Wednesday, April 30, 2014

30th April, 2014 Amy ♥ Jack Forever and Ever

Kitty May was back in action today, going out on her own for a long rein around the woods before coming back to be ridden. She carried her bit but the reins were attached to the Dually. We had our first trot and negotiated some tough going after the Forestry Commission had graded the track into a mud bath! Back at the yard it was time to get on board again before working with the reins on the bit.

Seven ponies all lined up for dentistry this afternoon. Our favourite vet Amy has such a soft spot for Jack and I am sure it is reciprocated.

Once the Forest girls had their teeth done it was time for them to go back out on the Forest but it won't be long before they are back in as the stallions are due to go out fairly soon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

29th April, 2014 Sixes and sevens

Filly foal by Catherston Springsteen

Tracey and I set off early this morning to meet up with Kelly  and Ele for the Interactive Sports Horse Workshop at Catherston Stud. The purpose of the event was to get judges, breeders, and competitors together to discuss the marking scheme used in various Sports Horse Classes and to have a look at how they might be applied to different horses. It was interesting to see just how widely the marks varied!

There was a fine array of horses and Jennie Loriston-Clarke led the discussion. It was fascinating to hear what she had to say about the horses and I almost swooned when she said that she would never give more than a six to a horse that was consistently behind the vertical in a dressage test because she wanted to get the message to the rider that it was not acceptable. Kelly on the other hand definitely swooned when this three year old colt, son of Totilas came in to the arena, "And then George Clooney walked in", I over heard her say. He certainly looked great and he positively floated in trot.

Back to reality in the afternoon and a pony much more our style. Willow, a New Forest cross Arab has been a bit reluctant to set off in certain directions from her field and you can almost here the theme to Mission Impossible playing at a low volume in her head as she goes out. Today she immediately encountered a large group of wild ponies just outside the gate and there were plenty of other things to contend with. She is not overtly frightened but you can tell that she is a little apprehensive and she has developed a few strategies to slow things down a bit.

Rather than getting big and energetic with her, reinforcing everything she knows about going out alone, we introduced clickered rewards at short and regular intervals with a view to breaking the pattern. We've made a good start and her owner fully understands what we are trying to achieve and why we have taken this approach. We'll see how it goes.

"Thank you for your help and guidance today.  I know with hard work and patience Willow will walk that road perfectly.  To finish the afternoon off as I got into my car Willow came over to me gave her a little rub behind the ears and both left happy. I'm excited about taking this on tomorrow even if we only get half way, slowly but surely." AP

2.5.14: "Just to let you know Willow decided not to be caught on Wednesday, but I did exactly what you told me and after about 5 mins she came to me and took the head collar well.  I then tried the halt action whilst walking back to the gate in field, yeah result every time Willow stopped sharply and level with my shoulder every time. I lunged her then took her out on road, no ponies. Willow did well about 20 paces majority of time, so really pleased and retuned home for Willow to have a nice massage. Very enjoyable afternoon." AP

Sunday, April 27, 2014

27th, April, 2014 Laugh or Cry

The weather didn't know whether to laugh or cry today so we got a bit warm and wet at the same time out long reining the two girls, Kitty and Bella. Kitty's halt and steering are both improving and she feels really independent of the other horse. I don't stop her by pulling on both reins at the same time, I just close one of my hands until she walks herself into the halt. As usual we are sticking to long reining in a Dually rather than off a bit so that she doesn't get used to a permanent weight on her mouth. 

Long reining is such a great skill for horse owners and doesn't take too much to learn in the first place. It improves through practice and fine tuning. It's more about body language, intention, energy, and positioning rather than anything else. I maintain that horses do not understand any English whatsoever...

For the horses it gives them great confidence in going forward, taking direction and understanding the basic aids.

It is so much fun for both parties.

Bella was long reined out for the first time today.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

26th April, 2014 Alive and Well

A day trip to HorseWorld, Bristol today and I think it would be fair to say that they are experiencing difficult times. At a time when so many horses need help and yet so many people are counting their pennies, it was felt that the Visitor Centre as not bringing in enough money. Although footfall was pretty high, many people were coming back on season tickets which entitled them to enter for free time after time. The Council turned down a planning application that would have enabled them to build a brand new Visitor Centre within the grounds of the Rehabilitation Centre next door and that, at least for now, was the end of that. Very sadly it also means that several members of staff are facing redundancy and that decision was still hanging over them today. Our remit was to go, work with the horses, and to cheer everyone up. We did our best but it is very hard not to feel the pain and worry of staff that have worked there in one capacity or another for years. Pay rates within the charity sector are never brilliant for those on the ground and most are driven by their compassion for the animals that they work with.

It should be emphasised that the Rehabilitation Centre is a busy as ever and serving it's crucial purpose of rescue, rehabilitation and re-homing. There are currently 134 horses at the Charity following an extremely fruitful period of re-homing only matched by the number of horses still in urgent need of help. Just this Friday sixteen more horses arrived through a joint operation with Redwings. Many of the current intake are the product of totally indiscriminate breeding by just one notorious traveller.

Today we dropped off 25 rugs and lots of other equipment donated by some of my wonderful clients. You can imagine that a charity like this goes through hundreds of rugs in one season alone.

Tracey and I met up with fellow IHRAs Bronwen Packham and Jenny Major and worked with three of the traveller's ponies that had arrived in an earlier batch. I had a fifteen year old mare who was none too keen to be touched and was prepared to use her front and back feet to emphasise this point. I worked on just asking her to move her head towards me and encouraging a softer expression. Never has touch and move away been more important.

Whenever she heard mens' voices in the yard she went on to mega-alert. What do they mean to her?

Inevitably Tracey ended up with Bella, a younger pony who really began to appreciate the benefits of a lovely rub - but only on her right hand side for now.

Bronwen and Tracey worked with a feisty youngster who again was prepared to kick if she felt that things weren't to her liking.

During the breaks we went to look at all of the others. Many had been kept in a big barn at a holding yard before being allocated to the Charities involved and although picking up weight they were still short of muscle and had very matted hair. They are really enjoying the spring grass, the opportunity to stretch their legs and to shed their coats.

Tinsel arrived just before Christmas and is the only one out of four that survived. Jo, who has worked for the Charity for twenty seven years, is especially pleased with this little mare who has gone from being extremely nervous and at death's door (weighting less than 200 kgs due to the combined effects of neglect and Salmonella) to confident and much rounder.

There are a number of donkeys at HorseWorld and these are the special love of Lin who has been connected with the charity for over forty years. She is also a fierce defender of the mules including Mowgli a Poitou donkey pony cross.

HorseWorld have an incredible record of turning horses around and turning them into useful riding horses. Kayleigh and Caitlin work together to get them started and going forward. Their latest success is Gunner.

Friday, April 25, 2014

25th April, 2014 What a Drip

A quick but steady trip around the inclosure on long reins for Kitty May today. Once again she was utterly straightforward. I love this pony! Now that riding has been cancelled for the day I have no excuse for not attacking the ironing - a bi-annual event at best.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

24th April, 2014 Going Dutch

These three Exmoor youngsters, Luuk, Heather and Charly, were all diverted from the meat man having originally been in a herd of conservation ponies in Holland. Now, along with others living in France and Germany I am delighted that they are being helped by No Fear, No Force techniques.

24th April, 2014 Cowboys and Indians

A long day with an early start and Kitty May would have been happy to start straight away.  Nettles, on the other hoof, was keen to stay in bed.

 Jack is going through his roan stage and will soon be back to his usual biscuity self.

Peechay is also going through his roan stage. When we arrived at Nicki's he said he was definitely having a lie in.

Although Maverick looked good and seemed calm in this Western saddle, as soon as he was in the bigger field he reacted quite badly to it and Nicki had to get off pretty sharpish. Maverick has always been worried about rugs and seemed to think that this came within that category. We were so glad that we had been fairly cautious about introducing it.

Once he was back in his English saddle he relaxed straight away, coping with this massive timber lorry passing him and then continuing to work very nicely. Any thoughts of him being a cowboy horse (even if he would have been an Indian one) will have to be put to one side at least for now until he is much more confident. It just proves that you cannot take anything for granted.

Starting to back up softly...

 ...and then relaxing even more.

2.5.14: "I've not ridden much in the last week but what I have done has been very good. There have been no adverse effects from the saddle incident, so that is good. I took Maverick in the big field again for some schooling the other day and he was very attentive. He just got on with things straight away. We did some pole work and walked and trotted nice big circles. He was nice and consistent in the pace and he was also quiet rounded in the turn to the poles. His halt and back up is beautiful and he softened a lot easier... I went out for a walk this morning and my friend mentioned how much better we both were :-) I had to manoeuvre through a gateway and used my legs to direct his bottom. He is being such a good boy. Another strange thing that has been happening is that he has been so much more loving in the field. He normally keeps himself to himself and I go to him in the evenings to say goodnight but lately he will look up at me and if I hug him,he will hug me back with his head over my shoulder. A couple of times I have had join up with him where I will walk towards him, turn my shoulders and lower my head and he starts to follow me :-) another time he came up to me and started playing with the zip tag on my coat and pulling it down. He has never been like that in all the time I have had him. It's like he is starting to come out of his shell a bit now which is really lovely." N. O'M

Kitty May wore a saddle for the first time today and was absolutely fine.

Later she went out for a walk and had a good look around this big lorry which had its engine running.

Another little pootle home, this time bareback. Owner Jackie is very pleased with her progress.