Sunday, 22 January 2017

Much more than riding

If you would like to continue to follow my progress with Lucie and Seraphina, and read my reflections on horses and behaviour, and training, please go to my current blog http://muchmorethanriding.blogspot.fr/

Please do browse the articles and posts here first.

Thanks for following us! See you there.


Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Ride with your Mind clinic at Marminiac

At the beginning of May 2015 Seraphina and I had the opportunity to participate in a biomechanics riding clinic at a venue about 30 minutes away; all three of us went, the organiser Maria kindly fetched the horses with her trailer. It's a while since the horses have been trailered so i was happy they both walked in after allowing them to do so quietly and in their own time. At Marminiac, we had a field next to the school where the lessons took place, so Lucie could watch and I didn't have to worry about her.

The clinic was given by Denise O'Reilly from the UK, an accredited RWYM instructor. We were 6 riders and we all got a private lesson in the morning, which was videoed, then after a late lunch there was a video crit and theory often with simulations then we all saddled up again for a short shared session in pairs to consolidate what we learned and plan what to work on next day. We were there for 2 days instruction.


 Lucie watching from the field
 Fina and I watching from the covered barn and awaiting our turn to go on


About 2 days from the clinic I had a meltdown over what tack to use, tried all my saddles and decided it would have to be the Randol's hacking saddle despite its rustic cowboy look. I decided to put reins on the rope halter as I've always ridden Fina bitless. That didn't work well, there was too much play, and although I have Fina light and responsive in the hackamore at home, we were in a different environment and clearly contact was going to be expected. For the afternoon session, I was lent a bitless with a padded noseband and metal sides to attach the reins to, which we both hated, Fina didn't even want it on! it gave no feel, only constant indefinite pressure and resulting in a heavy hand and a dull horse. The morning lesson had gone really well with lots of improvement in my position and Fina's way of going, so the afternoon was a bit of a downer and left me with a dilemma about what to ride in the next day.

I dug out all the tack I had and found Fina's old bit (thank you Helen!!) lathered an old headpiece in Hydrophane, went over early to give myself lots of time to reintroduce a bit and test drive it. Fina was absolutely fine about it and I had her reaching for it, so on it went. We both benefited from the more effective contact and were able to concentrate on the lesson with a much better connection and understanding. I had to change my thoughts here to suit the situation, and from the result I think I made the right decision. I will be looking at bitless bridle alternatives for the next clinic and for Interdressage, where bitless is permitted.
 
What we achieved and worked on was the rider's position and the effect it had on the horse. Watching the other lessons showed how much could be improved with minor adjustments, how they affected the horse and often enabled the horse to find the relaxation or comfort in a movement as the rider gave them that release. When we were trotting a circle I felt as if Fina was leaning in at one point on the circle, so I would try to hold her out onto it. Once I really engaged my inner thigh and pushed with it, she made a true circle with lightness in hand and we stopped leaning on each other. Another rider had a skittish mare who held her head up, gritted her teeth and looked stressed and unhappy, until the rider adjusted her rib cage slightly and released something for the horse, whose head dropped and form rounded and she relaxed, that was so good to watch! lots of jokes about having the headlights full on or dipped. My trouble is the opposite, I needed to lift and work on my core muscles, my default is to round my back, the C shape, although I did get positive comments about being supple. After years of laid back hacking, I have let things go, which is why I wanted this sort of lesson.I am already finding it beneficial when hacking, and feel that Fina is able to lift herself more because I am releasing her back instead of sitting heavy on it. I feel I have regained an effective riding position, such as I used to have and can see in old photos of me riding.

A bit of video from our second day's lesson:


Spring rides and a workout for Fina

Summer already and not a lot achieved; having managed to keep the horses fairly trim and not too fat coming out of winter, they have inevitably put back a bit of fat and Seraphina a pot-belly, with summer grass. From a wet muddy spring we seemed to go straight into hot dry summer and I have to make an effort to get going early to ride before the heat and flies. In April we were visited by Helen and Ali, who previously had Seraphina, and it was great to reunite them and let Ali put Fina over some jumps in the field before we all went for a short hack/walk; they even had a play with the big green ball.


 Helen took this nice photo of Lucie and I watching. Lucie is still wearing her winter furs in a shade of clay mud beige; someone thought she was palomino when they saw this photo!

Some more spring shots: 


 And this one qualifies Lucie for the dirtiest horse competition surely...
 Our riding tracks were interrupted  at the beginning of May when they were taken over by the runner for the annual 1 May 10 km cross-country run... Unhappily for the runners, the day itself was wet, but we can continue to ride and enjoy the circuit now the tape has been removed.
 Lucie wondering why she can't go straight on as usual...
... and Fina checks out the funny orange markings which have suspiciously appeared on the ground.

Monday, 19 January 2015

A year later

Where did 2014 go? It has been a busy enough year with the horses, no huge achievements but many modest advances generally; plenty of pleasant hacks, as before, riding Seraphina and leading Lucie.



The reason I haven't posted or updated on this blog is because I believe that for Lucie, I have become the leader she needed me to be. Seraphina is a different horsenality, she does not challenge me in the same way and the questions she poses are different.

My intention is to start another blog, when I can come up with a title for it that represents where we are now and where I can continue to recount our progress or problems, and post articles on different aspects of horsemanship.

For now a quick resumé of 2014 highlights, including two Parelli events; in June I participated in a 2 day clinic with Russell Higgins 4* Parelli horse development specialist and his partner Ruth Carlyle, herself a 3* instructor; a good crowd of particpants and spectators, French and English, and no less than 3 other instructors all 1* from different corners of France, came along to assist, support and translate. My partner was a borrowed 4 year old Merens pony called Azar, which meant I was confident to ride him.







In October we continued our partnership when our favoutite instructor Jo Bates came again to give a weekend workshop. Saturday we looked at Preparing for Liberty - asking if the horse was Calm, Connected and Responsive; and ended the morning with a brief turn for each of us in the roundpen. The afternoon session looked at pre-requisites for bridleless riding. On Sunday the morning session was Online and the afternoon Freestyle. As usual Jo set up interesting challenges and patterns to provoke questions and learning for both horse and human. When asked to sum up what we would take away with us from the workshop, my response was to remember to isolate, separate and recombine and the need to identify which element isn't working. Also to use patterns and challenges to improve impulsion and connection. And so much more! The professionalism and training, but also the individual interpretation and approach of these instructors who have come through an often misunderstood programme and method, continues to inspire and impress me.



So enter 2015, what are my resolutions and plans? To continue to learn and advance my horsemanship, I'd like to audition for Parelli level 2 Online and Freestyle, and move on to Liberty. I need to rebuild my roundpen and create a riding area, maybe even a sand school. I'd like to keep the horses a bit leaner and fitter; and start a new blog.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Year end summary of 2013

It's been such a long time since I updated so this is a sort of 2013 year-end summary. Summer was hot, autumn was wet. Lucie's osteoarthritis is still making her lame but I ride Fina and lead Lucie so we all go out together. We have had some enjoyable rides this autumn.



The vet came in December to do vaccinations and took another X-ray of Lucie's damaged hock to see if there's any progress. Fusion is gradually taking place but she's still lame and unrideable. So no good news there. I had taken her off the Devil's Claw to give her a break from it but now I have put her back on the supplement containing it along with Glucosamine, HA etc. (PremierFlex Plus) which she was on before; I need to help the healing process and the DC is just an anti-inflammatory and pain-killer. I'm also going to get the éthiopathe/ostéo out for a visit to check her over.

It's always interesting to observe the differences between the two mares: Lucie is constantly aware of me, and alert to anything moving within her vision. She has a very large bubble of awareness. If I am with her, she defers to me unless something is really worrying her. I believe she watches for me from the field, certainly she looks up at any movement from the house and I could almost think she sees me (movement) at the window even when they're in the bottom field which is about 250m from the house. The other day I was watching them go through the narrow opening into the bottom field. Ideally they like me to go with them (one big difference since sorting out our leadership issues is that Lucie follows behind me and no longer tries to rush past me; and Fina takes her place at the rear) but if they have to make their own way, down one field to pass through the gate into the other where the grass is, Lucie will move forwards straight and boldly, stopping occasionally to look ahead; if startled, her reaction would be to gallop through the tight space as fast as she can. Fina takes a slower, zig-zag route; if startled, her first reaction is to stop or turns aside.

The weather is still bad and the ground very wet.

The other day I did some driving from different zones with Fina, using targets and touching obstacles for purpose. I was really pleased with her willingless and responses. Fina can be cautious about trying things & needs quiet support to give her confidence; you have to take things slowly with her, she's more sensitive than she appears. She's starting to respond better to my energy & read the body language and we're getting a better connection when I'm in the saddle.

It's been a while since I videoed anything and we've made big steps, even since September when some Brittany friends were here. The back-up, the send and the circles are sorted and Fina stays out on the circle until I change direction or ask her in; I want to do more work in trot next, and eventually canter. She goes sideways, yields smoothly in all directions and all zones, with touch or rhythmic pressure. We can tick off all the "can you" in self-assessment Parelli level 1, on 12' line, and are working through the L2 challenges, moving onto the 22' line, and liberty.

After working more on the disengagement and asking for more flexion, more often, with relaxation, and more effort and response in the hind and fore yields, I'm liking the improved attitude and responsiveness ("I can do that" instead of "who, me?" or "must I?" or "maybe tomorrow"). On the ground, I now only have to look at her HQs to move them, and the FQ yields nicely too, freely without resistance. I need to work on carrying the response and connection into the saddle; I'm using disengagement more in the saddle too; but riding, I feel less connection and more resistance than on the ground so trying for more mental and physical suppleness.

I don't spend as much time as I would like playing with Fina and teaching her, and taking two horses out at once has its disadvantages and reduces the training I can do on the trail. Lucie's lameness does slow us down but I love having them out together and they both need exercise and deserve attention. I should really work on being able to take one out of the field at a time but I don't have time and energy for that right now. I leave Lucie at the tie-up where she can see us if I'm playing with Fina in the field and she stands happily and watches. Then I'll do a bit with her so she doesn't feel left out.

Once you get Fina interested, she doesn't put up blocks and pull faces like Lucie; what I teach her one day, she'll offer the next, and we always seem to move forward and build on each session. I aim to do 3 things well in each session. After Lucie, always questioning, challenging me, over-reacting and throwing her toys out of the pram, working with Fina is a real pleasure!
There are still some areas I don't feel Fina is confident about and one has been the giving of feet but recently she started giving the feet with relaxation and confidence, and I am getting the sort of softness I was looking for from her, which I get from Lucie. Partly this comes from familiarity and confidence, their reading of me as much as what and how I'm asking, but I do think that it's related to her trust in me and there are still a few blocks with that. The other area I am thinking of is her attitude to the saddle; I would like to see her touch it and be confident around it but she has a reserve there, even if we play Touch it.

When I'm playing on the ground with Fina, I love the way she learns, slowly and steadily. Looking forward to moving forward with her in 2014.

Saturday, 30 November 2013

Back to school with Christian Cazor

This summer and autumn, I have been visiting a local natural horse trainer. I have had many interesting conversations with him about his approach and the way he educates horses. I've seen and learned so much that should help me to improve and refine. I've mentioned Christian Cazor before in this blog; it was he who transported Lucie and Tayenne this summer. In July, he took on a friend's young Camargue mare Apple for educating and backing. During the 2 months she was with him, I visited weekly to follow and report progress to my friend, which also gave me the opportunity to watch and learn. As I was to ride Apple, it was important for me to learn what she had learnt.

I first saw Christian Cazor doing a demo with two horses at liberty, at a local show; he's a bit of a legend around here as a trouble-shooter, often called in to box a difficult horse. His background is Western riding and although he says he isn't an ethologist and doesn't practise any particular method, he is what I would call a natural horseman, he uses the horse's behaviour and movements, and physical and mental state, in his training. He has attended La Cense, with Andy Booth, in France; and in the US, done courses with Ray Hunt and is familiar with the methods of all the main names in natural horsemanship and like all true horsemen, has developed his own approach. His own horses are mainly quarterhorses. He does courses, re-education of (problem) horses and backing youngsters. Outside of this area, he is relatively unknown - no blog or Facebook page which seem to be the essentials of the modern-day horseman. He's now got a simple website (in French) which has been set up by a student but he says he needs to rewrite the text in his own words www.christiancazor-horsemanship.sitew.com

When I first went to him for a couple of day courses in 2007, I had a young horse at home who was a bit much for me. Christian showed me how to control and direct a horse by driving the zones independently in a way I'd never learned before and it was suddenly so easy for the horse to go where I asked. But after a few sessions I realised that as good as Christian was with horses, he wasn't quite so skilled with people and instructing them. I was starting to understand a different approach and wanted to know more but Christian's teaching wasn't structured and I couldn't say what I wanted to know without some practice and a starting point. Then I discovered the Parelli programme as a home study course.

So fast forward several years to July 2013 when my friend Joanna's young Camargue mare is ready for some education, having spent most of her life doing nothing in the field with 3 other horses. When Jo was in France, we'd had her out a couple of times and she'd been led, and had her feet done; but I didn't have the time & energy to take on a youngster, and Jo found her too pushy and didn't feel confident to handle her (Apple is the foal of her quiet Camargue mare Kenia, who she is confident with; the horses are cared for with others on a farm). First choice for the job was Christian; so Apple went to C's yard, and Jo & I went along to watch once a week & when Jo returned to the UK, she asked me if I'd report back to her on progress. So I have been able to see C at work and watch how he starts a young horse from the ground up. I'll summarise here but later I'd like to think more about many of the aspects of his training method.

Apple had not been handled much but always loves being with people and is generally good-natured, but she was bold and pushy in the field and among the other horses, full of enthusiastim and wanting attention. Her dam didn't reprimand her much and she was usually in front of rather than behind her mother, pushing against the fence or past the other horses or humans without much respect. The older gelding would put her in her place but she paired up with the other younger gelding, a 7 yo; life was all play with him.

The first thing she needed to learn was to yield to pressure, yielding the forehand and quarters (disengagement) and backing up. The lateral movements taught on the ground are the base elements of what will be asked from the saddle and provide respect and control.

Our first visit
When we first went to see her at the yard, on 25 July, she was a couple of days into her education and had got to know the other horses and the routine. The horses are paddocked individually and brought into a box preparatory to riding, or to the tie-ups, for saddling. When fetching the horse from the field, or going into the box, Christian moves around them, asking them to turn to him and follow, from both sides (changing the eye, as he puts it) asking by a look in that zone and, if necessary, a little pressure directed at the quarters. He will do this on both sides and by turning away, draws the horse to him so getting its attention. A very simple way of getting a connection with the horse. When the head is alongside, with the horse's attention and co-operation, the halter goes on. The horse soon learns to put its nose into the halter. His routine for taking them out of the field is always about the horse moving around the handler to wait patiently as the gate is manipulated.

In the sand school, we watched Apple learning about lateral flexion and yielding to pressure, with Christian always calmly supporting her through the emotions raised by being asked to move and yield to pressure for the first time and in a strange environment; his tool of choice being a "flag" or plastic bag on stick. First presenting it to the horse, softly but surely moving the flag all over the horse, scratching the itchy spots, brushing flies off the head; always calmly and surely and with rhythm. He repeatedly talked about the importance of timing and feel, and rhythm, not to stop doing what you're doing until the horse relaxes or responds or tries. Always quietly supporting her and helping her to find confidence in the new surroundings and experience. Good practice for being aware of our own body energy too, which must be low unless asking the horse to respond.


So using the flag as an extension of his own energy and intention, he asks the horse to move and yield; from disengaging the posterior to the more challenging forehand; eventually asking the horse to yield in all directions, always offering an open door on the side to which he wants the horse to go; he uses rhythmic pressure from the flag, only making contact with the horse if the horse runs into the flag rather than choosing the desired option of moving away from it, at which point the flag is immediately lowered. Thus not only is the horse learning to yield and not push through pressure, she is learning to be a problem solver, to seek the solution to the question asked; learning that she is not trapped and to think and find the release, the comfort, instead of running into or through it. In this way, the comfort is in doing the desirable and the horse is helped to find relaxation in the task or movement, not in fighting or trying to push through pressure or crowding the handler. More about this concept later. It also showed me how you can use the same tool to sensitize and desensitize at the same time; in this way, the horse is never made dull to it, it's all about reading the energy of the handler; eventually the tool becomes unecessary. Good timing is essential. (I tried using a flag myself and it made me very aware of controlling my movements, and timing. I don't think this is a something to be done by a novice.)

In the sand school, on line, Christian simply let Apple explore to begin with, giving her a little help if necessary; he directed her towards some barrels on their side, and a jump upright, and let her touch and rub on them, then before she ran out of ideas and got bored, he asked her to reapproach until she put her neck over, reaching for the grass on the other side. Very subtly he was controlling her movements and developing her confidence and sense of feel. He asked her to go around the barrels, and to the side, making it seem like her idea; then letting the rope softly bring her head back towards him as it contacted the upright when she passed it. At one point with a little extra pressure, she popped over the barrel, but that wasn't the aim, and it was her choice, what she offered.



He also showed for Jo's benefit how to ask the horse to move around the handler, to respect his space, to find a position of comfort and relaxation by being alongside his shoulder; that the horse should move its feet when asked, not the handler, as it would when asked to move out of the space of a higher ranking herd member.

Our second visit
Was about a week later, on 6 August, and Apple has learned to stand quietly at the tie-up and in cross ties, no more pulling, although she still plays with the ropes and sometimes paws impatiently for which she receives no recognition so returns to waiting patiently while other horses are attended to. There is plenty going on around her to be interesting if she stops thinking that all attention should be on her. All part of the education process.

When we arrived, she was in one of the boxes next door to another horse. Christian pairs them for education; more of how he uses this later. At our approach her ears were pricked, so I remarked that it's a good sign; he added not always, some horses just view humans approaching as a source of attention or food or being taken to other horses; a convenience, not necessarily happy to see you as a partner. (Food for thought - how does your horse view you?)

We talked about the giving of the feet; how many people are too direct about it, they want the horse to give the feet so they can pick them out or do something to them. As soon as the horse gives the foot they attack it with the hoofpick; the horse may feel trapped, especially if the back legs are taken back for human convenience, as blacksmiths often do abrubtly. This is his method. I have my own cue or "ask" but the principle is similar.

First, the horse should be relaxed when you stand at the shoulder, and can pass your hand firmly with rhythm all over the legs; don't be sneaky or jerky in your movements. Then you can apply a little pressure to leg or foot, e.g. just behind the pastern; or on the hock point; be ready to release as soon as the horse tries, shifts it's weight slightly; caress, ask again, being ready to release immediately, not asking the horse to pick up the foot and not trying to grab and hold it; the horse should want to give the foot and feel relaxed and secure with the foot in your hand, so build up in steps. If the horse evades by walking around, encourage him to move, until he's ready to stand still; make standing still the comfortable choice. If once you hold the hoof he tries to move, or take the foot back, wait until he relaxes before releasing the foot or you will teach him to resist. Once he gives the foot, put it down; don't immediately try to pick it. It shouldn't be about picking out the foot but about the giving of the foot; picking hooves is what humans want to do, it is of no interest to the horse, but we want the horse to be relaxed about us handling his precious hooves. So don't rush, build up in small stages.

Third/fourth week:
Saddling; she has already had the saddle on several times, and been introduced to a bridle & bit (snaffle, copper mouthpiece, large rings), learned to seek and accept the bit and been mouthed. To the sand school and some lateral movements, as before, yielding the posteriors then the anteriors, changing sides, making sure her movements are calm, responsive & well-balanced, that she feels & is aware of but not worried by the addition of the saddle. Apple now leads comfortably, and stops at the shoulder, no longer pushing through pressure.

So to the roundpen where he leaves her free with the rope trailing to go fetch another line; Apple educates herself not to panic when she treads on the rope or gets it round her legs; she soon learns not to step on it; and gets the feel of the tack too. He does some fingertip yielding, backing up & lateral movements off pressure, replicating the feel of the leg on her side. Then moving her with the flag (bit of black plastic on a stick), turning, changing rein, laterals, then caress. Her movements are supple and fluid now. Talks about avoiding creating an opposition reflex, for ex. about grass, which is attractive as they feed mainly on hay here; not to get into a fight about it; you have to work with it, use it: for instance, when she has her mouth full or if she lifts her head, are the moments to ask her to move because there will be less resistance. Head lowered and grazing is a relaxed, therefore somewhat desirable, position. The grass is there, it's natural for them to want it. To get her to raise her head, he uses small rythymic tugs on the rope, making the eating position uncomfortable. Never annoyed, never a punishment or fight. (Another useful method is tapping rythymically behind the saddle until the head pops up.)


In hand, simulating the rein position, leading the head in a direction, asking for movement with the stirrup against her side. Next on the longer line, throwing the rope over the horse's head, then back, then around hocks; eventually when they are relaxed with that, ask them to yield and unwind towards you. (I wish I could swing and place the rope as accurately & softly as that! Need to practice more.) One throw clears horse's head, second clears the saddle, third clears the quarters to drop neatly round the hocks. No fuss, just the arm moves. Asks the horse to turn around towards the pressure, no hurry, let her find her way; she is more resistant on the left eye than the right; but after a couple of repeats she works it out & yields towards the pressure.

Alongside her, if he puts his bodyweight against her side, does she yield, responding to body position and feel. In preparation for mounting, he takes hold of the pommel & moves the saddle on her back quite vigourously; she needs to be conscious of the saddle and its noise and feel, if there is any reaction then better now than when you're on her back. This also makes the horse square its feet to balance itself, so prepares the horse for mounting. He doesn't put his leg over into the saddle first time but plays with weight in stirrup, up the down; up and hold; up and leg over, and gently lowered into the saddle.

In the saddle, creating forward movement from yielding the posteriors. Lead with the hand, yield the posteriors (pressure of leg on side); first one side then the other; keep doing this, to create forward movement. Indirect rein, direct rein; one leg, one hand. Never using the rein unless asking for direction, releasing as soon as the horse responds.

His preference is to continue the education and experience out on the trail; there are more things to interest and stimulate the horse, and encourage them to move forward. Obstacles, ditches, banks, gullies, straight narrow tracks, hills etc. are the training ground. The roundpen or school is an articial environment, not stimulating. They can quickly get bored and dull or resistant.

September visits
The next time Jo is here and we go together, there is a small group of students and C gives a group lesson in basic handling and leading. The others vary from beginners to experienced riders, but with no experience of C's approach. Jo does well for a total beginner and certainly as well as anyone else in the group; Apple responds well, building Jo's confidence; it is the first time she has led her own horse and I know she was nervous. The students lead, turn, and practice disengaging, backing up, and circling their horses around them.



On my next visit, without Jo, another "student" of my advanced age joins us, a bubbly lady called Ursula, and we three ride out together, C on Apple, Ursula on Rocky who she has ridden before, and I ride a 16yo QH called Attiuk, who greets me with disdain. C says he has been dulled by being used too often as a school horse, but tells me that he tanked off home with someone who rode him recently - very reassuring! However, forewarned, I am able to quietly persuade Attiuk that I am up to the job and we get along very well; he tests me a couple of times by grabbing for grass but I read his intentions & even ellicit some rare praise from C for anticipating and correcting him. Even the quiet, seemingly laid back, horses are constantly testing, sometimes very subtly.

Our role is as support for Christian and the young horse; but we do not lead. We learn to position ourselves aside or at a distance behind, to give Apple the reassurance of other horses but only as support. Apple is asked to lead the file and to walk or trot on ahead. To build independence and confidence, we take turns to trot past the lead horse, then turn and pass the others and rejoin the rear. To begin with we don't advance far in front or behind before turning, but as each horse gets used to the pattern, the distance can be increased. C reminds us and keeps reminding us that we need to use rythym.

There are a couple of places we ride past where dogs rush out barking behind a wall; C tells the owners not to restrain the dogs and we end up side-passing along the wall, 3 horses in formation; what a great exercise for everyone! C's philosophy is to allow the horse, and sometimes encourage him, to have these emotions but help him to deal with them. It is sometimes necessary to bring up a horse's emotions so you can deal with them in a controlled situation, rather than suppressing them or hoping they won't happen; and having an incident occur and the horse explode later. This is especially true if as he does, you have a period in which to train or educate a horse as a professional trainer; he says he sometimes has to be more direct than he would like, to get the job done.

On my next visit, it is just the two of us, C on Apple and again I ride Attiuk, who now touches my hand as I greet him; seems like that's the most I'll get from him but I feel we have a connection. Apple has some emotional moments & C has correctly assessed that I'm not ready to ride her yet. He keeps diving off into the woods with her & my task is to continue along the track with my horse. If Apple doesn't walk straight and relaxed he gives her something to do, move her feet, direct her energy and mind by asking her to go over some uneven ground or a ditch; this gives purpose and by directing her energy usefully, there is no fight, no resistance; and then she is happy to advance along the trail as desired. C always remains calm; he redirects the horse's energy & emotions, so it is never a fight; he does this by using the lateral movements and always one leg, one rein, so the horse is never blocked by the hands or fighting the legs. If the horse is apprehensive of something, like roadside bins, or dogs behind a hedge, it becomes an exercise. Always have the horse's head towards the object; never let them turn away but don't force them forwards; approach and retreat using disengagement and lateral movements; let them look quietly, then ask for another step; repeat as often as necessary. Use sideways movement. This keeps the head in the right place but engages the mind and legs to move.

I ride Apple
In the final week of her time on Christian's yard, I ride out on Apple. I must admit I was nervous at first, I always am on strange horses; this is bad because the tension communicates itself to the horse. I fully understand the reflex of hanging on to the reins but I still want to do it myself even though I know the consequences! C talked me through it and once Apple & I had gained confidence in each other and relaxed, I found her a very comfortable ride. We confronted the dogs calmly, we trotted and even had a little canter. Again I like C's approach, nothing is forced, everything is in the offer and allow - always giving with the hands, raising the body energy not kicking for the increase in pace but allowing the horse into the canter so it feels as if it was her idea. We ride on a loose rein but always ready to shorten one rein or the other, never pull on both at once so the horse is never blocked, trapped. Only use rein or leg to ask for movement and direction; the rest comes from connection and body energy. Some people are not able to ride if they don't have contact but I would contend that there is mental and emotional contact without physical restraint.

There are many ways to start a young horse and many techniques and tools we can use in our groundwork and preparation leading to having a calm happy safe riding horse. What I have seen here in the last few weeks has resulted in a young horse that is a pleasure and comfortable to ride, a horse that is reactive in the right way, that is mentally, physically and emotionally fit.

I do not usually ride other people's horses but I have ridden several of Christian's, including Apple, and because of the preparation have been confident to ride youngsters. His training and education of horses is based on the lateral movements and flexion. I have been impressed by how extremely flexible and supple his horses are, how willing and connected they are to the rider. I have realised the power of disengagement and that it is fundamental to almost everything we expect the horse to do (not only, but including, its usefulness as a one-rein stop) but also that I have never used it enough or taken it as far as I need to for the horse to be completely relaxed and responsive at the same time.

 Since Apple went home, I contined to ride once a week with Christian during the autumn. I admit I am pushing myself outside my comfort zone each time as I no longer enjoy riding different and young horses; the anticipation stresses me beforehand, and once there, trying to follow someone else's routine and methods makes me nervous and behave like a complete clut. I find learning stressful and difficult now I'm older. Afterwards I get a real zip from the experience. At home, with my own horses, I have integrated much of what I've learned these past months into my own training, often successfully; I continue to practise Parelli Natural Horse-man-ship methods and I do have my own ways with my horses and remain true to what works for me and with my herd, regardless of where it came from.

Set up for success
On Christian's yard, which is a simple arrangment of boxes, paddocks, a round pen and outdoor sand school, all is set up for success - the horses are turned out in adjacent strip fields, each leading up to individual shelters in a row. Saddles are kept ready with the girth neatly attached with a quick release and same for the breastplate; you put the saddle on and the equipment is all neatly ready to let down & use; impressive. Even the tracks and riding areas he uses are chosen to provide helpful environments; an uphill stony track discourages galloping towards home; a natural ravine for advancing straight, etc.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Back to the way we were

It seems as if Lucie has been back - forever; meaning that we have settled down, our little herd of three, and all of us are content, as if there had been no upheaval. The experience has been educational for us all. I have found my two perfect horses. For Lucie, I think living among a bigger group of horses & experiencing life in a herd for 3 months has been good for her; she seems more mature somehow, and more relaxed and confident with both me & Seraphina. The places she stands in the field have changed, she is less on high alert, more laid back. With Fina, she is just as dominant (for want of another word) but more assured about it, less cranky; and Fina knows and understands this, accepts and doesn't question (I am watching & learning). For Fina, she is evidently happier with Lucie around than paired with Tayenne, as we had already learned, so nothing has changed in this relationship, unless for the better. The two stand nose to tail, keeping the flies off, and if anything are closer companions in the field than before.

I have to be a bit careful when I am around them, as Lucie becomes "jealous" and protective of her proximity to me, and my attentions; one day Fina did carelessly place herself where Lucie didn't think she should be, and she flew at Fina and took her by the neck! I think I was more shocked than Fina, who just shook herself, and took a step back; it was over in seconds, although the teeth mark is still there. I guess Lucie learned a few new moves while she was among other horses.

Lucie is very connected to me; for the first few days when she was home, if she heard me come out of the house, she'd whinny; and if she sees me, her head comes up to watch what I'm doing or where I go. Fina does this too, but to a lesser extent. Lucie's comportment says she's home and she's my horse and is happy. Similar but different with Seraphina, but then she's only been here a few months. What I'd like from Fina now is some of Lucie's softness; zero brace when I'm handling her, and more connection. When Lucie gives me her feet, they are soft & light as a feather; when I ask her to move I barely need to look at her. It's almost as if having another horse around has made her up her game, it's like she's saying "this is how you should behave with your human" or "look how well I do it & how pleased she is". She's become a proper little teacher's pet and I'll take the improvement in Lucie's attitude anyday!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Lucie comes home

The Tayenne project is terminated; she has gone back to her mates and we brought Lucie home. Tayenne is a beautiful young horse, that's what seduces me, every time I look at her; but I don't have the time to educate a teenager with zero education and experience.

On the day of the changeover, Fina had a stressful day, but the other two took it well. M. Cazor loaded Tayenne easily in the trailer (well he is a magic horseman and horses just respond to him) then I went ahead in my car to prepare Lucie. It would be nice to say she recognised the car; anyway, she came over to me and we greeted each other, I'm sure she knew it was me, and licked my hand and let me scratch inside her ears which I bet nobody did for 2 months. By then the trailer had arrived and Tayenne went into the field as Lucie came out, and loaded, all without any fuss. Once back home, I put Lucie in the field opposite Fina. I took them both for a walk and groom that evening, and left them to settle overnight. Lucie is very mareish and Fina will be all over her, I don't want anybody kicked, and I want to re-establish pecking order first. It worked well like that when Fina arrived whereas it was rather less tranquil when Tayenne arrived so lesson learned, we are going for setting up for success this time round!

Lucie in't in foal; she didn't come into season properly, probably because, interestingly enough, she took upon herself a management role in the herd. The comments I got back about her behaviour reflect the difficulties I've had with her. Subtly dominant, looks as if she's timid but fought for a high position in the herd hierachy, submitting to only one horse above her. I find I'm not too bothered if we don't get a foal; it would just complicate life. I decided I don't want to keep Tayenne for several reasons. She needs too much time to bring on & give her basic education; at 7 years old, a lot of good learning years have been missed and a lot of bad habits been forged & gone uncorrected. If she was my only project... But I now have Seraphina, and I want to spend time with her and was having to ignore her (which she notices) to sort out Tayenne. Whereas Fina has all the basics in place (thanks to my friends and her last owners, Helen and Ali) and we are both wanting to move forward together. Also I feel the balance was better having an older mare; the two youngsters together don't make a successful combination. Lucie was quite happy for me to spend time with Fina because then she didn't have to do anything!! Lucie as a mentor to either youngster is good for them. Fina tried to boss Tayenne but isn't really effective, and doesn't really want that role.

Friday, 21 June 2013

Parelli workshop with Russell Higgins & Jo Bates



Last week-end 15/16 June I participated in another Parelli workshop near Marmande. You're probably bored of reading about them but this time was a bit different as we brought over the big guns in the form of Russell Higgins, a 4* Instructor. He's from New Zealand but does a tour in Europe and UK each year. I looked him up beforehand, there's some video of him jumping one of his horses bareback & bridleless with another alongside at liberty and other impressive stuff; but he wasn't coming here to do a display so I didn't know quite what to expect or what would be different or better than our usual sessions with our favourite fun 2* Jo Bates. Russell was a quiet, calm person, easy to be around for humans and horses but there was no doubting his ability to be respected. He had a good sense of humour too; and was a sympathetic teacher with a few ideas outside the box which was very helpful and refreshing, showing you could develop your own style and variations within the method.
Russell, me, Jo

Firstly, what was different was that a Parelli 4* attracted a lot of attention on the French side and word went round the équitation éthologique circles in south-west France, bringing in several people from within the French system who were diploma'd Saveur 3 / 4; even instructing themselves. The interesting thing when talking to them is that they thought Parelli was the best learning system, they just don't usually have access to it except via DVDs and internet. I made some new contacts which I'm happy about, as one of them lives not far away, near Cahors, and he himself organises stages, in fact he organised one in March with Andy Booth which I only heard about afterwards when I read about it in the newspaper; hopefully next time I'll know in advance. Russell knows Andy from their days at the Parelli ranch in Colorado.
 
The whole week-end was well organised and planned. Russell took the lead role, with Jo assisting him; they were both always ready to explain or check how we were doing and offer support. It was all very professional, reflecting the importance that Parelli puts on training instructors and presenting themselves to students and the public. We started the day in the classroom with notepads at 09h00. With Jo, we are usually more laid-back, starting when everyone's ready and present; so when I arrived at 09h15 (which was pretty good for me, with a 2 hour drive) I was told I was late, although nobody had given me a start time).
Russell introduced himself and Jo, and asked us all to briefly introduce ourselves and say why we were there, what level we were at and our goals, and what we hoped to get out of the week-end. Although most of the French spoke a little English, Steffi & Carole did a great job translating whenever necessary, and Jo made an impressive effort too.
The classroom session proceeded with Russell asking us to recall the four motivators for horses: safety, comfort, food/incentives and play, and the importance of recognising which of these were foremost in the horse's mind at any given time.  If the horse is worried about his safety he may not be able to do things for you but once he has confidence in you and that you are going to look after his needs, he will do things with you and for you.
This moved us on to the three L's: Love, Language and Leadership (in equal measure; never one more than the other). If things start to go wrong, we need to go back to these and identify which one is broken, and repair and rebalance. These relate directly to the first three games in Parelli, which are usually in this order: Friendly game, Porcupine game (response to direct pressure), and Driving game (implied or rhythmic pressure); all three need to be in balance. Leadership equals respect, this may need to come first; we had an example of this later in the day.
In teaching and playing with your horse, there are 4 stages of development: teaching, control, reinforcement, refinement. Not necessarily occurring in this order.
We should think about where the horse is at and which of these we are doing, and adapt our strategy accordingly. If we ask the horse to do something and he resists, does he understand the task? If not, and (for example) we are still teaching, we would use our phases of asking differently (long slow phases). Our actions or reactions would be different according to where the horse is at in his confidence and education. If we are fairly sure the horse knows what we are asking (and we are asking it clearly and calmly) and he doesn't respond appropriately, we may need to reinforce (phase 1 then moving quickly through 2 & 3 to phase 4). Question asked: how do you get a light P1? Answer: by having an effective P4. Refining comes later, your P1 would get less & less. There may be moments when we need to control the horse by bringing your energy up fast. 
So we can think of 4 words to describe the application of our phases depending on where the horse is at or what we are doing with him.
Teaching : Slow... (slow clear phases and lots of support)
Control : Now! (the horse needs to move right now; it may save his life or yours in an emergency, so you need to be able to react, and do as much as it takes quickly)
Reinforcement : Later (when he is confident, your phases or cues would be much more subtle)
Refinement : Always (always looking to refine and improve)
We went outside and did some practical exercises, using as an example, asking a horse to back up. We did this as a simulation, the halter tied to the hitching rail. Each of us had to ask the" horse" to back up in 3 different ways and the onlooker had to guess what we were doing e.g. were we demonstrating control, teaching etc. because if the onlookers couldn't see what we intended, then the horse isn't going to! This was a really useful exercise and I will be thinking about it when I'm with my horse.
Because Russell is a 4* he is qualified within the instructor programme to teach more students at once than is Jo, who is less experienced. This is because of safety; especially with a mixed level group and a lot of horses, things may go wrong. There were a couple of young horses today and it was strange and unsettling for them all; even the resident ones were behaving out of character because their habits were upset by the presence of new horses and people. 
On Saturday morning we all took our horses out so we were 8 in the arena, and Russell wore a microphone so we could all hear him. At first we played with our horses to warm up, ensuring we had them yielding and responsive backwards, forwards, hind and forequarter yields all equally balanced. As we would prepare for riding.
Some of the tasks which I found particularly helpful: (Notes for me, but others might find useful too!)
Sideways off fingertip pressure (Porcupine game); finding the sideways button on the horse's side, somewhere between the forehand yield button and the hindquarter yield position (being equivalent to leg aids); Russell showed me how, by not taking the hand off in between, it would  help both me and the horse to find the sideways button and have a smoother movement sideways.
Driving game with back-up and roll-over: a useful practical exercise for control and respect. Set off across field or arena with your horse alongside, driving from zone 3 as in riding position; focus on a point the other side of the field. Halfway, turn to horse and ask for hindquarter yield with a 180° turn on the forehand, then back up (you are now facing horse) a few steps (gets hq's engaged and under) then "roll over" move, drive the front end away and round 180° from you so you end up leading from the other side; continue straight to your end point on the opposite fence. Eventually this should be one smooth continuous movement in a straight line, without stopping. Doing it a few times creates a pattern which helps you and the horse. Remember to keep focused on the destination.
Neutral lateral flexion and wrap-around: stay at the drive line (shoulder); throw rope over horse's head & hold loosely under chin; throw rest over body to wrap around above hocks. Ask for flexion (head turns away from where you're standing to flex opposite side); if horse moves use the hand under chin to tap far side of neck with rhythmic pressure to stop drift; rub other hand on side and follow drift until horse stops moving and relaxes; once the horse can stay flexed without moving, you can continue to the wrap-aroud and unwind the horse away and towards you. Remember the horse should do the moving of his feet.
Stop eating grass / permission to eat: have a cue, like raising your hand or a vocal cue. With training stick, tap (steady rhythmic pressure) on horse's croup until he raises his head; once you have this response understood, you can develop a cue to allow or invite him to eat; based on the cue to lower head that you will already have. Russell suggested pressing on the neck near the withers, as you might use this when riding too.
Backing up straight: I have trouble with this. Russell's suggestion was to develop direction contol when backing up off fingertips on nose, by directing each foot and using the head to steer. He said if I can back the horse arond a figure 8 it will improve straightness; watch this space!

In another task, this came up again; this time I was in zone 3 alongside the horse, we were again doing back-up and roll-over and Polly would turn her forehand into me, causing the hq's to swing out and she'd go crooked. Driving the front end away would swing the back end towards me and straighten her up; in theory... I also had trouble asking Polly to go through the gap between barrels; interestingly, the only horses to make a scene about this were the two resident horses, Polly & Bliss, who see these barrels daily! Polly would not go through them and tested my nerve by crowding on top of me as I tried to straighten her to face the obstacle. She managed to unnerve me sufficiently that I decided I wasn't ready to ride her this afternoon as planned. Instead, Jo came and helped me with some gymnasticising which got her stepping under and away from me, but by the time I felt confident with her again, it was too late to join the ridden group.



Sunday:
After a short 09h00 classroom session introducing the auditors who had joined today, and a recap of yesterday and a chance to ask questions, we all took our horses out into the arena.
The plan was that those who wished to ride would do so at the end of the afternoon. Until then, we would work as a group. The exercises were towards preparation for riding, so a lot of Porcupine game: backing up from fingertip pressure on the nose; going sideways; flexions and rein positions from the ground; direct rein & indirect rein. Also some circling game; first checking we could ask the horse to maintain gait and direction for 4 circles (two of the four responsibilities of the horse); once that was solid, we introduced transitions, looking for snappy departures in upward and downward transitions. Russell demonstrated a useful sideways exercise developed from circling whereby the handler stands on the fence line, asks for a half-circle, turn and half-circle the other way. When the horse passes your hip you start to move, ready to drive them sideways as they come to the fence, thus maintaining impulsion for sideways.
The general afternoon session finished with a fun challenge with obstacles. We had to stand on a brick, behind poles on the ground in line with us to form a marker, facing the line of barrels, and bring our horse into the marked zone, turn and jump the barrels, use hq yield to stop and turn the horse to jump the barrels again, with another stop and turn towards you, all without leaving the brick. Points were gained or lost for you or the horse. The winner was Sophie, who completed the challenge easily. Second was Liz with Bliss, thus ending the day on a good note, having been very challenging all week-end and more than once managed to pull away and come & stand next to her mate Polly. I got pulled off my brick after the second jump and as Polly stepped out of the markers I was eliminated. As she's pretty big, I did well considering and nearly got her through!
I was thankful to take Polly back to her box and relax and watch Sophie and Marina ride.
After mounting with Savvy, Russell coached them in emergency dismounts, before moving on to turns and direct / indirect rein exercises and upward & downward transitions with snappy departures, bringing up the energy in phases. Also the 9-stage back-up... Finally he set up an exercise to help the horse & rider depart on the correct lead at canter, using two barrels by the fence.
Sunday was hot and we were all tired but happy; it was an excellent well-organised week-end, thanks to Liz, Carole and Richard (the latter making sure everyone including horses was supplied with cool drinking water, chairs and shade). We hope to get Russell back again next year; in the meantime we have another workshop booked with Jo in September. Lots to think about and practise on my own horses before then!
Readers please note that this is my personal record of the workshop and how I understood the tasks and techniques; I may have misunderstood or misrepresented certain things, I am a student and am not qualified to offer coaching or advice on the Parelli method, and I do not represent the organisation.
 ***
So how was our 4* Instructor different? One thing I always tell Parelli-sceptics is to watch the people coming up through the programme, those that have learned under Pat Parelli but develop their own style and approach; by the time they get to 3* upwards these are the horsemen and women to watch. If you don't like the cowboy hat and ponytail, look beyond them at the horsemen they are producing... Many are now stars in their own right, out there making the world a better and more interesting place for horses and humans. Go see them if you get the chance.






Thursday, 30 May 2013

Tayenne

Fina and Lucie had settled well together, but in April I upset everything when Lucie went to stay on a farm with a herd of Camargues where there is a Camargue stallion, and I brought home one of their mares on loan to keep Fina company, and to play with and provide a bit of experience for.  I first met Tayenne in the winter and had thought of buying her, but then the possibility to have Seraphina arose. Tayenne was very unsettled the first few days, it was the first time she'd been away from the security of the herd so it was very traumatic for her, and she and Fina didn't get on. Fina missed Lucie, and Tayenne didn't see Fina as a friendly  companion and didn't have any reason to stick around in the strange surroundings, especially as Fina didn't exacty make her feel welcome, and on three occasions, put her under so much pressure she broke through the electric fencing. Eventually things settled down and Fina and Tayenne get along okay now they know each other better, although Fina still herds Tayenne around, moving her from behind, if she gets the chance. Tayenne now seems to put herself in Fina's way, or in a corner knowing she will be chased but is faster than Fina so it has become almost a game for her. She doesn't appear to really respect Fina; she moves out of her way but with attitude. She challenges before yielding; there is a lot of making faces at each other. Not at all the same as with Lucie and Fina. When Lucie tells Fina to move, she moves. Lucie puts Fina in the foal position, and Fina accepts, staying a couple of paces behind Lucie unless I invite her forward. Fina moves Tayenne out of her way, chases her from behind, herds her round the field; it's more territorial.

When Tayenne first arrived, it was clear she hadn't been handled as much as I'd believed, or rather, not had not learned to be light in hand, not to push, she didn't respect space, she leans onto you & into you, expecting scratches without asking, and above all she pushes through pressure. The first thing she needed to know for everyone's safety was to yield to pressure. She didn't know she could learn things from humans and had no idea of respecting them; she didn't think that humans could be interesting; that to listen to their ideas and do things and be given responsibilities was more fun than than just lazing in the field. That hands could do more than just scratch your head. But that you didn't push people around.

At first she was too stressed to be able to think and just being asked to walk through a gate (and being expected to do so without pushing into me) would have her head high and her muscles tense, or head on the floor, pawing and grabbing mouthfuls of earth. Even so, she wanted to be with people and would hide behind me when Fina was being bossy (before she learned not to fear Fina, and to stand up to her). As she became familiar with her surroundings and routine, and could think of other than her safety, I was able to start to teach her to yield to touch and pressure; initially her reaction was resistance to doing anything asked of her, like a spoilt child, but very quickly she discovered that responding was more rewarding; she soon understood fore and hind quarter yields, porcupine and driving game and started to give me space when walking her around. With respect came lightness and we developed the driving game from different zones when out on walks on line with Fina. On the first walks, Tayenne was a snorting dragon, everything was suspicious, but she is a brave bold little horse, has no difficulty walking ahead; despite the snorting, she is very forward and has a lovely long light stride, and after a while she blows out, her head comes down and she settles. She listens and takes her lead from me, so after an outing where I led Fina from zone 3 (as if I was riding) with Tayenne alongside, I felt ready to ride Fina and lead Tayenne. The first ride and lead went perfectly, proving that prior and proper preparation pays off! Tayenne stayed close to my knee, didn't pull and followed happily. Fina, when not allowed to get behind Tayenne, is perfectly happy with her alongside in zone 4. I have started putting things on her back and leading her from alongside, she doesn't overreact. Whether I will get as far as backing her or how long I will keep her is still undecided.


Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Rapport, respect, impulsion, flexion

Rapport, respect, impulsion, flexion

The leading theme of the week-end workshop I attended near Marmande on 27/28 May, once again with Jo Bates, 2* Parelli Pro instructor. We started with a discussion of what each of these mean and ways to try to achieve each of them with our horses. Also thinking about how to adapt our strategies to refine the tasks and support our horses in performing them; being particular without being critical, assertive not aggressive, looking for how the horse was responding, not just overall but with each step or each time asked - was he trying with effort, or just going through the motions with his mind elsewhere?

I began to see these 4 elements as a stairway of progress, started on the ground and leading to and carried on in riding, and I saw an improved attitude in the horse I was playing with; Polly got interested in the task and forgot the grass. From being disinterested and looking elsewhere, or eating,  I got two eyes and two ears; this was feeling like rapport and respect, and the result was she put more effort and thought into her movements, which foot she moved and where she placed it; the whole thing then becomes how little can you do to convey to the horse what you are asking, and she was looking for the solution, we were communicating and both enjoying it.

Some of the challenges included sitting on barrels and backing the horse up between two cones on the 22' line; and getting 2 circles at trot in both directions with a change of direction in between. We gave ourselves marks out of ten, not looking for perfection but aiming to improve by a couple of marks.

At the end of the day, asking ourselves did we have rapport, did we have respect, did we have improved impulsion and could we then think about flexion, the answer was yes. Ready to play with this next day.

On Sunday we looked at preparation for riding and neutral lateral flexion, indirect rein and direct rein. Before getting the horses out we started by sitting on the barrels again, sitting on the end of our sticks to simulate having the horse's neck in front of us and the string of the stick as our rope as in one-rein riding, practising throwing the rope over the horse's head without losing our seat position; then feeling the lateral flexion, as you would ask for a one-rein stop.

Polly couldn't wait to come out of the box today; she was immediately connected and we were able to build on our rapport of the previous day. Playing with her before we got into the day's tasks, she was willing and responsive and interested.

Polly is huge and I always have difficulty organising myself and the rope on her neck to set up the flexion and rein positions. Not easy from the ground with a big horse, and practising the flexions at a walk from her side. Always asking ourselves, is this horse ready to be ridden; because if the flexions and responses aren't there and can't be achieved on the ground, you shouldn't be getting in the saddle because it probably isn't going to get any better. On Saturday there was no way I'd have got on her back but on Sunday I would. Maybe next time...

Our next workshop is going to be 15/16 June, and this time Russell Higgins is coming with Jo; I don't know what is planned and of course he won't be bringing horses, he's just instructing us, but should be interesting, based on what I've seen here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSIcT2UC5U4





Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Changing horses: the full story

Yesterday we took Lucie to Monpazier to join the herd and meet the stallion there. It was a quite a day for all of us. I hate seperating the horses and always feel terrible about it, they hate change and so do I. Lucie came with me quite happily, she loaded easily in the trailer and was allowed to move freely, back doors closed, front top open; after all while you could see her little head looking out enjoying the air, ears pricked! So good for travelling to be a positive happy experience. When we arrived the herd there came rushing to the fence to greet the new arrival. We unloaded Lucie and everyone laughed because she is orange with contact with our red clay, compared to the white & grey of the Camargues there.

I was going to take home the 5 yo I had liked on previous visits, if she loaded. With some very expert calm direction from the guy whose trailer outfit it was (Christian Cazor, probably the best horseman I know), she loaded in about 10', amazing for a horse that has barely been out of the field.

Then Lucie was released into the herd, I have some video of that when I have time to process it. She wasn't at all phased by a herd of about 20 horses surrounding her. I'll go & see her next week but she's in good company there.

Back home, I was dropped off with Tayene at the end of the lane so I could get connected with her on the walk home. She was a handful, very stressy, but by about halfway she accepted to walk fairly calmly with me but was very tense and distracted.

Seraphina was waiting. My neighbour had been keeping an eye on her. Fina wasn't too happy that it wasn't Lucie coming back. Tayene didn't think much of Fina. They say horses are racist. I would agree that they know their own sort and it was interesting that when Lucie touched noses and met Tayene, as we did the exchange, there was instant empathy. Fina is very different, her breed and her look must be apparent to other horses too.

In retrospect, I didn't prepare for this meeting as well as I'd prepared when Fina met Lucie for the first time. I released Tayene into the field with Fina, she was becoming very anxious and pushy, so I thought just let them sort it out in the field. Result: Tayene galloping up & down, Fina chasing her (video to come). I had to go in for a pee & a drink & when I came back, they were gone!!!! Tayene had galloped through the opening into the next field, crashing through two lines of electric fencing, pursued by Fina. I saw them briefly then they disappeared into the woods. I grabbed bucket and halters and galloped round myself but no sign, so I got the car out thinking maybe Tayene would head off in the direction of home. Thankfully found them, they'd cornered themselves in wood and brambles down the lane and were happy to be rescued, both tired and sweaty. Walked them home abandoning car & bucket. Spent time grooming and settling them, then manipulated Tayene as it had become obvious she had never been taught to yield to pressure, in fact I was wondering by now what the hell I had done. After a while she softened & when I led them back to the field she accepted being asked to step back or move aside and was mirroring Fina too which was great as I had to take them with me to mend the fence; they stood quietly and respectfully while I did so but had to shut off one field as there was a breach in the electric wire & they knew the weakness at the point.

Eventually I let them off again, but Fina just wouldn't leave Tayene alone to explore & settle; so I stayed with them, moving between Fina & Tayene to interrupt the pattern. Fina can't help it but she fully understood when I asked her to stay apart from Tayene, & she stood respectfully near me. Eventually T started to settle but I had to step in a couple of times. I gave them their small evening feed and some hay & left them eating the hay peacefullyish at dusk, wondering if there was any chance I'd still have two horses there in the morning.

I have, otherwise I wouldn't be here writing this; but there's work to do on young Tayene and I'm thinking OMG what have I done and Fina & I are missing Lucie dreadfully.

Fina & Lucie, before departure

Reception committee for the new arrival, Lucie

Fina and Tayenne shortly before she went through the fence (read the body language... )