Wednesday, July 29, 2015

29th July, 2015 Cockleshells

Cob filly, Suzi, was an unexpected buy-one-get-one-free when Anja bought her mother just over a year ago. As a result Anja has been learning her foal handling skills on the hoof. Everything has been going really well with Suzi accepting touch all over, happily spending time in human company, and not being frightened of very much at all.

They hit their first hurdle when it was time to have Suzi microchipped by the vet. As she hadn't been taught to lead, and therefore to follow a pressure, when she decided she wanted to leave, she just left, and the carefully constructed Velcro headcollar that Anja had made simply came apart. This small incident has put Suzi off having the noseband over her nose, presumably because she got a little bump from it as she decided to leave.

I was asked to go and work with her to put the headcollar on and to start to teach her to lead but with the vet coming an hour later to insert the microchip, I was up against it and under pressure myself.

True to recent form, Suzi wasn't keen to have the noseband over her nose even though she was happy for it to be done up around her neck.

I began to work on desensitising her nose but again, when she wanted to leave, she did. This is something that Anja needs to be aware of - it's important never to ask for too much but when you do ask for something, it does need to happen.

Accordingly we closed her into the field shelter with her Mum and I worked on desensitising her nose until I could quietly do up the noseband on her old headcollar and also put a new one over the top. I also started work on teaching her to lead by asking her to move towards a slight pressure from the scarf around her neck. In the event I didn't need either headcollar as Julie and I gently enclosed her at the side of the shelter, me holding the ends of the scarf, with her Mum standing right next to her while Nicki (Brooks) inserted the microchip and then read it with the microchip reader. Suzi wasn't terribly impressed with the sting of the microchip and, in an ideal world, I would prefer to work on something like this separately from painful procedures, but the good news is that afterwards she let me work with her quietly, continuing to desensitise her nose and to teach her to lead.

Progress is being made inch by inch with Henrietta who is now letting me go down the side of her nose.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

28th July, 2015 Call in the Cavalry

It was delightful to see Laura again yesterday and today since not only is she good with Henrietta but she is a whizz with Microsoft Excel. As I am putting together the report and statistics for the BARTA and IH Transport Survey her help was invaluable.

With free tickets for the New Forest show, we were able to conduct a further survey of the popularity of different makes of lorry chassis, body, and layout and look at the most popular choices for trailers.

We met some lovely horses on the way round.

Including there three Miniature Horses all parked neatly sideways in a specially adapted 3.5 T lorry.

We met up with the Animal Rescue Team and their pet mannequin which seemed to have had a mishap with a gate.

Studying over, we went to look at the showing classes...

...and the showjumping...

This gorgeous chap won his class...

...but our favourite rider was this one who seemed so relaxed and was constantly stroking her pony.

After lunch we accompanied a farrier from the Household Cavalry back to the camp where we said hello to each and everyone of their horses. It's been twenty years since they last did a display at the show and so there were huge crowds around the ring when they went in for their musical ride. I do think that the New Forest Show organisers are mean to the paying public who struggle to get next to the ring because of the positioning of all of the marquees and trade stands. There was a lot of muttering going on.

 We stood next to the collecting ring to catch the horses going in but had a very limited view after that.

We caught these pictures as they went back through the lorry park and back at the camp.

I made a new friend today, this is a Wensleydale sheep and it was the most affection sheep I have ever met.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

25th July, 2015 Method in Our Madness

Arrived at the fields today to find the riding horses doing their best Stubbs impression. I think they were wishing the gate open.

I had the dream team with me again and a good opportunity to see if Henrietta could cope with three people around her at once.

In a two acre field she chose to come up to each of us in turn to accept her head being touched in exchange for a click and a treat.

It was good to see that her hair was standing on end again after yesterday's downpour.

After a proper introduction it was a cinch!
First customer of the day and we appear to be measuring Copper for a suit. Jackie was keen to see if he had been losing any weight but he was finding it hard to accept the weight tape probably because it is white like her electric fencing. This seemed to be a good place to start with desensitisation techniques.

Copper was keen to take charge of the feather duster and really keen to engage with it - this was really helpful later

I see lots of people talking about desensitisation these days but there is often a failure to recognise that there needs to be a method in the madness, it isn't just a case of conjuring novel things out of a hat and asking the horse to cope. There needs to be a methodological and incremental approach if the horse is to be desensitised and not sensitised.

The plastic bags were really very boring...

I work with clients to show them three definite and deliberate techniques so that the horse can start to recongnise a reliable pattern of  dealing with new things.

and the brolly was easy too...

As a result we work not just on what the horse does but how he feels about it.

even when it was following him. 
 Copper said he couldn't possibly walk over the tarpaulin no matter how narrow we made it.

I offered him the feather duster again and he was so keen to engage with it...

...that he walked over the tarpaulin.

We take it in turns to work with each of Jackie's ponies which means she gets to work with the other one on whatever we cover with the first.

Next stop Awbridge where New Forest pony Tilly was becoming more reluctant to load even though there were lots of people keen to give the benefit of their advice. Owner, Bev, had been practising with food a few days before we went there and that seemed to have solved her problem.

Instead of cancelling me she asked me to work with Tilly and her children to establish a fall back position in case it went wrong again and to help to analyse what was triggering the behaviour in the first place.

Children, like Arabian horses, are very quick to pick things up and with the help of Tracey as a 'difficult horse', F and G, learned how to use a 'smile in the line' and a 'bicycle hand' to gain more control of their pony's feet. This meant they were less likely to be dragged off the ramp or off to eat some grass.

We took Tilly out to somewhere new to check that she would still load somewhere else. She went for a short walk before being asked to load again which she did very easily.

However, back at the farm she said that she didn't like to load with the other pony in first and the partition straight. This gave us a chance to work on the difficult loading that Bev had encountered before and once again food, in the form of clickered treats this time coupled with gentle pressure and release, helped to get her moving again.

The best solution of all though was to go with her preference and allow her to load first with the partition wide open at the back and a bucket with food ready to reward her. Incidentally she isn't frightened of the other pony who is an absolute sweetheart.

Email 4.9.15: "Tilly loaded 1st time there and back from her 1st competition it was so stress free!" BH
While we were there, Bev mentioned her Welsh Cob cross New Forest that she had bought as a four year old from Beaulieu Road Sales. Like a lot of the ponies that turn up at the sales he had little handling before he got there although he had a headcollar on and at some stage had been gelded. I suspect that the headcollar was forced on him rather than him being properly halter trained and that has undermined his relationship with humans from thereon in. When he was sent for backing the holes in his education showed up and Bev knows that he is going to need some remedial work before he will be ready to be ridden. For this she needs to find a new home for him as she already has a stack of animals and children on her plate.

Today we just had a litte play with him to see how easy it might be to bring him around. The first thing I did was to take his headcollar off and then I wanted to see if he would let me put it on again.

Although he was ambivalent about being touched he could be persuaded if the touch was right...

......and was soon turning in for more.

Very quietly I put the headcollar back on and took it off again a few more times.

Julie then took over from me.

You'll see that faraway look in her eyes that is very useful for taking the pressure off a horse.

And finally, Tracey took over from her. This has all shown that Kes is willing to learn and to try and would therefore make a rewarding project for someone who has the time to take their time with him. In effect he is a two year old in a four year old suit.

Hard as it was not to take Kes home with us, it was harder to resist one of these!

Friday, July 24, 2015

24th July, 2015 Deluge-ional

The outside ponies were sheltering from the rain under a tree, no doubt dreaming of the grass to come.

Meanwhile little pink donkey was finding ways to keep herself warm...

and Jack and Nettles were dancing in it.

Poor Henry has a donkey coat and isn't very waterproof. She has two huge barns she can get into but like a lot of wild animals she doesn't want to go somewhere where she can't see or hear very well.

Needless to say all appointments were cancelled today. I've been working on the BARTA Transport Survey all afternoon. There are some real horror stories!!