Thursday, October 29, 2015

29th October, 2015 The A List

A well earned holiday so a period of bloglessness ahead. The only appropriate testcard has to feature Henrietta who is now letting me gently stroke her neck and chest.

I have three main reasons for writing this blog:
  • Alzheimer's - runs in my family and, unless something else gets me first, I am highly likely to suffer from it in the future. I am hoping that David will stuff a laptop in front of me, or give me my blog-books to look at so that I can read about this woman that I once knew and all the horses that she met and worked with.  
  • Advice - I want to share the things that horses teach and occasionally say something contraversial.
  • Audience - writing is an essential outlet for me, but I am always aware that I am writing for an audience and it really helps me to major my thoughts. 
"We haven't met...but, after reading your book a few years ago then recently discovering your lovely blog, I just wanted to drop you a line. It's a 'fan-letter' really, for several reasons. Firstly, I'm really enjoying reading the blog (including working my way through the archives!) - its well-written, humorous, down-to-earth, beautifully photographed, and full of really useful and inspiring info on your methods. Secondly, it's a fascinating insight into life on the forest and forest ponies, something I knew very little about having lived a lot of my life up here in North Wales. Thirdly, I love that you work with the feral ones - and the donkeys and mules!
I also love that you advocate using a range of methods, depending on what suits the horse and the situation. It's all great, and I'm so glad that you're out there doing what you do, as well as sharing it with us all via the blog." LD

29th October, 2015 Brave Pants

Since my first visit to see Firdy just a few weeks ago he has apparently been a lot calmer about new objects and was better with the farrier. However, he is still quite a spooky little horse. Today we expanded the desensitisation work that we did with him last time and by the end he was going around a course of novel objects. We'll make a police horse out of him yet.

Yep, that's okay
and that's not so bad...

but you can't touch my front foot.

Well if you insist...

I can even bear to look.
That one's fine and I might even look quite cheerful about it.
Plastic bags, they're not too bad either.
I'm sure this was narrower last time round.
That makes me pull my tummy in...
...and means that I can fit through there.
"Just wanted to thank you for a great session. Really enjoying them." SS

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

28th October, 2015 Mixed Load

When Nichola asked me to help to train all of her horses to load in preparation for a move to another field it seemed like an ideal opportunity to run a loading course. With one reluctant loader and three completely unknowns it could only provide valuable experience for a small group of students.

Setting off across the Forest it was one of those glorious glorious mornings which you could only hope would last throughout the day. How would my students get on with each other, with the owner, with the horses? With one clicker sceptic and one clicker advocate there was room for some philosophical debate.

From the outset they seemed quite smiley.

We started with reluctant loader, Tor, a Dartmoor Pony, who has learned that he can use his strength to say no. We talked about how we can make life more comfortable for him in the box with padding to the front bar (always a good idea) and perhaps a lower setting to suit his diminutive figure.

Having closed up the panels just once, and introduced a mix of clickered treats, he loaded and continued to load at intervals throughout the day. We brought him back in between all of the other sessions just to make sure it wasn't a fluke.

Here Vikki asks him to back out of the trailer, taking care to steer him carefully using his head as a rudder in order to direct his hindquarters. Tip of the day: If his hindquarters drift to the left them turn his head to the left and vice versa.

Charlotte, aged 8, unloads her pony through the front ramp. It's half term and she was a little darling all day.

Having removed all of the bars and partitions, and with the panels only in place just in case, it was time to find out how Hamish the Highland Pony feels about loading.

Owner, Nichola, asks him to back out again.

Approaching from the rear in preparation for putting the back bar up - it's useful to speak in a sing-songy voice, relaxed as you can be - and make sure the horse is happy to accept touch from the hand. Note I am over to his left to keep out of his kick zone as much as I can.

Caroline using a swimming noodle to check how he might feel about a back bar, having introduced it to him outside the box first.

Time for the real thing and always important to clip everything in place even when practising. You don't want a bar to become dislodged and frighten the horse if he suddenly moves.

Closing the ramp. The jockey door is unlocked in case of emergency and in this case secured with a lolly stick so that it doesn't accidentally open with the horse on board; it would then give in the event that the handler needed to get out quickly.

Having unloaded out of the back a couple of times, we unloaded him out of the front. It's important for horses to know how to back out of a trailer and contrary to popular opinion it does not teach them to back out of the trailer in a hurry.

Important to teach that ramp down does not mean 'horse out' and to teach them to wait patiently until you are ready. One step towards the jockey door helps a single horse parked on the right of the trailer to come out without fear of banging into the doorway.

Next customer! Scooby, a four year old traditional cob. He seemed to be a great match for Caroline whose own pony is a black and white. She was keen to form a relationship with him from the outset and was delighted that he chose to place his trust in her so quickly.

Taking a little look round before going in. We can certainly allow a little moment for this willingness to explore...pulling at this stage, where he is teetering on the edge of going in, could result in him leaving instead.

And in he goes. Scooby was very satisfied with the lovely hay in the trailer and so clicker treats or a bucket of food weren't necessary.

Moving the partition across to see what he thought. You can see he has a running foot up.

Time for the mock back bar again - we go out and in again between a lot of these stages.

After a break while we worked with another horse all of the panels were taken down as they clearly weren't needed.

Once more the real thing...

...and ramp up with no bother.

Our last horse is Bertie, a two year old cob. I have never worked with him before and feared the worst when I was told that he had refused to leave his field only a few days before and reared with the farrier.

This time Vikki took charge and must have looked convincing. The fact that we had no problems throughout the day is testament to the low energy and empathy of everyone in the team today. We had expected a little drama.

Soon he too was loading and unloading without any problems. He accepted the mock bar before having a break.

After the break, and with no panels around, he loaded without hesitation and tucked into his hay. The back bar goes up...

...followed by the ramp...

...and he too finishes by unloading through the front door.

"...absolutely loved it thank you so much for coming up with the idea." NN

"Today wasn't about "making" though - it was a gradual and low key, low energy way of introducing the horse to the various elements of the experience of being loaded. Each step built on the previous step and only followed when the horse was happy and confident with the previous step. So that's right in line with my philosophy (well the one taught to me by Sarah Weston and Ben Hart but which I feel in-tune with) and suited me well. Each of the 4 horses we worked with over the course of the day loaded successfully, quietly and happily - even though they had only experienced a single transport journey to their home before. They each took their individual time to deal with the stages of loading but they sailed through it all very well and it proved how well Sarah's approach works." CW on Facebook
"Thank you had a fab time, even managed to get my friends horse in the next day! With your guidance :-)  Well worth the day thank you so much." VH 

28th October, 2015 Ruffling Feathers

For some years I have been struggling to replace my John Lewis feather dusters, and both of them have failed their MOT recently, one having been kicked 30 foot in the air by Henrietta. I was very pleased to find these feather dusters on Amazon which have a metal handle and are very very extendable. They are available on Amazon and made by Betterware, priced at £9.99. Here is the link: Feather duster

Of course you may need a book on how to use it.

 These are available direct from me at: No Fear, No Force or indeed through Amazon. Still the only book that explains how to tame your foal from start to finish.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

27th October, 2015 Pretty Ballerina

Always a pleasure to be asked to help someone get it right first time and Chantal called me within two days of getting her new foal, Nina. Nina is a British Riding Pony and will be like a petite Thoroughbred when she grows up. Chantal is a very petite adult so that will work out perfectly. She's also brilliant a copying technique and has great timing.

We worked on some simple and mild groundwork today and there were some key points for anyone with a foal like this:

1. Don't be tempted to play with a foal, they're a young horse and not a toy;
2. Don't teach anything, inadvertently or not, that you don't want the foal to do once they've grown up;
3. Keep things interesting by changing the subject fairly often during a session - everything is then a holiday from the holiday;
4. Allow your foal to be a horse by being out with others, preferably other youngsters;
5. Don't treat a British Riding Pony, or any breed of horse, as if they are meant to be flighty or are made of china.

Thankyou so much for your help. You have definately made me feel more confident in handling her the right way.I will keep practicing and look forward to seeing you again soon." CG
American Miniature Horse, Pumba, had a snooze while this was all going on.

Monday, October 26, 2015

26th October, 2015 Minder

This morning I went out as Kathryn's minder while she walked and then rode BB. My job is to remain switched off enough to keep her and BB relaxed and switched on enough to anticipate any problems. Fortunately everything was uneventful even when we met various farm animals including a cow which was bellowing its head off trying to find its calf (it did).

Sadly the afternoon was not so uneventful. Having spotted Blue who I haven't seen on the Forest for a couple of weeks, I thought I'd better give her the once over to make sure she was alright. She appeared to be fine. However, that little bit of horsey subconscious that all experienced horsey people have noted that the nearby grey pony under the trees had rolled more than once. Sometimes when a pony is unable to satisfy its need to roll on both sides, they will get down a second time to make sure they get a second coating of dust or mud. However, it always registers that this could be a sign of colic and so it was...

...when he came out of the trees he lay prone for a while and then rolled some more and I telephoned the Verderers and then his owner for help. Being a quiet pony, and in trouble, he allowed me to put a headcollar and lead rein on really easily and so I settled down to wait for help to arrive. The behaviour of the other ponies was reverential, as they came forward to touch him softly.

The behaviour of the humans was less pretty as once again people slowed down to gawp at a recumbent pony when they wouldn't think about slowing down for an upright one. At one stage there were three cars parked facing me in the car park opposite, all of the occupants watching the show as if it was a drive-in movie. One chap even came over to take a close up picture until I told him that he would distress the pony. I was then treated to a tirade when I asked him not to touch the other ponies either.

Having got him on a lorry to go home, the news this evening is that he has been given a good dose of Buscopan by the vet and so far appears to be fine. Let's hope there is a happy end to this story.