Wednesday, July 28, 2010

29th July, 2010 Creating a Scene at the New Forest Show

Of course the real reason we were at the New Forest Show was to play hapless horse owners for the Animal Rescue Team (again!!). There were some compensations not least of which was that we were presented with a gorgeous rosette commemorating the 90th anniversary of the show. My usual Tourette's set in as I was presented with mine by the Bishop and said "ooh, it matches your outfit". Honestly, he laughed!

29th July, 2010 Familiar Faces at the New Forest Show

The top picture is Woody (photo courtesy of Horsepower). The middle picture is Tetua, Patrick Kempe's Lusitano that also graces the front cover of Margarit Coate's Book "Talking to Horses". The bottom picture is Tiptop, Aud's Spotted Miniature Horse. She was reserve champion.

Some of the ponies I have worked with recently did well too. Peat came in 8th in a strong class of New Forest ponies, Katie came 4th in her class and Woody was second in the Competition Pony and Reserve Champion and he won the Hunter Pony and again was Reserve Champion! He also had two firsts a couple of weeks ago at Dorset Charity Show. Sally added "I would just like to say that since you helped us in loading him that first time he has never once refused to go in the lorry!!"

29th July, 2010 Behind the Scenes at The New Forest Show

The best place for photographs at the New Forest Show is in the horsebox park and next to the collecting ring. All of these photos were taken on day two of the event.
I shall put all the photos on photobucket soon and if anyone knows the owner of these horses, I shall be happy to send them a copy of the pictures.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

27th July, 2010 Singing horses

Jenny and I spent a long time chatting on the way to and from India yesterday. I was telling her stories about my old court days. At one time, all of the court clerks were moved to a new office which used to be court 9. It still had the tannoy system used for calling defendants and advocates into court which was connected to all of the public areas of the building. My colleague, Linda and I, had discovered the singing horses on the internet so it was fairly easy to set all of the computers to play it full blast and then keep the switch pressed down on the tannoy. Linda and I were helpless with tears as the halls and corridors rang to the sound of these horses singing a capella. If you haven't heard it before go to:
Not quiet as bad as the day John Scott hung his coat on the switch and everyone was treated to two court clerks discussing a certain solicitor's halitosis.

Monday, July 26, 2010

26th July, 2010 India-on-the-hill

Today we continued India's education with loading. As an older horse it is easy to assume that she has had this before but some horses go through life only ever being loaded in a hurry or in a worry. We left the session on a really good note with her standing inside the trailer for five minutes at a time. The panels were used to create a really safe place to work.

26th, July, 2010 NFP Coach

I have worked with a couple of NLP coaches and the work they do is excellent. NLP stands for neuro-linguistic programming and it's about creating a positive vision which can really help people in things like sport and their careers. For example, Amanda has worked with me on having a positive image in my mind when I ride Chancer. Instead of the image of him bucking in the field and his feet touching the bottom branches of the tree, I have an image of us riding off gently into the sunset through the dappled light of the trees and he is wearing his bling browband and the colours are all autumnal and pretty. You get the idea.
On Friday I was working with Mars again trying to ask him to stay in the horse trailer for a lot longer than he has ever done without leaving. My usual tactic on these occasions, when a horse sometimes feels quite explosive, is to imagine that they are a New Forest Pony (obviously a calm and gentle one) and hope that image gets through to the horse too. So, I hereby name this technique as NFP training instead.

26th July, 2010 What would he say about you?

When I talk to people about their horses, they often list their good points and bad, always adding something like "but he hasn't got a bad bone in his body". I often say, "you want to hear what he says about you!". I wonder if they ever think that we are taking the P?

I wonder how it would sound? "Oh, she comes down here and thinks that I'm going to leave my mates and all this grass to go and do a load of work." "Every time he puts the saddle on, he hoiks up the girth and it really bloomin' pinches, honestly, he's taking the P." "Why on earth she thinks I want to go into an oven on wheels (substitute igloo in the winter) when she's in such a foul temper and I'm so tired, I'll never know." "What on earth can I do with a stupid ribbon decoration? It's not even edible." and more seriously, "That hurts, that hurts, that hurts...."

We are all so fortunate that horses want to co-operate with us at all when you think of the weird/ illogical/ painful things we do to them. Really, what's in it for them?

I'm off now to persuade another horse to go into an oven on wheels.....

Sunday, July 25, 2010

25th July, 2010 My definition of courage

So here is Michael again, on his beloved Cruz, taking it "easy" having come out of hospital an hour earlier and having had, I'll say it quickly, six litres of fluid drained from his lungs. He wanted to try out his new saddle and so he did!

Friday, July 23, 2010

23rd July, 2010 In for the long haul?

The two horses on the Isle of Wight were both well bred, highly athletic horses. The first, B, has had a long time off for various reasons and her owner wants to get riding her again. Sometimes people have to be in for the long haul and I can support them along the way with just the odd session here and there. For older horses it is just the same as young horses in that they have to be physically and mentally fit to work. Although things can be done in parallel, I always look to the physical first so that we can make sure that the horse is able to do the work it will be asked to do, i.e. that we are acting ethically. In B's case some long reining and pole work will all help to get her back and stomach muscles working again. Given that she can be spooky when ridden (and she's a big horse in a spook!) we needed to make sure that the groundwork is all in place. It's easy to think that a spooky horse means that you are disconnected; that there is something wrong with the bond between you. Watching Jan and B together it was clear that there is a really strong empathetic bond between them as B matched Jan stride for stride, action for action without any pressure at all. It was quite moving to see. Our next step will be some desensitisation work as B is frightened of things moving suddenly and anything novel. I hadn't recognised the true value of this work until I heard that Kate, Annie's sister, has been riding her Thoroughbred out for the first time in five years thanks to the work we have been doing.

The afternoon took me 10 minutes down the road to Solomon. He's a tall boy and at 2 years old, he hasn't learned how to stop his automatic, instinctive need to go into pressure at the slightest challenge (and I don't mean any sort of big pressure here). I sense that he is desperate for a play mate and sees humans as just that. All of his pent up energy came our way. We concentrated on asking for the smallest stuff so that we could reward him for that with lovely slow, flat rubs to his neck and show him the difference between the behaviour we wanted and the behaviour we didn't. I had to make use of the rattle bottle when he dived in with his shoulder or started to rear but then reward him the instant he stopped. He wasn't afraid of the rattle bottle but the noise was uncomfortable enough to move him away. This isn't a horse being naughty at all, all of his behaviour is entirely natural but we need to find a way to ask him not to use it around humans. I felt that it was important to keep it really very simple and I am hopeful that this is the start of getting him to understand what we want.
"Thank you so much for yesterday, you have given me a great big kick-start to get going with B, there is confidence again (like I used to have), I really thought we had not bonded, that I just really was just a food cupboard. " JL

Thursday, July 22, 2010

22nd July, 2010 Four kings and you are out

Last night I went to a wake of a lovely man called Andy who sadly died aged just 51. He'd only lived in Woodgreen for five years and yet everyone knew him and enjoyed his company. It was a very sad occasion but everyone dressed cheerfully and there was lots of chatter and laughter. It's a stark reminder that life is like the game of Clock Patience, turn over four kings and you are out in this game of chance. This morning I went over to meet Annie on the Isle of Wight to go and visit two new clients there. Poor lass but her Dad died early this morning after fighting a hard battle with cancer. She absolutely insisted on spending the day with me having already dealt with a massive amount of grief and I can't believe that there are such selfless people anywhere. Fortunately I met her Dad a few weeks ago following an earlier visit when he had arranged for me to be Annie's birthday present. What a lovely Daddy.

22nd July, 2010 Cruz Control

This picture was taken at The Help For Heroes Sponsored Ride at Windsor Great Park. The riders are Aud and Michael, the horses Victor and Cruz. It was an amazing feat for all concerned to take part in this ride, not only because Audrey has calmed Victor down enough to go round, but also because Michael has been undergoing aggressive chemotherapy and was riding a brand new horse. On Wednesday I had the pleasure of meeting Cruz but infortunately not Michael who has had to go into hospital again. Considering this horse is only six and stands at 18 h.h., he's amazing. His groundwork was great even if he didn't always know where his feet were!

Earlier in the day I had been working with a six week old Quarter Horse filly. She had plenty to say about what she does and doesn't like and what she does and doesn't accept. She was a good example of cause and effective-ness. Once again I used fabric to start to desensitise her face but not before I had used it on Mum to get her permission to be in the stable and touching her foal.

22nd July, 2010 Running around in circles

Tuesday evening saw Jenny and I back down at the fire station as official groupies practicing for the New Forest show. The Animal Rescue Team are giving a demonstration on all three days of the show and our role is to be hapless trailer drivers whose horse goes berserk in the back. I am extremely worried about getting Tourettes and singing "It's worse than that he's dead Jim" into my microphone (this, if you are too young to remember is from the song "Startrekking Across the Universe").
The team's stand will be on 5th Avenue throughout the show and I know they will be pleased to meet any horse owners. If you feel like making a donation they will be readily accepted. Of course, the team are likely to be hit by the cuts in public sector funding and have to be more or less self financing. The job they do is fantastic and they need all the support they can get.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

20th July, 2010 Pesky flies

Whilst this filly hid under her Mum's tail this morning, her Mum had hidden her head in the hollow of a tree.

20th July, 2010 Into-The-Lens

The long awaited photographs taken by professional photographer Simon Palmer arrived this morning. It's really very generous of him to let me have any at all. The rest, including pictures of the stallion, should be on his website very soon. Next year we will be holding a photography course here in the New Forest when people will be able to take pictures of the ponies on the Forest. Let me know if you would be interested and I will let you have details of the date very soon.

Monday, July 19, 2010

19th July, 2010 Nile

Today I went back to see Nile. as well as doing some general desensitisation work, I worked on his bridle shyness using a combination of desensitisation and clicker training. I worked with the bridle for an hour first thing, quarter of an hour after lunch and for five minutes at the end of the day. By this time, Nile was accepting his bit in less than ten seconds and was in fact seeking the bit. By coupling clicker with the desensitisation work, I hope that we have persuaded Nile that bridling is actually a pleasant and welcome experience.

You will have noted that many of the horses I have worked with recently are wearing fly rugs. It seems the fairest thing to do to enable them to concentrate and forget about the flies.

"We really benefited from the day and you will be pleased to know I have bitted Nile today in no time at all I am so pleased he accepted the bit instantly and we went out for a short hack -wonderful" MH

Sunday, July 18, 2010

18th July, 2010 Happy Anniversary

David and I have been married for eight years today. We had a perfect day - a lie in followed by the MotoGP (Valentino Rossi back after injury) and most exciting of all, a ride out together on Chancer and Theoden for the very first time. You might think we are taking things extremely slowly with both horses but with a ratio of three to one of novices to experienced, it seems to be the right thing to do. It's great to have horses that move at the same speed as Petra Pistonlegs leaves Chancer miles behind if I don't stop every once in a while. Then it was off to the Sherekhan to collect an Indian meal and back in time for Top Gear. That's called a balanced life.

I started some clicker training with Theoden yesterday as I want to do stretching exercises with him. He's the first horse where I really have had to teach him with a barrier between us. If I don't let him have the food directly from the bumbag, he would turn round to kick me and without the fence there I think he would carry it through. I am hoping that by being utterly consistent and only giving him a click and a treat for touching the feather duster, he will stop trying to cut out the middle man and relax about the whole thing. Otherwise I'm afraid he will forfeit the right to be clicker trained. I don't think it is any coincidence that he was a bit lean when I got him and people living around his field had been giving him hand treats. I think he found that a bit of intimidation got them to give up the food more quickly. He was certainly very aggressive around food when he first came.

In the meantime, Jack now has his feet picked out easily and it will only be a matter of time before he can have them trimmed. He also had his first bath complete with bubbles and fly spray, both without batting an eyelid. Funny what he can and can't cope with and he never ceases to amaze me.

Mystery pony is also having her feet picked up for extended periods of time with and without her headcollar on. She's due to have her feet trimmed on 10th August so now we are practising different people, different positions and lots of different clanks and bangs around her.

Jenny's Mum's pony, Poppy, who was at death's door just a couple of months ago (sorry for all the cliches) came fourth at Cadnam's Native Pony Gala today (see picture) and Necator came first in his Iberian class at Dorset Charity Show yesterday.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

17th July, 2010 Beau Guessed

This morning Jenny, Nikki and I went to work with Beau to assess whether he is ready for starting. This four year old pony with a solid temperament is a New Forest cob cross bred by the Stride's at Minstead. His owners bought him at six months and he has been treated with nothing but kindness. As I anticipated, he required very little groundwork and he is fine with new and novel objects; indeed he is curious about everything and particularly liked following the umbrella. He was relaxed about the long reins and finally accepted Jenny leaning over his back with no problems whatsoever. We are looking forward to starting him either at his own home or at ours depending on what his owners decide to do.

Friday, July 16, 2010

16th July, 2010 Bring on the plastic horses

Every Friday we seem to get involved with plastic horses of one kind or another. This time it was the Equisimulator at June Simmonds' Fir Tree Farm Equestrian Centre at Ogdens. The four of us all learned a great deal about the way we ride - David learning to trot for the first time and the rest of us looking at slowing up and speeding up the trot by changing our own tempo; changing diaganols in a very low energy way and how we might be blocking our horses by rising too high or not landing softly enough in the saddle or with both seat bones locked together. This is well worth a go whether you are a novice or a grand prix rider. June is an Enlightened Equitation instructor and someone I have often recommended to teach people without their own horse. Unlike many BHS yards where there is too much kicking, hitting and shouting going on, June teaches subtlety and two way communication with the horse.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

14th July, 2010 Copybook loading

This afternoon, Nikki and I worked with a copybook loader. I used a fairly standard approach, and bit by bit, little by little, this lovely mare grew more and more relaxed about it all. I hope that with plenty of calm practise she will now be fine. There didn't seem to be any particular trigger point for her fears but by working in this way, we could make sure that we didn't miss anything significant.
E-mail received 23.7.10 "We have been getting on really well with loading - practically every day. MA has been doing some and we have loaded Morris beside her with no problems and totally relaxed. I have move the trailer to the yard by the 'stables' where we normally load and again no problems:) Thank you so much for your help - it was a godsend and a great education for us both." Alison A.

14th July, 2010 The Rise and fall of Pat Parelli (I hope)

I'm often asked whether the training I provide is the same as Parelli, and I'm very happy to say that it isn't. Everyone should be made aware that if they want to use Parelli training for their horse, it does involve hitting and it does involve violence - horses are hit with the rope, the clip, the end of the rope, the carrot stick, the string on the carrot stick and the hand - and this comes right from the very top of the organisation; all in the name of love, language and leadership. Think before you buy - just because it's expensive and just because it is well marketed doesn't mean that its ethically sound.

Just so that you don't think I am making it up -

Pat Parelli – You Tube

The original loading DVD

More recently on loading

Catwalk, Robert Whittaker’s stallion, being dealt with for bridle shyness (about which there are 100 pages of discussion on the Horse and Hound Forum)

Linda Parelli – You Tube

So called bargey horse with one eye

And a short story for you. A few years ago I was asked to go and halter train two New Forest foals that were about five months old. The owner had been able to touch them and stroke their faces. She had first turned to a local Parelli trainer recommended by her local vet. The trainer started to work with them both together in a part of a field on a steep slope, sectioned off with electric tape. The trainer lassoed the filly, which fled through the electric fencing taking it with her along with all the stakes, the colt and the lassoo itself around her tummy rather than her neck. In order to stop her, the trainer tied the end of the lassoo to a tree, whereupon she fell into a ditch and landed upside down. The trainer hit her to get her out. The session did not improve from there and neither were the foals halter trained. I turned up with my panels and we created two little pens within the garage. Here I was able to gently put the headcollars on the foals and on and off and on and off a few times before I left. They were fine after that. The owner has never forgiven herself for letting the first trainer work with her ponies although it seems that the ponies did. We started the filly last year and although she was a little worried about the long reins at first, she accepted them and went on to be absolutely fine.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

13th July, 2010 W Day

A 12 hour stint today from leaving home to getting back again. However, another great day on the Isle of Wight where I met William, another fabulous black Irish cob. He has a fantastic temperament and is a real innocent of this world having, fortunately, never been treated badly. Today we went through basic groundwork and then some desensitisation before doing some gentle ridden work to finish. This one could become a police horse if he were tall enough.
Wouter (bottom two pictures), on the other hand, feels plenty tall enough. despite being 15.2 ish. It was a real treat to ride him as I don't often get to ride clients' horses. The Isle of Wight is a particularly beautiful when seen through ears like these. I'd been asked to see whether I could help with a little ridden problem. When Wouter is in the lead, he sometimes starts to go backwards, bumping in to his companion and making it difficult to send either of them forward. Neither rider wants to hit and yet kicking made the horse cling to each other even more. I suggested using a wip-wop rope as it would matter even if it caught the other horse by accident. I was asked to give it a try. When I rode Wouter, I felt that his handbrake was stuck on and that actually he was losing confidence when he was asked to take the lead. My final recommendation was to use the wip wop if he did actually go backwards and to unstick the handbrake a little but also to make sure that there was a change of leader at regular intervals so that he was given a chance to lower his adrenalin and a sort of reward for having the courage to go first. By giving a horse a mental release before he makes the decison to force one for himself, you can build up a lot of trust and confidence.
E-mail received 22.8.10: "Hi Sarah, hope that you are having a good summer .It was really good to see you again and the wip wop method and taking turns in taking the lead has worked straight away Carol and I no longer have to worry about losing a leg with their rubbing. Another big problem has been resolved thank you." Jasmin L.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

11th July, 2010 Beware of inherited tack

Yesterday I worked with four lovely owners and their families with their ponies. There were some common elements between all four ponies (one was actually a very tall horse!). First and foremost they wanted to work on leadership and setting a few boundaries. They also wanted me to investigate why one of the ponies had begun to plant himself out on the road and absolutely refuse to move unless turned for home. It seemed to me that it was all to do with his feet - having gone barefoot in the winter, the behaviour started in the spring when he started to be ridden again. He is 17 years old and his feet are trimmed by a farrier rather than a barefoot trimmer and he seemed to be pretty sore; he rode nicely on grass. The final horse was also extremely foot sore having lost a shoe a few days earlier and then been trimmed that morning - so sore that we couldn't work with him. It gave us the chance to have a good look at his tack and brought home that owners need to be aware of the dangers of inherited tack, i.e. tack that comes with the horse. Just because they arrive at the same time doesn't mean that it actually fits. Luckily he hasn't been ridden in it yet so there is time for the owners to get something much better.
"Thank you for a very informative and enjoyable day yesterday. I found it very helpful for Rocky and even today he was much more co-operative which shows results already. I did a small session with him which was successful, however I need practice especially with the going backwards bit!!! I know as women we are great at multi tasking but it does take time! lol.
Brian, as a new comer to the horsey world also said how much he enjoyed the day." LM

11th July, 2010 They are all at it!

Anne H e-mailed as follows:
"I have a Landy update for you. He's not quite so small and scruffy any more!!!! Yesterday, 1st time out this summer and his second ever show, he qualified for the NPS hunter pony youngstock championship."
I worked with Landmark at our Handling the Untouched New Forest Pony course 18 months ago when Anne had just bought him.

I also received an e-mail from Fraser this morning:

"Necator and I had our first class at the Alton Show last week and came 1st in the 1-3year old Foreign Breeds class. He did really well and behaved himself exceptionally. He and I were very tired by the end of it but a good learning experience for us both."

It's been a while since I worked with them both but when I first met Fraser he was a pretty inexperienced horseman who had just bought himself three Andulusians, two of which were colts. It's not my job to deny anyone their dream however there was no doubt that he was going to have a very steep learning curve. As a college lecturer he certainly wasn't going to be afraid of that!

Friday, July 9, 2010

9th July, 2010 Peat

Peat was the pony I told you about that, when he attended his last show, made off with his lead rein in order to go and see a foal in another class. We had a groundwork session for about an hour and a half.

"I thought that you might like to have an update on Peat's progress, took him to show Sunday, he was a very good boy, listened and responded to requests and only had one little jump around (although was hard not to as just yards away in the next ring massive hunters were cantering past Peat). He won the best "forest bred" rosette. Thank you for your help, as you have has shown me how to nip in the bud in a polite but firm way any mischievous thoughts Peat may have had. He certainly seems to be enjoying doing things together and is quite content to let me take to lead. I now have the confidence to take him to the New Forest show, which prior to your visit I was planning to pull out of." TS

9th July, 2010 Kisses

Having started the day at the Verderers' Office where I picked up some collars for my ponies and took Nikki and Kate to look at the courtroom, we ended the day on the Forest where little Pepper (as I call him) proved to be irresistable. I know his owner if anyone is interested in buying a foal that is already really friendly. Judging by his eyes, he may be turning from pepper into salt.

9th July, 2010 You've been fired

Today I was joined by Nikki, Kate, Jane and the usual crew for the Animal Rescue Team Practice event. This time it was a real epic as it involved the paramedics as well as the fireteam. Even the vet was real as Amy was there from The Barn. Much as this is tremendous fun, it is also deadly serious, and today the tension was real as we were also being filmed. The scenario included two horses being trapped, one between tree trunks and another in a barbed wire fence with a third standing fairly steadily. Not only was Jenny unconscious and Jane hysterical, Kate was "accidentally" stabbed with horse sedative. I played a journalist, complete with microphone, whose job it was to be a complete pest.