Sunday, May 31, 2015

31st May, 2015 Don't Tickle My Fancy

A bit of donkey work before setting off to our first client today.

Nearly Thoroughbred Freddie presented three areas of work this morning. Like a lot of non-New Forests he finds the crab flies on the Forest quite a challenge to contend with and efforts to remove them are rejected as just more irrititation. I work on the basis that the owner has paid for the whole of the horse and therefore should be able to touch him everywhere. Important however to choose the right touch in the right places.  I needed to find the kind of approach and touch that told him that we were there to help him not make him even more fed up. A deep flat, 'ironing' type of touch worked well and meant that I could fully explore all his nooks and crannies. On that note he had quite a lot of build up of grease inside his sheath which might be better removed.

Next we looked at his groundwork. Freddie has a tendency to push his owner with his head and also to pull her around when he didn;t want to stand still. We worked on that, setting up a few clear boundaries and enabling him to just relax.

A lovely counted stop as he starts to tune in to what we would like.

Before we finished we got Karen back on board for the first time in a couple of months. She had an accident then when he took fright at a duck in the ditch and before that he was completely spooked by some very noisy motorbikes. This short ride highlighted some areas for attention including asking him to soften to the bit and techniques for bringing his and Karen's adrenalin down.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

30th May, 2015 Lazy Days

Yesterday we got soaked and then we got cancelled just before the weather cheered up completely. Hopefully we'll be able to go ahead with that appointment on Monday as there are not may days left until we disappear to Kenya. We've had to resist wrapping ourselves up in cotton wool as the countdown has reduced to under a month. I'd hate anything to get in the way this year like it did last year when I had a broken rib just before we were due to go. There will be a dearth of posts and a testcard before we go away. For once I can't delegate to Tracey as she is coming with me.

Nettles had a good stretch after getting out of bed this morning and we were very pleased to have a grand reunion with Julie who has been out of action for a good couple of months thanks to a severed Achilles tendon. She's still a tiny bit limpy but coming sound slowly.

Out in the inclosure we met a group of walkers. I'm always surprised that no-one seems to bat an eyelid at the fact that out horses come out for a walk with us. We just explained that they are really Labradors.

Once the coast was clear Tracey took them to the bottom of their favourite track so that they could gallop back.

Jack needed to catch up on some sleep by the end of the walk.

Men have strange tastes in things. David had a green beer at the Royal Oak, some kind of pale ale which looked like Fairy Liquid. Theoden just loves neat Corsodyl.

Finishing with some softening work with Bella who will start to carry a bit once we get back from holiday. Her lower incisors are still coming through so we're in no hurry to give her anything else to think about in her mouth.

The busiest creatures at the yard are a pair of blue tits whose offspring are hidden in the wall of the Nissen Hut.

Friday, May 29, 2015

29th May, 2015 Thought for the Day

"Personally, I believe we should always treat the horse we are working with as if it could be the last horse we ever get to work with. Then ask ourselves, is this how I want to be remembered?" Mark Rashid 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

28th May, 2015 Imagine That!

Another lovely session with luscious Jaz and an opportunity to try out one or two gems from the Mark Rashid clinic. But first we had to say hello to the new next door neighbour.

The two extremes of chestnut

First of all I stripped Jaz of her flash noseband and I lowered the bit a hole so that we didn't have three wrinkles each side - any lower and she started chomping on it. Then I asked her to soften to the bit in the normal way however this time I imagined that I was pushing the rein towards her without actually pushing the rein towards her. Almost instantaneously she tipped her nose down and softened.

Once we had that established Sarah began to short rein her asking her to soften at halt. You can see just a slight dip towards the verticle which is what we really want rather than going behind the verticle.

In walk she was more inclined to offer to drop behind the verticle and she can be asked to lift her head a little by lifting one rein. Ideally we don't want her to be behind the verticle. By just asking for a couple of paces and then releasing first of all we teach her what we want and we also build up the muscles in an incremental way.

A few weeks ago Jaz had a little scare with the fly curtain and had become wary of it. We wanted to undo that by concentrating not on what she was doing but once again on how she was feeling. Allowing her to relax by the curtain helped her to slow her mind down and she began to walk through quite calmly. Sarah has also widened the pole with the fly curtain on it to make it easier for Jaz.

With the same principles in mind, we also did a little long reining so that we could discuss the relative merits of the position of the handler and the use of body language. The idea was to keep up a conversation with Jaz rather than encouraging her to go into automatic pilot at any stage.

In the early days when we worked with Jaz I would get little missives from Sarah about the highs and lows of her practising sessions. On a flighty day I would remind her that Jaz is simply a Four Year Old Arab which was abbreviated to FYOA. Although the title will last another year, Jaz is just so much calmer than she was and feels really mature. Today I was standing next to her on the mounting block and I was so tempted...

A warm afternoon visit to Anna who was feeling particularly relaxed. I have always cared about how Anna feels as there is nothing that she 'does' to work on; she is and always will be a field ornament for her elderly owners. Nevertheless she makes a little progress each and every time I see her which is only once every eight weeks or so when she has her feet trimmed.. She must remember that I make her feel good. Today she was caught within the first minute of my arrival and I groomed her gently with four different brushes and picked out her feet. For the first time I felt able to walk all around her body and to touch her on her tummy. She's decided that this minion is really useful.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

27th May, 2015 Push Me Pull You

I wish I could get brown and white Lola together with black and white Dolly that I met today. They are of a very similar stamp. Dolly is an eight year old gypsy cob that has had a couple of foals previously. She was also backed late and is therefore an four year old pony in an eight year old's suit in terms of experience. Like a lot of gypsy type cobs that are bred to push a cart, and I do mean push, they can be inclined to barge their way out of trouble and to drag their owners where they want to go. It may not be fast but it is fleeing all the same. Under saddle they can be inclined to lean on the bit and just keep going.

Dolly's owner is keen to start at the very beginning so that she can fill in the gaps in her education. Today we started with groundwork where simple changes in hand and body position made a real difference very quickly.

Leading with a motorbike hand and a smile in the line - note gloves!

A good counted stop...

... earns a lovely rub.

Standing like a farmer not a model to ask her to stay an arm's length away

Asking for one step forward...

...and several steps back. 

Going back to the field without having to constantly watch her. 
She's a super little horse and only needs a few rules in her life. Hopefully back next week for some desensitisation exercises.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

26th May, 2015 That's Nice Deer

Great to be reunited with Moses this morning although I could quite have easily worked with Elvis who didn't want to be left out of things. Since he went home Pip has been concentrating on consolidating the work I did while he was in. This is all work I could have done for her but obviously the costs start to add up and without it he just isn't ready to be ridden.

Moses can be a spooky boy and lacks confidence when asked to go forward. The key to turning fear into curiosity is to be mindful of how he is thinking, feeling, and doing even when just walking. I need to help him to feel better about everything he meets.

If he needs a moment to study something then I give him that opportunity rather than pushing him on. In that way he learns not to flee forwards or backwards because he knows he doesn't have to. In effect we reward him for having the courage to look and to stick around.

The first time he went through this narrow gap next to the metal gate he rushed forward due to the sound of the rustly leaves. I took him through the same gap several times, asking him to just stand and relax, and once he could do that we carried on.

He wasn't so sure that the tree should be lying on its side and so I switched to the same side as the tree so that I could give him the confidence to go by.

Later Pip took over from me and you can see he is really striding out pretty confidently by now.

Not such a natural hazard but we found these by the side of the track and put them to good use. First time through and he is hesitant - his ears are 'looking' at the barriers on both sides.

A few more trips through and it all becomes nothing.

He also took a good look at this lorry and was keen to go and see it. Sadly it drove off before we could get there but now he thinks he is a mighty little horse seeing off something so large.

Being quietly mindful, reading a pony's reactions and also thinking a ittle ahead mean that you can help him deal with things that might worry him.

"We do ourselves and our horses a disservice when our focus is only on getting our horses to DO better rather than FEEL better - and it's the truly thoughtful horseman who works at understanding the difference." Mark Rashid

Afternoon up at the yard and time to take the children out on Nettles again. Nettles was also a little alert to something in the bushes and later we found out why...

...Troll ponies in the inclosure!

Braydon's turn to ride. He now has his first pair of jodhpurs.

Deer just outside the fields.

25th May, 2015 Juggling Act

A bit of culture, a lot of olives and not a horse in sight this Monday. Back to work tomorrow in the final run up to a holiday...

Gandini Juggling

Company Chameleon

Stefano di Renzo