Saturday, April 30, 2016

30th April, 2016 The Miracles

It's always lovely to be reunited with horses and ponies whose training seemed a bit like a miracle. First one today was lovely Dina, the 15 year old Arabian mare who had been difficult, sometimes impossible, to catch for six years. Just one session on catching with clicker and she has been caught each time, every time, for over a year now.

Today we were having a recap of desensitisation techniques but we were not alone. With the school out of bounds because of colts next door, we had to work in the field with Sam (below) and Jazz (further below) in attendance.

It's marvellous when loose horses choose to investigate and test different obstacles but there is an important learning point here. The obstacles need to be weighted or tied down and closely supervised if the horses are to be desensitised rather than sensitised. One false move here with a horse taking something into it's mouth, clamping it's jaw in surprise, and then taking off, could lead to a disaster.

Jazz wondered if the scarecrow might be edible.

It's been almost a year since Dina was asked to go over any of the obstacles and she is much more nervous than her confident daughter. Nevertheless she was willing to give things a go pretty quickly proving that she remembers the lessons from before.

Sam decided that he was a very British cob...

...and Jazz led the way with the brolly.

When your client admits to only needing a 'kick up the bum' to get going again there's plenty of time to take pictures of them standing in front of the bluebells.

This afternoon it was over to Throop to load Jack and Bear to go to their new field. It didn't take very long and was done quietly.

Lou and Lorraine loaned my trailer to move them which meant that they (the ponies!) could travel loose in their separate compartments.

Once at their new place they met up with their new neighbours, synchronising ...

...and showing correct social skills such as mouth snapping...

...and testing out their escape drill. I consider Bear one of my other miracle ponies since he pretty much changed course within two days of training when he stayed with me.

Friday, April 29, 2016

29th April, 2016 TGI Friday

Very pleasant day off today with a lovely ride with Pat while the weather held off.

Then an afternoon tour with Graylie's owner, Nina, and Chris. This foal has been born in the last couple of days near the Fighting Cocks at Godshill. I hope she manages to avoid the traffic.

Black headed gulls at Lepe, absolutely brilliant at taking ginger biscuit crumbs on the wing.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

28th April, 2016 The Hood in the Wood

Another adventure in the woods for Jack today following the deer tracks and making some gazelle-like leaps over the ditches. This was also the day that Henrietta let me brush her all over and actually seemed to enjoy being stroked for the very first time. 

In the meantime, Paragon is down to just two panels to prevent him going off to the right.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

27th April, 2016 Coast to Coast

More seawater today but this time a ferry trip to the Isle of Wight. We took the picturesque military road round the coast to Niton where our first call was to Jo and Durante.

Durante is doing really well in his new home and has filled out and grown in confidence since he arrived a year ago. However he will no longer stand still at the mounting block. As a result, Jo has been forced to mount from the ground, pulling on his back, and when Durante moves around she finds it difficult to land lightly in the saddle. We needed to reverse this spiral.

Having checked that Durante had no obvious soreness in his back and been told that his saddle was checked just yesterday, I  began to work with him using some clickered rewards.

Soon Durante was standing still while the mounting block was placed next to him, while the rider stood on top of it, when the reins were picked up (but not pulled), for the rider to put a foot in the stirrup and for the rider to get on. That amounted to six single clicks with no treat in series, and then three clicks all together with a treat. To a brain like Durante's,  half Arab and half Lusitano this really made sense. It was then a matter of teaching Jo the same routine. It's not all that easy to remember to give a cue to stand, to use regular and we'll timed  clicks and to indicate which side his on board treat is coming from but we got there. They key was to ask Jo to 'teach' me how to do it and then it all became logical. I  am looking forward to receiving a horse report from Jo rather than the usual one to her!
"...what productive session, and really great fun, thank you so much." JM

Next stop was Debbie and Dillon.  Like a lot of people, Debbie's winter riding has been scuppered by lack of light, and revolting weather. She wanted me to be there when she got on him again for the first time this year. It's a sign of their confidence and trust that this happened with no sign of anxiety from either of them. 

We worked on asking Dillon to go forward without the handbrake on, a product of resentment about schooling. 

We tried frequent changes of pace, direction and task, even trying some gymkhana games but the biggest break through came when Debbie simply stopped using her legs.

This was another reminder that whilst some trainers believe that all cues should come from the hands, and other trainers from the legs, if one is not working then think about trying the other. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

26th April, 2016 Atlantic Crossing

Crossed Dorset from end to end today, with dramatic views of the Atlantic through sun, hail, sun and sleet. Fortunately it was sunny again by the time I met Millie and her new foal, Mollie. Millie's owner, Debbie, had no idea that Millie was pregnant until her previous owner contacted her about six weeks ago to warn her that she might be. Two weeks later and she arrived, the spit of her Mother!

I think the main purpose of my visit was to admire the foal and reassure the owner who fortunately came on our foal handling course earlier in the year.

Mollie already has lots on her C.V. She can be caught easily in the stable or the field, leads well, moves when asked, picks her feet up, and accepts, and likes, touch all over.

She has also had oral medication and was described by the vet as being the best mannered foal he had met for a very long time.

The hardest part of having a confident and friendly foal is not to over-handle them, and when you do handle them to set up a few rules early on.

Foals, like all young animals, have to find out what all of their muscles and bones are capable of, and will only learn what is acceptable and not acceptable to humans by experimentation. We worked on giving Mollie attention when she was standing still and being charming, rather than when she was pressing into us and demanding.

She certainly knows that humans can be useful!

Later in the afternoon we took her for her first walk out and encouraged her to walk behind, beside, and in front of her Dam.

We had frequent breaks...

...and did some work with Millie when Mollie was lying down.

In Millie's case it was a matter of pressing the reset button on her manners which have gone out of the window a little bit since she has been on maternity leave.

"Thanks so much for today - really enjoyed and learnt some good stuff. I am glad I am doing things right by Mollie. David and I put them away not long after you left as the weather turned and it was so smooth and relaxed! Mollie was very tired - settled down to sleep straight away!" DB