Thursday, September 4, 2014

4th September, 2014 All Creatures Great and Small

A day trip to Dorchester to do more work with Tia today. By necessity, given the distance, we have to do quite a lot in one day and then leave Jane to do her homework inbetween. Jane is a scientist and therefore very good at taking a methodical and intelligent approach to her horse's training. It seems that she is not the only one though and Tia herself has done a lot of thinking since we last saw her.

Although it was eight days since she was taught to halt and to turn away with clicker training she had forgotten not one bit of it and as soon as I arrived on the scene she began to offer to halt and to move her head away. "Oi", said Jane, "what if we've taught her how to weave?!" They say (whoever they are) be careful what you teach and therefore we quickly changed the rules so that Tia was only rewarded if her head was straight on rather than turned away and only if she responded to a cue rather than offering the behaviour. The point of the 'away' cue had been to discourage any mugging behaviour and there was no evidence of that at all today.

We were then able to set off confidently down the lane to the main road through the village, and back, with intermittent and random halts.

Next it was time to practise clickered halts for mounting. With a tall horse and a static mounting block it really helps if they can park themselves. It does help if there's a little room for manoeuvre and I'm assured that the sheep will be moving all of their equipment out very soon!

Out on a ride a little imagination may be required.

After lunch it was time to try out the clickered halts on the move. They're just a device to help Tia to find her halt when she is worried by anything and just gives everyone some thinking and calming time. With young horses it is worth having strategies to ask them to go when they want to stop and to stop when they want to go.

Email received 9.9.14: "Well, pickle my walnuts, she was good today - so many positives I lost count! Tia didn't retreat to the back of the stable when I produced the saddle. She stood at the mounting block first time.  She thought about moving away when I climbed up, but stood when I tightened the outside rein and I was able to get straight on first time (carrot here!) She followed Easter out and down the track, when she stopped she went on whenever Easter passed her. She was calm throughout. I can't tell you how happy and relieved I am." JL

Outtakes from today. I was checking whether this tree stump might make a good mounting block when a mouse ran out from under the bark. I squeaked and nearly fell off.

Jane's husband, Mike was preparing his pedigree Texel sheep for the Dorchester Show. Not only do they have all their white bits washed, they have their wool spray tanned!

Update 7th September: Charlie, the ram lamb that you met up close on Thursday, won his class at Dorset County Show yesterday and went on to be Reserve Champion, spray tan and all! 

The Texel Sheep Society

In pedigree terms the British Texel’s head should be covered with fine white hair, the nose preferably black with the occasional black spots on ears or eyelids.The body must be well proportioned with strong loins, a solid square stance and round well-developed gigots. The fleece has a high loft with a staple of medium length and is highly crinkled. Fibres are classed as medium, 34 microns and less.

If you want to read a blog about blooming sheep then I found this: Tarset - Blooming Sheep