power in her legs and therefore needs to teach Yeshe to do move his body to different cues that she can reinforce with clickered treats. Today we working on lateral movements. Whilst his back end will move over to the cue "Over" coupled with a touch from a bauble on a stick, his front end just wanted to go into pressure when he felt the same cue. Instead we found that lifting the rein on the opposite side and gently neck reining him had the desired effect.

I can't speak highly enough of this young pony and the special relationship he has formed with Dawn. He is sensible beyond his years and naturally benevolent. Dawn got on him for the very first time today and was positively beaming. She also drives him and can lead him form her wheelchair.

Email 22.7.13: Had rope over Yeshe's neck whilst putting Dually on him to do 5 minutes of waiting for softness and just ended up astonished.  Actually I was stunned…...two light pulls on offside of neck to ask him to move closer and he crossed his front legs over, moved his shoulders towards me. He was grazing, with permission, in gated area so was distracted and even lifted his head slightly to look at me as if say 'is this what you want?'.  Jackpot and double jackpot.Both sides the same and lightest touch I could create. Didn't bother doing any more - was so pleased." DS

Finally I worked with Clare and Nile working on using the most subtle cues to ask him to slow down and speed up. This involved a lot of breathing and counting; sometimes just thinking.

Like a girl in a shoe shop I couldn't resist trying them all for size today.