Saturday, January 31, 2015

31st January, 2015 Chief Supervisor

Chief Supervisor again today while Tracey and Julie worked with Bella and then Nettles. Both ponies made significant but quiet progress and everything is heading in the right direction even though they are only being ridden once a week. Bella is in her fourth year and Nettles in his fifth, having had a long break because of disruptive teeth!

Girth tightening and a bit of a lead round before handing over to me on board Theoden. We have ponied Bella so many times now that this seems to be a logical step in her ridden training too.

I can help to guide Bella at the same time that Julie applies gentle rein and leg aids so that Bella starts to make the connection.

Probably about 25 minutes training in all.

Next it was time to take Nettles out for some work in the inclosure. He enjoyed his first official canter under saddle and was happy trotting about too. In fact, he wasn't quite sure he wanted to stop.

Back out on the open forest Tracey put the lead rein on to be on the safe side. The three of them practiced counted stops all the way home.

Friday, January 30, 2015

30th January, 2015 Melody Maker

Little gypsy cob, Melody, aged three, is clearly delighted to see her owners when they turn up but she's a little reticent about having her headcollar on. They've only owned her for six weeks and have done well with putting on her rug and picking up her feet.

A different method of putting the headcollar on, coupled with a clickered treat, proves to be popular and we start some work on leading and groundwork.

We work on finding a rewarding touch that she really likes - deep flat and slow - rather than patting and asking her to stand still nicely without invading space. Bred in Ireland, she's a pretty careful little horse and pleased to get things right.

I love it when a horse demonstrates so clearly the 'into-pressure' response, you push, I push. It's as if she has read a book. It might have sent her to sleep!

"It was so lovely to meet you today! We haven't stopped talking all day about Melody! We are thrilled at how well she did and we love the techniques  you've taught us!! We will be practising what we've been taught." CD

Thursday, January 29, 2015

29th January, 2015 Je Suis Raif

As an avid blogger, who feels driven to write nearly every day, I can't imagine having to register with the Government as you have to in Russia or mind what I say. Fortunately I am not talking about politics or religion (most of the time) but imagine living in a country like Saudi Arabia where Raif Badawi has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes and a decade in prison for writing his blog. Every Friday, after prayers, he is paraded in public and lashed fifty times.

Representatives of the Saudi Royal Family recently attended the march for freedon of speech following the Charlie Hebdo atrocity in Paris.

To read more go to: Amnesty International

29th January, 2015 Playing Truant

Following a brooding weather forecast with the promise of swirling winds and torrential rain, I activated the contingency plan for today's clients. Typical and aggravating then that there was a bright blue sky first thing this morning. Nothing for it but to go riding ourselves and try not to feel guilty. We were sufficiently punished when we were hit by a blizzard on the way home and were all dithering as we untacked.

Pie and his little band of sisters knew what was coming and turned up for a tummy full of hay.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

28th January, 2015 Blown Away

Standing on the lee side of a large horsebox, today's task was to train Jaz to do her stretches using clicker training to a target (as usual my feather duster.). Sarah had found that whilst the physiotherapy exercises she has been given to do with Jaz were helping her, the downside was that Jaz would become pushy if she were rewarded with food, and would continue to fish for it even when the exercise had stopped. This is pretty common with so-called carrot stretches where the horse is given the reward straight from the hand at the point when it has stretched out for it. Furthermore, where the horse reaches out for a carrot which has been attached to a stick there is the risk of injury if the horse is too avid about the food reward and makes a grab for it. Where a horse reaches out to a target and is rewarded with a click and only then a treat, it enables the handler to mark the exact point at which the stretch is perfect, to ask for a 'hold' and to avoid the pitfalls of a gannety horse. 

We start off by creating an association between touching the feather duster, hearing a click, and receiving a food reward. In Jaz's case I am using a proper clicker gadget because it is more accurate and consistent in the sound it makes, and to differentiate it from the tongue cluck that we are using for Sarah's other horse Dina. It can be a pain when several horses all associate the same noise with clickered rewards.

Jaz got the connection immediately and was soon starting to stretch for the target. It's important to build these stretches up incrementally so that she isn't put off by the effort she has to make.

You'll see that I am using a brightly coloured clicker bag and I would suggest getting one that is an even more obvious colour than this so that the horse can see it and know when clicker is and is not available.

To mix things up a bit and create some interest, we took Jaz into the school to allow her to follow the target and have a little fun at walk and trot. She liked this idea but was still pretty calm about it.

She wasn't too bothered about the treats. You can increase a horse's interest by mixing treats up or slow things down by using ones that are a bit more plain.

All in all a very pleasant session on a horrible windy day.

28th January, 2015 Minor Excursions

Following a lovely ride out yesteday morning, we just had time to take Jack and Nettles for a spin in the inclosure. It's meant to be a pony free zone (by order of William the Conqueror) but occasionally, wild ponies find a way in and then become troll ponies, ready to frighten the life out of anyone who rides through. Jack and Nettles were too busy bustling about to worry about a couple of interlopers.

Monday, January 26, 2015

26th January, 2015 Rye Smile

It has been a good couple of years since I assisted Linda with starting her characterful New Forest pony, Rye. He was bold, strong and sometimes wilful (as ponies should be) but took to ridden work very well and enjoyed having a job to do. I met Linda in the feed shop this morning and she told me that he is just about to start training for endurance. The really brilliant news is that he is not afraid of traffic, even the heaviest of lorries, which we did think might be a lasting issue for him. Even though he lived next door to the motorway, he didn't think that there should be vehicles anywhere else and initially he was quite frightened. We did a lot of traffic training with him when he came in, both standing by the roadside watching the world go by, and driving up and down the track in front of him, behind him and next to him. It seems to have all paid off.Anyway, she has promised to give him a kiss from me.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

25th January, 2015 Calm, Calm, Calm

Well I might not have been to work today but Sarah and Michaela have. Here's what they have been up to...


Meanwhile Dina is enjoying her clickered work...

and this is what Jaz says:

Saturday, January 24, 2015

24th January, 2015 From the dark and lonely street to the bright side of the road...

Two very lively girls in the school this morning (well five if you count me, Julie, Tracey, and owners Michaela and Sarah). It's been about a year since I last saw Ahanna to work with and she has moved to a new yard with new friends including fellow Arabian Jaz since then.

Both horses were inclined to rush forwards when they were worried, particularly at the far end of the school where a tall hedge masks the fields behind.

I'm often asked why horses behave like this and the answer is really, really simple, it's because they are a horse. Beyond that it is because they are a prey animal where flight is their primary thought, almost a reflex, when they are afraid. For these two horses in particular it was because they are horses, because they are prey animals, because they were fresh, and because of the environment and the weather.

Rather than fighting with their nature or going with them emotionally we needed to work on reducing their fear by re-directing their energy; lots of changes of direction when leading and giving them a job to do - distracting them from their primary thought.

With all kinds of traffic and horses going by on the busy road nearby it took a little while but they settled.

We worked away from the spooky end of the school and stayed in the sunshine but moved nearer to the top hedge in incremental stages.

Soon they were standing pretty quietly and then we could turn to some specific desensitisation work...

 ...touching (and more particularly rubbing) them with carrier bags in a stick before using the bags to replicate birds flying up from the hedge.

We finished by taking them out for a short walk.

Both of them were happy to take the lead or to follow.

Next off across the Forest again to the work with Bella and Nettles. Tracey has now taken over Nettle's loan with the intention of training him to be a lead rein for her children. It's great news as he will still be able to go out with Barbara on her scooter.

After a couple of weeks off while Julie recovered from the 'flu he is happy both on and off the lead rein and quite jolly in trot.

Bella is also making very steady progress and did a little pole-work under saddle today.Again it gives her a job to do.

Friday, January 23, 2015

23rd January, 2015 Another Day in Paradise

We have spent most of this week working with horses on the Forest itself which allows us to take circular routes and access all areas. It's been great.

This morning we went off for our regular appointment with Kestrel and now, Ollie. The good news is that Ollie is definitely going to be staying as Kestrel's companion pony. Today we did some loading practice with both of them and they were both really easy and willing.

Going on...

...bars all up...

...front ramp down doesn't mean pony out.

Ollie's turn and he's slightly more nervous but wiling to give it a go...

...under Kestrel's watchful eye...

...and out we got again.

Next stop was Lenki where I had arranged for him to have a treat with Zoopharmacognosist, Caroline Jones, who qualified with her namesake Carolyn Ingraham.

Lenki is his usual handsome self

Sniffing the macerated oils...

...and the Essential Oils - he particularly liked Violet Leaf

What else have you got, lady?

Smells nice...Flehmen enables the horse to pass the scent over the Jacobson's Organ and experience it more intensely.

Barley grass - in powder form
By the end of the session Lenki seemed to be very laid back and happy. Much less inclined to react to the sights and sounds that would normally make him alert. We're hoping that this will have a positive effect on his general anxiety levels.

"...what a fascinating session with Caroline. I'm going to send an email to both of you later with how he's been since but- heads up- he ate his tea and his breakfast for the first since July. AMAZING." RMcV