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