Tuesday, April 30, 2013

30th April, 2013 Perfect Pleasure

I met a wonderful pony called Enzo this morning who has come to his owner through the RSPCA. Little is known of his early life although he had been neglected. He is now back to full health and the great news is that he doesn't seem to have been mentally traumatised at all. In the six weeks that he has been with his new owner who has been relying on Kelly Mark's Perfect Manners book he has made magnificent progress and is well on his way towards pre-starting work.

Today we worked on touch as there are some things he still wants to protect, including his mane, poll and ears. The use of a deep slow pressure with the dandy brush soon brought him around to having his hair done and then I used a circular massage technique behind his ears which he seemed to enjoy. After that we worked on groundwork and puddle paddling out on the Forest.

For some weeks I have been thinking that Sampson would benefit from more playtime with horses that are of a similar age and energy level to him. Today we were able to turn him in with a bunch of two year old New Forest ponies. Hopefully he will enjoy having a month off and it will save us thinking up new ideas to keep him entertained and avoid us doing too much too soon.

From Enzo's owner this evening:

"I thoroughly enjoyed working with you this morning, and now feel that you have given me the tools to start moving forward with Enzo. Your work today with us has made me realise that I was on the right track, but as you say needed fine tuning and other ways to deals with problems that arise.  One of the things you have done is to help me believe in myself, and what I can achieve with Enzo. I am going to work on all the areas we looked at today, and generally have fun doing it!  He is an inquisitive chap, does seem to want to please and I think enjoys getting out and about, seeing and doing new things.  Thank you for coming out today and taking the time to go through so much with us.  It was great not to feel like we had to rush things in order to complete everything within the allocated time, and that makes such a difference and is a real credit to your way of working." GM

Sunday, April 28, 2013

28th April, 2013 DTARmined

Time for another race run today. Just 10k but it started off with two miles straight up hill. Finished in 1 hour and 1 minute but wished I had my horse all the way round. I have now run almost 900 miles in preparation for the marathon which is still 6 months away. So far I have raised £750 for the Shy Lowen Charity for my efforts and I will be forever grateful for the donations I have received. Today's event was organised by the Drovers Trail and Adventure Racing team and it was a lovely friendly event.

There's now just one month to go before I start on my marathon training proper and I shall be following a programme set by The Non-Runner's Marathon Trainer book as amended by Sally, my personal trainer. The Amsterdam Marathon is due to take place on Sunday 20th October, 2013.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

27th April, 2013 Pooh! Sticks!!

Coco stepped out confidently again this morning and had to contend with a variety of things that you meet out n the Forest including a yearling lying down in a dip at the top of the hill and a dog that was vigorously digging right by the gate, oblivious to anyone going by. He also had a large bell around his neck that rang out loud and clear as his feet went round and round. It was a branch that was Coco's undoing which went crack as she rode underneath. I spent the next section of the walk continuously breaking twigs right next to her until she stopped reacting each time and had a nice lick and chew. You have to think of everything!

This afternoon it was off to work with another Irish cob with foot handling problems - it seems to be such a common problem with horses imported from Ireland through dealers. Things have deteriorated to the extent that the farrier can neither get a new shoe on one foot or take off the one he has managed to get on the other. This horse has developed a variety of strategies to stop people handling his feet including attempting to stand on top of the handler's feet and slamming his foot down once it is picked up - nice! I suspect however that he has never been taught how to pick his feet up nicely in the first place nor learned how to balance himself and that trimming and shoeing has always been achieved through brawn.

It was a strenuous session for me but using clickered treats made it a lot lighter than it could have been. We moved from just being able to touch his leg, to asking him to pick one up and to be able to hold it for just a couple of seconds. This might seem like slow progress for one session but it is pretty fast progress for clicker and I have asked the owner to make sure that she re-establishes and consolidates each individual stage before asking him to hold his leg up for longer. Fortunately she has got all the time in the world since she loves every other aspect of this horse and has no intention of letting him go.

Update ONE DAY LATER: "10 seconds on the front legs and 3 sec on the backs!!!! Can't believe! No discussion lifting his legs so relaxed. Letting me put his feet down , no stamping with his back feet!!! I'm blown away. Perhaps tomorrow will be different but today, we are flying high. Thanks again for your help. " KA

13.5.13: "Well the fronts are still going up nicely, the backs are still a little stampy, if you know what I mean. I can't hold them up yet for more than a second or so.It will take a while but we are still working in the right direction. At least I can now muck his fronts out." KA

27th April, 2013 If at first you do succeed...

The clients that are most likely to cancel their appointment, generally very close to the allotted date, are those that are booking for the first time, book well ahead, and tell me lots and lots about their horse. Whether they have partially resolved the problem, decided to make do or feel that the money would be well spent elsewhere, I don't know. That first appointment is often the most critical and the one where I can make the most significant impact on their relationship and future with the horse. For some it can change the way they think about their horse forever. Quite often one appointment is enough to set everything on a positive path. Take Rachel for example...

"As it's been a couple of months since you visited us, I thought I would send you an update on how Denys, my Mum and I are doing. As you know, the first ride we took him on after your visit was very positive - we managed to reassure Denys enough about a herd of deer that he didn't spin and run, for the first time since we got him in October. Since then he has been fantastic - ok, he has his days where he's a bit excitable and we get a bit nervous, but we've now realised that we were expecting of him (a 7/8ths TB with breeding renowned for being sharp) what we had with our old mare who died a couple of years ago (a solid as a rock, safer on her than sat on the sofa, one in a million, solid type Irish x Connemara). We were being unfair on Denys in our expectations and since we realised that he is just a normal horse, and have strengthened the bond that we began forming on the day you came, we have all improved a lot and become happier in each other's company.

After practising our leading, and our little bits of clicker training, Denys now stands waiting at the fence when we arrive rather than walking to the farthest point from us or ignoring us entirely. I can catch him easily, and neither of us have visions of him high-tailing it across the field with the rope trailing - he stands and waits until I give him his treat, and then follows me carefully and quietly until I give him another! He stands quietly tied at the shelter where he would previously fidget and run us over while we were trying to groom him. We tack him up with ease, including swapping his head collar for his bridle (he used to walk away once the noseband was off his face!)

Out hacking he is so much more relaxed and confident. He barely hesitates when we see walkers now, even those with dogs who "hide" in the bushes out of our way! He always looks, and is allowed to stop if he needs to think about what he can see. I've not had him stand and physically shake since that first ride out with the deer. In fact, we don't even need to give him a treat now when we see deer - he has learnt that he won't have to walk near them if he doesn't want to, and he can look at them if he wants. My Mum met a small herd of deer in the woods the other day, that ran over the track in front of Denys - she said he hesitated, but kept walking! Even when a few stragglers crossed the path behind Denys, he apparently didn't blink!

We still have work to do - I'm hoping to take him to a very quiet dressage competition in a few months' time, so we're going to take it bit by bit and see how he reacts being in different environments. We're looking forward to it - something I didn't think I'd say about anything to do with Denys a few months ago!

Thank you once again for your help - it's amazing what you can start off in just one session!" RB

I have an information sheet which explains what you can expect from a visit. It goes on to say:

I rarely take a deposit but if you cancel an appointment then I may request one for the next occasion. Please remember that although I love horses, this is my business and not my hobby and therefore please try not to cancel unless the weather is absolutely dire or you or your horse is actually ill. Remember that late cancellations actually COST me money. 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

24th April, 2013 Impeckable

Another day off, this time at Forest Falconry in Landford for David's belated Christmas present. Unfortunately we are not allowed to take any of them home. Another of those encounters where you might thing about the advantages and disadvantages of being a captive animal - in this case many of the birds have been rescued from total confinement at 'pets' or from near-death through injury or malnourishment in the wild.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

23rd April, 2013 Farrier's Day

After exploring Guy's van, Indiana drank the contents of the water pail...

Monday, April 22, 2013

22nd April, 2013 Environmental Health

Like a lot of horses and ponies, Bluebell can't really see the point of working in her own field particularly as the grass is starting to grow. She is much more contented out on her Forest although she would prefer to be in control of speed, direction and destination. Now that she is no longer agog at everything she sees and hears we can use this environment to train her. The dragons teeth are ideal for introducing bend and steering and then there's gorse bushes which provide a useful target for riding with purpose and change of direction.

We are working in a similar way with Jessica. Today she was asked to walk over a log about 10 inches high. She did the most amazing cat-leap of about 3 foot 6 inches and then instead of panicking she just stood still and said "I meant to do that!" Charly looked a little surprised but was unscathed. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

21st April, 2013 Redundancy

I am just about to become redundant where Benji is concerned and it won't be long before Sian and Coco don't need me either. Hilary has continued with the ear work which I started with Benji, teaching him to have his ears gently folded forward so that they can be 'posted' into his bridle between the crown piece and the browband.

This is so much better than him rushing around the stable shaking his head from side to side. 

This morning saw an incredible change in Coco who seems to have suddenly become a real riding horse. Not only was she happy to go on ahead, leaving her companion Rosie to wander on behind, but she was trotting here and there too. Considering that it is only three weeks since I came back off holiday and only her third ride out on the Forest in that time, we were all really pleased with her progress. 

Saturday, April 20, 2013

20th April, 2013 The New Intake

The pressure on all horse charities is immense at the moment and some, like HorseWorld, are having to limit their intake to rescue cases and prosecution cases only. There are no shortage of these and for every horse that leaves HorseWorld having been rehabilitated and re-homed there are far more waiting at the door. These are difficult pictures but sadly representative of what the staff at HorseWorld face every day.

This Thoroughbred type mare was brought in a few weeks ago severely underweight and with an advancing skin condition and hind limb lameness. Despite all that, she is pleased to see everyone who visits her and is making a slow recovery.

Patience on the other hand doesn't really see the point in people and was reluctant to be approached. Probably around four years of age, she is enjoying having grass to eat and regular small hard feeds. No doubt she will come round, fill out and start to see the good in people in time.

Rusty is absolutely terrified of people. Probably four yours old, she spins like a top if anyone gets too close and throws herself on the floor. She will take hours of work but hopefully clicker training and her interest in feed will provide a solid short cut.

This little mare came in at the same time and is clearly due to give birth at any time. Luckily she is a little bit friendlier so there is hope of someone being able to help her if she gets into difficulties foaling.

The very latest arrival came in utero and as a result has never encountered any unkindness. Just two days old she is already investigating people and coming so close that it is difficult to take a picture of her looking less like a fish!

20th April, 2013 Hands on Horsemanship

This weekend also saw the third Hands on Horsemanship Course which the three of us (IHRAs Bronwen Packham, Jenny Major and myself) run in conjunction with HorseWorld. Dolly and Mario were excellent teachers and we were blessed by decent weather for once. The next course is running on 13th and 14th July, 2013 and you can book for one day or two.

20th April, 2013 Cuthbert is Lush

This is a direct quote from a young member of the audience at HorseWorld today where Cuthbert, Kayleigh and I did a demonstration at the Visitor Centre. Cuthbert came into HorseWorld as a stallion two years ago as a result of a seizure and then prosecution involving cruelty and neglect to a number of horses. Now six, he was gelded early in the New Year once he was signed over to the Charity. Although he had had some training before, work could only recently start in earnest and today he was long reined and then ridden for only the second time in his life.

Cuthbert happily follows me around the round pen in a game of 'Find the sixpence'. He clearly likes being with people. Then a little long reining before Kayleigh leans over him and then gets on board.

Once on board, Kayleigh keeps low and soft until we are certain that he is comfortable with her presence, and then she starts to sit up more before going off the lead rein and even having their first trot.

Short and sweet, we both say thank you very much before she gets off and immediately un-tacks him. Once trained, Cuthbert will be looking for a new loan home. He's a very agile horse and would make a lovely Riding Club horse with the ability to compete in any sphere.