Thursday, April 30, 2015

30th April, 2015 REM Sleep

Moses was having a really good sleep when I arrived this morning. Proper deep REM sleep is very important to horses and something that is rarely achieved if they live in individual paddocks without friends to stand guard over them. Good old Jack!

Once he'd got up and after I'd finished my chores it was time to go out short-reining. The good news is that Moses was no more concerned about me being on his right side than his left this time. I made sure that I stroked him on his offside as we went around so that he got used to things happening on both sides of him at once.

Another practice session in the trailer ahead of going home on Sunday. His owner and I had a conflab about him and decided that he would benefit from another six months or so in which to mature physically and mentally before he is ridden. Forest bred ponies often need a bit longer before they are physically ready to be ridden. Hopefully his owner will be able to do some regular groundwork with him consolidating the good work that we have started while he has been with us.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

29th April, 2015 Steam!

The horses were all lit up when we arrived at the fields this morning thanks to the cold and rain. Accordingly we thought we ought to allow Moses to let off some steam with Nettles before asking him to take his work seriously.

Once they were more inclined to concentrate we took them both out to look at traffic. Nettles is a great ambassador for the work we do as he was completely unfazed by anything. As a result his demeanour rubbed off on Moses who was more interested in the lady Shetlands than the big vehicles that came by.

We also went to visit some other animals including cows and donkeys...

Later on we did some more loading practice....Moses was eager to start.

...and happy to stay aboard with the gates closed or open.

As Jack had stayed at home, we thought we ought to take him out too.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

28th April, 2015 Mosaic

Moses' education continued today with a bit of desensitisation and then learning how to short rein.

I want him to be able to cope with sudden movemement out of his eye when he eventually comes to be ridden.

Eating his midday feed next to the carrier bags. Having met them earlier he doesn't seem to be in the least bit bothered.

Later, while waiting for the physiotherapist, I used a bit of clicker training to ask him to go over the barrells.

Kate Boe, McTimoney-Corley Therapist, has always been a favourite of mine and the horses and is now qualified as an Animal Physiotherapist too. Moses benefitted from deep tissue oscillation, infra red treatment, magnetic therapy and sports massage.

He enjoyed it so much he helped Kate to write her report.

Nettles and Jack were having another restful day...

...they're trying out their calming techniques ready for Friday's Horse's Ear Course.

Monday, April 27, 2015

27th April, 2015 Not to Put Toof'n' Point on It

This may be my most convoluted title ever but I hope it will make sense eventually.

I have no great philosophical issue with using a round pen to work with a horse, it's just somewhere safe, and round, to be. When Moses showed me that he was a little anxious about having a saddle on, even though his owner has put one on him before, it seemed sensible to take him into the round pen for the session so that if he did just happen to explode then he and I wouldn't get into too much trouble.

I started off with a very gentle Join Up, more akin to loose schooling, to ask him to move around the round pen. He joined up very nicely and followed up even better.

Having rested the saddle on his back for a little while, with just my hand on top to be able to move it off again if he decided to leave, it was time to secure it into place. I am very careful about taking it in stages and where my ropes are and so on. The breast girth is clipped onto a little piece of twine on the D ring until the first strap of the girth is done up so that if he decided to buck or run off, the whole thing would just come away. Once the first strap is done up, the breast girth is fastened to the D ring so that if he decides to leave at that stage the saddle cannot slip backwards and form a  'bucking strap'. This also means that the girth doesn't have to be overtight and even if he suddenly breathes in so that the girth is loose there is nothing to worry about.

Once everything is secure he can be sent out again, without stirrups to begin with, to see how he feels about the saddle. Here you can see he is happy to look at it out of his left eye...

...but not so happy to see it out of his right, hence turning towards the outside of the round pen. This is common, particularly in former semi-feral ponies.

You can see here that I am encouraging him to follow me again (unclipped) so that he is turning to the right and therefore looking at the saddle out of his right eye.

He was soon fine with all of that and therefore safe to long rein at walk...

...trot (on that right rein again)...

...and even canter.

Halt is quite interesting because he has that Arabian habit of winding his neck when he is frustrated and wants to go forward. I blame Queen Victoria for loaning Arabian horses to the Commoners to 'improve' the breed.

We finished the session by long reining over and through different obstacles.

Theoden's tooth polishing is coming along too. This is a battery powered tooth brush and I started off by resting it against his neck, cheek and then his mouth. All in exchange for a click (no treat) and then three clicks and a treat.

Next I asked him to accept it into his mouth. He seems to like the Minty 'Horsodyl' which has been diluted.

And finally I asked him to allow me to open his mouth so that I can really see what I am doing. Not bad for only our second attempt and our first try with the battery toothbrush.

Now we get to the er...'point' of my title. You may just be able to spot that Theoden is quite excited about the clicker training. It is very common for geldings to relax everything when being clicker trained but some of them do get sexually excited too. It's just something to be aware of when gauging how emotional your horse is about being clicker trained and a bit of caution is required. I don't mind Theoden liking clicker training a lot but I don't want him to become aggressive around food like he used to be. Fortunately he seems to be a lot more mellow these days, especially when he understands that clicker isn't always available, that food cannot be obtained direct, and that I am training him and not the other way round.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

26th April, 2015 Fire!

While other creatures might be getting a Sunday lie in, I was off to see Jasmine whose appointment was postponed from yesterday due to the arrival of her new field mate. He is a breathtaking horse called Fire, a Welsh Cob cross Thoroughbred bred for dressage and eventing. 

Jasmine didn't seem to be in the least bit distracted and worked calmly from the outset...

...leaving him behind to go for her first ride up the lane, first of all on the lead rein...

...and then off. She's being ridden in a Fulmer bit with Fulmer keepers and a straight bar Happy Mouth mouthpiece. We noticed that the lower section of the Fulmer bars were going inside her mouth at times - something to look out for which wouldn't have been noticed without someone on the floor to observe and could have caused a nasty surprise to both of them. Bit change required.

Back at the fields Nettles had finished his lie in and started his afternoon nap.