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.