Wednesday, December 26, 2007

26th December 2007 European Boxing Day

At home I am surrounded by alcohol, chocolates and grow your own Indian herbs (marjoram!!!) so it's a good job I am working over Christmas. On Christmas Eve I was asked to get a head collar on a three year old imported Dutch Warmblood filly that had said an abrupt no or the equivalent in Dutch. The touch and move away technique (advance and retreat) worked instantly and she was soon being touched with the head collar and allowing me to put it on over her neck and then doing up the noseband. I was glad that I hadn't had to start with a hand on a stick - I'm not sure I had one long enough to avoid her back legs if she been more adamant. My European week continued with the beautiful Lusitano that I've got in for fittening and re-starting. She is an all terrain follow you anyway sort of horse and happily jumps the logs and ditches out on the Forest. She's a bold horse and fascinated by everything including a dozen lively pigs that maraud my field from time to time. With two to fitten after the New Year I should get fitter too so it's bubble and squeak for breakfast today and another large dinner.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

18th December, 2007 Loaded!

I'm don't know whether to laugh or cry but I got this feedback today...."I'm afraid that you did too good a job with Big Boy (Consort)!! A couple of weeks ago we were in his field with the trailer that I use for the sheep, hay etc. - 4' x 8' with 3' sides, no ramp, just a hinged flap. Without any warning Big Boy trots up the field and jumps straight in, tries to turn round, but hasn't got enough room and so bursts out of the side, just about wrecking the trailer. Having got out he turned round and would have jumped in again but we managed to stop him! He didn't have a mark on him!" And this is a pony that refused to load into a huge horsebox!!!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

16th December, 2007 Christmas

I thought I was over the loss of my Dad last Christmas but as we were unpacking all our c.d.'s after our house build, I discovered little slips of paper inside some of them indicating my Dad's favourite tracks which I had played at his funeral "party" including Lady D'Arbanville by Cat Stevens and Paint It Black by the Rolling Stones. Floods of tears of course. I have always found Christmas tough so we are doing the works this year and the tree looks great.

Latest reviews (which I hope would have made my Dad proud):

We had Sarah come to our place when we had four youngsters, A filly off the forest from a wild mare who avoided people at all costs, so the foal was the same, a filly and a colt that just reared as soon as they had any form of contact, and one who was too cuddly and in your face, would walk right over you.( No personal space respect.I can only say it was brilliant results! So interesting to watch, all very nice to do with the youngsters, very calm and relaxed!!They haven’t looked back, even after being turned out again for a while. They all lead and load... just love the trailer! Happy now to just follow you where ever!Just yesterday, we bought some rugs, they have never had them on before, absolutely no problems, they just now trust anything we do with fear at all, it just makes everything you teach them a complete pleasure.I would definitely go for Sarah’s help with these youngsters… and let us know how you get on. Good luck..:0) Claire Kitcher xx 6.12.07

I think you should take all of the credit for putting the 'I' into my 'H'! Sheila Reed 7.12.07

Thanks so much for a wonderful session! It's good to feel confident about this technique as it's such an important part of initial training.From Anna Shepherd 7.12.07

Thanks for a great day. I think everyone enjoyed it even though the weather was horrid.
Clinic feedback from Tracey Hartland 8.12.07

Just had to let you know that I managed to long-line Obie today!!! So I wanted to say a big THANKYOU to you for getting me started and giving me the confidence I needed to support Oberon. Have a great Christmas, I think mine's come early!
E-mail from Anna Shepherd 13.12.07

I'd just like to say a really big thank you for travelling down to see us on such a bloody awful day and for the really useful report you sent.I have studied it at great length and have been practicing the exercises every day with Rufus. Albeit for short periods of time at 6 in the morning before work . When I needed him to take a step back I moved to his shoulder ,looked at his leg and he was really clever and took a step back very politely. His leading has also improved and will stop when I stop . He is also learning to keep his feet on the floor and I have been able to use the tendon technique to get him to bring his foot up . He is responding brilliantly to only coming forward when I'm asking him too and is not trying to mouth me as much and invade my space. .I'm so thrilled with what you have taught me and really hope to have a visit from you in the New Year . Hope you have a lovely Christmas ,
From Maria 15.12.07

Hello Sarah & David, A huge thank you for giving up your precious Saturday to help us with the foals, especially in such freezing weather.Rob enjoyed working with Conker and appreciated David's tuition and encouragement. It was the first time he has ever done anything with a horse before.Sarah you were brilliant and give me such a boost of confidence. It is so good to have positive feedback when I get it right. My driving instructor told me in 1979, that if I didn't remember to look into the rear view mirror each time I did something like indicating, he would punch me. Needless to say it didn't inspire me with confidence. Jane Howard `15.12.07

Friday, December 14, 2007

14th December, 2007 In which Blue rejoins her herd and Rosie goes walkabout

Well, that must be the most untraumatic weaning I've ever seen. Blue has wandered off to re-join Oliver and his band up at Longcross and her boobs have already gone down after being rather swollen yesterday. Kanuthi seems to be oblivious to her absence and is happily tucking in to hay with his Auntie Nell. Rosie on the other hand has gone missing and I have a strong suspicion that she is making her way back to her old haunt at Abbotts Well some eight miles along Hampton Ridge as the pony trudges. I have a policy of feeding any of my ponies that turn up at the gate in the hope that they would come home if they were in trouble. Rosie will probably turn up at her old house!I'm looking forward to Sunday when I have a Lusitana mare and her companion coming in for work. That will keep me occupied over Christmas then.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12th December, 2007 NFU Mutual Insurance

Business insurance is one of those subjects that is guaranteed to increase the blood pressure of most Recommended Associates. Until recently I have been insured with NFU and was happy. However, I wrote to them and asked whether they would cover me to run Handling the Wild Pony Courses. They wrote back and said that they didn't want to cover me and what's more they'd looked at my blog site and didn't really want to cover me for semi-feral, rescue or unbroken ponies either! Well, as most of the ponies I work with would tick one, two or even three of those boxes if they had opposing thumbs that didn't look like a fat lot of use to me. I pulled out my original proposal form and was able to prove categorically that they knew I was going to "break" ponies in - by definition they must arrive unbroken and they grudgingly said they would cover me for everything until the policy ran out. Needless to say I have gone elsewhere this time. The South Essex Insurance Brokers were the only company I contacted that were prepared to go through a list of the day to day things that I do and indicate that they would cover everything - all of the others just threw a bog standard policy document at me and said erm, that might do it. I can't afford to have that uncertainty. I need to know that if I am working with an Exmoor pony with a star in the middle of his face that I am just as insured as if he were a middle of the road, well mannered, well-bred and psychologically sound cob. And if I'm on the telly, or loaning my round pen panels or giving long-reining lessons with Petra, the queen of long-reining, I need to know that we've got it all covered. There's a curious thing with insurance policies which is called "Uberima Fides" which means that you have an obligation to inform your insurance company of anything that could affect your insurance policy; if you don't tell them everything, they have the right to avoid liability if something goes wrong. I do wonder how many people who are involved with horses as professionals or amateurs are properly insured for what they do. As an ex-lawyer I am very cautious - everyone is your friend until they have an accident and even then it's not them that sue you - it's their insurance company or their lawyer or their family.

12th December, 2007 Bryn Win Situation

I had a lovely trip to Horsham yesterday. Little Bryn was an Exmoor pony with a difference, he was born with a whacking great star in the middle of his forehead - not really part of the breed standard! Fortunately for him he was spotted by Diana when she was on holiday in Exmoor and she arranged to buy him before anyone could decide that he could only be sold for meat. His breeder stuck a headcollar on him and off he went. My job was to get the headcollar off again as it had been put on much too tightly and he was adamant that no-one was ever going to get near his head again. By the time I left yesterday evening, he was being cuddled all along his left hand side and down his face and was competely naked. Hoorah!I weaned my own foal today. It's not an easy or a nice job. I have put him in with his Auntie Nell for company and let Blue (and Rosie) back out onto the Forest. They can still hear and see each other. In the old days we used to take the mare as far away as possible but current thinking is that it's better to wean nutritionally and then emotionally. In an ideal world, I would have liked to have left him with Blue for longer but she is sick of him, he's growing too quickly and she's pregnant again and could lose condition rapidly. He is going over to his new owners during Christmas week where they have a filly to keep him company. In the meantime Nell is trying to be patient with him and was even sharing her hay with him when I left. I shall go and check them all again later.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

6th December, 2007 It's all coming together

I have been travelling about all over the place for the last couple of weeks. Hayling Island, Deepest Berkshire, Somerset and now Horsham. Although there is a fair coverage of RA's across the country, it does seem they all go to ground when there's an Exmoor pony! Seriously, I do like to carry on working with the fosterers when ponies leave the Exmoor Pony Centre because I do know the whole picture or at least the biggest part of it. Yesterday Butternut and Conker were turned out into their new field at Whitchurch-on-Thames having consented to having their feet picked up and being led about beforehand. Hopefully they will love this new environment which is in a beautiful valley surrounded by trees.

Footnote: Sadly within three weeks of this picture, little Butternut had an unexplained bout of Atypical Myoglobinuria Hepatology and renal failure and had to be put to sleep. This rare condition is thought to be related to ponies eating frosty grass (something you would think they would have evolved to deal with).

Monday, December 3, 2007

3rd December, 2007 Why choose an RA?

As a Recommended Associate my work is constantly reviewed by Intelligent Horsemanship Limited. I am expected to submit regular evaluation forms and to attend courses throughout the year. I am also obliged to be fully insured for every move that I make. It's only when a student attends Stage II of the Monty Robert's Preliminary Certificate in Horsemanship that their performance is objectively examined and marked. In my case I got a distinction for my work. After that I had to complete and submit case studies to prove that I could not only talk the talk but walk the walk. Since then, I have worked with over 500 horses. It worries me that there are a lot of people that have simply attended the courses and their true understanding hasn't been tested. To me it is critical that they have picked up the fiddle and put down the gun and that they see everything from the horse's point of view. Most of my work with horses is done instinctively; I seem to think like a horse. I'm not bound by any particular system and I have a innate ability to choose what works for a particular horse. Nevertheless, I am also determined to find a way to make this accessible to the owner and to give them the confidence to continue and to trust their own ability. I am utterly committed to helping both the horse and it's owner. Accordingly I am always generous with my time, often tweak my charges and then give the owner a full report not only of what we have done, but how they might take it forward. I may be £5 an hour more than an unqualified person but I give far greater value for money.

Monday, November 26, 2007

26th November, 2007 Marketing

Believe it or not, I'm actually quite shy and go all bashful about making phone calls or selling myself, I'm happiest talking when I've got a pony under my arm. You'd think after years of working in open court, doing most of the speaking parts, that I'd be utterly confident. I can still recite the mode of trial election at random but telling someone that actually, yes, I can make a real difference to their horse and that I am good, sorry very good, at what I do just doesn't come easily to me. I tend to think that it's best if people judge me by my work and for that I do need to go there in the first place. So, here's some recent testimonials and look out for an article about me in Horsemart in January and a demo at RDA Wilton in the near future.

Had a good weekend with my little furry friends. Having watched Monty last week with tarpaulin work I did exactly as he did (started folded small, and enlarge) with a big scary piece of bright blue plastic. Gingernut as expected just walked across with that 'so its blue plastic' look on his face and with Bobby I did as you and Monty have showed me and it was text book. I was proud of him and he seemed very pleased with himself!
From CH 21.10.07

The deed is done! O-horse is now sporting a rather fetching blanket clip. He was a very good boy - did lots of work with him before I started and within 10 mins of turning the blades on I had started and there was no looking back - he was very relaxed and even let me clip half his head! He happily munched his way through his haynet whilst I did it and I think he was much more comfy by the end (he was very hairy!!)….. Oh by the way - you have another convert - S asked me and T for some help with B-pony was so impressed by what she saw when you came down that all the Parelli DVDs are going on ebay and she wants to learn more about IH! She says it makes more sense to her than Parelli.... :-)
From EC 21.10.07

I found the whole experience very emotional and had to fight back the tears, my horses mean everything to me and was more than pleased with the methods used as it will create a more respectful foal and not a scared one. Having asked outsiders advice I.E friends and listening to their ideas about what to do when having a foal rearing I just knew this was not the way forward, so looked for alternative ways. In fact it makes me sad now that a lot of horse problems can be resolved without laying one finger on them. Sarah was very patience with me as I lost my confidence a bit since being kicked by my foal, and also explained everything she was carrying out and what she was reading in body language,
Evaluation form from RM 25.10.07

The hugest of huge thank yous for yesterday. It was a highlight of the year sort of day. George said but why was it so good and the answer is just because it was.
From Liz Pitman 26.10.07

Course reviews from Exmoor Pony Centre:
Thank you so much for this course...extraordinarily interesting and useful to do. Sheila Read 11.11.07
Thank you so much Sarah. I have learnt so much and so much still to learn. Margaret A. 11.11.07
Lovely to see you again and see such good work and happy foals. Linzi
Absolutely fantastic. Loved every minute, Thanks Hayley B.
The last two weeks have been a real eye-opener and I have enjoyed every min! Thank you for being so patient with us, Sadie.Thank you Sarah. It has been a wonderful three days, Auntie Jane (Howard)
Thank you so much doesn’t come near the gratitude I feel over this wonderful experience. Derry
Another great success. Who’d have thought it five years ago. With love, Val.Great teacher, Hayley.
It’s been great to watch, Jane.
Thanks for giving us all so much pleasure – wishing you every success with your projects, Rosie
It has been a great pleasure to meet you both and a real privilege to work with you both. I have wanted to do this sort of thing for ages and cannot thank you enough for being so approachable and friendly. Thanks, Jenny (Centre Manager)

And after the course:
Thank you for a very special experience with the Exmoor foals. I am very impressed with your methods and it was very moving to see the foals relax and begin to trust us. Jane H. (Fosterer)
"The foals are all doing very well and enjoying the routine of coming in each day for hay and a cuddle. Some are even starting to get frustrated at our fumbling to get their headcollars on and are pushing us to do it faster as they want to go out for their food. I am glad you had a good time whilst you were here; the work that was done has really set the foals in good stead for the future." From Linzi to Derry

Review of the Myler bit:

I don't know if I ever gave you any feedback on the myler bit - but Suze has been a different pony, and she immediately relaxes down on the slightest pressure. I'm no expert and tend to ride her with very loose reins - mine are definitely smiling, but for what we do she seems happy enough and she even seems to be listening to me on the odd occasion! She has never mouthed or dribbled or shaken her head (except at flies) like she did with the ordinary snaffle - it's nothing short of a miracle!
LB-P 16.11.07

Feedback from Handling the Wild Pony Course on the New Forest:
I think my lasting memory will be working with the 2 year old, and having him take a few steps towards me when I walked away, and hearing him licking and chewing! - AND him sniffing my hand! It never ceases to amaze me how 'generous' horses can be.
Nikki B 20.11.07

Monday, November 19, 2007

15th to 19th November, 2007 Paris and the Piggywiggies

It's pannage season again and there are pigs of all shapes and sizes loose on the Forest. Some horses are horror stricken when they meet them and this isn't helped when the pigs have been fed from horseback and are very eager to come up to them. Today we took Paris in hand to see some pigs in a paddock so that we could introduce her in a controlled environment. By asking her to take six steps forward and then backing her up three steps very gently so that she could lower her adrenalin, we were able to get her to stand within two feet of four big pigs and several very vocal and mobile little ones. On the way back we met some more on the Common - these were particularly snuffly but she coped with them. Good groundwork is the absolute key to managing these situations - the horse is much happier if has a leader in all sense of the word.In fact good groundwork turned out to be the key theme for the rest of the week too. Whether dealing with a 2 year old that has already been busy racing as a trotter and needs to go back to basics, a mare that barges through the vet or a home-bred Andulusian stallion that likes to see whether he can turn people on by nipping them, clear leadership is critical and simply moving them around and meaning it is often all it takes. No need to hit, to shout or to run away -a clear intent and self belief is sufficient. Now, I wonder what Petra would make of an Andulusian stallion? When Noggin wasn't trying to seduce us with his lips, he was wonderfully responsive and quick to learn. When we turned him out in the field again he gave us a demonstration of his athleticism - breathtaking.

I must applaud Emma, who owns this stallion - she is really laid back with him and he lives out for the most part, at the top of Okeford Hill where the views are stunning and has daily contact with other horses including mares.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

11th November, 2007 No force, no fear

I've now done enough work with Dartmoors, Exmoors and New Forest ponies and pure untouched horses to hold an informed opinion. From a marketing point of view, some of the manhandling that these ponies receive when they are brought in from the wild sets them up to fail and makes it far less likely that they will make a good pony for someone; it can also damage the overall reputation of that particular breed of pony. Working on the basis that all horses were designed to be prey animals - to run first and think later, and that we are designed to be a predator - eyes too close together, very short nose and claw like hands, it's no wonder that these wild ponies think that people are coming in for the kill. They are chased in to enclosed spaces, separated them from their mothers, some are deprived of their feet while they are inspected for white hairs and their skin is burnt with branding irons in some cases three times while they are tied up to something solid with an ever tightening halter or their ears and tails twisted to hold on to them. Indeed, in some areas (the Fells and Dartmoor) ear tags are inserted or a shape cut into the ear. This is not me being hysterical or deliberately emotive - this is what happens. Many of the people that I met on the Exmoor Handling Course were horrified that these things still happen and yet the Commoners look at me as if I am mad when I say that these practices cause a problem. Ponies can only store their memories in pictures and the pictures that they have of their first humans must be pretty negative. When a pony survives what it thinks is a life or death situation it learns never to repeat it again. If we could get these ponies before they ever had a halter on, I am certain that they would be easier to handle and truly essential branding or inspection would be far less traumatic once the pony had been trained and it could be done in hand. The training itself would take far less time and would all be positive and the pony would be far more valuable, malleable and less likely to be injured.

PARENT -------------------> CHILD
ADULT -------------------> ADULT
CHILD -------------------> PARENT

Transactional analysis is a popular theory devised to give people an insight into their human to human relationships – accordingly, if someone acts and sounds like a parent towards another person, that person is likely to react like a child and vice versa. How often has your response to a patronising remark been to throw a childish tantrum!!Ithink a similar chart can be used for human to horse relationships as follows:

PREDATOR ----------------> PREY - flight, fright or fight
PARTNER ---------------> PARTNER
LEADER ----------------> FOLLOWER

Sunday, November 4, 2007

4th November, 2007 Exmoor Assisted Therapy

At the Moorland Mousie Trust, eleven of the new foals are now having headcollars on and four are being caught in the "fishing pen". Little Peanut has his feet handled while he is loose. In Kent, Harriet and Henrietta are enjoying their new home and starting to be touched, Leo and Stirling the New Forest colts are getting fatter and friendlier and little Dannie, who had really been beaten by his previous owner and had perfected running backwards and kicking at the same time is now having his headcollar on after lots of patient clicker training. This year I hope that the course has been even better organised than last year and certainly all of our students seem to have gone home with a huge smile on their faces (along with dirty hands!). Once again I have learned from the experience too - these vulnerable ponies are sensitive to every movement and noise in the building and whilst they will have to get accustomed to some hustle and bustle, at this early stage, they really need the quiet and serene atmosphere of a library. Maybe that's why we get known as horse whisperers?For me this course has also been about seeing the amazing effect handling these ponies has on the people who come to work with them. Perhaps we should call it Exmoor Assisted Therapy?

Update (March 2008)
I have just received copies of some of the evaluation forms....

"The Intelligent Horsemanship methods and techniques explained so clearly and informatively by Sarah Weston and then demonstrated by her, made the whole expereince truly momorable. It was then a privilege to be able to put this into practice by working with the young ponies and seeing this patient, gentle method working so well. Getting a positive result and making progress with these young wild ponies was a very unique and emotional part of the expereince. it shosed and confirmed so well that Sarah's handling methods really work....watching and listening to Sarah Weston in action was a major part of the enjoyment and success of the course for me. She is an inspiration to us all." Stephanie

"This was quite a new experience. I wish I had done the course before we had our Exmoor pony. Those techniques would have proved invaluable....she would have been much tamer today though if I'd known what I know now....really enlightening. Sarah was a brilliant teacher and she got across the idea of pressure and release being so important. Things like yawning and thinking about mundane things like shopping lists so as to take the fear element away are really useful too." Sally

"Fascinating." Kim

"Absolutely amazing. I have read about this kind of work before but to experience it first hand was really special. I was fascinated to hear about the subtle difference in body language that can be utilised to enhance communication - it really does work!" Kaye

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

31st October, 2007 And there's moor......

It's great to be back on Exmoor working with this year's colts. We've named them all after nuts this year following a very generous donation from Mrs Almond. Today Pistachio, Peanut, Almond, Butternut and Cashew have all graduated and gone out into the field with two post-graduates from last year, Brandy and Barny. Pistachio and Peanut have already got foster homes and Almond will be renamed Manila now that he is to be sponsored by a rope manufacturer! Valerie has also treated herself to a 21 year old mare that turned up for sale at Brendon Market. She turns out to be Pippa's mother and is in fantastic condition for an older mare. She's letting us touch her and will eat out of a bucket close to us.Tomorrow we start the fishing game where we bring back the graduates and see how many will let us catch them in the big pen. Great fun......Peanut was the first to graduate.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

25th October, 2007 We pulled it off; well actually we put it on

The first Handling the Wild Pony course since the spring has now been fixed for 19th and 20th November and we will have four youngsters to work with including a Connemara Foal (don't know how that got in there!). Today Liz Pitman (hopefully the next RA for Essex) spent the day working with me. We shipped the grey foal and his little mate (seemed a shame to leave him behind) over to Ann's and then worked with the Godshill Ponies again. By the end of the day Liz was leading the two year old around and putting it's headcollar on over and over again without any trouble at all.

Footnote: Leo the bay foal got kicked by another one on New Year's Eve and had to have his poor jaw wired back into place. Fingers crossed that the operation has worked.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

24th October, 2007 In which Sheila and the rest of us all get recited

My week "showcasing" the work we do with wild ponies (I'm in management mode) is going really well. I tell each pony that it has the chance to make a real difference to every other pony on the New Forest if I can show that our methods work! So far we have worked with 6 ponies and only one of them is struggling - he's really afraid of hands and does very well to let me touch him with the feather duster. Sheila put a headcollar onto the other two year old today and then one on on the orphan foal that somewhat inevitably we have ended up buying. He is off to his Auntie Ann's tomorrow to join Freddie in what really has become Orphan Annie's Intensive Care Unit. We have one more day left in which to convince our man on the inside that we know what we're doing and then hopefully we can start the courses in November. There has been a keen interest on the IHDG plus some animal charities too. I've got everything crossed and we are all so recited we can hardly think of anything else. Sheila is responsible for the odd words - she keeps talking about problems being exasperated instead of exacerbated. My word of the week is assuage....

Thursday, October 18, 2007

18th October, 2007 Victoria Meldrew

This is probably not the time or the place but I am going to turn into a grumpy old woman. Picture this, we live 150 yards down a public footpath with no vehicular access. Every day it's like waking up on Christmas morning - very quiet and peaceful and we don't mind the fact that we have to cart things up and down the track to the car in a wheelbarrow. Until three years ago, when the little bungalow next to us was bought by an amateur developer. Naively we thought that anything he built could only be an improvement on the ramshackle place that was there before but alas, no! The hiatus between the end of the New Forest District Council Planning Department and the start of the New Forest National Park has allowed a monstrously ugly house to be built and built by complete incompetents. They forgot the damp course to begin with, the bricks are wonky and the bottom rooms of the house were under water for well over six months. Working at weekends and sometimes for only three hours at a time, they proceeded to trash the footpath by driving up and down it with a dumper truck, sometimes driven by a child, and for two Christmases in a row, we have been unable to have any guests who are not prepared to wade through mud. And it's not over yet - the arrival of another digger coincided exactly with the first torrential rain of the autumn and now the Comet delivery driver is refusing to deliver anything we have ordered - you know, like the cooker and a washing machine - things that I need to carry on with my normal life. Other delivery companies, such as Amtrak, seem to assume that there will always be a little woman sitting at home waiting for things to arrive. They give no notice of their deliveries, won't leave things unsigned for or deliver them to another designated address or alter their route to get things to you when you are home. Never mind you can always go to their depot to pick it up - it's just a short hop to Blandford after all. It seems to me that once you decide to live outside the rules you can do what you want. The Parish Council, NFDC, National park and Hampshire Highways have no teeth and do nothing to protect the footpath or our right to reasonable access to our property. Also, when your company gets big, customer service is a joke - who cares if a delivery drivers wastes his time going to an address where you've already told them you will be out and then has to go all the way back to the depot with your goods? Still, life is not fair and the quicker the builders finish next door the better so I'm not going to chain myself to their dumper truck. Nor am I going to mount a sit in protest of little women at the Blandford offices of Nevertheless, the feeling of impotence, frustration and blimmin' crossness is not ....oh, hang on, there's the door. Amtrak have just delivered my door locks.......!!

18th October, 2007 Sunshine after the rain

At the other end of the day I have some really exciting news. For a long time now I have wanted to be able to recommend a riding instructor in the New Forest whose methods and ideals are sympathetic, complementary, and compatible with mine. Someone who doesn't recommend shortening the reins, putting on a flash noseband, kicking the horse or hitting it hard. I can now highly recommend Amanda Barton who has been working with Mark Rashid and his methods (both riding and teaching) for some time now. She is enthusiastic, articulate, cheerful and really earnest about the work she does with horses and riders. Amanda also co-ordinates clinics for Mark Rashid, Kathleen Lindley, Perry Wood and is just about to run some of her own too. Her website is week there have been two themes - foal handling and loading. Faced with a raw horse, it's easy to be suprised at their sheer energy and athleticism. Foals are born with all their faculties and designed to escape danger from the outset. It can be disconcerting when they decide to test their power and limbs out on us but it is their job! "I wonder what would happen if I wafted my front legs in the air like this??!!"One week to go before Exmoor and a sudden cancellation means that I have no official work. In order to avoid becoming a full time painter and decorator, I am going off to handle some yearlings and two year olds for a local commoner. I am not going to name any names but let's just say that I shall be flying in the face of centuries of tradition and if I can convince this one, I just might get the gig with a few others. When halter broken ponies fetch £100 more than untouched ones it's what Rick Manley calls a "no-brainer". Sheila, Julie, Natalie from the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre and little Frances will all be down at Exmoor for the first weekend - we are going to do some plotting for the future. I wanted to call the business Three Wishes but they others thought it might get changes to the Three Witches; hence the plotting.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

14th October, 2007 Introducing Rosa

Although Kanuthi won't be weaned until early spring, I have agreed to let a good friend have him in exchange for a little broodmare that she was going to sell. Kanuthi will still live out on the Forest for much of his life but he will also get the very best care and do some work too. Rosa (Rosie as she is known) is only half tame and much prefers to be out and about having babies. She arrived yesterday complete with a very sudden haircut and a pink headcollar.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

13th October, 2007 Progress reports

I sometimes think my customers are braver than me. Kathy has gone out riding on Rufus on her own now, Tanya seems to have taken Jack shopping and the other Kathy can catch her yearling in the middle of a large field. Here are a few more reviews that arrived in the last couple of days and cheered me up when I was sanding windows...

She was very well behaved today we went for a little walk over the road with the lunge line which i didn't have to use and when we got home she walked back to the field ( after her feed ) and although she stopped at her normal point on the track I was able to use just the finger pressure to ask her to walk on . (Yearling filly with a leading problem).E-mail from TW 13.10.07

Just got to let you know I took Rufus out all on my own riding and he was fantastic!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Me on my horse again I can't believe it. Thank you Thank you for coming into my life and changing every thing, if you were here I would give you the biggest hug of your life.
E-mail received from KH 12.10.07

Hi Sarah, I am going to be all gushy now , I have just walked Jack into Wimborne on a Saturday morning, he did not put a hoof wrong, we were passed by speeding cars, lorries, loud mopeds ,cyclists with a loose dog and he just plodded on only slightly jumping when a huge mastiff dog jumped at him as we passed his garden, we turned round and walked past again and he was not bothered. This is all down to you.You have given me a pony who I feel trusts me completely as the leader, I would have maybe been able to do this walk before being taught by you.. but I dont think I would have wanted to repeat it in a hurry and I would have had a lot of bruises to show for it and muscles like bowling balls, my arms don't ache!!!!!!! I am so looking forward to seeing you next week and continuing with the next exciting chapter of Jacks education. thank you.
E-mail received from Tanya King 13.10.07

Dear Sarah and David, just to say a huge thank you to you both for all your help and support at the market and especially the open day. It was so lovely to meet you both and we really hope you'll come back next year. You are a wonderful and inspiring horsewoman and I am very happy to have met you.
Card from Natalie, Kathyrn and everyone at the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre

13th October, 2007 Many Tanks

David had a day off from building work yesterday and went on a tank driving day organised through for his birthday. If only sanding the living room floor was such fun.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10th October, 2007 Intelligent Cowmanship

I've just been to halter train a red Belted Galloway called Ginger belonging to Rick Manley. She was a sweetheart and learned really quickly. Strange thing is that I came away with orange hands - she's obviously not colourfast!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

9th October, 2007 Between the devil and the deep blue sea

When I was a Court Clerk, I thought the best test of my neutrality was whether both the prosecution and defence were equally happy or unhappy with the handling of a case! With horse training, I think I might be hitting the right spot when both the BHS traditionalists and the clicker training advocates find favour with my techniques. The ends do not justify the means in horse training and there is a tricky balance between being soft and being effective; being kind and being practical. Recently I felt fairly intimidated by another horse trainer who was playing the est game. This is the one where they have worked with the most ponies in the quickest time. At the same time I was being watched carefully by the people who owned the ponies who were very anxious to make sure that the ponies were not stressed in the slightest. Here are the latest reviews:

My daughter and I thought that Sarah understood our pony and his needs extremely well and kept us well informed and at all times we believe she did her best for him. I thought that Sarah helped our pony through a very difficult time and he has come out the other side a very brave pony, we know his limits and we know he is a lifetime project but we also know that she is at the end of the computer or a telephone call when and if we need her help.
Evaluation form from EB 24.9.07

Hi Sarah, I have picked your brains in the past about my Exmoor mare Honey, and you have been very helpful.
LK 28.9.07

Hiya Sarah, I hope you've had a good week. I worked C-horse Tuesday and Wednesday focusing on the things that we had talked about and he as already shown an improvement including in the school and on the yard!
MW 28.9.07

Hi Sarah, Anyway I am so desperate to tell you!! My Equine dentist came yesterday. (She) told me that Kelly Marks thinks you are one of the best horse women around….. I was beside myself for you. It just confirmed what I know about you, you are brilliant.
Hearsay from KH 3.10.07

Sarah is a very approachable person with such a positive outlook towards all problems. Her man-management is second to none, she knows just how to make you feel at ease. She demonstrates her methods and explains things so well. We received an email with a summary within hours of her leaving, it’s just an amazing personal service. I will not hesitate to recommend her and will be looking forward to having her out again, even just for a day’s fun playing with the horses!
Evaluation from report from TB 6.10.07

Sarah has been a godsend for me and my horse. With her help and guidance myself and my horse have formed an amazing bond.It has been a slow process given the problems O-horse had when I took him on given the abuse he had suffered through others ignorance but we have come so far and I am 100% sure this is down to Sarah’s help and her love of horses. I have never met anyone like Sarah and her way of working makes complete sense to me – more so than anything else I have ever been taught. I wish I knew years ago what Sarah has taught me. Sarah is always on the end of an email if I hit a stumbling block and always has time to answer questions and offer advice. The change in my horse has been amazing and I have no doubt that our relationship will go from strength to strength in the years to come thanks to Sarah!
Evaluation form from EC 9.10.07

Sunday, October 7, 2007

7th October, 2007 Autumn Sales!!!

I have been to two sales in the last two weeks: the New Forest sales at Beaulieu Road and then the Tavistock Sale in Devon where about four hundred Dartmoor Hill ponies went through. The New Forest commoners, blessed with a bigger and very versatile pony, suitable for adults as well as children, are obviously getting everything right in terms of pre-sales marketing, presentation of the ponies and general welfare. The place was buzzing with visitors from far and wide and the ponies were fetching really good prices compared with say 2001 when you could get two for the price of one. Sadly, the Dartmoor Hill ponies are still not attracting a lot of interest despite efforts to tidy up their breeding and despite the fact that these are generally quiet, pretty and fairly solid children's ponies. Many went through at just 10 guineas and being realistic I suspect that many are still going for meat - I would love to believe otherwise. This was particularly disheartening as I had spent the weekend before working with untouched Dartmoor Hill ponies for the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre. This non profit making voluntary organisation works very hard to create a market for the ponies and to give people advice as to how to tame their pony. I found the ponies to be some of the quietest and most amenable I had met - they are naturally curious and food orientated and therefore come round pretty quickly. The ponies I worked with are off to Chagford sale next Thursday unless someone buys them quickly and I can only hope that they find their way into sympathetic hands. Here's Harriet and Henrietta (the two I worked with in the morning). (STOP PRESS: Harriet and Henrietta have found a home with SuzieQ from IHDG - yes, yes, yes!!!) For details of how to buy a Dartmoor Hill pony please contact Natalie Torr on 07802 218169

Sunday, September 23, 2007

23rd September, 2007 Loose Ends

Now that Jester has gone home with his new treeless saddle (he really seems to like it) I've only got Piper and Petra in and the New Forest girls, Kanuthi and Pie out on the Forest. I'm just about to head off for Dartmoor, followed by Exmoor, to work with the untouched foals so no point in taking in any more horses for training at the moment. In the meantime I have been working with a variety of horses at their owner's yards. Last week I went out to a five month old riding pony foal and a yearling both of which were determined not to have a headcollar on. As both were unweaned, they had become adept at using their mothers as a barricade and blocking all attempts to get close to their heads. It really does show the importance of quietly getting a headcollar on in the early days as any attempt to get it on by chasing them or grabbing them convinces them that their survival is at stake and makes them even more determined to avoid it happening again. Hopefully, we can erase these early pictures by showing them having a headcollar on is really very ordinary and boring and no threat at all. Apart from the goat (which incidentally behaved very well) I have been to see a pony that has gone on strike about loading despite having a very posh horsebox to go in and a posh pony that is frightened of the sound of leaves! This week I have a wobbly warmblood, a nappy New Forest and a confident Kathy to go and see. Kathy is an amazing woman - she has children, goats, horses, chickens and life to cope with and does it all in PINK and with decent nails!! On Friday I'm running a clinic for two regular IHDG'ers - we're covering groundwork, long-reining, loading, bits and habituation. I shall be half dead on Friday night. At long last we have moved back into our own house - although we have no cooker, no kitchen and no carpets. I am woken up at 7.30 every morning by radio 1 and the builders and have to make important decisions about door furniture and reveals. I never knew what a reveal was until now. We are living on microwave meals and fish and chips and haven't seen a telly for weeks. Julie is off working in a commode shop until we start business together in the New Year. Luckily I have pinched her for the Exmoor fortnight and we shall live on fish and chips (oh, that will be novel) and watch horsey DVD's in the evening with a bottle of wine (each!).Johannes the goat turned out to be a lamb (sorry) to have his feet done.

Monday, September 17, 2007

17th September, 2007 Nelly-Noo

Nelly (top) is proving to be a wonderful Auntie to Kanuthi. His mother is rather serious about life so Nell provides all the fun. Looking at the size of her, I think she may be pregnant now (by Kanuthi's sire) but all the ponies on the Forest look really well this year. Something to do with all the rain.

On Saturday I went over to meet Stanley (bottom) and the farrier again, and despite the added complication of a foot abscess in one hoof, Stanley stood well to be trimmed and this time we do have photos...... remember, the first time I saw him having his feet done he was standing on his hind legs wafting them around people's ears. Now, I don't want anyone to get too excited and I can't promise any pictures, but I have been asked to help with a goat called Johannes who won't stand still for his feet to be trimmed and bites his owner when she perseveres.

Friday, September 14, 2007

14th September, 2007 Confidence

I have quite a few people who contact me because they have lost their confidence around horses. Sometimes there is no direct cause and effect; no single event or incident that they can point to. To me, confidence is as slippery as a fish and it can be knocked by life events well away from the horse - just growing older, having children, dealing with grief or pressure can be undermining - it may well be the brain's way of protecting us from further risk. Sometimes it takes an outsider to make the connection. I was helped by an airport book that told me that only the good feel guilty and that we are not in control (of everything). That day a huge weight shifted off my shoulders and I have felt better ever since. Kelly has just published a book which looks specifically at confidence around horses and it's reassuring to know that even people like Kelly have faltered from time to time - she was really worried about driving her horsebox (but then I would be, it's quite posh!).

Monday, September 10, 2007

10th September, 2007 Kanuthi

Is now three months old and somewhat people-ified for a wild pony!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

8th September, 2007 Research and Development

I have recently been immersed in lots of scientific papers (a big thank you to Damory Veterinary Clinic who let me camp out on their library floor and wade through the last twenty years of the Equine Veterinary Journal). There's some fascinating and puzzling stuff about. Why would someone want to test out the effects of water restriction on 6 pregnant mares? Still, the results help me to form a view as to whether water deprivation has any role in the training of horses - in my view it does not. There's lots of interesting stuff on the risk factors which make it more likely that a horse will develop stereotypies such as crib-biting, weaving, wind-sucking, box walking and so on. Leaving a horse for long periods in a stable where it cannot touch other horses, has too little forage and too much concentrate seems to be the major factor - linked to the fact that stabled horses without ad-lib feed are very likely to have gastric ulcers. The need to touch and be mutually groomed by other horses seems to be an important part of the life of the feral horse and certainly the horses that I have living in herds or living out on the Forest seem to be much more secure about being left on their own from time to time than those that are separated from other horses most of the time (and you would think would get used to it) or those that lost out on early socialisation. Sadly those are the horses that seem to then ruin their chances of staying with other horses by being too possessive, aggressive or dominant when they are put in with other horses.

Piper is a funny onion, he doesn't seem to mind whether he has company or not. He's very easy going with other horses and no trouble to them at all. For an ex-stallion he is very casual about mares and he loves being with foals. I do sometimes wonder if he thinks they are all a different species to him in any event and whether I should get him another Exmoor pony to play with. Little Kanuthi seems to be the most self-assured of the lot - he is surrounded by loving Auntie's and Uncles and living an idyllic life. I brought him with Blue and Nell to avoid the drifts and took the opportunity to put his first headcollar on. He couldn't have cared less. Petra Perkins used to be aggressive with other horses and took over Alpha leadership some years ago when Rosie was unsound - it was a case of The Queen is Dead; Long Live the Queen and poor Rosie always took second place from then on. Petra doesn't seem to care that horses come and go all the time. She is pleased to see familiar faces, catch up on the news and then to wave them goodbye when they go.

Monday, September 3, 2007

3rd September, 2007 Up,up and away

I really do implore any horse lover to send money to Horseworld in Bristol. It's a really professional charity with clear goals and strategies and staff dedicated to doing the best for the horses. There is real hope for all suitable horses to be re-homed and over 300 have done so. The Open Day on 2nd September was tremendous fun. I arrived having been to see two Exmoor ponies "on the way" at Honiton and was soon presented with a huge four month old colt to work with. Prince arrived at the charity in utero when his mother was rescued in a very sick state - she was terrifically thin and permanently disfigured by a badly healed fracture in her front leg. The foal is stunning and should be very athletic. He has had very little handling although he has been at the Visitor Centre where he has learned not to have any fear of (or dare I say it respect for) humans. It was like having a lively balloon on a string for the first ten minutes. He would launch himself skywards with his front feet, just missing my ears and then his back feet. He looked most surprised when I wouldn't let go and hurtled about to my left and right. What with the windy weather and me being out of breath and trying to describe what I was doing over the mic, the audience must have thought that they were being treated to a bizarre dirty phone call. In due course he was standing still, hardly deflated, but calm enough for me to touch him all over and to pick up his feet for the first time. See, there are some advantages to the humanised horse.

The next pony, an Eriskay called Lilly (below), had mislaid her manners at her last home but quickly recovered them as soon as she found that I was worthy of her attention. She deafened everybody by neighing into my microphone at regular intervals. And finally, William, a big gallant horse aged 10 who'd been bought for the Riding for the Disabled. He would have been utterly unsuitable because he is frightened of everything and everybody. He was terrified of the feather duster on his left hand side although he would let me touch him and rub him with it on his right hand side - usually a clear indication that a horse has been beaten on his left hand side by a right handed person. I wasn't prepared to push or rush this horse just for an audience and they seemed well satisfied when instead I demonstrated how to apply fly cream to the ears (let the horse "lick" it off with his ear instead of shoving cold cream down his earhole); why you shouldn't use scented sun tan lotion on an already sun burnt nose (it will turn your horse into a giraffe because it blimmin' hurts) and how to de-sensitize you horse to fly spray using reverse psychology. By the end William decided he trusted me enough to let me touch him and rub him on his left hand side with the feather duster and was led out of the arena following an umbrella.

Friday, August 31, 2007

31st August, 2007 Picture this

So there I am with a 2 year old New Forest pony walking on the quietest, no through lane we can find in Pamphill, near Wimborne. Now, this pony has had a terrible experience with a lorry before and bolted for home. Imagine our horror when we turned round to go home and there was a massive (and I mean massive) arctic coming towards us taking up the whole of the lane. I asked the driver to stop and he did and he switched off his engine. I then went to ask him whether our pony could have a good look at his lorry for a few minutes and he happily obliged. The pony investigated the bumper and the wheels and then the sheeting on the side of the lorry and then stood quietly in the gateway while the lorry started up again and moved away. We then "chased" the lorry at walk and trot down the road which the pony thought was splendid. We then turned back towards home with him walking along totally relaxed beside us. So, Adrian from K.R. Joyce and Sons, Haulage Contractors in New Harbour Road, Poole - you are an angel!!!

31st August, 2007 How's it going?

August has been a really busy month and I've had some interesting feedback. I have worked with all sorts of horses and all sorts of people in all sorts of places.

It was lovely to see you as usual and you had the effect of giving us all a boost of confidence, especially Freddie who was a star and has moved off 'death row' and over to Fr. She was more positive about taking him on now that she can really see she makes a difference and how he responds to her. We shall really try to keep to all our boundaries (I've all ready been told off by Fr for letting S wander off as I was trying to do up her rug!) I told her it was difficult for me because I'm used to trailing after her (Fr) picking up her stuff when I should make her do it like I should insist S stand still. Funnily enough that seem to make sense to her so she has just cleared the table! You should specialise in Teenagers and ponies! You are very quick to tell me to be positive and I am grateful for that, but you should give yourself a big pat on the back for the amount of good you do, I think you can put yourself down as much as I do (to me not you!). You are a brilliant teacher and give far much than I think you realise. I went out to the ponies to give them supper just now, they were all relaxed and happy - they didn't push or barge and Freddie stood calmly and relaxed, as he looked so laid back I picked up all his feet, he was as good as gold. I did all the others for good measure and they all stood still and obliged. When I went to get the buckets after supper Freddie followed me around the top field (I was kicking apples into the stream). He just stayed with me about a foot away he didn't chase the apples like he normally does or get bouncy but just strolled after me looking interested. I stopped and rubbed him and he sighed and was quite unlike himself, he was absolutely a dream until next door's cat came in when he charged off and tried to kick it's head in. That's Freddie! D'you know he once actually ran into a tree chasing a squirrel!I hope you'll be back to see us soon - you're better than any psychotherapist and I think the ponies benefit a bit as well!
LRB 21.8.07

How are you, I just wanted to let you know about my Fell yearling filly H. H is a funny little thing I have had her since November and I feel that up until this week we have not bonded, one minute she is a cocky little thing the next minute a bag of nerves that bolts on seeing anything odd. Well for the last couple of months I have been working hard to get her ok to take to the New Forest show, she has been gong up and done our quiet side lane going over tarps, over poles, through tyres but still she didn't really trust me. The night before the show she would not even let me groom her so I thought I have got nothing to lose so I sent her away and kept her out of the herd for a good 5mins no licking or chewing just temper tantrums until I dropped my shoulder and turned away. Well she was glued to me I was able to groom her all over and get her looking lovely for the show, she did not put a foot wrong at the show; she travelled really well, coped with seeing all those tractors and came first in her class and went on to be reserve champion, and she stood so still for me in the line up, people must of thought I was a bit odd as i was doing the staring bit at her but who cares it works. Thank you so much it has really made a difference to our relationship as we now have one instead of just putting up with each other!
E-mail from TK 28.7.07

I just wanted to say a huge thank you for your work with Stanley today and for all the preparation work you did with Stanley and myself beforehand to get to this point. I can hardly believe it - he had all 4 feet trimmed and it was a really positive experience for him. When I let him afterwards at the bottom field he cantered off and then cantered back to me as he didn't want to go and find his friends on his own. So we walked to the other field together and I handed him over to his horsey friends to look after him. He really is a very special horse.
E-mail from JG 28.7.07

Sarah I am still over the moon about R-pony. Believe it or not I have been doing what you showed me - he's different in many ways. I also have read lot of information on your website and the paper you left me can't believe it.!!! (Article by Kelly Marks on Seperation Anxiety)
From KH 30.7.07

Thanks for all the work you've done with Solomon he has really come on well… seeing him long reining so nicely was very uplifting.
EB 3.8.07

I have been up and down the road and my goodness what a difference no more arm ache its lovely.
From TK 7.8.07

I'm sure Piper will be fine - just take a look in the Brook hospital newsletter to remind ourselves how pampered our horses are compared to their foreign cousins!! He has a safe and kind home so that is most important. You are not taking him to the olympics and as long as he is not trying to kill you or escape then you mustn't put pressure on yourself! Now I sound like you!!!
From FM 10.8.07

Thank-you so much for coming out to see us, we have been practising for when we see you next, and its really nice to have M-horse stood happily on the box without looking so worried.
From AB 24.8.07

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

29th August, 2007 Parellified

I think it's probably time I stated how I feel about Parelli. I have just finished watching their new DVD on Horse Behaviour and whilst there is a great deal of sense in what they say (very little of which is new to me after my IH courses) I still don't like the way that the system is used on horses; for many horses the seven games do indeed become the seven tortures that Pat Parelli warns against. I've met horses that are switched off, turned off and angry following the Parelli treatment.On the theoretical side, I agree that there are confident and unconfident (sic) horses but worry about right brain/ left brain labels when there is no scientific certainty that horses, or even people, do operate in this way. It's a useful vehicle to explain that switch from relaxed to flight and for horses having a tendency to be one way or the other. I believe that all the techniques under the natural horsemanship banner or "church" will benefit horses if they persuade owners to see things from the horse's perspective and I think it's important that the practitioners don't fall out with one another, however, I cannot countenance a system that uses violence even to reinforce a command. In the first DVD a horse called George is clearly hit with the carrot stick when he doesn't walk forward the instant that Pat Parelli walks forward - are horses to be allowed no reaction time? I still can't forget a very early video showing Pat Parelli loading a horse into a broken trailer - the horse is stressed and sweating and has no idea what he is being asked to do. I also have strong reservations about the process of imprinting where the normal bonding process between a foal and it's mother is interrupted by human intervention within the first two hours following birth and involves pretty intense touching and probing of the foal's body. The reason I love Intelligent Horsemanship is because it does what is says on the label, it encourages people to use the most intelligent way of working with their horse based on the horse's psychology. There is no set system so that it is tailor made to the needs of the horse.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

25th August, 2007 Fencing and foiled

I can't help but be very excited about my new post and rail fencing which now divides up my fields. Piper just walked through the electric fencing and was getting fatter by the day and it was always a worry that the others might decide to migrate too. This week the old red van is off to Heaven too - every time she turns round she seems to cost me £50 and she's quite thirsty. Before anyone claims I am making too much (any) profit, I would point out that my new car is an X reg white van but I shall have pictures of Piper put on the sides to make it look stunning.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

23rd August, 2007 Good farriers, bad farriers

I have been working with another horse with a farrier-phobia. Unlike the earlier horse, this one was happy to let me hold it's feet, tap them with a metal tool and move them about but the instant the farrier arrived she reacted violently by rearing, trying to run through me and then trying to bite the farrier. The stupid thing is that this farrier is the nice farrier but she still hasn't forgiven the last one. Working with the touch and move away technique, whereby Alex stayed with her when she was reacting and walked away when she committed herself to standing still (reverse psychology), we were able to get her really calm and she stood sweetly to have three of her feet done. However, when we got to the right hind she went on strike again, clearly indicating in my view that she has some genuine reason for not wanting to hold this leg up. I suspect that she has pain in her pelvis or hock and the owner will get this checked out very soon. By putting her leg back down at frequent intervals and letting her rest, Alex was able to shoe this last foot whereas this is the point at which the last farrier used to get very cross and hit her. Can it be a coincidence that this is the same farrier that upset the other horse? He is really predatorial in his general attitude too. When a genuine horse starts to be awkward about being shod then we should also suspect that there may be a physical reason and by listening to the horse instead of telling it to shut up the problem won't escalate so that the horse feels the need to run away or defend itself the moment anyone smelling of a forge appears.

There's no problem getting Julie to hold her leg up and Jester is now much more relaxed about being mounted.

Friday, August 17, 2007

17th August, 2007 Pique-d early?

I've got this one to go and see next week!

My little tantrum over late cancellations and free advice is over. I have had a brilliant week and all my customers have done their homework. It takes some commitment to make your mind up to change the way you are with your horse, especially if you have had years of letting it come up and push you around and maybe don't even notice it's doing it. Asking the horse not to invade your space and generally moving it around are the two most significant factors in establishing leadership (not domination). This week I have seen three horses that have gone flump, relax, as soon as they have a leader and walked beside their owners like their best friend. A horse I went to see just three weeks ago, where the owner had been told in no uncertain terms by someone else that it should be sold because it had separation anxiety and was dangerous, was happily standing in the yard with her and no other horses this afternoon and we took him out for a walk on his own without any problem whatsoever. Horses don't always need the company of other horses if you are there for them both mentally and physically. I spent Thursday in the Portsmouth area with three different horses: a 2 year old Welsh cob colt with an exceptional temperament (groundwork and leading); a rather regal Irish Sports horse (loading) and then went to see a Connemara that had been badly mauled by a Great Dane whilst being ridden. We have to devise a plan to get the pony to accept being near safe dogs again but the owner of the dog has no intention of changing her route.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

12th August, 2007 In which Piper goes to a dog show!

Piper had his first outing today to give a demonstration at the Margaret Green Foundation Trust on their Dog Show Day. For a pony that has always thought that one person is a person and two is a round up I thought he coped fantastically well with forty pairs of eyes staring in at him at a time and he allowed me to put his headcollar on and do some de-sensitization work with him. By the end he was becoming rather blase and eating haylage whilst surrounded by crowds of interested people. A very special thank you to David, Julie and Tammy who gave up their Sunday to give me moral support. Julie also worked with Piper in front of the audience (no pressure then) and is only the second person to be able to get his headcollar on. I must not forget to mention Tara, who works for MGFT who put together a great visual display complete with Piper pictures.

Friday, August 10, 2007

10th August, 2007 Spitting Feathers

Sadly I am having to give careful consideration as to whether I should carry on being an RA. People seem to think nothing of cancelling me less than 24 hours before their appointment or asking me to phone them back on their mobiles for a 20 minute discussion about their horse and then not booking me. I also worked for a local charity for a day for nothing, not even expenses and they wouldn't even give me a free soft drink. Perhaps I have doormat written all over me. All the good reviews in the world cannot make up for this and they certainly don't pay my bills. I seem to be having a run of horses that have gone on strike about having their feet picked up. Let's get one thing straight shall we? The horse's feathers are not put there as a covenient handle for people or farriers to pull up and hold on to a horse's foot. No wonder these horses have decided that people have forfeited their right to handle their legs. The art is to ask the horse to pick it's foot up and maintain it's own balance. Yet another busy week and another one ahead. Solomon the Arab and his companion, Lennie, were long reined back across the Forest to their own home on Wednesday - seven miles. It was so tempting to back both of them there and then and not to have to walk! Then it was back to the farm to long rein Jester and later he was backed by Julie. I wish I had photos. Decorating and horse work mean that I haven't been able to get near to a shop to buy a new camera.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

5th August, 2007 Long reins and long manes

A pretty exhausting week. I seem to be having a run of horses that are terrified of long reins - I wish someone would do some research on whether horses that have been kept with electric fencing or have gone through electric fencing are more likely to be frightened of ropes. With these three horses, one has been caught up in electric fencing, another has had pain in his pelvis and hindlegs and the other has been lunged with a dummy on his back at full speed until he was exhausted. I always go through a series of exercises to check out the horse's reaction / de-sensitize the horse to the lines before I begin. This includes turning the horse away from me with just one line around his hindquarters, walking round with the reins just dragging alongside and getting someone else to lead the horse while I just hold the long reins passively. All three horses are getting there but are a stark contrast to little Lennie where we could just pick up the reins and go. I am loathe to rule out long-reining with any horse because it gives a clear indication of how they may behave when they are ridden and what their default position is. If they are inclined to spin or bolt with long reins or they cannot cope with people being in their blind spot, then I wouldn't want to be sitting on them! In my opinion, long-reining is much better for a horse than lunging, especially when most lunging isn't done very well at all. Lunging encourages the horse to tilt his head outwards to counter-balance the weight of the line and cavesson where used. Long reining keeps the horse in alignment and puts no direct pressure on the horse's head. It is such a versatile technique too, allowing you to incorporate turns, circles, straight lines and rein back at the same time as teaching the horse about rein and lateral aids. I long rein horses over obstacles, out and about over the Forest and in the school and I consider it to be an essential part of a horse's education and fitness programme.Piper has had a couple of months with very little handling since he was turned out after being gelded. I shouldn't be surprised but he has regressed a long way and it is difficult to catch him even with clicker treats. Yet, once I have caught him, he let's me touch him all the way down to his hindquarters and today I washed him off with cold water and a sponge. I am going to start work with him in earnest again now that I have a little more time. I do wonder whether I will ever bring him round - he has had such bad experiences of people coupled with seven years of being totally wild. The Exmoor pony lives such an isolated life, unlike the New Forest pony, and I do wonder if they have evolved to the same extent. There are times when Piper goes onto automatic pilot and there is no communicating with him at all.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

28th July, 2007 Another fine mess......?

During the week that Piper was gelded at The Barn, I witnessed a coloured cob having his feet trimmed under intravenous sedation. Despite the sedative, the farrier still had a huge battle on his hands and was having to use ropes on the horses feet to get the job done. When I left, the horse was standing on his hind legs boxing out at him. This horse was subsequently sold and I got a call about his foot handling problem within a week. It took two sessions with Stanley to set him up to pick up his feet for a click and treat reward. This morning was a fine example of co-operation between an owner, the vet, the farrier and a horse trainer. The vet authorised a very mild dose of oral sedative (the horse didn't look in the least bit dozy) and the farrier worked with me so that whenever Stanley picked up his feet for him I gave him a click and treat. Quite unexpectedly, Andy Marsh , the farrier was able to trim all of his feet without him so much as threatening to rear. Stanley fought his apprehension instead of the farrier and the whole job was done within 30 minutes. We were all rather pleased with ourselves. This is a four year old horse and he is going to need his feet done a lot of times....much better if we can get him over his phobia now.

I would very much like to have put up a picture of this event but sadly thieves broke into my van last night and stole my camera.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

26th July, 2007 Rubble and rain

For the first time I think I might quite fancy an office job. Having been rained on consistently for the past week and had my computer confiscated by the builders for the last six days I am beginning to fantasize about a roof, dry clothes and a desk. How people in Tewkesbury are coping with being cut off from having their house completely flooded, cut off from the rest of the country and no drinking water and no electricity I don't know. If my bedrooms weren't totally demolished I'd be offering refuge to someone but as it is we are camping out at Char's house down the road and coming back here to do the washing and grab the computer when we can.Our builders are the opposite to every other builders I have ever met or heard about. They turn up in force on time every morning. They don't drink endless cups of tea or swear all the time. They don't treat me as if I am an idiot and they work, work, work all the time. Every time I come home the house has changed out of all recognition (in a good way). So here's a plug for Rob, Seamus, Ian, Mark and Matt of PCL Building Contractors, that is Pembroke Contracting Limited.

Every horse report I have written in the last few weeks has been prefaced by the words "Working in torrential rain..." mad horses and Englishwomen work in the midday rain. Julie is proving her worth as capilliary action in her jeans meant that she was soaked from head to toe yesterday but was still to be found legging Andy up on to Charlie at 6.30 last night. On Monday I worked with a Cremello Welsh Cob mare with loading problems. She has only ever been loaded a handful of times and each time to move home and owners. Although she was quiet in the yard as soon as she came into the field where the trailer was she was bucking and rearing, running rings around her owner and ramming her with her immense shoulders. I began to think I'd wasted my time bringing the trailer as this was clearly a leading and leadership problem rather than a loading problem. It took me 20 minutes to get her to stand still and ultimately I had to shake my trusty tin can at her with the gravel in it - I really ought to get sponsorship from Coca-Cola! She looked at me I wonderment and I could here her thinking "B-----!" in Welsh and then say to me "Yes, what do you want?" After that she was light and responsive and soft and attentive and we were able to load her into the trailer every which way - bars up, bars down, ramp up, ramps down, doors open, doors closed - and she grew calmer and calmer. After that I went over to Burley to move Freddie the orphan foal to his new home a couple of minutes down the road. On the way I was overtaken at speed by a four wheel drive car the driver of which treated me to a view of his two fingers when I waved at him to slow him down. I wish I could have taken him to see Freddie so that he could see why it is my business when people speed on the Forest. Freddie loaded beautifully. I used a figure of eight rope gently around his bottom and he led along the drive and down the lane to the trailer. Someone travelled in the trailer with him as it wasn't very far and I thought he would appreciate the company. He settled in at Ann's straight away by peeing and rolling in the shavings. As soon as it stops raining he will be able to go out and meet some other ponies.

Here are the latest reviews:

The experience Fran is gaining is more than enough but thanks for offering (to pay for her transport). Since spending her work experience with you, her confidence and whole attitude with the ponies is really amazing I think I'm going to have to book myself in with you and see if it works on oldies as well as youngies.
VR 14.7.07

I must say I am finding watching and helping with Charlie very rewarding and extremely interesting – should have done it years ago.
PG 13.7.07

Freddie was great today, Grahame and I have just got back from spending time with him, I gave him a "proper" muck out whilst Grahame played with him doing everything correctly and getting great results. He wasn't scared of the new straw going in, which worried him last time! After I had finished Grahame put on Freddies foal slip (that is on Freddie not on him - I don't think it would suit Grahame!!) Grahame was lovely and quiet and did exactly as you had shown us Sarah. Freddie seemed perfectly happy. We left it on for about 10 mins whilst Freddie had lots of stroking over most of his body, then Grahame removed the slip and it was time for supper, so all in all a really good session.
From Sue NF 14.7.07

Thanks for setting up a great day

LP following MGFT Bitting clinic 16.7.07

Once again a million thank yous, what would I have done without you and Ann? I am so looking forward to moving him on Monday so that he can get a bit more stimulation. Tonight he was great, came straight up to the bars very happily. I am 99.99% sure he has a home for life with us, which certainly wasn't on the cards even a week ago! When he becomes our wonderful driving pony you must be his first VVVVV vip passenger!!!
From Sue NF 21.7.07

WOW! I am so thrilled with the pictures. He looks fantastic! Maddy will be absolutely thrilled! I am so pleased to see him finally beginning to relax re the long reins. My friend said he would take a while to start because of his age and I guess she was partly right. He is obviously feeling physically stronger, less pained. I can't tell you how grateful we are to you for all your hard work (especially in all this revolting weather).
LB 21.7.07

Just a note to say thank you so much for helping us load Megan, it is now hassle free and a pleasure to take her out. We made it to our first show and loaded perfectly there and back and we came fourth in the ridden class. Since you came we have been able to explore the Forest further afield and we are also planning our first beach ride in the summer. Once again thank you for all your help and making our travel experiences far less stressful and dramatic.
LS Card received 22.7.07

It was great to meet you today, thanks so much for the opportunity to see you at work. I had a great time, despite the glorious summer weather! Ihope to see you again some time soon and if it's okay with you, I'd love to take you up on your offer to come and help out another day, perhaps even get the chance to meet Freddy next time.LM 24.7.07

Friday, July 20, 2007

20th July, 2007 Horse Magnets?

Horses seem to attract all kinds of people and I am really fortunate to be surrounded by a dream team. Sheila who has been working with me regularly for two years is due to take her exams in November and we have been busy videoing her Join-ups and loading sessions (most of which have had to be done in the pouring rain!). Andy is a real find and can even turn his hand to mending pipes. Julie turned up just a couple of weeks ago and fitted in straight away. She has worked for another horse trainer for a little while and has all the basics and more in place. Then of course there is Kate the physio and Kate the chiro who come on a regular basis to look after the horses.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

19th July, 2007 Horseworld and Dartmoor Pony Training Centre

Dartmoor Hill Ponies

I have three more demonstrations before I go down to the Moorland Mousie Trust in November. The first will be back at MGFT on Dog Show Day on Sunday 12th August, then at Horseworld on Sunday 2nd September between 1 and 5 p.m. The final one will be at the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre on the last weekend (30th) of September. On the last two occasions I will be working with horses that I have never met before.Horseworld A presentation of the effective, nonviolent handling methods of training young and remedial horses as established by Monty Roberts. Demonstrations by Sarah Weston Recommended Associate of Intelligent Horsemanship With Sasha Holden & Megan TurnerTickets cost £8 per person and include a tour of HorseWorld's Welfare Department.To order please contact Liz on 01275 893034 or email Charity No: 206749I Dartmoor Pony Training CentreWe are holding an open day / information day on Sunday the 30th September with another organisation called Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony. We will be running training workshops, having talks on clicker training and Dartmoor Hill Ponies and will have lots of stalls and refreshments available.
If you are interested, please contact Natalie Torr at DPTC, Ashburn Cottage, Kingsbridge Lane, Ashburton, Devon, TQ13 7DX. She will then put you on our email or postal mailing list for the event, and you'll receive the official invitation closer to the time. Please note that spaces are limited and that supporters will be given preference.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

15th July, 2007 MGFT Equine Open Day

A somewhat chaotic day down at the MGFT with Hilary's Bitting clinic running in parallel to talks by the Damory Vets and a sponsored ride across the Purbecks! My own demonstration ended with a marathon loading session for a horse that came in for the bitting clinic and seemingly didn't want to leave. Ebony, a delightful mare that's in foal, is available for re-homing...

N.B. Since this post was written the MGFT has changed it's policy on re-homing horses so that horses that are re-homed are actually given to their new owners in return for a donation. I am deeply concerned that this protects neither the horse, the old owner or the new owner and I no longer feel able to recommend the Trust.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

14th July, 2007 The Three Musketeers

The three horses that are all on fittening regimes at my fields have all been in action today. Arnie went for a long walk in the woods and jumped streams and ditches and off the end of a loading ramp. Charlie Farley did clicker training and stretching over poles and little Jester did some short-reining followed by pole-work and jumping over the barrels. if the horses don't get fitter, their owners should!

Friday, July 13, 2007

13th July, 2007 It's four in the morning.......

I couldn't sleep this morning so I went off to the fields early to see the horses. Kanuthi, who has been off the Forest for about a week with his mother was playing with the deer. He's looking a bit moth eaten at the moment. It has been an extremely busy week with two trips out to the Margaret Green Foundation Trust and two horses to see at Wimborne as well as lots to do at home. What with that and the builders and three dogs staying this weekend, I shall be glad of a day off (a week on Sunday I think!).Saddles are proving to be a bit of a nightmare again. One that was supplied to a client of mine dropped dramatically within four weeks and the horse objected pretty strongly. It's replacement was delayed by the floods and is still too tight. Another local supplier took twice as long as promised to provide a tailor made saddle and two other local tack shops store their saddles in heaps of five, all higgledy piggledy which can't be good for the structure of the saddle. Another saddle fitter is trying to persuade me to go treeless but I don't feel as secure on a starter when I have to reach down to check a dressage girth arrangement and I have heard of so many horses being sore after a few months. I think they may be a short term solution for remedial horses where there is going to be a lot of change in their shape. In the meantime the Myler hanging cheek low port comfort snaffle is proving to be the very best bit for starters and remedial horses alike.

Monday, July 9, 2007

9th July, 2007 She took the horses over the hill and she flew

Yesterday we took the horses out for a long walk including a pub stop. We covered 2.9 miles. Last night I went out with Maurice in an aeroplane and in the same time we covered 96 miles including two circuits of Liz's field so that she could wave at us!

Sunday, July 8, 2007

8th July, 2007 Wild things make my heart sing

After a frantic week working with three horses in parallel, it was great to get back to a couple of wild ponies once again. The first, an 11 month old filly bought from Beaulieu Road Sales has been eluding her owner for some time and has a mighty kick up her sleeve. The second, a six week old colt that lost his mother in a road accident last week, was already dictating who could and couldn't come into his stable. Both were actually very desperate for close contact and once they realised they weren't going to be eaten, they cuddled up for more. Both owners were able to get their headcollars on and off before I left and I am waiting to hear how they got on this afternoon. It just goes to show though that even New Forest ponies are not straightforward to handle and can soon become a problem if they are not handled quietly and regularly from the outset. If horse-loving equalled horse-whispering there would be no problem ponies at all. Unfortunately, love, sympathy and empathy are not sufficient on their own but they certainly help. Incidentally no one stopped to report that they had killed a New Forest pony outright and left her foal standing next to her trying to suckle. No-one knows how long he had been waiting for her to get up again.Freddie the orphan foal (sire: Portmore Pickle)(photo added 20.7.07)

Thursday, July 5, 2007

5th July, 2007 Finalists

So the finalists for the "Nicest People of the Year" competition are as follows: Nikki, Sue, Elizabeth, Maurice, Jacqui, Auriol, Hannah, David, Steph, Julie, Andy and Katie for all picking up the poo when it hit the proverbial fan. Fortunately my fingers aren't painful at all so I can do some in hand work with the horses and walk for miles. The prizes for the nicest Doctors go to Dr Hannah Primrose and Mr. Chris Busuttil at accident and emergency and the lifetime achievement award to Dr Hywel Morris who got me through and out of the other side of depression for the first time.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

4th July, 2007 What a pain

Injured people always have too much time to think. I have been thinking....Almost every single horse I have met in the last three years has had a physical issue of some sort which has been resolved in parallel with it's behavioural training and it can be no coincidence that horses that are in pain are generally more nervous. I certainly feel more vulnerable when bits of me are hurting or not as useful as they could be. I am constantly amazed at how many starters come in with tension here and there - perhaps from cavorting in the field, perhaps just from the slack way that young horses carry themselves. Older horses that come in for rehabilitation have often learnt to compensate for a physical weakness or pain somewhere and then found that route blocked by another bit of tack or gadget. I am always conscious of the financial drain of having your horse trained by someone else; it often costs far more than the horse did in the first place. Nevertheless I am fast reaching the point where I am going to develop a programme of preparation for starting or rehabilitation which has to be carried out either by the owner or by me before ridden work proper can begin. I have had an afternoon with Kate the physiotherapist. It's fascinating to watch her work and the horses learning that they can trust her to find where they are struggling. Although they all stand still (as best as they can) they will stomp a foot here or reach round and nudge her there and groan a bit or yawn a bit or lick lots. I wonder if they are feeling that delicious pain that I feel every time I go for a massage where it really hurts but you just think yes, keep going.....?

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

3rd July, 2007 It's not just the rain that is falling

Having gone for months without falling off, I came off a really quiet pony today and learned two things - nylon reins are vile and, always always wear gloves no matter how quiet the pony is. 5 1/2 hours in casualty with my fingers nerve-blocked was really only mitigated by how pleasant all the doctors were and that I couldn't feel them scrubbing the wounds with a plastic brush or chopping bits of skin off with the scissors. Still, Andy has the winning score this week having flown off one horse twice in ten minutes. Having wondered if I would have to send all the horses home (72 mounds of poo is a lot to pick up every day with only one useful hand!) I have received lots of offers of help from friends. This week's management theme has become "The Art of Delegation"....

Saturday, June 30, 2007

30th June, 2007 Mystery Man

At last, some pictures of Andy!

Friday, June 29, 2007

29th June, 2007 Bits of News

Sometimes I work with a horse and never find out what happened next. Last year I went to see a big black Hackney type horse that really was pushing his owner to the limits, running her over, rearing out on the road and being really quite dangerous. I did some groundwork with him but then advised that I thought he should go to Ian Vandenburghe because he really was beyond me. Off he went to Ian's and he came back six weeks later with some hope but his progress would be completely dependent on the ability of his owner to carry things on. I bumped into her this morning and by gum she has become feisty. Without being violent, she answers every question her horse asks and slowly but surely he is accepting that she is the leader and that he can rely on her. She took him to a local show and picked up a handful of rosettes. I also worked with a lady at Sixpenny Handley who seemed very keen on all the IH mularkey. I didn't hear a word from her for two months and then got the following e-mail: "Lunar was remarkable after your visit, too good really, after showing her to a friend who was visiting, she was bought on the spot....." That's not really the way to get repeat custom but it solved a dilemma for her owner.

Four years ago I bought a foal off the Forest and named him Vigo. I sold him to a friend who said that she would keep him for life but her circumstances changed and she sold him on again without telling me. I haven't seen the pony or the friend since but then the pony can't use a telephone or e-mail. Last Thursday a lady telephoned me to ask whether I knew anything about a pony she had bought called Vigo. I went to see him last Friday and he is well and happy. Hos new owner has spent the day with me today whle I've been working with various horses and I think we will be friends too!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

28th June, 2007 Join-Up

I always think very carefully before I do a full Join-Up with a horse. Often I can achieve the same results by simply moving the horse around and very often the facilities are just not available or secure enough at a customer's yard. I think it's healthy that there are many views even within the narrower equestrian field of so-called natural horsemanship and I keep an open mind about all techniques. One of my favourite quotes is that a closed mind is like a closed parachute, not much use to anyone! Join-Up had a miraculous effect on Petra all those years ago and changed the course of my entire life. Like many IH students, I would Join-Up with everything while I was training (in fact I think that's how I persuaded David to marry me). I am very grateful to Kelly for giving me permission to publish her most recent advice re: Join-Up


Why might we want to do a Join Up with a horse?
Because doing Join Up can help create a bond of trust and respect with your horse by communicating in a way that the horse understands. It can encourage the horse to want to be close to you and see you as his SAFETY ZONE. (Think this through carefully if you have a horse you don’t want to get too close to you).
How does it work?
In the wild, the only way one horse can show ‘leadership’ over another is to move the other horse around. In the herd you have the lead mare who leads from the front and so we can use leading exercises to achieve the movement we desire. There is also the stallion who drives from behind and this is why we also find long lining a really useful tool. Join Up is a way for us to move the horse while he is loose and this gives us a really useful way of assessing and learning more about him and might help us decide the best approach to take as well as making that initial connection that can be so helpful. Join Up can alter a horse’s attitude because by you controlling his actions he looks at you in a new light. By ‘speaking in his language’ it opens up to him the possibility that humans may be showing signs of intelligence and it could be worth listening to them!
Remember if we want a horse to feel fully comfortable with us we need to be in an emotionally ‘good’ place as well. If nothing else make sure you breathing is deep and comfortable and your movements are relaxed when you are with the horse.

Who is it good for?
It can be useful and appropriate with a young horse ready to be started, a horse that has ‘problems with people’; particularly if he is sceptical or has any trust issues. It can be useful to start or cement or assess the relationship the horse has with humans. It should be pointed out here that to the horse Join Up is generalised to all humans, so for instance he won’t only now respond to the person who has just done Join Up with him. Of course, if someone comes in with bad body language and bad intention the horse is not going to respond to them. It is extremely good for THE PERSON to learn how to do Join up as it can improve their body language and the way they can relate to horses immeasurably and start a whole new understanding of horses. The lessons you learn through Join Up will stand you in good stead with all your other work with horses (providing of course you use and remember them!)
Being Realistic
Be aware what Join Up does NOT do! It does not mean the horse is now hypnotised and will do everything you say. It does not mean the horse will not be frightened of things any more (although if it goes well he should certainly be willing to give people the benefit of the doubt and as said before see the human as his safety zone). If the horse is bucking because he in pain from the saddle or it’s ‘what he’s always done’ it’s not going to be miraculously cured without a great deal of additional work.
How Often?
Generally a horse doesn’t ‘need’ more than 3 or 4 Join Up’s, and you can over do it. If you haven’t made the connection you would like with the horse in that time it’s very unlikely it’s going to improve by just repeating the process over and over again. It is not something that is achieved by ‘drilling’ a horse. If a Join Up doesn’t seem to be going to plan do not send the horse away for longer than 5 minutes. The way we do Join Up is never about tiring the horse out or ‘forcing him to submit to your will’. If it’s not working within 5 minutes find a comfortable way to finish the session and take time off to re-think the situation.
Assess the horse with each session. The average horse (particularly the younger he is) will, in fact, go away less freely after just a couple of Join Ups and will be asking to come in at quite an early stage which is perfectly reasonable and normal. If a horse runs around very fast this is not appropriate behaviour and usually indicates he’s been frightened from behind at some point. A horse running blindly round the pen is NOT in the process of Join Up! Working on long lines (if possible) with lots of changes of direction may be better for that horse at that point. You and he may be better with halter work and desensitising training.
When it might be best to NOT do Join Up
Some horses are less suitable for Join Up than others
1. Bottle reared/hand reared/over handled foal
2. Aggressive horse
3. Untouched horse
If you have not worked with colts and stallions before – don’t start off doing your Join Up’s with them! They will be much better at body language than you!
It is not compulsory! i.e. you need to make an individual assessment with each horse as to whether or not it is the right thing to do with that horse at that particular time. The point is not the Join Up the point is achieving the relationship with the horse.
Signs that you might look for are:- the inside ear pointing towards you and the horse making the circle smaller to come towards you (particularly as you take the pressure off) another gesture we are looking from the horse is a lowering of the head, as this is, amongst other interpretations, a sign of trust, we must realise it is something that cannot be forced – again it is more likely to come about through a release of pressure. The licking and chewing from the horse can have several interpretations, look out for it but not every horse does it readily (particularly after the first join up) and often a horse will do the sign as you take the pressure off and invite them into you.
If Join Up is not suitable for a horse there is halter work you can do to achieve ‘follow up’.
We are only teaching the basics of Join Up on this course. There are more subtleties to be learned. i.e. when is it right not to send the horse away but just to use advance and retreat? What might you do with an over pair bonded horse? Or a horse that is very overstressed or anxious? When might you use changing direction several times in succession? What do you do with a horse who is over lunged and doesn’t look at you?