Monday, July 28, 2014

28th July, 2014 Grand Designs

A fulfilling weekend at the Shy Lowen charity in Liverpool made a 500 mile round trip and a game of motorway bingo well worthwhile. We're always made to feel at home and Bernadette and Eric, who run the charity, are always grateful for our time and the many generous donations of horse tack and money that we rustle up from friends and distant acquaintances before we go. Indeed we had two pit stops en route to collect more until there wasn't an inch of extra room in the back of my car.

A stay in a sailors' hotel was cheap and cheerful, if noisy and smelly because of its proximity to the docks and the local waste plant, but gave an opportunity for an early night and a bit of TV. I watched Grand Designs and was struck by the similarity between the restoration of an old Suffolk Guildhall and the restoration of the horses at Shy Lowen. Do you strip everything back to the original structure or live with and celebrate the architectural changes that have been made over the centuries to 'enhance' and protect the building?

Isaac is a typical example of the horses that come to Shy Lowen. Failed attempts to break him to ride mean that not only is he a bolter but really he has had it with people. These horses not only bear the physical lumps and bumps of their history but the mental ones too. I spent a little time making friends with Isaac in the field, telling him he has landed on his feet, and that all of the little hands of the kids that work as volunteers at Shy Lowen will help to heal his soul. For today all I needed was for him to demonstrate how to join up without doing Join Up to the six students we had on our course, some of the horse loaners and some of the children at the sanctuary. He happily obliged.

It's always good to have an opportunity to demonstrate the horse's true instinct and Isaac demonstrate his into pressure response amazingly well. We moved on to some gentle desensitisation work with Isaac revealing more of his history because it wasn't the feather duster that worried him but any swing of my arm.

After the demonstration I was asked to work with two of the volunteers. Here Beth was working with Basil. He has a habit of using his head like a baseball bat in order to get attention. This has either been ignored or 'sanctioned' with a push which of course activates his into pressure response and makes him do it all the more. I loaned Beth my shushy coat and just one decisive pat of the pockets when he smacked into her was enough to put him off. That's what I like about IH - you always hit yourself, never the horse!

Basil turned out to be very responsive and did the groundwork exercises beautifully and with only the very lightest pressure. Same as with all Appaloosa's then - they've got the buttons, they are clearly visible, and you only need to press them.

Bambi is a Carneddau pony, destined with many others also rescued by the charity, to be shot or sent for meat. He was so tiny when he arrived that it was easy to tame him and then to over-pet him. As a result he has become very strong with people, barging and biting. Nicole and I worked together to ask him not to do that any more and he proved to be a very willing pony once he had clear but fair boundaries.

In the afternoon we worked with the students. Liz's (Pitman) group didn't have clean ponies either!

Chula, an ex-racehorse seemed to be very switched off when she came out of the field and immune to body language and other cues. Just by moving her feet and asking for her attention we got it and she worked beautifully for my three students.

7 year old Welsh Cob, Brown Boy, was also the product of a failed attempt to break him in and when he was turned out at Shy Lowen he refused to be caught.Having been over the brink it seems that this pony had made up his mind never to trust humans again. Volunteer Megan, who is due to go off to Myerscough College in the autumn, has been working diligently with him when he is in the stable getting him to accept touch and to have his feet picked up. Yesterday was the first time that anyone has attempted to work with him outside and as you can see in the first photo he motored off to get away from his handler, Sue. She did brilliantly and was ultra calm, dropping her eye contact and waiting for him to just bring himself to a halt.

Here she is establishing the first touch on the left hand side and below, Anne manages to do the same on the right. Like so many of these nervous ponies, Brown Boy was much happier with people on one side than the other and it makes you wonder how anyone could have thought that he was ready to be ridden. So much work to do but it will get done.

"Thank you for such a fantastic day. Everyone loved it. You explain so well, and really engage your audience. It's super to watch." LP

Friday, July 25, 2014

25th July, 2014 Liver Birds and Caulkheads

Time for another test card as this week's World Tour takes us to Liverpool and the Isle of Wight. I'm doing a demonstration/ course at the Shy Lowen Charity in Liverpool and taking along a car load of donations of horsey stuff. ThenI'm working with two of my favourite clients on the Isle of Wight and also meeting a couple of new ones. Limited access to the internet so please call in again a week on Sunday when I should have some photographs.

25th July, 2014 Show and Tell

End of term, or at least end of the week, and it was time for the class show and tell. I always like to see what a client can do and is doing with their horse before coming up with a plan. In C's case, trotting in hand was always proceeded by her speeding up in her walk and then setting off at a run but this had somehow become a cue for Rosa to wring her neck and trot off at a rate of knots. How could we improve this? Looking at the picture in front of me I could see there were two issues. First of all Rosa was just dragging behind a little in walk and also objected to C turning right in front of her.Working in walk I began to ask her to be more exact about where she was walking in relation to me and also to let me walk 'right through her' when I turned right, in other words to yield to me. This worked well and certainly improved her trot where the only other change I need to make was to stop and back her up if she over took me.

We ended the session by changing the subject altogether and making a start on ridden work.  Rosa is being brought back into work after a break following being started. Unfortunately a large but much needed thunderstorm loomed and so we thought it was prudent to stop - however the bit we had done was a 100% success. Get on, move forward, stop, dismount!

All in all one tired little horse.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

23rd July, 2014 The Shetland Ladies' Knitting Circle

Another early morning ride to avoid the heat and the insects. Petra and Theoden were agog at the water trough as the Shetland Ladies' Knitting Circle came across at a good gallop. Since we cleared out the blanket weed, the water must be much nicer.

Are you my Daddy?
 Theoden has an aversion to anything wet, wet and smelly, or just smelly. However, with clickered treats he allows me to apply lotions and potions or just plain water without moving off.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

22nd July, 2014 Alice in Wonderland

Reading the village notices in the bus shelter
No one really wants to inspect their navel on a hot day like today (doesn't actually bear thinking about!). So, our Horse's Ear course went out and about, mainly in the shade. Alice, whose change in energy was amazing since the last time we saw her, struck up a great relationship with Jack who has definitely decided she is one of the good guys - particularly as she was up for a bit of clicker training with him  New participant, M, was effectively chucked right in at the depend with two ponies running loose beside her but she used to ride when she was younger and is therefore confident around them.

When we got back all most of us wanted to do was lie down but Alice just wanted to be with Jack.

"She said it made her realise how much effect her behaviour had on the horses and therefore probably did on people too so she has become more aware of how she comes across. Also she says she is just more aware of herself generally and her ability to control her energy. She absolutely loves visiting you all and says she really wants to see Jack again....she is a bit taken with him!" HM,  The Society of St. James

I'd just like to add here that this has come from just four hours with horses - with very little intervention from Tracey and myself. The participants just get it, and the horses just get it. There's none of the stuff getting in the way. Horses earth people.

Monday, July 21, 2014

21st July, 2014 Wedding Anniversary

Having just had our 12th wedding anniversary it's good to see that Theoden and Petra are still love's young dream too. Although I can afford to buy an extra bucket, these two are still happy to share their hard feed, and they still stick pretty close together in the field. Theoden is polygamous these days but Petra doesn't seem to mind - gives her some time off.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

19th July, 2014 Gifted Children

Final working day of the week and a lovely Arabian non-loader to work with called Kiki. When I arrived at the yard he was being busy, busy, busy so I spent some time working with him just helping him to relax. There is no doubt that he is afraid of being loaded and possibly of travelling so I needed to just ask him to engage with me, give everything a go, and not be busy, busy, busy. He progressed really well and although I had the panels in place to ask him not to go off to one side, that was about it. Little by little he grew more confident about going on, standing still and then coming back out again.

There is no doubt that Arabs are gifted children - very sensitive and sometimes well ahead of the people handling them physically and mentally. The joy of working with him today was that the whole family is involved, wants the best for their pony and really wants to work with no violence. And, even better than all of that, Kiki's little rider, is pretty gifted herself. Not only did she pick up the techniques herself but she really demonstrated the underlying philosophy, principles and attitude needed.

"I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all your help today. It was fascinating, neither of the girls have stopped talking about you both all afternoon! We will practice every day and keep you updated." WR

Friday, July 18, 2014

18th July, 2014 Heated Discussion

A super-heated session this afternoon with a pony that melted my heart. Magic is a Welsh Section C, seven year old, driving pony and he has just moved to his new home. His owner wanted a groundwork session with him because he has a tendency to over-take her when she takes him out on grass and then goes round and round her in circles. The session went extremely well and at the end we were able to take him out and lead him without any problems.

"Cracking photos of Magic! Thanks for a fantastic session and follow-up materials. We all learnt a lot and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (I'm sure Magic would agree) - I just wish I'd learnt this years ago!" JM

18th July, 2014 No Sweat

Someone had left a football in the inclosure yesterday so Nettles and I had a kickabout before our regular stroll, gallop, cavort. It was all a bit too hot for that so it became more of a dawdle. I'm always fascinated by the connections between my friends and clients. Lindy and Caroline are both college lecturers but in entirely different fields. Of course Barbara is now an an expert in military history and the history of farriery.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

17th July, 2014 Horses Wiggle Too

There will be a certain irony, or sadness, if it isn't massive high sided lorries, enormous tractors or Jeremy Clarkson style drivers that stop horses being able to be ridden on the roads but cyclists instead. An irony too at a time when EQUAL RIGHTS are at last being established for various sections of the community, long held back by inequality, if horse riders are not seen as having an equal right to use the roads safely. We have the same interests at cyclists, an interest in being outside, being eco-friendly, and engaging in sport.

It's not the lone cyclist that is the problem, it's the peleton minded, travelling in big fast groups, dreaming of the Tour de France and thinking that they have a greater right to be there than anyone else.

In Mallorca, where Xanthe lives, the cyclists, many of who are training for big events all over Europe, have taken over the mountain roads throughout the year making it a nightmare for other road users.

I'm a cyclist myself but I recognise when  I see a horse that they might be worried about the bike. So I slow down and talk to them. Most horses can cope with a bike or two, even approaching from behind, but it takes the most saintly horse to cope with a swarm of bicycles coming towards them or from behind.

For some cyclists I imagine it is a lack of understanding about the psychology of the horse that leads them to fly past, for others a solid belief that they have a greater right to be there or that horses should not be on the roads if they can't cope with groups of cyclists.

There is an honest but mistaken belief that horses don't need to be on the roads because there are so many bridlepaths but many of these can only be accessed by going along the roads. In any event, horse riders still cannot get away from cyclists on bridleways. Kate, who I saw on Tuesday, has been campaigning for years to separate cyclists from horse riders on the South Downs Way. There one of the ramps provided for the cyclists fun had it's take off on one side of the bridleway and its landing on the other!

I would welcome the opportunity to work with cycling groups to increase their understanding of the way that horses think but also to involve them in training horses to relax about being over taken by a group of cyclists. We have so much in common in terms of road safety and sport that it's a shame if we can't get it together.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

16th July, 2014 Pretty Flamingo

It's been about two years since I saw Gale at the farm where we ran a couple of demos and had a lovely day with the police! She's recently bought a new horse and wanted me to start her off with some good groundwork. Here's another horse that has fallen on her feet and she seems to be very fond of Gale already. The feeling is mutual.

16 years old, this lovely Appaloosa mare was originally bred in Lancashire but there's quite a hole in her history. At some stage she has had Western training and more recently she has been ridden on the New Forest drifts. I am sure that she has had some good quality training in the past and it's only a matter of finding the right buttons. Fortunately she's wearing loads of them.

I thnk she was a little bored by my explanations!

She loved the brolly....

...and was willing to match me stride for stride as we went back to her paddock.

"It was so good to see you yesterday. Please thank Tracey for the excellent photos!! Thanks for juggling things around to fit me in. I’m glad that you like Libby. As I said, it was love at first sight! With your help I am sure I can look forward to a happy ever after too!" GG

Waffle's flamingo impressions are going well and she can now have the front feet picked out. We decided that I should try clicker in order to encourage her to lift her back feet up more willingly. Bless her cotton socks she has no idea what pony nuts or Polos are and therefore I used grass to reward her. By the end of the session she was taking her own muscles to pick her foot up instead of mine! One click was used to say keep on doing what you are doing and three clicks meants well done, job done you can put your foot down now. No doubt Kirsty will make great progress over the next few days.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

15th July, 2014 Six of the Best

Today we spent six hours with Kate and her six ponies in Steyning. Five out of the six are New Forest ponies, one a Dartmoor Hill Pony, and most bought through the sales yard at Beaulieu Road. We had quite a shopping list of things to do and we started off with catching work with Sky.

During his ridden session Sky learned to move away from the leg to a very light aid and Kate imagining his one back leg crossing over in front of the other.

I haven't done a lot with Excalibur and Sunny since we halter trained them as part of a course a couple of years ago. Now two, they are gentle young gentlemen and very sweet to work with. We taught them both how to load easily.

Sky has been reluctant to load since he was present when another pony began banging about in the trailer some time ago. Today we worked on asking him to flow on and off the trailer again.

We finished the day not, as it seems, encouraging Tor to grow a bit more, but asking him to cope with a bit of water on his body. It's funny how these ponies, accustomed to a lot of rain on their home moors, say that they can't possibly tolerate a bit of tepid water from the hose. Here we are using a simple house plant watering can to make a start.

"What did I learn from the day? Lots of 'little' things that will make a big difference, eg. that being tied up can be the issue, not what I'm asking for and not getting.  Jiggle the rope if the pony gets hold of it.  Which bit of the tendon to squeeze.  To turn the foot right up when holding it.  Catching: To stop when Sky stops and turn away slightly to 'invite' him to look at me.  To relax my bum when riding.  To visualise what I want the pony to do, expect it to happen, and it will. I rode Sky for the saddler, and I got on in the school without him moving away, and he set off at a good 90% walk.  He weaved all over the place to start with, but after a few circuits I asked for trot and he settled into a steady trot." KS