Monday, April 30, 2012

30th April, 2012 A month to go

With a whole month to go before the next IH Magazine is published, there is plenty of time to join Intelligent Horsemanship via the website at It costs just £25 per year, £20 if you join by direct debit, and you can get that money back almost immediately through discounts on courses including our Hands on Horsemanship Course. This magazine has got an exclusive article by Ann O'Flynn the Regimental Veterinary Officer for the Household Cavalry as well articles on hoof boots, helping horses overcome fear and bitting. There's more on kissing spine, post traumatic fall disorder! and an article by Omar Rabia of 'Cobs Can' fame. Heather Moffatt describes the IH magazine as the only magazine that she always reads from cover to cover.

30th April, 2012 Ry-vita

Rye continues to make great progress every time he is ridden. On Saturday he was ridden in the field for the first time and was happily walking through round and over various obstacles. Today he had his first trot out on the Forest. Once it stops raining I shall take the camera out again.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

29th April, 2012 April Showers

It's not so easy running in a set of waterproofs but we gave it a go. Jack was excited on his way out on to the Forest and I do wonder if he remembered racing about with Yann last time. In any event they had a lovely time galloping about like idiots with Yann performing the best sliding stops until he actually fell over.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

28th April, 2012 Roo

At the end of the week which has been decimated by the weather, it was great to go and work with ex-racehorse Roo. Despite some really careful training by her present and interim owner, Roo has a solid phobia about poles and is also worried about things approaching her (or more particularly people with things) on her right hand side. You might wonder what she experienced during her racing days, where she went from flat racing to hurdling, for this to happen. There is nothing we can do about the past but we can help her as much as possible now. We worked through the 'touch and move away' technique with the feather duster until she was happily accepting it on both sides.

Later we worked through the L-shaped poles before asking her to stop over them. By working the direction of the main fence we were able to avoid her really rushing and by the end of the session she was stepping over the pole much more calmly. We also introduced clickered rewards for stopping in front of the pole (where she was so worried she would only hold the food in her mouth), and after the pole where she relaxed enough to chew and swallow it. The most hopeful thing is that she clonked the pole with her back feet a couple of times and whereas she would have absolutely fled before, she was thinking enough to work out that nothing bad had happened and able to stop within a couple of strides. Might seem odd to be asking a horse to stop before and after a 'jump' but this has to be better than her flying it as she would have done during hurdling.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24th April, 2012 Nearly set

Theoden and I are about as ready as we'll ever be for the Mark Rashid clinic in just over two weeks. I have lost 32 lbs and he has had his back checked. Chancer also had a session with Kate and showed his appreciation by rocking backwards and forwards under her hands. Kate (Boe) is so thorough - she spent well over an hour with each horse and they loved every minute of it. Hopefully all the deep tissue massage will get their circulation going and get rid of any tension from being ridden or field gymnastics.

24th April, 2012 The Fritham Five

 Chancer is still wearing a rug and looking slightly moth eaten. I was a bit over zealous with the Solocomb so he is sporting a rather abrupt hairdo but I am sure it will grow back quickly!

Jack is going through his most heavenly Teddy-bear coat stage. He's doing a good job of baby-sitting Indiana and eating lots of hay.

Nelly is out and about on the Forest but will be coming in soon to avoid the stallions. Absolutely no point in breeding any more foals and I think Peechay will be the last.

Theoden made a good job of getting ready for his back treatment making sure that he had a thorough coating of mud before engaging in some horse-play with Rye over the fence.

24th April, 2012 Coblins!

These three characters have been turned out at Fritham and were having a lovely gallop about. They're pretty wild and I have no idea whether they are there legitimately or not. I couldn't get close enough to see if they were branded. Either way, they are clearly not genuine New Forest ponies! There is no rule to say that only New Forest ponies can be turned out on the Forest although only pure bred stallions can be turned out.

24th April, 2012 Pssss!

Another lovely session with Peggy Sue today, teaching her to long rein. She took to it very well. As with many horses that are stabled overnight, it is important to find an outlet for their energy before introducing something new. We just did a little groundwork. The hedge-line made a great guide so that it was easier to ask her to go straight.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

22nd April, 2012 The family seat!

Off to Staffordshire for the weekend to visit my Mum. I took the opportunity to run 10 laps of Castle Ring where I first rode over 40 years ago (and it was a darned sight easier!). Mum has moved house and is now right next door to Cannock Chase.

22nd April, 2012 Tap, tap, tap

About once a year I like to go and see another type of trainer in action to see if there is anything I could be doing differently or anything I should pinch wholesale. I find it difficult to distil my feelings about what I saw on Friday evening but can say that it made me feel very uncomfortable and vaguely sick.

I envy the guy's ability to get on starters and ride them at walk and trot with an open rein and no tension. However I hate the practise of tapping, in this case with a piece of blue pole which he explained has a pointed end and a blunt end. This is used to stroke the horse and desensitise it as well as to tap or prod the horse, albeit lightly most of the time, on the barrel, bottom, shoulder and face in order to ask, then tell, it to move forward towards him or indeed away. Confused yet? Well the horses seemed to be at a loss. One minute they needed to be trotting around him in a tiny circle, the next they had to be still with a complete flexion of the head and neck. The message of the stick and his body language were often in complete conflict. I'll accept that most of the time he was fairly gentle but a lot of this work on inexperienced youngsters was done with reins attached to a bit. He also liked labelling the horses as 'obstinate' if they blocked him when he wanted to go down one side to tap them with the pole, I'd call the horse sensible.

There seemed to be little empathy and this was also reflected by some members of the audience who apparently found it funny when one horse stood flinching but taking it when he was tapping with he pole. Most disconcerting of all was when a break was called and he quietly set about pulling the youngest horse around in extremely tight circles by it's mouth clearly not imagining that anyone would watch or take photos. Sadly the photos are blurred through poor light but you can get the gist.

22nd April, 2012 Rye-ding!

What a delight this pony is proving to be. On Friday he was ridden out on the Forest un-clipped. He's got such a work ethic and loves migrating. All helped by the fact that Linda took him for loads of walks as a three year old.

22nd April, 2012 Highland Fling

Dodging the showers on Friday was made a little easier by being able to pop in and out of the horse box with an exquisite Highland pony. Shay has been reluctant to load for about eighteen months.  With hindsight his owners wished they has sought help earlier because during that time he has being practising his 'no' and improving on it all the time.

His particular skill  is to absolutely plant himself, ably assisted by the duvet type travelling boots which catch on one another and get under his opposite foot.

There is no apparent reason for his reluctance save for a pony's natural apprehension about being trapped in a small space. He travels well and arrives calm and the lorry is well laid out and padded. The horse space is forward of the back axle and he gets a smooth ride. The owners drive like good SAGA members.

There was no point whatsoever in engaging with this pony's no. Pressure and release on whatever type of head collar led to him planting even more and absorbing any discomfort. Rather than increasing the pressure, his physical discomfort, and my mental discomfort, we erected the panels before gently closing them down until he had to engage with the ramp. Once on the panels are opened up although he was very happy to stand with me looking out of the door. By the third loading we didn't need to close them at all.

I've left the panels with the owners so that they can practise a few times before taking the panels away one by one. Once he is flowing on and off, he should be fine. We just needed to interrupt his pattern.

"I thought you might like a progress report. We tried L-poles yesterday, with some success, but I can really see how getting more smooth at that will help. Today we set up the panels, loaded up on treats and lined up the helpers. And ... he walked straight on!!! I was gobsmacked, but we practised 'flowing' on and off a number of  times to prove it wasn't a fluke. Wow! It took longer to set up the panels than to have our session." BW 

Friday, April 20, 2012

20th April, 2012 What are the odds?

The Grand National brought it's usual rush of controversy after two horses had to be destroyed following falls in the race. I was struck how one owner and one jockey seemed to filled with regret after their horses were killed. Both said something along the lines that they never imagined that this would be the outcome. Whilst I have sympathy for all of the connections of these no doubt loved horses, I don't really understand how they couldn't have foreseen it since the odds of having your horse killed appear to be at least twice as likely as winning the race. Two horses were killed in the same race last year, and despite the efforts to make the course safer, lower jumps and just as many horses mean that the chances of a horse were being killed were just as great.

This disconnection fascinates me, since in law we were taught about foreseeability as the test of whether  someone is liable for the damage that they cause.

Research has shown that at least one in three, and as many as two in three, horses that are kept in a stable for any significant period of time, as many leisure horses are, are likely to have gastric ulceration. Why do people think that this would not include their horse? You can certainly lessen the odds by feeding ad lib hay at floor level.

I fully accept that there are some horses that do not thrive so well if turned out full time, but it's a balancing act. Chancer is on this line. Having got through the winter beautifully, he started to lose weight in February and has only just started to look right again. He's not helped by the fact that he has lost a lot of muscle having done no work since he started treatment for his sarcoids. I shall have to take a hard look at whether he should be kept in next winter or how I can arrest this drop in weight before it starts in February.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

19th April, 2012 Rye

Rye continues to make great progress. Today he was short-reined out with his bit in. He has proved to be very responsive in this, much softer and lighter than in the Dually, and he seems to welcome the clarity of the communication.  He'll be ridden out in it tomorrow.

Monday, April 16, 2012

16th April, 2012 Friendship and freedom

If proof were needed of just how much horses need to be able to move and enjoy the companionship of others, this is surely it. Having spent rather a lot of time in the stable since he was brought from the sales, B really needed to let off some steam and to engage with another horse in some fairly rough play. Without this, all of his pent up energy would have been turned on us as we tried to lead him out for the very first time in a car park full of cars. Horses need to be able to express themselves with other horses or they will turn their combative behaviour on the humans around them.

Once he had got that little lot out of his system, B was calm and amenable and ready to learn. Imagine if we had tried to work with him with all that energy inside him.

16th April, 2012 To bit or not to bit?

I have chosen to use a Myler Low Port Comfort snaffle combination for Rye. This will hopefully gives the subtlety to teach him what the signals through a bit mean so that I keep him soft and responsive. He is so strong through his neck and nose that I think any attempt to keep him bit-less would end up in disaster. He accepted the bit very readily today and just carried it while he was long-reined and ridden.

16th April, 2012 Mending fences

The fencing has begun and I am looking forward to having my second field back. One of the fencing men has the most glorious set of working Labradors in a range of colours, mainly black!

16th April, 2012 In with the Big Boys

Peechay and Maverick have now been joined by Silver. Growing up on the Forest teaches young horses great manners and to be circumspect with strangers - for a while at least!!