A little while ago I wrote about the meaning of success (or failure) and two particular cases where I was unable to help to any great extent. In both cases the facilities made working difficult, in both cases we were surrounded by barbed wire fencing. I hadn’t heard from either of the owners again and wondered how they were getting on. Coincidentally, both of them contacted me this weekend.
The first, the lady who loaned the rearing Throughbred, turned up at the Kelly Mark’s demo and later sent me the e-mail that she had intended to send: Thanks for your help yesterday, I have spoken to B’s owners and he is going back to them next Friday. I wanted to say thanks for your help. I have tried to give B the best of everything I could hence doing the courses before I got him and it was helpful to know it wasn’t just me or a lack of experience. You did a lot more to help then you may have realised and I wanted you to know that. It finally, as you put it well yesterday, gave me permission to say enough is enough.
E-mail received 24.5.08 VFB
The other concerned an untouched New Forest colt who had already gone through and over the fences. I had been worried sick as he was next door to a mare and rapidly becoming aware of his under-carriage. His owner wrote to me as follows and just shows that ponies can respond to kindness and patience over time:
You made many suggestions which were great one of them being we bring R (the new forester) to your place to help him learn that headcollars and lead-ropes aren't so bad, neither are people! Call us softies, but the thought of sending Ruben away kind of played with our heartstrings due to him only being used to us, and never seeing outside of his paddock at Parley since the day he was brought there. You will be chuffed to know that in the past month, Ruben accepted the headcollar in his new 4 acre home without any struggling at all! He did not bolt, rear or do any of the things that make horses dangerous. We didn't even need to round pen him, or place him in a stable, it was all quite mystifying to be honest! Although, him accepting the headcollar came 2 days after he allowed Debbie and I to fall asleep with him on the floor. We are not quite sure if that has anything to do with it, we are probably humanizing him in thinking that, but either way, it felt so good that Ruben dropped his fear and finally trusted us. In the past 2 weeks, we have been doing lead-rope work with him, even tied him to his new grooming post, where he stood still and let us groom him all over (including his mane and tail, that we have always longed to untangle!) and for the 1st time in 2 years, we took him for a lovely walk along a 2 mile bridle path which he seemed to enjoy! We do realise the length of time it has taken to get him to accept the things he feared has been very long winded, but we also realise that cornering him to accept it was not the way to go and that time and patience really does pay off when it comes to such challenges as it is so much more rewarding when its done in peace and with the look of trust in a ponies eyes that have always told fearful stories, up until now! Being an equine trainer who I am sure comes across many difficult situations such as ours, I am sure you will understand our joy of Ruben finally trusting us fully.
I have also written at length about horses, often older ones, that have become so upset in the trailer that they go into pressure against the partitions and walls and “gallop” along the opposite wall. The only cure for this seems to be travelling them without a partition and with full width front and back bars. Nevertheless, these horses don’t ever seem to be relaxed about travelling again. Our latest case was a horse called Whatley. His owners have since learned that he has had quite a tough life one way or the other and have decided that his travelling days are over. I am sure they have made the right decision:
I’d just like to say a big thank-you to you and Tanya for the amazing work you did to today. It was such a relief to see Whatley in the box and not climbing the walls. I would recommend you to everyone, problem horses or not. Even the basic ground work was very interesting and just learning how to read and listen to your horse. it was fantastic to see the way you work and communicate with them. A big big thank-you.
Amy on 10.5.08
And a few days later:
Hi Sarah, it went really well last night loaded every time he was asked to go into the box. Wasn’t getting stressed when saw the box or anything, did it all in stages like you did, set off for the journey. I travelled half way round with him and he was fine, got out he got a little stressed when I left him but got through it. So after telling you this whole essay we have both decided not to travel him again as he’s an older boy now and we don’t want him keep getting upset. Someone also had contacted me from nfed who use to own him and apparently he had a real hard life so I feel I owe it to him to have a quieter hacking life now as he been so happy with us. Thanks for all the help you gave us. 14.5.08
In an ideal world, horses should spend as much time out in the field as possible and with other horses for company. Having said that, I can only advise people and I can quite understand that it is hard to risk an expensive horse getting kicked. A Quarter Horse that I went out to see had already calmed down significantly once he was turned out and I was pleased to receive the following e-mail:
Hi Sarah, just to let you know that we put J and S together on Sunday and so far there has been no problems! J has really taken to S and J is a lot more relaxed. S is also teaching J some personal space manners which is just what J needs! J has been a lot calmer when I lead him now and even mum has started to lead him around the field. We all have been so pleased with J's progress and if you hadn't been around J would probably have been sold by now, so we all owe you a huge thank you for saving us!!!!
Some other bits of feedback have come through. First of all from the Horseworld demo:
I have to say well done Horseworld for putting on such a great open day and well done Sarah W for 2 cracking IH demos! The first was Sunny a 18 year old boy who wasn't bothered by anything at first until the feather duster wasn't meant to touch that leg! Also, in the second demo, Sarah used her 'Madonna bra' to help out a yearling who she used last year who was a nightmare colt! What a transformation!
Hello, well done for a great couple of demos today at Horseworld, you captivate the audience and make it easy to understand, and no matter how much I see the same thing, I always feel like I am learning more every time and want to try it out on my 3 hooligans!
I should perhaps explain that the “Madonna Bra” is a reference to using assertive body language that starts with your head, your shoulders, hips and feet and, if you are a girl, your boobs too! It’s my way of saying, point everything at the horse when you want to establish your body space or ask them to move.
We are all here now thanks again for all the emails. I will try to fill in the form but you know that we think you are the best. Just tell Kelly to phone us!
A vote for this blog….
Sarah was very friendly, calm, clear and explained what she was doing and why at all times. None of the ideas were new to me as have been doing lots of research but there can be information overload so was nice to have a bit of clarity. Sarah did a thorough check over of Rosie which was reassuring and she gave me good advice and things to consider (without being pushy). Having the techniques explained in person, in detail makes a big difference and was the most helpful thing for me today. Sarah’s obvious love of horses, reassuring manner and commitment to horse welfare is a pleasure and a reassurance to me that a kinder approach is not just an ‘out there’ concept. I think the biggest thing I have gained from today is some courage in my convictions, better technique and a bit more confidence that this is a solvable problem….. I liked the ‘personalness’ (I know that’s not a real word!) of Sarah’s blog – it makes her seem very ‘human’ and approachable.
RA evaluation form AR 10.5.08