Wednesday, August 31, 2011

31st August, 2011 Puck and co revisited

Back to Puck and his sisters today and with Milly now accepting a headcollar very easily, it was time to see how Puck might feel about long reining. He took all the preparations in his stride and Molly thought that she might join in.

"I thought you did, as always, a great job. Well done and a big thank you. I can't tell you what it meant to see you and Puck in harmony together - that boy loves you to bits! Not forgetting dearest Milly in her head collar - gorgeous!" Angie

31st August, 2011 What great big ears you've got

This very late foal turns out to be a little hinny with 'normous ears.

31st August, 2011 Making my mind up!

A bizarre sort of day which started with me witnessing several older ponies being loaded up into a Turner's meat lorry. Nothing I could do or say and I suppose at least their end will quick and professionally done but very depressing all the same. The day ended with me demonstrating clicker training to some visitors at a client's house, one of whom turned out to be a member of Bucks Fizz.

Between the two, Jenny B came over for a long lining lesson and worked with both Petra and Chancer.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

30th August, 2011 Onca Upon a Time

A happy morning watching a meeting between Onca, the Polo pony and Fiona the Zoopharmacognosist. My visit a couple of months ago has already made a diffrence to Onca's demeanour and she's seems much more open to human contact, curious about what's happening and joy of joys, she is letting her male owner brush her back legs. The hope today was that she would choose the oils and herbs that she needs to help her to relax even more. After being a little anxious and distracted, Onca started to engage with Fiona and to take good deep breaths from all of the bottles that she was offered. Her eyes and ears started to soften and she spent a lot of time yawning and licking and chewing. Great job Fiona.

Fee's fees: Fiona charges the same rate for her time and travelling that I do, i.e. £36 per hour and 36p per mile. Sessions are likely to last two hours or more although she is very generous with her time and stops the clock at 2 hours. She also charges for the oils and herbs consumed on the day (approx £30) and can supply further quantities as needed. 

This afternoon Guilda came over for another ride out in the Forest and seemed to enjoy herself immensely.

30th August, 2011 Secrets and Faith

Horse whispering is not about the occasional use of a secret gift, it is about the obvious and consistent use of a logical approach.

I was told last week that I ought to have 'faith' in a horse that I was training. I do, I have lots of faith in a horse behaving like a horse, absolute trust that that's how he is likely to react when asked a new question.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

25th August, 2011 Grinning (and breathing) like a Cheshire Cat

Guilda went out for her first ride at her own end of the woods today and we took the opportunity to get her owner, K, on board for the first time. It was quite difficult for her to breathe calmly because she was so excited about it and couldn't stop grinning but she did a fine job. As always when changing one thing, we take a step back with another and so it was on to the lead rein just to make sure everyone felt secure.

25th August, 2011 Who says horses don't have emotions?

Chancer's delight at having the two foals and their mothers turned into his field for a few days turned to absolute dismay this morning when I turned them back out onto the Forest. He galloped up and down screaming his head off and leaning over the gate with a yearning expression on his face. He calmed down after a while and especially after receiving a reassuring answering call from one of the colts. I felt very sorry for him and tried to explain that of course they would be back. Apparently Jack and Petra are very little consolation.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

24th August, 2011 Access all areas

Last weekend I went out to two new clients (no photos as yet). The first has a horse that has become terrified of high vehicles and the second that has an interesting habit of moving people around with his jaw bone - ouch. I look forward to being able to tell you more.

On Monday I went up to see Theoden and was reassured to hear that he hasn't bucked at all since my last visit and is starting to look very soft physically and mentally when worked.

For the last two days I have been revisiting Magic and Merlin who have turned into fine young men; such a long way from the frightened youngsters I met early last year. They are both ready to long rein now. Magic, the younger one, took to it easily whereas Merlin, who probably experienced an extra year's worth of manhandling or was a year older when he met it, is more suspicious of human approach. Accordingly it was essential that we made real friends with his back end so that he would be more relaxed about the long reins. We spent lots of time 'seducing' him by massaging his gluteal muscles and scratching his dock (all done in the best possible taste) so that he was less worried about being touched. Sadly, there is a secondary purpose to all of this now as I suspected that the 'grape' like growth on his sheath was a sarcoid. We walked him up the lane to the local vets to have this confirmed and then spent time desensitising him to being handled and having body temperature cream applied so that he will tolerate the 'Liverpool Cream' that may well be recommended by Prof. Derek Knottenbelt when the photos are sent off.

Monday, August 22, 2011

22nd August 2011 Searching questions

Having Lindy around, (here she is again riding Petra P), has being like having a light shone on what I do. Every year, usually when it's time to pay the enormous insurance bill for the business, I ask myself whether I want to carry on. The hardest part of my job is the emotional burden which I find incredibly tiring. Not only do I meet some horses which are really in trouble physically or mentally, but most if not all of their owners feel very emotional about their horses and like to take the opportunity to offload it on to me. Now, I should be able to let it go perhaps, but I think I need that emotional link with the horse and the owner to be able to work empathetically with both. One of my most familiar refrains is "leave your emotions at the gate" as feeling and being emotional while you are training a horse is no use whatsoever. Yes, be sympathetic but don't lament or worry about the past or the future. It makes no difference how the horse used to be or what has happened to it; your dreams and hopes for it are of no consequence either. We need to work with what you have got at that particular moment without angst, regret, guilt, shame, disappointment or anger. Joy, maybe!!!

22nd August, 2011 Short Circuit

In the 1990's there was a film about a little robot that suddenly knew his own mind. His familiar cry in his thirst for knowledge was "more input!". There are times with horses when they are desperate for more input and, unless it it possible to provide some, they become bored and cross. Training for two of our regulars has come to a halt at the moment. Alby's owner is waiting for a slot to open at the yard where she wants him to be started. His loading training is at the stage where he is quite happy to stand about in the box for well over ten minutes with the ramp done up. However, I sense that if he were left much longer, stationary, he would find something interesting to do instead - not something that's a good idea in a small space! The box gets quite warm and uncomfortable at a stand still. Much better then to unload him and not get to the stage where he thinks I've had enough of this. We could take him for a trip in the box but the intention is to travel him in a different set up (with no front bar needed) for the journey as this will be the first time he has travelled and the first time he has ever left the field and his family.

In Beau's case, his playmates have had their grazing restricted and are now in a different area. He is bored stiff without them and the energy he would have expended cavorting with them is building up to such an extent that he wants to express it the whole time he is on the long lines even when he is faced with lots of interesting obstacles to go over through and round. Yes, I could restrict him with gadgets and I could go and get a big lunging whip, but this would just turn a 'no' into a battle. I would prefer that he didn't get the opportunity to practice his 'no' and would rather work with him when he is in a much happier and relaxed place mentally.

Boredom isn't always a problem. When desensitising a horse, you need to work until the thing that they are afraid of does become boring. I allow horses to move when they are afraid of something as to be standing still artificially can create another problem of it's own. If a horse is taught that it MUST stand still when it is afraid, it learns to stand still even though it is still afraid and then panics if asked to move forward because it is worried about the consequences if it does so. The art then is to suggest a halt to the horse and teach them that if they stop, the scary object will go away. This needs to be done incrementally, slowly, gradually and sympathetically rather than be full-on so that the horse doesn't just offer to stand still but really can't be bothered to move because the object is 'nothing' any more. Repetition is the key to desensitisation and once a horse knows that you know how to introduce new and novel items he starts to trust you and the new and novel things much more quickly. Slow means fast eventually. Narrow means wide eventually.

Friday, August 19, 2011

19th August, 2011 Lindy's Guest Blog

It is a real privilege for me to be able to observe Sarah's work and we have had many stimulating discussions on horse behaviour, how horses learn and the reasons horses may perceive certain things as a threat. I usually work with older, steadier horses who know their job and live on a busy college yard. By contrast, Sarah works with many nervous and uncertain, often young or semi-feral, horses and ponies who show challenging behaviours in everyday situations. Sarah has impressed me with not only her knowledge but also her willingness to share this with owners so they may work with their horses to overcome their fears. Sarah does not judge either the horses or their owners but works patiently with the horses in a way they can understand; and in a manner which reduces their adrenalin and 'flee' responses.

Sarah uses a range of techniques so there is always a Plan B. The sessions always end on a good note so the horse builds his confidence. It is clear horses can reflect on what they have learned so that by the next visit there is even more progress (latent learning in action here!).

Lindy Wale

Course Tutor - Level 3 Horse Management

01305 215 156

Sadly, Lindy goes back to work at the college next week.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

16th August, 2011 Better Saddles

It's been a few years since I saw Marianna Batterbury, independent saddle fitter and another holder of the Monty Roberts' Preliminary Certificate of Horsemanship. Today Guilda's owner had arranged to meet her at mine to fit a saddle for lovely Guilda. Like a lot of our starters, Guilda will be going treeless.

Marianna is based in Surrey and can be contacted through and has a website at

I have always done girths up gently and bit by bit while I am getting ready. For a young horse that might buck I used a breast girth to avoid having to tighten the girth up too far. Marianne taught me a great new technique for doing up the girth looking at when the horse was ready and offering to accept it. The girth strap is pulled outwards instead of upwards and you wait for the horse to breath in and press against the girth. Will try this and report back.

16th August, 2011 Don't keep your nose out of other people's business!

Time again for another visit from the horses' Auntie Fiona. Chancer could hardly wait for her to put her tool box down and stuck his tongue, nose and mouth in almost everything he was offered. Petra was slightly more circumspect and Jack dipped in and out.

Fiona can be contacted by email at and has a website at An article about Applied Zoopharmacognosy will be in the next Listening Post due out on 1st September.

Chancer's choices:

Barley grass - moderate interest orally

Rosehips - moderate interest

Flax/Linseed oil - keen ingested - contains linolenic acid, linoleic acid and oleic acid as well as containing vitamin E and beta carotene (converted to vitamin A by the body), omega-6 and omega-9, essential fatty acids (EFAs), B vitamins, potassium, lecithin, magnesium, fibre, protein and zinc. Flax seed oil provides approximately 50% more omega-3 fatty acids than fish oil.

Dandelion root powder - very keen ingested - supports the liver

Echinacea herb - very keen ingested - immune booster

Lime essential oil - inhaled. Known to be cleansing.

Seaweed Extract: selected when animals are run down and have lost general condition; when their immune system is compromised.

Carrot seed essential oil: Also when the immune system is compromised.

16th August, 2011 No badgering required...

Yesterday Lindy and I went over to Wareham Forest to collect panels that I had left with Badger's owner. Not only has she not had to use them since Badger has loaded each and every time he has been asked but he now stands tied up to have his legs clipped in exchange for clickered treats. It's so nice to see him saying, "hey, where are you going with those clippers" instead of "oi! what do you think you are doing with those clippers?!".

Monday, August 15, 2011

15th August, 2011 Reasoning

Earned my lunch yesterday by helping a friend with her pony who has suddenly gone on strike about having his head collar on. This is a pony that so far has taken everything in his stride from picking up his feet to long reining. He's happy to have people around him even when he is lying down in the field. So the issue could be teeth or early sunburn (he wears a fly mask and nose net in the field) or he could have got caught up; an outsider might have had a go at him. In the end, the reason doesn't help with the solution in this case other than preventing the sunburn and having his teeth checked. The human emotions connected with this apparent 'failure' and 'rejection' don't help at all and need to be left at the gate along with any sense of cross-ness or frustration or indeed entitlement. You have just got what you have got and need to work on that little thing. It was clear that it was the right side of his head that was bothering him the most so I set about seducing that with the fluffy scarf and then started to work with the head collar itself. By undoing the nose-band for now and using a lace to just draw it over his face, I was able to work without crowding him or presenting him with extra things like hands so that it took less than 4 minutes to put the headcollar on rather than the 40 that it had taken the day before. Repetition, repetition and repetition will now be the answer.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

13th August, 2011 Ellingham Show

Had a lovely day at the Ellingham Show today courtesy of the Animal Rescue Team. The stand was right opposite the Heavy Horse ring and next door to the all day farriery demonstration (Robert Sansom). Jenny was very happy as Poppy came second in her class.

13th August, 2011 The Godshill Hinny

I've been promising Lindy that we will see the Godshill hinny while she is here. Here she was, standing by the bus-stop yesterday. Like a lot of bus-stops on the New Forest, it has to have a door on it to stop the animals taking it over as accomodation!

13th August, 2011 No foot, no horse

I met a horse yesterday that because he is in pain is being difficult about lifting his feet up for the farrier. Whilst the owner is busy seeking medical advice from the vet and the farrier amongst others, we have to find a way to reach a compromise with the horse so that he can have his feet cared for. We worked on timed lifts so that he is given a break after every minute of holding his foot up - hopefully the farrier will agree to go with the same format and, providing it is a safe moment to do so, put his foot down after say two minutes each time. In that way I am hoping that the horse will realise that the discomfort is finite and work with us. At the moment there is no way that he can lift up his feet up to put them on a tripod so I aslo started to clicker train him to place his foot on top of a log (which will now be covered in rubber matting to make it non-slip). Instead of politely but persistently moving his feet away, he began to approach the log in the hope that I would be picking them up again.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

11th August, 2011 Beaulieu Road Sales Part II

Further scenes from Beaulieu Road. I fear the outcome for the mare in the first picture. I do think that is your mare has produced foal after foal for you, the least you can do is give her a tidy and quiet ending on the Forest itself. The second pony is from "the other side of the tracks", the unofficial sale that goes on in the car park.

The last pony was in fact led into the sales ring and is well handled. Bewildering for her then to be turned loose, hit and chased about with a flag. Hitting seems to be down to a minimum although there was a chap wandering about with the ubiquitous bit of blue pipe favoured by some as a stick.

11th August, 2011 Beaulieu Road Sales Part I

The first of the autumn sales. The work of the New Forest Pony Publicity Group in promoting the New Forest pony seems to be paying off with lots of owners polishing and training their ponies before they go to the sales. Prices for older well handled and shown ponies was pretty high - the filly at the bottom, for example, fetched £680. A three year old gelding topped £1,200. The policy of severely limiting the number of stallions turned out and the time for which they are turned out shows that the Commoners are prepared to take a very responsible attitude to breeding and this should be reflected in the demand for this year's foals.

It worries me that the drifts are not very far off. If I allowed Peechay to be weaned at the drift he would only be three and half months old - too early. I shall do my best to get him, Nelly and Blue in before the two drifts in our area and of course he won't be weaned for a good few months yet.

I hope the two donkeys found a home together - they were absolutely inseparable in the pens. Donkeys form an incredibly strong bond.

11th August, 2011 In which Chancer has a Brazilian

Dr Tim Brazil came to see Chancer this morning to carry out a gastroscopy. Life had been a bit complicated by the fact that thunderstorms were threatened last night and I didn't feel that was a good time to be keeping Chancer in a building with a metal structure. This meant he couldn't be starved properly for the requisite number of hours prior to the procedure. Nevertheless, I limited his intake by turning him into the pen. By this morning he was quite cross and hungry and doing some very interesting gymnastics. Bless his cotton socks because he then led quietly around to Fabia's where we had borrowed her stable and electric socket. He also stood like an angel while the horrid tube was poked up his nose and down into his stomach under very light sedation. The brilliant news is that his stomach is the pinkest, beautifullest, most perfect stomach in the whole wide world and I can at last relax that there is nothing other than more grass and protein needed to keep him right - he already looks a stack better than a couple of weeks ago; in fact he looks extremely well now. When you are told that over 90% of racehorses have gastric ulcers there is always a vague nagging feeling that your horse may have them even though he has been out of training and turned out for the last 4 years. It is only now that our vet has thought that it was worth a look given his loss of condition.

Tim Brazil (European Specialist in Equine Internal Medicine) is a thoroughly pleasant and calm chap. He answered all my questions and gave us a thorough tour of Chancer's insides while we had the opportunity. Hopefully he will send me pictures when he comes back from his holidays.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

10th August, 2011 Farrier-day

Once again it was time for Anna to have her feet pared, something we tend to take for granted with our horses. She is getting easier to catch and, having had one sideways look at Matt, she let him get on with his job. Her feet are almost normal now and she should be a lot more comfortable.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

9th August, 2011 Double Dutch

Woody, at the top, is learning how to accept long reins, starting off with a single line. In the absence of Jenny, Guilda enjoyed some long reining at trot before going out and about on the Forest and taking a look at some of the traffic on the main road through Burley. Both of these ponies are half Dutch New Forest pony.