Tuesday, June 30, 2009

30th June, 2009 Party time

It feels very odd not working with horses for a few days and even odder to have been wearing girl's clothes. David and I went up to Kelly's garden party where most of us looked as if we were unfamiliar with high heels and frocks. It was a great afternoon and Monty was in fine form, taking time off from the Science Trials that he is involved in at Sparsholt. Several Herd members are helping out there but are all sworn to secrecy for the moment - if they tell me, they'll have to kill me. Basically the trials are going to compare stress levels of horses started using Monty's methods and those broken conventionally.

Yesterday I started to pack for our trip. I live by lists so I'm feeling pretty relaxed about it all. However, if someone stole my list I might just panic.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

27th June, 2009 Get Knotted ropes - PRODUCT RECALL

I have taken the precaution of recalling any of the 12' ropes that I have supplied in the last 12 months and have contacted those people who have bought a rope from me direct. However, I also thought I would alert anyone who has bought a rope with a clip from Get Knotted either through me or from the Get Knotted website as the product is not safe.

"I am very sorry but I need to alert you to a problem with the 12’ ropes that I have been supplied by Get Knotted who are based in France. Some time ago I did a product recall on those that have got silver coloured clips and those were replaced by me. Unfortunately I now find that we are having a similar problem with the replacement clips supplied by Get Knotted as well as those supplied on newer ropes and I have been alerted to three that have broken in the same place under relatively little strain. I have alerted the suppliers to this and was basically told that “clips break” and that they normally supply ropes without clips. I have had horses for over 30 years and cannot recall any clip breaking before. Accordingly, I think it is better if you were to return your rope to me either with a clip of your choice from another lead rein that you don’t mind sacrificing or we will source some suitable clips and replace them. Obviously we will pay for the postage in both directions. In the meantime, I would urge you not to use your 12’ rope in any situation where there might be a risk to you or your horse if he were to get loose. As we make hardly any profit on the ropes this is very frustrating!

I am extremely sorry that this has happened and some what embarrassed as I pride my self on absolute reliability which can’t be said of this product. If the company were in England I would report them to Trading Standards. Unfortunately my efforts to find another suitable supplier haven’t met with much luck either. Plas Equestrian have assured me on three separate occasions that they have put samples in the post but they certainly haven’t arrived here! I will shortly be receiving 10’ ropes from another supplier and we will test these out ourselves before we start selling them on."

This is the response I got from Get Knotted "clips will always bread sooner or latr that is why I do not like to fit them. I have ropes with just the loop on the end which I have had and used regularly every day for 10 years"

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

24th June, 2009 Britford Demo

There, something for me to look forward to when I get back. Tickets can be bought through Britford Farm Shop which, incidentally, will be open on the day and sells lovely ice cream. Proceeds from the day are going to the Laminitis Trust.

24th June, 2009 Whoops! Forgot

There are some things that shouldn't go together and a novice rider, ex-racehorse and a Western saddle probably count. On the other hand, if we can keep Chancer as happy and chilled as he is now and David the same, it could just work. Chancer has been out in his saddle four times now and seems very happy in it. He stands quietly next to the mounting block while I lug it up the steps and place it on his back - how did those cowboys carry those things around?

What we call our "manege a trois" with Julie, David and me all involved in the training of this little horse, is going pretty well.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

23rd June, 2009 End of term

Pictures: Jack (not looking quite as frazzled as me at the end of a working day); Pete - being ridden in a saddle for the first time and unclipped; Rafago - Andulusian with the most wonderful hair!

To be honest, things are getting a bit chaotic around here. Each day each thing seems to concertina into the next as the farrier or the saddle fitter is late and then Frances, is dead on time for her session with Pete or the traffic is bad somewhere and I have to eat lunch in a garage in about five seconds flat. Still I am loving it even if it feels a little out of control. I get up at 7 to answer my e-mails (and update my blog), work all day and then come home and write up my horse reports and accounts with a glass of wine in one hand and the phone in the other. It all stops this Friday and then I've got almost a week off before we travel to Kenya. It has been difficult to turn down "emergencies" involving uncatchable semi-feral ponies but hopefully a copy of No Fear, No Force will keep most people going.

An update - Jack is very friendly these days and allows me to groom him all over and down to his knees. yesterday he learned that tummy rubs are nice. He will wear a lead rein and leads well but with the odd panic in narrow places. For the clicker training afficionados, I use a click an intermediate bridge now and he will lead for at least seven clicks before I use the movement of my hand to the bumbag as a terminal bridge - I shall see whether he will lead for longer each time and eventually not use clicker at all for this. I still don't clip the lead rein on because it terrifies him if it goes with him if he leaves. He will back up and come forwards to gentle pressure and does his level best to co-operate and earn his clickered treats. It isn't just cupboard love though because he follows me around whenever I am about, treats or no treats - perhaps he hopes they will just grow on me like grass! This pony is good for my soul as he just tries so hard.

Pete is doing well too and has now been ridden with his saddle on. He can be a little spooky and we are trying to put our finger on what it is that triggers a reaction. It's always something on the right. He doesn't like lines on the floor so we did wonder whether it was the shadows from the round pen rails. He's also wary of things touching his back legs so we have desensitised him with bandages and now boots - he looks like a showjumper in those! Between ridden sessions he is being short-reined which he seems to love and yesterday loaded on to a trailer for the first time.

On Monday I went out to the lovely Rafago although I didn't see him naked like in the photo as he wore his fly rug throughout the session. What is it with the flies this year? I have been bitten so many times! Rafago was imported from Spain where he was kept in full time. Here he lives out with a lovely mare and goes out for regular hacks. We were working on loading as he has arrived with his owner in a horsebox and in a state and has refused to approach a ramp since. We got him loading nicely but he is very worried about backing out of the trailer so plenty of homework for the owner before I get back in August.

Following this session I had this e-mail from her: "May I say what a pleasure it was to see you, and to watch you work. You are a wonderful person, and a great teacher! Apparently, my un-horsey father spent most of a phone call to his best friend telling him what an interesting morning he had had, and what an amazing woman you are....." IC 23.6.09

Sadly, I don't feel particularly amazing when I get quite a lot of stick around here for my views and the way I do things. I hadn't realise that even the name "Intelligent Horsemanship" gets people's backs up because it suggests that everything else in unintelligent. As Intelligent Horsemanship has never been prescriptive I'd never seen it that way. I've always felt that I have a very wide range of techniques available to me - in fact endless providing they don't involve violence and do involve logic. It may be that a lot of horsemanship is common sense - it should be - but we have to work with the horse's common sense not ours. Horses leave first and think later and we need to find ways to persuade them to want to stay.

Yesterday I was confronted with two ponies that have gone from feeling powerless to powerfull and are using their new power to slow their owners down or keep them away. This happens when a pony feels that no-one is listening to the small stuff, little distress signals that are not picked up - perhaps indicating that he is in pain, frightened or lonely. When the pony has eventually had enough he escalates his behaviour so that no-one can be any doubt that he is fed up and any tolerance he once had diappears altogether. For a new owner they have to unravel the past - get the pony's back, teeth, saddle checked or think about how they handle the pony at the same time as dealing with the big behaviour which can be very frightening - biting, rearing, leaning in. Hitting the pony in these circumstances would just reinforce everything he believes about humans and the need to keep them away in the first place. In time the tolerance returns and the pony mellows. Although the default behaviour may lie dormant, it is always there and there may be times when the pony forgets himself, perhaps opens the wrong page in his photograph album, and does it again. The owner has to be vigilant - but need not be nervous - and make sure they have a strategy for addressing this behaviour. This level of vigilance is only one notch up from the level of awareness that we should have around our horses anyway - in that way we wouldn't miss the small signs in the first place. Horses like us to use our peripheral vision and by honing this we can help them to relax. I like to do role play on this and get a group of horse people to chat to each other - one of them is the "owner" and the others are all horses and their job is to occasionally try to "bite" the owner (not literally but just using their fingers). In this way the owner has to be aware even while they are talking or doing something else and to be ready, without being tense, to address the behaviour when it arises.

Friday, June 19, 2009

19th June, 2009 Sweet about me....

.....and of course, she was actually very sweet, just a bit tetchy about having her legs touched and quite keen to tell you about it. We worked on finding out what sort of touch she actually prefers and then desensitising her to it.

E-mail received 23.6.09: "I did all the things again on Sat & Sunday with positive results, which was brilliant and gave me such a confidence boost". KW

It's been quite a week really. Pete, named after Stinky Pete in Toystory, has been backed and ridden a little bareback and will be going out riding in the inclosure next week. Chancer has a Western saddle and feels extremely comfortable in it. Kanuthi has been reunited with his mother and far from a touching ceremony, she told him to get lost in no uncertain terms.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

18th June, 2009 Footsteps on the dance-floor, remind me baby of you

With our trip to Kenya drawing closer I am desperate not to get injured but at the same time I am conscious that you are more likely to get injured in you think about it all the time. Tidying out the van on Monday, I managed to knock my elbow and it wrecked for the rest of the day. Yesterday I had two jabs and this morning my arms feel like lead. No comfort then to be on the way to a horse yesterday with the owner telling me that the last time it had bitten someone it hadn't let go. He was actually a really nice pony and I was told that the bites always came out of the blue, at really wide intervals and no-one knew what triggered them. We spent time recreating the scenarios in which the pony had bitten before and when nothing happened working on leadership and groundwork. After a short break, I approached the pony in a very deliberate and assertive way to see what would happen - he reacted immediately to my heavy footsteps and there he was, lunging towards me and threatening to bite. We checked this out a few times and sure enough, whenever he was approached with heavy footsteps, off he would go. It makes you wonder just exactly what has happened to him in the past that meant that he feels the need to protect himself from someone who approaches in that way. If horses store their memories as pictures, this one has got some very bad pictures in his album in the section on human approaches. Now the owners have a clear choice - they can either use desensitisation techniques to reduce his apprehension about heavy footsteps or they can take great care never to stomp up to him. At the same time I have taught them how to use a rattle bottle to send him away from them when he threatens to bite - hitting in this situation would only serve to reinforce his fear.

This afternoon's horse sounds like an interesting one too. When someone says please will you come and see my horse, she has attacked the vet and the farrier, you can't help feeling that it might be better to leave it until you get back from the trip of a lifetime!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

16th June, 2009 Tribute to Ron

I have just received the sad news that my friend Ron has died. When I met him he was sixty-six and wore a flat 'at. He learned to ride when he was 60 and you could see that horses were the love of his life. He was evacuated from London to the countryside when he was young and never wanted to go back. We used to ride out together, him on Bianca and me on Rosie and we had such a good laugh. The funniest thing he ever did was when we riding down a lane in Brigstock - there was an upside down welly in the ditch. Next second, Ron was off his horse "hauling" on this boot saying, "it's okay mate, I'll get you out!" He was a bit prudish at times and I never forget his reaction to a man wearing a frock in the garden of the small railway cottages - I think we'll say a train came by and blotted out what he said. He accompanied me down to Dorset when I moved, there was no room in the cab of the lorry so I sat and listened to his tales as we shoved up with four horses and four sheep in the back. These last few years I have written to him and sent him pictures of the horses I have worked with and he was so pleased that I had taken this path. Within a couple of days he would ring me up to thank me for my letters and I could recognise him instantly from his voice. R.I.P Ron. I hope there are horses up there.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

14th June, 2009 The boys are back in town

Last night I went to see Gillian Higgin's demonstration of how the horse moves. Jemima, a grey Irish Draught cross, had been painted on one side with all the bones of the horse and on the other with all the muscle groups. It was then fascinating to see these "bones" and "muscles" on the move - at walk, trot, canter and jumping. Once again she emphasised the need to keep young untrained horses long and low and to make sure that they get to rest and stretch their necks at frequent intervals and also the need to feed horses at floor level. Her book "How Your Horse Moves" is a must have - the illustrations are fascinating and there is nothing stuffy about the book at all; really accessible.

Cello seems to have received lots of testosterone for his first birthday and, having lost his mum, he has found his er...willy and has started to plague the mares. As a result of this havoc he has also lost too much weight so I have brought him in for the rest of the summer and then he can be gelded before he goes back out. In the meantime, Kanuthi has come back from Liz's because he has taken to lane creeping and gains too much weight if he is kept in. The plan is to reunite him with his Mum, Blue, during the next week when she comes in to have her feet trimmed and then the two of them can go back out on the Forest. I'm really looking forward to seeing them together again. Blue and Nelly are both looking splendid and can stay out all summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

10th June, 2009 Slow down or go round!!

Once again speeding drivers are causing death and injury to foals on the Forest that are just a few weeks old. Apart from the speed, drivers don't seem to appreciate that a foal will run straight across the road to its mother if it is frightened or away from a noisy vehicle into the path of another. It's disgusting that these drivers don't even stop. Consideration is being given to lowering the speed limit to a universal 30 mph across the Forest and if nothing else this might reduce the average speed to 40 mph for drivers that now drive at 50 mph. It might also persuade the satnavs that it is quicker to go round.

I was overtaken by a small lorry today. Plain white with an open back and it was plainly travelling at above the speed limit. It continued to speed away into the distance past a foal that right on the verge. The registration number was BV58 BVU and I will be reporting it to the police. Here are the statistics issued by the Verderers along with the name of the agister that had to go and shoot the animals concerned:

Week commencing Monday 1st June 2009
1st June ~ Bay filly destroyed HIT & RUN ~ Vereley Hill C10 ~ P Rix
1st June ~ Brown foal injured HIT & RUN ~ Goatspen C10 ~ J R Gerrelli
2nd June ~ Shetland pony injured ~ Nomansland ~ A Napthine
3rd June ~ Foal injured ~ Roundhill B3078 ~ A Napthine
4th June ~ Foal – nothing found ~ Ipers Bridge ~ M Lovell
6th June ~ Black foal injured HIT & RUN ~ Ocknell ~ A Napthine

Sunday, June 7, 2009

7th June, 2009 Because your horse is worth it

After another busy week it's good to hear news of how different horses are going on. The Morgan horse above belongs to Rachel and she has been working from my book. In the first picture you can see that he has a running foot up but apart from that all looks very calm. He certainly doesn't look worried about having a headcollar on.
E-mail received 14.6.09: "What a difference a week can make, last Saturday Bailey had a 1m exclusion zone around him and he was not going to let you in, today he loves a good scratch on his back and bum. Thank you for your book it is well written and easy to understand."
I got this e-mail from a man I went to see a couple of weeks ago. He is a photographer and it was interesting to tap in to his eye for detail and the overall picture. "Bess seems transformed into a relaxed and easy lovely big mare. (just like the one I fell in love with) Much, much more happy. With the vast amount of information you imparted to us we have been able to make her feel that we are in charge and she can relax and has."
This was about a non-loader that I went to see on Wednesday: "Practised loading L-pony today and she went in without stopping each time (about 6 times), she seems keen to go in the lorry now and is also calmer coming out!" and another horse owned by the same lady: "R-pony is a different pony and seems much more relaxed and less"Buzzy" if you know what I mean. He did attempt some rope chewing this morning but was easy to discourage. He is much more aware of where I am in relation to him as well."
Zimbral came third in his very first showing class today and Astro came third at the New Forest Pony Enthusiasts show too.
And finally, I have just heard from a lady who bought my book off E-bay. She had bought two New Forest yearlings that had had their headcollars forced on them and were not letting anyone near enough to get them off again. She was really worried because the headcollars were getting too tight and starting to rub. "Good news. I finished reading your book and tried out some of your methods. Have stabled both ponies, removed halters and they are both eating hard feed. I have managed to touch both of them. The smaller one is very easy and friendly, the bigger one is more of a challenge! She is either more aggressive or frightened ( I am not sure which, but think she is probably frightened). She lunges at you as if she is going to bite you, but I haven’t taken this personally as it is early days yet. Your book is just what I needed."LM

Save for a 6 a.m. start tomorrow, I have got a slightly easier week ahead.
I have discovered that Jack is a Wellow pony and I am looking forward to telling his breeder that he is with me. His father is Warren Playaway and his mum, Wellow Flannalette - he could have ended up as a wet wipe!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

4th June, 2009 Ribbons and bows

Both Carol and Frances have completed 50 hours groundwork with their ponies, in Carol's case with all three of her Exmoors. Pete, below, is coming in for starting next week so all that preparation should stand him in good stead. The rosette scheme has proved to be a good incentive for some people but does not cover grooming and poo-picking!! I can be contacted for details.
Jack definitely deserves a rosette of some sort. Yesterday he stood for ages, loose, while I groomed him all over including his legs without any clickered treats at all. His nemesis is his pectoral muscles, which he loves having massaged. He stood with his neck arched, his top lip stuck out and rocked from side to side while I did this. It seems that I only have to click him through the early stages of anything new and then he is cool about it. This is incremental training at it's best - it's not so much a ladder to step up, but a cobweb with learning in every direction at the same time. I am hard pressed to keep up with him but also think there is great value in consolidation. Considering it has only been four weeks since he came in and yesterday was effectively his graduation day, he has done fantastically and I am so pleased that he is going to stay.
Three things have been bothering me recently. First of all the lack of "breaking yards" where people can send their horse in the certain knowledge that the horse will not be hit. I know of no yards where this is definite policy other than the other Recommended Associates on the list and I would be really pleased to receive details of any yard that promises this. People are loathe to send their horses far away and yet they know that they are having to turn a blind eye to the fact that their horse will be hit as a first response for anything that it does "wrong". Just because the owner isn't doing the hitting, doesn't mean that they aren't responsible for the horse being hit.
Next, is the negative atmosphere in so many livery yards particularly when it comes from the yard owner. I go to many clients whose confidence is severly affected by this and the sheer quantity of unsolicited advice that they receive much of which seems to be aimed at forcing horses to do things. As Caroline said on the IHDG, its tempting to say, yes, I know it will only take a minute to make my horse do such and such but it will take a year to undo what you've done. Individual practitioners of IH have to think of themselves as pioneers and take some comfort in the fact that the movement for non-violent horsemanship is growing.
And three....it's gone. Well that's got to be good. Off to work now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

1st June, 2009 The countdown begins

Only one month to go now before we fly out to Kenya and then Tanzania for the whole of July. Our itinerary will take us all over the place starting at Loisaba Lodge and ending in Arusha where we are going to meet up with our friend Kanuthi for a few days safari before we come home. Here's the plan:

Fly July 2nd
Spend 3rd at my house relaxing
4th up to Gilgil with me to meet Jo to go to Loisaba with her - a bit squashed in her car I'm afraid, but she'll fit you in!
4th - 12th Loisaba. She has 21 horses/ponies to work on, so lots to do I'm sure! I'll come up with kids 7th.
12th Drive home to Naivasha with me.
13th My horse and pony.
14th Lorian - she has about 12 horses I think, all ages.
15th Fiona. Only about 3 horses I think.
16th Sylvia - she has 3 kids and 3 ponies who are amazingly trained, Sylvia wants the kids trained too!
17th To other side of lake to see Gilly who has racehorses. Stay night with her.
18th To Lel. Only a couple of horses.
19th back to my side of the lake and to Donna who has 4 horses. Stay night with her - she's also on a game sanctuary, so lots of game.
Then you'll make it to Tanzania on 20th to stay with Caroline Blumer - pony camp there.
26th meet Kanuthi and go to safari camp.

So, we've got our visas including my work visa for Kenya. Julie and Sarah are lined up to look after the house and the horses. I have a full menu of jabs - meningitis, Hep B, tetanus, diptheria, polio and typhoid - to look forward to. The flight's booked with Virgin and I've told the IH office I'm away. Just need to get a load of cool clothes although I never look cool in them.

My diary is pretty booked up now through June so I'm having to look at August for clinics and non-emergencies. Good to have something to look forward to when I get back.

In the meantime, David has flown off to Cyprus for a week. He can practise doing things in the heat!