Monday, September 30, 2013

30th September, 2013 Friends, Romans, Countrymen

Super professional picture of me and Jenny yesterday. I really ought to celebrate the lovely friends I have got more often and the amazing generosity with which I am met all the time. From people who loan me their pigs, others who provide overnight B and B for my horse and others who help out when I am inundated or fancy some good company. It's fair to say that none of them are actually Roman.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

29th September, 2013 I Feel Good!

Another small milestone and even a pink rosette in Theoden's life. This morning we met up with Jenny to ride the New Forest Hounds 10 mile sponsored ride in aid of the Hampshire Air Ambulance. Theoden grew to 18 hands as we waited to set off but then settled down and was an absolute pleasure to ride. We had some lovely canters on the flat, something I've avoided until now. We met two huge pink pigs and Theoden didn't turn a hair and then we were passed by a train and he didn't even look at that. So happy!

Thanks to the organisers. This was a really lovely ride - fantastic going and very well marked and marshalled. One of the politest too.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

28th September, 2013 Simply, The Best

Off this afternoon to a client with four horses with different issues to look at. Fortunately she had a clear idea of her priorities. Accordingly, we started off with her four year old mare who has a tendency to invade space, worries about leaving her field and can be awkward about picking up her feet and accepting water on her body. Each one of these things had an initial cause ranging from having an injury to just natural behaviour. All of them have the same simple solution - gentle pressure and release/reward. The hardest bit is working out what is the pressure and what is the release and how can I find the quickest release so that the horse doesn't feel it has to find it's own release?

For standing still the release is to leave the horse alone and not keep invading her space other than to give her a lovely rewarding rub.

For leaving the field it is taking her back again.

For the feet it is giving the horse her foot back and giving that leg a lovely rub.

For the water, since you can't take the water away again, giving the horse a lovely rub when she stands still in order to rub the sensation of the water away.

"I would just like to say 'thank you' again for today. I had a lovely day, it is a pleasure to watch you work, to learn from you and be inspired by you. It was amazing to see the the fear and confusion in Jasmine's eye, while she tried to kneel on you, change in just a minute or two to falling asleep while you held her foot in the air! You work like magic." TP (assistant and photographer for the afternoon).

"It's really given me the boost I needed..." VD

Friday, September 27, 2013

27th September, 2013 Foot Fetishist

Singing the praises of another farrier today. Guy (Reynolds) has been working with my horses and any visiting ones for a number of years now and he is always patient and kind. He admitted to me today that he thinks about horse feet morning, noon and night and that's really something. He has a degree in Military History too so we have some fascinating conversations when he's around. All about Abyssinia (that's Ethiopia now) and the Italians and so forth.

 It's always so relaxing and quiet when he's working. Oh, no, that's not true, because today we had some other visitors too.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

26th September, 2013 Five Farrier Top Training Tips for Trimming

or something like that...

1. Train well in advance of the farrier/ trimmer's visit - train every day and do it incrementally

2. Desensitise the legs first and teach the horse to keep them down when touched. (Buy a feather duster if you can't touch with your hand at first)

3. Teach your horse a signal to pick his legs up - squeezing the chestnut or tendon often works.Consider using clickered rewards to reinforce this.

4. Book your farrier/trimmer by TIME rather than by trim and pay him/her properly for that time. Booking a double or treble slot is well worth it.

5. Having trained your  horse bit by bit to pick his feet up for longer and longer and in different positions. Ask your farrier/trimmer to put the horse's foot down after a set period of time if it is safe to do so - and then act as a timer. If the horse knows a release is coming, he won't feel the need to find his own.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

25th September, 2013 Fan Anna

I started off today with Anna who simply needed to be caught and held for the farrier. This is the little mare who used to scream at people and attack them if they went into the field and had to be fed sedative sandwiches in order to be caught. It's been three or four years since I first used No Fear No Force techniques to touch her and catch her for the first time and since then she has just got better and better for me. With eight to ten week gaps between visits she still improves and this morning came up to be caught and just stood next to me. I only wish I had a reason to go more often. Anna arrived with her elderly owners inside her Mummy's tummy and sadly her Mum died about six years ago and she has been alone ever since. She gets regular visits from passing walkers and is checked and fed every day by her owners who live on site.

We were watched closely by the cat and Matt's dog.

and as we left there was a kiss for Julie who had taken the day off work to come out with me.

The two of us then went off to visit Chancer who is doing extremely well in his loan home. He was absolutely indifferent to our visit and just kept his head down eating all the time that we were there. We tried hard not to be offended but of course this is what we really both want to happen. He seems very settled.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

24th September, 2013 Selling Sand to the Arabs

Today we took Sampson out in the trailer to a secret location. He loaded and travelled beautifully and we keep having to remind ourselves that he is still not two years old. Accordingly we wanted to make our trip fun and light hearted for him. When we arrived he was turned out in the school so that he could kick up his heels and practice his emergency drills.

After this he kept coming back to us to tell us all about everything he could see.

It seemed like a good idea then to work with him at liberty, engaging with Theresa and matching her pace.

Somewhat inevitably this is what happened next...

...but then he is half Arab and the school is half sand.

24th September, 2013 Horsiculture

I often listen to Radio 4 in the car as it gives me something other than horses to talk about. However, I coudn't help turning this answer to a question on Gardener's Question Time into the perfect answer to anyone going to Equine College.

"Can the panel offer any advice to a new student of horticulture? I'm starting the RHS Level 2 course in a couple of weeks."

JW: "...The first thing about horticulture is that very often it is all about rules. Horticulture is almost like a very geeky times table...something you need to have to know every one exactly right - the right pruning angle and the exact month and if you don;t do it exactly as the text book says it's going to die. Frankly all the horticulture rules are just tips and trick to get better results. Plants have been living millions and billions of years without squirrels that are trained exactly the right angle to prune them....They are very helpful to you but just go out and give it a go...many of the rules have no basis in science. They were made up by Victorian gardeners to make themselves seem smarter and to make their job seem a little bit more complicated than it was. So they've done trials on things like roses, cutting them by half with a hedge trimmer and found that it actually encourages more flowers and more disease resistance than doing the whole laborious Victorian idea. So do follow them to learn them but don't feel you have to have slavish devotion to them."

BF: "...the rules are guidelines. You've got to ask yourself what they were trying to achieve by doing this and question. The rules are written by people who grow to show; they're not interested in actually producing nice produce or tasty things....They're actually trying to produce the biggest or the finest. A lot of the advice comes from agriculture and again they are looking at production and ease and that is for things like tractors - well we've got a spade. So read everything, learn everything, but ask yourself always what were they trying to achieve and is it what I'm after?"

PG : "Conduct your own trials. The more practical work you do the better....and also think what would happen if I do this? What would happen if I do that? So as much practical work as you can do and back it up."

Monday, September 23, 2013

23rd September, 2013 Solo Career

I decided to ride Theoden home to Fritham. This is seven miles on his own so not what you might think of as incremental training. With his recent change in attitude, largely as a consequence of clickering him, I thought it was worth a try knowing that I could get off and walk if I needed to. Well, he was superb. I asked him to halt after 50 paces, then 100, then 150 and then 200 in order to give him a clickered reward and in no time we were well on our way and I could dispense with the clicker other than the odd random halt.  It was really quite funny when we came back into the area he knows - he had a good look round, checked his internal map and then trotted on very happily. Up the drift-way we met seven lively middle sized pigs and back at home another three and it appears that the desensitising I did at HorseWorld, where Theoden had his breakfast every day with Dominic the pig, has really paid off.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

21st September, 2013 A Rose By Any Other Name... still not a Petra. Theoden is slightly bemused by his second move in one week. This morning we went out for a super ride with Rose and both of them were beautifully behaved. The training we have received this week meant that Theoden was more soft, willing and balanced than he has ever been before.

Back across the Forest and I was saddened to see a mature pony had been run into and killed. I struggled to make sense of what I was seeing at first and then realised that it's intestines were stacked up on top of it's poor body. That's 62 casualties on the roads so far this year with three months still to go.

A happier sight at Fritham...

No photos from my afternoon job - a nine year old pony called Skamp who can be awkward about having his feet picked up. His automatic, non-thinking, instinctive behaviour is to kneel on you instead! Anyway, it was relatively easy to solve once he had been taught how to pick them up.

"Thank you for your report and for working so beautifully - and patiently -with Skampie and me. You weave a kind of magic."HS

Friday, September 20, 2013

20th September, 2013 On the Buses

It's been a busy day from start to finish today what with more lessons, travelling Theoden to his next stop and picking up Nettles. Theoden is learning to follow his nose without bracing and there is no doubt whatsoever that clicker is helping with his attitude to this. When we left it out for a while, sorting out how to set up a particular exercise, Theoden became most disheartened and only perked up again once we restored it. Whoops!

Forwards, backwards and side-to-side...

Next Charly had a lesson on Lorraine's Hobbit - lovely to see the other Tolkien brother in action again.

Nettles positively skipped on to the trailer and seemed to be delighted to be amongst his friends again. Charly and I are looking forward to completing his education. Slowly but surely.

My last stop was nearer to home with Oscar's final motorbike session. His field mates were completely unperturbed by the bike and the good news is that Oscar is now able to stand still while the bike overtakes him in any direction. The intermediate clicks ask him to stand still while the bike goes by and three clicks means that he has been brilliant and can have his treat.

Jacqui's shopping arrived just after we had finished and I think Oscar thought it was his own private horse-box since the sign writing was most apt...

Poor David was knocked off his bike by a motorist this week (unable to see him in his hi-viz gear!). Fortunately it was a slow speed accident and David had all his protective gear including his leathers. Even better he was being followed by a First responder who as well as avoiding running him over, made sure that he was taken good care of and went off to the hospital pretty promptly. Luckily he was uninjured, if a little stiff, but the bike needs some repairs to its near side.

20th September, 2013 For the Sake of Clarity

It's not just the horses that need clarity. One of the great joys these days is hearing just how many people are now engaged with some form of 'natural' (how I hate that word) horsemanship, based on the psychology of the horse. In the end a horse is just a horse and all of his behaviour is a horse's behaviour. Even staunch traditional forums like Horse and Hound, echo with the sound of 'natural' techniques even when no credit is given to the person that came up with the idea or the concept, or at least penned it for the first time. When I used to visit yards there would be just one person practising IH techniques or something along those lines and it was hard for them to be a pioneer. It's not always easy even now.

The down-side is that there are lots and lots of people who offer training without necessarily having studied their subject thoroughly in the first place. That doesn't have to mean one 'brand', set in stone, but it does help if there is a strong framework running through their work. There's a lot of mixing and matching now so that concepts can be diluted or a concoction. Others have done most but not all of the training and set sail without having ever been assessed, examined, approved or even insured.

We can over analyse, intellectualise and ultimately boggle the minds of anyone coming to this for the first time. I like to keep things simple and consistent. Whilst there are no black and white rules, the four basic concepts I work to are straightforward and easy to understand. They underpin everything. And I have been assessed, examined, approved, recommended and evaluated and of course, I am insured for everything that I do. It's been ten years since I got involved with Intelligent Horsemanship and I've lost count, in particular, with the number of horses I have worked with called Molly!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

19th September, 2013 Seeking Clarification

Another great session with Theoden working on clarity, clarity, clarity all the way. Here he is really concentrating on what he is being asked to do.

Then, a short journey across the Forest to a wonderful short person called Iggy. Just two years old he is an absolute delight, passing and being passed by the most massive traffic without as murmur. We working on forwards meaning forwards and his tendency to go into pressure if anyone tries to lead him from his right hand side. He should make an amazing driving pony in the future.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

18th September, 2013 No Fear, No Force

With the sales of semi-feral ponies just ahead, please let people know about this book. I've now lost count of the number of foals and ponies it has helped. It includes a chapter on clicker training if that's a direction you fancy, otherwise it offers a common sense, gentle approach to training the wild or worried foal.

Available through Amazon or my own website

18th September, 2013 Lunch is at One O'clock

First day today of a three day riding clinic with Amanda Barton. I love these clinics because they give me stuff to work on for at least a month and usually a year! Lorraine and Zak have done some remarkable things this last year including team cross country and dressage. Their session concentrated on removing any brace in Zak's turns with some lovely canter work as a 'holiday' in between.

After a year's worth of happy hacking and migrating around various parts of the country, Theoden now understands that forwards means forwards, and the recent more regular use of clicker in his ridden work has brought about a real change in his attitude. With greater willingness on his part it was possible to switch from a democratic decision about what time lunch would be to a benign dictatorship without him wanting to cause a revolution. Amanda explains that quite often a group will discuss when best to have lunch and various views will be expressed taking into account when people are due to arrive, what time the caterer is booked for and who wants to go first and second; what suits everyone best. In a different group, someone may simply decide lunch is at one o'clock. This takes a lot less time and yet everyone still gets to eat. In the same way, when I ask Theoden to go forwards now I can employ much greater clarity without him minding at all.

Telling Amanda she has got it right and then telling Theoden. (Really must get those longer jeans!)

Following lunch, it was time to go across the Forest via one of the quiet back roads to meet up with Jacqui, Semota and some new friends. 

Semoto has always been afraid of pigs ever since he arrived from Portugal some years ago. Today we introduced him to a Preliminary level pig called Sophie. Although huge (Double Gloucester Old Spot perhaps), she is quite slow moving. She made lots of lovely grunting noises which astonished him for a while but his curiosity overcame his fear. He also met goats for the first time. We are now looking for an intermediate/ advanced level pig(s) to introduce him to.

Always room for a picture of a glorious dog...