Thursday, July 31, 2008

31st July, 2008 1,2,3,...499...500

I have just worked with my 500th horse since I became an RA. Needless to say, he was a New Forest Pony and his name is Astro.

Whilst there is a definite shift towards owners who want to get it right first time, I'm still getting called to remedial problems and the occasional emergency. Little Simba, a Welsh Section A yearling, had been bitten on the nose by another horse. Having been rescued from owners who were inclined to shout into his face, he was already very wary of people being anywhere near his face. Although he is only 11.2 h.h., he has learned to launch himself at people's faces and to bite whatever flesh he can find. We worked on asking him to relax and make a "nice face" as people approach. By breathing out as we got closer to him, we could induce him to relax and as soon as his little (flat back) ears relaxed and he looked pretty again, we would move away to reward him. It's a question of seeing what yu want and finding a way to reward that. If he did attempt to bite, he was discouraged with a little kiss-kiss noise and a fluttering of the hands. By the end of the session we could touch him all over and gently handle his face and even his lips. I was able to bathe his nose. This little pony has landed in his feet with a very empathetic owner who will do everything she can to convince him that people can be trusted.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

30th July, 2008 Latest reviews

I have just come back from putting cream on some mud fever I spotted on T-pony and I don't think I could have done it on my own if I hadn't had the teaching and experience from you.
PA 3.7.08

I am so glad I contacted you!

J McK 3.7.08

Hi Sarah,
I had felt I'd done a fair bit of work with W-pony - he's cool - but know it alls were telling me "He's 4 - just get on him, he needs to work" etc. (After all the woman over the road had broken her 4 year old in the time I had W-pony and its now jumping!!) Telling me he's not ready has actually made me happier than you'd think!!! It gives me a bit more time to chill with him and not feel pressurised by "horsey people" - who as you know aren't always kind to their horses or other people. I can honestly say that although I "knew" most of what you were telling me - (I have read some of Monty and Kelly )- seeing it work in the flesh with my pony has made me see that it really does work. It is logical - but I will have to work very hard with myself not to do the things I have always naturally done - you know if I touch W-pony and I see he doesn't like it - my natural insinct is to withdraw - a) cos I don't want to upset him b) I don't want him to get shirty. I can see so clearly now how a little perseverance can scale mountains - Thank you.
DS 3.7.08

I'm a firm supporter of my local RA... in fact she often gets emailing asking for advice (apologies Sarah! lol) Going back 2 yrs ago i'd heard of all this 'intelligent horsemanship' and seen someone 'attempt' to do this on a pony of mine a few years ago.... lets just say it ended badly and i ended up with a pony worse than when the person stated! 2yr ago i had a stallion who was extremely nervous and the biggest hassle was with his mouth... biting was out of the question and worming was a battle.... after lots of different opinions etc someone mentioned my local RA to me and i thought... well.. last resort... can't get any worse right?!The big thing i can say if i wish i'd of got her out sooner as it was liking watching a light come on with my nervous little boy, and suddenly he was understand that what was being asked of him was not the terrible thing he had in his head! By using techniques shown to me my relationship with him grew and within a few short weeks i had a pony who would do anything for me just by using a different approuch to training.All my ponies are now IH trained and training them has never been so easy... i certainly recommend the RA's to anyone who asks and when commented how chilled out, nice minded and easy to work with my ponies are... my answer is simply natural horsemanship (and now, more recently introduced to me by Sarah Weston, clicker training... this has also worked wonders with a few of my ponies who before have been down right dangerous to work with in certain situations!)

Calekio on IHDG 5.7.08

Thanks Sarah, you're insights and pragmatic approach have been really useful to us. We are already seeing positive results. AH 7.7.08

I thought I would give you a quick update on Jester as I haven't seen you for a while. For the first time Maddy and I have been able to ride out together as opposed to me being on foot or bike or her with a neighbour's horse. Jester so far has not put a hoof out of place! My horse who is older much more street wise and not normally nervous has tried his best to scare Jester by being a bit silly near balloons children jumping into swimming pools and playing with hose pipes.Other horses passing in the opposite direction. Jester what balloon? Aah children playing with water oh yeah. I'm not saying he is a saint or that I would ever put a complete beginner on him and never a person who is very demanding who would pressurise him (not that he generally needs pushing) but he is a nice pony and is much loved by Maddy.
EB 9.7.08

Also went up to Lucy this morning took the fly mask off and on no problem. Put both the bridles on no problem and Dad couldent believe his eyes.He even did it himself. He thinks you're fantastic. X
CW 15.7.08

Just wanted to let you know that Joe was excellent at the show on the weekend. I took him in novice youth trail (we came 1st), novice youth horsemanship (3rd), novice youth showmanship (3rd) and novice youth pleasure (1st). A western trainer called Lucy who helped Lisa train Joe before the show took him in a few classes: jr horse trail (2nd), jr horse pleasure (2nd) and she also took him in the 4+ geldings halter class and he came 2nd in that which meant that he qualified for the geldings championship class and in that class he got reserve supreme champion gelding at halter. Then to conclude an extremely successful show he was awarded junior horse reserve supreme champion!
TB 15.7.08

Thanks for your report and another enjoyable session. I had told Eliza that you had said that if a horse exhales loudly it is releasing energy and that is good. She told me I had done really well because Petra had SNEEZED 17 times and she had counted!! Bless!!!
Your horse is lovely and a really kind teacher. She made me feel relaxed and that it wouldn't be diabolical if I got it wrong. I'm gonna give it a go with W-pony this weekend ! Watch this space!!
DS 16.7.08

He (Bryn Exmoor pony) is so beautiful and such a smart cookie, although at the time last November we wondered what we had taken on, he is transformed now and with no small thanks to you as I know without your guidence I think we would have really struggled. AD 22.7.08

Friday, July 25, 2008

25th July, 2008 Fabulous Farley

So here's Farley "chasing" the umbrella as preparation for chasing a tractor. This lovely horse travelled for two hours to come to our session today and by the end he was trotting after a very noisy tractor and allowing it to pass him. He has been off road for 18 months and now has the same aversion to noisy roads as I have to going to noisy shops.

25th July, 2008 The Herd

This morning I turned out The Herd, our informal e-mail group of people all interested in Intelligent Horsemanship, with and without capital letters. With over 40 members so far, it's a great start. There's been some interesting coincidences - people who work for the same company, people with the same last name, people with ponies that are related to each other and even two people who turn out to have their horses in stables right next to one another!

Open to clients and former clients and anyone with a genuine interest in IH within Hampshire, Wiltshire or Dorset.... e-mail me for details.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

24th July, 2008 Highly Recommended

Petra and I would put the following on our top ten list of highy recommended people and products:

1. Myler bits - especially low port comfort snaffles on a hanging cheek -

Patricia Barnes
01228 791265
Sales, advice and trials of Myler bits.

2. Boett rugs - for sweet itch sufferers

3. Soothing lotion - Bio Force Equineeem Soothing Lotion... A lotion with Neem leaf extract and witch hazel to soothe and moisturise damaged skin.

4. Eye wipes - for horses with runny eyes - Witch cleansing and toning wipes - available from Waitrose

5. Horse feed - Simple System - forage based horse feeds with no additives or preservatives

6. Riding lessons with your own horse - Amanda Barton

7. Riding lessons without your own horse - Fir Tree Farm Equestrian Centre, Ogdens - offering Enlightened Equitation and an equisimulator

01425 654744

8. Clipping - with or without remedial issues - Sheila Reed - 07780 668136

9. McTimoney Chiropractor - Kate Boe
07974 786022

10. Veterinary Physiotherapist - Kate Barnett

Mobile: 07980 650 438
Tel / Fax: 01202 721 830

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

23rd July, 2008 Your Horse, your horse a kingdom for ....

The first of my answers has appeared in Your Horse magazine - August edition. At first I thought I was going to be the horse sex therapist as a question about a riggy gelding was quickly followed by one about lusty mares! The one they've published was about horse match-making; about as complex as human match making.

I suppose I get three different types of owners contacting me: those who are keen to explore an alternative form of horsemanship away from any violence and based on the horse's own psychology and body language; those who are already experimenting with different types of horsemanship from Parelli through to clicker training; and those who want me to fix a definite problem for them. This last category can be the most tricky given that there is often no quick fix and there sometimes has to be a real shift in mindset before lasting progress can be made - the work I do does have to carry on after I've left and the horse needs to me consistency in patience and technique. Nevertheless it isn't absolutely essential for someone to buy in to the whole of Intelligent Horsemanship and to take it to the nth degree for the work to make a significant difference to their horse. I like to leave the key concepts of prey/predator and pressure and release which form the solid basis of all the work I do. Even for someone wanting to really dive in, they dont need more than a handful of visits to get a really comfortable relationship with their horse and to have covered the key areas: groundwork; de-sensitization; long reining and basic ridden work. Techniques such as foot handling, dealing with head shyness or other quirky problems can be covered on the way. Loading or handling untouched ponies rarely take more than a couple of visits providing the owner is confident to carry on in the same way. For those who have all the basics already there, fine tuning can be useful as can sorting the myth from reality - which body language is really mirroring what the horse would meet in the wild and which is simply a cue. The first doesn't have to be translated by the horse and provides constant communication with the horse - the second does and can allow the horse to switch off between cues. I am happy to have a debate about all horsemanship and only ask that the owner keeps an open mind. It is in the nature of my work that I have to prove myself to every new owner and horse that I meet.

For me, Intelligent Horsemanship was like discovering a new musical artist and then finding that they had a huge back catalogue to wander through and loads of collaborations with other artists. Sort of Peter Gabriel back to his Genesis days and then connections with World of Music Arts and Dance. I like the purity of sound in Kelly's work with it's deep rooted Monty influences and yet I also like the harmonies behind Mark Rashid and Perry Wood and .... oh, you get it, I'm trying to be profound. I've been told I ought to write a book but am afraid to solidify my ideas at this stage - would I be nailed to them for evermore? I also think there is nothing new to say in horsemanship just different ways of saying it. I would urge people to beware of labels such as softness and lightness and to make sure that the actual horsemanship does what it says on the tin.

I could do with a tangent at the moment.....any ideas?

Monday, July 21, 2008

21st July, 2008 Nice work if you can get it

The week has started well with a visit to Puck, who is now two. He still lives on the Forest but visits his owner once a day along with his Mum and little sister, Milly. While he is in, he gets a little education, before wandering off again. Later I worked with a rather laid back Anglo-Arab and we were able to do a whistle stop tour of groundwork and de-sensitization. Finally I rode Petra out onto Fritham Plain where normally she would get very hot headed. True to recent form, she was utterly calm and we spent some time at halt just admiring the view and all the animals drinking at the pond.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

19th July, 2008 Dorset Charity Show

We had all kinds of visitors to our stand at the Dorset Charity Show including customers past and present, our vet, and people who took us up on our human to human demonstration of leading. The watercolours artist next door looked on in astonishment as I led people past her with the regulation "smile in the line". People start to co-operate really quickly proving the principle of pressure and release works with humans too. We met lots of really interesting people with all kinds of issues with their horses or even none at all. Hopefully we will be going to see some of them over the next few weeks.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

17th July, 2008 Perhaps we'd better pull the other one

A man goes to the doctor's and says he has a pain in his leg. The doctor examines him and says, that's because of your foot. Over the years the man goes through a series of treatments - they put the foot in plaster, break the bones and re-set them in a different order, advise him to run marathons and to train for four hours a day, they even turn his foot completely round and set it on backwards before stamping on his other foot to even him out. Some people believe there was nothing wrong with his foot at all and tell him to shut up or tell other people that he is making it up and trying to get attention or just being awkward. Then one Saturday he puts the words "fed up leg hurts" into Google and Google says, that'll be your knee then. Question - will anyone say sorry we misdiagnosed your foot, sorry we didn't believe you? Sorry we made you go through all that pain and we made you worse? Is he entitled to feel bitter, angry, or sad? Should he trust the same people to help him with his knee? At least they were interested in his leg!

Well, that's how I feel about my Sensory Perception Disorder. Will knowing what it is make any difference? Hopefully it will mean I can spot when someone's about to smash my toes. Looking back and feeling angry probably isn't going to help me but whether I have got the energy or trust (or even finances) to explore any treatments available is another matter. SPD is not a well known (or even recognised) condition even though it has been written about since the 1960's.

How must it be for horses then when they are so often misunderstood and perfectly natural behaviour is labelled as naughty, difficult or even arrogant and we try this gadget that gadget and get cross with them for our own lack of understanding. Yet horses will try and try again for us.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

15th July, 2008 Past, present and future

The underlying theme of Mark Rashid's clinic was searching for softness. Ultimately the aim is to for the horse and the rider to be as soft as possible but you may only be able to be as soft as you can be on the way there. He says that when dealing with a bracey horse it isn't always appropriate to reward the try as all you may do is teach the horse to offer a try rather than the real thing. I have been trying out some techniques on Petra and am certainly getting a better response to the bit when I pick up the reins. So that she isn't too heartbroken I reward the real thing with a click and a treat as well as a release and a good girl.

Every time I got to a clinic or demo I can feel some ideas which have start to freeze, thaw and re-form. Mark urges people not to get married to ideas; I presume its not important to marry his ideas either although I really love 99.999% (re-occuring) of the stuff he does. To see the link between the rider bracing one muscle and a horse bracing the corresponding muscle is amazing. It does seem to me that he always expects the horse to soften first - if more obvious body language, a change of bit or rider position would make it easier for the horse to do the right thing, then I'd hope we'd do that first. I may get a bee in my bonnet about certain issues from time to time but I have never felt restricted by IH. Kelly has never prescribed the techniques that we should use with horses and I have always felt at ease with the morals and ethics of IH.

Other nuggets from the clinic included permission not to rush your horse and to take as long as it needs to get the horse going right at the slower paces; dropping your emotion when the horse raises his - so that the overall emotion quota is not exceeeded; putting a slight spiral into your arm when a horse braces into pressure so that you can move his feet; exhaling when a horse spooks at something. I've already put all of these into action this week. It cost me £33 per day to attend this three day clinic and Mark works and answers questions for nine hours a day. Incredible value for money.

Yesterday I went out to a trotting pony that used to take 20 minutes to have her bridle put on. We got that down to 20 seconds and a very happy pony. I'd like to take all the credit but the pony and the owner were very quick learners and had it down to a fine art by the time I left.

Today we re-started Chancer who has had a full year off since he came out of racing. He was very laid back and calm about it all. Later Sheila used him for a full join up with tack and rider which we videoed so that she can use it towards her Monty Robert's Preliminary Certificate in Horsemanship. Chancer was born in America and then brought to England via Ireland. He is an absolute darling.

Tonight I went to a talk by Chris and Sue Trim who were voted Fence Judges of the Year by riders and officials of British Eventing. They told fascinating tales of the events they attend and some of the falls they have seen. It almost put me off my supper.

On Saturday we are all running a trade stand at the Dorset Charity Show at Three Legged Cross (unless it rains in which case I shall have a duvet day!).

Sunday, July 13, 2008

13th July, 2008 Rocking and rolling

Following yet another perfect ride on Petra where we had three million and one steps of calm walk and just ten paces of whooshing, I am thinking that I may have found the right formula. I no longer brace when she sets off towards home in anticipation of or as a reaction to her bracing against me - getting into a pull pull situation with a horse is a bit like having an argument and it's only ever the human that can choose to stop it. Petra was never going to come up with the answer on her own. Now that I have her attention and haven't got to work against her sheer stamina, I can start to work on some real softness.

I am two thirds of the way through a Mark Rashid clinic and really wishing that I was taking part with my horse. As always there have been some dramatic changes in the horses. All four of the afternoon horses wear Rocking S snaffles. Now, I have had an aversion to single jointed snaffles ever since hearing Hilary Vernon's talk at the various bitting clinics I have attended. She points out two problems - they rest on the tongue all the time making it difficult for the horse to swallow (try placing a finger on your tongue, now swallow) and, in a pull pull situation, they can pinch the tongue quite badly. Indeed I have seen massive improvements in a horse's acceptance of the bit when switched into low port Myler comfort snaffles on a hanging cheek. These bits lock out (and can't pinch), are designed to the contours of a horse's mouth and give tongue relief through the port and through the hanging cheek. I cannot however ignore the evidence of these four horses, all standing with the quietest mouths. Although they do have a single jointed or French link mouthpiece, the cheekpieces of the Rocking S are designed to keep the bit very stable in the horse's mouth and they really seem to like it; they also prevent the bit from pinching. The mouthpiece is made of sweet iron which they seem to like. Needless to say my bitting wardrobe now includes one and I shall report back on what Petra thinks of it.

It's been hard for me to cope with my sensory defensiveness at the clinic. Yesterday I found the perfect aisle seat at the back with the steps in front of me. As soon as I am in a crowd of people, I am always in danger of sensory overload. The best way I can description of SPD is to say that life is hardly ever energy neutral - my ears feel bombarded with information and I am constantly on guard. No wonder being with horses has always been a retreat for me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

9th July, 2008 Cello concerto

All of the above photos were taken by Ella J. Porter of pokka dot photography.

I am chuffed to bits that Kate Boe and her sister Ella, have decided that they would like Cello. Kate did a huge amount of free work for me when she was training to be a McTimoney chiropractor and did a great job. Fingers crossed that he will stay safe and well until he is weaned at Christmas and then he will be off to his perfect new home.

I rode Petra yesterday before the monsoon came and noticed that she is re-balancing the way that she moves now that she walks more slowly. At first she tripped a lot but seems to have it sussed now. As she no longer flashes through the atmosphere like a rocket ship, she is also inclined to spook a bit more - something I think she dealt with before by being going at speed. Despite the blustery conditions, she did really well.

Today I have started putting things together for the first newsletter of The Herd, a free roaming, probably semi-feral group of like minded people seeking the best way to work with their horses. I am hoping to turn this group out with each other for the first time very shortly and hope that there will be no kicking matches or anyone trying to prove that they are Alpha mare. I have been suprised at the level of support for the idea - I suppose a lot of people can feel isolated within fairly "traditional yards" where there is bad tradition rather than good.

Since the discovery that I have SPD, I have experienced a huge sense of relief. I've got tons of support now and an explanation for why, for example, I prefer wearing David's ancient jumper and Rohans, rather than tight fitting girl clothes. To the tactile defensive, comfort is everything! Incidentally, people with SPD are known as "sensational". Well, there's a first......

Monday, July 7, 2008

7th July, 2008 I know a song that will get on your nerves, get on your nerves, I know a song that will get on your nerves, all day long.....

I don’t know whether to feel happy or sad, shocked or elated. For the whole of my life I have struggled to cope with repetitive noises, movement or touch no matter how well intentioned that touch is. And for the whole of my life, I have been punished, rejected, ridiculed and berated for being over-sensitive, awkward, and plain difficult. I never met any sympathy or empathy. Often I have joined in with this negative image, feeling totally unacceptable and I struggled with my self-esteem, confidence levels and endured chronic depression. Fortunately I have improved immensely in the last ten years with the (almost) unwavering love of my husband and my closest friends. The best therapy for me was to be believed, tolerated and occasionally distracted. I can enjoy meals out, evenings in by the telly and a relaxing massage but I still hate being kissed, any inadvertent touch or the sound of someone swallowing near me. In the early hours of Sunday morning I googled some random words about the way that I feel and came upon the Sensory Perception Disorder website. Looking through their checklist I ticked almost every box under auditory, visual and tactile perception. Far from being a psychological problem, it is a neurological one and has been recognized since the late 1960’s. So why has no-one recognized it in me? I have had years of counselling and two years of medication but to no avail and in all that time it wasn’t spotted. I have confronted the problem over and over again until I am sick of relating my early history to complete strangers. This morning a book “Too loud, too bright, too fast, too tight” by Sharon Heller arrived and it could have been written about me. These phobic type responses have blighted my life at times, making it difficult for me to attend lectures, family get-togethers and to have meaningful relationships and it’s amazing that I was able to get through University or to work in an office environment at all. The good side is that I think these feelings have enabled me to feel a great deal of empathy for horses, whose sensory responses are always more finally tuned than ours and to understand that no, human touch may be really unpleasant for them and being confined in a small space with no chance of escape may be very stressful and that loud noises and shouting are abhorrent to them. I am a great believer in systematic-desensitization but could never understand why it wouldn’t work with me – exposure to dripping taps and ticking clocks just drove me further and further up the wall. One psychologist once threatened to lock me in a room at the local mental hospital while all the patients were eating – I didn’t go back. Horses are fantastic at adapting and learning that things, even things that have attacked them before, are safe. It’s so important to do it step by step and bit by bit if we are not to stimulate the alternative response of mentally leaving the room and shutting down and there are ponies like Piper, who can’t ever switch off their sensory responses and I have got to respect that. I think it also helps me to be in the moment with a horse – I always notice if they invade my space or if their body language changes.

I’d love to hear from anyone else with similar leanings and I unreservedly recommend Heller’s book. Having said that, I am only half way through and hardly daring to believe that there may be some solutions to the problem even if there isn’t a total cure. I have always thought that this might be as good as it gets.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

5th July, 2008 Go West

Julie and I were off to Bere Regis today to work with Joe, a powerful Quarter Horse, Spike a pretty solid cob and then a Dartmoor scurry pony that has developed an ear phobia. It was interesting to see Joe ridden Western style and just how accurate he is even though he is only five. Theme of the day was finding the yes and making sure that "the right" behaviour was acknowledged. All three horses were as bright as buttons.

Friday, July 4, 2008

4th July, 2008 Combined training

I am pretty elated - I have had major breakthrough in trying to ask Petra Perkins not to rush towards home. So, picture this (you'll have to because I wouldn't photograph us looking so scruffy). Petra and I went out riding and she's wearing her red Monty Robert's Dually and her Boett to fend off the flies; we didn't intend to get hot. I'm wearing my gardening trousers and a hat with no silk. However, I combine everything I've ever learnt starting with Margrit Coates - the reason my horse rushes home is because that's what I do too; I've always felt a gravitational pull towards wherever David is, reinforced by the roller coaster of our early relationship. I used clicker training to reward her halt (and therefore her attention) and employed a variable schedule of reinforcement with the odd bonus. I'd added a dash of sugary coarse mix to the pony nuts to keep her really interested. I counted her strides a la Mark Rashid and thought "yes!yes!" every time I saw a stride I liked as suggested by Perry Wood. At the halt I waited for her to soften in some way before we move off again - a blink, a lowering of the head or even better a really deep sigh and suddenly I've got a relaxed horse that I can talk to, walking at a sensible pace with little or no contact needed.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

3rd July, 2008 Bellisimo

Note: Picture one - still some tension about being in the trailer - high head carriage, braced neck and ears and unblinking eye. Picture two - braced hind legs and wary of what's happening behind her (note how relaxed the owner is though); picture three ramp moving and horse watching.

Recently I have written two articles for the Listening Post on loading the first time loader and remedial loading. In both I emphasise the need to practice, practice, practice and to have a systematic careful approach which introduces the horse to each part of the trailer (in this case) bit by bit. I think of the horse as an engineer needing to know how every component of the trailer works. Our current loading horse, Bella, has been the perfect example of a horse that has needed everything explained as she goes. Each time we change one element she is extremely wary and yet after a few repetitions she has calmed down and accepted the change. Last night we were able to put the ramp up for the first time and although she jumped a little as the springs flexed, she didn't panic and stood quietly once it was up. The owner tells me that she has been offered all sorts of advice from different people who have never met the horse and seen just how nervous and reactive she is: oh, stick her in with a partition they say - hmmm, this is a horse that can fly out backwards when she wants to and gallop on the spot inside the trailer. Put her in with another horse, they add - I agree, but only when her behaviour is calm enough that she isn't going to put the horse's confidence and safety in jeopardy. Fortunately the owner in this case has been as cautious and careful as we are and between visits she has done every bit of homework we have suggested. Accordingly we will be able to put another horse in with her next time and with any luck she will be able to travel her by the end of the month.

On occasions, short cuts will work but I would much prefer to go through every step and if necessary to invent some smaller ones in order to make it easy for the horse to do the right thing.

Copies of the Listening Post (issued four times a year) are available when you join the Intelligent Horsemanship Association. At a cost of just £20 per year, membership gives access to all sorts of benefits including discounts on demonstrations, training sessions and merchandise as well as contact with like minded people. Details can be found at

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

2nd July, 2008 In which sulking works!!

So now I have heard from two of the people I went to see the week before last and all is well!!

Here are all of the latest reviews:

Hello Sarah, you certainly seem to keep busy. William and I are really enjoying one anothers' company. Without any clip he allows me to put headcollar on and off. He just loves walking out in a very much extended yard out into the barn, leads either side and will stand quite happily.We have four mares on site, occasional calls but no problems as yet.I never thought he would allow me to handle his head as he does,no prob with worming either. Now of course I will try down his legs,clicker I think will be the way forward with this.Thank you so much for getting us going, I am sure there is a brick wall looming,but lets go slowly and see.

Just wanted to let you know that was real turning point for us – the techniques you explained to me were so simple and easy to use/understand but once I had used them a few times I finally began to feel safe around her which, as you can imagine, has made a huge impact on our relationship. Immediately after I was thinking, yep, I read about all that, so that's what it looks like etc but only once I put in into practice did I really appreciate it. I had been milling about, not committing to either natural/intelligent horsemanship or traditional and the session made me make a decision. I guess I just needed someone, one on one, to show me, to give me the confidence to deal with her myself.

I have since decided to go down the ‘Parelli’ route – mainly because it is so easy to follow and I am a person who likes structure and a plan. We are doing OK and making lots of progress but I think it will be many months before I ride her, if ever. I could not have moved on at all, without the confidence you helped me find. Thanks again

AR 25.6.08

Once again many thanks, you have helped so much I don't what I would have done without you!!
CA 1.7.08

I so enjoyed the session you had here with Knickers and I, and we both learned a thing or two.
SR 2.7.08

Sorry not to reply before – been a bit fraught at work....Charlie has been brilliant. He settled down much more quickly and even nibbled a bit of hay straight away! There was not a squeek out of him on the lorry either. They have been hacking him everywhere right from the first day and he has not put a foot wrong or even batted an eyelid!
VB 2.7.08

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

1st July, 2008 Confessions, more reflections and inner healing

I have got to admit that I have been a bit down lately and all those people who say "should" and "ought" will tell me that I "should" let things go and I "ought" not to mind. It all started when I went out to about four horses in a row where the owners seemed very happy about the work I did and yet I have received no feedback whatsoever. One was a pony where the owner was really extremely worried about loading him to go to his new yard and after a little groundwork he loaded for me without a murmur. Now I know I shouldn't thrive or survive on positive feedback especially when the horses generally tell me I've got it right, but I do and I know I shouldn't get emotionally attached to every horse I meet, but I do and I genuinely want to know how they are getting on afterwards. I especially wanted to know the outcome of the blood tests on the little horse I mentioned last week. This week has already started off with some very satisfying sessions - Talin went long lining in the inclosure and was perfect and the little section A I went to see today allowed himself to be touched with a plastic bag on a stick and then had his saddle on without any problems.

Interesting then to meet Margrit Coates tonight at a book signing at Waterstone's in Salisbury. She was asked whether she manages to let things go after what is always an emotional experience with an animal - she says that she has reached a stage where she does but that implies that she hasn't always been able to which makes me feel somewhat better. It's a wonder I haven't met Margit before as she only lives two villages away from me and I have been hoping to bump into her for a long time; fortunately she has heard of me too and we are going to get together in the next few weeks to talk about our work. I really do envy her her belief in what she does and I am certain that any hands on work with horses reaches their soul and helps them to get over past experiences. I'd love to ask her to work with Piper.

On the way home I was trying to work out whether our work could be truly compatible - if she is able to get an "in" to what has happened to them before (I can only make informed, sometimes very informed guesses) then surely my work with the horse and the owners can make it less likely that the same stresses or abuses will happen again or that the same emotional triggers will be activated. By promoting a more logical understanding of the way horses work and urging owners to meet their physical and emotional needs I'd hope that new abusive situations could be avoided. I also hope that I have a generally healing hand - horses always seem to go well for me and to become much calmer. Margrit is in the fortunate position of being able to be quite outspoken whereas I have to be mindful of IH as an organisation and try to be have to be very measured and diplomatic in my approach (that's not come out quite right, I am sure she has to be too). There are times when I long to shout out for equine rights and to bear a banner proclaiming "ban the flash noseband" and "more freedom for horses".

I do wish the bubble would burst for Parelli with it's emphasis on complete domination of the horse. Unfortunately the end results can look fantastic but the horse has to mentally leave the room to get through it and let me say it again, it does involve hitting horses. Again it really brought me down when one client told me how absolutely brilliant I was but then said that she was going to take the Parelli route.

On Tuesday last week I watched a dressage to music demonstration and despite a week having gone by, I still feel a great deal of disquiet about watching horses with their mouths strapped shut and splother running from their mouths and over their chests. Are those horses truly enjoying their work as much as their owners are enjoying their riding?

I am really looking forward to meeting Margrit again and also to the Mark Rashid demonstration which starts on 11th July.