Thursday, December 31, 2009

31st December, 2009 Throw another blog on the fire

I am feeling very optimistic about 2010. I have resolved to approach my work with horses with a light heart rather than a heavy one, no matter how much pressure there is from outside influences; to continue to work on my self-esteem and to let go of my ego and to have more fun with Petra Perkins. I rode her out today with David on Chancer and she was an angel; standing still to hold open the gates and walking quietly all the way home.
I like to write down all the bad things that have happened during the year and to throw them on the fire. The loss of Piper, Raine and lately Jenny's pony Peppercorn have all been difficult to take and also the loss of my lovely old friend, Ron, who was always so supportive of the work I was doing.
I'm going to be starting my new book in the new year too - all the chapter plans are done. It's going to be called Piper's Legacy.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

29th December, 2009 New year, new ponies

Serendipity, the Curly foal is Lorraine's new pony and I am hoping to meet her in the New Year. The breed standard of this North American horse says this:
"Whether in draft, pony, or in one of several saddle types, the North American Curly horse is a very naturally successful horse. We look for a hardy, sound, well proportioned, well-balanced curly-coated horse,usually seen with a high head carriage and forward way of going with an overall desirable conformation. It will show a gentle, calm, docile demeanor, yet remain alert. It will exhibit friendliness, intelligence, and a willing, dedicated work ethic. Stallions will display masculinity and mares will display femininity. Thickness and type of muscle pattern will vary with type, but its muscling will be ideal for the disciplines its type is best suited for.
The coat is the Curly’s main "claim to fame". The Curly horse does have a unique curly coat. It is most obvious in winter, when its longer coat shows thick dense curls similar to a sheep fleece. In summer, the Curly horse sheds its thick curly body coat for a smoother, sleeker summer coat, which may or may not show evidence of curl. Its mane and forelock, the hair inside it ears, and often its fetlocks will typically remain conspicuously curly year round. The Curly coat is hypoallergenic for many people allergic to other horses."
In the meantime, Jenny has been playing with her Mum's new pony, Poppy, who is about 19 months old and pretty bombproof already. It looks like she will be really useful at the household chores, especially, laundry.

29th December, 2009 The 10th Emergency Service?

Yesterday our Christmas plans were interrupted by a beautiful blonde called Tequila. Sarah, her owner, had brought her down to the New Forest so that she could ride out with her daughter in Christmas day but unfortunately, when it came time to go home, Tequila was adamant that she wouldn't load. The little trailer on which I normally store my panels was full of firewood and so we had to barrow that all down to the house before dashing up to Fritham to pick up the panels. We arrived Sarah and Tequila in just over an hour and loaded her into the horsebox pretty quickly. Despite looking relatively calm, Tequila's bottom lip was pretty tight and once in the box, with the partition closed, she began to rear. I felt that it would be better to travel her loose with the partition pushed all the way over to the wall so we took her out again and rearranged everything. She loaded readily this time and was fine while we closed up the ramp and the top door. She had a good journey home, being able to spread her feet out and stand like a table. We went off to Bournemouth and got some thermal lined curtains in the sales.

From Sarah: "Your presence yesterday, helped us all so very very much and I can't thank you enough for abandoning your plans for the day to come to our assistance. Of course getting Tequila in the box was the ultimate goal, however, so much more was achieved. Your communication and handling skills with all of us, horse and human, ultimately, put us all at ease.

Tequila traveled home calmly, mostly choosing to stand facing the rear of the box, however Gem tells me that she did turn and have a look through the cab window before turning away to munch on some hay.

When we all arrived home, it was me who was drained and shaking, our pony was as cool as a cucumber. I climbed through the back door, gave her a hug, clipped her onto the lead rope, gave Steve the thumbs up to open the door. Tequila stood by me, had a look to see where she was and waited for me to lead her out and home. Thank you so much, both of you. You've done so much more than just load our lovely pony!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

23rd December, 2009 Christmas Cards

Amongst the Christmas cards we have received, we have this cheerful looking picture of Welley (Wellow Leaf) and Elmo (with Rob and Linda). It's over a year since we loaded Welley to go to his new home.

For those of you that like jigsaws, there's a few more here.......

23rd December, 2009 Puzzling Present for You

Sunday, December 20, 2009

20th December, 2009 Proper Christmas Holidays

A full fourteen days off this Christmas - makes a change from horse training and horse sitting. I am looking forward to riding my own horses and to settling down with a good book in the evenings. I've got Born to Whisper, By Nicole Golding and Adam Goodfellow, the sequel to Whispering Back. Nicole and Adam are both RA's; Whole Heart, Whole Horse by Mark Rashid - in hard back with huge writing; and Wild Horses of the World by Moira Harris - I would love to train a foal from each breed.

Next year is already starting to get busy with horses to go and see every day in the first week. I'm really looking forward to 2010. I think this year I have really got my head around the difference between self esteem and ego and much as I like positive feedback, it's whether I am doing the best I can for the horses and people I meet that counts.

Merry Christmas to anyone that is reading this and a very happy New Year too. I am very happy to receive enquiries about appointments for next year and curious to know what resolutions you are setting for you and your horse.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

19th December, 2009 A Road Less Travelled

Today it was off towards Bath to meet a handsome Cleveland Bay cross that has fallen on hard times until very recently. He was so thin and anaemic when his new owner got him that she hasn't been able to bring herself to take a photograph of him. She is keen to get their relationship off to the best start and to answer some of the questions he has started to ask now that he is feeling better and brighter. He has had a few ridden issues including napping, bucking and rearing. It was great to work with someone who recognises that it might be a long (and expensive, time consuming and patience testing) road to his recovery and that there may be a stack of issues to deal with along the way starting out with all of the physical things. Even before my visit today she has had his back checked, his teeth done and he has had blood tests to make sure he has no lasting deficiencies. He has had a new saddle and will have that checked every three months to make sure that it continues to be comfortable and to take account of his developing muscles and, hopefully, fat (not fat fat but just weight). Today we went through the basic groundwork exercises to make sure that there are no gaps there and next she is going to cover desensitisation. He is already being lunged but there would be a lot of value in long reining him to help him to build up his muscles whilst working in straight lines, to address any crises of confidence and to ask him to accept direction.

19th December, 2009 An entertaining lunch

Yesterday Jenny and the Screamers as we are becoming known, had lunch with the Animal Rescue Team as their way of saying thank you for the acting work we have done over the last year. Me, I'm just the agent but next year I hope to be looking for more people as the Animal Rescue Courses get extended even further. Jim, Anton, Buster and Colin are hoping to make the new Animal Rescue Headquarters at Lyndhurst a centre of excellence for animal rescue on this country and have exciting plans to build up a team of trauma vets aswell as inter-force competitions. A former three day eventing course in the Forest has been offered as a venue for staging all types of rescues. Although we always have a great laugh, the purpose behind these courses is deadly serious and the training aims to make fire officers and vets safe and professional, to protect the public and to save the lives of animals in difficulty. I know of several people who have the fire service to thank for getting their horses out of a predicament even in this county including a poorly foal that fell down and couldn't get up and a horse that went through a cattle grid. In the old days it would almost certainly have been curtains.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

18th December, 2009 Magic and Merlin

I slept with Jenny for the first time last night - she had the top bunk and I had the bottom bunk, taking me back to when I was about seven when my friends and I would lie awake giggling nearly all night. Jenny and I were staying with Tabitha and George at Chard where we were training their two Bodmin Moor colts, Magic and Merlin. Thank goodness that they didn't turn the telly on an hour later or these beautiful ponies would be called Anton and Brendon!
Both ponies were tricky, through no fault of their own, and I was very grateful that I had Jenny with me to double the amount of training that we could do. Having started life in Cornwall, the ponies have made their way through the sales to a local dealer who has about 40 for sale and I don't suppose that any of their previous handling had been very sympathetic. Even the cat jumping down onto the roof of the stable frightened the living daylights out of them and we had to back track quite a way to build up their confidence again. Nevertheless, by the end of today Magic (7 months old) had his headcollar on and off seven times and Merlin (14 months) was being led using a pashmina! He will need a lot more touching before he will accept a headcollar easily but he was enjoying having his neck and back rubbed and his face stroked very gently.

17th December, 2009 Spider and the Cobweb Brush

A few weeks ago, Guy the farrier came to trim the horses and had a decided limp. Not a little limp, a really big limp. He explained that he had an involuntary dismounting incident from his horse, Money Spider. Now, Money Spiders may be small but this one isn't, he's a 17.2 hh Warmblood. You'd think that Guy would have had time to do a triple toe loop on the way down before he landed on his feet. Anyway, I offered to spend some time with Spider to see whether there was any desensitisation work that would help him to be a bit less spooky.

Spider put me in mind of Amarosso, the 11.2hh warmblood in a 17 hand suit that I met in Tanzania. Like Amarosso, it appears that Spider has been hit quite badly at some stage in his past and he is terrified of anything that looks remotely like a whip. Although Guy doesn't even carry a whip, this fear gets them both into trouble from time to time.

As usual I started off with the feather duster before Guy continued with a plastic bag on a stick. By then Spider thought this was all old hat. We then worked with the umbrella and the tarpaulin which Spider tackled with great courage before allowing me to touch him all over with a whip. I wouldn't normally use a whip to desensitise a horse unless I know for certain that one will never be used on him ever again - I maintain that is not fair to desensitise and expect a horse to be sensitive to the same object.

He may not become a police horse overnight but I am hopeful that this and further work will help Spider to get over his phobia.

"Thank you very much for the time you spent teaching both me and Spider, we both enjoyed it. Hopefully, it will prove to be a good base from which we can move forward, literally! I have to say that I was most impressed, something I will pass on whenever I get the chance." Guy Reynolds

Monday, December 14, 2009

14th December, 2009 She drives me crazy

I often think about rational versus emotional in our treatment and training of horses. Many of the people I meet are very emotional about their horses - not just joy, happiness and sheer excitement about having them but negative emotions such as disappointment, frustration, and anger when things aren't going right or they fear failure. I often say, leave your emotions at the gate as they won't help and will almost certainly hinder. You can pick them up again on the way out if you want to - but you might find that you don't. Before this sounds like a sermon, I will tell a story against myself. Petra has only just come back into full work for a variety of reasons. Instead of starting off a few steps back from where I left off, I decided to ditch the clicker training that has worked very well in stopping her rushing and to be more forthright about owning speed, direction and destination. Forthright is a euphemism for cross and not only am I ashamed of having got cross with her, but, three weeks later, I am still having to put things right because that cross-ness reinforced everything she has ever believed about humans and made her want to go home even more. (I am back to clickering her every 50 strides and on Saturday, she only rushed for 1/3rd of the ride rather than 1/2 of it - basically the bit where we were facing home!).

Negative emotions get in the way of rational thought and our ability to work things out so that we can make it easy for the horse to do the right thing; the make it more likely that we will punish rather than using measured pressure and release, more likely that we will forget to reward the instant the horse has done the right thing. They affect our patience and our ability to be in the moment with the horse. I went to one lady who was really worrying about the future and lamenting what had happened in the past to such an extent that we struggled to talk about what was actually happening now and how we could train incrementally from there.

I am sure it is harder with your own horse as we are more emotionally involved with them and at risk of feeling slighted or rejected when they don;t do what we want them to do. I often say, if love was enough there would be no behavioural problems at all.

I think positive emotions can help training if they are used to notice, release and reward the instant the horse gets ot right. Instructions need to come from the head and rewards, of whatever kind, from the heart - literally, heartfelt. A lovely rub or a "goooooood booooy", or, like in Harry met Sally, yes!yes!yes!!!!

By the way, the pony in the picture is Blue, and she would like to point out that she has never driven me crazy. How could she?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

12th December, 2009 Goodbye Norma Jean

While David concentrates on improving his Elton John impression, I am offering a prize (a copy of my book or a Masai Browband [14 1/2 inch]) to the first person* who correctly identifies the true purpose behind this gadget.
Good thinking but incorrect:
A gadget for picking up horses' feet.
Close, but no coconut
For desensitisation of a horse that is worried about being touched.
It's a gadget for desensitising the nose of semi-feral foals before introducing a noseband. And the winner is: Annette with Bowdrill......
* Unfortunately Jenny Crouch and members of her immediate family, may not take part. Sorry.

12th December, 2009 Kinky boots

So far so good with the boots although they do make her feet look VERY big. Not sure about the jaunty angle of my hat silk either.
Update 20th december: I have decided to send the boots back as I am not convinced about them. Petra seemed to be clumpy in them and they appeared to affect her gait. I rode out in them in the ice today and she slid all over the place and I didn't feel at all safe - ended up walking her home.

Friday, December 11, 2009

11th December, 2009 What's in the box? New boots and panties*

Today I am going to be testing out a set of Old macs on Petra's front feet. I really really hope they will work as I would love to keep her barefoot. I have been doing a lot more riding recently and her feet have really worn down and I was heading towards a set of shoes. My "traditional" farrier is utterly supportive and all for it. If they work for Petra then Chancer will be getting some for Christmas too. Wish me luck - if I lose one in the first muddy puddle I will be very disappointed. The Western saddle is lush but I am still waiting for the blanket to go with it and am having to borrow Chancer's in the meantime.

* A reference incidentally to Ian Dury's album just in case you wondered.

Part II - having turned Petra out in them for a little while this morning, I then went out riding in them. Apart from looking askance when I asked her to stand on a carpet while I fitted them, Petra didn't seem to mind them at all and was certainly more confident on the gravelly ground. Whilst I have a very open mind about horse's being barefoot, I am adamant that horses should not have to be very sore at any stage of their transition or indeed in the long term. I was pleased to see in the Horse and Hound this week an article that confirmed my belief that horses that are sore in their feet will change their gait and end up compensating in other parts of their body, particularly the back. A few years ago we had a horse in like this where the owner was absolutely resolute that the horse would not be allowed to have hoof boots and in the end I had to become equally resolute that in that case she wouldn't be ridden nor long reined. Not only was she starting to go short, she was losing her confidence about crossing streams and tracks - anywhere where the underlying footing was stony.

11th December 2009 Achilles Heel?

Yesterday it was off to Swindon to meet a three year old New Forest Pony called Achilles. He came off the Forest when he was eighteen months old and has recently changed hands again. Although he has settled a bit, he was inclined to climb the walls if anyone went into the stable with him and if pushed, threaten to kick. When turned out he jumps out of his field for a pastime. I explained to his owner that I could only work on making him want to stay rather than stopping him leaving - the only thing to prevent that would be higher fences.

We had a great afternoon basically working our way through the technique described in No Fear, No Force. It transpired that Achilles wasn't completely averse to being touched he just had some substantial gaps in his training and was very apprehensive about people's intentions; his muscles tensed whenever we laid a feather duster or a hand on him to begin with. By being careful and subtle about how we approached him, making sure that we rewarded him for softening and allowing things to happen we soon got him leaning into us for more touch and bringing his head round to accept the headcollar. He's actually a very sweet pony and I only wish I had a photo - blimmin' camera ran out of battery. (Apparently it didn't - I got this single picture before it died on me).

Leanne is going to carry on with this work and gradually increase the are where she works with him. In the meantime her boyfriend is going to get busy with a hammer and nails.

E-mail received today:

"After you visit yesterday I popped into the local saddlery and found a rope halter that when undone is a very long rope with a loop in the end very similar to the one we were using yesterday (a bargain at £5!!). This morning armed with a feather duster, new rope, and a headcollar with buckles I went to visit Illie. When I entered he was a bit jumpy and pulled himself up to his full height!! but when I produced the feather duster, he immediately visibly relaxed and walked over quite confidently and sniffed the duster. I was with him for 40 mins and in that time, I rubbed him with duster all along his back both sides, rubbed him with my hand, put the headcollar on and off twice, looped the rope round this neck and he followed me round, then looped the rope through the headcollar. He was a complete star and I can't wait to get down and do some more work with him :-D (I'm going to have to stop myself doing to much!!!)" LK

E-mail 16.12.09: "Just thought I'd drop you a update on Illie. I have continued working with him most days for anything between 5 and 40 minutes. Headcollar going on and off is no issue now, I am continuing to lay it across his neck and move it up but this only takes a few minutes. He is still a little wary of rope but improving daily. We went for a little walk on Sunday and he was star. Approached him tonight and he allow me to rub his shoulder and touch his headcollar without working with feather duster first so I have now removed his headcollar." LK

E-mail 4.1.10: "Illie continues to improve daily, we have progressed to being able to approach without working with feather duster first, we can now put headcollar on over his nose and going for daily walks, he gets turned out in the small gravel yard for a couple of hours daily and can be caught quite easily again. Several of the girls can now approach him in stable and put headcollar on but he will only allow me to catch him in the yard so this is what we are now working on.
We have been working on being tied up and he will stand quitely for 10 mins to be fussed over before he starts to get bored, I can now pick both front feet out even when he is loose, I can comfortable to pick up his near hind when tied up and working on his off hind as he is v-touchy about it still. Saying that the farrier visited last week and he stood calmly to allow all his feet to be trimmed. (very v-v- chuffed that day!!).I can now touch him almost all over - including ears, he wore his first bit last week just on a headpiece, so no nose band etc but he was a complete star again. He even wore Paul's cow boy hat on his head the other day after naughtly snatching it of Pauls head when Paul was mucking him out. (wished I had caught it on camera as v-funny)
Thank you so much for visiting us as none of this would have been possible without you, I feel we have really unlocked his v-cheeky personality and can't wait to see how he further develops."LK

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

8th December, 2009 Fat is an emotional issue

Why does feeding become such an emotional rather than rational issue around horses? Is it because they stand and look at you in the most appealing way - until you venture into the field of course and then they put their ears flat back and terrorise each other. I have three fatties at the moment and I am determined to use the winter against them in order to make sure that I don't have to go into another summer worrying about laminitis. One doesn't belong to me so that's fine - he'll be going home anyway but the other two, Jack and Petra, seem to live on thin air. Of course Jack has never done a day's work in his life and arrived with me very cuddly indeed. Petra hasn't had as much work as I would have liked with me being away for a month in July and then injury and rain getting in the way. Nevertheless, I have to take full responsibility for both of them. They have access to about 6 acres of land between four but the grass is well grazed and not high quality; they share that with about 30 deer who come and go as they please. The fat three are getting a couple of handfuls of Fibregold to keep them smiling and no hay at all as yet. Even Chancer has a paunch and so he's only getting one feed a day and still no hay; he has got a rug on but the others are naked. The New Forest ponies are all coming home for one feed a day too but they look absolutely fine on that and the very poor quality but mixed grazing that they have outside. The only one I am really worried about, Thinny (Nelly's best friend) doesn't even belong to me but yes, she comes in and gets a good feed too.
All of this would be fine but the vets have indicated that being kept out without dry feed may be one of the pre-conditions for atypical myoglobunuria as horses are then inclined to eat everything they can get their teeth on - being fat doesn't mean they aren't hungry. In fact I think horses are constantly hungry as it is in their nature to eat nearly all the time - they have to work on the basis that food could be in short supply next week or the week after.
Horses also appear to be eternal optimists - they'll go back to an emptied bucket time and time again just to make sure that nothing has arrived when they weren't looking. When you think about it, food such as grass and leaves must seem to appear by magic to a horse and so it is always worth going back to the same place to see if something has "grown". Butting or nudging for food is also logical to them as that was the behaviour that led to milk magically appearing too.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

5th December, 2009 Custard Cream

Custard (top) and Arnie (bottom)
As well as the bay baby thing there has been a leading thing going on this week and today it was the turn of Custard and Arnie. Custard has only just arrived with her new owner and seems to be settling well. However, when she wants to move Kerry out of the way, she simply bunts her (very hard) with her nose. As well as asking her to stop that, we worked on asking her to be "with" Kerry rather than having her attention everywhere else.
I have worked with Arnie and his owner Wendy before. He's a very calm and solid Highland pony and would have made a police horse had his legs not been so short! Today it was the turn of Wendy's husband, Barry. The idea was to make sure that we had some level of consistency between the two of them so that Arnie knows, almost literally, where he stands - in a nice way. I also wanted to get them both to leave his nose alone as this sets of his need to nibble and demand attention.
I have seen endless horses that have been taught to nudge, nibble and mess by people who play with their noses. It irritates the life out of them and in the end they have no choice but to develop a strategy to get people to go away. The other good way to teach a horse to do this is to hand feed them - especially if you do it intermittently - so that they learn to demand food. Once a person becomes a food slot machine, the horse becomes a gambling addict.

Friday, December 4, 2009

4th December, 2009 Cello has written home

Well, obviously he hasn't, but they say a picture paints a thousand. He has settled so well in his new home and Stevie is thrilled to bits with him. It looks like the feeling is mutual.
The photos are courtesy of Ella Porter (Ella Porter photography).

4th December, 2009 Davy's On the Road Again

Following our mounting session a couple of weeks ago, Davy went out for his first ride today with me on foot. We didn't go very far but it was a good start and he coped with traffic and lots of stuff down at the local garage. He wasn't too impressed with water - and there's a lot of it around so that's something we can look at next. We also need to try a different bitting arrangement as he simply plonks his tongue over this one. Dawn is going to give the low port comfort snaffle a go and we might need to put a drop noseband on for a little while - I am hopeful that we can avoid putting a dreaded flash on him if we can find something that suits him better. I suspect (but I don't know) that he has never really been taught how the bit works and has simply leant on it or shoved his tongue over it to avoid the pressure of it.

4th December, 2009 Bay watch

An early start this morning to go and meet Nicola and Katie (the last of the bay babies this week). This meant a beautiful journey across the Forest as it woke up. Katie is normally a quiet, polite girl but revently she has started to waft her front legs at Nicola on the way out to the field. Having seen her in action it was quite impressive and obviously working for her. I often think that young horses are like the trunk of a baby elephant, they've got 4,000 muscles and they need to know what each one of them can achieve. That's what survival is all about. Anyway, we needed to end Katie's experiments with this particular activity and with some counted stops and backing up we got there. Funnily enough when she does go out in the field, she doesn't explode with energy, so this is just a little pattern that she had got into.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

3rd December, 2009 Phineas - no Fogg

Another big bay baby today. Phineas is almost 15 hands already and he is only 10 months old! His front end is very friendly but his back end was unhandled. It was quite a straightforward job although we had to be mindful of just how long his legs are if he wanted to say "no". The best solution seemed to be to do a little bit of boundary work at the front end and then treat his back end like a semi-feral foal. I used my trusty feather duster to desensitise his bottom and back legs before teaching him to accept my hands. By the end of the session he was really not bothered - I was interrupting his eating after all - and starting to pick his feet up when asked. Jan, his owner, was very pleased with him and I have every confidence that she will be able to carry on with the work. By the time I'd got home she'd been on the IHDG:
"Wow! Can't stop smiling after spending two wonderful hours with Sarah Weston RA this morning. I recently bought an unhandled 10month old colt Phineas and though we've come a long way in the past 3 weeks I realised I needed help re touching his legs and rump areas. Sarah was just amazing and within minutes was getting Phin accepting all sorts of touching/handling with no bullying or manhandling at all. Not only has Sarah helped Phin but had the patience and skill to teach me too! I can't tell you how inspirational and exciting I found the whole experience; what a privilege to be able to work, watch and learn from such a skilled lady. I now feel ready to carry on the brillant work started today and know that Phin's had the very best teacher possible. Thank you Sarah! Oh ,and I'm very proud of my baby too, well done Phin"
E-mail 5.12.09: "Oh Sarah,what can I say? Had Phin's first lesson with me alone today and what a star he was! In fact I wasn't quite sure what to do as he only moved once!!! He was fascinated with the posh new feather duster my daughter bought me (purple and cream sheepskin!) and wanted to keep touching and smelling it as if to say 'thats not right at all'! However, he wasn't at all fazed by it and soon I was at picking up feet stage, which I have to say he did beautifully without falling over. Am I a proud mum or what? :) So I'll keep doing this til he's word perfect and introduce brushing, scarves, towels at some stage. Thank you from me and Phin , Jan x "

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

2nd December, 2009 Cool horse with a hot name

This is Bowdrill, a young Andulusian type horse that I worked with this morning. But don't be fooled by the top picture, when I met him, we were both soaking wet and bedraggled. Nevertheless we had a good session introducing him to the basic groundwork exercises and some boundaries for his life. A horse's advantages are often his disadvantages and the fact that Bowdrill is frightened of very little means that he is often over confident around people. When he couldn't get me to talk to his front end, he presented his back end for scratching. He did some lovely work and leads beautifully. Afterwards he had a drink and a yawn. His name comes from bow drill, a bushcraft term for the special stick that is used to make fire using friction. His owner, Annette, teaches bushcraft for a living - how cool is that? I've had a good wander around her website which is at Annette's aim with Bowdrill is to travel across the country on foot - what a great education for a young horse.
E-mail 3.12.09: "Thanks very much for your sound advice, I can honestly say you are the first "horsey" person in many months to give me confidence in what I am trying to do."

This has made me think of two books that I throughly enjoyed and can recommend - Saddletramp and Vagabond, both written by Jeremy James who has written and done such a lot for ILPH (now World Horse Welfare). Once again I have loaned my copies to someone, and they, along with Raising Daisy Rothschild, have disappeared. People will always give you back the money you have loaned them but books.....!!!!!

Monday, November 30, 2009

30th November, 2009 Leading Ludo

This is lovely Ludo who I have been working with about once a month since May. He's 3/4 New Forest and 1/4 Arab - a great cross. Today he wore a saddle for the first time and was totally blase about it and then we talk him for a walk out on his own for the first time. He took it all in his stride.
Once again I have been contacted about three horses that people have been prepared to give away free in just this last week. The first, a New Forest cross coloured pony was bought from the sales in October. Within weeks it had become aggressive possibly because it was being kept alone in a garden, possibly because it was just discovering testosterone. The appointment I had to go and see him was cancelled when the owner's landlord said that she must get rid of the pony. I had just two days to circulate his details before he was sadly posted back into the sales to face a very uncertain future. I hope that he has in fact found a good home. There is no room at the inn here with four of my own and two on loan.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

28th November, 2009 Stars of Our Show

This is Woody's little sister, Zala, aged about 7 months. She is being prepared for showing next year and is already trotting out beautifully. We spend some time today getting her used to the tarpaulin and the brolly in readiness for some of the strange things she might meet at a show. She trained Dave to stand on the tarpaulin first of all and once she was satisfied that it was absolutely safe, she went across it herself. She was fascinated by the brolly and got quite cross when Sally wouldn't stop to let her inspect it properly.
The groundwork and desensitisation techniques seem to set ponies up very nicely for showing where manners and calmness are highly prized (did you see what I did there?).
This is what Audrey said about Magnum on NFED after he went to his first show:
"Here is Magnum, one of the 3 Musketeers in the book. He was at his very first show - the New Forest Pony Breed show - where his manners were impeccable, the judge was mad about him, and bless his cotton socks, he came 2nd in a very strong class of yearlings. Proud - I could have burst, and I am convinced that it has a lot to do with the ground work of training and manners taught to both him and me by Sarah."
And Ann, who owns Lovelyhill Landmark said of him:
Here is my boy lovelyhill landmark. This photo was taken at his first show where we were placed 6th overall and took best yearling in the WHP young stock class with the judge commenting on how well behaved he was for a youngster. Landmark and I attended Sarah's foal handling clinic and I firmly believe her advice and approach have influenced our success."

Friday, November 27, 2009

27th November, 2009 Everything you ever wishfor-d

Having been rained on and blown off course almost all week, it was good to get some work done today and to have the luxury of an indoor school. Lisa, who produces little show ponies at Little Wishford, asked me to teach some of her ponies and their owners and trainers to long rein. With two glorious Welsh Mountain ponies and a Dartmoor to work with, I was in my element. The two above are Rosie and Murphy.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

24th November, 2009 Gallaber Farm

Having gone to the quiz night with Sarah on Sunday night (we lost!) I spent most of Monday with her watching and helping her and Clare (riding above) with three of their current residents. Red (the horse above) is a blue Dually wearer - so, pretty tall and imposing - he has been having a bit of a crisis of confidence so lots of desensitisation work with various obstacles around the farm. Another horse, William, has been succesfully avoiding having his feet picked up for a good long time. Yesterday we took turns to clicker train him or to pick his feet up and rest them against our legs as a trimmer would. It's working a treat if you pardon the pun. It's good to see that as RA's, often working in isolation, we do things pretty much the same way. Sarah also works with young racehorses for local trainers. Sarah has great facilities including an indoor barn with a round pen and some brilliant riding country around the headlands of her own farm and around the local village:

My lot got another credit note today as the wind was blowing the trees sideways and throwing all my kit about. Hopefully it will calm down by tomorrow morning.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

22nd November, 2009 Atypical myoglobunuria

This weekend I have flown up to Leeds to meet up with David who is working at RAF Linton-on-Ouse installing air traffic control equipment. This also gives me an opportunity to see my friend RA Sarah Dent, whose farm is only four miles up the road.

This has all been overshadowed by the dreadful news that Jenny's brand new 5 year old pony, Peppercorn, died very suddenly of atypical myoglobunuria yesterday morning. This awful disease is little understood and is nearly always fatal. I am devastated for her and feel like crying all the time. I met Peppercorn last Tuesday when she was out riding him. He couldn't have looked more healthy and alive and Jenny was brimming with plans for his future.

Friday, November 20, 2009

20th November, 2009 Cello - Let's Go

Cello went off to his new home this morning and I am feeling all sad. No need really as I can go and see him any time I like and he has got a fabulous home. No more crab flies or deer ticks! He has arrived safely at the other end of his journey and is now turned out with another youngster called Max. Stevie is going to keep his name as he knows that it is really Hindi for "Let's go" rather than just a musical instrument.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

19th November, 2009 Getting On with Davy

Today we took a step by step approach (did you see what I did there?) to mounting with Davy who has recently started to move around when his owner gets on. With the aid of my mobile mounting block we had the problem solved in no time at all. One of my answers for Horsescene Magazine was in this subject:
Horses may begin to fidget at the mounting block for a variety of reasons - because they are experiencing or have experienced pain when someone has mounted, because they have not been taught to stand quietly or, for example with racehorses, because they have always been mounted on the move.

Before training your horse to stand still for mounting, it's really important to rule out any physical cause and it is worth having your horse's back checked and making sure that his saddle fits well and is placed properly. Consider the girth too.

It's much better for your horse's back if you can always use a mounting block to mount from and I find that a mobile mounting block of a decent height is better than an static one. Where the mounting block cannot be moved, it is really easy for the horse to just take one step away with his hindquarters to thwart your attempts to get on. With a mobile mounting block you can move it with him so that he doesn’t gain anything. You can even reward the horse for standing still by moving the mounting block away when he does stand and repeat this a few times.
In the same way you can then lift your leg up against his side and if he stands, take it away again and repeat this a few times. When you finally prepare to mount, think about holding the offside rein slightly more tightly as if you pull on the inside rein, you will inadvertently turn his bottom away from you; you could also ask someone to quietly hold him while you get on. Once mounted, ask him to stand for a good 30 seconds or so and be as relaxed as you can - remember to breathe! This will teach him that he doesn’t have to move off the instant you are on board. Give him a lovely rub to reward him for standing still.

If you apply this approach consistently and never overlook the mounting problem because it isn’t your priority for the day, you should find that he gets better and better.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

17th November, 2009 What happens when you let a man name a horse

This is Yamaha, one of the Ethiopian ponies that I met at Loisaba when I was in Kenya. The only stallion amongst the 14 they bought, Tom was allowed to name him. He's got some interesting scars from the abuse he has received at the hands of men in Ethiopia. I was saddened to hear from Jo that he had been missing for three days; she feared that he had been eaten by lions. The ponies at Loisaba tend to stay close to the farm but can actually go where they like during the day. At night they come into the stable area where the only worry is caused by the elephants raiding the water trough.

Good news from Jo today: "Yamaha was found after more than a week of tracking! Our tracker vehicle eventually caught up with him unharmed and a bit spooked in a place called Baragoi in Northern Kenya. If you have a look on a map you will see it is hundreds of miles a away and we can only conclude that he was on his way home to Southern Ethiopia! We are not sure why he ran in the first place, mid morning before a major rain storm, I assume a predator spooked him. He was then chased by children and dogs from the Samburu tribe because having never seen a dunn pony before they thought he was a bad omen and belonged to the Pokot (the tribe that Sams are at war with) so he narrowly missed being speared too. I have been in the stable with him for a few hours a day and he has settled but did snatch the duster out of my outstretched hand with his teeth and trampled it, he has a terrible temper.I am sure in time I will win him over again." Phew, that's okay then. He must have nine lives.

Monday, November 16, 2009

16th November, 2009 Bristol Fashion

I followed a rainbow all the way to Bristol this morning to meet two clients and their respective grey ponies. Look familiar? Silver the first pony has clearly got some Highland Pony in his breeding so there were echoes of Razzledazzle. Silver is only four but has taken to running rings around his owner (quite literally) when she takes him out in hand. We worked with different levels of pressure and release - some lighter than she had been using (for backing up) and some stronger than she had been using - to establish her body space and it seemed to work very well.

"Thank you very much for your report and the pictures. Just wanted to say a huge thank you for the time you spent with Steve, Silver and I yesterday.It was really helpful and enjoyable. I will make sure that I continue everything you taught us. Incidently, I think Feather must have been making notes other the fence as I did some groundwork with him this morning and he was a little star!" SD 17.11.09

The second pony was half Arabian and almost ready to start her ridden work. My role was to look at what they had done so far, to get her going long reining and then to suggest how they might progress in the future. So difficult for owners when they are not even allowed to ride in their field and have to do everything out on the roads. Not ideal.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

14th November, 2009 In search of the Pony Grail

Photo courtesy of Audrey Scott-Hopkins

The more I watch DVDs such as The Path of The Horse and talk to other horse people interested in non-violent techniques, the more I see that we are all on this quest for the Holy Grail of horsemanship. I don't think I have ever met anyone yet that has all the answers for me and I certainly don't think I've got them all either. I might be amongst a growing group of pioneers but I rarely have an original thought. I suppose my major contribution so far has been the fabric and feathers around the fur of foals! The rest of the time I am using things that I have picked up from other people and following them on their tangents, hoping that they don't meet with a dead end. I'm wary of fashions and prefer to add to my tool box rather than drop one technique in favour of another - I'm very wary of being a butterfly too.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

12th November, 2009 T for Three

Top: We torture Tim Piper by making him work in the torrential rain. In the meantime, David is warm and cosy in Dubai.

On Monday I went out to a little set of New Forest ponies to do some groundwork. The first was 16 years old and the youngest was 6 months old. I did some very basic work with the two youngsters including a bit of foot handling. Twig, Tarquin and Tilly were all very amenable.

Tuesday evening saw seven of us having a Girl's Night In (David is in Dubai). We watched Hilary Vernon's Informed Bitting DVD which I suppose is our equivalent of Top Gear! We also ate far too much.

Wednesday saw the arrival AT LONG LAST of Petra's Western saddle. I have only been waiting six months for this. I gave it a little test drive yesterday and am really looking forward to taking her out in it soon. I earned my keep a little by answering three questions for Your Horse and one from the Natural Horsemanship Magazine. Still a bit of a deficit though when compared to the price of a new saddle!

Today a group of us are going off to Tim Piper's yard near Somerton to see the set up there. I can only take the most straightforward starters and so I always look to Ian (Vandenburghe) to take on any horse that is more tricky or remedial. I am hoping that we'll now have two good options for our clients. Better to get it done right first time and sadly I can't recommend anyone really local as I can't guarantee that the horses won't be hit or shoved into gadgets.

p.s. It started to rain almost the instant we arrived at Tim's and yet he still volunteered to work with one of the horses so that we could see what he's about. Tim's a lovely quiet guy and his wife is so calm too. The whole yard has a great atmosphere for horses.