Friday, February 28, 2014

28th February, 2014 Promise Me...

Pooh says it so well....

Leaning in to a rub on the left but delivered from the right

You want me to do what?

Are you sure it's safe?

Like this?

Haven't you got the one with a dragon on it? 

The bells! They don't bother me

That's it dear you have a rest while I eat

Rug on from the right and adjusted...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

27th February, 2014 More Reflections

It was good to see the mare and foal back out on the Forest today after whatever procedure/ I.D. they needed to go through yesterday. I'm rather fond of these two and give them a bit of supplemental feeding when they turn up at mine.

A few weeks ago a rather alien looking reindeer appeared on Facebook alongside a report which said: "The Reindeer Herders Association in Finland is spraying a special reflective material onto the reindeers’ antlers and skin to prevent roadkill. If the glow-in-the-dark material works, it could save the lives of as many as 4,000 reindeer."

Enthused and intrigued I immediately contacted my only Finnish friend and she contacted her friend who has reindeer (as you would) and we found out that we can get the paint in England. It turned up today and I have applied a stripe of it down each side of my two New Forest ponies, and down their tails, and will monitor how effective it is. There are some real problems with it though that I think will mean that it can't be used on the semi-feral New Forest ponies. First of all cost - £28 per tin. Then there's the fact that it is harmful to aquatic life, washes off with water and makes a horrible sound and smell when sprayed on the pony. My two weren't terribly impressed even when I told them it was for their own good.

Another great session with Piglet. He will accept a head-collar but only if it is presented on his left hand side and done up very quietly. We need him to be much more blasé than that so I started work on asking him to accept it face on. Not only did he learn this task extremely well but he got used to me in my bright orange 'shushy' coat.

His ability to learn something new each day is amazing.

It's no good hiding round there though....

Encouraging him to walk beside me with me on his right. I keep close to the wall and we take steady steps forward.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

26th February, 2014 Access All Areas

Piglet seems to be doing really well and so far has had no 'goldfish' moments. Working on consecutive days does help to keep the latent learning going and so far it has been progress, progress, progress all the way without feeling like pressure, pressure, pressure.


Following me in quite keenly with Indy.

Touching his right hand side from the left helps to prepare him for direct touch on the right. Although his head is high he needs to do this in order to be able to see behind him so it's not just a sign of tension.

Although I am using clickered treats, I have also got hay on the floor - this seems to be his 'thinking' food when he needs to be at a distance to work something out. I can still click through the work I am doing even if he doesn't come to me for the treat.

Back on the left hand side I am desensitising his ears which are particularly nervous of touch. Above I am rolling the feather duster over his ears rather than rubbing and he seems to really like that. Below I am demonstrating how nice touch around his head can be even on the right hand side.

Here he has let me into his right hand side and I am gently putting a weight on bunches of his mane which most horses seem to really enjoy - thank you Piper for teaching me that one.

He thinks Tracey is a defective operative because so far she hasn't joined in with the clickered rewards.


Arrived to find no less than four agisters trucks and their trailers outside the fields. A colt-hunt could make the training with Piglet very entertaining but fortunately we had finished before they brought these ponies in to the drift pen. The foal is one of Lovelyhill High Jack's.

Starting off from the left again I work on desensitising Piglet's back legs. We need him to be able to tolerate things close up behind him as his owner has small children.

He lets me into the right very easily and I am able to get up really close to him, Massive progress from yesterday. I'm even able to pick up his right foot. All of the time he is loose and can choose to go away whenever he wants to; nevertheless he doesn't. He is also much less jumpy than he was a few days ago.

I finished today's session by asking him to walk beside me with me on his right hand side. Step by step he started to get this. It's important that we establish this so that he can be lead from both sides and not just one.

As the coast is clear we decide to take Nettles out for a walk/ride. He has the company of three of us for this! One to short rein, one to read the signs and one to ride!

If Charly's legs get any longer we shall have to get him some roller-skates.

"Roller skates! you`re hilarious x" Charles Aloysius Green [Facebook]

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

25th February, 2014 Rare Insight

The New Forest Commoners should be applauded for the sensible and effective measures they have taken to reduce the numbers of foals produced when there is no market for them. As result of restricting the number of stallions turned out, and limiting the time for which they are out, there have been far fewer foals. For my part I have taken my two New Forest mares off the Forest when the stallion has been about (much to their disappointment) so that I don't add to the numbers. Here is a very clear explanation of why the New Forest Pony has become noted on the RBST list:

The Rare Breeds Survival Trust (RBST) has published its annual Watchlist for 2014, and for the first time the New Forest Pony appears on it. Rapidly changing market conditions over the last few years have changed the horse world, probably for ever. The situation for horses and ponies has to be viewed in the national context, and nationally, Britain is in the midst of what the British Horse Society (BHS) has described as ‘a huge and unprecedented welfare crisis’ due to over-population.

In a report published at the end of the 2013 in its membership magazine British Horse, BHS said ‘Decades of unchecked and indiscriminate breeding means that we now have far more horses than we have knowledgeable homes to care for them.’ In the vast majority of cases, pure-bred foals from registered rare breed equines still have to compete on the open market and with so many horses available for sale, prices are low and buyers hard to find. Not surprisingly, even the most dedicated breed supporters have to think twice about breeding.

For all British native equine breeds, including those in Category 6 not actually classified as rare, actual registration figures for 2012 are lower than in previous years and with most societies reporting that 2013 figures will be even further reduced. Ironically, welfare issues, and the responsible actions taken by breeders, are partly the reason for the New Forest pony coming onto the RBST Watchlist.

The iconic semi-feral herd of New Forest ponies has always been managed, but the level of management increased in 2002, with the introduction of the Verderers Stallion Reduction Scheme, fully supported by the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society and the New Forest Commoners Defence Association. This meant that when the market took a severe downturn in 2009-2010, in line with the prevailing economic conditions throughout the country, the New Forest Pony community was in a good position to respond quickly. The number of stallions released onto the Forest for the breeding season was reduced still further and registered pure-bred foal numbers in 2013 (both stud and Forest bred) were less than one third of those in 2009. We have been applauded by the welfare organisations such as BHS and the National Equine Welfare Council for our responsible approach to changing welfare and market conditions.

However, as a consequence of this the New Forest Pony now enters the 2014 Watchlist of the Rare Breeds Survival Trust, as a Category 5, Minority, breed. This means that the New Forest pony has fallen below the 3,000 threshold for registered adult breeding females for the first time. Now officially a rare breed, it is important to help ensure the genetic diversity of this reducing population is maintained. ‘We are walking a tightrope’ commented breed society Secretary Jane Murray, but steps have already been put in place to meet the new challenges ahead.

The Breed Society has already booked a RBST Geneped analysis from Grassroots, the software organisation which supplies our pedigree database. This analysis will build on the previous one we had done in 2010 which will become baseline data, as most of the reduction has occurred since then. It will concentrate on the kinship relationships between our current 140 stallions and will look at the progeny numbers of those stallions, so that the RBST can give advice on how our stallions can best be used to maintain genetic diversity.

The Society began a Futurity Scheme in the autumn of 2013, when colt foals were assessed for their potential as future stallions to run the Forest, noting in particular their bloodlines. These colts will be assessed as yearlings in a further assessment later this spring, when premiums will be awarded and grazing supplied, with financial support from the Verderers Higher Level Stewardship scheme.

The Verderers ran a selective breeding project in 2011 which has resulted in five colts of diverse bloodlines who will come forward this spring for inspection as potential stallions to run the Forest, and this breeding project is to be repeated again this year.

“The New Forest Commoners Defence Association recognises how difficult it is to reconcile the need to have a limited breeding programme in light of market conditions with the need to preserve the diversity of bloodlines. For that reason we fully support the measures that the NFPBCS and the Verderers have put in place,” commented CDA Chairman Graham Ferris.

With the current combination of over-supply and economic pressures continuing to depress the national equine market, the New Forest pony community and RBST cannot ethically encourage widespread breeding and we will be working together to breed responsibly to maintain genetic diversity and fulfil our obligations as the guardians of one of the UK’s most iconic native breeds and part of our national heritage.

Monday, February 24, 2014

24th February, 2014 A Walk on the Wild Side

I was very pleased when Piglet followed Indy into the barn this morning. It certainly made life a lot easier than having to begin by driving him in. Today was about starting work but also about re-assessing him following my early appointment with him. He hadn't forgotten anything and so I was able to clicker him to take his rug off and then chose to work with him completely naked so that he really did have a choice about whether he stayed or went.

Although  a little tense still about things happening on his left hand side, he will accept them but the right hand side was a no go area. This is very common in semi-feral ponies that often have a 'guard' side and a 'soft side'. The guard side is the side that they offer towards 'predators' when feeding from their mother and the soft side the side that they kept next to their mother. Although they will drink from both sides of their mother, they often have the same side out and the same side in. It is easy for this nuance to be missed, particularly this way round, because most equipment does up from the left hand side and most of us work on the left hand side of a pony; unless you knew about it you might assume that they would be the same on both sides.

Here, Piglet is allowing the feather duster to go over his back and into his right eye but he wouldn't allow me to go on his right hand side. I did some work with my hands, in particular around his poll and ears where he is particularly shy....

....before inveigling myself on to his right hand side. At first just asking him to take his head to the left and look at me with his right eye and then later, touching him on the right hand side with the feather duster with me looking at his right hand side.

Let's see what tomorrow brings.

Later it was off to work with Milly and her lovely new pony, River, a New Forest by Obershade Skylark. This pony is ten years old and clearly loves being around children. He only arrived in Saturday and, to help him settle in, I was asked to do some groundwork so that he could go out for a walk around the local lanes.

I'm not quite sure what we were working on here! 
Showing that a straight pull rarely works for a pony that has planted...

Out on the road we went through the ford...

...said hello to the cows

and made sure we went through all of the puddles. If you go round then so will he.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

23rd February, 2014 Wild and Woolly

After quite a bit of work where I haven't taken pictures of the horses you are about to be inundated by pictures of a small Welsh Pony called Piglet. Very very beautiful, he has got the highest pitched whinny I have ever heard! He was delivered this morning in a very impressive horse-box and looked minute within its cavernous sides.

I start work with him tomorrow. Although he accepts a rug and has even worn a saddle, his owner is concerned that he is still very anxious about everything that is done with him and leaves if he feels under too much pressure. He also seems to greet each new day as if he has never done the things he has done before or seen the things he has seen before. I've got my work cut out but hope I can make a significant difference. In the meantime he has had the rest of the day off to settle in and it was fascinating to watch the welcoming ceremony between him and Indy.

Unless there is a really good reason I would never leave a pony in a field on its own for very long. The interaction between ponies satisfies an innate need for companionship, touch, mutual grooming and synchronising. They know it's not a good idea to be alone. These two settled within ten minutes, decided they really liked each other. and began to eat side by side. I appreciate that putting horses in together is never free of risk, especially those early moments when they may feel defensive, but the more they learn their social graces the easier it is for them to integrate when changes have to be made.

I met Linsey when we were both involved in the rescue/ feeding of some cows in a flooded fields at Woodgreen. I managed to wangle myself a visit to her lambing sheds and that's where David and I went this afternoon. Such a peaceful place, Linsey leaves the sheep alone to lamb unless they are in trouble and just keeps a quiet eye on them from a good distance. After lambing they are decanted into a super poly tunnel to relax with others for a few days until they are ready to go out. This is another light and airy place and all was serene when we went in today.