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