Tuesday, March 31, 2009

31st March, 2009 Day 2

Both Rosie and Fern were long reined today. Rosie has done it before and knows what it is all about so she went over and round and through some of the obstacles. Fern hasn't been long reined and has been a little more wary of ropes since an incident when she was a foal. However, with all the preparatory exercises, she was absolutely fine and soon got the hang of it. We started off with dual controls, me at the back with the long reins and Ruth leading her. When she is worried she tends to stop rather than to leave so that does make life safer.

30th March, 2009 First day at school

I started work with Rosie and Fern today. Their groundwork is pretty up together and both are really easy to move around and will listen to what you are asking them to do. Rosie wasn't too keen on my fly cream and Fern is a little inclined to invade space and to knock into you with her head. Nevertheless, both ponies are delightful and accordingly we were able to go out on our Confidence Walk on their very first day.

Walking out is a really important part of a pony's education and is part of my initial assessment process. I want to know if the pony is happy to go out on it's own, to turn away from home when asked to and whether it greets the outside world with curiosity or apprehension. On the walk we negotiate various surfaces from gravel to thick mud and different obstacles including a ditch stream, a log, a wooden bridge and low hanging trees aswell as the occasional deer and adder. I want to know if the pony is naturally all-terrain and willing to follow me anywhere. The ditch stream is quite a test as they have to jump it but I'm happy to wait until they pluck up the courage and spend time just moving them around on the bank so that standing still is not an option. I want to encourage them to try. If their courage fails them, there are several smaller streams in the vicinity and by taking them through and over those, it often shows them that they can do it and they will go on to jump the ditch stream. When they have gone off, quite often they will give a little buck or shake of the head as if to say "Yay! I did it" and their self esteem rises. I always walk with a purpose and insist on good ground manners such as never overtaking me. It's fun to vary my speed to see if they will match me stride for stride and I put in a few halts to make sure that those are well established. Silently counted stops are brilliant and improve the quality of the halt - 1,2,3,4, stop!

Rosie and Fern were both excellent and very pleasant company.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

29th March, 2009 Day off - well sort of.

This morning I just popped up to check how the new arrivals were. Fern and Rosie have both come in for starting and I will begin working with them tomorrow. Fern is a New Forest pony by Limekiln Endeavour and Rosie is a Welsh Section C. It will be interesting to see how they compare with each other.
In the meantime, Frazer has sent me the above photo to show that on only his third session, Aquilino can now be caught easily in the field. This stuff works you know!!!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

28th March, 2009 You put your whole body in, your whole body out and you shake it all about.....

I have known Woody since he was a baby. He is now two and has recently received his stallion licence. Today I was teaching him to load into the lorry. It was a copybook session with him progressing step by step until he was happily going in and out for me and then his owner. We closed up the back gates and shut the ramp and he was fine. You'll note that he is wearing sports boots which seem to cause less problems than full length big wrap boxing boots.

27th March, 2009 Bit by bit

Today I popped over to see Charlotte at her new yard to do some final stages of Buster's preparation for starting. Although his bridle needs to be altered to make sure the noseband is in the right place, Buster accepted his bit nicely and we did some introductory work on softening and steering. I also showed Charlotte how to short-rein him. This technique is brilliant for shorter horses and ponies given that you can gently bump-bump along their sides which desensitizes them to the feel of a leg and you can introduce them to direction from the bit. Charlotte also sat on him for the first time.

24th March, 2009 Gambian Schools Trust

Gambian schoolgirls

Today we met Hilary and Steve who work for the GST. They became involved through a chance meeting with a little girl on the ferry crossing at Banjul who asked them to sponsor her through school. They discovered that it would cost only £30 a year to do so. Since then they have both retired and spend 7 months a year in the Gambia building schools and libraries and the rest of the time fund-raising in the UK.

The Gambian Schools Trust was established as a registered charity in January 2001. Originally, its sole aim to assist in financing primary education in the West African country. The government there provides very basic state education for those over seven years of age whose parents can afford it. There is no state provision for children under seven years of age, for whom the only available education is that provided by voluntary groups or the private sector.
The Gambian Schools Trust assists through providing direct funding for specific projects, by refurbishing existing schools and resources or building new ones in response to local requests and by supplying school resources and equipment which have been donated in the UK. The Trust also assists by enabling teachers from this country to share their expertise on a voluntary basis during short stays in The Gambia. The website for this charity is: http://www.gambianschools.org/

Thursday, March 26, 2009

21st March, 2009 Gambian Horse

Yesterday I said hello to the Gambian horse and gave him a bit of a massage which he seemed to appreciate. I also got the flies off him so that he could give his tail a rest. Despite being very thin, his coat really shines and he has that Akhal-Teke metallic finish of bright gold. He is an entire and tied to his cart by a head-collar rather than his foot which is traditional around here. His owner clearly likes him. In contrast, the donkey we met today is furious with people and would attack if you got close enough.

19th March, 2009 Banjul, The Gambia

To warm us up, literally, for our trip to Kenya, we have come to The Gambia but this time for a rest. When one of my clients said “We've got a house in the Gambia, you could stay in it if you want”, I don't suppose she imagined for one second that we would go and buy the tickets that night. Although the flight was a nightmare – the people behind us must have had a meal entirely made up of raw garlic the night before - it is great to be somewhere warm and dry for once. The worrying thing is that we don't even know the address for where we are living other than that it is on the sand road opposite the 3D Mini-Mart and if our friendly taxi driver abandons us, we'll be lost forever. Needless to say, animal care is er....interesting here. The donkeys look well but have horrible rope bits tightly fastened around their lower jaws. The horse up the road shelters without water under his own cart under the midday sun.

17th March, 2009 Progression or regression?

William and Coco


At the beginning of this week, I have visited two sets of yearlings – one lot of Exmoors and the other, three New Foresters that I worked with at my course in November last year In each case, the owners have been working with them regularly over the winter. The New Forest ponies are now pretty blasé about everything whereas the Exmoors are still struggling to accept human contact – particularly from strangers. This begs the question whether it is nature or nurture that causes the difference. Regrettably one of the Exmoors has had to be forced to accept veterinary treatment (he had an undescended testicle and the vet insisted that he was sedated and twitched each time this was checked) and yet his owner has consistently worked with him in a kind way. Accordingly, he is much calmer with her than with anyone else. It just struck me that whenever Exmoors are not progressing, they may be regressing, in a way that I haven't observed in any other breed of semi-feral pony. The New Forest ponies soon worked out on which side their bread was buttered and are much more confident and co-operative. There may have been other factors at play here – the New Forest yearlings live together and play for most of the day; the Exmoor colt and the Exmoor filly have had to be kept apart to avoid the risk of him covering her; the New Foresters have been in close proximity to older and friendlier ponies whereas the Exmoors have only had one elderly mare to look to. The New Forest yearlings had “my” method of training from the outset whereas the Exmoor colt was cornered to have his headcollar on to begin with as did the filly. In both cases, the owners are absolutely committed to training them in a non-violent way and both sets have really fallen on their feet but the owner of the Exmoors has got more of challenge on her hands and a lot more work ahead of her if she is to succeed in the end. In the meantime, the owner of the New Forest ponies will have so much fun working with her guys with less risk of being accidentally or even deliberately kicked or bitten.

Postscript (7.4.09) Since my visit, both William and Coco have made some real progress and have become much easier to catch even when they are in together. Once again, time, patience and technique have paid off.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

15th March, 2009 Beautiful play things

Top: Aquilino, Middle: Zimbral, Bottom: Petra

What with selling David's toys on e-bay, arranging to go to Kenya for July and work, I haven't been able to get near to my blog site for ages. Selling Dinky toys and sets of Lego is a lucrative business and the contents of David's Mum's loft have paid for Chancer's hay.

In the meantime, Petra has been earning her keep teaching people to long rein. She has also officially gone barefoot and is being attended by Tim Mockford, Equine Podiatrist. I'll let you know how she and Chancer get on.

This week I seem to have been working with continental horses the whole time - Arthur, who was one of the French Rescue although he was in utero at the time, Betty, Aquilino and Zimbral. Arthur is a solid little chap, most likely a Breton or an Ardennes cross. He also has a solid nature and should prove to be a reliable soul. We were teaching him how to pick up his feet for the trimmer. Aquilino, an Andulusian colt who is now 10 months old had his first headcollar on yesterday. It was a delicate job because he is pretty colty and nifty too but all went well and he looked very smart in his new headcollar. By the end of the 2 hour session he had started a few steps of leading and had his wormer without any fuss.
E-mail from Frazer (owner of Aquilino):
I was delighted with the progress we made and it was great to see him with the headcollar on and the wormer done. I thought you did a fantastic job!!

I finished the day with Zimbral who is heaven on four legs. He is maturing nicely and starting to be ridden regularly. He is turned out during the day now (he wasn't turned out at all in Portugal) and really enjoying himself.

E-mail received from Emma his owner: "I dread to think how he would have ended up if I hadn't had sessions with you from the beginning....."

Great news about Intelligent Horsemanship and the British Horse Society. Kelly's unfailing diplomacy has finally started to open doors and both organisations are starting to recognise that there is nothing mutually exclusive and much that is entirely complementary in the techniques that they use. Good tradition has never included the use of violence and much of the BHS manuals is about safe systems of working with horses. If this was infused with horse logic, instead of some of the military logic from which the BHS derived, the welfare of horses would definitely be paramount.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

5th March, 2009 No Fear, No Force

The book I have written on handling semi-feral foals should be published in less than 10 weeks and hopefully in time for my demo at Horseworld and Kelly's demos at Wellington and Kingston Maurwood. Those lovely people at the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre have allowed me to use my very favourite foal picture on the front. Anyone wanting a copy can e-mail me and I shall put one by for them as soon as they arrive. Of course I am happy to sign them too.
I tried out Chapter Nine (The Confident Foal) on Sarah B: Wow! You might have written that just for me - so apt! It's reassuring to read that these behaviours are normal.
Anyone ordering before 1st May, 2009 will get a signed copy and FREE postage and packaging.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

4th March, 2009 Horses Inside Out

Here's another demo that might be of interest. I have heard that this is a brilliant demo. I shall be there.....

Monday, March 2, 2009

2nd March, 2009 Two and a Quarter

On Saturday I wandered over to Bath to work with two New Forest yearlings that were bought from the Beaulieu Road Sales in October. One, a son of Farrier's Rambler and the other, by Bakeburn Jethro, were both fairly easy to train using the foal handling technique. By the end of the session the owner could touch them easily and put a headcollar on them.

Post on IHDG by Sarah B on 8th March: A big thank you to Sarah W for her excellent help, good humour ( and good sense of same), non-judgementalism (if there is such a word), and for transforming the little foalies. She gave me lots of confidence. It was well worth the visit and so now I'd have no hesitation in recommending Sarah W to those who have reached an impasse with their horse. I found the whole session immensely interesting and absorbing, so that the time flew by. It seems that the pawing is likely to be a result of his hormones encouraging colty behaviour, but he behaved as good as gold - as pie - and has done ever since. Anyway, I'm so pleased with how they're getting on. Today I led them a little way in the field. Archie was a bit slow to get the idea but Spike was a star! Thanks Sarah for all your help!

Then on 10th: Latest news....Can put headcollars on with ease. Wormed them yesterday - they behaved like angels. Led them out of their dining rooms (stables) into the field to meet humans they didn't really know - again they were angels. Spike stood in his food bowl and scooped most of his food out onto the floor with his pawing foot - no change there!

This morning I went off to see a two-year old Quarter Horse to make plans for his training and eventual starting. He is a lovely horse, super teddy-bear colour with a winter woolly coat to match.

E-mail received 12.4.09: Thought I would give you an update on how well Sandy is doing. Since your last visit the naughty nibbly behaviour has completely stopped. How disappointed was I when I arrived at his field armed and ready with my rattley bottle; I have never had to use it!

He continues to amaze me with his attitude towards life and everything he encounters, I really think he is a very special boy. Thank you for all your advice and insight into what is truly going on in Sandy’s mind, the methods you use are compassionate and I have seen instant results with my clever little quarter horse.

2nd March, 2009 MAT!!

MAT? I reckon there are three forms of horsemanship - Managing, Avoiding and Training. Managing (otherwise known as just coping with) and avoidance are what we tend to do when we haven't got the time, patience or technique to train the horse. Trouble is that we are training the horse whenever we are with him, whether we intend to or not.