Monday, 30 November 2009

Four legs good, two legs better

Or maybe not. Worked Grace on the lunge for a few minutes in the indoor school. She behaved very well. Although the alternative view of her front feet while she explored the two legged option was not really needed.

Judging by the tension in her trapezius, coupled with the issues she has in the back of her feet I think we probably went too far today and she even though she wanted to go forward it was too much, so she had to go up.

Despite the opportunity for drama she came down very calmly and got back on with minding me and doing her work. I can't really ask for more. Except in my dreams I can wish that her feet had never been allowed to deteriorate and with that thought its time for bed.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Mirror mirror on the wall

Who's that pretty girl then? Not what I expected when I took Grace in the indoor school for the first time. I had expected some snorting and skitting about. But Grace was far more interested in checking out her reflection.

For a horse that gets anxious about some things she is remarkably brave. Had me on tenterhooks the other day as she chased after some deer in her field. Just stopped before the pallisade fence which guards a drop into a stream. Please may she always stop before she gets that far.


Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Whoops I've done it again................

You might not have seen the post 'You get what you reward' where Grace had me scampering to keep up with her on our way in from the field. I'd accidentally taught her that faster was better.

Well I've done it again. Only this time its a whole new way of 'moving over'. Never a favourite exercise, probably associated with getting thumped (not by me) and uncomfortable because of her corns, Grace was compliant, but unhappy when asked to 'move over'.

Well today she practically skipped round. And all because I have been teaching her to glue herself to my shoulder for certain exercises.

Today, anxious for more clicks and treats Grace decided to experiment and took the shoulder glue to a whole new level. (I am so going to have to rethink the training on this one.)

Could I shake her off? (No) So I tried standing by her shoulder and then walking backwards and zip-ah-dee-do-dah she does the neatest turn on the forehand. I was gobsmacked. So I scooted backwards again and she twirled on the forehand again.

Great! - not what I intended, but if it works for her it works for me! Yeah, I have a horse that can move its bum over. Ok, so the command sequence is a little off the wall but who cares?

Although there is the small matter of now having to teach Grace that she doesn't have to be permanently level with my ears................

Answers on a post card please!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Romping in the rain

Grace's Aunt came to see her today. Hence the better photo and a bit of video. The first video is of Grace showing off her trot, the second one shows her tenacity.

It's so nice to have a quiet school to romp around in.

Grace ended staying in today. It won't do her any long term harm - she needed a good dry spell anyway to allow her feet to dry out properly.

I've put her to bed with both fronts treated with White Lightening. I want to clear up the fungal infection as much as possible before I go away to Dallas.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Grace's new home

It has been an eventful week. Grace's flu/tet jab went awry and she had an allergic reaction to it. This meant postponing her move for a few days until she recovered.

Already the move is paying dividends. In just two days she is coping with stony ground better than she did before.

I've started loose schooling her again. Its quite entertaining because when the 'work' is finished we have a short game of 'wag the tail'. I lope about the school and Grace as the 'tail' follows with her nose tucked in behind me. She gets very cross if I turn too tight for her to follow directly. We always wrap the session with a cuddle.

I have already taught the signal for 'halt' so that if she is scampering up to me too fast I can stop her before I get run over.

Her feet need doing again. As the new yard has quite a few long hardcore surfaced tracks I am hoping that over time we will start wearing her feet more naturally.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Grace is moving house

It is time to explore the next stage with Grace. I need somewhere I can loose school, lunge and long rein her in relative safety. Hiking up a busy road on foot with a rehab in hand is not my idea of good practice. It was bad enough with my old horse, but she was incredible - Grace and I have several million miles to travel before we reach anything like the same level.

The first step is managing the process of moving yard. I am a bit anxious about it. Grace has made friends and is settled. But even if her destiny is to be a pasture ornament, where she is won't meet her needs as an equine for much longer. So I have to feel the fear and do it anyway.

Oddly the yard we are going to is one I first used some 20 years ago when I moved to Kent. It must have had half a dozen reincarnations since then. I view this move as initially temporary, I will make the best use of the facilities on offer, evaluate where Grace's future lies and take it from there. And hope neither of us gets hurt in the process.

At least the yard is relatively secure. Barbed wire has been removed from fencing, hard core has been laid from yard to field. High security gates are locked at night and the whole place is wired with movement sensitive lights. The YO seems pretty switched on. Wish us luck.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

How I taught Grace to lift a foot when I point at it

By special request. To be totally honest - my old horse taught me first - I just passed this method on............

1) First establish the basic 'click and reward'. Get this fairly solid. (If you want to know how to do this, I will do another post.)

2) Teach your horse that a lunge whip is not scary. I loose schooled Grace (quite a bit over a few weeks) so she got the idea that when I point with the lunge whip it is not scary and it won't hurt her. Every time she responded appropriately I clicked (and treated as necessary). As she is a rescue I gave her lots of time for this - a horse which is less scared will probably take less time.

2) Find somewhere your horse can be that they feel safe and comfortable in (including underfoot). Make sure it is a safe space for you too. I chose a quiet spot in the open yard because Grace's stable is tiny and I could easily get pinned against a wall. Grace arrived with a habit of double barrelling on a hair trigger so I needed to be especially alert and careful.

3) Roll the lash part of the lunge whip round the barrel and fix it so it won't come loose. Decide which foot the horse finds easiest to pick up. (Preferably a fore foot at this stage).

4) Then standing in a safe place - I chose slightly in front of and to the side of Grace's shoulder, point at the foot you have chosen (I use the blunt end of the lunge whip). Be incredibly observant.

5) Reward any effort that might be construed as the horse thinking about picking that foot up, even if it just shifts weight off it. (Remember click and treat and be quick about it.) You may have to lightly touch the leg, but be tactful. Think hinting rather than bullying. If you lose patience stop, turn the horse out and do something to work off your mood. Never try this exercise when you are feeling mooish. Keep the whole thing light and cheerful and fun.

6) Once you have a positive response from the horse, even a shift in weight, give the horse a break. I usually sweep the yard (its a very clean yard!). Then if all is still well you might want to try again. But don't push it. I usually keep the whole thing really short. Because its short you can do it most times you 'do' the horse without it becoming a burden. If the process is going badly give it a break for a few days and reflect on what you are doing wrong. Do something positive in this gap, so that your horse and you have a good bond. I used to hold Grace's bucket while she ate. Not much - but she learnt to relax while I was around. (There were other benefits which I will cover another time.)

7) When the horse understands that pointing with the lunge whip means 'lift your foot', you can gradually replace the lunge whip with a simple point of your hand. I used a stirring spoon as an interim pointer. Anything 'pointy' will do so long as it doesn't scare your horse and its safe.

8) Very important - when your horse lifts a foot, even if you didn't intend it - be polite. Thank your horse (even to the extent of holding the foot and pretending to look at it). If you didn't want the foot, don't be mean, you may have 'asked' unintentionally. My old horse got very enthusiastic about the whole foot lifting thing - so I taught a different command for 'keep it on the floor' using the same technique.

9) Listen to your horse - if you get the wrong foot there is probably a reason. In Grace's case she was trying to tell me that her hind foot was sore so please would I fix it first.

10) This method will not work if you are inconsistent, are not clear about what you want or if your horse is too sore to even lift a foot. Remember horses don't lie - we just sometimes fail to understand. And always be cheerful!

I'll see if I can find a willing volunteer to take pictures. One that won't freak Grace out in the process!