Thursday, May 31, 2012

31st May, 2012 Flies are open

It's open season for the flies again and many horses struggle to accept fly repellent, possibly because of the smell but also because we tend to slap it on cold and in a hurry, aiming vaguely inside the ears. Best thing is to make sure that the cream is at body temperature, use desensitisation techniques to work on the ears and just focus on the putting it on the outside edge of the ear rather than trying to get it inside. It'll work it's way in anyway and provide a good deterrent at the entrance to the ear. I used to suffer with terrible ear ache as a child but hated having cold Earrex drops dripped into my ear. A bit of anthropomorphism should make us realise that horses might feel the same way.

"Just to let you know Rose behaved perfectly when I put fly repellent on her today and was completely relaxed about it." SA (the day after the training).

Monday, May 28, 2012

28th May, 2012 Confidence Tricks

Special delivery for Weston as Shay and his owners arrive at the fields. This is his first return journey since I went out to do some loading training with him a while back. Since then his owners were able to dispense with the panels almost immediately and have been practising regularly. They've also done a couple of circular journeys. They wanted to come to me just in case they needed panels to load him to go home.

While they were over, B wanted to see how confident she would feel about riding him out on the Forest. We worked with a few breathing and energy techniques before she set off, most of which I have openly pinched from Mark Rashid and Amanda Barton. However, if she wanted to carry on with this sort of work I would point her at Amanda so it would all be fair in the end!

"So nice to have photographic evidence of just how relaxed he was. I'm so pleased with how it went yesterday, it's such a confidence boost. I realised that the reason I can cope with shows and not hacking is a lot to do with having time to build up to riding - going for a walk and then doing the exercises gave me time to calm down - whereas when I've hacked out it tends to be off the box and on the horse."BW

Later it was time to work with Rye. We have narrowed down the trigger to his traffic shyness and it does appear to be vehicles at a given distance passing behind trees. First of all we went off for a little ride with a rather exciting encounter with the Shetland pony herd that came galloping past much to Rye's amazement.

Next we started off in the usual way, asking Rye to follow and then be followed by the car including some overtaking, before setting him up at the distance where he has been known to struggle. No problems today and you can see in the last picture he has floppy dressage horse ears.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

27th May, 2012 No news is good news

Occasionally I go out to a horse and then don't hear much from the owner afterwards. It leaves me wondering whether I did any good. Today I was really pleased to get this email from the owner of a horse I saw two years ago.

"In April 2010 you came to the riding stables to treat my 15.1hh HW cob S who had serious leading problems. Since this time he has been 200% better at being led around the yard, loads much better (eventually discovered he hates travel boots and now no longer wears them) and is generally a much nicer horse to own." ED

27th May, 2012 What have you done today....? make you feel proud?

This is my friend and colleague Jenny Major working with one of the yearling ponies at H.O.P.E. Dartmoor Rescue using NFNF techniques. I first met Jenny at the Moorland Mousie Trust where she impressed me straight away. She had only been working there a week and yet coped with a trek where she was given a set of identical ponies, fortunately all identifiable by their brands, and a list of riders to put on top of them. Out they went on to Exmoor where she discovered that she had no phone support from the Centre (no signal) and then the fog came down. Not only did she find her way back but she was completely calm about it.

Over the next fortnight of the foal handling course, she embraced IH concepts straight away and was really good with the foals and the students. I told her then that she would make a fantastic RA. She's almost there now with just her case studies to go.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

26th May, 2012 When the S*** hits the fan

Why is it that when a story seems really bad, people disbelieve it and doubt the motives of the person telling it? When the tenants moved into the house next door to us, we told them about the trials that the owners had put us through when building it (two years of the track being practically ploughed up so that we couldn't have any visitors round) but more importantly how badly the house had been built. For example, they forgot to put a damp-proof course in, forgot to add the chimney, the bricks were all wonky and the guttering doesn't work. Not only that, but they had grassed over one of the manhole covers to the septic tank and the septic tank was not big enough to cope with a family of four with all their showers, washing and dish-washing. They looked at us as if we were mad, but sure enough eight months later they moved out with a pending court case against the landlord and liquid human manure running down the track. They had grown tired of having the septic tank emptied once a fortnight at a cost of £300 each time.

The same is true about first hand stories about the treatment of the elderly or people with learning difficulties. It seems that there has to be a grand expose with someone with a secret camera before anyone will listen. In the animal world people like Mary Chipperfield, lauded by many as a lover of animals with a special gift, was exposed for her cruelty and neglect. At a local Owl Centre, an undercover member of staff exposed the extremely poor treatment of the birds in their care (now under new management).

I wonder when the same thing is going to happen with some of the horse trainers I hear about? In particular those that use water deprivation as an integral part of their training and others who have half starved horses or expose them to ragwort poisoning. Years ago some show-jumpers were exposed for using electric prods and bottle tops to 'rap' horses as they went over jumps and it is well know that 'soring' techniques are used with Tennessee Walking horses and Arabs. In some cases, this stuff is not going on behind closed doors and can be seen and heard straight from the trainers' mouth and yet no-one is really hearing what they are saying. Water deprivation? Really? Does that make a horse love you then?

Friday, May 25, 2012

25th May, 2012 Orphan Annie

Annie's story is one of the saddest I have ever heard but it has a very happy ending. When the farmer that owned Annie as a foal was being investigated for neglecting a lot of his horses, he set about shooting them himself in front of the others. When Annie was rescued, she was extremely thin and had mange and she required a lot of medical treatment. This meant that a head-collar had to be put on as a matter of urgency. Today she looks amazing and all that is left of that experience is a worry about being approached with a head-collar.I was asked to work on that and to do some groundwork with her.

Once again we are back to energy. Annie's owner finds it hard to talk about what happened to Annie without becoming emotional, intense and animated. Accordingly we have talked about leaving that emotion at the gate since it is no help at all when training her. We used clicker training for the head-collar work and Annie thought that was fantastic.

"We all thoroughly enjoyed the session..."MR

Received 6th June : "I got up the following morning with a much more positive attitude and said to myself we are going to do this!! From that day I have been catching her am and pm, changing her rugs without having a rope on her and she even whinnies when I come into the field none of which were even in the equation before. This is such a huge hurdle that I thought would never happen and although we have a long way to go I can't thank you enough from both of us."MR

25th May, 2012 Habituation

This is the definition of habituation. Major lives right next to the railway line in Brockenhurst and doesn't bat an eyelid when the trains come past at frequent intervals.

25th May, 2012 Let's Kiss

Last night David and I went to see Simon Amstell who is just brilliantly funny but you know that he is actually talking about his own life and feelings. Following awkward silences and fevered wishing, his favourite chat up line is "Let's Kiss!" and launching himself at the person concerned.

25th May, 2012 And breathe

I love the little coincidences in life and on Wednesday I was joined for the day by Karen, a healer who works with energy. It was actually a high energy day as we had so much to do and we talked every second imbetween. It was not helped by Rye taking off after two wild ponies in the inclosure when being led and us having to spend an hour and half trying to find him. He was fine after his little adventure.

The very next day I was working with energy levels, as I frequently do, with a lovely New Forest pony called Basil and his owner. Basil has always loaded and travelled well until recently. Unfortunately n the one occasion that he was tied up before the back bar was in place, he pulled back, felt the pressure and panicked, breaking the string and rushing out of the trailer backwards. Since then, he has been reluctant to load and has rushed backwards as a pre-emptory measure whenever he feels someone reach for the back bar.

Understandably this sort of behaviour can make people very anxious - not only because you might not get to the event that you have booked into and paid for - but because the horse or the people around him might get hurt. It's difficult to breathe properly in the circumstances. For Basil we broke the pattern by using a mock back bar (in this case a light plastic pole) to prepare him for the real thing. In his owners case we broke everything down into the smallest of actions so that each one could be followed by a deep out breath. Now neither pony or owner are rushing anywhere.

Karen asked me whether I have any exercises that I use for grounding myself. I didn't think I had. Then I remembered one of my familiar refrains to owners - "that's it, stand like a farmer not a model!" This is something I often say during groundwork and it enable people to solidly plant themselves, engaging their core, when asking their horse to halt, turn or stand still. It stems from the days when I did have a stunning model and her horse as clients. Not only was she beautiful, she was extremely intelligent and very pleasant too. She was also good at standing like a farmer when required.

"Thank you so much - you were really amazing today with Basil. It was so comforting having you take control and help Basil make the right decisions for himself. I feel much more confident in moving forward with our loading issue, I just hope I can keep calm and consistent in my approach!  Also thanks for the report (am very impressed with your efficiency!) and very helpful additional information. Will let you know how we get on. We are very lucky to have someone with your expertise to consult with our problems!"DM

If ever there was an advert for a New Forest Pony, isn't he fantastic?
And two days later:
"All good so far! Didn't manage a training session on Friday as E had a lesson after school and didn't want to practice with a tired pony. However today he was a real star - loaded first time on outward AND return journey. No hesitation on the ramp and no backing out. I was as pleased with him for his loading as I was with his performance (clear 2ft3 coming third and just one stop in 2ft 9 at E's first Hunter trial with him)! I am so happy so thank you so much." DM

I have urged the owners to keep practising between outings as this will help to keep adrenalin levels down and to make sure that it is all old hat when they do go somewhere.

25th May, 2012 Limekiln Endeavour

Scenes from my favourite five mile run. Warming up at Woodgreen Common, ponies often arrive in the mist and on hot sunny days hang out in the shade of the big oak tree or at the water trough.

Running up hill, this is Woodgreen drift pen, where the future of many of the ponies is determined.

Round the corner for the long straight slog to Hale. This is the bit I find the most arduous and I just keep running for the next tree and the one after that....

Up the hill, cross country to Hale Village School.

This is the half way mark and I sometimes wonder if I'll end up in here.....the serene graveyard at Hale. Did you know that no-one who lives in Hale can be buried in this graveyard? (That's because they are 'living'!!)

Past Hale House - an interesting shade of pink.

Downhill now past the old limekiln. Bluebell woods and deep banks all along here.

Over the cattle grid and back into Woodgreen. Resist the urge to stop at the Village Community Shop for refreshments. On a Thursday Harry the fishman comes bringing fish from Brixham and Poole.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

23rd May, 2012 Bits and pieces

This fascinating horse is an Arab x Cob so he has the "I know, I know" aspect of the gifted child as well as the ability to bosum you out of the way when he wants to. Both natural, automatic, instinctive behaviours of the two breeds of horse. His owner just wanted to know how to address those things when they appeared and it was really a matter of small techniques rather than big concepts.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

2rnd May, 2012 Willpower!!

There's a rather large bar of chocolate sitting on David's chair at the moment and I can only hope that it is still there when he gets home from work. I was given it for helping with Brandy but since I have now lost two and half stone, I daren't touch it. Only four pounds to my lowest target weight.

22nd May, 2012 Interloper

It's been a lively couple of days considering. Over the weekend one of the Commoners turned out another little coloured colt. A bit thin and probably wormy, he wasn't born on the Forest and has no reference point here at all. He turned up at my fence, already cut to pieces and, having been rejected by the passing herds of Sheltand and New Forest ponies who do seem to stick with their own, he eventually decided to scramble over two of my fences and to put himself in with Rye. Rye's not used to having company so it could have ended in disaster. Having been rejected by Rye, he was busily eyeing up the ponies in the field next door by the time I arrived yesterday.

A quick call to the Verderers, a word with the agister, and the colt's owner came to fetch him pretty quickly - well, straight in the middle of my working session with Rye. As the colt wouldn't follow a scoop of food or one of my mares, the owner set about chucking a noose around his neck and then wrestled with him, pulling him over backwards a number of times and half strangling him. He then forced a halter on to him and he was half dragged, half driven up the field and then bundled into a trailer. Not quite the No Fear, No Force that you might want but, being an amenable coloured pony, perhaps he won't hold it against people for too long. I didn't waste my breath trying to explain why it wasn't a good idea.

In the meantime I had also managed to find Thinny (Brandy) out on the Forest and persuade her to come in for a feed. Her owners have taken her home to avoid the stallion and she will meet up with her foal which was so abruptly taken from her last year.

The session with Rye, one restarted, went really well and he had a beautiful controlled canter up one of the tracks in the inclosure having been ridden around it on his own with me waiting a five-lane-ends to make sure that all was okay. He's got one more week to go before he goes home for a while and then comes back again after my holiday. Since he only came in for a week or two I am quite flattered that his owner has asked me to keep him on week after week so that she can continue in a way that she has come to love.

This morning I rode Theoden. He was an absolute joy and for the first time gave me 'dressage horse ears'. He's really listening and thinking these days.

Afterwards I decided to put the whole herd of seven ponies together. It was like watching two shoals of fish at first, or an episode of Meerkat Manor, as they weaved in and out of each other. When I left they were happily settled, having a nose blowing competition and eating lots of grass.