Wednesday, January 28, 2009

28th January, 2009 Every Intention

'Intent' is one of the buzz words in horsemanship right now and can make the difference between getting something done and not getting it done, for example, a horse moving out of your space or not moving out of your space. Intent is one of the things that you cannot teach people - they have to find it for themselves - but it comes from an absolute conviction that what you are asking the horse to do is reasonable and then knowing how to ask. Trainers can teach techniques and they can reassure you that what you are asking is fair but intent comes from the heart as well as the head. I often find that it is really nice people who struggle to find intent - people who are used to being polite, tolerant and very forgiving and perhaps those (women) who have been told that assertiveness equals aggression (which it does not!!*&^%$£). Horses like to feel intent - that's what lead horses have too.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

27th January, 2009 Hobbit

On the way out this morning I spied Hobbit, one of the pony characters of Woodgreen, sunbathing with his friends on the common. Hobbit is apparently 25 now and has lived on the Forest all his life with his friends Tao and Ming.

Monday, January 26, 2009

26th January, 2009 Due Diligence

On Saturday I went to work with Carol and her Exmoors. I haven't seen them for a year and I was astounded at the difference in her ponies. Bobby and Gingernut were both very nervous when they arrived with Carol and she did wonder whether she would ever get anywhere with them. Even leading was an issue - Bobby would just leave if he felt worried about anything. Through perseverence, commitment and just working with what she had each day, Carol has brought them such a long way. Exmoors seem to regress very quickly and the progress that these ponies have made highlights the value of almost daily work. This is her latest addition - Weedy. Weedy???!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

25th January, 2009 What are you up to?

Rachel and Jodie have both sent me pictures of what they have been up to with their ponies recently. Rachel was captured by a passer-by as she leant over Frosty for the first time - this picture is now the subject of a caption competition in her local pub. She's thrilled.
Jodie's two year old behaved impeccably in her local pantomime.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

24th January, 2009 Caspian Horse Society

I am looking forward to giving a demonstration at Lanhill Stud on 19th April, 2009. I haven't worked with a Caspian Horse before and am particularly intrigued by Basil, who is apparently untouched and entire. Could be a lot of fun...... click on the poster for larger detail.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

18th January, 2009 Working weekend

I came home a few hours ago from my last Foal Handling course until the next lot are almost ready to be weaned in the autumn. Once they get to eight months old or more, it really needs to be a one-to-one job as they will have learned that they can opt in and out of engaging with humans; it takes a little more guile to ask them to co-operate once they reach this stage in order not to have to resort to fear or force. I was surrounded this time by really experienced students, most of whom had done the course before, so they welcomed an opportunity to hone their skills. I was able to take more of a back seat - but still very tired. Four ponies, four students, two or three spectators and a photographer each day adds up to a lot of thinking. Fortunately Julie and Sheila were there too. An interesting trick of the light turned our top pony into an Appaloosa.
Feedback from the course:
I really liked that little chap, I was really pleased what we all managed to acheive with him. He was much more relaxed with Celia and I this afternoon, it shows that a little patience goes a long way and is so much more beneficial for them - even the more wild foal came a long way this weekend. (Hannah)
Thanks everso again for the weekend, learnt loads, made mistakes, but hopefully will be able to do better next time. (Jen)
We had a wonderful time. Rachel now has her eye on the filly too!!! ha ha ha. see, who needs big horses!!! I loved working with her and found it useful that she was quite quiet because I really had to think hard!! Sarah is fantastic and talks so much sense. And when you stop and think about it things are very logical. I have learned so much today!! I would really encourage people to go and have a go. (Comment on NFED from Anne)
You should be proud of your achievements, Sarah, you have an amazing gift, not only with the ponies but in your ability to put across your methods in such an effective way. The rest of us are well impressed. (Aud)

The rest of the week I have been going out to regular customers (one of whom needs me about once every 18 months!) and catching up with all their news and progress. Douggan's owner no longer needs me at all - after only three visits he is happily having a full set of shoes on and can be clipped without sedation. Having me out was a darn site cheaper than paying a vet to sedate him and in any event he doesn't much like the vet either. Next on his agenda is having his teeth done.....

Monday, January 12, 2009

12th January, 2009 A close shave?

I have been invited to a meeting about transporting horses safely where the emphasis will be on a safe trailer, a safe horse and a safe handler of both the horse and the vehicle. It reminded me that in Germany it is illegal to trim a horse's whiskers. Scientific research showed that horses that had had the trimming of whiskers is a contributory factor to facial trauma whilst travelling. Just like cats, the horse needs his whiskers in order to have full sensory perception and it is thought that they not only feel using their whiskers but that they can detect sound too. The cells in the whiskers share the same attributes to those seen in the brain.
(McGreevy, Paul Equine Behaviour page 50)
It also encouraged me to compare and contrast various loading techniques described in various books. None of the horsemanship books which are based on a psychological approach suggest the use of a whip and all encourage the use of systematic desensitisation and the use of pressure and release. It is only the more traditional books that suggest the use of a whip on more reluctant horses but even they stress that the handler must not lose their temper. The underlying message, whichever method someone chooses to use, must be to practise and practise lots before expecting a horse to go anywhere. The risk of an accident must be much less if the horse has learnt how to load quietly and calmly so that they are not already wound up before they go anywhere.
We had fun on Saturday with a horse that has had a loading problem for a good while. As usual we started off with the panels in place as these usually encourage horses to engage in the process and bit by bit they are taken away once the horse is flowing on and off the trailer much more happily. This horse, whose quite a substantial size, backed up to the panels and began to scratch his feathers with absolute glee and then he gave the panels a jolly good push just for good measure. Fortunately they are sturdy enough to withstand this! Afterwards we were able to get back down to work and in time he was going on and off easily.
I had this e-mail from his owners the day after: We went up this morning to work again with him. I put his dually on and did a bit of groundwork in the field while K prepared the trailer, then took him up to the ramp. He stuck just once or twice on the foot of ramp, but I was consistant and he stepped forward nicely and walked in. Initially he wanted to back straight out again, but I was firm and asked him to stand. He settled and I fed him some haylage and stood talking calmly to him for a while. I then decided to back him out slowly and made him pause a moment once on the ramp. Then asked him again to come in and he walked calmly in. He was such a good boy. On the third time he had decided he didn't want to go in. I managed to get him to move several steps from side to side but he wouldnt go on the ramp. So K and I swopped over and I helped by standing behind him and using my body language and a bit of a kiss noise to put pressure on him. After a minute he moved in with K. We decided to finish on that note as he had gone in 4 times in a short space of time nice and calmly. So we gave him some more haylage to eat in the trailer so the last time he stayed in there a bit longer and finished the haylage.
Bear in mind, this is a horse that has taken two hours to load previously and sometimes refused to load at all.

12th January, 2009 Return of the Toof Fairy

We took little Leo went in to have his front teeth taken out this afternoon. His two milk teeth had been damaged when he was kicked in the jaw last year and were starting to cause problems. It is hoped that his permanent teeth will be okay. Once again, Chris Pearce did an outstanding job and allowed me and Patty, his owner, to stay and watch as long as we promised not to faint. It has to be said that the rest of the photos are probably too gory to go on here.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

8th January, 2009 Sunbathing

We all started to thaw out today so it was good to see the donkeys having time to sunbathe. Pie brought some of his friends home for lunch. Later I went down to Linwood for part II of Lily's training. She has come on a long way in the last month with her owners just spending time touching her and today I was able to put her first headcollar on. As she is one of the foals featured in my foal handling book, she needs to practise her signature ready for the book signings (I wish!).

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

7th January, 2009 Good start

My first week at work has been fabulous. I went to see two 'old' faces last weekend and both are doing really well. This week started off with two new faces - a lovely New Forest cross and then a Dutch Warmblood (above) who is extremely tall. He has decided that he won't be caught and all the body language in the world won't persuade him. It's been six years since he was caught in the field and his previous owners got round it by just letting him in to his stable. Given that he has more stamina than I have ever had, the only option was to make somewhere smaller for him to go so that I could ask him to fully engage with me. Interestingly he immediately parked himself in there and with just a little bit of mirroring and some careful body language we were there. Once caught I used clicker training again to reward him for allowing the headcollar to be touched and for being clipped on. He looked down his rather regal Dutch nose and said "For me?! How very kind..." and cheered up immensely. We practiced the whole scenario a number of times and each time he took himself into the corralled area and allowed himself to be caught much more easily. In time I hope that the owner will be able to make the corralled area bigger until she doesn't need it and that she will be able to turn him out without a headcollar at all.

E-mail received 2.3.09 Thought I'd give you a quick update on the tall ginger horse!
He's been amazing - since the day I spoke to you last, he hasn't so much as wandered away from me - I just walk straight up to him!! I'm thrilled!

I went for a short meeting with 'Jim the Fire' (Animal Rescue Officer of Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service) and ended up staying for well over an hour as he showed me more footage of horse rescues over the last few months and some horror stories from You Tube.

My book is with a publisher at the moment and we are praying that it will be accepted. I am convinced that there is a horse God and that the book will eventually be published. We need it to be out before the next 'batch' of foals are ready to be handled. Look down the page to 21st December and 10th December to see how well some of last year's foals are doing.