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.