Wednesday, November 30, 2016

30th November, 2016 Jump!

Beswick Mule

A very quiet Wednesday with just a bit of cross country jumping before I set off to take Sammy out...

My hay coloured friend. Very easy to walk with today.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

29th November, 2016 Tack and Tact

Exmoor was looking particularly cuddly this morning...

First stop today was near Romsey, to see Dottie. Whilst Vanessa weighs up which saddle she might get for Dottie I have loaned her my Western one and we needed to make sure that Dottie was alright with it. I have only known one horse that objected to a Western saddle but as that objection was very big I had to be cautious.

Fortunately she was fine and Vanessa could enjoy a session where Dottie could really stride out. Once again we worked on going from place to place within the field and next time we hope to be able to take her out.

This afternoon Lynsey came over to have a groundwork session for which Théoden came out of medical retirement. He was very good although he did think he might flirt with Lynsey, gently taking hold of her jeans with his teeth, and she was very good using her gentle stockmanship techniques to persuade Théoden to move here and there.

These are her normal subjects and today was the first time she has handled a horse. Her knowledge of body language and energy and her lack of preconceived ideas about horses all made her a bit of a natural.

Hattie was fine this morning and has now been turned out with new field mates including fellow mule, Betty.

I came home to some lovely flowers sent by my wonderful friends and clients, Kerry and Chris. They live in Germany with their two Exmoors, Finn and Hazel, but the flowers are Scilly flowers and smell amazing.

Monday, November 28, 2016

28th November, 2016 You Beauty

Hattie will soon be a Leicestershire girl and therefore come to know the relevance of the above phrase. We fall in love far too easily at Fritham and so it was very sad to have to say goodbye to her this morning when her stopover came to a stop.

"Do you think you might be able to put a head-collar on her?", said her owner when she arrived. "I can try," I said tentatively since I hadn't tried or been ask to try while she was with me. Indeed I had tried to keep my hands off her on the basis that she wasn't mine to play with! Luckily Hattie is a lot less kicky than Henrietta and less frightened, more humanised, and just quieter. In fact I wondered whether Helen might notice if she arrived home with a small gingery pink mule rather than the one that she had ordered.

In the event it was relatively easy to get the head-collar on using a feather duster for initial touch and then putting a lead rein over her neck using the other end of it. Once I had both ends of the rope in my hand I could gently hold her while I put the head-collar on over her neck and then up her nose.

The head-collar was a bit big so I did a bit of a wrap-around to make it fit better but at least it is leather so would break if she got caught up.

With panels set up all over the place it was easy to load her onto my trailer and then take her out into the inclosure to decant her into the hired 3.5 tonne horsebox that she would be travelling home in. Although it came with a full bulkhead at the back, to prevent any prospect of her jumping out, it had no inner gates next to the ramp so leaving her loose and getting out that way was not an option. Instead I had to scale the inner wall and get out through the tiny door at the top. Luckily I didn't get stuck like Winnie the Pooh in the rabbit hole and have to starve until I was thin enough to get through.

Jack and Henrietta were a bit bemused when she had apparently disappeared. They are beginning to think that the middle door in the barn is the door to Narnia.

Ps. I am pleased to be able to report that Hattie has arrived safely in her new home. She did apparently make quite a fuss in the horsebox and I am so glad that the owners and I insisted on an enclosed box and that they didn't travel her in a normal horse trailer - mules can and will jump!
"Thank you so much for stepping up, collecting Hattie and caring for her." HT

Sunday, November 27, 2016

27th November, 2016 Good Morning Vietnam

With David just back from his motorcycle tour of Northern Vietnam it has become clear that he does think about me while he is away. He stopped to take pictures of every horse he saw...

...and every other interesting creature he met too.

27th November, 2016 Team GB

Team GB (that is, Team Ginger Biscuits) has a new member. I thought I would check if Hattie would go into the barn and was pleased that she followed the other two in and then parked herself in the pen. I took the opportunity to close her in as she will be travelling again tomorrow. Although she has had very little handling, besides being put in a crush and 'tied on' once she had a head-collar on, she seems not to be too frightened of people and she eventually sampled the ginger biscuit I offered her. I left her in the pen with a section of hay and let her out again after about an hour.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

26th November, 2016 Turning a Corner

Welsh Cob Leo has made some significant progress with his owner, Melissa, since my visit a month ago, now accepting the feather duster all over his body. However, he took a step back when she asked him to cope with a plastic bag and having touched it once, ran away three times. It is this natural prey behaviour which we need to ask him to forego. Rather than every session being seen as an opportunity to scare him, we needed to turn his sessions into an opportunity to have fun.

'Self-conscious' horses, not in the sense that they blush every time you speak to them but they spend all their time thinking what everything (especially people) means to their bodies, need to be taken out of themselves a little, and given something to do for which they will be rewarded. Accordingly we coupled the feather duster work with clickered rewards. Holding Leo on a loose rein at first, we asked him to accept the feather duster on his body again and rewarded him with a clickered treat for doing so.

In time he grew braver and engaged much more. I switched him over to the three click 'system' and we also turned him loose so that he had complete choice about whether stayed or went.

We ended the session with him happily following any of us around - me, Melissa, or Julie, and with us 'stealing' him off each other.

Melissa's fiancé is a systems analyst and is going to produce a flow chart of incremental learning for her and Leo so that she can make sure every tiny step she takes is consolidated and maintained.

With a flit across the country and into Wiltshire it was back to work with Bond and Archie who have both had a three week break from loading practice. Not only did each horse remember what they had learned before, but they both made progress which could be called a breakthrough.

Bond now 'parks' himself in the correct position in his new trailer and seems to understand that we have no intention of squashing him; there is plenty of room for him and his pedigree.

Archie, who went over the bar within seconds the last time Richard and Jan tried to travel him, went on his first little trip, just six yards, and stood quietly throughout. It has been hard going through all of the preparation training not knowing whether moving the vehicle might precipitate his original behaviour so there was much relief all round.

"We were all very pleased with our session yesterday. Thanks for monitoring and providing advice and guidance at what we thought was going to be the make or break of the issue. Fortunately it appears to be the start of real progress. I had better start doing some training with Archie in the hope we will start going out to shows next year.  
We were particularly pleased with the calm way he came out of the trailer after we travelled (20 feet)." RJ

Email received 7.12.16:
"We repeated our loading exercise with Archie this morning...and finally drove across the paddock and turned a circle to stop facing in the opposite direction. I went back into the trailer and reattached the Dually and  Jan lowered the back ramp. Before lowering the back bar I clicked and treated him for a few minutes before lowering the bar and asking him to reverse out. He did this calmly and without any stress. I took him away and put his rug back on and turned him back out. Jan and I had a little bit of a communication failure when she suggested our next phase should be to take him around to the black barn. She was talking about the black barn near the stables and I thought she was referring to another black barn out on the Chitterne road. I told her she was being over ambitious and that  was when we realised that we were talking about 2 different locations. I think she used the word twit somewhere in our conversation." RW

I came home to a lovely message from a friend who came to one of our Handling the Warmblood Foal courses.

"Just wanted to let you know I've been putting my foal handling training to use on this little beauty that I bought at the Beaulieu road sales in October. 😍😍 Obviously she's not a new forest but my friend bought a NF baby too! She's coming along really nicely, helps that she's incredibly sweet natured. Still very young, so I'm taking everything very slow. I'm going to raise her from the ground up without fear or force 🙂 "

Friday, November 25, 2016

25th November, 2016 Black and White Rules

Having heard a friend describe her mule as 'inexplicable' I did wonder if whether Henrietta would have gone backwards in her training following another gap while we were so busy. In fact she seems to have made a little bit of progress, allowing me to stand right by her shoulder today; certainly no regression. With a lighter week ahead I hope to make some more progress.

25th November, 2016 Pathetically Bereft

In just eight hours David will at last be on the same continent as me and when we meet at midnight all will be well with the world. I've got the day off so I could lay on a big spread for him, maybe tidy up the house...oh, was that Tracey calling to say that the farrier is coming?

Thursday, November 24, 2016

24th November, 2016 Barometers

My wild ponies are the best barometer that there is, or should that be barrow meters, as they always head home when the weather gets bad or the grass become sparse. So far this winter, no sign of them getting any nearer although their friend, Exmoor, has arrived.

Meanwhile, Hattie is practising her pirouettes...

This afternoon I went off to meet up with Rosy and Zebdi and made a start on the real purpose of my involvement. He has a real phobia of syringes, for injections or worming, as well as the clippers. The vet had warned me that he had become aggressive when she approached him with a needle. For that reason I started off with the stable door shut between us but also gave him the freedom to move away completely if he wanted to. In the event, he worked so quietly with me, giving me the benefit of the doubt, and making the connection between the clicks and treats. We were very pleased with his progress today and by the end of the session I was standing next to him in the stable, touching him with the syringe.

On the way home I saw this stately pig...

Talking of which, Sarah's foot trimming was interrupted by the pet pig, Truffles.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

23rd November, 2016 Samedi (Only it's Wednesday)

Another super walk with Celtic Sammy. He was so calm about everything he met from playing dogs to stalking donkeys.

"Thank you for today.  Great to know he is fine with donkeys - we haven't actually met any yet. And great he went across the green and through the woods - I have no one to ride out with this weekend so am planning the same route solo for the first time." YS

Muley, now called Hattie, shows a pretty turn of hoof and has been moved closer to the barn ready for when she is collected early next week.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

22nd November, 2016 Two Mules for Sister Sarah

This morning we arranged for the collection of a temporary resident. So now we have two brainboxes in the field. Jack might be a horse but he well recognises the body language of a mule these days and is understandably wary of a swishing tail. 'Muley' has come from one of the New Forest Commoners that I have actually been dying to meet since I knew that he is very keen on mules, something that cannot be said of the rest of them! Apparently he calls them all 'Muley' so that they can be named by their respective owners when they change address.

This 'Muley' will be living with another mule called Betty. When Betty was a baby she looked like this...

The two are evenly matched size-wise.

Back to shorter ears this afternoon with lovely Dottie. A short ridden session since we are not totally happy with the saddle and didn't want to push her towards a 'no'. Instead we repeated the work we did last time, this time using human 'cones' as the outside of our school.

You may wonder how come I throw horses together quite so readily when there are a range of diseases that they can pass from one to another. As anyone knows. moving their horse to a new livery yard, this is always a worry along with the serious squabbles that horse can have when they are put in together. I take a calculated risk on the basis that I match the horses as well as I can, observe them for as long as I can, and reason that the owner of the visiting horse is taking the same risk as I am. My own horses have access to a constant stream of ponies passing on the Forest although we take great care to back them off the fence-line when we know there is something going around as it was a couple of years ago.