Thursday, December 31, 2015

31st December, 2015 Happy New Year

Really looking forward to meeting clients and horses old and new next year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

29th December, 2015 Blondes Have More Fun

This morning our two prospective work experience students turned up for an introductions day ahead of their three week placement in May. Kara and Georgia are both studying Horse Management at Sparsholt College and are interested in the IH way of looking at things. With willing parents all seated in the barn they saw Henrietta's first ever demo and then we took Jack out for a stroll around the inclosure. With the horses all living out full time, there's more brain work than hard work for them to do so hopefully they will enjoy themselves as well as learning a lot. The exciting thing is that we rarely know what type of work we have ahead of us more than three weeks in advance.

Photo credit: Tracey Parnell
Kara Photo credit: Georgia

Georgia Photo credit: Kara

Monday, December 28, 2015

28th December, 2015 Herding Cats

A feline audience for our session this morning with Benny. Benny tends to have the handbrake on when he is being led away from his friends and so we needed to do some work on his leading. This problem often stems from a natural (non-thinking, instinctive and automatic) into-pressure response, simply you pull, I pull. Ideally a horse should neither be stopped or started with a pull, especially if that pull becomes a constant. Lots of changes in direction can help to establish a better way of leading.

Benny can also be a bit restless in the yard and his owner had already worked out that it was something to do with being brushed. We rifled through her brush collection until we found one of my favourites, an Oster soft rubber brush. Then we worked on what sort of touch he likes a lot of horses he prefers a deep circular movement on his muscles, and lighter straight down strokes on the bones of his face.

He seems to like the Oster brush too...instead of knocking people out of the way when he was being brushed he began to give them a little nudge whenever they stopped.

Theoden and Bella coming over the fields for their hay just before riding. We've been out in search of my New Forest ponies who I haven't seen for about three weeks. I know they're probably fine but subconsciously I worry about them and like to see them more regularly. With the grass still growing and plenty of weight on they clearly don't feel the need to come home.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

27th December, 2015 Bottom's Up

Recently I have been enclosing Henrietta into a smaller pen when I work on touching her. I feel I can trust her not to kick me automatically although it would still be easy to get clobbered if I made a mistake or a sudden move. On the other hand I feel that I need to be in a position to quietly insist that she engages with me. In this way I have been able to get sideways on to her so that I can attempt to touch her further along her body rather than only being able to reach her neck from the front. I 'explain' to her what I am going to do by touching her with the feather duster and also mimicking touch at a distance. Today I felt able to lean in from as far away as I could and to touch her bottom with my hand for the first time. Rather than lashing out sideways which she can easily do, she gave me the benefit of the doubt. I was then able to move along her back to her shoulder where I rubbed her on her dark cross.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

26th December, 2015 Family Gatherings

Boxing Day is a day for happy gatherings but I'm not sure my lot are always in harmony...

Ah, that's better...

Friday, December 25, 2015

25th December, 2015 Nice Manners!

Henrietta would like to say thank you for all of the biscuits that she received for Christmas but I've told her it's not very polite to talk with your mouth full.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

23rd December, 2015 All That Glitters is Gold

Photograph: Credit: Huw Davies
When you've been working with horses for over 10 years, you know that some of the them will have crossed over the Rainbow Bridge over the years since you met them and it's always terribly sad. However, you don't expect your clients to go the same way. Almost at the beginning of being an RA I met a woman called Linda who was beautiful inside and out, who asked me if I could tame her two New Forest foals which she'd recently bought off the Forest. She'd had another trainer out who had quite frankly botched it, and ended up with one pony upside down in a ditch and the other running across the fields with yards of electric tape and fence posts in tow. She wasn't really sure if she wanted to trust anyone else.

We talked about her facilities and as she had no stables, we sectioned off her garage, and took down any low shelves. Fern and Freddie were herded in and in a fairly short time they were allowing touch and then their head collars to be put on. This was the start of a good relationship with the ponies which culminated in Fern coming to me for starting a few years later. As a collector of waifs and strays, Linda also asked me to head collar train a Dartmoor Hill Pony called Willow that she took in a few years later. By then however, she knew that she had cancer. True to form she had made arrangements for the welfare of the ponies, and they recently travelled down to another kind, and trusted trainer on Dartmoor where they will be safe.

Linda and Willow
Her funeral today was so poignant. Stairway to Heaven at the beginning and Galloping Home (the theme to Black Beauty) at the end, made sure that everyone was in tears as if the fact that she only 56 wasn't enough.

Monday, December 21, 2015

21st December, 2015 The Lenny Henry Show

Ride and drive New Forest Pony, Lenny,  arrived this morning simply for a couple of weeks of holiday livery. I previously worked with her about eight years ago when she was being prepared for driving and we long reined her out with a wheelbarrow following closely behind. When she arrived the ponies were in the barn so they were taken aback by the apparently rugged ghost in the field next door.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

19th December, 2015 School's Out Party

First time out hacking with Nettles, Theoden, and Petra all together. Theoden does not get on with Nettles because Nettles is always trying to charm Petra away from him, and she's not averse to some light flirtation, but all three behaved impeccably.

Then we all did a little training with Henrietta. Progress from the outside may appear very slow but yesterday she let me stroke her on the right side of her neck for the first time, and today she allowed the tinsel to go around her nose.

With no ambitions to pursue it's enough that she is just beguiling.

Friday, December 18, 2015

18th December, 2015 End of Term?

Petra would like to point out that the Petra School of Long Reining has not broken up for Christmas yet. Mature student Mary came over today to learn how to long rein which included everything from setting a horse up in the first place to long reining out on the Forest.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

17th December, 2015 All Quiet on the Weston Front

As Christmas draws near, life has got much quieter. Time for a lovely ride this morning with Pat and Tracey and to enjoy the unseasonably warm weather. We're not clipping this year and so the horses are coating themselves in mud rugs.

Although it doesn't like we've got any mud, believe me, we have...and the visitors seem to be enjoying it. The pannage pigs go back in this weekend.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

16th December, 2015 "Comprehensive and comprehensible..."

I quote: "Comprehensive and comprehensible..." Dr. Sharon Cregier's appraisal of the BARTA and IH Review on Horse Transport. Have you read it yet? To get your own copy please email me at


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

15th December, 2015 Of Course!!!

The Handling the Warmblood Foal Course is full on 9th January but we could set up another one for SATURDAY 23rd January. The venue is at Minterne Parva and the course runs from 10.30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is £50 per person with a maximum of just four people on the course. Let me know if you would be interested -

This course covers:

Working with older/ unweaned foals
Using a scarf to prepare for first headcollar and early leading
Putting a head-collar on a relatively untouched horse
Foot handling
Leading work

"Brilliant course, definitely recommended." Jade Trelease
"I recommend it - did the course yesterday - thoroughly enjoyed it and learnt loads. They are a beautiful herd." Debbie Boyes

Monday, December 14, 2015

14th December, 2015 Winter Warmers

Today we ran the first of our Warmblood Foal Handling Courses with four great students and five foals. In this way we benefit the owner, the foals and the students all at the same time. There is a pressure to do the best job possible for the owner and to give students the best opportunity to learn as much as possible. There is also the ethical consideration of doing the very best for by the horses. For me, of all of those, the horses have to come first - they can only learn what they are ready to learn  The next course, which is fully booked, is on the 9th January. On that date we will consolidate today's training and move it forward again.

Savannah and Bella come up to find out who's arrived

Catching Annie and Winnie

Trenda leads the way with Theo following on behind

A demo with Theo. Since I last saw them Beccy has been working on touching their faces in the field but hasn't had an opportunity to do any work with head collars. 

Bella is only just 6 months old but towers over Linda

Head collar practice for Theo

Early leading work is about to begin...

...and is going well.

Jade, almost an IHRA, repeats this work...

...and gives him a lovely rub with the scarf.

Figure of eight with the scarf...

...head collar laid out on his neck...

...and done up...

....lovely rub to say thank you.

Afternoon 'lot' with Pamina in the lead and Arial following.

Holly is the youngest.

Head collar practise and early leading for Archie.

Drink break for Holly - we always leave them along if they are engaging with their dam.

First head collar for Holly...

...all done up nice and quietly.

If in doubt, eat.

The stables are like something out of Flambards

Archie goes for his first ever walk on the 'lead rein'. The scarf is nice and elastic and won't cause him any harm if he gets loose.

"Thanks for today. It was brilliant! Those foals and their mums are amazing. I am so knackered!  It was intense!" DB