Saturday, August 31, 2013

31st August, 2013 Half Day Closing

Our last morning with Jazz who is going home tomorrow and will continue her education there. She's absolutely great with traffic and wanted to give White Van Woman's white van a wash.

I've also been enjoying riding other people's horses. Yesterday I rode Beau out for over two hours all around Somerley Park. He's in his early twenties but still up for a good canter up a hill. Today I took Fly out with Sian riding Rose. Fly is another oldy, still a lot of fun, but a steady companion for young Rose.

and now rest.... It's been a hectic summer and next week is still pretty busy. After that I have got a week off walking in France although I was tempted to hand deliver one of my book orders to a purchaser in Le Havre.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

29th August, 2013 Sisters are Doing It for Themselves on this...and then shrink it...

Sisters Rosie and Crystal were standing on their own four feet today. No sooner had I opened up Sally's trailer than they were over, casing the joint. Then, once the partitions were all out they taught themselves to load.

Then it was back in with the partitions and a headcollar on Rosie just to keep her safe. Crystal decided that anything you can do I can do better.

Then Mum turned up so it was time for a well earned drink.

SAFETY NOTICE: Normally we would have a vehicle attached to the trailer whenever we are loading a horse so that the trailer is always supported, however, Rose and Crystal are very light and therefore there was no risk of the trailer turning into a see-saw. I am also careful not to let ponies play in trailers on their own. These two sisters get on extremely well so there was little risk of one becoming trapped behind the other and being kicked. There was always one human at the rear of the trailer to ensure that neither pony could trap their leg around the springs. Sally is an adult and chose to not wear her hat or trousers and everything was kept extremely low key. Think that covers it!

Later it was time for another Jazz session. She has been going really well and seems to enjoy being out and about. Nevertheless she seemed to have an automatic, instinctive need to nap towards home whenever we got to a junction where home was one of the options. I've been working on this for a couple of sessions and came to an arrangement where if she turned away from home without napping on three occasions then we would go home. This has worked beautifully and today, when short reining during her first session and being ridden in her second session, there was no napping save for one ear hinting that there was a quicker way home. Ears are such a good indication of where a horse's attention lies.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

27th August, 2013 Back to School

With Lindy going back to work at Kingston Maurwood College and my client's daughter buying her uniform for Sparsholt, the autumn must be on it's way. Just the right time for two year old horses to start some gentle work aimed at building up their work ethic. 

The subject of school came up with both of these horses as they can both get a bit nervous in there. The school which is away from the other horses is screened by tall hedges and trees at a little distance on two sides. On the other side of one of them are poly-tunnels and farm-hands, and the other side of the other one there are alpacas and the occasional disembodied voice. However, the school is on the flattest, best draining part of the land. The question is whether to move the school to somewhere less scary for the horses or to train the horses so that they are no longer scared in there. All of this before the owner commits herself to expensive permanent fencing around it.

If a horse's adrenalin is up then it is hard for him to learn anything. We decided to see how we could shape today's training to help Coco, the first horse, to stay as calm as possible. Using a square box made of poles as a 'safe place' we worked our way across the field, allowing him to face the hedge, until we were almost at the top hedge. Bit by bit we moved a calm horse from the bottom to the top without his adrenalin creeping up. The next step is to ask him to stand sideways on to the hedge. Where should be place the box?

Bella was in calm mode today anyway and so we were able to go through the preparation exercises for long reining and start her off long reining with dual controls and then solo. She did really well and we ended fairly shortly after this photograph was taken so that we could end on the best possible note.

27th August, 2013 The Danger of Recommendations

As a ‘Recommended’ Associate it seems a little ironic to be telling people to beware recommendations. Here I am referring to those given on public forums, perhaps on Facebook, in answer to questions like “Which farrier do you recommend” or “Which saddler would you recommend?”  Often there are several given and I wince as I realise that there are names on there that basically keep me in business through nasty handling techniques or poorly fitting saddles. No-one can refute the recommendation publicly, either because the forum moderator won’t allow it, or because of the fear of legal action for defamation, and people will rarely make the effort to privately message the original poster as even that has to be put in writing. You might argue that they should but the fact is they don’t. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

26th August, 2013 Come Fly with Me

I always like working under the flightpath of Bournemouth Airport. Apart from having to raise my voice every so often I get to watch the aeroplanes coming in. Next weekend it's Bournemouth Air Show but Flynn should be fine with the advanced class take off and landings with all of the regular comings and going of RyanAir and Flybe. He was certainly very calm about all the things we showed him today - he's such a lovely young horse.

  • "Another wonderful and logical session with Sarah. I had an issue when riding my horse, but after my first session with Sarah who taught me the basics on the ground, the riding issue has been resolved!! She works like magic...x" KL

Saturday, August 24, 2013

24th August, 2013 BBC Repeats

If it's ten past ten by the mule's ears then it must be time to go to work. Some consolidating work with Jazz establishing that forwards means forwards but even then we have made another incremental step and she is being ridden with the reins attached to the bit for the first time. Lots of other stuff too meaning that I didn't get home until 8 p.m. Sunday off? I don't think so. I've been invited to observe a clicker training clinic so watch out Theoden, we may have a change of plan.

Friday, August 23, 2013

23rd August, 2013 All Things Bright and Beautiful

I've been looking forward to this morning's appointment for a while. Tia is a four year old PRE (Andalusian) born in, wait for it, Leicestershire. I was asked to assess her for starting and to make a start on any training that she needs. She's a beautiful horse and, like all of her breed, very bright. We started with some groundwork, asking her to lead quietly down (and up) the field, did a bit of work on asking her to accept fly spray and finished with me leaning over her to see what she would think. She was fine.

"Goodness! What a lot I got! [Horse report,  notes and photos] I haven't had time to go through all that but have saved them all to disk and will peruse later - many thanks Sarah for an amazing day yesterday.  I took Tia out last night and put in a couple of stops on the way - she had to be backed up one stride the first time and was perfect the second. Result!" JL

Update received 17th September, 2013: "Tia is a reformed character – I have been going round telling everyone how brilliant you are.  I haven’t got the chance to do that much with her but every time I lead her in or out we do different speeds and put in a stop or two – except when it’s pouring with rain she’s very good – then it’s a case of “stop faffing around and let me get inside!”

We have been down the field again a time or two and she was very good – we walked in and out of some poles on the ground and did a Strictly back up the hill – slow, slow, quick, quick, slow – she’s been super.  We’ve also been down the track a time or few and just worked on down about an extra 100 yards or so each time.  The balloon has not stretched much, so never even close to bursting, and she is now walking with me much more confidently as I am walking much more confidently with her." JL

After a fortnight's gap we did some more work with Oscar and the motorbike. This time he was calm enough for some ridden work but we are having to be fairly cautious as he is still pretty worried about the bike - it only takes one incident for a horse to become super-sensitised to something out on the roads. If only drivers understood that.

Came home to this splendid card...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

22nd August, 2013 Black and White Rules

Little Jazz continues to remind me of an Arab oscillating from precious to precocious in her attitude to work. Struggling to get her to move forward in the field we decided to take her out on the tracks so that she could see the point of the work we were doing. Here she is striding out with Charly on board. We'll get there. There are no black and white rules in training.

Isaac, who has been an angel throughout all of his training went off home again after his two weeks with us. This morning we started to ask him to listen to the bit and just acknowledge that we were asking for something. He immediately softened and dropped his head, took a step back or moved to the left or right as requested.

"Just to say a big thank you for all the work you, ( and helpers) have done with Isaac. I'm so pleased with him and all that he's learnt while he's been at "summer school"!" LB

Charly brought his daughter up to the fields this afternoon and she had a lesson with Petra. Even though she was on the lead rein she was able to ask Petra to move forward with just a breath out and thinking walk, to halt by breathing out and thinking halt, and to back up by imagining Petra lifting up from her withers and moving her front feet. Not bad from someone who was on a big and responsive horse for the first time.

After that it was off to see a pig called Sophie - don't worry, I'll explain later....

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

21st August, 2013 Nothing to See Here

This morning I got up to Fritham to see this sign and wondered whether I should ride Theoden or not. It hadn't really got going so I decided to go ahead anyway. Theoden came across to be caught, stood loose while I tacked him up. and worked softly even though Petra was right across the other side of the field shading under the tree.

Afterwards I went to see a Welsh Cob which is particularly difficult about having his bridle on. The common cause of this is plaques which can make the ear really sore and require frequent intervention by people with cream. The horse becomes doubly defensive. As the behaviour escalates the owner is tempted to rush and subjects the horse to even more tickly and invasive touch. No wonder the horse then decides that the ears are completely out of bounds. I was soon able to put the bridle on in three distinct stages each rewarded with a click and a treat.

Next it was time to visit Chancer in his new loan home with Nicky.He has completely settled in and seems very relaxed. He has a new friend called Marley. Difficult to see what either of them really look like in their protective outfits.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

20th August, 2013 Oh My!

Theoden has already made vast progress three days into our training. Today he stood quietly in the yard, waited untied while I fetched things out of the shed, and walked away from the yard completely calmly when we turned our back on the things that have previously caused him to rush. 

We went straight out into the little paddock where he stood solidly for me to mount and waited well over a minute before I asked him to move off. 

To prevent him becoming a gannet, I vary the side on which I offer the treat and signal which side it will be with a tiny tap with my finger on the appropriate shoulder. 
We completed tasks that he has been able to do before so that I wasn't using clicker to teach him anything new. The difference was that his attention was completely with me (rather than in the other field with Petra) and he was trying to work out what I wanted him to do rather than resenting even the slightest pressure. He only flicked his tail at the flies.

One side effect of clicker training from the saddle is that horses becomes very sensitive to sounds that might indicate that there is a treat coming. This can result in the head being raised quite high. This doesn't look too bad to me.

The other worry is that the horse might come to sudden halt when he hears a click. I was keen to see what would happen if I used a single click to say "Keep on doing what you're doing" (with no treat) and three clicks to mean "You've done it, stop, well done" (followed by a treat). I wanted to avoid the hand going to the bag as being the terminal signal because it is too easy to brush against your own clothing or to open a zipped pocket and the horse come to a juddering halt. I thought that Theoden would join the Union and demand his treat for every click but instead there was a remarkable outcome. With only a momentary hesitation he would then take the next step requested and seemed to get real confidence from it that he was doing the right thing. I did feel a bit like an African Bushman with my kiss and click noises but Theoden definitely got it. Just look at this happy trot.

Next it was time to take the youngsters out long reining together. It's an important part of their training to go to the pub, hang around in the corrals while we have our lunch and then come home again! Isaac and Jazz took it in turns to take the lead. They are also carrying a bit very calmly and quietly too.

Are we at the sales?

Three Billy Goats Gruff?

Past the new drift pen. It's very smart.
 Then it was time to go off to the Fire Station for the Animal Rescue Team Open Day. Once again the plastic mannequin had found itself stuck in a ditch.

Should have gone to Specsavers

20th August, 2013 SAS Operation (Solo and School)

Taking my own advice, I spent some of the weekend dutifully reflecting on all the things that Theoden can even do. He's lovely to hack out on and will take he lead. He rides out with any other horse very happily. He travels well and settles well wherever I take him. He's affectionate now and accepts things like fly spray and having his feet done.

I then thought hard (okay Charly, overthought) about what else I'd like him to be able to do and how I might go about it. It's hard not to tackle a horses perceived issues without a monkey on your back knowing that others would think he ought to be able to do these things already and that he is naughty or lazy. "One good crack" is a phrase I have heard about him for example. If I have to hit him to achieve what I want, then I'd rather give up riding.

I decided that I would like him to be able to be ridden on his own and also to enjoy being in a school. My aspiration is to do it through inspiration!

As with any other horse I go to see, I decided to fully assess him and how he is feeling. Bringing him in on his own on Sunday, with Petra a field away, I truly recognised that he is frightened without her. He may be the herd leader but herd leadership is a precarious and worrying position for any horse and most particularly for a male. Looking at the way that he controls her and any others in with them, it seems to be about keeping her close and perhaps that's because he feels safer with her close rather than any sense of possessiveness (although I am sure that is in there too).

In the yard area where it is more enclosed and not possible to see or hear so well he was fine while I was close but if I went away to fetch something, he would start to fret. It was when I led him away at the end of the session (and repeated it to check) I saw that he rushes away from this area each time every time. Not only do the branches scrape on the roof of the building here, and the acorns bounce onto the corrugated iron, but there is a hedge-line beyond through which creatures appear such as other horses, cows and deer. Further, when there is a drift or a colt hunt, the Commoners gallop along the track behind it, yelping at the ponies they are chasing. No wonder he is uneasy.

I love the fact that Theoden is all horse. He hides nothing. You get the feeling that he always checks in with his instinct before deciding what to do.

Having seen all this, I am certain that he is not being naughty when he doesn't want to do things on his own. He is just frightened. Hitting a frightened horse isn't going to make him less frightened. I've decided to go completely the opposite way to the one that I am being pushed towards by other people and see what can be done with clicker in this ridden context.

On Sunday I rode him for just fifteen minutes in the yard itself. I simply asked for a few steps forward, a few steps backwards, a nice halt, and turning the hind quarters. If he did it promptly, nicely and softened at the end then he got a click and a treat. Yesterday I repeated this in the small paddock. using the poles and cones for guidance. Already I could feel him listening. Thank you for listening...I will keep you informed of progress and the lack of it.

Monday, August 19, 2013

19th August, 2013 Horse T.V.

Theoden has a chat with the 'children' before we start our working day. I've got some interesting theories on him so he's not going to be exempt from comment over the next few days and weeks....

It's my last week with Lindy which is a real shame as she is getting so good with these young ponies and I can delegate some of the interesting work. Still, she's booked in for 2014.

As well as short reining out on the Forest, Isaac has been introduced to a bit. I allowed him to eat so that he would be relaxed and realise that the end of the world hasn't arrived. I shall do some transitioning work before the end of the week when he goes home but nothing major.

Jazz's pre-ride walk involved some traffic training. She has met some at home but not going quite as fast as they do on the road here. She also met a bicycle and would quite like to have chased it up the road. She seems to think everything is put on for her entertainment like horse t.v.

Charly rode Jazz off the lead rein for the first time. She has her own ideas about where she would like to go but with quiet persistence and resolve she can be persuaded to go where the rider wants without increasing the pressure in any way. She's quite a decision making pony and the art is to persuade her that your decision was the one she would have made herself!.

At the end of the session I fancied a little sit on her myself.