Sunday, February 27, 2011

27th February, 2011 Close to you

Photo for illustrative purposes only! Sue with Marmalade.

The phone calls that fill me with the most trepidation usually start off with the words, I've bought an ex-racehorse/unruly Welsh Cob; I'm a novice rider/ this is my first horse/ I've been out if riding for 20 years. The next line usually recounts how the horse has bucked them off/ reared right up or barged straight through them. The chances of reconciling the needs of the owner and the needs of the horse are pretty slim in the first place but not completely hopeless. However, both horse and owner have a long journey ahead of them as the owner gears up to what they have bought through education and experience and the horse is re-educated to its new life. Time, patience and indeed love can help but there are no magic wands here. With commitment, horse-sense and the right sort of help, the two can get it together. They may need to take their journeys seperately at first and meet somewhere in the middle. I often recommend riding lessons for someone who hasn't ridden for a while and point them at June Simmonds at Fir Tree Equestrian Centre. Here riders are taught properly without kicking, hitting or pulling the horses around. For the horse I like to start at the beginning or support the owner in doing so, with groundwork, then gentle desensitisation, long reining and then pre-starting work unless the horse is established in it's ridden work. Few people have the patience to see this journey right through especially if their confidence has been badly knocked. Sadly, these horses can end up back on the market with a few more 'bad habits' incorporated into their repertoire as they try to understand what humans want from them.

Don't take pity on me if you don't know what you're doing and you're not prepared to learn,
Don't fall in love with me because love will never be enough,
Don't take me home unless you are prepared to travel the rest of the way with me,
Set me up for success not failure....

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

23rd February, 2011 Due deference

Little Mussels was gelded today and is fine. I always worry about these serious procedures. Tim Adams the vet, turned up with a very special veterinary student - his Mum, and worked in the pouring rain first with Mussels and then six lots of teeth. Pie, who has disappeared every time his teeth have been due to looked at, was in attendance today and Tim was able to get rid of a load of sharp points and some impacted bramble. Pie will be feeling a lot better for that. Despite the weather, Tim retained his sense of humour. I had told him that Theoden's full name is Theoden, King of Imzadi (poor horse!) and found that he had marked up his dental sheet at HRH Theoden!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

22nd February, 2011 Tuesday Rubies

Beau was an absolute darling this morning. He opens his mouth for his bit and is so responsive when he is long reined, he really thinks about what he is asked to do. Today I did long rein him off the bit, something I don't always do and he was really soft in his responses. He was ridden a little further again today and was such a good little horse. Afterwards it was a short trip down the road to meet Daisy, a Haflinger. She's a sweetie too and didn't put a foot wrong during our session.
"Walked Daisy in hand yesterday to somewhere completely new, to meet a friends youngster, she was great, rode her in the field when we got back and finished on a positive.
Took her out today alone again. Had a lovely ride on the common, took her to another planty spot, encouraged her through it with her whinnying because she had worked out we should have been going home and I had got her to go in the opposite direction, she went through the planty spot even though I could sense she didn't want to, so once past it I stopped her, smoother her neck and we came home. We rode with the longer reins every time I was aware of it, I have taken a lot of note of many of the little things you told me, which you must do as instinct i.e. I wont let her nibble my hands, am smoothing her instead of patting her, am taking more time with her and feel generally more 'aware' of her if that makes sense. I can count 17 hoof prints to one breath out, am conscious of how I move around her while she stands so am moving her around me........ there's probably some more things but just to let you know that today was such a positive day. Will be getting Martin our next week [saddler]. I hope (should really say believe) things are turning round, I realise it is early days." LW 27.2.11
"Well I don't want to speak too soon but I think Daisy is back. I have just been out with A and Rosie, we took them in the box to hurn Forest and Daisy who usually follows (especially Rosie) led! She led on the way out, on the way back, through bogs and really quite deep water which was up to her tummy!! She hates mud and water!!!! You have truly waved a magic wand on us, my friend A commented on how forward my Daisy Dimpling was..... Happy, happy, happy.
I will have a couple of jaunts out alone now but once again a big BIG thank you for putting us back on track. Martin saddler coming on 16th."LW 2.3.11

Monday, February 21, 2011

21st February, 2011 Week end....

The rest of last week went very smoothly. Beau had his first ride in a bigger area and took it all in his stride. Champ, who may eventually be driven, was followed around the field by a wheelbarrow! Winnie and Raf (above) had some groundwork and on Saturday I went out to a horse that was refusing to load into a horsebox. This morning I went out to a nice two year old New Forest pony to work on boundaries and manners. Apart from bopping me on the chin with his head (ouch!) he was fine and by the end of the session leading nicely. Interesting bruise on my chin.

"Its all working extremely well. We came head to head with a tractor hedge cutter this morning while doing some in hand work. He kept listening to me and all was well!" RW - RAf's er...grandma (I'm not sure she'll be pleased with that title!)
"M went straight in the lorry on Sunday with no hesitation so I took her hunting...." KM

21st February, 2011 Guest Blog: Little Albert

Thanks very much to Louise Crouch for letting me have a copy of her Psychology homework. I think this diagram shows exactly how a horse could learn to associate the appearance of one thing (say a tractor) with the fear of another (the shock from an electric fence), so that if he had backed into an electric fence when moving away from a tractor, he'll associate the two.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

15th February, 2011 Buddy

I am pleased to be able to report that Buddy, one of the latest rescue cases to come into Horseworld, is recovering well. This week he stood up unassisted for the first time since he arrived and has been going out into the field whenever it has been dry. He even had a little trot. Still thin and still covered in abscesses, he has a long way to go. Yesterday we paid him a visit and he let me stroke him even while he was eating his supper. He's such a cheerful soul.

15th February, 2011 The Devil is in the Detail

Back to Horseworld for a romantic Valentine's day with horses, ponies, donkeys and Frank the Hinny (not to mention Bailey the cat!). Another very enjoyable day dedicated to analysing small bits of behaviour and small bits of technique. In particular, how Frank liked to be brushed with maximum pressure thank you and likes to be touched at the shoulder or hip before anyone ventures directly to his feet. The quarter rope proved handy for asking the donkeys to lead nicely without putting pressure on their heads (always counter productive). Ben the Exmoor, frightened of clippers, was accepting the switched on toothbrush on his mane by the end of a second session and Coco was great in short reins - ideal work for a pony intended for lead rein riding.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

13th February, 2011 Whip use in racing

A recent study in Australia has shown that whipping horses in the final stages of the race "did not significantly affect velocity…enough to change the likelihood of being placed in the first three." In fact, the research showed that horses achieved the highest speeds when a whip wasn't used. Tired horses were found to be whipped the most. The report concluded that "under an ethical framework that considers costs paid by horses against benefits accrued by humans, these data make whipping tired horses very difficult to justify."

I read Polly Gundry's comments in the Horse and Hound of 3rd February where she says that amateur jockeys should not be allowed to hit horses, get this, because they "are very rarely anywhere near as proficient as a professional jockey in the practice of hitting a horse." What???

13th February, 2011 Grrrrrrrr.

This is Teddy but he hasn't been the cuddliest of bears. Instead he has been aggressive to his owners particularly around food. He is only 18 months old so I imagine that some ambivalence about people and an absolute certainty about food have led to him developing behaviour that keeps people away from him and away from his bucket. Like a lot of ponies he feels more vulnerable when he is tied up but then has at least 180 degrees of manouevrability with his back end to take a good aim if he needs to! Yesterday we worked on developing a few reasonable boundaries and how to answer the questions that he asks - is it okay to bite you; is it okay to move you around; is it okay to play colt games with you? - he became a much nicer pony very quickly and seemed happy to have something to do.

I have urged the owners to reconsider the Parelli halter and rope particularly on a pony this young and particularly for tying up. If a horse pulls back in a Parelli halter it can cause severe soreness in the poll and neck. Furthermore, the clips on Parelli halters and the positoning of them on a low hanging loop are deliberately designed for smacking the horse hard in the jaw bone if he won't do as is he is asked (even if he doesn't understand). Not only this but if you watch the clip in action, it keeps on swinging for a great many seconds the horse has been given a signal and must be very irritating/ confusing. In the end they desensitise horses to the smaller signals. You'll notice that I have moved the clip from the loop under his jaw to higher up under his chin where it won't swing so much. This was a temporary arrangement just for the session.

Friday, February 11, 2011

11th February, 2011 Unreal Rescues

More mud and water, helping out the Animal Rescue Team with their practical exercise today. Heather, Queen of the Screamers did a great job and Jenny was unconscious under the horse yet again - she'll do anything for sympathy or oxygen. Kate, Audrey and Celia interfered, hindered and generally got in the way. The horses might be plastic but the actresses help to keep it real!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

10th February, 2011 I don't care what the weather man says

Despite the grotty weather, Kym still brought Guilda up today for her lesson and, true to form, Guilda was very well behaved. Following a long reining session around the inclosure, Jenny gently backed her for the first time just getting on and off three times before the end of the session.

"Thank you for today, it was wonderful to watch and Jenny was so gentle towards her." KG

10th February, 2010 Listening Post

I'm not sure the role of Editor of the Listening Post is a good for the potential compulsive obsessive but I am loving it. I race out of bed every morning full of ideas and energy and am usually still in my dressing gown at 9 o'clock tapping away at my computer. The turning point was an article called A Glance Into the Past which arrived fully formed but with no photographs. An appeal on the Intelligent Horsemanship Discussion Group and to my local friends brought in some of the most poignant pictures from a time when a horse was a necessity rather than a luxury. Each one arrived with it's only little story about Auntie This or Cousin That. The real pleasure is in seeing an ordinary word document transformed into a work of art by designer Simon Spencer. I send him a kiss with every e-mail but they have never been reciprocated! My Mum and a fellow RA, Liz Pitman have been fantastic proof readers and sub editors although they do sometimes give things a mauling. For me it's like combing out a horse's tail, bit by bit you remove all the knots, reveal the shine and shape and are hopefully left with a thing of beauty....we'll see. First edition is out 1st March.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

8th February, 2011 A HUGE thank you

I need to say a huge thank you to everyone of my clients who allow me to put details of their horse on this blog site, with or without names and with or without photos. Often after I have described a quirky case or some interesting behaviour, I'll receive an email saying that it has provided a light bulb moment for someone else and their horse. It's not always easy asking for help and sometimes I am as flummoxed at the owner but bit by bit we usually find a way round things and achieve a satisfying result.

Monday, February 7, 2011

7th February, 2011 Horseworld

An eleven hour round trip today for the first of two training sessions at Horseworld. The staff there are unfailingly enthusiastic and there's always plenty to discuss. On the whole they employ IH methods to rehabilitate the horses that arrive on their doorstep - there are currently 145 in residence. Some of the stories are heartbreaking - one of the latest arrivals is too poor to photograph and covered in abscesses where his sticky out bones have been rubbing when he lies down. He was rescued from a 'rescuer'. Despite being very very thin, he now looks bright, cheerful and clean and acknowledges the arrival of his feed with a lovely nicker. Dreamer, the pony in the top picture, had lived in a stable with no turnout and was also in a poor state when she arrived. She is now three, loves people and ready to start her education. She took everything in her stride today. The horse at the bottom belonged to travellers and was in harness aged two. When I presented the surcingle he said he knew quite well what that was but when I introduced it gradually he let out a very long sigh and then accepted it quietly. We left it on that note today.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

6th February, 2011 Little Excursion

You don't think I'd go all the way to Taunton without a little excursion do you? This is semi-feral Quantock pony Jack who arrived with his owners before Christmas. He has been accepting touch over the gate for some time and is very curious about everything new. He thought the scarf and feather duster were fascinating and tried to eat them.

6th February, 2011 David's New Friend, Katie

This morning it was off to Taunton to look at a new motorbike for David, a 650cc KTM off-roady road bike (hard Enduro to be correct). Being orange, Katie will fit in very well with our little herd. I hope she will be involved in motorbike training for horses.

6th February, 2O11 Memories

Until yesterday it had been a fairly uneventful week. Beau accepted a rider with a saddle and Champ short reined like a star. Alby had remembered everything I taught him two weeks ago and his little sister settled with another pony to keep her company. I am beginning to think that training horses with quite long gaps between sessions works just as well as working on consecutive days and still benefits from latent learning.

I am a little sore after yesterday when a horse I was working with suddenly exploded in the trailer and took a while to calm down. His owner had called me because although he would load he would run out backwards and she was wary therefore of putting the back bar up. In fact, when we began working with him, using the pipe insulation first and the back bar next, he accepted this very well. It appeared that it was the front bar that really worried him and perhaps the combination of the two. Once again I used the pipe insulation to imitate the front bar and he stood quietly with this in place. I then substituted the proper front bar and had in fact taken it down again. when he created havoc. I'd been working alongside his owner's partner and everything had been going very quietly stage by stage so it was disappointing. However, at least now we know which aspect of loading troubles him and can decide how best to proceed or indeed whether it is ethical to try. It can be no coincidence that this horse originally travelled, sedated, in a trailer for emergency treatment at the vets. Once there he was probably restrained in stocks. He has received extensive treatment for sarcoids on his chest which may well have left him mentally as well as physically scarred. It's possible to rationalise with humans as to why it is necessary to cause them pain in order to cure them of more serious problems but impossible to explain to a horse.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

3rd February, 2011 Foot problems

Jack is in fine fettle and his feet look amazing after just a few weeks of going out and about on more gravelly and hard tracks. He never seems to struggle and when you consider that he has never had his feet trimmed or pared, they are in great shape. Mine on the other hand are not. Just over 10 years ago I dropped a motorbike on my foot and broke the 5th metatarsul. Needless to say I screamed at the time which was probably a good job as it prevented David from killing me for damaging his BRAND NEW Ducati Sports Tourer. The bike never forgave me and insisted on breaking down even when we took it to Italy for its holidays. I think this injury has come back to haunt me and at the moment it is looking set to prevent me from doing the sponsored walk/run for the IH charity that I hope to complete with Jack in September. At bang on 1 hour and 10 minutes into any walk it starts to burn like mad and it really is excrutiating. I doubt there is anything that the doctor can do I'd like to have it x-rayed before going to see a podiatrist.

3rd February, 2011 Mary Mary Quite Contrary

This is New Forest pony, Mary who is the mother of Lily who features in my book No Fear, No Force. Now in her 30's, Mary has switched semi-feral life for sheltered accomodation with her kind owners. A little while ago she developed an abscess in her foot and so had to be sedated while her foot was excavated and then poulticed. I received an urgent telehone call from Sue to say that Mary was no longer speaking to her, woudn't accept food or her headcollar and therefore they couldn't get the bandage off her foot. This morning I went down to see what I could do to help. Having decided that I was friend not foe, Mary parked herself in her shelter where I was able to put her headcollar on in the NFNF way and then start to handle her leg and foot. Centimetre by centimetre I was able to use blunt ended scissors from my first aid kit to cut away the silage tape and vetwrap bandage. Once I had released her foot she decided to forgive me and accepted food from my hand before going off to pose for photos in the field. Her tail, incidentally, has been eaten by the donkeys who share her field, special rates for pensioners apparently.

3rd February, 2011 Guest Blog: Over Promotion

From Carol Hartman - right (owner of Gingernut - left)

"I was made the milk monitor at school once and although thrilled by the prospect of such heady responsibility I found myself lying awake at night worried about my new role. I have a little Exmoor pony who has gone much the same way. Although no milk is involved he has found himself in a new role in the herd and frankly his nerves are just not up to the job. He was the bottom of the pecking order of my group of three when last year we bought our lovely Welsh Cob mare. She, by her sheer size, can get her own way simply by throwing her weight or should I say heels about. She has fallen in love with the little chap and he now basks in her protection and glory. He has moved up the ranks but this new found promotion has left him jittery and spooky. My once sweet, calm pony is now “on watch” and consequently completely different to handle. I was chatting to a friend about my “changeling” pony and she said the same had happened to her horse. The moving out of her yard of the “boss” elevated her horse up the rankings and he too changed from an unassuming kind of a guy to a wary and watchful individual. It just goes to show, being “promoted” is not all its cracked up to be and some equines are just not management material. It is interesting to witness how often the herd leader is very often not the happiest of horses."

3rd February, 2011 Reincarnation

If you could choose to come back for another life, would you come back as your own horse?