Thursday, February 26, 2009

26th February, 2009 News, reviews and events

Jim the Fireman was a guest speaker at the RA Conference this week and seemed to go down a storm. Hopefully Intelligent Horsemanship will be able to help with training for animal rescue teams around the country. I have told Cello that he might need to be a 'rescue' horse and have started putting straps around his tummy to see how he might react. He was completely unfazed so the next step will be to lift him off the ground!

I won the prize for the most evaluation forms which will be a two day course in April with guest speaker Gerd Hauschmann, an expert on the bio-mechanics of the horse. I am really looking forward to that and will sharpen my pencil before I go.

Today has been a very pleasant day with my own ponies and horses. Petra is sound again after a short period of lameness. I shall start working her gently from tomorrow. Chancer is long reining out and about on the Forest and seems to be perfectly content going out on his own. It's so important to realise that racehorses have led rather a cloistered life - they walk, trot, canter and gallop in the same places at the same time every day, and don't go out on their own. They are mounted while they are circling and a pull on the mouth generally means go faster. They have very little individual attention and don't socialise with other horses once they reach a certain age or stage. Chancer, like most racehorses, seems deceptively quiet most of the time but when he does wake up he can react and move very quickly indeed. I also spent a little time with Piper who is almost due for his annual feet trim. I had hoped that he might not have to be sedated but he is still terrified of having his legs touched for any length of time. Still, he enjoys being brushed and stroked. That's all I ask of him these days.

At long last my main website has been tarted up. Julie has made an amazing job of it. There isn't much to it - static information can never be all that exciting - but it looks a lot smarter.

Looking ahead, I have three demos arranged for the Spring. The Open Day at the Caspian Horse Society as previously mentioned (19th April, 2009); a demo at Horseworld, Bristol on 10th May at their open day and a loading demo for the Travel Safely Campaign at the Countryside Day at Sparsholt College on 16th May, 2009.

All of that is followed by Kelly's May Masterclasses. There are two locally - one on 22nd May at Wellington Equestrian Centre and the other on 29th May at Kingston Maurwood College near Dorchester. I shall go to both.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

21st February, 2009 Penguins

While I have been working my socks off, or at least getting them damp and muddy, David has been working in the Falklands. 23 hours there, 23 hours back for approximately 2 hours' work. Very odd. Still, he got to see these wonderful creatures and I am very jealous.

I have been to see two vet phobic ponies this week and got both of them accepting mock injections using clicker training. When the vet arrived at the first one he wondered what all the fuss was about and we had to explain that Archie used to take one look and leave. Olivia and I had an excursion to Lyndhurst on Tuesday where there is a brilliant shop with all sorts of things you can use to de-sensitise horses. I bought two massive plastic windmills, a windsock and a football to amuse them.
Friday night was Monty night. Monty looks unbelievably fit and well. He worked with a total of five different horses from 6 p.m. through to 10 p.m. and signed books and answered questions all through the interval.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

18th February, 2009 Fire!!!

Last night I attended (yet) another talk by Jim Green this time on the subject of Fire Safety in Equine Yards. I wonder how many of us are too complacent about fire safety -keeping hay, for example, stored right next to emergency supplies of diesel or even a posh horsebox, or the horses themselves. I began to be glad that I don't have electricity where I keep my horses and that they live out almost constantly. With a proper risk assessment, sensible maintenance checks and clearly defined instructions for an emergency, there is less risk of losing everything.

VERY useful websites:


Saturday, February 14, 2009

14th February, 2009 Dear Sika

To cheer us all up, I thought I would share this picture of Sika that I have been sent by her owner. She's so obviously a New Forest pony save for the beautiful spots. Just right for Valentine's Day, one of them is heart-shaped. She was such a good girl during our session on Thursday.

Friday, February 13, 2009

13th February, 2009 Purple Rain

These days are so hard to bear. Darling Raine was put down today. I was so fond of this little horse when she was born 18 years ago. She was utterly humanised and yet utterly polite. I gave her to my Mum when she was four because she had the temperament of a police horse and was safe for my Mum to ride.
It's been a fantastic week until now. Monday with Rachel and Athena, Tuesday out with a little Connemara cross who was a delight under his grumpy exterior. Chancer was a really good boy for Kate 'the Chiro' on Wednesday, rocking backwards and forwards under her massaging hands and yesterday I worked with a spotty pony who was half New Forest and half Appaloosa and such a clever girl. This morning I was taught how to apply a dentistry gag so that I can help to prepare horses for a visit from the dentist and this afternoon I worked with gorgeous Zimbral, the Lusitano stallion again. Got home to this call though......

Thursday, February 12, 2009

12th February, 2009 I get so emotional baby

Last night I went to hear the talk on animal rescues by Jim The Fireman - at the risk of starting to look like a groupie. My excuse is that I went with Sue B whose foal had been rescued by them when he collapsed in the garden, and anyway, I think you pick up more when you hear something for a second time.

Once again he spoke about the difficulties of saving owners from injuring themselves when they are so emotionally involved with their animals. He talked about their feelings of fear and guilt especially when there was some element of their care that had contributed to the accident in the first place, such as weak fencing or a dodgy trailer.

There is so much emotion in our relationships with our horses - maybe that's why we have them in the first place. Many of the people that I go and see have lost the joy and pleasure that they felt around horses and become overwhelmed with feelings of doubt, guilt, fear, frustration and even anger. These negative emotions, if justified at all, don't help the owner, don't help the horse and certainly impede training. I have found it useful to imagine offloading such emotions at the gate as I go to my horses and hopeful to forget to pick them up again as I leave. The best thing I ever read was that only the good feel guilty.

Monday, February 9, 2009

9th February, 2009 Divorce your horse?

There's a record number of horses on the market at the moment. A lot are there because of behavioural problems that the owner doesn't know how to overcome and yet just a couple of sessions would be enough to get them on the right track. This set me thinking just how much does it cost to buy and then sell on a horse that turns out not to suit. Horses can change within days of arriving at a new home - perhaps because the routine, management or style are simply different. An early visit could prevent things going wrong from the outset and avoid the horse entering a downward spiral and the owner from creating a pattern that they then repeat with their next horse. Time and patience are valuable but time, patience AND technique work wonders with most horses. Like a marriage, a relationship with a horse requires understanding and commitment.

9th February, 2009 Roll on Spring

After a week of enforced rest (hardly - travelling to and from the horses became a full time job in itself!) I managed to get back to work this morning. This delightful soul (and the owner is nice too) is a Warmblood cross cob filly. She's very calm, collected and confident already and accepted everything we did with her from leading to foot handling and the beginnings of tying up.

Friday, February 6, 2009

6th February, 2009 Snow go area

Everyone is so bored with the snow and even more bored and worried about the credit crunch. (I am heartily sick of hearing that phrase). It has meant that some people have been forced to make some hard decisions about their horses. Whilst recognising that this is a real problem and that horses cost a lot of money, we can avoid horses having to pay the price - we can't just throw ethics out of the window. In the first instance, you can make savings by really examining your horses nutritional needs and making sure that you aren't feeding things just because they are fashionable or because it makes you feel good. Most horses that I see are over-fed and given food that actually add to their behavioural problems. Watch the labels for added sugars (which include molasses) which horses don't need and are designed to make the food look and smell more palatable to you. If you are thinking of selling or loaning a horse you still need to really check out the potential purchaser or loaner to make sure that your horse is going to be in the right hands and not end up in a downward spiral or abbatoir within weeks of leaving you. Horses deserve to be put down in their own home if they are becoming too elderly or sick to safely pass them on to someone else - no one likes having to make this decision but you have to do the right thing by your horse and not avoid the responsibility. I have deliberately taken Cello off the market as I'm not prepared to risk him going in the wrong direction. We have taken Chancer on loan so that he doesn't have to be sold either - although why we need 7 horses I do not know!!

If your horse needs training and money is tight, don't be tempted compromise his welfare by turning a blind eye to training where the end is claimed to justify the means - watch out for trainers that use violence and drilling even in the name of natural horsemanship; young horses, sorry that should read 'no horse', needs to be hit as part of his training nor should there be excessive use of ropes or ever laying a horse down or tying it to a 'naughty tree'. The pressure to get horses 'broken' quickly leads to a lot of wrecks. Cheap costs dear in the end. Horses don't mind not being ridden and there is a lot of preparation work that you can do yourself with the right guidance at the appropriate time - from training your horse to having the odd riding lesson to get your confidence back, to reading training books when it's snowing or just walking your horse out to get him seeing the world. The slower you go, the more quickly things happen.

Years ago I went to a course run by Tanya Arroba on stress and time management. She taught me two valuable lessons - eat your mammoths while they are small and break tasks down into small manageable parts. I use the tree above to plan projects - such as getting Chancer re-started; turning Petra into a Western horse and becoming an RA in the first place. The idea is that you write the major aim down the trunk of the tree and the key elements along the branches. Individual and bite sized tasks go along the twigs. If your tree is deciduous you are exempt from doing anything other than feeding and caring for your horse during the winter months!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

1st February, 2009 The Herd Social Event

Despite freezing conditions, over 30 members of the Herd turned up for our social event at Verwood today. Our lovely hosts, Les and Ann, kindly loaned us their log cabin (we would all have died of hypothermia if we hadn't had it) and we only had to endure one hour out in the cold while I worked with Eva, their 7 month old Icelandic filly. I was able to do a whistlestop tour of the foal handling technique as she is pretty friendly already and demonstrate how to go about putting a first halter on without fear or force. I was also able to demonstrate the use of clicker training to do the same task so that people could compare and contrast the two techniques. We finished off with some leading and foot handling. I find it difficult to gauge how things have gone while I am in full flow but by all accounts it all went well. Shame the car decided to break down on the way home......!