Wednesday, July 19, 2017

19th July, 2017 Bring a Friend to Work Day

It was chaos in the yard this morning as we got Petra and Théoden ready to go riding. Everyone parked up side by side and it was difficult not to put a saddle on Henrietta and a bridle on Jack. Pleased that everyone has settled down together and will be sharing a field overnight tonight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

18th July, 2017 Congratulations!

Kisses with eyes shut for David at the top of Hambledon Hill
After a weekend exploring some of our old haunts in Dorset, David and I have reached our fifteenth wedding anniversary, twenty-two years after we first met at Bulbarrow Hill. Horses and motorbikes brought us together. He's gone off to work on his KTM this morning and I have been to see my little lot.

Top: Hambledon Hill; Bottom l, Creech Viewpoint and r. Brownsea Island
There's been quite a stir on the Forest over the weekend with three animals killed in road traffic collisions in just one week. A cow was hit by a lorry with such force that the lorry was incapacitated. A donkey was left to die by a hit and run driver, and a donkey foal had to be destroyed in a separate collision because its legs were broken. This latter accident was reported to the Verderers by leaving a message on the answering machine over the weekend. A driver's responsibility under the Road Traffic Act, whether they believe the collision is their fault or not, is to report the incident to the police, and the police will call the agisters.

There have also been idiots 'playing' with the donkeys...

Juma is now under the care of an Au Pair. He doesn't seem to able to stand still and stare at trees for long periods of time and so Nelly has delegated her responsibilities.


Friday, July 14, 2017

14th July, 2017 Precious Moments

Today was one of those days of precious moments... I have been looking for The Blues, Nelly, and Juma for nearly a week and came across them, at last, today. I sat on the heather to take lots of pictures and Juma came up to me, touch, touch, touched me with his little nose, and then let me stroke his nose, cheeks, and chest. He studied me very carefully and I whispered promises to him about his life and how I hope it will be.

Shortly afterwards I spied a rider in the distance who looked familiar as she got nearer. It turned out to be Ingrid and her horse Mishmash.

The keeper of the keys, checker of the wristbands, has taken over the field shelter again...

Somehow, she has inspired a poem from a fan...

Henrietta is a horse,
no wait a minute, that’s not true,
she’s at least as much a donkey,which was obvious to those who knew.
Her favourite ginger biscuits are flying off the shelf,
the local shopkeeper thinks her trainer is eating them all herself!

Henrietta’s unique outlook,
along with her deceptive charm,
means that she is more than capable,
of keeping other equines out of her barn.
Her special characteristics and mental prowess keep us entertained,
no obstacle is beyond her, even when it rains.

Henrietta has a fan club, they follow her with love, secretly wanting to own her,
but know no-one ever could!
Oh Henrietta how we adore you,
thank you for just being you,
for I think we can safely say,
you are one of very few!
Shelley Hallam, July 2017 

In other news, Doris has had a bath today. Her prospective home has fallen through so she is still looking for a new one. She is a truly lovely horse.

And of course Karen and Natasha are continuing to do a splendid job with Moon who has discovered that the monkeys can be really useful.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

13th July, 2016 Little Hand, Huge Feet!

Everyone tires of retirees who say that they don't know how they ever found time to go to work. The last two weeks has given me a taste of that, although I have been diligently writing every afternoon. Last night I gave a little hand at a wine, beer, and gin tasting evening in the village without doing too much of the tasting myself. Since we were selling Percheron wine, I asked Claire whether she might bring a couple of her Percheron down to the hall. They were a great draw and put a smile on everyone's faces. It was a very successful evening.

Riding this morning, with Lorraine for the first time. She got on well with Petra which means I should get my horses exercised more regularly and she will keep her riding muscles going. Lovely Petra is such a good girl for all of her riders, Tracey, Julie, Pat and Lorraine.

We stopped to say hello to Barbara on the way back...

Kerry rode from Burley, where she is on holiday with her pony, to Fritham, to come to our Birthday Club and dropped her pony off at the fields to relax. She's a sweet New Forest pony with some interesting mealy colouring. She also likes to wear her fly fringe in a jaunty style.

It was Melissa's birthday this week and she even brought her own, home-made cake. It was very nice!

Finally, I went over to see Barney again to work with Claire and make sure that she would be able to carry on with the work I have done in her absence. Everything went really well.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

12th July, 2017 Team Spirit

Farrier day and Henrietta is supervising....

12th July, 2017 Kerb Crawling and Soliciting

There is a lethal combination on the Forest at the moment. People focused on their work, running late, or just run ragged as couriers, for example, often are, steaming their way across the Forest, with tunnel-vision and determination, and masses of visitors on holiday mode wending their way, mindlessly stopping in the middle of the road to take pictures, touching, or even feeding the ponies out of car windows; kerb crawling punters who pay with carrots and teach the ponies to solicit at the roadside for food.

Live here or love here, preferably both, people are risking the lives of the ponies through their stupid selfishness. This young woman and her boyfriend deliberately came to the Forest this morning with a bag of carrots, no doubt because they 'love' the ponies, and fed a group of them right by the road (the grey blob is a passing car, that's how close they were). She caused a brawl amongst the ponies and when she left they followed her across the road, hanging about in the carriageway and right up to her car window. 

Earlier I witnesses a middle aged woman push a donkeys hind legs with her car as she attempted to make her way past it. It was standing at 90 degrees to the hedge, just browsing and not hidden in any way and yet she maintained she couldn't see it. No madam, that's because you were so close you couldn't see its legs, but its head and bottom were above the end of your bonnet.

I  am sick of this, and understand more than ever why the Commoners seem to close in, shunning outsiders, in the face of any discussion, why sometimes they seem to cut off their noses to spite their faces when solutions are offered. You have to harden yourself, stick together, and endure the arrows of others if you want to be a serious commoner unlike an amateur such as me. You have to steel yourself for the inevitable loss of some of your stock, obliterated by stupidity. 

Recently I was in the queue for an ice cream at Stoney Cross. I  observed a young woman approach one of the ponies by the roadside. "I hope she's not going to touch that pony," I said to the woman behind me. "Its alright," she answered, "She knows all about horses, she's been to Equine College." Oh well, that's okay then.

If you truly love the ponies then don't feed them at the roadside ,and if you only love where you live then just have a bit of respect for the animals that keep it the way it is.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

11th July, 2017 Office Politics

The three of us, Tracey, Lorraine, and I,  thought long and hard about whether, and when, to amalgamate the two groups of horses. Both Henrietta and Bella had been in with the Jacks at different times and settled together fine. Putting together Theoden, who is possessive about mares, and new Jack, who can be naive and bombastic, was a more worrying proposition. They have grazed alongside each other with a fence between them for a few weeks and apart from the odd ogre face over the rails have been calm. 

This morning we decided to take the risk nudged on by the fact that a rail was down between them, and it was raining so we could close off the barns where one of them might get trapped in a corner. Nevertheless risk it was and I don't envy those people who have other horses added to their field without any say, notice, or supervision. On the the other hand I couldn't live with individual turnout no matter how beautiful or expensive my horse was - I've met so many horses that are in trouble because they are 'on duty' all the time and unable to socialise or synchronize with other horses. 

Today's move was by no means compulsory although it would be more convenient in the long term if they could all live together.

Here's what happened.  Some of it made grim viewing but most of the time it was completely peaceful.

 We have separated them again for the night so that we can all sleep and will see how it is tomorrow - the same, worse, or better.

Monday, July 10, 2017

10th July, 2017 The Starfish Enterprise

It won't be long before I announce my next project which involves and limits me just to wild ponies. I need to establish whether there would be any interest in people letting me have their wild, semi-feral ponies for a period of two weeks training, for free at the same time as people attending How to Handle the Wild Pony Courses on a daily, week, or fortnight basis at a reasonable cost. I need to work this all out as everything would need to coincide so I'd have to have an intake day and courses scheduled in. Can you let me know if you'd be interested in either end of this deal?

In the meantime, here's how some of the wild ponies I have worked with closely, and at a distance, and how they are getting on...

First of all Moon, an older mare that has always been terrified of touch. At long last she is accepting food from the hand and coupled with clicker training is now accepting touch on her face in exchange for Barley Rings.

Rumble was a nervous wreck when I first met him, and, just like Moon, I wondered if he would ever make it. At the weekend he went to a show, came back with some lovely rosettes and got a new hairstyle.

I have never met Finch but have kept in regular contact with his owner, Gill. He accepted her, light little thing that she is, as his first rider last weekend.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

8th July, 2017 Village People

Nelly, Juma, and Uncle and Auntie Blues, have turned up again and were wandering around the nursing home this morning. He's looking really solid and confident now.

This afternoon it was over to Odstock Grand Fete to catch up with a couple of old mates. The camels, and Laura and Charlotte all looked very pretty in their costumes even if they were a bit cooked!

Friday, July 7, 2017

7th July, 2017 The Nag and Dog

I was impressed last week by a letter which appeared on the Horse and Hound Magazine which was written by Kelly Marks. She referred to a recent feature stating that leadership and dominance shouldn't be used to train horses following a report by The International Society for Equitation Science.
She said that ISES "is likely to cause even more confusion among inexperienced and anxious horse owners, who are the only ones likely to take seriously a study that uses the words "dominance" and "leadership" interchangeably. I worked in a showjumping yard as a teenager where I witnesses extreme examples of human dominance - horses were laid down ton the ground and beaten. I only saw it produce petrified and ultimately dangerous horses. "Leadership" is a different concept altogether. Good leaders aren't bullies but are those who inspire confidence by being calm, consistent and give the appearance at least, that they know what they are doing. Then there are people who label a horse dominant because it walks all over them. It's far more likely the horse is actually anxious and will be helped to overcome this by clear boundaries and competent, consistent handling along with the odd well-timed reward for correct behaviour."
I agree wholeheartedly with Kelly on this. I have seen so many horses, and dogs incidentally, that are totally lost without any leadership. The horses express their anxiety by walking all over their handlers, dragging them here and there, and the dogs do the same. How many people do you see these days with their arms outstretched with a dog dragging them along? I won't let a horse do that and I wouldn't have a dog that did that either.

Leadership doesn't have to be fierce or mean, just there. I know that when I am in a group of humans, I like to have someone around who is the leader - if only to have a break from it myself!

It was good to see, on the same two pages, a letter all about inappropriate whip use by children.

"We can buy cute whips decorated with glitter and waving hands for children or diamanté ones for a more sophisticated chastisement. They don't cost much in the shop, but the psychological price for the pony is huge, if they are used wrongly."

7th July, 2017 Spotting the Signs

Barney, who is a friendly pony anyway, came up to me as soon as he heard a click today. That first click and the sight of my bright pink clicker training bag tells him that clicker is available. I put his headcollar on and took it off six times during this session, each time only taking less than a minute but still taking great care. If you look at his little face, particularly his ears, you can see his ambivalence, and the third picture shows him having a slight moment about seeing the noseband out of his right eye. Nevertheless, he stands close to me without restraint, and allows me to put it on and take it off in quiet stages, punctuated by a single click to say, "Keep on doing what you are doing" and three clicks to say, "Well done, you are the most brilliant and bravest spotted pony in this entire universe."

I have two little pet theories that come into play here. I am convinced that horses store their memories as pictures and that they have a library with them all tucked into different headings. Somewhere, in the one marked Things that Dangle under your Neck, Barney has a horror movie. Occasionally he has flashbacks to that movie, or even just to plain instinct, and it tells him that he should engage in flight or fight. This is where my second theory comes in, and I have to be very careful not to offend all Appaloosa and spotted horse owners, and remember that I love mules and the way that they think. I think that spotted horses, through some hybrid type gene, perhaps the one that gives them the thin tail, have more of a fight instinct than other horses. Add to that the same gene, perhaps to a lesser extent, of a British native pony of any kind, and you have a pony that is prepared to defend itself, rather than just go.