Friday, September 30, 2016

30th September, 2016 Day Trip to Mars

As Mars is only two miles away this should have been a very quick journey but yet another flat tyre meant that I was late docking!

We don't know whether Mars has ever been long-reined in his previous home, but we do know that he has been lunged. As a young horse he doesn't need to be doing too many circles. I suspect a couple of areas of soreness in this horse, judging by his reaction to hand pressure, and wonder if he has been tied up to something solid when he was originally halter broken, or worn gadgets to bring him into an outline during his early training. He seems sore around his poll, bracheocephalicus, and pectoral muscles. He is due for another visit from the physiotherapist soon.

He is a horse who is a little wary of the new people he meets and their intentions towards him, however he has a growing circle of friends including his 'grandma', Karen.

His demeanour already seems a little sweeter
 Flo carried out all of the pre-flight checks for long reining including how he feels about lines touching him, being driven forwards, and the line going around his hindquarters. He was fine about all of that although a little anxious if there was any really sudden movement.

Flo naturally uses a 'mother hand' to reassure him but also to be able to feel his response.

Being driven was no big deal to him at all

Here Flo is 'measuring him for a suit' before stepping back out of his kick zone and asking him to turn away from her

All serene with two reins on: nice happy face too.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

29th September, 2016 The Buffer Zone

The Bar Buffer is intended to cushion the horse against the hard feel of a breast bar in horsebox and trailer transport during braking and gear changes, and to reduce any bruising and irritation this causes. Your horse should be more comfortable when travelling as a result.  
The Buffer is made from durable, thick and dense materials, with a washable cover. It fits over your existing bar and the cover is fastened with robust Velcro.  
The Bar Buffer can also be used at the rear especially for horses that have experienced a problem with the back bar.  
The Bar Buffer was developed following the results of a research project I carried out on behalf of BARTA and Intelligent Horsemanship which revealed that horses were inclined to jump or attempt to jump the breast bar in all types of horse transport including front facing trailers. My own work as a trainer also revealed that horses were less likely to want to load once the front bar was put in position. I came to the conclusion that horses were experiencing significant discomfort when coming up against the bars, which are usually hard, narrow, and unforgiving, and for some time I have been advising owners to pad their front bar in some way. Existing products on the market were totally inadequate as the foam provided was too thin to make any difference to the comfort of the horse.

The Bar Buffer is made locally so that we can carefully monitor quality and we can quickly re-stock or make different sizes. At present we have all sizes available for Ifor Williams trailers including the HB403 mare and foal trailer. Single (half) width are £30, double (full-width) £38, and the mare and foal £36, plus postage and packaging where applicable.

Mike Bowers, upholsterer, working on the latest set of Bar Buffer covers.

To order yours, please contact me at

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

28th September, 2016, Going with the Flo

Had the delightful company of Flo for the day today, helping me out this morning and having a long reining lesson this afternoon. It took us a long time to get going as we kept getting waylaid...

...first of all at Godshill Cricket Pitch...

...and then at Longcross where Nelly and Blue are at last reunited.

All of the horses seem to like Flo...

...and were soon training her carefully.

Henrietta almost but not quite had her headcollar on again...and we finally got around to the long reining lesson. Helpfully I have a black horse on which Flo can practice for her black horse.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

27th September, 2016 To Infinite...or at least Mars

16 month coloured cob Jack exemplifies just what can be achieved with a young horse with an owner doing just a couple of quiet sessions a week, and having the occasional groundwork lesson. Jack benefits from the company of another young pony (Bear) with older horses next door enabling him to express natural behaviours and expend his energy. As a result he can concentrate when asked to do a little bit of light work and learn to learn.

Some tiny technical changes today which improve the overall result and give clarity. In the left hand picture Lorraine is inclined to keep a light but definite pressure on his lead rein in case something happens. This gets the horse used to feeling (and ignoring) a constant pull. In the right hand picture she has a 'smile in the line' but can trust her 'motorbike hand' to let her know if Jack does suddenly pull away and to react accordingly. The 'motorbike hand' itself is much better at giving a clear resistance to any sudden pull utilising the muscles of the forearm, upper arm and the stomach.

In the top picture Jack is walking right by Lorraine's side and when she stops he should stop without being pulled. There is a slight hint of a pull in the lower picture which, if needed, would actually have the effect of telling the horse to resist and keep going forwards. If a horse doesn't stop when you stop it's better to turn, face him, and to correct him with a left 'motorbike hand' backing him up just a couple of paces.

Here Lorraine is being really generous with her 'smile in the line' giving a clear signal in terms of pressure and demeanour that Jack is doing exactly what she would like him to do. This darling soul enjoys matching her step for step and will copy a funereal walk if asked.

Some time ago another trainer used a bag on a stick to discourage Jack from invading space for food. Today we used bags on a stick as a desensitisation exercise and as you can see he was more interested in whispering into my ear. I'm quite wary of using bags on a stick as a deterrent as, despite the 5p charge, there are still plenty of carrier bags blowing around and I don't want my horse to be frightened of them. Jack was very relaxed about the brolly and the tarpaulin.

One little mishap recently. Jack had taken offence at a surcingle being dropped down his offside when experiencing a rug for the first time. I used the soft scarf to mimic the movement of the surcingle and soon reached a stage where I could throw it over him with panache.
"'s so important to me to make sure he has the right start, I really enjoy our sessions with you." LM
Four year old Criollo x Throughbred, Mars, belongs to Flo who bought him about seven weeks ago. Backed and ridden away last year he was then turned away and I suspect he hadn't got all that many hours or miles under his belt; certainly not enough to carry him through a formal riding lesson with lots of circles. Originally bunny hopping into transitions, he has begun to buck in walk and we need to find out whether this is in protest at the work he is being asked to do or because of some discomfort. So far he has seen the dentist (veterinary), Chartered Physiotherapist, and the saddle fitter.

As always we started from the very beginning, checking out some basic groundwork to make sure that he can rely on people on the ground. During the session he went from being quite distant and sour, to being relaxed, responsive, and really quite sweet.

Flo, who was thrown off the last time she rode him, felt able to get on him again and we kept everything very low key for both of them...

...even staying on the lead rein just for this reintroduction.

"It was so good to meet you and Flo's confidence has lifted. The pictures are lovely and your report is very thorough." KB

Monday, September 26, 2016

26th September, 2016 Comic Actor

Disgusted of Fritham this morning to find all of this industrial cabling and other materials dumped on the open Forest. The Forestry Commission have been informed and will no doubt foot the bill for collecting it but it makes me livid.

Henry is very close to wearing her first proper headcollar. I have tacked some spare scarf onto the crown piece and am practising taking the headcollar up her face. She now gives to the slight resistance of the long grey scarf which is an enormous breakthrough.

Young gypsy cob, Chaplin, can certainly throw some comic moves and engage in nonsense when he is being led by his owner. His behaviour, challenging as it is, is perfectly understandable. He was weaned by his original breeders at just three months old and was then kept alone save for some sheep for over a year. He was half starved when he arrived with his current owner, Vicky, and full of worms and unbalanced enzymes. Although he now lives beside lots of other horses, he is in an individual paddock so that whilst he can touch them he cannot play, socialise, or synchronise with them. Accordingly he doesn't really know whether Vicky is friend or foe, girlfriend or mother, and his confusion and frustration is plain to see. This doesn't take away from the fact that Vicky has brought him back from the brink health-wise; he was so weak that he could hardly walk when she got him.

We worked on answering all of his questions in a fair way so that we were consistent and clear. In an ideal world I would want to see this pony in with other horses so that he can use up all of his energy and engage in natural behaviours. Then he wouldn't see his owner as the entertainment committee and there would be less risk of him being punished just for being fed up.

Back in the field he definitely had the last word!
"Thank you so much for this Sarah; I learnt so much today. It also clarified a lot on the thoughts I had about Chaplin." VEO 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

25th September, 2016 The Power of the Horse God

The Horse God decided to set us a test yesterday (unfortunately an expensive one for the owner of the car) to make sure that Nicola Chamberlain,  a good friend of Sandra's and I could work together with Sandra before starting on a horse.

On the way into the yard, Nicola's car hit a nasty low wall at the side of the drive instantly splitting one of her tyres which went down with a bang and a very loud hiss. Taking it in turns on the jack, the wheel brace, and the instructions, we did a good job of finding the locking wheel nut and the special flange that covered the device to let the spare wheel down. There wasn't even much swearing!

In the event it was fantastic to have three well educated, realistic, horse people (Nicola is an Animal Behaviourist) all coming together to observe and then discuss Honey's disposition and expression. All three of us strongly suspect that there is a physical reason for Honey's behaviour and that it is not a behavioural issue. Identify the cause is like unravelling spaghetti since Sandra has already had the dentist, chartered physiotherapist, saddle fitter and vet to look at her and to treat her accordingly. The horse has had a gastroscope which was all clear and an internal examination of her ovaries which was all clear. She has been on Regumate for 14 days. The next line of enquiry will look at the possibility of hind gut ulcers. The trouble with any ulcers is that they can be a symptom of other underlying conditions.

Meanwhile Sandra is also having problems with a new saddle she has recently bought for Iona from a saddler who generally has a very good reputation. Ever since she has used it Iona has been restive at the mounting block, rushed forward when asked to go forwards, and to cap it all the saddle slips badly. Examining it Nicola and I were disappointed to see that it is set up to be always girthed from the point strap, something that should be avoided unless jumping, and tends to be used when a saddle doesn't fit properly. The points strap comes down at an angle from the point of the tree, generally made of hard metal.

If ever there was a need for the Horse God to intervene it would be here. Life always seems extremely unfair to me when an owner does everything she can for the good of her horses and then encounters so many setbacks, some of which are mightily expensive.

That look of consternation seems to have been my expression for the day but luckily we have a clear course of action for my blackberry-tongued friend. Théoden is off for his MRI on 7th October.

The final gift of the Horse God yesterday was this particularly spectacular toilet at one of the yards we went to. Nice toilets are a rarity.

Friday, September 23, 2016

24th September, 2016 Puffin Colony

Bred for racing, but never raced, Puffin has a checkered history when it comes to loading. Although her owner has always endeavoured to be kind to her, things have escalated when other people have become involved and Puffin has developed one or two strategies to thwart their attempts to load her. Sometimes she plants, accepting the endorphins brought about by pressure on her head seeming to go to sleep, and sometimes she rears and goes off to the side of the ramp. We needed to bring everything down to a low key again and make sure that we worked quietly with her yeses and her maybes.

I was keen to introduce clickered rewards as I usually do. Sarah has always rewarded Puffin with a bucket of food in the trailer but on one occasion Puffin dropped her head to get to the food and then got trapper under the front bar. Treats in a bum-bag ensure that this doesn't happen.

Puffin is also wary of the back bar and so I used a mock bar (insulation on a feather duster pole today!) to re-introduce the bar and help her to believe that it could be trusted not to hurt her.

We were then able to put the real bar in place although I think Puffin would be a good candidate for a Bar Buffer on both the breast and breech bars.

This seemed like a good note on which to end today.

"I didn't expect to achieve so much in such a short period of time and everything was really relaxed! We both enjoyed ourselves :)" SR

Ivy is doing well at home in her owner's rather fashionable scarf.

"Ivy is back home - or at least I think it's Ivy? I'm partially convinced Sarah has sent me back another pony altogether. Can't believe this shy girl who was always hiding behind her mum and running away if you looked at her is now chasing me around the field after a handling session, away from her mates! Despite the wind she was more than happy to come into the stable to have a face rub, headscarf and all feet done; then out into the yard to have her headcollar on and lead all around from left and right and have her face goo on - even having her ears touched. So confident and trusting, I can finally see a way forward with her. What a transformation!" MM

23rd September, 2016 Oh No! Not Again?

Oh yes, it's that time of year again when lots of semi-feral ponies make their way to the sales either totally wild or having been halter-broken, sometimes in a none too sympathetic manner. No Fear, No Force has been a standard text for some years now for anyone hoping to handle and halter train their foal in a gentle and ethical way. Copies can be ordered through my website: Logical Horsemanship or through Amazon. It also works for older ponies, traumatised and just shy foals.

Ginny, posh name Emancipation, had to have a headcollar on for her grading and microchipping but was none too impressed and becoming rather wary of having her head handled. After learning No Fear, No Force techniques, Debrah took the original foal slip off and began training her using a soft scarf. This is the outcome...
"Omg! Absolutely delighted to tell you all that using no fear and no force methodology as taught by Sarah Weston only 13 days following learning the technique I have today successfully applied a bright red halter to my special little girl Ginny." DB

23rd September, 2016 Bid for Freedom

I have to confess that I haven't done so much with Henrietta lately, partly because I was busy with Ivy and Henry was terribly jealous of the attention she was getting and had to be expelled from the barn for pulling faces at her through the windows, and partly because I ran out of ideas and thought I was getting nowhere. Although I have been able to trim her left back foot, the others are out of bounds to the pincers even though she will let me pick them up; going for walks on the Forest has been my only way of shortening them.

Sometimes a rest is as good as a change as Henry allowed me to do all sorts of new things this morning. I could touch her teats with the feather duster, brush between her front legs and also use my hand, and, better than all of that...

...put a headcollar around her nose. Tempting as it was to go for the crown piece at this stage, I felt that this was enough progress for one day and took her out for a walk with Sarah.

As usual we had great fun and the magnetic field between Jack and Henrietta held fast all the time that we were in the inclosure...

...however, once we were out on the open Forest again she took off in the opposite direction and I was convinced I was going to lose her to a herd of ponies. Jack watched her go without a single neigh, which would have been very useful just at that moment, but fortunately she did come back after a very large circuit of the area, with me traipsing after her calling plaintively with Jack in one hand and the emergency bucket in the other. From now on it seems that she will have to be taxied over to the inclosure in the trailer!