Wednesday, May 31, 2017

31st May, 2017 Zis is no problem

Pie was taking his baby-sitting duties very seriously this morning. I only wish I could tell you that Nelly has had hers - but she hasn't.

Zoe and Zelda were amazing, going straight into advanced agility obstacles without any worries at all.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

30th May, 2017 Z Cares

Fritham Zoe and Zelda were rather wild and woolly when they came in this morning, making me wonder just how much they would have retained from their training last year, and how much they had regressed to their instinctive state. Young horses, left to their own devices, can become very dependent on one another and rather inclined to live on their wits. They seemed intent on knocking into me, and once their head collars were on, taking me for a walk.

Homework for tomorrow
I need not have worried. Choosing a restore point rather than a factory reset meant that they were soon back into the rhythm of things, standing still quietly when I asked them to, being groomed all over, standing in the barn, and picking their feet up nicely. All things that has taken a little while to teach them last year but which seem to be well established after all of this time.

It's not a plinth; it's a nail file.
We did some groundwork in the field which was simple revision before moving on to a tiny bit of lateral work and the most important preparation exercise for long reining; accepting the rein around the hindquarters and following the pressure. Both girls worked equally well, independently of each other, and I am going to enjoy having them back.

Monday, May 29, 2017

29th May, 2017 Shooting Themselves in the Foot

Yesterday was a double disaster for this foal and a PR disaster for the Agisters, Verderers and Commoners. If I’ve got the story straight, his mother was killed by a car during the foggy night even though she was wearing a reflective collar. The driver at least stopped at the scene, there was no evidence of speeding, and they were distraught. But not as distraught as the people the next morning who witnessed what appeared to be a perfectly healthy colt foal being captured and led away by the Agister who took it behind a bush and shot it, then left it’s body beside it’s mother for collection later. No doubt that was at the instruction of the owner of the pony, whose prerogative it is make that decision. However, if the Commoners are seen not to care about their ponies, then how can they expect drivers and other members of the public to care about them too?

As you can imagine Facebook has gone mad with comments and people even making death threats to the people involved. Being a Bank Holiday, there has been plenty to time for things to escalate and fester.  These same people, unless they are vegans, need to remember that thousands of male dairy calves are shot every day, and many more animals for the meat that they eat. Nevertheless, there were plenty of horsey people, many of them connected to the Forest, who were horrified by the decision – and many who would probably have taken the foal on and brought it up successfully.
Not all Commoners would make such a hard-hearted decision whether based on practicalities or finance, many would bend over backwards to bring the foal up or to find it a suitable home where someone else would. There are over 400 Commoners and believe me, they all have different views on everything.
I am saddened by the decision but not outraged. It isn’t easy, technically, emotionally, or even practically to bring up an orphan foal. It can be a psychological disaster for the foal itself if it isn’t socialised properly. Many bottle reared foals become monsters, difficult to handle and train in the future, clambering all over people and sometimes extremely aggressive. People prepared to get up to feed a foal ever two hours and even better, foster mares, aren’t easy to find but there are some with the knowledge and experience who would – there are plenty more who would absolutely ruin such a foal through ignorance.
Would I take on such a foal? Probably, but then I am an extremely soft touch.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

28th May, 2017 Return of the Zeegees

Théoden has the slightly haunted look of a man overwhelmed by women...

...and with just cause as Fritham Zoe and Zelda have come back to Fritham for some more training.

There was a grand reunion...

...particularly for the two half-sisters...

...and Henrietta seemed delighted too...

...and soon moved into their student flat.

Zoe and Zelda haven't done much at all since they were last in with me, having another splendid gap year as they matured into three year olds. I doubt (and hope) that there will be very little drama as I help them to revise what we did last year, and then move onto another level or two.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

27th May, 2017 Open and Shut Case

Following the massive storm last night the New Forest ponies were able to dissipate away from the ponds and delight in a different flavour of grass. I was ever hopeful that the cymbal-like crashes of thunder would have had the same effect as banging a few dustbin lids and a good curry and that Nelly might just have had her foal.

No such luck, she's still barefoot and pregnant...ho hum. The good news is that the further I have to walk the further they are from the danger of the roads.

Off this afternoon to see Leo once again and although his two owners were practising their wedding photos I have a feeling that there will be a third 'person' in their marriage if he doesn't beat Chris to get up the altar.

Chris is a great support to Melissa while she is working with Leo and we started with a bit of groundwork just to make sure that they were singing from the same wedding hymn sheet.

Leo's long reining is coming along really well although I was surprised that it is now possible to do quite a lot of waggling to ask him to go forward when he occasionally decides he'd rather stop without him having an absolute fit. Questioning his instructions is a good sign in this case.

He is still rather worried about going over poles so I decided to introduce him to our safety 'stop box' where he will be encouraged to stand and relax, and to open up both entrance and exit to begin with. Next we closed the exit whilst leaving the entrance open...

 ...and once he was confident asked him to go every which way but loose.

Each of these short stints provides a holiday from the last and so it was fine to carry on with a bit of short-reining next. This helps a horse to get used to the constant white noise of a 'leg' next to him as well as introducing and refining the 'leg' cue which is provided by the hip during this exercise.

We finished with some softening exercises, teaching him that he just needs to acknowledge the bit in order to feel a release in the reins - much better than the horse learning to lean on the bit and then to pull through the reins.

And of Lady Doris of Janesmoor who has put on a lot of weight and looks a lot better. I still miss this little horse that seemed to connect with me so quickly but am really glad that she is safe and secure where she is.

Friday, May 26, 2017

26th May, 2017 Hot Footing It

Farrier day for the three riding horses who have had many months off following Théoden's diagnosis of navicular. Hopefully having time without shoes has done them all good but we do have to protect them from the Forest stones. Boots were also an option but we also have very boggy ground which can easily wrench them off. We'll see how we go on. Jack had another full trim and his feet look much tidier for it.

Matching outfits
Afterwards there was time to check Nelly (still no foal!) and to take Jack and Jack-Jack out for a walk in the inclosure. Pleased to say that Nadia is back after her first year at Writtle where she is studying for a degree in Equine Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation.

A baby but wrong species...

Thursday, May 25, 2017

25th May, 2017 He Who Owns the Water is King

I have to confess that I was caught out this morning by just how much progress Georgie had been able to make with Odey following my last visit. Not only was he fine about being touched with the surcingle, but he allowed it to be done up, breast girth and all.

Having made room for my suitcases, I didn't have a long rein in my car with which to practice the long reining exercises and so had to make do with a long rope instead...

...Odey took a while to understand what we wanted, ironically Straightness Training involves a lot of circles, but eventually got the idea that we really did want him to go straight. More work to do in asking him to accept the rein around his hind quarters but I have no doubt that Georgie will have gone through all of that by the time I go for my next visit.

The New Forest stallion, Sandholes Whispering Grass now rules the water trough and the pond at Fritham, which given how dry it is, means that he has the pick of the women when they turn up to drink.

Nelly and Blue, with Blue the gelding, are keeping a low but in Nelly's case, wide, profile...

...and Pie is happy in the belief that he is the father of this little one.

Otherwise the foals are treated to a very early lesson in advanced courtship...

The next set of ladies arrive at the water trough at full pelt...

...take a welcome and cool drink...

...and then survey the talent.

He creates quite a stir...

...and seems to meet with general approval...

Back at the fields there is a welcome sight...

...Henrietta's feet are breaking off. She is staying in the top paddock and barn for a while in order to encourage this to happen and to lose a little weight. The others are taking it in turns to keep her company.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

24th May, 2017 Summer 'Do'

We're back, having had a wonderful holiday with our great friends, Tracey, Barbara and Xanthe. With over 8,000 photos to sort out it will be a while before I can share the best of them. In the meantime you could admire this beautiful picture of an Exmoor Pony which I took for the Intelligent Horsemanship Magazine which is due out shortly. Copies of the magazine can be obtained by joining the Intelligent Horsemanship Association through: IH.

I am having an Pony Party for clients and friends on Sunday 2nd July, 2017, 10.30 a.m. to 3 p.m., the proceeds of which will be going to the Exmoor Pony Centre which needs additional funds in order to stay open to the public. This well loved charity does a fantastic amount for the wild Exmoor ponies, taking on the 'surplus' colts for training and re-homing, and also conservation grazing. It also provides a wonderful place for visitors to Exmoor to go and see Exmoor ponies close up and to learn more about the pony, their environment, and the work of the Centre itself.

Not only will we have Lola the Exmoor pony with us for the day, but Caesar of IH fame will be putting in an appearance as well as Henrietta who is currently on a diet and yet another mission to shorten her feet! There will be an Agility-type course (non-competitive/instructional) available for visiting ponies on the day.