Saturday, March 31, 2012

31st March, 2012 Kiss curls

Last time I saw Seren she was just a baby. People think she is a lot older because she has a curly coat and they think she has Cushings. In fact she is a proper Curly Coated horse and hypo-allergenic! Today we took her out long-reining and she was unfazed by everything

Friday, March 30, 2012

30th March, 2012 A day late....

Peechay has latched onto the concept of girls just one day too late. He was gelded yesterday. Amazing really then that he was capable of taking any interest but he seems not to be in any discomfort. I always find gelding day really hard - I don't regret not being able to breed from him, there are too many ponies in the world, but it's  always a worry when a pony has to go through such radical, albeit routine, surgery in field conditions.

For some people it can be a very emotional decision as to whether a horse should be gelded or not, particularly if he is of good breeding quality. There is something special about  handling and riding stallions with their extra flair and character. Nevertheless the life of a stallion can be very limited with little opportunity for them to express their emotions if they are not allowed to cover mares. Plenty of work, turnout and the right food can all help to release their energy but it's a shame if they can never touch and socialise with another horse. Rather like elephants, horses spend a lot of time touching and interacting with each other and mutual grooming seems to have a calming effect; I'd suggest it was essential for their mental health. Take this away, fill a horse with testosterone and then become his only source of entertainment and life can become very difficult. Some stallions seem to be driven to bite and to seek engagement in 'colt games' and even though this brings them very negative attention, sometimes punishment, they can't stop themselves. Unlike humans (you'd hope!) they cannot rationalise or distract themselves with something else to do; they literally have a one track mind.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

29th March, 2012 Panel Hire

The round pen panels are so useful when it comes to horses that are recuperating from injury. They provide additional but limited, safe outside room for so 'box rest' and help to keep horses sane. It's good to know that vets are now seeing the benefit as well as the horses.

"They have been the most marvellous thing to have, it has been brilliant to be able to hire them. Thank you very much."RP

For details see my main website

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

28th March, 2012 Alzheimer's Society

I have committed myself to 10 miles in the Great South Run on 28th October this year. Six months to go and I'll need to keep training. If you fancy sponsoring me in memory of my Grandmother Nancy and all those who have been afflicted with Alzheimers, please go to

Overall weight loss now 2 stones.

28th March, 2012 ABCD the horses

Really enjoyed giving my ABCD the horses talk at Shipton Riding Club last night and listening to Jonathan Nelson (Protex), Victoria Hammond (BAEDT) and the lady from Allen and Page horse feeds. Allen and Page were the first company to look at horse feeds with no molasses and cereal. Shipton Riding Club appears to be very active and runs some great events in West Dorset. Bit of a trek for me but well worth it.

28th March, 2012 Oh B!

This lovely Welsh Cob is unfortunately terrified of electric fences and anything that looks remotely like one. It's a strange thing about horses that when they start to fear something they almost invite it into their lives. O has gone through electric fencing when frightened by a trailing rope and it becomes some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy, reinforcing his fear each time. He is not helped by the fact that all of the horses at the yard are fenced in entirely with electric fencing wire which is powered by the mains and therefore gives out a massive whack if they touch it. It also clicks very loudly and he is afraid of that noise too. He has become sensitive to any type of touch with the hand too.

Obviously, I can't desensitise him to the electric fencing itself but I felt that he needed to know that not everything is electrified - particularly ropes. In the top picture we are using a hoop with advance and retreat enhanced by clickered treats. You'll see that his owner is using a clip-less rope looped through in this safe environment so that if he choose to leave, he won't take the rope with him as he has done before. The clicker work is really useful in these 'self-conscious' horses as engages their mind with things outside of their own body.  Ultimately, his owner may have to move him - normally I wouldn't advocate avoidance but to be surrounded by the thing you fear 24 hours a day is hard work for this pony and makes him watchful. However, we have made a start and will see what happens.

28th March, 2012 Reflections

This picture reminded me of those mirror halls where you can see yourself receding into the distance. I presume there are all related ponies. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of the pony that I was actually seeing that day!. However, I will be seeing him again. He reminded me that the brink isn't always about fear, it can also be about strength and it is important to intervene in a horse's pattern before he learns that his strength works.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

25th March, 2012 Moths

It won't be long before Pie has to come in for his annual bath. This hot weather has brought out the moths.

25th March, 2012 Got the running bug

Did the Sports Relief six mile run this morning and raised at least £201. It's the first time I've won a red ribbon in my own right. I've really got the bug now and have booked in the Great South Run 10 MILE run in October with a few more in between. Better keep at it then.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

24th March, 2012 Clip-clip

Pleased to report that I had a fabulous ride on Theoden today with Lindy out on Petra. He was so calm and soft. We went past all the roadwork in hand to begin with and then got on him in the inclosure. We met cyclists, runners and Duke of Edinburgh students. Later we met a horse and trap and some donkeys and took the opportunity to follow them. Although I would love to have been able to keep him barefoot, he just wasn't coping with the New Forest gravel and I wanted to remove that worry before it affected his mind as well as his feet. He's now got his first ever set of front shoes on and we'll see how he goes in those.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

21st March, 2012 Brinks-man-ship

Horses and ponies can be taken to the brink mentally by deliberate, inadvertent, reckless, careless or accidental events in their life. Some may get there on their own because of their instinctive or natural behaviour but most are helped on their way by humans. Whether they can be brought back from the brink or just how easily they can be retrieved having gone over it, especially if they have been pushed over it many times, will depend on the same factors - the humans in their life and their own nature. I don't believe that it is possible to turn every horse in to a quiet riding horse but it is possible to come to some quiet compromise, either with yourself or the horse (!) about what is achievable and over what time period. Time and patience help, time patience and technique help even more.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

20th March, 2012 Smiley, happy people

Back to work with a vengeance. Yesterday I went to work with three black horses of various sizes. Two of them needed loading practise in their new horse-box. With rear facing horse-boxes it is very important to 'explain' to the horse where and how he needs to move, heading for the left hand corner first and then asking the horse to move his bottom over. It's easier if the handler leads from the right but it can feel a bit weird if you are not used to it. The owners of this trailer have taken particular care to make sure it has a safe layout and it has a retro-fit guard over the breast partition, shaped to allow room for the horses' heads but making it impossible for them to go over the partition.

The last black horse is 17 but still quite nervous of novel items particularly if they approach him. We worked on overcoming his fears and although he was still wary, he was willing to give everything a go.

"It was great to work with you again today - you make the sessions very informative and also fun! Yep, there's plenty for us to be getting on with for sure, thank you."CJ

Update 26th March: Visited the pound shop for a cheap feather duster on an extend-able pole and did a desensitization session yesterday and Santi was brilliant. A little unsure of it going nearer his ears, but didn't move his feet off the ground once, bless him. On Friday Jane's friend rode him and a gateway pole (at the top of the track) fell in front of him as he was about to step through it and he didn't move - it had been damaged by a lorry going into the nursery a few days previously. In fact her friend said she couldn't believe how chilled he was the entire ride. On our Sat ride there was a lot of noise coming from a flapping cover on a trailer in a field backing onto the track (never seen/heard it before) which he jogged/shot past. On our way home I had dismounted at the gate and led him past it, just took 2-3 times to walk past it both ways before he visibly relaxed. It's so useful to know exactly what to do in these situations now! "CJ

By way of contrast, literally, it was time to work with Burgoyne the ex-police horse. We worked on his anxiety about being separated from his girlfriend and his reluctance to go into the stable unless she is with him. By redirecting his energy and keeping him busy, busy, busy, we were able to bring his adrenalin down and then, by using clicker, I started asking him to volunteer to go into the stable.

20th March, 2012 Cool Mule

We couldn't resist the opportunity to go and visit the lovely Delores. The Mallorquins love their mules very much and we found this fabulous statue of one in Banyulbufar on our way down to the airport through the mountains. Sadly, it was time to come home all too quickly but we will be going back much sooner this time.

20th March, 2012 Step-Up

Xanthe and I collaborated on training a horse with an unloading problem while I was away. This Andalusian Arab cross is absolutely fine about loading, standing in the trailer and travelling, but panics and runs backwards rapidly once the back door is opened. Some time ago he pulled back on his head collar, broke the string with which he was tied up, and went out of the trailer backwards and underneath the back bar. Since then he has got into the habit of rushing every time as if he expects to be 'bitten' by the back bar.

The trailer is a step up trailer, i.e. it has no ramp, but that doesn't seem to play a part in the problem. Once he has backed out the horse stands calmly right behind the trailer.

Using a blanket at first, and the Xanthe's Mum's favourite draught excluder (!) we asked the horse to stay in the trailer even when the door was open. Xanthe used clickered treats in the front to give an added incentive. By the end of the session he was prepared to wait until he was asked to back out and his exit was much more leisurely.

On the way back to Pollensa we called in to see Xanthe's beautiful Comptois mare, Hecca.

20th March, 2012 365 steps

With only eight weeks to go before I hopefully ride at the Mark Rashid clinic, I didn't feel that I should have a week off from training. The steps at Pollensa are pretty daunting - 365 in all and not one of them evenly spaced. On day one I was able to run as far as house 12 before stopping to get my breath back. By the end of the week I could get to house 28. Little improvements all the time. What was really revealing was when David and I walked up to Santa Puig, 45 minutes of steep hill and I found it relatively easy. Turned round to find my naturally fit husband sweating somewhat and out of breath! There is a God!!

20th March, 2012 And-u-LUSH-ians

David and I had a glorious evening at the Vallori Stud near Pollensa just before we came home. As well as getting close and personal with mares and stallions, we were able to watch one of the stallions, Afanoso IV, being worked in the school. All of the horses are so well mannered and seem to really like being with people.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

14th March, 2012 Why the long ears?

Great to be reunited with Xanthe, her Suffolk Punch, Tally, and her collection of beautiful mules this evening - Xato, Tomeu and Jordi. Xato arrived inside his Mummy's tummy when she was imported from France but Tomeu and Jordi had endured some poor treatment and still find it difficult to trust people. Since we last saw them, Xato has begun to load readily and Tomeu and Jordi are so much braver than they ever were. As the sun started to go down, we long reined Xato and then spent time foot handling with the other two.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

13th March, 2012 Hands On

On tour today and spotted this beautiful Andalusian and his mate in a field by the roadside. Unable to wait until tomorrow when I will be putting my hands on Xanthe's equines, amongst others, I had to stop to say hello.

Monday, March 12, 2012

12th March, 2012 Bearable

On holiday at the moment, and hope to bring you some pictures of horses, mules and donkeys in Mallorca very soon. In the meantime here is Gulliver, an EasyJet bear. When we get home, we'll be entering a competition to win free flights and all we have to do is photograph our Gulliver 'on holiday'. People here think we are mad but have co-operated with our endeavours!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

11th March, 2012 Bye, bye Mr Malvern Pye

It's taken me a little while to be able to talk about my Grandpa's funeral. One of the disadvantages of a very long life is that you have outlived most of your friends and those that are left are too frail to come to your funeral. That doesn't explain though why the 10 people who did come to his funeral were divided into four factions when we all come from the same family. United, I would hope, in our great fondness and love for Pye, it saddens me that no-one thought it might be disrespectful to allow their feelings for each other to be so transparent. David and I tried to be a bridge between all of them. My Aunt, Mel, complied exactly with my Grandfather's wishes - no flowers, no fuss. That's the least and the last thing you can do for someone who has died. Goodnight Pye. Sleep well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

7th March, 2012 What a let down

There is only one thing I don't like more than being cancelled without good reason and that's letting a client down. Our cars seem to be engaging in a conspiracy at the moment so that if one breaks down the other one joins in. Only two months ago the MG broke down on the forecourt of the garage when we were collecting the other one from being mended. This time, the MG was already having his cam belt changed when the 4 x 4 started to over heat and the radiator started bubbling. I managed to nurse it home on a bottle full of Evian water but there was no prospect of getting all the way over to Arlesford. This was another date with Puck and company and Matt the farrier. The good news is that this gently pushed Puck and co's owners towards independence and they managed the visit beautifully without me. They were so delighted with how the ponies behaved and it has filled with them with confidence. Phew! All's well that ends well then.

7th March, 2012 Simples

When I meet a client and their horse for the first time, we often work through the simple groundwork exercises in order to establish some simple rules for them both. By moving the horse and insisting that the horse never moves me, it's often easy to start to gain some sense in a chaotic situation. During this first session, the horse often begins to relax and to co-operate softly with what he is being asked to do. They may well stand still for the first time in ages. This is all straightforward stuff and I think owners can be left wondering what it is all about - one step here, one step there, stand still for a while, breathe, relax, use a bit of intent - all small stuff. However, the effect it can have is profound.

I went to see one horse about three weeks ago, who was always busy on the ground and struggles to leave his field mate. It was if he was lonely when he was with people. He also hated being touched anywhere but on his shoulder and would bite or threaten to bite whenever he was approached. He often had his ears back.

We went through the groundwork exercises and he started to work with me and to give me his attention. He even looked down and noticed I was there (I'm not very tall!). His owner kept going with the exercises but most importantly incorporated them into her every day life with the horse so that he never moved her, she always moved him and he was asked not to overtake her when she led him.

When I went back yesterday he was a different horse. His ears were forward, he was relaxed and while we were waiting to start I was able to touch him all over and to cuddle him! His groundwork was exemplary; calm and soft. We can now move on to take him out and about without his field mate, building up his own Google map so that he knows where he is and that he always goes home again.

Incidentally, this is a horse that is very 'over-at-the-knee' and finds it hard to stand still without moving forward. The stay mechanism in his front legs simply doesn't work and if he is not full square when he is asked to stand he absolutely cannot maintain a halt. By making sure that he is always balanced, we were able to help him to stand still and not set him up to fail.

"Thank you for today.  I hoped you would be impressed with BB's progress." YM

Updated 9th March: Here's another example of one session making a profound difference...

"Just a short update. I've been using the clicker with Santi and give him one treat when catching him, this seems to be a good middle way. I'm not bothered by him for more treats, but nor does it take 10 mins to catch him either!
Today, with the perfect weather conditions and a good feeling about things I decided to take him out alone. I'd done some desensitisation sessions and leading up the lane alone earlier in the week and he'd been as good as gold. Just at the end of the track to the stable, though, were some men cutting down branches and using a shredder etc. Luckily some other riders asked the men to shut down the shredder and I jumped off and led Santi past a trailer, no problem. Brakes went on at the orange shredder, so we did 1 step forward, turn away and forward again. Stopping, rewarding him for looking and not pulling back, and walking on with motorcycle hands, with me between him and the shredder. He gave it a wide birth and a good look, but followed me, and also past the white van which still had its engine running. Just a few hundred yards up the lane I hopped back on him and we were out for 45-50mins. Literally crossed the road and into the forest, walked around the heath, and back again. Met the men and vehicles on our way back, but we went up a side track and let them pass no bother at all.
I know there's lots more to do, but that first session with you has made such a difference and I went out feeling confident that we could handle whatever we met and we did! "CJ

Monday, March 5, 2012

5th March, 2012 Have you got yours?

The latest edition of the Intelligent Horsemanship Magazine is now out. You can get yours if you join IH now. Go to

5th March, 2012 Go with the Flo

Off to Dorchester and Faun Bank Stables this morning to meet Flo, a New Forest x Welsh Cob originally bought through Beaulieu Road Sales a couple of years ago. This pony has been so lucky to fall on her feet here because she is was incredibly nervous when she arrived and things could have gone terribly wrong for her. Since then she has learned to trust people to a much greater extent and can be caught, led, rugged and long reined. However, she is still petrified of having her feet handled and has to be sedated intravenously whenever they are trimmed or need medical treatment. Her owner has been working steadily with advance and retreat (touch-and-move-away technique) and has made some progress but this is undermined whenever she has to have the farrier or vet, no matter how patient they are.

Today we introduced clicker training starting with building up the association between the click and the treat before moving incrementally to touching her with the feather duster and later my hand. We made good progress in the allotted time and I have every confidence that her owner will be able to continue with this work.

"Thanks so much for your help we feel really brilliant that we feel we can finally really move forward with her and help her." AA

Saturday, March 3, 2012

3rd March, 2012 Mission accomplished

It's only taken two years (!) but at long last I have ridden Theoden out with Petra (and all was well). Would I have taken him on if I had known it was going to be so complicated? Probably not and even now I feel him say no before he says yes but the yes comes much more readily. When a horse has spent most of his life sitting on the sofa drinking beer and claiming benefits, it's not always easy for him to develop a work ethic and you always wonder whether someone tried to start him when he was much much younger and failed.

Now that he is home I am trying to recreate the same conditions as at Jim's - a bit of a routine and regular work. I wanted him to accept the principle that we go out without Petra as I didn't want him to develop the same magnetic pull to her as he has had before. Only then would I introduce the odd ride out with her. So far so good.

Friday, March 2, 2012

2nd March, 2012 If you knew....

Peggy Sue is a darling. She's a three year old gypsy type cob with a really sensible attitude to life. Happy to go out for a walk, she took everything in her stride including deep mud, logs to clamber over and a wooden bridge. Traffic going over the cattle grid was nothing. So lovely to have a blank canvas to work with but something that can be very daunting. Peggy's owner understands all of the key concepts of IH and therefore we were able to work on the small stuff, such as walk to trot transitions in hand.

"Thank you for the report and photos. Your visit has given me a confidence boost and reassurance that I'm on the right track with Peggy." LL

2nd March, 2012 Max commitment

Just a few weeks ago, Max was inclined to leave his owner both mentally and physically. 'The green carpet of temptation' had beckoned as he was being led to and from his field and once he had learned that he was strong enough to take off, that's what he did. All the time we were leading him in the school, his attention was all over the place and you never felt that he was 'with you'. On that occasion I worked on keeping him busy and keeping his attention. Since then his owner has worked hard with him, repeating the exercises and the difference is amazing. Today we were able to move on to pole-work and desensitisation techniques within minutes of my arrival and at no stage did I feel that Max's attention had gone elsewhere. It's always a good idea to give a horse a job to do and Max is certainly ready to do some interesting things. At the end of the session I led him out to the field, across the lush grass of the next paddock, and managed not to lose him.

"Thank you for the photos & report, they're great. Have read your blog on Max and agree that we have come a long way since last time. Every step we take brings us closer to a true partnership and I truly believe we can get over these blips now." EH 5.3.12

2nd March, 2012 I could retire

With Mari-Lisa tacking Theoden up this morning and then walking him out, dealing with traffic and even riding him, I was relegated to chief photographer (although I did ride him first).