Saturday, January 25, 2014

25th January, 2014 The Best Test Card

This amazing photo was taken by Russell (Sach) last weekend when Nelly was celebrating the fact that she had come in off the Forest - she was just as delighted to go out again.

25th January, 2014 Flat out...

Time to get Ahanna's owner back on board today for the first time since Christmas and an unfortunate sudden dismounting incident. It's always a serious moment and important to assess the confidence of the horse and the rider through every step before. We started off with long reining to assess Ahanna's energy and emotion levels and then some important work on standing still to be mounted. As is so often the case it was just a matter of putting a little pressure on the right rein rather than the left in order to keep her straight and then making sure that we were completely relaxed.

"Thank you so much for today's session! I think it's the first step to gaining my confidence back, although I think I still have some way to go, but I'm prepared to take it slowly. Your notes are wonderful, I will work with her on accepting the bridle, and also doing the basic groundwork we did in the first session." MB

Equally gorgeous are Angus and Sarah who's work on the ground has already progressed to being able to take him for walks out on the Forest.

The mare that I was told was inclined to rear did in fact rear and had an alarming habit of coming at you at the same time. She actually worked extremely well, matching me step for step as we walked up and down the track, walking when I walked and stopping when i stopped. However it took very little to tip her over the edge - just someone calling repeatedly to their dog out on the Forest - and that's when the fun began. I was hard pushed to keep her out of my space and from rearing or striking out at me but stood my ground and just protected my own space without invading hers. In time she calmed down completely and walked back to her field as if nothing had happened. Hard for her owner though to live with the prospect of all that 'stuff' when things suddenly go wrong. We've both got some thinking to do. The vet is already involved and has been giving the horse hormone treatment following a clear scan for ovarian tumours and a blood test.

Sadly for me I got my hand kicked during the session and now it is very very sore. Just right for a ferry trip on a windy night!

Friday, January 24, 2014

24th January, 2014 French Dis-Connection

A reminder of fun and laughter!

I am off on my travels again, this time crossing the sea to France where I have been asked to work with Heather, an Exmoor Pony, who has found her way there having narrowly missed going for slaughter in Holland. I shall report back as soon as I can and of course I'm taking the camera.

The Spring diary is already filling up with some very interesting horses including this one. I am flat out tomorrow before I go and I am due to work with a mare that rears up on her way in from the field as well as two others. When I get back I'm looking forward to meeting a steady cob who bombs off in the school and was previously ridden even when his mouth was bleeding. Apparently they just put Vaseline on his lips and carried on! Then an RDA pony who funnily enough isn't that keen on moving quickly in the school. Horses that won't go and others that won't stop!

I've another pig phobic pony to work with in early February followed the day after by a wild pony called Piglet. Then there's the Irish horse that has been beaten (why oh why?) and a horse that rushes out of the trailer. I'll be riding out with another youngster that you've met before and occasionally revisiting some of the horses that are making steady progress through their education.

At the end of all that I'm off to Mallorca to see Xanthe and she has promised me two spotty donkeys for halter training, a veteran horse that is stuck about loading, as well as saying hello to all of her horses and mules. Can't wait!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

23rd January, 2014 A Life on the Ocean Waves

Time to catch the ferry this morning and off to the Isle of Wight for another fun day with Mini Shetlands, Molly, Mairi and Pie. Even though we were there for the day, it was important to break the sessions up into the smallest ten to fifteen minute chunks with plenty of time for frolics in between. Molly is only a year old and had to be weaned from her mother fairly early and abruptly because she was lactose intolerant. As a result she has had a lot of handling by humans and little socialisation with other ponies. So easy then for the human to become the entertainment committee. Too delicate to be turned out full time she still needs a good opportunity to exercise every day and to express all of her energy and emotions; no good starting off with work when she has been effectively plugged in to the mains all night. So she was turned out first off to allow her to fly around.

After that she is ready for a little work but even then we needed to be canny about what we did. Walking away from the stables she is steady and needs the human for confidence. On the way back she wants to rush (away from the unknown) and towards her Mum who is in the stable next door. Accordingly she can manage 5 to 10 good paces on the way out and just 3 or 4 on the way back before she feels the need to express her contained energy. Working within these parameters meant that we achieved a really calm walk before coming to halt for a lovely rub. Much better than literally pushing her to her limits and practising her 'no'.

After this short session we turned her in with her Mum for the first time in six months since there is now little danger of her Mum having milk even if she does try to drink from her. Mairi, her mother, is a lovely pony with a wonderful temperament.She gives mild guidance about what is and isn't acceptable. Her response to Molly's attempt to clamber on her back was to hump her bottom in order to block her and she is infinitely patient with her.

After lunch we were able to do another session of leading, including a few steps of trot. We also worked with Pie. Even though he came with a tick in the long reining box it was important to check that he was in fact fine with it, especially as he used to be really defensive about his hindquarters. He proved to be very adept at long reining even with our improvised kit.

"Thank you for a fantastic day, really rewarding and great to see both Mollie and Pie doing so well. Both ponies seem very keen to please and quickly learn what is asked. It was wonderful to see Mairi and Mollie back together again and Mollie had such fun, and I think Mairi will continue to be a very sensible Mum and companion to Mollie.

Mollie just learnt so much today , I really feel we made great progress with her. Pie was a little star with his long reining, I am sure he will really enjoy having a ‘job’ to do and it is a new skill for me as well. I have never long reined a pony before so really enjoyed it and hopefully Pie & I can progress together.

So a very big thank you for working with Mollie and Pie and all that you are teaching them and me." JB

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

22nd January, 2014 Orange and Lemons

Early morning start and the Forest donkeys are 'guarding' the road, waiting for the rays of the sun to burn off the mist.

Rosie and Bella are looking forward to their hay and the Forest girls appear like ghosts at the fence, waiting for theirs. I'm feeding thirteen at the moment.

Jack shows off 'Hair By Nettles'. It takes years off him!

Our first customer is Ollie again, seen here as a speck in the distance as she heads off for her first solo hack in three and half years. Returning from her triangular circuit, Emma is throwing her arm up as if she has completed Badminton. Very pleased with and for both of them.She no longer needs her orange and yellow guides!

Email received 25th February, 2014: "Just thought  I would give you an update on our progress. Me and Ollie have been out at least twice a week on our own since you helped me. We are now trotting away from home and even had our first canter on our own. I still can't believe how quickly you managed to change her mind. I have been singing your praises to everyone I meet. We are getting more and more confident all the time. But I am making sure we only take small steps at a time so not too push her too far to quickly." EH 
Next we worked with Jacob, her 18 month old Forest-bred gelding by Portmore Tempest. He's has three previous homes in that short time and had learned to pull very aggressive faces at people when there was food around. He has put weight on with Emma and is now a little less grumpy. We did some important groundwork with him today and then took him out along a quiet lane to see how he would be. Instead of dawdling on the way out and dragging Emma all the way home, he walked along calmly by my/ her side with a super 'smile in the line'. He was also really good at matching pace for pace - funereally slow, a lively jog, and everything in between.

Next stop was our regular visit to Anna who was having her feet trimmed. As the farrier was delayed we were able to give her a good brush and a massage and some friendly company which she lacks most of the time.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

21st January, 2014 Prickly Subject

Charly and I took Nettles out for a walk by himself today so that he could wear his saddle and get used to the sound it makes if he goes under trees and over ditches and streams. The saddle doesn't fit as well as we would like so we shall switch to an English saddle before he is ridden in one. He's such an angel this pony and such good company. Yesterday he went out loose with Jack in the inclosure and was madly galloping about through the bushes, playing hide and seek  Today he was calm and sensible on a lead rein, doing everything asked of him.  We only had one disagreement and that was when I thought that eating prickly holly wasn't in his best interests - he begged to differ!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

19th January, 2014 Chancersaurus

Following a visit to Curdridge today, David and I went over to Wickham to visit Chancer to see how he is. He looks fantastic and is clearly very relaxed in his huge field with all of his field mates. With all the horror stories you hear about horses going out to loan homes, it's a minor miracle that we found Nicky for Chancer and I couldn't be happier with them both. It's the first time David has seen Chancer since he went to Nicky's, although I have been making regular visits when I am working in the area, so it was rather moving to see them together again.

Overall it has been a very moving weekend!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

18th January, 2014 Beyond the Wire

We've had a terrific day with eleven fire officers coming over for training and taking the horses out and about on the Forest to negotiate all sorts of terrain (mostly muddy and wet) and all sorts of obstacles (mostly muddy and wet). Days like these give the officers so much confidence in handling horses. Unlike the horses used for their initial training ours are not always quiet and predictable. The youngsters can ask a lot of questions and horses like Theoden will make their feelings known if things don't go according to plan. It's a great opportunity to practice handling techniques and body language and sometimes to challenge some of the standard techniques taught through the BHS.

I couldn't run the course without the help of my friends so thank you to Tracey, Amy, Alison, Liz, Hilary, Lorraine, Wendy, Yvonne (all the way from Guildford!), Craig, Kelly and Ross and extra ponies Zack and Buddy. The good news is that they would come again!

"Sarah thank you do much for allowing me to help this morning, not that I was much help my fireman was much more competent than me!! Really nice to be reminded of all the techniques you use, love to do it again !!!" WD

"Amy is still chatting on about the fantastic day today, I have to agree with her you really are the most inspiring trainer." TP

"We all thoroughly enjoyed the morning with you all thank you." AJ (one of the fire officers)

"I really enjoyed my afternoon in the forest, and all the feedback I got back from everyone that attended, was that is was well worth while and very enjoyable. I think the confidence levels of these firefighters have improved drastically." AK, Crew Manager, Animal Rescue

Indy offers to be caught. We did wonder if it might rain all day but fortunately it held off most of  the time.
Helpers and the fire officers from the morning session watch the catching demo.

Neil catches Rose. She has never been caught by a man before.

Leading practice with Alison

Lorraine's Zack did a guest appearance. He soon settled in and was very brave.

Theoden going over the tarpaulin with John

Bella going over the see-saw with Dominic

Paul seems very pleased to have been partnered with Zack

Rosie, the smallest pony, goes over the bridge widthways, with Andy, the tallest fire officer

John and Theoden take it to the bridge

The ponies were not allowed to play with the fire engine.

Setting off on the forest trail

zack proved to be all terrain

Theoden put in a huge jump over the ditch stream taking John by surprise

The log is less challenging

Rosie goes through the stream

Coming home via the driftway - we counted them out and we counted them in.

18th January, 2014 Ravaging!

Attendance of ponies and helpers at the Animal Rescue Team training today have been decimated  by flood water, broken vehicles and snot it seems. We've also had to entirely re-invent the course due to underlying ground conditions and the weather forecast. Call in later to see the results!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

16th January, 2014 The Insy Winsy Spider Club

...went on a geography, history and science field trip today.

Around the Forest some of the ponies are receiving supplemental feeding.

Nelly, still sporting her exclusive collar, thought that she might prefer to be a domesticated pony. Little does she realise that she has a much better diet with far more choice, supplemented by hay, than the horses that we have living in.