Sunday, May 25, 2014

25th May, 2014 Coming Up Roses

Like these two foals I am going to take time out to smell the flowers and to have a little rest. The blog will be back in three weeks time and I have appointments available from 21st June onwards.

25th May, 2014 Izzy Wizzy

Let's get busy. Some interesting discussions this morning about the difference between Izzy and the children that Bridget teaches and how, somewhere between school and the yard, it is possible to pick up some baggage that makes it difficult to apply the same rules about clarity and emotional involvement. It's great to have this level of honesty in the work that we do and to be able to talk (and act) through some of the boundaries that we should and shouldn't have in place.

I delegated the all important preparation exercises for long reining to Tracey and then we worked with dual controls for a little while before I set off with Izzy on her own.

She worked so well we  let her spend time gazing at herself in the mirror....

...and then Bridget gave her a big kiss!

Friday, May 23, 2014

23rd May, 2014 Easy Keeper?

Easy Keeper. I heard this wonderful phrase for a good-doer the other day and thought how lovely it sounded. However easy keepers can soon be the hardest keepers. Ponies that put on too much weight whilst living on thin air are likely to succumb to recurrent laminitis, Cushing's disease and Equine Metabolic Syndrome and from that point on require constant monitoring, special diets including soaked hay, muzzles, restricted grazing and expensive drugs. Owners of ponies with these illnesses face continual worry and finger crossing hoping that their pony will not suffer or die as a result of their condition. Meanwhile the pony's freedom reduces down to the size of a womb as his capacity for exercise and using up calories is curtailed by pain.

The art would appear to be not to turn what should be a low maintenance pony into a high maintenance one by over feeding, over rugging and excessive stabling. Once they are overweight and on the brink of laminitis they are forever high maintenance and a permanent rod for their owner's back.  Hardy ponies need some hardship.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

22nd May, 2014 Going Abroad

After the fun at the fields it was over the Solent to the Isle of Wight for another session with Mollie, Mairie and Pie. Mollie has grown up a lot, physically and mentally, since we last saw her and was ready for a bit of groundwork and some loading practice. Last time she went in a trailer it was to be rushed to Liphook so it is good news that she wasn't too worried about loading again.

"Thank you for another brilliant training day. I am so pleased with all the ponies, each one furthered their learning. I feel happier now with Mollie having established that we think she has ‘grown up’ to the next level and you could really see her thinking and learning today. Mollie worked very hard today and we covered a lot of issues, the speed that she was happy to enter the trailer was wonderful. I will endeavour to get my timing and determination exactly right so that Mollie knows I do really mean it, no fudge as you say !!. Mairi was most accepting of her new bridle and I will continue with short times of getting used to the bit. Pie learnt that is ok to come back out of the trailer, he really did not want to leave at the beginning. Overall his temperament is much more trusting he still has the odd wild moment and I think this will always be there in his defence strategy from his sad past. My thanks to Tracey for her help and support and I think she is quite amazing with all the work she does with the horses and she looks so calm.Just wonderful to have worked with you again today and thank you so much. Both my ponies and I have benefitted from your help and God willing we will continue.A very positive day, thank you. x" JB

22nd May, 2014 Spring Fever?

With the wild women being rather tame...

...and the young ones being rather mature...

...Nettles just rising from his lie in... was up to the oldies to liven things up...

Don't let Charly see this, he's riding Theoden tomorrow
The audience look on...
...and try to have a little word.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

21st May, 2014 Recent Acquisitions

I haven't seen Maria for eight years so it was great to be asked to go out and assess her new horse Arnold who came to her via the RSPCA. He's certainly a pleasant character. He needs some help physically but then he should become a very nice riding horse. Today we worked on his groundwork, in particular leading.

"Eight years wow, doesn't time fly. Thank you so much for coming to see Arnold it was great to see him in a different light and I really enjoyed it. The photos are wonderful." MJG

Later on it was off to see T, a Fell pony, currently on seven day trial with potential new owner, Z. He's only recently been gelded and seemed to be very distracted by everything. I needed to get his attention and to ask him to just stand still. Once that was established we could work on asking him to move forward, backwards and sideways and led him down the nearby tracks. It's not altogether certain whether Z will choose to keep him. It's always good to have the door open in both directions.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

20th May, 2014 Tuesday Afternoon

An apt song not only for the day and the time but also for the feeling of our course today. Tracey and I were left feeling very humbled by the people we worked with and the reactions of our ponies to them. Maureen and Alice have had very little to do with horses although they both love animals. Both of them just got involved, gave themselves and seemed to get so much out of being with the Jack, Nettles and Blue. We had to check our privilege all over again - knowing that we get to play with horses out in the woods every day of the week and not have to deal with too many complexities in life.

Ready? We were born ready!

Jack is an energyometer, you can only touch him if you bring it right down

Nettles demonstrates the hug

A little walkabout

A huge hug

How slow can you go?
Theoden loves a little female company
We left the course open-ended and flexible just so that we could adapt and do whatever seemed right on the day. We just didn’t expect anyone to find out so much about themselves quite so quickly or to give up there fear and apprehension so readily. Alice realised that she had to drop her energy levels to stand a chance of getting near to Jack but soon had Nettles matching her stride for stride. Maureen who was concerned about going within 30 foot of a wild mare and her foal at the beginning (quite rightly because the mare might have been protective), ended up this close to a loose Theoden.  The horses really liked being with both of them and reflected their energy, intent and temperaments so clearly. It was just lovely.

"I think you are a natural at inspiring people with your love of horses and Alice said she really liked the way you and Tracey explained things from the horses perspective and showed them how to do things. We all went home with a better insight into the horses behaviour....and our own!" HM, Society of St. James

Photos with very kind permission of the participants.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

18th May, 2014 Outfoxed?

David and I set off in opposite directions this morning with him going off to Fritham to put up the round pen and do other work at the fields and me off towards Chippenham to work with a wild pony. He had a wildlife encounter of his own with these pictures captured by the camera trap. 

Rumble is a three year old Dartmoor Hill Pony and pretty sharp to work with. He's such a beautiful creature, with his Appaloosa coat and pretty head. His owners have had him for two months and have come so far with him in just a few weeks but still have a long way to go. Coming off the Moor so late he was then gelded and I don't suppose the manhandling that went with this would have helped at all. He's certainly very wary of letting anyone near his head again and I strongly suspect that he has had a head collar forced on him or been restrained by his head in some way.

I wanted to help his owners to fill in some of the gaps in the training they have done. He will follow a bucket into the stable and will take food from the hand but he tends to snatch it and then take his head away and this can lead to him biting accidentally and on purpose. Rather than attracting him to a hand I wanted him to come to a target and to learn that he only gets food when he hears three clicks in a row first. In this way one click starts to mean keep on doing what you are doing and the three clicks means job done! This helped to instil some patience and stillness in him and to reduce the ambivalence he was feeling - it just slowed everything down.

I also felt that he need to be touched much more consistently over the rest of his body (and here I do mean over, rather than under which would be too much for him right now). We used a deep flat rhythmical touch across his body rather than a stroking action along his body.

For the first time he started to allow his ears to be touched...

...although he has allowed K to touch his face while he has been occupied by a very sugary and minty lick. Today she began to touch him with the scarf instead with a view to being able to use this to befriend his face rather than going straight to the head-collar.

With ponies like this it is absolutely essential to take your ego down to the lowest point so that you don't become disheartened by what seems like a lack of progress. It's only when you can let go like this that it all becomes a lot easier. The ego carries its own energy which then goes through the end of your fingers, into your jaw and your voice. To my mind, this pony has found himself into an ideal environment where he will be given all the time he needs to get to wherever he needs to get to.

"Thank you very much for coming out to Rumble yesterday, it gave me a bit more confidence that I had started in the right way and that I wasn't handling him too much, in fact need to do as much as I can." KB

23.5.14: "Just thought Id send you a quick Rumble update. He is clicker training without lick, he is a smart little cookie picked up very quick. Big breakthrough this am, was touching face with scarf and moved to neck, he let me touch his neck with and without scarf :)" KB

Saturday, May 17, 2014

17th May, 2014 Planting Seeds

A fairly lazy morning for the horses this morning. I really enjoy these special moments with Theoden.

Then off to Compton to work first of all with Benji. He is looking really really well but swears that he has never been rained on and therefore cannot accept water on his body. We worked on that using a tiny watering can for house plants. Normally this works really well if the 'pressure' of the water is then matched with a lovely rub as a release (since you cannot take the water off again). However Benji was so busy busy busy thinking about the water he didn't even notice when we switched to a rub. So we abandoned that element of it and just worked on directing his backing up. We then combined that with just imagining him planting himself and growing roots into the ground, and there he was, standing still with water being poured (very gently) onto his back. Thank you Mark Rashid for that valuable nugget!

We then had a bit of loading practice to enable Hilary to work on being able to load him on her own. Rather than tying him up while she goes back to put the back bar up, she uses a long lead rein, threaded through the tie up at the front and then brings the rest of it with her. Tying a horse up without a back bar behind him can be really dangerous if they start to pull back.

"Thanks very much for yesterday, it was really good to see you again in much better weather!
I definitely think if I keep up the practice that the loading will soon become much easier and having to get the trailer out means I will have to get better at reversing too! I think that washing will be a longer process but at least getting the equipment out is quicker. I don't have a small watering can but this morning tried it with a sports water bottle which works well as it's easy to control the flow and there's no splashing.  I think it will be best practised in some quiet time so that I can really focus on him being still. I shall look forward to the day when a very clean Benji walks confidently into the trailer!" HP

To finish I worked with Whisper, a two year old Section E Welsh Cob. He's a gorgeous boy and in fantastic condition for his age, the time of year and his breeding.  His owners wanted me to work on long reining but it seemed to me that he needed to do some of the foundation groundwork exercises so that he could learn to be still and to just be. In no time at all he was much more relaxed and a real pleasure to work with. Next time we should be able to move on to long reining with no trouble at all.

"Thank you so much for coming to see us yesterday, it was great to meet you too and Tracey. Both D and I loved the way you worked with Whisper and the way you explained things to us, you made it so much easier to understand.  We were both very excited after you left because we have now found you and love the way you train, you made us feel more confident in our approach to helping Whisper understand what we would like from him. D and I are really looking forward to continuing our education with you and here's to many happy times ahead. Thank you so much for all your hard work and thank you for helping us." TK