Friday, January 29, 2010

29th January, 2010 Feet first

Today I was asked to work with a five year old ex-racehorse who has taken to wafting his back feet around when his owners go to pick them up. He's got quite a good cow kick in there too and he's successfully keeping them at bay. Physically he still needs to put more weight on (he was particular poor when they got him and it seems to take as long for a thin horse to put weight on as it does a fat one to lose it) and to develop some muscle so I can't rule out that it may be uncomfortable for him to pick his feet up. I suspect that he has never been taught to pick his feet up nicely and that he was probably manhandled to get his feet trimmed and shod when he was in training. That invariably means that he was grabbed and had his feet wrenched up high. So we worked on desensitising his back legs first of all and then giving a clear set of signals about what we wanted him to do this entails squeezing his leg until he picks it up rather than pulling at it until it gives. Once the foot is up, the handler holds the toe rather than the fetlock and this gives the horse a lot more balance. At the front, nstead of tying him up, where he has 360 degrees around a post to move away or threaten to kick, he was held on a lead rein instead so that if his feet waved about, his bottom could be turned away pretty promptly. It took a few goes but he started to get it and to understand that we didn't want him to lift his leg high up off the ground - at the moment, just a few inches will do.
Got back in time to give Jack his sixth walk of the week. I gave all the horses some hay and then discovered that Jack was waiting at the door to the round pen (which I have used to keep a dry area outside the feed shed) implying that I should hurry up with the clicker bag and the headcollar so that we can go for our walk. He can't be bothered with that dry grass stuff when there are adventures to be had. He followed me over to the field gate where headcollar was put on in about two seconds flat and then off we went onto the open Forest. This time we went down the drift way to the side of the inclosure and Jack jumped over a rail which had been left up at the pony pound and negotiated some rather sticky mud as we followed the track. In fact, we looked like two drunks trying to hold each other up at this stage as we used each other as a walking stick. Got to the bottom and crossed over the Three Bill Goats Gruff wooden bridge before negotiating a series of streams which Jack either jumped or walked through with alacrity. Then it was up through the woods bending down for the low bits and jumping over a few logs before jumping the really big log just outside the inclosure. Next we went over the massive ditch stream (which most horses say no to on their first confidence walk) and then up to the inclosure gate. In the inclosure, checking that there was no-one about, I unclipped him to test whether he would stay with me. Apart from grabbing a couple of mouthfuls of marsh grass and a bit of a fir tree, he stuck pretty close and we walked and trotted all the way up to the top and back to the field. Such such fun!!

29th January, 2010 The YouTube Test

I feel it's a really useful test of your horsemanship if you could bear the thought of it appearing on YouTube with the sound down.

29th January, 2010 Responsibility

If any of you are thinking about becoming an RA, one of the biggest lessons I have learned is that my responsibility starts and finishes at the start and finish of a session. I am always more than happy to give further advice by e-mail or phone if an owner has got stuck or wants to make further progress or indeed to go and visit again for the next stage. Whenever I do go back out again it's like going to meet a friend rather than a client. Nevertheless it's very easy to feel that it's your fault that the horse has got a problem in the first place and that it's your fault if it is not totally cured by the time you leave- all you can hope to do is to make a significant improvement for the horse and the owner! I think it stretches into the ego thing too and a sense of emotional attachment to every horse that you meet; in the end, they are not my horses and people are free to work the way I have suggested or any other way they want to.

Nothing in particular has triggered me to write this particular thread and I recognise that people buy horses with pre-existing issues so that it's neither of our faults that the horse is like that in the first place. When a horse comes from a harder type of home, he often feels freer to express his feelings when he gets to a new and more sympathetic one.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

27th January, 2010 Jack's Map

I got back in time to be able to take Jack out for his fifth walk. Conditions were a little more testing today as there was a herd of Shetlands outside the gate and one in particular is a feisty soul. He followed us over to the inclosure where he first gave Jack a kiss and then turned round and tried to kick him. Jack didn't bother at all. His little map is getting bigger all the time and today we went out of the inclosure through one gate and then back in through the next.

27th January, 2010 Bally

I can't say I was looking forward to my loading job when I set off this morning. A seven year old Irish Draught x Thoroughbred standing at 16.3 h.h., Bally's previous history of loading into trailers was unknown. My last three loaders have all been quite tricky - all needing to load and go; not my favourite scenario as I always prefer to be able to do at least one practice session with them if I can. I needn't have worried. Bally's owners were happy for me to take the time to work with him quietly so that we could analyse whether there was any particular element of loading that worried him. In the event, there was no evidence of him having been hit to go into a trailer and he just seemed to need to acclimatise himself and to know how everything works. Bit by bit we introduced the partition and the bars before eventually putting the ramp up. Bally seemed to consider everything very carefully and he was soon confident moving a step here and a step there within the trailer. This is so important with a tall, long horse especially where the horse travels and exits to the right - he needs to take a step forward and to the left before negotiating the turn out of the trailer if he is to avoid getting banged on the sides of the front door.
E-mail 28.1.10: I can not thank you enough for getting Bally and myself comfortable with the loading process. Will attempt tomorrow to recreate what we achieved yesterday. I have every confidence that we will do so. We learnt a great deal yesterday not just about loading but about managing Bally so both he and we are comfortable. Richard was particularly impressed with how Bally responded to you and the loading into the trailer."Naomi M.
E-mail received 29.1.10: "We started with the partition in but the sides pinned back as you showed us. Bally put his front feet straight on, had a good sniff and then walked in half way. I rewarded him and then he decided to back out – but he did not panic and it was very controlled. He then had another sniff around and walked straight in. At no point did I have to worry that he was distressed about anything. He stood patiently, I rewarded him and then Richard let the front ramp down and he walked out very calmly. We repeated this exercise 3 times and then progressed with the partition, back bars, front bars and then with the rear ramp up. We did this methodically, basically a repeat of what you did yesterday. Finally we shut the front door gradually, he stood calmly and walked out as if he’d been doing this all his life. I am extremely chuffed to say the least. I will probably do this every other day or so for the next week and then take him out for a ride. As he has travelled in a lorry before I would hope he won’t be too fazed by travelling. We will of course treat him like cut glass!

I really can’t thank you enough; the loading skills and the handling skills you have passed on to us can only make our relationship a stronger one." Naomi M

Monday, January 25, 2010

25th January, 2010 Cougar is almost an anagram of courage

This is Cougar. He's an 18 month old New Forest pony and he's great. He has super manners for such a young pony and his owner has done an excellent job of her basic groundwork so that he doesn't bite and doesn't invade space. Today we looked at his leading work and we went out on to the open Forest. We finished by doing the preparation exercises for long reining. Although it is probably too early to long rein him just yet, it was good to ask him to accept a surcingle and girth, gently done up with a breast girth to keep it forward and then to accept the long rein all over him and around his bottom. he was fine. He is a completely different colour "dun" to Jack, more properly described as a buckskin and has a clearly visible black undercoat whereas Jack is much more teddy bear coloured with a cream undercoat. In fact, I am told that there is no such thing as a truly dun New Forest pony.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

24th January, 2010 If at first you succeed....

 it all over again. Jack's second walk away from home. We went the opposite way round and added a little extra just to push his confidence a tiny bit.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

23rd January, 2010 I am ecstatic

Jack and I have been on our first walk out of the field!! I made sure that he was pretty engaged with me and the clicker bag and happily accepting the lead rein before creating two little petals just outside the field gate. When he appeared to be absolutely fine, we set out on a very short walk across the open forest to the inclosure. In the inclosure we went on a little circuit before very quietly wandering off home. Jack was attentive all the way round and although he was slightly excited/apprehensive, he stayed close and seemed to enjoy his first trip out. Jack came in off the Forest when he was less than six months old and has only moved fields once in the 12 years since. He has never ever been for a walk before and you'll remember that he only had his first headcollar on last year.

I am slightly worried about telling Jenny as she was desperate to be there the first time but if she will go swanning off to an all weekend party and then a two day horse psychology course, she can't expect me to sit on my hands the whole time she is away.

Julie is working out how to send the pictures that she took on her mobile phone.

Friday, January 22, 2010

22nd January, 2010 You won't get me camping

It annoys me when camps develop in any field, especially horsemanship. The more people try to define the exact edges of what they do, and to differentiate themselves from each other - usually for financial reasons - the bigger the nomansland that develops between each camp. It can't be good for horses to not be able to stray over the edges without being shot at by the opposition or called a traitor. There are some very spiteful forums about, even when everyone is striving for non-violence in the horse world, where it seems to be open season rather than open minds. It seems that semantics and science are thrown out of the window one minute and then clawed back in the next - for example when I am told that the imposition of a pressure, no matter how gentle, is either an aversive stimulus on one day but a cue on another depending on whose side you appear to be on. To be frank it gets in the way of helping horses and their owners. For some I think pressure and release is the best approach, for others positive association training with food and for some a combination of the two but always working towards not needing either. On the whole I would always prefer to "ask" a horse, being as gentle and subtle as I can but there are three situations in which I "tell" (still never hitting) and that's when a horse tries to bite me, to run into me or to overtake me. I sometimes, but not always, use a Dually halter, I sometimes, but not always use clicker. I'm happy to put a knotted halter on a pony I'm just being casual with but I would prefer not to use one for loading work. As long as all the things I use are internally consistent, I don't see what the problem is.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

21st January, 2010 Oh baby, baby, it's a wild world

I have come to the conclusion that it is very easy to turn a horse or pony into a fully paid up member of the Flat Earth Society, afraid of leaving the field and adamant that they won't, because they are frightened of falling off the edge. I hate the phrase "comfort zone" but it will do for now and it seems to me that a horse's comfort zone will actually contract if left to it's own devices. Without pushing at the edges and taking them out a little way here and a little way there, the space in which they are willing to operate, or rather co-operate, shrinks to the size of a womb. I remember reading Jeremy James' book, Saddletramp, where he buys a stallion in a small village in Turkey only to discover that the horse simply won't move when he gets it to the edge of civilisation. It's a bit unorthodox, but Jeremy blindfolds the horse (and please don't do this) and leads him up to the top of a mountain where he takes it off again. Once the horse saw that the world was big, he was fine. In the same way, Kim, a horse my mum bred and later gave to me, was completely liberated by living out on a large hill farm at the top of Dartmoor when before she had only lived in a square field, with a square trough and square hedges. I have heard recently that Kate a friend of Cello's new owner, has taken him out for a walk and marvelled at just how confident he is away from home - but of course, he has never known any real boundaries existed and he and his Mum could have walked and kept walking for a number of days before they found that the New Forest has any limits. Yesterday I went back out to a young horse that says no even to being led around his own field and can't be taken out on a quiet track without losing his nerve and creating a scene. If that situation isn't resolved soon, how can anyone ever expect to ride him out? So important to get them extending their comfort zone bit by bit by bit - arcing out in petals if necessary. I know how these horses feel - I don't even like shopping in Salisbury these days but think that is more a product of my husband's hatred of shopping than a real fear of towns!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

19th January, 2010 Shaping Up

Last night I gave a talk to the Wessex Classical Riding Group about our trip to Kenya and Tanzania. It brought back memories of not only the physical warmth but the general human warmth with which were met by everyone we worked with there. Considering that I used to be a Court Clerk and accustomed to speaking, completely ad lib to people from all walks of life, I still find public speaking a little unnerving. Once the "on" switch was on last night, I talked for one and half hours and I'm not sure I breathed throughout that time! I think I probably just need to do more of it. "Just wanted to tell you, again, how brilliant your talk was this evening. Even though you didn't have a horse under your arm just reliving the whole experience must have helped you to be in pony mode. You are a natural..." Sheila

I got back to work proper with Jack yesterday although it doesn't feel like work at all. I can lift him up from his grazing by just saying "Jack, Jack" and showing him the headcollar. He then walks over to me and follows me into the top paddock. Headcollar on in the normal way with just a couple of "intermediate bridge" clicks and then I was able to groom him all over - except his tail which he still says is private - and then handled and pick up his feet. The feet picking up is still a bit tentative but considering it is months since I last tried, he has forgotten nothing. I then did some clickered desensitisation work with a long lead rein which he is still worried about but getting better all the time. I am hoping to use him as one of the ponies on the Equine Touch course so I need him to relax even more by then.

Monday, January 18, 2010

18th January, 2010 Speeders - Shame on you!

Sunday 17th Jan at 5 p.m. Fordingbridge to Cadnam Road in direction of Cadnam. T46 JBE Silver saloon. Overtook car behind me and then me.

Monday 18th Jan at 3.50 p.m. Same road but in direction of Fordingbridge N2 GJC Big black 4 x 4 type with tinted windows. Over took me and then three cars ahead and sped off into the distance.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

16th January, 2010 Tracker

After a further 12 months bringing Talin on, Cat finally decided that she wanted to sell him. Although she had begun to ride him again and was getting on very well, she felt that she just didn't have the time available to commit to what was a very sensitive and athletic horse. She sold Talin via giving the lady that bought him a full account of what he had done and the problems he had had in the first place. That lady is also an IH member and will get help whenever she needs it from her own local RA. She is doing the courses as well so Taliln has truly landed on his feet and is all set to continue in the right direction.
Meanwhile, Cat has bought this beautiful boy. He is apparently great to ride and only has a couple of issues to deal with. The first one is catching. Almost as soon as you walk into his field, Tracker is off and despite using careful body language, he is adept at maintaining the same distance between you. We brought him into the smaller paddock (still not that small!) following his little friend Pickles and then worked on using advance and retreat to catch him. Cat has already got the broad principles and concepts of the IH approach - pressure on, pressure off and so on and today it was the tiny bits of technique that we needed to look at. How to make sure that you are in the right place at the right time, mirroring the horse and accidentally turning up at the place he is heading to. How to use touch and move away to get permission to touch him and to ask him to stay and how to out the headcollar on without flicking the crown piece over his neck. By the end of the session he was being caught even though he looked apprehensive about it. I strongly suspect that he has been chased and grabbed previously and he has learned that it is best to stay out of the way. He also has a bit of a wobbly clip around his head and I wonder whether he had to be restrained for that. It was great to see Cat catching him and the way he moved in for her as soon as he felt he could commit.
Should point out that it was absolutely chucking it down with rain.
E-mail received 21.1.10: "Your technique seems to be working Saturday afternoon I was able to go up to him in the bigger field and give him a rub - amazing!! It also only took me about 10 mins to catch him Sunday morning, the pressure and release technique works a treat! Each evening I have also been putting his headcollar on and off 3 times. Thank you so much." Cat

16th January, 2010 Hardmanship versus Horsemanship

So much of what is described as "good horsemanship" is actually just hardmanship. Take for example, the Mongolian horsemen, the Rapa Das Bestas in Spain and some of the techniques used to restrain semi-feral ponies in this country. It all seems to be about strength and subduing the horse and the word make rather than ask. The horse doesn't get to make a choice. All very well if you are strong and determined but not if you are not. I am told that these techniques work and therefore that the end justifies the means - but there are always negative consequences even if the task itself is achieved; it may be a loss of trust in the horse which will ultimately lead to the horse not being as safe as he possibly could be. Gentle, and by definition, non-violent techniques, only have positive consequences.

Friday, January 15, 2010

15th January, 2010 Achilles update

Just about a month ago I went out to see Achilles (see entry for 11th December) who wasn't happy to be touched or caught and was also jumping out of his field. I got this from Leanne today:

"We have had another major improvement, so thought I would send you an update.
You may have seen on IHDG that both my liveries are on box rest so Illie was evicted from his stable, I turned him out with the herd praying I would be able to catch him again. First evening Tuesday could get nowhere near him, I spent wednesday approaching him every couple of hours, produced a carrot or gave him a rub and left - by the evening he was leaving the herd to come and see me, Wednesday evening and last night he came to call when I went out, allowed me to put headcollar straight on and came in for an evening feed with the others. The field is 10 acres and its a mixed herd of 6. At lunch I went to check on them I called him and he came straight over to the fence to say Hi :-)"

Isn't that great?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

14th January, 2010 Leggy

It's been over two years since I saw Leggy. He's now ready to be started and in fact Heather has already been on his back with and without a saddle and he has been fine; she's done a great job. Today I assessed whether he is ready to go on to being ridden more regularly and started him off long reining so that we can teach him to accept direction and build up his fitness. He was a very good boy and clearly liked having something to do.

Heather told me some of the things she has done with him: "Thank you for your email with all the information and for your visit today. I'm glad that you liked what you saw, especially as I try to be mindful of my actions around my bonny boy. I have tried to teach him well to prepare him for all sorts of things . So I often do seemingly loopy activities with him, including draping clothes over his head or banging saucepans in front of him! Currently he thinks that the huge sheet of plastic that I use when pruning is the best game ever and loves to chase after it and demolish it when it flaps."HS

14th January, 2010 Feeding the 5,000

It looks as if I have going to go through my entire winter's supply of hay in just one month. My ponies come back every day without missing and bring all their mates. The Shetlands even turned up one morning. Pie's "wife" came along this morning. She's a bit of a shrew and would kick you as soon as look at you and brings home the fact that ponies have no real sense of gratitude. I took my life into my hands just trying to remove the bramble off her back and eventually had to pull it off with a twig!

Monday, January 11, 2010

11th January, 2010 One a fortnight

I make no apologies for these graphic pictures. At least one pony or cow has been killed or badly injured every fortnight along the B3078 from Cadnam to Fordingbridge. They are not killed by tourists but mainly by commuters whose only concern seems to be the speed with which they can get to work or to the station, or delivery vehicles trying to get round their rounds as fast as possible. If you can't slow down, go round.

In fact, this little girl was killed in the dark last night about 50 yards along from a sign that reads "Beware animals on the road day and night". The road is open and was clear of snow and no doubt this pony had been attracted to the edge of the road by the salt in the grit that the Highways Agency are spreading in order to save people's lives.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

10th January, 2010 Look back with horror

It's hard not to get emotionally involved with a horse that is in trouble and I got very close to Moose yesterday as I tried to show her that the horsebox was not such a terrible place to be. I got an e-mail from Steve Mills, the transporter last night which said that: You where great today, I was a little worried for this one did move around quick. Anyway all went well with the other end. The horse travelled well and also walked out very relaxed.Thank you again great job and well done." As I had been lying awake worrying about whether she was alright, it was great to get this in the middle of the night so that I could go back to bed and sleep.

In the days before I started to see things from the horse's point of view (I wasn't born this way and it's not the way I was brought up to be), we had a couple of nasty incidents with horses that we were loading. The first was when a pony (Roxy as a foal above) came out through the jockey door of a trailer we had borrowed taking the whole of the wooden side with her. Amazingly she was fine and she travelled okay after that but the friend never loaned us a trailer again. On another occasion, I went up to collect a horse called McKenzie from my Mum's. Once we set off with him in the horsebox he reared and went over the partition. Luckily, he was fine too and frequently travelled to events but its a wonder. At that time we gave no thought to practising horses before we ever travelled them and didn't think that they might be frightened and that it is entirely against their instinct to go into a small dark space where they will be trapped. It's a couple of decades ago now but I would give anything to go back and do it all properly; at least that way you can keep the risk of an accident down to a minimum.

This morning I have picked up the BHS Stage 2 Manual and it says about loading: "A sharp quick tap with a whip on the hindquarters may persuade a stubborn horse to walk forwards." I don't know where this evolved into chase it on with a big lunging whip as I see and hear about all too frequently. Even tapping like that can create a horse that runs backwards or stands on the ramp kicking out with its back feet - not something you want to be behind if you are doing up the breech bar. There is absolutely no place for whips when loading horses - but I can't say that in the old days I didn't use one. While we are learning these things for ourselves, it it the horses that pay. I really envy anyone who comes into this having never used fear and force with horses.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

9th January, 2010 No picture, no horse?

I have had my hands too full over the last couple of days to be able to take any pictures of the horses so this photo taken from Bulbarrow Hill is the only proof I have that I have been out at all.

Yesterday it was off to meet Ruffy, a three year old Thoroughbred x New Forest who has been getting a bit feisty around his food. Perhaps because he has inadvertently become the herd leader (his companions are a foal and a two year old), he has grown to believe that he has the right to take food off people as well. We worked on this specific problem, establishing body space and making sure that we moved him and he didn't move us, as well as doing some basic groundwork stuff. Once the food was out of the picture he was actually a very polite boy and a quick learner too. With this weather who can blame them for being so attached to their food?

This morning Julie and I went to load a 15.3h.h. mare called Moose as she was moving from the loan home back to her original owner. With the tricky conditions we had to find a safe place to load and we took the precaution of covering it with straw too. Although she is 9, I don't suppose Moose has ever been taught to load and I heard that on one occasion she had been loaded by the army who practically carried her on and on another attempt, a lunging whip had been used - that is standard BHS practice as described in their training manuals and people don't see anything wrong with it but this is the surest way to teach them to run backwards. Moose has learned to run backwards once half loaded but with the aid of the panels and a good long lead rein I was able to persuade her that she could come in and turn around in the box and get to know the place a bit. It was touch and go whether we would be able to close the ramp safely and it was only after she had gone through three periods of high adrenalin and high activity that she finally settled enough for us to give it a go. Fortunately it worked and I hope that this low pressure approach and a gentle journey will be the start of her changing her mind about the whole thing. In an ideal world, I wuold like to have stopped the session at the point where she was really relaxed to reward her for doing so but the costs involved in coming back another day were going to be extensive. She's a lovely horse and she was getting better all the time so I hope that she does get a training session very soon with one of my colleagues closer to her home.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

7th January, 2010 Boing!!!!

Today it was off to meet Lorraine's new pony, Zebedee. Fortunately she has a school with a rubber surface so we were able to keep going in the snow. Zebedee came from Ireland and he is a sweet soul. He has a few gaps in his education that we hope to fill and he needs to develop physically too but he is already a very pleasant pony to ride. Hopefully his character will start to come out in the next few weeks as he realises that he is with people he can trust to be fair and consistent.

7th January, 2010 The D Factor

Anton from the Hampshire Animal Rescue Team asked me to put out some feelers to see if we could find a young filly that will be able to act as a "rescue pony" for their practical exercises as well as doing ride and drive. The filly above is one that has been offered for consideration by Horseworld and I am looking forward to going to visit her (if she is though to be suitable) in the next few weeks.
The ad goes as follows:
Training and “Rescue” Horse/ Pony for Hampshire Animal Rescue Team (Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service)

Anton Philips, Animal Rescue Specialist, is an experienced horseman and is looking for a quiet cob type filly foal to join the animal rescue team as a training and “rescue” horse for their practical exercises. She is destined to become a favourite with the public and will no doubt appear on t.v. programmes like Real Rescues. She will have an incredibly important role in the training of Animal Rescue Officers and trauma vets from across the nation.

The filly will be trained by Anton with input from me (Sarah Weston, RA) where required. The younger she is the better, and both of us are willing to work with her while she is still with her Mum to establish a good bond and trust. The ideal pony will have a solid if not dozy temperament and the hairier she is, the better. She doesn’t have to be absolutely bombproof from the outset but needs to be amenable to training as she will need to lie down when she is asked to and to accept being lifted off the ground with carefully designed equipment to keep her safe. Ideally she should grow to be about 14.2 hands.

Having completed her apprenticeship over the next three years, she can expect a very exciting and interesting life acting as a “rescue” horse. She will be based in Hampshire but will travel to shows and fayres to give demonstrations.

Hampshire Animal Rescue Team are a centre of excellence for training Animal Rescue Officers and Veterinary Teams. They operate at the forefront of developing equipment and techniques which aim to provide safer horse rescues and their work may potentially benefit every horse owner.

If you think that you have a filly foal or may have a filly foal on the way that could fulfil this role and you would be willing to donate her or sell her at a reasonable price for an extremely worthwhile cause, then please contact: Sarah Weston in the first instance at for further details.

Although Hampshire Animal Rescue Team can only accept a filly (for anatomical reasons!) they are particularly keen to consider foals that may be looking to be re-homed by busy and overcrowded horse charities. They would be happy to consider some sort of reciprocal arrangement whereby your charity or organisation would receive publicity and acknowledgement and to support events or open days (subject to the distance involved).

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

6th January, 2010 Five day Handling the Semi-Feral Foal Course

I am delighted to have been asked to go back to Widecombe in the Moor to run another Handling the Semi-Feral Foal Course in 2010. The course which will run from 25th to 29th October will see students working with 2 ponies each and training them from start to finish - teaching them to accept touch, accept a headcollar, lead and have their feet picked up. Places are limited. Click on the poster to see an enlarged version.
With my dream team of organisers - Kathryn, Natalie and Ro - and my dream team of trainers (David, Julie, Jenny C, Celia, Derry, Sheila and Jenny M) I am really looking forward to this course already. The New Forest element of the team will all be staying in one big cottage so it should be chaos but fun. I am thrilled to bits to be reunited with Jenny Major who worked alongside me at the Exmoor Pony Centre and was brilliant even though she had only been in post for a week.

6th January, 2010 Snow go area

As I couldn't do any work today, I went out for a walk with Jenny and the camera. The top two pictures are Nelly and Thinny and two unknown ponies who called in for a meal and the one at the bottom was down at Eyeworth pond.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

5th January, 2010 Training Days

This year I am offering two types of training day to anyone who wants to come without their horse. The first is the Recommended Associate Training Day where you can accompany me to my appointments and in my work at home on a typical RA day. We can talk about horses all day long and different types of horsemanship and I will explain what I am doing as I go along. These cost £30 per day.
The second is a one to one training day where you can choose what sort of work you would like to cover and get to participate throughout the day. We can cover anything from groundwork, desensitisation, long-reining, loading, clicker training, care of the New Forest pony and so on. These days cost £99 for the day and include lunch at the local pub.
Click on the images above to enlarge the posters.
I am happy to supply gift vouchers for any value towards any of the training days, courses, clinics or one-to-one horse training that I do.

Monday, January 4, 2010

4th January, 2009 I'm Your Venus

A 5 a.m. start today to meet up with Kelly and the Countryfile Team at Adam's Farm in the Cotswolds. Kelly had been asked to work with this pretty little filly, Venus, that Adam intends to keep as part of his herd of rare Exmoor Ponies. Despite the chilling weather, we had a great day with Venus headcollared and leading within a couple of hours. Adam and the film crew seemed to be very impressed. Along with abandoning branding next year, we hope that Adam will feel able to adopt the techniques he saw in action today. Countryfile now has a huge audience on Sunday nights and appeals to people from all walks of life not just the farming community so I'm hoping that this session will be seen by lots of people - I'm not sure on which date this will be shown. Although I was understudy today, I really enjoyed my day. Adam is a really genuinely pleasant chap and I'm a definite fan.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2nd January, 2010 Is there anything exciting about 47?

Tomorrow I shall be 47 which seems to be a very non-descript age to be. Oh well. Julie bought me a super notebook with photos of the horses on the cover - I shall use it for making notes for the new book. Jenny summed up the way Piper made people feel when she says: "I can honestly say nothing compares to the humbling feeling when Piper allowed me to touch him, personally that is a feeling I shall never forget." I'm rather daunted by the prospect of starting on it but I am sure it will be fine when I get going.

Today I got this lovely e-mail from Jan who owns Phineas (above). Can you believe how tall he is at only 10 months old?

"I do feel as if everyday is my birthday following your visit to help me and Phineas in November! I can't believe what a beautiful, confident ,trusting boy he is since you came. He just comes on in leaps and bounds and surprises us every day with the speed he learns things. He happily picks up all four feet now, wears rugs and goes for walks down the lane meeting all sorts of scarey, horse eating things! He is such fun to have around and everyone at the yard is amazed at how he has such good manners (and hasn't tried to kill me yet!). I know I wouldn't be at this stage with him without you and think of you everytime I'm with him..motorbike hands and smiley ropes..the breathing comes more naturally now! Our vet was astounded when he visited for jabs last month as he was safely able to feel his 'bits' and inject with no fuss!"JW

Friday, January 1, 2010

1st January, 2010 Happy!! New Year

Today we went native and had a photo shoot with all of the innies and the outies. The lighting isn't great and the ponies aren't clean but clockwise we have Jack, the dun pony - he had his headcollar on in 10 seconds flat this morning not having been touched for 6 weeks; Nellynoo the bay pony and her little mate, Thinny next to her. Thinny isn't mine but I am feeding her all the same. Next we have Razzledazzle, Abi's Highland pony and then Blue and Pie.