Saturday, November 30, 2013

30th November, 2013 Gloria, Can You Waddle?

It gives you a bit of a clue as to how kind people are to their animals when they illicit the love of an unlikely creature. Gloria here is extremely fond of Ben and follows him all around the yard. She has never been imprinted but she seem to be besotted with him. Animals are such good judges of character.

Irish Draught, Flo, who belongs to Ben's wife, has had a pretty poor experience of humans recently and as a result takes great care to judge the character of everyone she meets. Her first question is are you friend or foe? Just three weeks ago Emma couldn't catch her in the field but now she is starting to trust that she is in safe hands. Today we did a bit of groundwork and foot handling with her. Although she is shod, she has never been taught to pick her feet up calmly and it makes you wonder just how the shoeing was achieved.

Friday, November 29, 2013

29th November, 2013 Filly-sophical

My last session with Lark so I was extremely pleased when she came up and offered to be caught outside in the small paddock. She's a shy little thing but growing in character all the time. She is particularly interested in finding out where the breath comes out of my face given that I have such a pathetically short nose.

Off to see a completely different kettle of fish this afternoon (or should that be a different cup of tea? as I blurted out when being filmed). Dalai is a six month old Hanoverian filly with the longest legs. We were doing some very basic groundwork and foot handling.

By changing the subject every fifteen minutes we were able to work for longer than we would otherwise and she made good progress in all directions.

"Thank you so much for yesterday.  It was really great to meet you too and help me with Dalai.  I will definitely use all the notes you have given me - they are great for reference as well." LF

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

27th November, 2013 Love Triangle

Popped in to see Chancer while I was nearby today. He seems to be very happy in his loan home with Nicky and she seems to be very happy with him. Since I am very happy with both of them that's a lot of happiness. Being in at night is suiting him well and there's a nice big round tummy under that rug.

Before that I had been to work with Anna, catching her for the farrier for her eight week trim. It takes less than a minute these days but I like to go early so that I can just spend some time giving her a fuss and a groom as she doesn't get a lot of human company. Today she allowed me to comb through her tail with my fingers, removing all the burrs, something that would have been unthinkable when I first met her. Sensitive and aggressive, both ends were pretty intimidating.

Back home and time to take Bella and Indy out for another walk. Here is Bella paddling in Janesmoor Pond.

27th November, 2013 When Cuthbert Met the Three RAs

WHEN CUTHBERT MET THE THREE RAs. Meet HorseWorld's Cuthbert, Dart and little Bingo! at the West Country Equine Fair where IHRAs, Bronwen Packham, Jenny Major and Rosie Jones will demonstrate essential IH skills introduced by Sarah Weston. These three horses, rescued from Death's Door illustrate how IH methods coupled with the care and charity set them up for success. WEST COUNTRY EQUINE FAIR on Sunday, 8th December, 2013. More details and tickets available through:

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

26th November, 2013 No Sooner The Word...

than the deed. Sammy managed to get Missy's head collar on today. What a supreme example of patience and empathy. She even left the nose-band low on the pony's nose to avoid putting any pressure on where the old head collar had pressed in to her face. If only they gave rosettes for this!

Back here, Theresa, Tracey and I all went off with Sampson in the trailer to have another session in the outdoor school. This is only his second visit but already it has all become very old hat and he only ran around for one circuit to acclimatise himself. After that we amused him by trotting him over poles and a little spread, going through the L-shaped poles and doing a little bit of liberty work.

The one common theme over the last few horses has been the power of eye contact. If you want a horse to jump cleanly in hand it's really important not to turn and face them as they jump - otherwise they will drop their back legs into the jump. However, in Tia's case yesterday I wanted her to start putting her feet into the water so deliberately faced her as she jumped - and in went her back foot!

The second lesson of the day is that if it smells like pig poo.....

It probably is pig poo! They're back tonight, the whole jolly lot!

Monday, November 25, 2013

25th November, 2013 D'You Mind a Puddle, Duck?

Tia is naturally a brave and curious horse but she has an aversion to water. This makes life in a 'Winterborne' village a little awkward because, even if the steam is a few feet away, she pushes into the horse that is leading her which can be a worry when there is passing traffic. Today we started work on asking her to allow her feet to get wet. At first she insisted on jumping the stream each time but after we had repeated it a number of times she started to splosh through it.

Here Jane demonstrates that lowering your own head can encourage a horse to lower its own.

One of the bonuses of today's visit, quite apart from lunch in the pub, riding Jane's veteran Lipizzaner horse, Easter.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

24th November, 2013 Til I'm Blue in the Face

Missy arrived with a head collar on even though she was still wild

Fortunately it fell off before it really began to dig in

I know it is rather tiresome but I cannot say often enough that ponies that have a head collar forced on them are at least ten times more difficult to get a head collar on again than one that has been trained to be touched first. I get told off for using strong words like violated but that is what it is. Ponies that have had their head violated by having a head collar forced on them are at least ten times more difficult to work with than one that hasn't. To a pony the head is the most important, sensitive part of their body and therefore they will always seek to protect it from predators. If you can't eat, you can't live. The feet are probably second in importance because if you can't run you'll get eaten. 

Missy sporting her first rug. A coat but not a hat is perfectly acceptable.

Missy is a really extraordinary example of this.  She arrived at her new home with a head collar on even though she was still wild. Her new owner worked with her patiently but waited until she could get her into a stable before she began to work with her and touch her in earnest. Imagine her surprise when not only did she settle in the stable extremely well but even allowed her to put a rug on her and do it up. She's even had her mane plaited. All this and yet she won't accept a head collar at all. There's no doubt that her owner will eventually get there but here is a pony happy to let a human do up straps around her bottom and tummy providing she doesn't try to restrain her head.

Such a pretty head
Halter training for me is touch first, head collar later whereas halter breaking often means that a pony has had a head collar forced on it. That level of manhandling can follow them all the way through their lives. The pressure to have ponies branded, microchipped, inspected, DNA tested or late gelded means that owners and ponies don't always have the luxury of time and yet there are simple, gentle techniques that help a pony to accept things so easily.

24th November, 2013 TV Drama?

Following the 'studio walk out' by the Fritham pigs, Lily, her owner Rachael, the film producer and I all reconvened at Emma's place to work with Otterley and Hiccup who can always be relied upon for a star appearance. Rachael had remarked that when Lily met the pigs it was unlikely that anyone would hold her. Was that the case? Tune in on Christmas Day to Horse and Country TV to find out!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

23rd November, 2013 Two Go On Tour

Little Lark has graduated to foot handling and leading and has just one week to go before she goes home. Despite being a very shy foal she has made significant progress every single day without being pushed (or pulled).

Tracey's horse, Bella, is also making great strides, quite literally and has the makings of an eventer if today is anything to judge by. We took her out on the confidence walk and she gave everything a go first time.

She can also do 'dressage ears' when faced with the possibility of a troll under the bridge...

Or 'showing ears' when faced with the huge Mommy pig. Bella hasn't had the luxury of meeting all the piglets in her home environment so showed a lot of courage to stay around to look at this one.

Bella and Indiana are the same age and both Forest-bred. Bella's back reaches the second rail down on the drift pen whereas Indiana only comes up to the third one. With her wrecked tail (thanks to Nettles) she only looks like a yearling.

I think we wore them out....

Friday, November 22, 2013

22nd November, 2013 She's a Rainbow!


"Hi Sarah, last Saturday I brought home a fresh off the Cumbrian Fells Fell Pony foal. She had a long trip to come to her new home as we're all the way up in North Aberdeenshire but thanks to your book things are going much smoother than I could have hoped and as of this afternoon I can now get a headcollar on and off of her in the stable without her panicking. Just wanted to say thank you for writing your book and it is going to become my bible!" Charlotte

22nd November, 2013 Nettles - The Sting in the Tail

Nettles had his Western Saddle on today for the first time. After a little recap of short-reining I got on and rode him a very short way and he didn't seem to mind a bit. This pony has never put a foot wrong in all of his training and is a delight to have around the place - we even let little Jack, Charly's son have a sit on him at the end of the session. Nettles' only fault is that he loves eating other horses tails and so far Petra and Indiana have fallen victim to his attentions. I'm going to have to come up with some unsavoury tasting solution to coat their tails with which doesn't irritate the tail owner!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

21st November, 2013 Future tense?

Given the nature of what I do for a living I suppose it should come as no surprise when people contact me about horses they want to sell or re-home. I reckon I hear of at least four a week and I only wish I knew of someone offering a 5 star home for each and everyone of them so that the original owner can let their horse go and still have real peace of mind.

The sad fact is that there are very few people who can offer a horse a home, and even fewer who can offer a perfect home. You may need to compromise and lower your expectations on things like stabling/ 24 hour turnout, rugs/no rugs, bit-less, barefoot, feeding regime, and training techniques. The only way to truly safeguard a horse’s future is to keep him yourself. This isn’t meant to make you feel guilty; it’s just an inconvenient truth – as is the fact that there are thousands and thousands of horses looking for good homes right now. The horse charities are absolutely brimming with them.

The best you can do is to set your horse up for success through good training where you can, and thoroughly vetting whoever buys or loans him. In a loan situation you need a well written contract setting out all of the things that are important to you and signed by both parties – even then, contracts can be very hard to enforce especially if the loaner just slightly breaches the less important terms and conditions. I have attached a contract that I drew up between myself and a loaner as an example of this sort of document BUT you should satisfy yourself that your contract will be legally binding by taking independent legal advice. The BHS also have a template contract.

It may be worth having the horse trained by a professional before you sell or loan him out even though you are not intending to keep it in order to ensure that the horse’s value is maintained or improved. Where a horse has a ridden problem, it is possible to sell or loan them as a companion but it is not easy to enforce this stipulation if the horse is sold (and then perhaps sold again).

Honesty is the best policy when selling or loaning a horse both from a legal liability and a moral point of view. If the new owner knows what they are getting, the horse is less likely to fall into a downward spiral where he is moved from pillar to post by people who don’t know how to help him.

Finding a new home:

There are lots of websites and Facebook pages dedicated to buying, selling and loaning horses, for example The New Forest Equine Directory which is local to me. There is also a website called has been set up specifically to help re-home horses with known behavioural problems.

AS WITH ALL sales of animals you do need to vet the people who come to look at your horse very thoroughly as to their capabilities, needs and financial ability to look after the horse. Just because someone is a reader of websites where there is a kinder approach to horses, doesn’t mean they are automatically any good at it!

Here are a few suggestions as to the best places to advertise:

1. Word of mouth – which after all is why you contacted me!. If I do know of someone looking for the sort of horse that you have got then I will put you in touch. Most potential buyers contact me for bomb-proof all rounders suitable for pony club rather than sensitive, perhaps previously rescued horses, with lots of issues to resolve.

2. What is your horse good at? Go to websites dedicated to his breed and abilities.

3. Go to local websites/ Facebook pages/ saddlery shops


My understanding is that many of the horse charities can no longer accept horses that are not truly in danger or suffering because are they are full of horses that have been rescued from absolutely dire circumstances. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t find a charity willing to take your horse.

For all sorts of reasons, you may not feel that you can commit yourself to the long-term rehabilitation of a horse. Where there is a nagging doubt as to whether you have contributed to the problem in the first place, it would still be a very good idea to consider having some training in how to handle horses so that the whole unhappy cycle doesn’t repeat itself with your next horse. It is also important to know your limits and to try your hardest not to buy another horse with the potential for similar problems. Of course, horses with problems are generally cheaper to buy in the first place but are often more financially and emotionally more expensive in the long run.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

20th November, 2013 Mustangs and Wellies

On days like today thank goodness for the Nissen hut. The hail stones made a pretty impressive sound on the corrugated roof. The Hut has seen some things what with the British and American Air Force taking off from Stoney Cross Airfield heading for Germany sixty years ago with fighter planes and bombers including Mustangs and Wellingtons. No battles these days although still the occasional 'mustang' and wellies. It was one of the largest airfields in the Forest but came and went in five years. We still get lots of planes flying over because Stoney Cross features as a 'reporting point' as it is so obvious from the air and is shown on the air navigation maps. My Dad loved aeroplanes and so I like to imagine that it is him flying around and looking down on the work that I do. 

Lark came in pretty wet and allowed me to rub her down with Petra's old cooler rug. Head collar on and off three times again and some leading work to the left and right. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

19th November, 2013 What a Lark!

Typical that I only had my camera phone with me but Lark had her head-collar on and off three times today without any fuss - or rather with lots of nice fuss around her face. More practice and a bit of leading before she goes home.

For those following the progress of the clipping horse, D, there's another up date today (below)...

Monday, November 18, 2013

18th November, 2013 Nappiness, Nappiness

My other Saturday horse was a dreamy Welsh Cob. Good in every respect his only issue is that he doesn't like going out on his own and when asked to take any other route than his normal one he naps by stopping, bucking and occasionally rearing. His owner has a really good grounding in IH concepts and techniques already. Adrenalin levels of both the horse and his rider are not helped by the fact that turning right instead of left leads to a busy junction which, despite being on the Forest, has some fast and impatient drivers coming around it. Although he is absolutely fine in traffic itself, this makes it awkward for the rider to address his napping behaviour without being interrupted. I think she has to accept this and simply aim for a calm halt until the traffic has gone by. Then she needs to ask him to move with the reins rather than pushing him forward from her seat which blocks his longissimus muscles and causes him to plant even more. If he turns the way she doesn't want him to go, then she has to quietly fix her rein to her thigh and only soften when he offers softness.

Having done a little groundwork to just tip the balance of leadership in her favour, we worked in the school on some techniques to help with breathing and the release of tension in her body. In particular we wanted more strides per out-breath, no nagging with the leg aid, and no pushing with the seat. After this it was out on the road, with loads of hi-viz, to practice this approach. Once again the 'bean-bag race' (at walk) proved useful - asking the horse to go as far as a particular point and then come back, go out again to another point and then come back - each time changing the end point without necessarily making it further away. We ended the session with him turning the corner at the junction and going some way up the road without any napping whatsoever. A great start which means that they can graduate to my friend and teacher, Amanda Barton, for more ridden sessions.

"Thank you so much for coming out to see me and F yesterday. I learned a great deal and feel I have a lot of practise to do so that I can perfect my signals and communication with F. You have given me hope that we should be able to progress and I will certainly give it my best shot so that we can hopefully remain together. I realise it may be a slow process and there is no certainty to the eventual outcome but I will keep you posted as to our progress." LM

With a few horses about the place, I can usually match people up with one that's rather like theirs for the purposes of long reining. All that Petra has in common with Sarah's pony, Iggy, is that she is black. Short of sanding her legs down by about three feet, she's not going to be look like a Shetland!

Once the drift was over we took Bella and Indiana out for a walk. They are the same age but two hands different in height. Here's Bella enjoying her first time out on the Forest since she was brought in on a drift herself about two years ago.