Sunday, November 30, 2014

30th November, 2014 Going with the Fleur

"Thank you sooooo much for today, brilliant progress and will continue with what we both learnt today xx." LO
Five hours, five counties, four motorways and 200 miles yesterday to meet up with a little Welsh Cob foal called Fleur. Eight months old, Fleur came direct from a good breeder in Wales and has very posh bloodlines. She arrived with a headcollar on but very little handling. Her owner, having read No Fear, No Force, was keen to get it right and asked me to go out for a one to one visit. Of course it rarely is one to one these days as Chief Assistant Tracey likes to come with me and is handy for cleaning recalcitrant headcollars, bunged up with mud, taking photos, finding fuel for the car when we've almost run out, and tracking down the nearest M and S for sandwiches.

The natural instinct when starting work with a semi-feral type foal is to get a headcollar on as soon as possible and to take control. Accordingly it is often a fairly robust, matter of fact process which fails to take into account its psychological effect on the pony. Halter breaking is a long way off halter training since it defies logic to imagine that forcing a headcollar onto a pony's head is going to teach it anything about calmly accepting it in the future. The pony's head is probably the most important and sensitive part of its body, the bit it would seek to protect the most, even defend the most. To force a headcollar onto a pony by wrestling with it or restraining it risks undermining the pony's trust from the outset. That's why I concentrate on touch first, headcollar second - well really third, since I often use a scarf as an interim headcollar.

If your pony arrives with a headcollar already on you may well find that the pony will do everything it can to avoid having it's head touched again. It can be ten times more difficult to put a headcollar on a pony that has had one forced on before than one that has never had one on.  Ponies that have been halter broken instead of halter trained often need to wear a headcollar all the time because they cannot be caught otherwise. However by going back over the training that could have been done before, you can get off to a new start.

Fortunately Fleur's headcollar is leather so if she had got caught up on anything it would have hopefully broken. Nylon headcollars do not and instead it is the pony that gets injured or killed.

As you can see from the picture above, Fleur kept her head away from any humans by keeping it over the door - yes, she was also attracted to the light, and her field mate Trynke. Luckily she follows Trynke everywhere and this makes it possible to bring her in from the field.

We started from the beginning as if she had no headcollar on using the feather duster to establish touch along the rest of her body. At this stage she would only let us in to her left hand side (her 'guard' side) and kept her right hand side flush to the wall.

We started to work on her right hand side by just standing behind her and moving the feather duster over from the left of her bottom to the right and then working our way up to her withers. It's important to take the pressure off by going away from time to time just for a few seconds.

We worked with Fleur in little segments of about twenty minutes at a time. During the third segment she allowed me to put a scarf around her neck and to gently rub her face with it and my fingers. I was able to take the headcollar off at this stage. During the same segment, she suddenly opened up her right hand side and allowed Lisa to have greater access. It was such a deliberate move.

Here Lisa is putting the headcollar on using the technique described in No Fear, No Force. This is less intrusive and confrontational than taking a closed noseband  up the face and, because she was now accepting touch, the headcollar could be laid over her back easily and moved up her neck.

As we had practised going over her nose with the scarf, taking the noseband over her nose was no problem at all. You can see that Lisa is not looking her directly in the eye and she has an elastic hold on the headcollar  as she does the noseband up so that it not used to restrain the pony.

We gave Fleur frequent breaks and took Lisa's six month old Labrador puppy, Lexi, out for a good walk. She's allowed to carry sticks but not eat them!

Back at the yard, which was a pretty busy place, I showed Lisa how clicker training can be used as an alternative technique for putting a headcollar on. Fleur is happy to take food from the hand and so by introducing a click (or three!) she learned that one click meant keep on doing what you are doing, and three clicks and a treat meant you've got it! Soon the headcollar was going on time after time and Fleur's head stayed in the stable!

We finished with a tiny bit of leg handling - by now she'd done enough - before she was led out to the field and turned out without her headcollar for the first time.

Update from today:

"Well we all came in again today... Rubbed with duster left and right side. Cuddled and played the head collar up the neck game complete with clicks - totally not bothered.. Bit cross that the treats didn't come all the time and a little in my face (or should I say pocket) trying to mug me! Ignored and only rewarded with click and treat once still. Had head collar on and off like a grown up pony too. Led beautifully to field afterwards... Not bothered removing head collar again and waited for click, treat and a cuddle. Onwards and upwards...Will see what happens now as won't come in again till weekend but will attempt some touchy feely in field! 
Thank you sooooo much again and will keep you updated how we are getting on." LO

Friday, November 28, 2014

28th November, 2014 Utter Rubbish

This mornings Kestrel kick about coincided with bin day which is always fun. He was rather alarmed by the bags at first but then approached them and gave them a Paddington-like stare.

We also enjoyed watching this man working.

This afternoon a change of direction. I went to assess this little mare who is basically a three year old horse in a five year old suit in terms of her education and experience of life. Her owner is shopping around and spent as much time assessing me as I spent assessing her horse.

28th November, 2014 Cause for Celebration

At the back of Beaulieu Road Sales yard, near to the toilets, there's a little group of pens where the misfits sometimes turn up. Older horses that are not purebred New Forest, sometimes gypsy cobs, sometimes Throughbredy.Yesterday there was one chap, clearly stressed, eating his way through the wood of the pen. I wondered how he came to be there and what would become of him.

Well! If ever a horse has fallen on his feet! Here he is a few hours later, rugged up to the nines and full of good food with a look in his eye that says, "Yes!!!"

Bought for the princely sum of one hundred and sixty guineas, 10 year old, 16.3 brown riding horse Mr Darcy now belongs to Bryony and she is as pleased as a please thing with him. Today he has got the farrier coming and he is being wormed and fed some more.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

27th November, 2014 Triumph or Tragedy?

Tracey and I went down to the Beaulieu Road Sales today and like a lot of people it seems, we had our hands in our pockets. I wanted to see what effect the massive reduction in the number of foals had on the prices fetched by the ponies - would the normal rules of supply and demand work? Less ponies equals more money per pony?

The picture was somewhat skewed by the cancellation of two earlier sales which meant that there were more foals put forward than there would have been if they had been spread out across the sales. There were still not that many and some had been withdrawn having presumably been sold privately in advance of the sale. However the publicity given to the recent strangles outbreak (the cause for those cancellations)  inevitably put a lot of people off going - after all, who wants to be responsible for taking strangles back to their own yard?

The vast majority of the foals and other ponies at the sales were in really good condition having either been weaned later or brought in and fed for an additional month.  I think this strategy should be considered for the long term - the mares are going into the winters looking a lot better now that they are not in foal so regularly and can support their foals for longer especially with a warm autumn.

Sadly the sales weren't a great success with very mixed results. Foals put forward for the Pre-Sale show where owners had put lots of time and energy into halter breaking and presenting their foals fetched the very best prices but still in no way representative of the cost of that time and energy.

At the bottom end of the scale though some colts didn't sell and others went for as little as one guinea. The two halter broken foals below went for three guineas each but at least they went to the same buyer.

Personally I couldn't cope with putting my ponies into this sort of lottery but even if you are not in the least bit sentimental about your ponies, it's just not financially viable to breed ponies. If the sales are seen as the shop window for these foals then they represent the Poundshop and people come looking to buy ponies on the cheap.

I think the New Forest Commoners are to be commended on the rigourous steps they have taken both to reduce the number of foals but also to protect the important blood-lines. These ponies are absolutely essential for the conservation of the New Forest and also for the preservation of the true New Forest type. It's disappointing when people have been so restrained, so co-operative and have pulled together for their efforts to be thwarted like this. On-line marketing and sales have to be the way to go.

I must also commend the vet who was doing an efficient job of micro-chipping all of the foals as they came through causing them as little stress as possible.

As usual there were some other breeds and crosses put forward. Coloured ponies attracted some attention as did Shetlands and donkeys.

Prices - lot number first, price in guineas second: 
5 - 300   3yr filly - 270    9 - 180    11- 270   12-290   16- 65   colt foal 20 - 7   21- 6   25 halter broken - 10   black colt 27- 42     29&30- 1g bid    28 -42    31-100    33- 44     32- 90    34- 5  36- 1g bid    39 champion - 400   42 2nd - 200   47 reserve Fb - 150   48- 6   49- 52    56-5  51-58     54&55- 3 each     62 - 40    64 blue eye- no bids   66- 1   67- not sold    68- not sold  70-1     71 - 22  72- 5    75- 14   74 - 1    76 cute filly foal - 90   80- 0   79 reserve champion 1st colt - 150     81 4yr gelding -280    82 5 yr  gelding-160    95 3yr filly - 420   103-2    104 warm blood x forest - 4   105-52     106-1     107-0    108-68    111-0    113-7     114- 98   115-26

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

26th November, 2014 Christmas Cheer!

The Winter Edition of the IH magazine is looking really cool! Really fantastic articles in there Rosie Jones, Sandra Williams, Sheila Reed, and me.

Here are the PRIZES Intelligent Horsemanship Members can win this December …
1. Three bags of TopSpec Ulsakind
2. An original mounted cartoon from Natasha Herman
3. A place on an IH Horse Psychology course in 2015
4. Six-month membership of
5. Print by Simon Palmer of Into the Lens
6. Horse Massage for Horse Owners DVD by Chartered Veterinary Physiotherapist Sue Palmer

The IH Magazine 4 times a year - full of great articles for inspiration and education - PLUS fabulous competition prizes!

Private Audience invitation at Monty and Kelly Demonstrations. Bring guests and reserve the best seats!

Eligibility to all IH Courses with Kelly Marks

Various MONEY SAVING offers during the year

Access to Members Pages on IH Website - exclusive film footage and access to student science research projects.

Telephone Helpline
Any IH Member buying a membership for a friend will be entered in a free draw to win a £50 IH Voucher

26th November, 2014 Slip, Sliding Away

It's been a while since I last saw Dove and the really fabulous news is that she has settled far more into her new home. She's had a couple of outings and won three dressage competitions.

She is much happier loading now but has a very disconcerting habit of leaping off the ramp when she is unlooaded which goes back to her previous home. Recently she leapt from the very top of the ramp and upwards and frightened the living daylights out of everyone who saw her.

Today we took great care to work on a soft surface and Laura showed me what tends to happen. Obviously this can't go on. We worked with Dove using the panels to set a boundary. At first the panels were still left some way out so that there was no risk that she wouldn't see them and jump right into them. Bit by bit we closed the area down until there was a lot less room and bit by bit she began to put less energy and effort into her leap and start to think about putting her feet on the ramp itself. I helped her to look down at the ramp by putting my own head down and also by giving her clickered treats. There was still a point of no return where she would insist on jumping but with more practise I would hope that she would continue to improve.

And hear is dear Lenki looking much more relaxed about being enclosed in the horsebox during today's session.

Most of today's pictures were taken by work shadowing student A who is thirteen years old.

Thank you for taking me on my work shadowing day and for showing me what you do on a day to day basis. I found it very interesting and I learnt many things. Also, thank you for allowing me to take pictures through out the day." AD 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

25th November, 2014 Good Advert

An early morning groom and a last check with the massager before the horses were clipped. The massager is the perfect thing to work on desensitising them to clippers and I try to practice every so often just to make sure that they are both happy with it.

Theoden has only been clipped once before and that was just a bib clip. Today he has had a blanket clip, as did Petra,  and they both stood like angels for the whole thing  I like working alongside my fellow IHRA and clipping expert Sheila Reed because there is no element of MUST about her or me.

The Clip Clip

This afternoon was much harder work since Champ is still inclined to drag people everywhere although there has been some improvement since my last visit. I think his strength and determination come from years of being tethered by a chain against which he was prepared to strain in order to get to more grass. Today I started off by teaching him that just because the stable door is open doesn't mean you should leave and that I always get to go first.

In the yard he was certainly a lot better than the last time and is getting the hang of walking when I walk and stopping when I stop.

The story is not the same on the track going down to the field but it is much easier now that there is a decent surface on it.

The really great news for him is that he now has a field companion and they are getting along fine. Having been a stallion until fairly recently it was important to find a friend who was able to stand up to him and not be too combative. Even better news is that Socks is in charge.

"..many, many thanks for coming last week, I found it very helpful indeed." LW.

Monday, November 24, 2014

24th November, 2014 Try Angles

Beautiful McGinty came over for another practise loading session this morning. Occasionally he just gets 'stuck' on the ramp and takes his time to load. Leading him at angles seems to 'unstick' his feet and then on he goes, rewarded by clickered treats. There's no need to use really strong pressure at all, just subtle movements to ask him to move his feet.

Email received 13.12.14: "Just wanted to update you and thank you for all your help with Mac We have been out and about and he has been a star to load and travel ... We have kept everything calm and quiet and used all your techniques So from alice myself and Mac Thank you so much Wishing you a wonderful Christmas and continued successes in the new year." SW

24th November, 2014 You'll Regret It

I am really terribly sad to have to report that Little Red Mule's mother was killed on the road this morning. I came across her body as I went off to work. She had an Agister Aware sticker across her bottom and she had been clipped by the Agister so that he could tell from her brand who she belonged to. I don't know whether she was already dead when he got there or whether he had to shoot her.

On this occasion the driver of the vehicle had stopped at the scene and reported the accident to the police, and was still there when I got there. I don't know and I didn't ask whether the accident was his fault, all I can tell you is that he looked absolutely devastated and shocked. He'd been waiting some three hours for his vehicle to be recovered with it's smashed windscreen and wing mirror, and all that time her body was just across the road. He'd had plenty of time to think. Unless you are someone who is completely heartless (and he clearly wasn't) you can't help but be upset by an event like this. (Just so that you know, I felt very sorry for him, and made sure he had something to eat before I left him).

Fortunately Little Red Mule appeared to be fine with the rest of her family. She's a yearling now so she doesn't need her mother nutritionally but they were still very connected emotionally. Her mother's body had been taken away by the time I came home so that should lessen the risk of her crossing and re-crossing the road to be with her.  I know the Commoner who owns this pony and he describes her as his best mare so no doubt he will be pretty fed up about it.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

23rd November, 2014 SHOCKING!!!

Please read this for YOUR OWN SAFETY - it may save your life or that of your horse.

Two recent incidents involving horses and electricity have left me unscathed but with my mouth open. The first was whilst working with a pony that was being clipped by a lady using electric clippers which were plugged into an extension cable which was plugged into an electricity socket. When the pony kicked the clippers out of her hand the wires came free from the body of the clippers leaving bare wires. This should have tripped the main electricity supply and rendered all of the electricity sockets dead. Instead, nothing was tripped at all. If anyone had put their hand on the bare ends of the cables they could have been electrocuted.

A few days later I was at another yard looking at a horse that was being considered for purchase. As the owner led the horse into the yard she walked him straight across an extension cable that was running between the house and a mobile dog grooming van. Fortunately the horse did not sever the cable, especially as he was wearing four metal shoes, but it did leave a dent in the cable. Even if there was no obvious external damage to that cable (and a cut in the plastic sheathing could be absolutely lethal if someone picked it up or it was in contact with water), the internal cabling could still be damaged which could then cause a fire later on.

In the first instance I was totally unaware that the electricity supply was dangerous and in the second I was just unable to say something quickly enough to stop the horse being walked across it. On the way back I suggested that the cable be moved out of the way.

I asked my husband, David, to give IMPORTANT ADVICE about this. He is qualified by way of a City and Guilds Certificate in Electrical Installation and Periodic Inspection and Testing of Electrical Installations. 

All mains powered equipment used at a yard should be protected by a Residual Current Device (RCD) for the safety of both people and horses. These may be built in to the main power supply consumer unit, but if in doubt, plug in versions are readily available from any DIY store and cost about £10.  These should be plugged in at the mains socket, prior to any equipment or extension leads. These devices will disconnect the supply when more than 30mA flows to earth, which is less than required to stop a human heart. If you are offer a mobile clipping service, for example, it would be sensible to have one of these on board. Note that reset buttons on an extension cable are not the same thing and will not serve the same purpose. They protect against over heating. 

Try to avoid using extension leads whenever possible, but if this is unavoidable, stop people walking over it by fencing it off (it is a trip hazard to people as well as being damaged when a horse treads on it), hanging the cable off the floor, or at the very least, cover with a heavy stable mat. Completely unwind the extension lead and check for any signs of damage (cuts, and deformation of insulation, or cracks in sockets) before use EVERY time. Failure to unwind an extension cable completely can lead to it overheating and causing a fire.

All electrical fixings should be placed out of reach of horses, so light fixtures and cabling should be high, light switches and sockets placed well away from stable doors. Horses do chew, and have very long necks!

Fixtures should meet IP64 ingress rating or better (your electrician will know what this means!) even if sheltered from the rain. Dust from hay and bedding  is a major cause of electrical fires and explosions, so the extra few pounds are worth it. Likewise, avoid the use of  'hot' lighting fixtures, such as halogen lamps, as nesting birds appreciate the warmth but their nests will soon start to smoulder.

Cabling should be run through conduit for protection against damage, but rats have a taste for PVC, normally used for cable insulation and plastic conduit! Non PVC conduit is available and has the advantage over metal conduit in that it will not transmit electricity if there is a fault.

If you are having any electrical work carried out, it is worth thinking about having all sockets protected with 10mA RCD (rather than the usual 30mA which will protect humans). Horses have four feet, with metal shoes, and so are more susceptible to electrocution than humans. This may result in nuisance tripping, but better that than a dead horse.

While you are at it, think about having a stable or area with extra lighting. Hopefully you will never need it, but if a vet is needed at night, helping them to be able to see to help your horse will be appreciated.

Any electrical equipment used (including clippers, washing machines, kettles) should be periodically inspected, preferably undergoing a portable appliance test (PAT) to ensure that they are safe, and the local wildlife haven't taken up residence. Failure to do so might invalid your insurance especially if you run a commercial livery for example, or clipping service.

Finally, if an appliance isn't being used, switch it off and unplug it. You can't be on site all the time, so any reduction in risk of electrical fire is well worth the effort, after all, a horse will probably survive for less than 4 minutes due to smoke inhalation.

"Thank you Sarah and David. Good reminder about those plug in circuit breakers - will definitely be using one next time." CR

Saturday, November 22, 2014

22nd November, 2014 Oh Kestrel (and) Manoeuvres in the Dark

One of the bonuses of working with Kestrel on a Saturday is that I also get to work with his owner, Yvonne. I find most owners are very happy to get involved with the work that I do and realise that it is a vital part of the training. I get to push the empty buggy and just take over if Kestrel's adrenalin lifts to a level that Yvonne is not yet comfortable with.

Since she was the one with the long boots, it was obvious that Yvonne needed to do all the wading.

Another visit to Lenki where we are consolidating the work on enclosing him inside the horsebox. He is still worried, notice the white around his eye, but getting better all of the time. His owner is now happily doing all of the loading work and just relies on me to close various doors and keep an eye on timings. We need two pairs of hands to do everything smoothly and safely.

Perhaps Lenki's fears relate to him thinking that the horsebox is a magic box and that there may be a little puff! and he'll be turned into a white cat.