Monday, July 31, 2017

31st July, 2017 Gone Fishing

When approaching a problem with your horse, or a fresh outlook, fishing for information, make sure you don't become the fish. Have an open mind but not an open mouth so that you don't swallow everything you hear hook, line and sinker. All practitioners and therapists are sales-people underneath. There are things to look out for - sweeping statements, assumptions, anything that makes you feel guilty. They don't necessarily do it on purpose but I hear of the least qualified people of all, the least experienced, making a really good pitch. There are some tell tale signs - they often teach what they can't do themselves or advocate doing things that don't sound like good practice. Always evaluate what you hear, trust yourself,  and remember that fish always taste best with a pinch of salt.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

30th July, 2017 Bus-sted

The Godshill mule could wait a while if she is hoping to catch a bus on a Saturday.

While we picked poo in one of our fields, the boys chucked it about in the other one. Alanis Morissette would think it was ironic.

After riding out with Tracey and Bella, another completely bonkers walk with Jack, Henrietta and friend, Ingrid. I have abandoned the Henry bus for now and am trusting her to follow us over to the inclosure and back without heading for the hills. So far so good, although I'm dreading explaining it to an Agister if she does go walkabout at any time.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

29th July, 2017 Really Saying Something

Soul not skin
This refers to the depth of touch preferred by most horses. Deep, flat, slow touch not tickly touch. Mules, or rather Henrietta, seem to be an exception.

Touch is for the benefit of the recipient
I've saved a few marriages with this comment but it means making sure that the horse does actually like the touch that you use, with your hands and with a brush. We need to observe the horse's reactions to what we do rather than mindlessly touching him. A reward should be a reward and brushing shouldn't be a pain.

Which brings me on to neatly:

A horse is not a carpet
Don't brush him as if he is one....even if he is filthy, you are in a hurry, or going to a show.

It's okay, you're okay
The quiet lullaby I say to the horses I meet, as well as I'm here for you and especially, I know.

Nothing's changed
The reassurance I give horses when I actually one thing has changed. No matter what, my attitude hasn't.

Friday, July 28, 2017

28th July, 2017 Predictably Unpredictable

Jack and Henry out for another walk. Today she loaded beautifully but was then very cross when I closed her in...

all is green and serene out on the Forest...

...and we're a very happy bunch. Normally I say things like "Mind your head," or "Mind your feet," as we wander through the woods but today it was, "Mind your groin!" as Amanda has injured herself kick-boxing. She was fine in straight lines.

With Tommy in command, Jack and Henrietta did lots of jumping...

...and there were no problems until we got back to the trailer...

...when Henrietta decided to hide. Eventually (and it was a long time) she came out but was adamant that she was NOT going to load to go back to the fields.

"You could have someone's eye out with that," she complained about a catch on the gate, and demonstrated what she meant.

In the end we had to take the risk of allowing her to follow Jack across the open Forest and keep our fingers crossed that she wouldn't disappear.

Fortunately, she didn't.

Juma is getting very sturdy and more confident. Today he was well out of the way of the road and enjoying eating the heather.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

27th July, 2017 Still Crazy...

I met some old frients on the Forest today,
They looked so glad to see me, we all smiled,
And we ate ourselves some quiches,
and we drank ourselves some pop,
Still Crazy After All these Years....

Its great to be able to talk with people for as long as I want to these days, not stifled by the meter running in the background, even if I was always generous with my time.

Talking of Crazy, he has just one in the in-hand championship at the New Forest Show. Benji came eighth in the novice ridden New Forest pony class, which after all is like the local world cup for New Forest ponies, and Lady May, came third in her Shire horse class and best local. I am pleased to have had a smidgeon of a hand in all of their successes.

The best news of all is that after a few weeks being ridden, Théoden has remained sound. We are going for longer rides and just clocking up a few hours and miles for all of our confidence. Nine months is a large percentage of his ridden life, and it seems that he has remembered all the spooky experiences he has had in the past, including the one where the dinner lady wafted her tea towel out of the window at the Nursing Home. That, coupled with sheep, two dogs that sit outside their owners property and cows gleefully dancing their way down to the communal water trough, made him grow a hand or two this morning as we headed off to Longcross. He settled, and relaxed, and got rewarded with barley rings for his splendid gate opening and closing skills.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

26th July, 2017 Say that again

When asking a horse to just stand still and relax I find the following two phrases useful:

Stand like a farmer not a model
This helps people to ground themselves and form a stable base with their legs a little akimbo. I always felt justified using this phrase as I once worked with a very beautiful model and, like a dancer, she just couldn't help standing in a gorgeous pose whenever we stood still, one leg slightly in front of the other to enhance her profile. Of course she could also stand like a farmer not a model and did a great job with her horse (some people have everything!). Of course, all of my clients were beautiful!

Put on your Madonna bra
For horses that had a tendency to invade their owner's space and push them around, I would suggest that they imagine they were wearing Madonna's bra, a conical arrangement, which helped them to stand a little more assertively. The rest of the get up wasn't necessary.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

25th July, 2017 Oh, I say!

Walk as if you are going to the chocolate shop
Walk with a sense of purpose when you are leading your horse, and as if you know where you are going. This also helps when you are riding. I find my horses go out with a lot more certainty if I am on a mission to find my New Forest ponies.

A smile in the line
Refers to the slack between your hand and the horse's head when he is walking in the place that you want him to be.

Use a motorbike hand
Leading with your palm down on the lead rein rather than facing upwards helps to avoid a horse dragging you off to the grass or leaving! When your hand faces downwards in this way, you have more strength when you need it because it utilises the muscles in your arm and your tummy.

A balloon on a stick
A phrase I use to describe the opposite of a motorbike hand when you see horses pulling their owners all over the place.

Don't wait for him, he's not your boyfriend
Again, walking with a sense of purpose, looking ahead, and not turning towards your horse to see why he's lagging behind. If you lead with a 'smile in the line' then it's the horse's job to maintain that smile in the line. Nevertheless you do have to walk at a pace that is natural to him.

Tomorrow...the Madonna bra and stand like a farmer not a model!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

23rd July, 2017 What did you just say?

Starting this week I am going to attempt to explain what I mean by some of the phrases I have used during training sessions, such as "Walk as if you are going to the chocolate shop," and "Stand like a farmer not a model," some of which I have made up myself, and others I have pinched from other people. In the meantime here are a few pictures of Juma.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

22nd July, 2017 Ancient Monuments

Today, Tracey and I did a short tour of ancient monuments which did not include our clients, Richard, Jan and Ann of course. We were collecting my last set of panels which they have had on loan for some months since I damaged my thumb. It'll be good not to be traipsing around the countryside with the panels clattering on a trailer behind us, keenly keeping a watch out for horses so that we can pull over and keep quiet! Despite removing the pins, the panels always clang together, especially on roads off the beaten track.

Richard, Jan and Ann, were in good form and we had a conference inside one of their horse trailers whilst the rain beat down on the roof. We all loaded well! The horses are doing well too with Bond off to an important competition tomorrow, and Archie travelling without throwing himself over the breast bar (which is now covered by a Bar Buffer). They have been practising between events, and also going on short journeys, in order to top up their horses confidence.

We took a detour on the way home to go past Stonehenge, where there were hordes of people waiting to look at the stones, and then dropped in to see the Exmoors, including Nuthatch at Danebury Rings. He is looking so well and my thirteen years of working as a horse trainer have been worth it just to see him safe and happy at this site.

Bond competing at the Piddle Ride...

Friday, July 21, 2017

20th July, 2017 UN-Professional

It's interesting, isn't it, that the person you might most want to comment on the professionalism, qualities or qualifications of another practitioner, is called un-professional or told that they are guilty of 'professional jealousy' if they do say something? They are the MOST qualified to comment. This is something I see on Facebook chat rooms all the time. Let me give you a couple of recent examples.

A world renowned scientist specialising in the physiology of performance horses and a veteran of the Beijing Olympics where the environment was particularly hard on the horses, gave some advice about the best way to cool a horse off after working in hot weather. He talked about the most effective way, the best way for the horse's welfare, being to pour cold water onto the horse and not to scrape it off. Even on his own Facebook page people were expounding the view that warm water was better and must always be scraped off. They were so keen to spout their own personal and traditional view that they were not listening to a word he said even though he had the scientific evidence at top performance level to prove it.

Similarly someone recommended a so-called horse dentist on a local site recently. She felt sure that he was qualified and said that he had told her so. I checked with the BAEDT and BVDA and could find no trace of his name, nor the person with whom he has allegedly qualified. I wrote to both of these organisations to check specifically and it was confirmed that neither were qualified. This was backed up on the same thread by a leading UK veterinary dentist who works around the world teaching other veterinary dentists and dental technicians. The post was pulled by the administrator of the site and I was called variously a troll, a s**t-stirrer, and a vigilante. I was just telling the truth.

The net result is that advice given by people with qualifications and real expertise is equally balanced with bad traditional and trendy fads or, even worse, they  pull away from these sites, so that horse owners are left with very poor advice. In the end it is the horses that pay.

I'm guessing now that I am not working so much maybe I have become an UN-professional, so perhaps I can comment!

Here's another thing. When people ask for recommendations for practitioners, you usually get a list of different people; it becomes like a voting system. The laws of defamation mean that you only get the fors not the againsts. I look at those lists and think oh no, I wouldn't go to them, I know they use two whips when schooling a pony, for example, or I know they have no qualifications, experience or sense. Nowadays, if the person asking is someone I know, I might contact them privately to put them off someone, explaining what I know, but just because someone's name is put forward on a chat forum, and they have several 'votes', doesn't make them any good!

Everything APPEARS to have an equal value on a chat site and it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

This is what the vet said:

I've been mentioned many times in this thread and I'd rather answer by posting something educational on my own page - but where your animals health is concerned you should vet people who care for them very carefully - XXX is not qualified through any recognised bodies in the UK, and was trained by someone who is similarly not qualified - just because someone is a nice bloke and is respected in whatever type of community they come from does not entitle them to call themselves a dentist doctor accountant lawyer brain surgeon or anything else. There is no law to stop XXX using hand tools in horses mouths (there should be) but he is not entitled to call himself an 'equine dentist' - but then he's not alone - sadly there are plenty of these characters in the UK and all over the world who attend some phoney course or other and print a t-shirt and buy some tools and start practicing a style of dentistry that hasn't changed in 200 years - as for me, I wouldn't want to go to a dentist who treated me like it was done 200 years ago - horses need their teeth filed yes, but they also need proper examinations by someone who is properly qualified - it is very sad that people can't see all the things in horses mouths that these characters miss - I see them all the time - I'll post a video of one such case I saw yesterday on my page The Equine Dental Clinic so feel free to check that out - at the end of the day people have to make their own choices - it's just sad that horses can't have any say in it. Any of you reading this post could buy a bucket of tools and print a business card saying equine dentist and no-one will stop you. I'm sure you're all lovely people and good horse handlers but that shouldn't allow you to go to work on horses.
Right, I'm off to buy a bucket of tools...and a t-shirt.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

19th July, 2017 Bring a Friend to Work Day

It was chaos in the yard this morning as we got Petra and Théoden ready to go riding. Everyone parked up side by side and it was difficult not to put a saddle on Henrietta and a bridle on Jack. Pleased that everyone has settled down together and will be sharing a field overnight tonight.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

18th July, 2017 Congratulations!

Kisses with eyes shut for David at the top of Hambledon Hill
After a weekend exploring some of our old haunts in Dorset, David and I have reached our fifteenth wedding anniversary, twenty-two years after we first met at Bulbarrow Hill. Horses and motorbikes brought us together. He's gone off to work on his KTM this morning and I have been to see my little lot.

Top: Hambledon Hill; Bottom l, Creech Viewpoint and r. Brownsea Island
There's been quite a stir on the Forest over the weekend with three animals killed in road traffic collisions in just one week. A cow was hit by a lorry with such force that the lorry was incapacitated. A donkey was left to die by a hit and run driver, and a donkey foal had to be destroyed in a separate collision because its legs were broken. This latter accident was reported to the Verderers by leaving a message on the answering machine over the weekend. A driver's responsibility under the Road Traffic Act, whether they believe the collision is their fault or not, is to report the incident to the police, and the police will call the agisters.

There have also been idiots 'playing' with the donkeys...

Juma is now under the care of an Au Pair. He doesn't seem to able to stand still and stare at trees for long periods of time and so Nelly has delegated her responsibilities.


Friday, July 14, 2017

14th July, 2017 Precious Moments

Today was one of those days of precious moments... I have been looking for The Blues, Nelly, and Juma for nearly a week and came across them, at last, today. I sat on the heather to take lots of pictures and Juma came up to me, touch, touch, touched me with his little nose, and then let me stroke his nose, cheeks, and chest. He studied me very carefully and I whispered promises to him about his life and how I hope it will be.

Shortly afterwards I spied a rider in the distance who looked familiar as she got nearer. It turned out to be Ingrid and her horse Mishmash.

The keeper of the keys, checker of the wristbands, has taken over the field shelter again...

Somehow, she has inspired a poem from a fan...

Henrietta is a horse,
no wait a minute, that’s not true,
she’s at least as much a donkey,which was obvious to those who knew.
Her favourite ginger biscuits are flying off the shelf,
the local shopkeeper thinks her trainer is eating them all herself!

Henrietta’s unique outlook,
along with her deceptive charm,
means that she is more than capable,
of keeping other equines out of her barn.
Her special characteristics and mental prowess keep us entertained,
no obstacle is beyond her, even when it rains.

Henrietta has a fan club, they follow her with love, secretly wanting to own her,
but know no-one ever could!
Oh Henrietta how we adore you,
thank you for just being you,
for I think we can safely say,
you are one of very few!
Shelley Hallam, July 2017 

In other news, Doris has had a bath today. Her prospective home has fallen through so she is still looking for a new one. She is a truly lovely horse.

And of course Karen and Natasha are continuing to do a splendid job with Moon who has discovered that the monkeys can be really useful.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

13th July, 2016 Little Hand, Huge Feet!

Everyone tires of retirees who say that they don't know how they ever found time to go to work. The last two weeks has given me a taste of that, although I have been diligently writing every afternoon. Last night I gave a little hand at a wine, beer, and gin tasting evening in the village without doing too much of the tasting myself. Since we were selling Percheron wine, I asked Claire whether she might bring a couple of her Percheron down to the hall. They were a great draw and put a smile on everyone's faces. It was a very successful evening.

Riding this morning, with Lorraine for the first time. She got on well with Petra which means I should get my horses exercised more regularly and she will keep her riding muscles going. Lovely Petra is such a good girl for all of her riders, Tracey, Julie, Pat and Lorraine.

We stopped to say hello to Barbara on the way back...

Kerry rode from Burley, where she is on holiday with her pony, to Fritham, to come to our Birthday Club and dropped her pony off at the fields to relax. She's a sweet New Forest pony with some interesting mealy colouring. She also likes to wear her fly fringe in a jaunty style.

It was Melissa's birthday this week and she even brought her own, home-made cake. It was very nice!

Finally, I went over to see Barney again to work with Claire and make sure that she would be able to carry on with the work I have done in her absence. Everything went really well.