Tuesday, June 30, 2015

30th June, 2015 Graduation Day

 A slow simmer with a sea breeze all afternoon working with Jo and her Lusitano Arabian cross and Debbie and the ever lovely Dillon. Both are due to graduate in the next couple of weeks and have Amanda Barton booked for their next ridden session.

We taught Durante how to stand next to the mounting block and then worked on asking him to soften to the bit. We also used relaxation techniques such as the body audit, counting strides and breathing in order to take the urgency out of his walk. By the second session of the day he had really got it.

Dillon is already pretty soft at halt, walk and reinback but struggles to go forward happily in trot and canter, lacking the confidence to really stride out in either. We know that he was always encouraged to go from walk to canter as part of earlier training for showjumping. Today, instead of worrying about his head position or which gait he set off in, we just encouraged him to set off with a bit enthusiasm and to enjoy himself.

"...such a huge help and lots to work on." JM

"I must do a scrap book of Dillon's and I's journey with you, it has been a very very special journey and I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart it has been an absolute pleasure and joy to work with you with Dillon. It is hard to believe where we started with him it has not been an easy journey but one I would not change and the knowledge and understanding I now have has truly made me a better person with and around horses and I can pass it all onto Georgina too. From the moment we started working with him I felt a bond start to form but now I feel I have bonded with him and understand him in a way I thought not possible. Was so proud of him loading yesterday especially after working in all that heat." DW

Monday, June 29, 2015

29th June, 2015 Crystal Amaze

It was delightful to start the week with the West Country girls, Bodmin Moor Pony, Elsa, and her Dartmoor Hill Pony friend, Crystal. Teresa has continued to make great progress with both ponies so that they are much happier to be touched, to be caught and to be around people. However, a couple of incidents where Elsa ran off with the lead rein have put her off lead reins and headcollars. The jangle of buckles and the hardness of the fabric seem to be the main factors since she continues to accept the soft scarf really easily.

I worked out that the main reason why she got into trouble with the lead rein in the first place is because she struggles to follow a pressure to the left and her natural, non-thinking, you've got it, reflexive, automatic respond is to turn in the opposite direction. We worked on that in the easiest way, applying a little pressure on her neck with the scarf and then asking her to move her bottom away. 

Sometimes it's a good idea to do two jobs at the same time or rather to do a bit of one and then a bit of the other. I started to teach Elsa in incremental steps to pick up her feet and then to have them held and in between each foot I moved her headcollar about on her back and neck so that it became 'nothing'.

Next I started to work with Crystal. Teresa has been putting her headcollar on over the stable door as occasionally Crystal can be a little sharp, presenting her bottom if she's slightly worried. I began to work on putting the headcollar on in the stable.

That went well and so I repeated it three times before Teresa took over from me.

Before taking her outside I wanted to know that she knew how to follow a pressure.

Then we started to do little tours of the yard, passing Elsa on the way.

We finished with some foot handling work.

You'll see that I ask her to pick her back foot up forwards for the first few times.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

27th June, 2015 Soul Food

With Julie just two weeks away from being able to get on a pony but perfectly capable of walking we took Jack and Nettles out for another walk this morning.

Clicker training is like having your horse on a piece of elastic - stretch the gaps between the clicks and treats too far and it can break. As a result Jack and Nettles went off to play hide and seek but we could hear them rustling around in the undergrowth.

On the open Forest we have to keep the clicks and treats on a much higher frequency to make sure that they stay close.

A truly lovely session to end the week. Poppy's owner is about to have a pregnant pause and wanted some groundwork that she can do with her horse to keep her occupied and happy. It was a good time to work on the same clarity with subtlety that she has in the saddle on the ground. First of all walking without pushing or pulling.

Then turning right without having to go all the way around her or the horse overtaking. Instead we ask her to yield out of the way. Some mares are not so keen on this and will pull faces or attempt to bite until they know that you are not threatening them in any way.

We worked on standing still, and moving forwards, backwards and sideways one step at a time.

For a turn on the forehand less was more, with a very light touch and imagining her moving her right foot inside and past her left we got a much smoother movement without ears back and a tail swish. The horse needs a little moment to think since this goes against their natural non-thinking, automatic, instinctive, reflexive into-pressure response (which is to come towards you).

Poppy was not comfortable with the extra energy from the handler when asked to go into trot. She either put her ears back and thought about biting or went really fast and crossed in front of the handler. 

The key is to not set off with any sort of hop, skip or jump, just be really matter of fact and almost lazily fall into a run, possibly yawning as you go.

The result is more of a lazy, fall into a trot, trot which can then be worked on once she is more confident.

Is that your giraffe at the waterhole impression?

Surely you don't think I'm going over that?

Seriously, I am not going to go over that!

Glad you made it smaller necause I wouldn't want to put four feet on it at once.

I'm sure you've made it wider again...

Piece of cake - you only had to ask.

Friday, June 26, 2015

26th June, 2015 Frozen?

I fear that I am going to have to watch the film Frozen no doubt resulting in a permanent earworm from the soundtrack. According to Wikepedia the heroine,  Elsa, has the magical ability to create and manipulate ice and snow and struggles  with controlling and concealing her abilities and then with liberating herself from her fears of unintentionally harming others. Little wonder that I have two horses with the same name to work with over a period of four days.

Today's Elsa is a two year old coloured cob cross New Forest pony that has found her way into the ownership and hearts of Sue and Violet in Dorset. They contacted me because they wanted to know the best way of preparing her for her ridden life in another couple of years.

We started off by turning her loose in the indoor school so that she could let off any steam that she needed to. This turned into an opportunity to experiment with some low key loose schooling, using body language to ask her to follow her handler around.

Once on the lead rein we worked on asking her to stand still and not to walk into her handler's space when asked not to. Like a lot of horses she has learned that approaching people results in a lot of fussing and so we wanted to show her that all she needs to do is to stand still, and she will receive fuss (a lovely rub) anyway.

We also worked on leading, asking her to walk when we walked and to stop when we stopped without having to be pulled at all.

The afternoon session was not so straightforward. After a break of 3/4 hour during which she was stabled with feed, I began a session of desensitisation with her. At first she accepted the feather duster really easily but became annoyed when it touched her back leg.

Normally a horse's reaction is to settle down and accept the touch of the feather duster which most horses find pleasant especially as I use a deep, flat, slow touch.

However, Elsa went through a range of reactions from kicking out to circling me  at a walk and a trot, sometimes pushing towards me with her inside shoulder. Further discussion revealed that she has always had a tendency to do this when she is annoyed by something and often this has resulted in people stopping. As well as that there has been a bit of a battle over worming which resulted in her being twitched.

After persevering for a little while, I felt that discretion was the better part of valour and tried to find one good note on which to end. We can come back to this on another occasion.

To take her mind off it, we changed the subject to other interesting obstacles at which she excelled.

This just proves that she is not generally frightened of anything but does feel the need to protect her body when she feels threatened. Looking forward to working with her again as she is extremely bright and obviously very beautiful.

"Thank you Sarah for all you work and help with Elsa. Both Sue & I learned a lot on Friday. She's going to be great fun to work with!" VW
On the way over to Elsa we called in at the Exmoors that live en route. Their owner was about today so we had a nice chat...

...and Laura, whose last day with us was today, got the chance to say hello to Acorn.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

25th June, 2015 Executive Decisions

Today Nettles went on secondment to the Leadership Whisperers who were taking part in a recruitment event at the Minstead Manor Outdoor Activity Centre. Of course he was a very well mannered little horse and happy to be lead by one person, or eight, and applauded by many more.

Before the event began we had a stroll around the walled garden where we were working.

Nettles undertook some gardening duties...

...and promised not to upstage Tetua.

Here we are...live...

As well as being paid for taking part, Nettles' book "Leadership Beyond Measure" came inscribed "To Nettles, you are a leader beyond measure and an inspiration to the horse and human species. With love, Jude."