Wednesday, August 31, 2016

31st August, 2016 Donkey Work

Jemima had already encountered seven donkeys before she arrived at mine this morning...

Under careful supervision she did a grand job of training Ivy, putting her head-collar on and doing some more leading work.

Some more work then on Ivy's right hand side, gently reminding her that she does in fact know how to pick her feet up although you can see she would rather hide the right hind, and then doing some important leading work round to the right. We are seeing much more of her head now and she is coming up to people a lot more readily...

 ...even in the field. The rug is now sporting push in clips instead of Velcro which means that we can get on with important work rather than being side-tracked by something likely to make her worse not better. It's easy to think that a pony that hears Velcro being torn apart once a day will eventually become desensitised to it. The risk is that it amounts to daily sensitisation instead, and becomes something they dread.

Since our last visit Kym has started to back Elmo helped by a very sensible friend. Keeping sessions short and sweet she has already reached a point where Elmo stands nicely next to the mounting block and she can use the stirrup to mount.

She has worked on small circles, straight lines and figures of eight...all on the lead rein so far.

Towards the end of our session today we ventured off the lead rein and did just a small amount unclipped.

Even this low key, quiet level of work can be very tiring, mentally and physically, for a young horse and Elmo yawned a lot at the end. This can help a horse to release any stress that has built up and is a useful reminder that sessions need to be kept short and sweet.

Elmo has leg mites and needs to have his legs clipped. Kym asked me how I would introduce clippers given that the only time he had his legs clipped before he got to her he was sedated and being gelded! I have loaned her my massager which I often used with clipping horses. As you can see, he doesn't appear to be in the least bit perturbed and it is switched on...

...even when it was taken down his sensitive legs.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

30th August, 2016 The Man who Invented Velcro

George de Mestral invented Velcro (from the French Velours coupled with Crochet) after a walk in the woods when he wondered if anything useful could be made from the burrs that stuck to his trousers and his dog. I always thought what a clever (and possibly rich) man he must have been. However, I have a complaint! Velcro is too blooming noisy for an Exmoor pony called Ivy.

If you attempt to unfasten her rug in a hurry she thinks she is being torn to pieces. A much slower, and careful approach is needed...although she is still very apprehensive throughout.

Accordingly the rug has been sent home for the night with a pair of scissors, some plastic fasteners, and will meet Tracey's sewing machine later.

I did attempt to desensitize her to the noise with the Velcro on the end of Henrietta's 'sling' halter but it isn't as noisy and yet still worried her a great deal. Setting that aside for a while, I worked on her leading which is definitely improving anti-clockwise and in straight lines where she can keep me in her left eye...

but she still struggles if she finds me in her right eye, for example, when I move forward on a clockwise circle.

Jemima is back for a couple of days and therefore she became the 7th person to touch Ivy since she arrived.

29th August, 2016 Reflections

It's fair to say that when I met Zelda and Zoe for the first time it was chaos. They were all over people like a rash, knocking into them, moving them around, but refusing to move themselves. Just two beautiful girls in herd mode. Over the weeks that they were with me we taught them to lead, to stand still, to pick their feet up, be tied up, to accept creams, sprays, and water, to walk on different terrain, to relax about new, novel, noisy, challenging, and colourful things, accepting strangers, to be separated, and we practiced loading. Yesterday their behaviour was amazing for two, two-year olds at their very first show and a big one at that. The stood around from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., grazing from time to time, and being held by various people, without fretting or pawing, pushing or pulling. I'm really proud of them.

"I'm sitting here, looking up at 'our' silver salver and rosettes which are currently occupying pride of place on my mantle and I'm reminded of just how far we had come in a very short space of time. Whilst ribbons and cups and winning are all very lovely, looking back at the show, my strongest recollections will always be of how beautifully behaved they were and how unfazed by everything that was asked of them. What a fabulous end to an amazing five week journey. I can honestly say through your intelligent approach my Zee Gees have gone from Zero to Heroes - without fear without force. I have no concerns at all for the future as I am secure in the knowledge that we are in the right path - and that is the greatest prize of all." WJ

Monday, August 29, 2016

29th August, 2016 Ribbons and Bows

The culmination of five weeks of training, a few hours of bathing and grooming, and a lot of help from friends and supporters, Zoe and Zelda went to the New Forest Pony Breed Show today and both brought home ribbons.

From left to right: Berry (grooming assistant and supporter), John and Pat (pretend judges); Fritham Zelda, Sarah (showing practice and showing handler); Wendy (owner, groomer and producer of many products); me (chief trainer); Julie (assistant trainer); Fritham Zoe; Carla (showing practice and showing handler); Tracey (assistant trainer); Penny and John (breeders of Fritham ponies).

First in the Forest Bred class

Second, along with Zelda, in the pairs class.

"Thank you so much to all of you for helping me achieve this. I can’t stress enough that today is all about having fun and making the showing experience a positive one for ponies/ everyone concerned." WJ 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

28th August, 2016 Future Prospects

Sunday off for Honey whilst Iona has a final consolidation session before Sandra goes it alone for a while.

Once again we were working on walk to trot transitions.

A very autumnal feel to the Forest on the way across to Fritham, with the cows making the most of a heather bed...

Some were tucked in more than others...

This also heralds the start of the drifting season with ponies having their tails marked to indicate that their commoning fees have been paid, and the part of the Forest on which they normally reside.

Back at the fields Zoe and Zelda were having a more thorough hairdressing appointment in readiness for the show tomorrow.

Good news about a past customer, Theo, one of the Warmblood foals that we worked with earlier in the year, gained a Higher First at his Futurity evaluation at Catherston with his new owner Vicky Morgan. Vicky came along to out course as a student and left with a happens!

Saturday, August 27, 2016

27th August, 2016 Exemplary

I was so impressed when I went to visit my team of three, Richard, Jan and Anne, working with two of their horses, near Stonehenge. They have got their practice sessions down to a fine art, noting all of the little successes and improvements made by the horses, the body language and concerns, and working all the time quietly, patiently and thoughtfully. As a result, their horses, one which has previously jumped over the breast bar in the trailer, and the other which had previously dashed out of the front ramp and then got bolted into some fencing, are steadily getting their confidence back. Here's one of them, Archie, being loaded and the ramp closed up behind him for the umpteenth time today. He loaded easily thirteen times in total and had the ramp closed on eleven of those occasions.

Bond worked so quietly too, no longer planting on the ramp or shooting off backwards.

He still expressed his concerns through a 'running foot' but...

...he's becoming more relaxed... and his droppings per hour have reduced to just one lot.

I have left my panels with the team who will continue to practice regularly until I see them again in three weeks time.

Having got Ivy's sweet itch rug on yesterday I thought I ought to make sure I can get it off again especially as it has some particularly strong and noisy Velcro. I had to be extremely careful but, having achieved that, I bathed her with some gentle shampoo to help relieve her itchiness even more. Later, having dried her with a towel, the rug went back on and I shall be repeating that endlessly throughout the rest of her stay.

Ivy galloping through the gateway...this instinctive behaviour.

Leaving Ivy in the company of Zoe and Zelda, Julie and I took Jack and Henry out for a walk. They absolutely love being out and about.

Friday, August 26, 2016

26th August, 2016 The Invisibility Cloak

Five horses to work with turned into four today when Honey made it very plain that not only didn't she want her girth done up but she didn't really want to be touched much either (threatening to bite and one occasion actually biting). Another visit from the physio and some further investigations needed since the gastroscope was absolutely clear. It can be an expensive and exasperating business trying to find out what lies behind a horse's behaviour but the fact that it is intermittent proves that it is not normal. When she's sweet, she's very very sweet.

We made some good progress with Iona instead, trotting circles in both directions with Sandra on board.

Pat and John took their roles as pony judges very seriously today, turning up dressed up to the nines, complete with fancy hats for the occasion. They thorough inspected and said knowledgeable things about both ponies.

Ivy made my day by accepting the sweet itch rug and appearing to love it. Putting it on had to be done with some delicacy but she showed no fear of the rug itself. I watched her moving about in it for about half an hour in the barn before turning her out.