Friday, December 31, 2010

31st December, 2011 Looking forward to 2011....

No New Year's resolutions but plenty of plans afoot for 2011. I have already started training for a sponsored walk/run that I want to complete with Jack in September 2011 for the IH charity of the year. The charity will be chosen at the IH garden party in July and is likely to be a welfare charity for horses. I plan to walk 10 miles a day for seven days across the New Forest and hope to be joined by friends and their horse on foot throughout. I have already been sponsored for the special fell running boots that I'll need and received offers of pony nuts, board and lodging for Jack as well as reiki and physio care for him. Please let me know if you would like to sponsor us.
Work-wise I will be carrying on as usual and hope to be busy. I should have the new dates for the Equine Awareness Courses very shortly and the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre Course for Wild Foal Handling is booked for 24th to 28th October 2011 inclusive and has one student enrolled already.
The Friends of the Hampshire Animal Rescue Team will also be fund raising this year and are keen to assist the Team in setting up a charity to support their work. Anyone who has an interest and expertise in setting up such a charity should contact me in the first instance - this should be a thoroughtly worthwhile and long term project for someone to get their teeth into.
The Listening Post gives me plenty to do on rainy days and in the evenings and we will be running a short article writing competition alongside a photography competition in the next edition. I need to get plenty of material in the files just in case I do go to Botswana to work for three weeks! If that particular plan doesn't come off then David is going to buy a convertible car and we'll be off to Scotland for a few weeks instead. I'll be offering to do RA work while I am there.
I am hoping to be mentally and physically a lot fitter by the end of the year! It should keep me going until next Christmas!

31st December, 2010 A last look back.....

Just a bit of feedback on my book before the end of the year.

"Hi Sarah, I would just like to say a massive thank you for shipping your book so quickly, it has been a tremendous help. I have now moved Holly up to Somerset and she has made friends with the two Dartmoor rescues up there and is settling in great. I am continuing to use your book every time I work with her and she is like a different horse. I would like to come on one of your courses next year - I am officially converted :-)" Vicki O.

"The book helped a lot, we are both keen on the natural horsemanship approach but we really worried about how to move from the reducing her comfort zone... Steady patient 'advance and retreat' to actual contact. Also moving onto how to get the headcollar on. Your book also gave us the confidence to refuse to let anyone headcollar her -which we both felt was the wrong thing to do -and as a result we started out with a foal who was wary and cautious, but not scared. So getting her trust has been so much easier. K is just 13 and I have really let her do all the work with me in the background, and I am so thrilled that she and Briar have come so far in 6 weeks. " Angela D

And a bit of news on two more.....

"I just thought I'd give you an update on Merlot's story since you met him in August 09! Merlot was a three year old appaloosa that you helped me and him with the basics of talking to each other and moving his feet and using a Dually. I'm delighted to tell you that his lovely nature just grew and grew the more I worked with him. The first time I sat on him it was as if he's been doing it for years... I remember trying to follow Kelly Marks' Perfect Manners book to the letter! (Later he went to...) a busy livery yard and riding school with all that goes with that, and was an absolute star the whole time. The amount of noise and trouble and hustle and bustle and strange things and horses he encountered was huge and he was wide-eyed sometimes but always sensible. He is now being looked after in the New Forest by a lady who is working and enjoying him very much. I would just like to thank you for everything you showed me and Merlot, and for helping me to give him good beginnings. Everyone who meets him comments on his nature and manners, and I trust him completely in my hands and anyone else's and that means a lot." Rosie G.

and of India, the horse that we taught to load quietly....

"Just thought I would let you know that I successfully transported India (in Ruth's trailer!) to her new home in Salisbury today! What a fantastic result! I have just received an e-mail from her new 'mum', Hayley, telling me how well she has settled with her new field mate, sharing their hay & taking turns to roll in the same spot. I am so happy :-)" Michelle W.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Friday, December 24, 2010

24th December, 2010 Merry Christmas

All is peaceful here with the horses all just eating their heads off. I'd like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

21st December, 2010 Semi-colonoscopy

With no work due to the snow, I have ample time for my editorial duties for the Listening Post. I have received some really interesting articles and all I need to do is sort out the odd bit of grammar. I am looking for articles that are interesting, educational and have an Intelligent Horsemanship angle. If you feel inspired to write them please send articles to me at . They need to be either 900 or 1,750 words or thereabouts and you can leave the proof reading and editing to me providing you have no ego!! I am also trying to build up a library of really good horse photos that I can use in the magazine, so, if you would like to see your picture in print, send them to the same e-mail address. They need to be high resolution (at least 3MB) and really good quality - I can't promise to use them all but I will give credit for all those that I do. The wonderful thing has been that of the photographs that I have receieved so far many have arrived with a brief story attached.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

18th December, 2010 Pure as the driven snow.....

Pie turned up looking like a fright today. He has been in amongst the burnt gorse branches. I gave him and his friends a bit of lunch. I was touched to have received a cheque for £25 towards feeding all these hangers-on from a lovely client of mine. All the ponies are still looking bonny.

18th December, 2010 Naked in the Snow

When there's too much snow to work then there's only one option; play in it instead. Jack was easily persuaded although he didn't really get the idea of a snow angel and was almost convinced that I was dead instead. As there was no-one in the inclosure I took all his kit off for the very first time.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

16th December, 2010 Great strides

I've been having a few life lessons myself this week having missed the moment when a Quarter Horse colt decided that he had had enough. He had been loading very quietly and growing more and more confident and I was just thinking, "if this were my own horse I'd probably stop about now", when he exploded. Whether he read my mind I don't know but then I was damned if I did and damned if I didn't and needed to ask him to quietly load again before we stopped the session . I didn't want him to learn that throwing his toys out of the pram would get everyone to give up. Fortunately we were able to end the session on a really nice note but I wish I had stopped about two seconds before the explosion. It's pretty rare for me to have noisy dramas but it was a lesson in listening to myself.
A trip down to Marilyn's the next day to find that Beau had a swollen eye. This is a lesson I learned a long time ago - don't wait and see what happens with poorly eye, get the vet straight away. It was good to see Tim from The Barn who has been away for a year and he was able to treat a small scratch on Beau's eye, check his teeth and give the poor chap his annual booster.

Pandemonium at Vale Farm yesterday when as a backdrop to our course, eight more equines were delivered. These include Zootie the Zorse, Zambi the Zonkey and several curly coated horses. The course went very well with Dot leading independently and the Quarter Horse foals all leading in a larger area having had their headcollars on very easily.
Photos: Zambi who is now a weanling, Zootie the Zorse, one of the curly coated horses,Dot being led by Kate and Scarlet being led by Kate.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

11th December, 2010 Christmas Present

David went to the Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and to see Prince in concert for his Christmas present so I didn't feel it was too much to ask for another man for mine although I did have to share him with Jenny. We had Ben Hart all to ourselves for the day and it was brilliant to be able to ask anything we wanted and to check out how our training is going with Jack and Splash. Despite having to get up at 5 a.m. to get to us, we tried to ensure that Ben had a good day too as we did go out walking with Jack and to the pub for lunch. Everything seems to be going in the right direction and we learned a load of new but small stuff too. The small stuff is so important. We both found that we have been over-rewarding out ponies for behaviour which is not the final behaviour that we are after and not being clear enough (not a huge sin in their eyes I am sure!). For example, I have been rewarding Jack for picking his foot up abruptly as a step towards picking it up softly - by waiting until he picks it up softly in the first place, all the stomping stopped. I could feel the cogs going around in his head. My aim is not just softly, but ONLY softly.
We also did some work with Theoden who can be aggressive around food. Last winter he was kept short of food by his owners and learned to mug those people whose houses bordered on to his field; it worked beautifully. It's safest at the moment to work with him behind a barrier in case he decides to 'cut out the middle man' and to go direct to the bumbag with his teeth. In this position I can actually let him investigate the bumbag and find out that touching it doesn't produce food. The aim of this session was to teach him patience, introducing a variable schedule of reinforcement. I had to get out of my habit of always counting to three and held my hand behind my back so that it didn't inadvertently go to the bag before I wanted to use it as a terminal signal. It worked really well and only once I am satisfied that it is safe to do so will I work with him outside the pen or loose.
Jenny was able to demonstrate just how far she had got with Splash (our mystery pony from a few months ago) and how Splash now accepts a saddle and other equipment without leaving. Ben felt that Splash was ready for Jenny to make deliberate mistakes in order to get Splash accustomed to things flapping, following or falling off her.
It was a very relaxing day and good to hear Ben's philosophy on all things training. The aim is not to click and treat every move the horse makes or to click and treat the same behaviours for ever. However, clicker makes a fantastic foundation for any horse and I think it's a good idea to have it in the horse's own manual as well as your own tool box.

Friday, December 10, 2010

10th December, 2010 Going Dutch

This is Burley Guilda, a stud bred New Forest pony. Her owner has known her from birth and their relationship is one of real trust. Guilda is now three and today she took a trip up to Fritham to start her long reining and to do some desensitisation work which, as you can see, she took in her stride. Guilda is out of a Dutch New Forest pony, hence, the name.

10th December, 2010 Gorse for breakfast

Apparently, the test of a good New Forest pony is that it must be prepared and able to eat gorse for breakfast. Here's one of the top candidates.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

9th December, 2010 Perfect strangers

Wrapped under 19 layers of clothing, it was off to Vale Farm yesterday. Dot is now letting perfect strangers catch him - mind you they have to be pretty perfect, he knows who is friend and who is foe. Liz uses her arm for advance and retreat, I'm a predator, honestly I'm not, in order to convince him that she is the former and not the latter. Delicious, next photo down, proves that every girl deserves a posh scarf whilst Jenny, below that, shows that you actually need at least two. In the last pictures Imogen makes friends with Misty - never has a horse cottoned on so quickly to clicker.
"Many thanks for such a wonderful day. It taught me loads..." E.H.
"Thanks so much for yesterday - a real treat, despite the cold." I.T.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

7th December, 2010 Un-remark-able

I have been pretty astonished at how few people want to take up the offer of free tack marking. I carry a set of Hampshire Horsewatch tack marking blocks which can be used to postcode (or NECD code) any tack, anywhere. Marking tack and even small items of horsey equipment makes it less likely that it will be stolen in the first place, more likely that it will be dumped if it is stolen and more likely that it will be recovered if the police come across a haul of stolen kit. It's evidential value is enormous. Each month I receive a report from Horsewatch about stolen items and there are always unmarked saddles and bridles in that collection. Thieves will climb through roofs and remove doors to get to tack and they will enter houses too. Tack often goes missing at shows when it is left casually propped up against the horsebox. I think we are very precious about our tack and don't want it defaced because it costs so much money. However, it is precisely this that makes it more attractive to a thief and marking it makes it far less easy for them to sell on.

Friday, December 3, 2010

3rd December, 2010 Your Horse

The article about our foal handling course at the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre is now available in the January edition of Your Horse which came out on Tuesday. Fabulous photos of the ponies.

3rd December, 2010 Baby, it's cold outside

Four days teaching on the Handling the Untouched Horse Course at Hartsop Farm. Despite the minus temperatures and deep snow across the country, two-thirds of the students turned up bringing their colds and sniffles with them. I'm wasn't sure whether Ian and John, my co-tutors, were ready for the feather duster and fluffy scarf approach but apart from gently ribbing me, they let me get on with it and we had good results. I came down with a heavy cold half way through but survived with eight layers of clothes on and a wooly hat. John and Ian both use ropes following the initial touch with a padded stick. They are both really gentle, light and subtle in their work and I gained a lot from hearing them teach - John has a fabulous rope trick that means that horses can be freed very easily and Ian has lots of little gadgets and ruses which mean that he can get a headcollar on from a distance; all clever stuff. There is certainly nothing I could argue with.

"I've just got back from taking care of my girls in the snow and I wanted to say thank you so very much for sharing your knowledge and experience with me for the past 2 days. I counted myself very lucky to have chosen you as my instructor. You have given me a great deal to think about and inspired me to carry on with my IH studies. You are an excellent trainer and have NOTHING to prove at all!" J.E.

Friday, November 26, 2010

25th November, 2010 Stop meddling

If there was one thing I could stop people doing to horses it would be meddling with their noses. This overhandling irritates the life out of them and leads them to either move their head away or to start nibbling and messing back. Have a look at how many people automatically put their hand out to a horse's mouth when they approach it and how many then go on to play with them until they react. Instead of reinforcing this sort of behaviour which shows the horse how to demand attention, reward the horse for being calm and quiet by giving him a lovely rub on the neck.

25th November, 2010 Shetland, New Forest!

You'd be forgiven for thinking you were in the Shetland Isles in Fritham at the moment - what with the bleak chill and the Shetland ponies all over the green. These ponies are very popular with buyers and are put in foal to Shetland stallions rather than crossing them with the Foresters. They often behave like highwaymen, stopping cars and demanding food.