Wednesday, February 29, 2012

They say a picture says a thousand words, well i guess that saves me writing anything then.....
except to say that Fern went to her seond show on the weekend, and competing at a grade higher than last time, and went awsome. absolutely faultless, clear cross country, awsome showjumping and much admired by everyone, better than i could have hoped for, not bad seeing she used to look like this....

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Recently i had the opportunity to work with another little pony that had once been wild, his name was Tussock. I got to know Tussock pretty well over the last few weeks, as did all the kids who came on camp and rode him. Because he turned out to be, one of those ponies that every kid should have, stoic, calm, kind and dependable., traits i have come to realise are quite prevalent among all the horse that come from the wild mountains of the central plateau.

I met Tussocks owner months ago, on a beach ride i did to raise funds for the Kaimanawa horses. She mentioned at the time a horse she would like to have worked, we kept in touch and then just before Christmas Tussock arrived just in time to join in with my last horse riding camp of the year.

He was every inch that old fashioned pony type, stocky, round, soft moving, and intelligent without being hot or fiery. He was however not always the most angelic of all ponies, like any pony worth his grass, tussock had learned a few tricks over the year he used to his advantage. He shoulder barged, or dragged you around a little bit when leading him, and sometimes threatened to charge right over top of you. He also had never cantered with a rider on his back before, no fault of his, but he thought a lovely slow trot or a walk were the only paces that would ever be required of him. I quickly explained to him the new rules around here, you were not allowed to crowed the person leading you, and when a rider squeezed with their legs he had to move forward immediately, even if he didn't want. It took me about ten minutes to teach this, and from then on tussock was the dream child's pony.

By the end of the first week of camp, he was jumping playing games, going on rides around the farm all with a tiny ten year old girl on his back. you know what i think he liked it to, he was always there to be caught in the morning, even though he knew it meant working all day long, He stood for hours being brushed plaited and patted.

I put Tussock on the market on behalf of his owner after this, he needed a home where he could be ridden every day and have kids fuss over him. A couple of people came to see him, but he wasn't 'flash' enough for their children, it doesn't matter how safe they are sometimes, people cant see that a amazing jumping technique and showstopper looks wont help your child if they are already a terrified rider. But it was okay that he didn't sell because i kept using him on camps where he was fantastic and every child loved him.

Finally on the last camp of the holidays, a girl traveled five hours with her mum to come try him over the course of the week. The little girl loved him, absolutely adored him, and so did the mother who couldn't believe how well behaved and safe he was. She just loved to canter tussock around bareback, finding that far less scary than cantering with a saddle on as it turns out.  When it was time to go home, there was a very sad goodbye and lots of tears, talking to the mother later the girl cried the whole five hour drive home.

So last Friday, after lots of consultation with the mother, i loaded up tussock, and drove the five hours south. The little girl had no idea he was coming, her mother wanting it to be a surprise, even getting her out of school early so they'd arrive home in time for Tussock to get there. I can tell you that was one happy girl who came running out looking a little surprised when i drove up, before running to look in the float window just to make sure that tussock really was in there.

Sometimes selling horses is a miserable work, trying to match buyers with the right horses, and selling animals you love with no guarantees with what will happen to them after they leave your hands, and no matter how well you produce a horse, your always liable to get the backstabbing and bitching when someone doesn't win everything on a horse they buy off you, your reputation is always on the line,. But in cases like this it makes it all worth it. A super special little pony went to a awesome kid who loved hims, and most importantly parents, who can see what his true worth as a child's pony is.  To make it even better he now lives at the most gorgeous equestrian property, with lots of other happy ponies, post and rail fences, beautiful gardens and arena and stable. Tussock is definitely going to be living the dream life with his new owners.

Just another update- got a call from tussocks new owners today, they have been to a show and pony club, bringing home a neckful of ribbons including 3, 1st places, the mother described having tears in her eyes as her daughter and tussock won best combination! they couldn't be happier with him, really this just makes it all worth it for me, I'm so happy to know hes gone on to be so successful and well loved! couldn't ask for more.

Lastly i would like to say thank you to Julie, who gave me the lovely Tussock to work with and sell for her, its always a pleasure to get to work with such nice people and horses, makes my job much easier. Definitely thinking of her and wishing her well, for what shes going through right now.

If anyone is going to the Kaimanawa show, and see a smallish  pony the colour of dry tussock grass, please go over and give tussock a hug from me, and introduce yourselves to his lovely new  rider and family, who are just the most wonderful people.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I didn't really get around to fine tuning my last post, i just typed the news out, didn't proof read and then pressed post. this is what happens when your tired though, nothing gets done with the usual finesse, used when you have time and energy up your sleeve. There was something i wanted to mention, but didn't get around to previously. Now feels like the right time to talk bout it.

i think I've talked before about how our expectations affect how are horses behave, as does our preparation and training we put into them. Well never are these things more relevant, than at horse shows.This is where a handlers/riders nerves, inconsistencies, or lack of training, all rears in ugly head in the form of horses misbehaving. Now i have never had a problem taking horses to shows for the first time, in fact i have taken four in the last month to there very first events. Its true that the wild mare was exceptionally quiet, but none of mine at least, behave much differently than they do at home. they don't suddenly become monsters, they might walk around with their eyes wide open, but that's about it.

some of it i think really does just come down to our expectations. I don't expect mine to misbehave, and they don't. Because i don't expect it, i handle and act the same way around them that i do at home, so they react as the normally would around me. Now i have been to hundreds of shows in my life so i am pretty calm about the whole thing, i still get nervous from time to time, but i know if i start acting nervous my horse will pick up on it straight away and reproduce the effect ten fold, so i always try and stay very outwardly calm. horses are also suckers for routine, they like the same routine day in and day out, it gives them security. So if your at home and it takes 20mins to brush, saddle up, and fuss over your horse, and then at a show, rush around in panic, it usually this change in their routine and your body language that upsets them. Same if your warming them up, why change the way you warm them up from what you do at home, all this communicates, is that something very different is about to happen, and they have no idea what. I always wander around on a loose rein at home for a couple minutes, i do the same at the show, I'm not suddenly clutching the reins, trying to pull their head in or make them look pretty in front of my fellow competitors, i just let them look around and then carry on like i do at home in the paddock.

Secondly you get out what you put in. If you've missed bits in your training, or don't practice certain things, its not magically going to come together on show day. The main thing is manners, if you kind of let your horse smooch all over you at home when hes relaxed, and be right on top of you, or even paying you no attention at all. You get to the show and suddenly it leaping all over you and dragging you across the truck park, its not because your at a show, it because you never taught it manners, and now when its nervous it doesn't have a leader to look after it. Its always just basic stuff, horses like leaders,  then they feel safe, if your getting walked all over, your not the leader and therefore not looking after your horse. Its not magic, teaching them to stand still when handled, not bump into you, and not be looking off in the distance, will produce a horse that stands calmly at show, because they know the rules, and they feel secure that someone else is the boss and looking after them. No magical, potions, gimmicks, or trick required. Get the ground manners right, so the horse, is calm and easy to handle, by the time you get on its back its already in a calm state of mind and then you can only improve from their. Horses arent born with manners and knowing how to behave its something we teach them, and teaching them always works out better in the long run

I know of, and have worked for, so many people that are sure that there horse is going to be 'wild' at the show, some even giving them calming medicine before the horse has a chance to misbehave. The poor horses most of the time would have been absolutely fine, we just get so nervous we feed our own expectations onto them. There was the one horse that used to drag me around the showgrounds like a steam train, and then leap in the air at the smallest thing, it wasn't a big horse horse but it was pushy, i remember praying that the lead rope wouldn't snap as i tried to hold onto it head and slightly point it in the right direction. I was youngish at the time, and my advice would definitely not have been considered, i was there to "let it look around until it settles, and not upset it". After a few shows i had enough of it, so as soon as the owners were out of sight, i made it stand still, it wasn't allowed to take a step without my permission, also the lead rope was always loose, i never had to pull on it, it wasn't allowed to jump on top of me, shoulder barge or run me down. You know what that horse was perfectly relaxed and calm after that, we never had issues and it was lovely to ride...of course owners thought it was just the calming past finally taking effect....