Thursday, 15 December 2016

Give me a child until he is seven...

Well here I am again and determined to keep this blog up to date through 2017. It just gets added to the never ending list (I like lists) and then slips down to the bottom. BUT 2017 is going to be a disciplined year I WILL WRITE MY BLOG MORE OFTEN!
So... the back to the title of this blog: Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man. Well I'm applying this to The Horse Agility Club which celebrated its seventh birthday on 13th December.
It survived and I survived...just.
One day I'll write the unedited truth but for now I'll just hint at the key plot points...

No income from the Club for five years. (I had another full time job)
Eighteen hour days (sometimes more), returning from a full day's work to start on the Club work.
No days off.
Seven days a week working, even Christmas Day.
Three trolls.
Two attempts to destroy the Club through Social Media. (Why? No idea.)


I had a dream and nothing and nobody would stamp that dream out of me. There were pools of sheer horror and moments of absolute delight but I just kept that dream ahead of me, like the holy grail, whatever the days gave me. Those people, those moments, made me strong I am grateful for the bad ones and the good, both were great teachers.

Why live a mundane life? Gallop wildly through it with the wind whistling past your ears before screeching to a halt at the pearly gates and saying to St Peter, 'Wow that was great! Can I go around again?'

Here's to an exhilarating and fantastical 2017, I hope you will join me on the journey.

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Helping horses one by one

Sometimes the task of helping the world see horses as more than slaves seems an endless tunnel with no light at the end! So I don't wait for that light I march out there and light the blinking candle myself because otherwise I'd go crazy.

The ex-racer I talked about at the end of January having made a huge change for the better (working at liberty, soft and loving) has been found to have the most horrific kissing spines. It's why he can 'suddenly explode' under saddle and occasionally in hand. If you remember he seriously kicked a bystander and I was called in to help. Well I have helped, but only to make these last few days loving and pain free, it is not safe for us to keep him alive. The 'new' owner is devastated but says he was the one who showed her that there is another way of being around horses.
I have heard more of the accident as our sessions have continued. Despite really feeling she didn't want to get on a rearing bucking horse that wouldn't stand at the mounting block, she was told to stop being stupid and to get on with it and was legged up by the trainer. The horse promptly bucked and kicked out throwing the rider onto the ground and smashing his hind legs into someone standing nearby. The trainer has gone very quiet despite the fact that he should be being sued for such incompetence but the lady is terrified of his wife who threatens to sue all and sundry just for looking at her. We just have to soldier on sometimes.

On a brighter note I'm delighted that another student has just passed her Parelli level three liberty module. With the liberty circling she gained a level 4 pass on flexion on the circle which I am DELIGHTED about as I am neurotic about counter bent horses when they circle and my student and I had really worked on shifting those ribs to the outside using remote pressure to get a good shape in that horse. It really sets a horse up when they work in the correct shape!

Circling horses on and off the lead rope is a real interest for me because you have to get that timing just right to get the feet moving with precision and energy AND keep the shape of the horse on the circle. I don't use any whips or sticks or people to lead or chase. I simply open the door and allow the horse to travel through it. Saw a post on Wastebook the other day of someone who couldn't lunge their 'stupid thoroughbred' so they were using a method that involved the horse following a haynet round the circle. Replies suggested a long stick with a carrot on it moving along in front. I resisted posting a reply but it would have said 'Did you ever think of asking the horse to move his feet onto a circle?' I firmly believe that a 'stupid' horse is one that is just cleverer than his human!
Onward we go, helping horses one by one.

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Still here!

Sorry Everyone it's been a heck of a two weeks!

I judged all the videos that came in for the January Horse Agility entries then I had to make up time by catching up on all my clients.
What an interesting lot of horses I've met over the last week. But interestingly three of them couldn't stand at the mounting block, all different places not just at one yard! I love these because they are so easy to help.

First I make sure I can move the horse's feet (so it's easy to park him) and then we play around the mounting block (normally  trigger for anxiety) and just make it a fun place to be. I had a real old ex riding school cob first of all and we just added in a bit of food when she was stood in position, very quickly she was parking herself in position without a hitch. I'm sure she just didn't know she was supposed to stand still while someone got on.
The other two had real anxiety issues about standing still while someone walked up onto the block so we broke this down into tiny little tasks (for example like just lifting my foot on and off the first step until the horse saw this as normal) and built up to parking the horse then walking up to the top step and making it a nice place fopr the horse to be rather than somewhere you stand before a nasty thing happens.
One horse had awful ulcers and the miracle change that came over that horse when his ulcers began to respond to treatment makes me weep.
This horse had been with a well known trainer who had discarded him as an event horse because he couldn't get on, no one had though to address the pain issue. (poor animal must have been in AGONY) It was the first thing we did and Hey Presto, we can now get on.

Also this week we have re-roofed our backup stable block. Storm Imogen finished off the wear and tear of the last few years and before the whole thing went we stripped it right back and splashed out on new roofing sheets for the front (that can be seen from the road) but recycled some old sheets at the back. Exhausting work but great to know we've got our stable block back.

Still very muddy here but we are just about staying ahead of it. The two fat ponies (Ollie and Fudge) decided that iron rations were not for them and escaped across the river last week, travelled along a deep gorge into the summer did they look smug! Will I ever see their ribs again?!

Friday, 29 January 2016

Some things never change!

Very funny!! I was searching for something else and found this written for The Western Morning News weekly equine column and dated February 2011:

Why are people so unoriginal? Having just surfaced after the copycat behaviour from The Man from Down Under I was alerted the other day to someone who had copied my website in Holland. It was a moment worthy of reality TV as I stared at the screen to see my words carefully translated into Dutch and the beaming face of a young girl proud of her achievements. 

‘What!’ I shrieked (John Cleese style), ‘You highlighted my text, clicked copy, moved the arrow over to your page and pressed paste! PROUD! I could teach a three year old child to do that, come to that a three year old child taught me in the first place! What is the matter with people?’ 

A carefully worded email sorted the problem in a few hours but I’m afraid I find this behaviour beyond my understanding. Not only because it’s infringing the laws of copyright it’s just so unimaginative. Here are these people copying me when I have so many ideas everyday I cannot possibly ever have time to develop them all. I think it’s the pride with which they present their finished work which bemuses me so much. Do they not think someone might notice? 

I suppose if you get a good idea people will want to copy it. When I was a greetings card designer (previous life and no less uneventful) people would copy my designs but never very well. They entered the market place with a substandard product and just as quickly left it! If I ever had time to copy someone I would at least try to improve the product otherwise what’s the point? But maybe people who need to copy will never improve on it because they just don’t have the skills. I’ve always said that if you’re a copier you’ll always be in second place. Beyond me I’m afraid so time to move on.

Thursday, 28 January 2016

What a day!
Started early helping out an ex-racer who seriously kicked someone last week (hospital job, she'll be OK) the owner absolutely knows she missed all the signs and really wants to get this horse right as does the poor injured person. We had a great time bringing out a few skeletons but in only an hour making a huge difference. I always say it takes the most challenging horse to make you start to really look at what is TRUE in your relationship with your horse and this lady has just found that horse. I'm so excited for her because it's such a wonderful journey towards the truth.

Back to the office to answer a million emails from magazine queries (the usual writing yet another article for some far flung magazine) to the member's Social Hub questions through to the Exmoor Pony Festival asking me to get involved this year and onto being asked to present a series of teaching programmes for an international internet based TV channel. Yippee! My Mission Statement of Year 2000 to teach a thousand people who will each go on to teach a thousand people is slowly getting there.

Packed up and sent out all the rosettes for the December course, delayed as we had completely run out of rosettes, this Club just gets bigger and bigger.

Then did my sweep of the internet to see what's going on in the world of Horse Agility. The usual stuff, some good stuff some not so good but hey it's out there... and then this:

An active member of this very Horse Agility Club is setting up a rival Club! I loathe unoriginal people, I have so many ideas I just don't have time to get on with them all but here is someone quite prepared to look mediocre by just copying someone else.

I wonder what the members would think about this?

Well that's my day, off to finish proofreading the thirteen courses due to go out on February 1st, after I've mucked out, groomed the horses and fed round.
Well it's better than being bored!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016


I've been working with a really beautiful black horse called Beauty for a few months now and she is constantly teaching me new things. When I first met her she was totally out of control. Dangerous on the ground and only ridable when trussed up like a chicken, it was tragic because she is such a magnificent horse when she is allowed to move. Unfortunately when Beauty moves IT IS HUGE and IT IS DANGEROUS whether you are on the ground or riding. The sudden bursts of wild behaviour are less now but when they do come it is tricky for the owner to cope.

I have been studying Beauty very closely to see what happens before she bursts away. It isn't just when she is spooked (pheasant three field away!) it has become obvious that it happens when she is prevented from doing something she has her mind on, in other words whenever she feels uncomfortable she reacts by exploding.

Beauty was brought up in a show jumping yard and was sold on because she 'wasn't forward enough'. (I'll talk about that in another blog, she has a stuck left fore and when it's allowed to move she can shift!)  When the current owner bought her the advice she was given was this:
When Beauty is in 'one of her moods' run her into the arena and 'free school her' until she's run out of energy (in other words chase her round with a lunge whip!).

My theory is that Beauty has 'learned' that going into flight always gets her out of trouble, she has been allowed to choose flight every time the pressure builds up, she's never been allowed to learn that these minor 'spooky' incidences are actually safe.
I was with her yesterday and she thought about flying a a few times but I can see it brewing now and I just simply moved her feet, very quietly but deliberately to my tune not hers! It's important that it is not a punishment or difficult, I just put her feet to work. If I put too much pressure on she'll just push through it, she's certainly helping me learn to be light AND get my timing right! As long as I catch the moment before she blows all is well. I 'll keep you posted on this one but after only a few minutes a big change had come over that beautiful horse.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

What's all the buzz about?

So this is my first blog...EVER! 
I think it's high time I started to write down my daily thoughts for those who just might be interested. My daily routine, my rants, my raves. I keep a daily diary of course but I'm not famous enough to publish that one (yet) it's a bit too honest! But I thought this sort of public diary might be of interest to those who wonder what I do all day. Maybe you don't care, well that's fine off you go and spend a bit more time on wastebook.

So a little bit about my day first. I have three jobs so the days vary a lot.

Job 1
I run The International Horse Agility Club. That takes up about four long days a week and I don't do the equipment sales and the membership. Every now and again someone tries to copy me, (we do a daily sweep of the internet) the record length of time anyone has tried to set up a Club is 10 days, yup ten days.
Too much like hard work.
You see this is my brainchild, my passion, my core belief that the handling of horses on the ground is an art form not just something you do so you can ride. Everyone who has thought they would copy me have never done it well enough and are not prepared to work hard enough, sorry guys but it's true.

Job 2
I write books. I've three non-fiction books in print but now I'm moving into fiction too. Young Adult fiction, my it's challenging but I LOVE IT! I get completely lost in my characters and the story, it's my own little world. Even if they never get published I just love writing these stories.

Job 3
I go out and help horses with their people. Anything from straight 'How to Ride' lessons right through to saving a horse that's facing the bullet. It can be extremely challenging and that's just the people!

So my three jobs keep me busy but I also have a horse (Secret) and three Exmoor ponies (Ollie, Fudge and Ricky) and they need loving too, everyday!
That'll do for my first ever blog. Even if no one else ever reads it it's been fun seeing what it's like to write one down.
Hoping to record some interesting case studies from my teaching and share the triumphs of having my first fiction novel in print so watch this space!