Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Joey - The Horse Who WAS Scared of Bicycles

Joey's owner has been kind enough to let me put this video of him on my blog. He's a great little horse, but he had a fear of bicycles, which was proving a bit tricky with the spring and summer hacking along the country lanes.

Bicycles are just one of the many things we can help with fears and phobias of. We use, and teach equine owners, special techniques to help turn their horse's fear into curiosity. Horses are naturally very curious creatures. By engaging this curiosity, and by understanding and working with the psychology of the horse and knowing how they learn, we can help them overcome their fears.

Joey was scared of bicycles before our training session. This video taken part way through the session shows how our techniques had started to engage his curiosity in them. Our training uses a "step by step" process, helping the horse or pony build confidence every step of the way. By the end of the session, Joey was able to have bicycles come past him from the front or behind along the country lanes.

Joey's owner has been keeping up with his training and they are doing brilliantly. As well as being OK about bicycles now when they are out hacking, Joey has also gained confidence with mopeds. His owner used the same techniques with a horse lorry and Joey being curious about it eagerly loaded himself into the lorry.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Rebel - The Difficult to Catch Horse

The horse in the right of the photo is Rebel - a rather handsome Warmblood. Rebel has a very interesting problem, in that he is afraid of being caught in the field. He originally came from the Continent and has always been known for his catching problem, which had led to some previous owners being reluctant to give him any turnout at all.

Rebel's owner has been able to work out a system to make sure that Rebel can have his needs (such as having the farrier, or vet) seen to, but her aim is to be able to catch Rebel in the field. On our first session, Faye was able to make contact with Rebel - using non-confrontational body language techniques, she was able to get Rebel to be happy with her stroking his face and head in the field. It took an hour...but this was the first time Rebel has been touched in the field for at least 7 years. There's a lot of previous history to undo, and Faye really had to prove to Rebel that she, as a human, is not a threat to him. At the moment we are concentrating on rebuilding Rebel's trust in people when he's being caught...hopefully it won't be too long before his owner is able to interact with him in this way too. Rebel's owner has been brilliant at understanding his problems and giving him as much time as he needs to build positive experiences.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Equine Body Language and Behaviour Weekend

We had another very successful weekend course - it seems that choosing to make this a weekend course was ideal, as it gives a chance for plenty of equine observation, as well as "hands-on" interaction. We spent half a day on Dartmoor observing a few of the wild herds with mares, stallions and foals. The following day, we were based back at Horseford Farm and had a really good opportunity to learn about how to move/herd horses, as well as looking at catching and leading, and seeing what a big affect our human body language has on the horses.

Again, we had excellent feedback ratings for all the aspects of the course. Here's some of the feedback:

"Practical sessions were safe and controlled. The support Faye gave was excellent, in both practical and theory sessions. I found myself seeing horses in a completely different way and even re-thinking of past situations which made me think "of course, that's what they were trying to tell me"! Faye and the horses were brilliant teachers".

Monday, 27 June 2011

Horse Handling For Beginners

We received excellent feedback for our course "Horse Handling For Beginners" which we ran on 25th June. On this course we cover the fundamentals of handling horses from headcollaring and picking out hooves, to grooming and leading, as well as learning to read basic horse body language. There's just so much to include in a day, we could probably turn this day into a weekend course!

We find that beginners pick up techniques and build confidence very quickly - and it's great to send participants out into the world with a good solid foundation of skills to build on. We always emphasise that once people leave our courses, it's really important for them to find some equines to practice with that are suitable for their skill's really important to set yourself up for success!

Course Feedback: We had excellent ratings from participants for the quality of the teaching, the theory content, the practical tuition, the course handouts, the suitability of the ponies, and the overall experience.
"Really enjoyed the teaching style and material. Found as an essential introduction to horse handling".

Monday, 6 June 2011

Equine Body Language and Behaviour Weekend

This weekend we had lovely weather for our Equine Body Language and Behaviour Weekend course. One of the highlights of the course for participants was going out to Dartmoor to observe the "wild" ponies in action. On 4th June (by coincidence and perfect for our course) there was a pony sale being held at Chagford, so we were able to visit the sale to look at how horses "cope" under stress, and the different stress behaviours and body language they exhibit.

After the sale, we headed out onto the moor to visit some of the wild herds that Faye is familiar with. The weather was so good that we could sit out on the moor for the teaching. This meant we could go through some of the theory...and being sat in amongst the herds we could observe the stallions, mares and foals and how they interact with each other. Our feedback showed that one of the aspects that the students most enjoyed was looking at how Faye handled a situation where a mare was trying to join in with our lunch! A pot of flapjacks were proving somewhat irresistible for her, and Faye showed how you can clearly "say no" but without scaring the pony. The mare stayed around us for some time - not trying to take any food but was almost joining in with the course teaching.

On the second day of the course we were based back at the farm with the people4ponies equines. Students started to look at how their own body language affects horses and they were able to interact with loose equines as well as directly handling/leading them...and students could see how the behaviour they saw with the wild ponies the previous day directly relates to domestic equines. We were also able to look at the differences between traumatised and untraumatised equines.

Here's a snippet of the feedback we received for the course:

"Thank you for your excellent teaching on our intensive weekend course...I feel I have a better understanding from an equine point of view and where I should be situated as a human interacting with them. I also realise I have much to "unlearn" and an area of personal development to explore...I want to tell everyone careless to stand within conversational distance of me what I've experienced. Thanks again Faye".

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Horse Language...or Animal Language?

People often say that animals know where to go when they need help. I don't know if that's me, or whether I just have a canny ability to turn up at a point where an animal is in need of help or rescuing...anyway, recently I've noticed that when I'm interacting with these other animals (whether it's dogs, cats, or the 4th herd of cows that have wandered out into the main road and I'm the first person on scene!) that I instictively put my horse knowledge into practice...and I get the same response from the animal that I would from a horse. Many of the aspects that we cover in our horse teaching seem just as applicable to other species of animal - what we are developing is an awareness of elements that all animals relate to...

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Guide to Choosing Your Perfect Horse Course for DASH

Today we held one of our courses especially for members of the Devon Association of Small Holders (DASH). The course is perfect for anyone looking to buy an equine, a process that can seem a bit daunting, or even like a bit of a minefield...but this course is here to help - people really enjoy this course and it helps to put them at ease. We help participants to create a realistic "shopping list" to narrow down all the possibilities to the sort of equine they should be looking for on their search. Then we look at how to assess the physical, behavioural and skill elements in your potential equine...and, of course, we look at some of the pitfalls that should be avoided.

Our course participants really enjoyed their day, and we received "excellent" ratings in all elements - including the quality of the teaching, the theory content of the sessions, the practical tuition and the overall experience on the day.

This was our feedback:

"Relaxed, friendly atmosphere. Easy discussions/questions + answers. Informative, practical, realistic approach. Interested in horse pshychology/body language. Thanks, great course".

"I enjoyed the practical side - one to one and generally talking about problems. I'd like to know more about animal behaviour".