Fred and Tom out for a ride
No excuse, just busy as always. The things is, I really like doing the blog, but it’s kind of like my personal emails in that it gets put off if I run out of time with all the work stuff. I have had many emails lately asking if I’ve stopped the blog all together and the answer to that is a big NO…I have decided I am going to change the format a bit though so I can get on to it more. I will do a big catch up this time and then I’m going to have a go at just doing a smaller update every few days, a bit like John’s blog on Horseproblems. That way I should be able to keep up and keep it interesting. So, that’s the plan from now.
Karla's handsome Toby back from a spell
Speaking of John O’Leary, the Perth clinic has been announced for October this year. For dates and the programme please go here:
It should be lots of fun and very informative as usual and Fred is very much looking forward to working with John and Linda again and also to meeting John’s offsider Nathan. Hope to see lots of the regulars and also some new faces there.
Archie and Joanna
Well, as I said up at the top, it’s been very busy around here both with working horses and with trying to get the new yards and sheds completed before the rain starts. The biggest news though is that Karla has left us to go up north on the mines again. She claims she needed to earn some more serious money but I reckon she just got tired of picking up all the poo. I’ve been doing her job minus the riding for the last week and I would totally sympathise with her if that were the reason. My back and shoulders are killing me :).
Archie 2 and a bit months
No, seriously, she needs to earn some bigger bucks so has left us for now but hopefully will one day be back. We miss her very much but the up side to her leaving is that we now have Kat back! Kat, our old worker from Margaret River who featured in earlier blogs before we employed Karla, is now at Muresk studying so is back doing part time riding for us. She’s a brilliant rider and also keeps Fred well in line so we’re thrilled to have her back helping. It has softened the blow of losing Karla a bit although it’s definately not the same around here. I’m not entirely sure husbands and wives should be allowed to live, work a business and raise children together, especially when they both start at 5.30am. Just kidding Fred…….I absolutely adore being with you 24 hours a day as you do me :).
Archie at 3 months
Ok, to the important stuff, being horseys. The biggest request I’ve had is for more Archie info and photos. Archie is great and both he and mum are looking amazing. Archie is almost entirely black now, darker than mum and with his four socks and big blaze, is quite a sight. I still can’t get over our luck with that foal. With all the possible colours and markings with horses and a totally unknown dad, he comes out looking like everyone’s dream horse. He’s also a lovely little man and his handling has progressed well. He was getting a bit cheeky there for a bit so he now lives in a herd with mum, Uncle Roy, Jack the pony and the sheep and he’s had to pull his head in a bit. We have such laughs over him as he and Jack play the funniest games. Their latest one is for Archie to burn around in a big circle with Jack in the middle, and then Jack darts out after him at various points on the circle, making Archie run even faster.
Archie with Jack
They also love the dam in their paddock and at least three times a day Joanna goes for a swim with Archie watching on. He then rubs himself all over mums wet sides, they both have a huge roll in the mud and come back looking like absolute ferals. What’s that saying about something sticking like something to a blanket?? That’s what they look like when they come back fully plastered with mud.
Mum and bub
Training wise, we’ve consistently had 8 to 9 horses in work as always. Now that Karla has gone we will most likely stick to 8 which will push the waiting list out again a bit but I think people are getting much more organised about their bookings now and I’ve only had a few calls lately with people wanting to know if their horse can come next week for work :). Infact at the moment we have more bookings for Oct/Nov then we do for July/ Aug as people are really being organised and getting in early.
Frankie, a favourite breaker
Dodgy Rog, the breaker with the best uphill canter
We’ve had a fairly even mix of horses for starting lately plus lots of horses for handling and also re educators. It’s great as there’s always a good mix of breeds and so on in the yards so Fred always has different challenges to work on. Interestingly, we’ve sent three horses home in the last fortnight that had all come to us with behavioural issues, but that were all unsound or sore. Obviously the soreness was causing the behaviour and I’m always so glad when horses like this are sent to us as their owners are wanting an answer and are willing to do the right thing and get the horse the correct treatment. It makes me sad to think of how many horses that are maybe going around sore, reacting to their soreness and being punnished for it. Sometimes it can be so subtle too and it’s so much easier to blame the horse and say it’s being ‘naughty’ rather then really looking at what else might be causing the issue. Having said that, none of the owners of these horses had said that at all but were simply looking for some help and advice and have all taken Fred’s advice to get their horses sound and well again before continuing on with any re education.
More stunning Rodger
I’m trying to think of a few more ‘interesting’ cases that we’ve had here over the last few months but really, most of the horses we’ve had in have been fairly straight foward with some absolute standouts too, especially with breakers. I won’t go on about them as I’ve been told they are boring to read about 🙂 but will stick some photos on of some of my favourites.
Lovely Layla here for a re mouth
Diedi, being about as small as Fred will start them
We had the most gorgeous Clyde in last week for some handling and confidence building and I nearly cried when he left us. He was like a big teddy bear and I got told off a few times from Fred for giving him big cuddles around his neck. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, only when it’s 10am and I haven’t finished the yards because I’m still in playing with Georgy :). George had a great week and his confidence grew so much with the work he had.The leg restraint training improved his confidence so much, not just with having his legs and feet handled but also with reducing his flight from fear instinct and teaching him to stop and think rather than panic. George was also gelded while he was here with us and Fred taught him to pony off Roy so that we could keep him moving around to keep the wound draining well. It was quite a sight watching them all trot down the road, Roy being dwarfed by this huge Clyde!
Roy and Georgy
One thing I’ve really noticed in a quite a few horses we’ve had come to us for various problems is just how much a general lack of respect can create quite serious and often dangerous behavioural issues. Fred always says that evasion breeds evasion, (in fact I’m thinking of getting T shirts printed) and he is so right. We’ve had four horses come to us just in the last month or so that have been bucking, two that have bucked numerous riders off. I fed one of them about an hour after he arrived one night. The horse always lets you know what’s been going on at home and as I went to go in with the feed I was met with a snarly ears back, in your face horse trying to push over the gate at me. Absolute lack of respect and you can just about bet right there that that horse has been bucking because he’s been getting away with all sorts of behaviour and it’s escalated to the bucking. As it says on our website, we have very strict feed rules here and that horse got the shock of his life about 2 seconds later as he was made to back off and go and wait to be invited in to feed with no bums being turned or nasty faces being pulled. The next morning at breakfast we had a respectful horse waiting back in the corner of his yard for Fred to tell him when he could come and eat. And he never once bucked while he was here as all the disrespect issues were sorted out long before Fred’s bum even got in the saddle. He went home a far happier and more secure horse and his owner now knows that every little thing has to be nipped in the bud or things may well escalate again.
Horses are by nature evasive and they are always testing to make sure they are safe. They’re not being ‘naughty’ or ‘nasty’ but are simply testing their boundaries to make sure the boundaries are there to keep them safe and secure. In the wild the boundaries would be their herd with a strong stallion and/or lead mare in place and when we domesticate horses, we have to take over this role. If we fail at the first test then the behaviour will escalate to the next level, we fail to address that and all of a sudden we’ve got a horse that’s bucking people off.
Lillie, awarded prettiest breaker, doing walk pirouettes on the driveway :).
And leg yield down the road
Same with floating issues. We rarely see actual floating issues but see plenty of horses that aren’t truly light and respectful off the halter, have no respect for their handler and will happily run over the top of them, don’t tie up solid ect ect. There is so often an underlying reason for behavioural issues and if that is addressed, often the behaviour doesn’t ever appear again.
Lorna and Schnitty having a play
We had one horse come for starting this month that had to come on a truck as he has never been able to be floated and had never left his home before, despite numerous attempts trying different methods and two proffesional ‘float trainers’. He was in for two weeks before Fred even started his float training as Fred wanted to make sure the horse had a full understanding off coming off pressure, respect for his handler and was super light and responsive. We started the float training today and the horse literally walked in like he’d been doing it all his life, no hesitation, no problem what so ever…..the point being that this horse didn’t actually have a floating issue but intead had underlying groundwork issues that needed to be addressed first.
We had one lovely new owner comment that he doesn’t tie up solid at home as he believes it’s dangerous. He has two horses that pull back fairly regularly and one has now decided he won’t have the bridle on but instead will throw his head up and pull back. Gee, I wonder why??? The horses have learnt to evade by pulling back and getting away and now it’s escalating and will continue to escalate until the horses are taught to tie solid and that evasion is removed. Yes, you need to eliminate soreness, teeth and so on but I would just about bet that it’s behavioural. Both are coming for solid tie up training soon and he’s busy putting in a Fred designed tie up post and rail at his house :).
Noula, a lovely Connemara breaker
Just another point about listening to your horses with regards to soreness, we’ve had some teeth issues here recently. We are absolute Nazi’s about teeth around here and Fred even has his own rubber dental gag so he can double check horses if he feels something isn’t quite right, plus I put our clients through the third degree about their horses dental history ect. The thing with young horses is that their teeth go through so many changes and often just at the age that they’re most likely being sent to a breaker for starting. We’ve had two lovely horses with us recently for work, both of whom lost caps while they were actually here with us and needed further dental attention, even though both were up to date with their dentals. Fred can tell straight away if something has changed in a horses mouth but again, it’s about feeling that change and being confident that it’s not a resistance but is a physical problem that’s causing the horse pain. Always give the horse the benefit of the doubt is his opinion and he’s right.
I had a very well known Perth rider book a horse in last month for some work and when I asked about the horses dental history I was told that the horse is only three so hasn’t needed to have her teeth done yet. Plus she’s been mouthed and ridden already!!
We have some very interesting horses in at the moment. Another OTTB that’s being resistant and doing lots of head shaking and was sent for some re education work. Fred being Fred has already noticed an unevenness in the horses neck and today under saddle confirmed that the horse is very sore in the neck and is resisting because of that. If a horse is only displaying an unwanted behaviour on one rein, that’s usually a very good clue that there’s something physical going on.This one will be sent home for some treatment.
Speaking of listening to your horses and teeth, we had a lovely warmblood in for starting recently. The horse was progressing really well with everything but was showing some unusual resistance with the mouthing. This horse could be a little resistant with new things which is fairly normal however Fred felt the resistance just didn’t go along with his general temperament and how he was dealing with all the other work he was doing with him. We double checked his teeth which were up to date but Fred still wanted to check, so asked the horses very nice owners if we could have Tanya the vet have a look. They agreed so Tanya sedated the horse, popped in a gag and had a good look with the torch. The horse has heaps of ulcers all around the back of his mouth from some sort of feed reaction and of course was objecting to the mouthing as it was hurting! This isn’t something that would have been picked up just with a feel as they were really quite high up, plus it’s highly unusual. It just goes to show that a good trainer will have a gut feeling about a horses reaction and a good owner will always want the best for their horse. The horse has now gone home to have a month off to heal up and will be back after that.
To go along with the new blog format I plan to do now, I thought I would choose a horse each month to be a bit of a ‘case study’ and go through the starting or re education process with this horse in more detail. Not sure if it will be all that interesting but I’m sure I’ll get some feedback if it’s not.
I thought I would focus on ‘Spirit’ this month, a lovely Pinto mare who’s rising four as far as we know and is virtually unhandled which makes her a little different to the average horse :).
One of our neighbours bought Spirit and her mother, who also has a young colt at foot, and all were totally unhandled, having run ‘wild’ but in a domestic situation all their lives. The horses lived nearby so were run onto the property safely in order to move them. The new owners have done a fantastic job with getting mum and the foal handled and desensitised but found that Spirit was a bit more of a handful. They had managed to get a webbing halter on her and were able to pat her on her terms but that is as far as they had gone. Just to mention though, that’s actually a huge achievement with a previously wild horse and they have done very well with her and the others.
Spirits owner contacted us a few months back about having Spirit handled and started and we booked her in. Closer to the date she was due, Fred went out to the owners to do some halter breaking with a view to getting Spirit floatable so she could come to us. The only other option would have been to truck her but we felt she would be too sensitive and unhandled to cope with that.
Fred went and did two sessions with Spirit prior to picking her up this week and the sessions showed what a wonderful intelligent and willing to please mare Spirit is. Fred was able to slowly approach Spirit, swap her webbing halter for a rope halter and halter break her, mostly using the Jefferies method which is to take her to the side to unbalance her then reward her for the resulting forward movement off pressure. She picked up the leading very well but still had a real ‘flight from fear’ instinct which Fred felt he wouldn’t be able to resolve until we got her back here to proper training facilities.
On Monday we went with Jack the pony and the float and were able to load Spirit safely with no setbacks. Ideally we would have preffered to use the brumby trailer but it’s down south at the moment and Fred felt the mare was sensible enough to manage the very short trip home with Jack for company. She travelled beautifully home and has settled in well here with us.
Yesterday, Spirit had her first training session in the roundyard here. Fred’s very first priority was to reduce her flight from fear response as she had developed a habit of racing off the minute she got worried or distressed. He also wanted to focus on starting to gain her trust and respect, plus start to get her used to being touched everywhere and desensitized to all her boogeymen.
Spirit being blindfolded
Having worked for a quite a few years now with wild horses through the OHHAWA, Fred has found leg restraint training to be fantastic at reducing stress and trauma with wild and/or feral unhandled horses. They are usually so quick to learn and have such strong instincts, you can’t ‘pussyfoot’ around with them in our opinion and the ‘softly softly’ approach usually results in them becoming more suspicious and worried about human contact, and can also result in a far less light and responsive horse in the end. Fred feels it’s far kinder to have the horse get over all that fear and begin to trust as soon as possible so you can move on with them.
Fred began the session by blindfolding one of Spirits eyes so he could safely get some work boots on her to protect her legs. We use boots on all the horses here and Spirit is no exception and needed to be wearing them for support and protection. In the wild, horses will disarm each other by grabbing hold of lower legs, so most unhandled horses will usually retain this instinct when you go to handle their legs. Using half a blindfold pacifies the horse and can help make it safer to handle their legs.
Fred then decided to collar rope Spirit as she is very sensitive about her hind end and things being behind her and has a pretty lethal kick. Once the collar rope was on, Spirit did have a struggle initially which is completely normal but once she gave to the pressure, Fred was able to get in and handle her hind legs and her front legs plus touch her everywhere and she soon relaxed and worked out he didn’t want to hurt her. When he took the collar rope off, he then used a front leg strap so Spirit was still restrained but was able to move around more. Fred then did some desensitizing work with some rope throwing around Spirits hind end and she coped beautifully and was quite comfortable with being touched around her hind end due to the earlier collar roping session.
Happy to have hind legs touched now
The session ended with lots of scratches and cuddles. I noticed a huge difference in Spirit last night when I mucked her out and fed her, in that she was so much more friendly and I was able to aproach and pat her and had her following me around the yard.
Todays session followed on from yesterday with some more leg restraint training which Spirit coped with beautifully. Due to the desensitizing, Fred was able to put a rug on Spirit for the first time which is great as it’s freezing here at the moment! He then took the rug off and Spirit had her first proper hose off. Her owner had commented that she loved water so she actually accepted the hosing far better than we were expecting and also coped with the scraping down afterwards very well.
First ever hose
Lots of pats
I’ll continue to update regularly on Spirits progress but she’s coming along extremely well so far and we’re very pleased with her progress. She’s already a far happier and more relaxed horse after just two session as she now understands that we’re ok :).
Rug on and dinner