Saturday, 14 November 2009

The Broken Horse

A few months ago I read a little book by Jack Brainard. In the book is a chapter titled 'What is a "broke" horse?'. It's a nice book that I enjoyed reading, but that one particular chapter made a big impression on me because I realised that the horse he was describing there was the horse that I want. This broke horse does all this work willingly, happily ties up while Jack has coffee with his mates, and then goes and does a load more work. Then the next day he takes out a lady who hasn't been on a horse in years on two hour ride around the farm, and then he goes on to be ridden by one of Jack's friends in a parade, and so on and so on.

Jack goes on to say that, 'you too can ride a broke horse and he doesn't have to be a futurity winner to be a great horse. You can still be riding him when he's 20 and enjoying every minute of it. All of this, because he was trained properly with some consideration.'

It made me realise how much time we spend working and riding unbroken horses. It's just so much more fun riding broke ones. I think this fact has got a bit lost in all the modern day discussions around what kind of 'relationship' we want between us and our horses. In the end for me, it just comes down to when I ask my horse to do something, I want him to do it how I want it done, willingly, now. If that's not happening and he's not happy with it, then somewhere along the line, I reckon I've left a bit of a hole in the training. I've left my horse asking questions that I need to give him answers too, and that is where my work needs to begin.

It's just so nice to have horses around the place that are happy to get on with the job.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Could horsemanship be simpler than we think?

I'm no trained rider - that's for sure! Most of what I know I've worked out as I go. Over the years I've heard so much about how to ride though. Loads of phrases like 'on the bit, 'a good seat', 'on the forehand', 'outside rein inside leg (or it might be the other way round, I'm not sure)', 'take up a contact', 'drive the horse forward'. I have no idea what all this stuff means - I mean that, I really don't, and what's more, I don't want to know either.

I've watched a few people ride who I thought looked pretty comfortable. I'd like to ride like they do really. And I've learnt quite a bit about how it is mentally and physically best for the horse if he goes in a certain way. I've worked out that you can pretty soon trash horses if you don't look after them and you ride them wrong. I've taken that on board.

I was wondering if I pitched up on a remote island, and there were some horses there, untouched horses, and I'd never seen a horse before, how would I get along with them. This is quite a big island, by the way. Big enough for me to have a bit of a farming operation going, so over the years I build up my herd of cattle and my flock of sheep. I eventually get round to taming one or two of the horses and it's not long before I work out that that bit of curved back there just behind the withers looks about right to sit on. I also work out that for control and steering purposes I need something on the horses head, so I make a bridle (I guess I'd start with a bitless, so that's the first thing - I'd miss out on all the communication I get with the horses' mouth).

So there I go, riding my horse all over the place, getting the jobs done, rounding up the animals, stopping and starting, twisting and turning, and working out the best way for me and my horse to get along. But this time I wouldn't have all the helpful information that I have picked up along the way in the real world. I wouldn't know that I needed to spend twenty years working on my seat, or that I needed to study the great masters to learn the art of riding. I might just work out that it's best not to fall off too much though, and that things are easier if I have a bit of balance between me and the horse when I go for a turn. I'd probably work out that that balance I feel in the turn is pretty nice to feel in most of what I do too, and I'd probably work out that that balance, when I find it, can only really come through for me and the horse when I relax.

I do sometimes wonder if we have maybe made it all a bit more complicated than it is.

Saturday, 29 August 2009

What, where, when and how!

I loved working with Connor and his hunter.
* * *
We've just come back from a week in Ireland. We did a four day clinic with a day off either end. Some people were in for one day, some for two days and some for four days, so all in all we got to work with fourteen riders and their horses. I learnt stacks!

Pretty much every time I do clinics nowadays, at some point I become really aware that I only have about one thing I know about horses. I use it in every job but it does sometimes gets thinly disguised as different things. So I may be doing a loader, or I may be helping someone get their horse to stand still at the mounting block, or I may be helping someone do a move that I don't even know what it is, or even how to do it myself, or I might be helping a horse understand the bit, or I might be messing about at home playing around with the balance in my horse, or anything really, picking up a youngsters feet for the first time, or the second, or just picking up a youngsters feet - it's all the same stuff!

So whatever the job what is that thing - I'd say it is that you want to keep your horse feeling safe. Working with that anxious or fleeing horse, in the immortal words of a friend of ours, 'is at best a waste of time'. Over the last few years I have learnt so much about horses, but still one thing that I found out years ago stays the same - if I set up the boundaries and stay in charge of the movement, then I get the best out of my horse.

* * *
I heard Harry Whitney say, 'The horse needs to know what, when, where, and how'. I've worked out that if I get that lot in place most things go well, and conversely, if things are not going so well, I've left at least one of those jobs up to the horse, for sure.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

A little less worried arabian horse

We've just arrived back from doing a couple of clinics in Kent. I got to work with a little arabian gelding who was really struggling with his life. Well, let's be accurate here - struggling with some parts of his life, but mainly the riding part. I think some of the bit work he had learnt in his showing days had pretty much done his head in.

He was ridden a lot in a halter which worked fine on a good day, but when he wasn't feeling so good, or when too much was going on, the halter didn't really give his rider much opportunity to help him through. He would alternate between being massively spooky to being pretty shut down, with not much time in between. Basically not much fun!

In a previous clinic we had introduced him to the bit, but to be honest we hadn't really got him to understand it. I tried using long lines to help him see how it worked but I never really got it sorted. This time I had some new ideas. The first thing to do was show him that the bit wasn't there for him to lean on or to push on. I did this by taking the bit in my hands and just offering him softness when he relaxed. If he pushed or leaned I backed him off - not heavily, he is an arab and learnt pretty quickly. I then moved on to showing him how the steering worked. When he feels the cue on his mouth he needs to just turn his head that way. The cue is a very light feel with no backwards in it. It took him a while to relax with this. He was very worried about what the bit might do, and he came up with lots of different ideas about how to deal with it. Lots of pushing and neck twisting, and at times he would completely zone out because he just felt he couldn't cope.

It took me an hour to have him walking around, quiet, following the bit, and with a nice relaxed mouth. Then I got on him to see if it worked from on top, and it did. Over the next three days Sarah and his owner rode him around, just in a 'safe' (to him) part of the school, doing nice bends, halts, and also working in some neck reining to move his shoulders. He was a pretty happy and relaxed horse. This isn't a done job, but it's a start. It's nice to see a horse understand something that previously terrified him, and it's nice to see the rider have some way of helping him through those moments when he starts to lose his focus. I would say, as his confidence grows his world can get bigger.

More and more I'm convinced that the way to go with this horse training game is to find the first thing the horse isn't comfortable about, and get it sorted. And then the next one etc etc. The horse soon starts to behave like he's thinking, 'mmmm this guys quite handy to have around'.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Working with horse trainers

Inspired by a post on my favourite friendly proboard ( ) about the implications of working with several different trainers, that got me thinking about getting to the point where you feel confident enough to work in your own right.

When I first watched Mark work I knew pretty much instantly that he had something I needed to learn. That was how I wanted to work with my horses. I watched him for a few years (and hopefully will continue to do so) and slowly slowly I began to get the hang of it, to the point where I'm pretty happy with most of what I do around the horses now.

From there I found I had the confidence to begin to work things out in my own right. I began to get an understanding of how I think a horse should perform in a way that he is both physically and mentally comfortable with. As it turns out, not surprisingly really I guess, I found this is also the way that is most comfortable for me too.

At that point I realised that I had in my mind a kind of overview of how to be with my horse and how to train him to be how I wanted him to be. Of course it is not a finished product, and it is unlikely to be one for me either. I know I am never going to be an incredible horse person, but I do think I can be a pretty reasonable one.

There is another question that ties in to this subject and actually really interests me too - what level can we really expect to get to with our horsemanship? Are some of us doomed to forever not really know how to do this? I don't believe that for a minute. I do believe that it is in quite a lot of peoples interest to make us believe that though, because that keeps them in work. I was listening to a trainer having a casual conversation the other day and in all seriousness, he said, 'I'm not showing them how I do this, it cost me a lot of money to learn that'.

I thought at the time, 'well, good luck to you mate, you haven't understood the way this game works. Horsemanship is not some list of facts you learn and then buy and sell for money - it's a lifelong apprenticeship that is way beyond that'. Needless to say I didn't have the bottle to say it out loud, so I just sneaked away and wrote it on my blog.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Nurturing the natural try

'We shall take care never to vex the horse, or cause it to abandon its affable gracefulness in disgust. For this is like the fragrance of blossoms, which never returns once it has vanished'.
Antoine de Pluvinel 1685

As I go on learning more and more about horses I keep spotting more and more stuff. Improving my horsemanship is in fact an endless quest.

Anyway, I don't know if I have ever mentioned Hugo before, but he is interesting, mainly for one thing - he is totally lazy and only half there. Now, years ago I would probably have been fine with that - a nice slow horse that even my granny could have sat on, but now I am looking at him and thinking, 'how the hell did he get in to that state?'.

He's lost his 'try'. So here is what I think. The try is there in the horse, he wants to find a peaceful place, and through selection man has bred it into them maybe even more. Horses are born with try - loads of it. A bit like working dogs, they want to get it right. Our job is not to kill that try, but to actually nurture it. There is nothing so much fun as sitting on a horse that tries - it is a powerful and inspiring experience. There is nothing so dispiriting as sitting on a horse that has lost its try - feeling the pain of its history, and then feeling the pain of trying to rebuild that try - I think it is one of the hardest jobs and I'm not sure it's even possible. I'm not sure they can ever be the same again.

So here is my plan. Any horse I am working on, I want to preserve and nurture the try. I don't want to be the one that is responsible for taking that out of the horse. So how can I do that? Well the really obvious things to avoid are quite simple. Get your releases right. Don't just go in all guns blazing - ask small and release on the first signs of a try. Once you've asked don't just release without getting a response. Don't keep asking when the horse is already doing what you asked for. Don't confuse the horse by asking too much too soon, or by asking in inconsistent unclear ways. And here is the big one that I'm still thinking about, but I am pretty sure is true. Keep the horse happy working for a good release. In other words, don't go upping the reward, because then the horse won't be so keen to work for less.

There is nothing so good as a horse that is naturally happy to work.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

How we work.

We have been running clinics for a few years now and we are happy to work with most situations people ask about. I would like to explain a bit more about how we work. If you are booked into one of our clinics or would like to attend one, then it is best that you have some idea about our work.

Our most important aim when we work with horses is that they are relaxed. When a horse is relaxed he can learn, or at least he can learn stuff you want him to learn. When he isn’t relaxed there is a good chance he can learn a lot of stuff you’d rather he didn’t. A lot of us can get our horses relaxed when we are on the ground, but sometimes when we are riding they are anything but. It took me a while to work this problem out, but as with everything, once I realised it, I couldn’t believe I’d missed something so obvious.

I just kept thinking, how come they trust me when I’m on the ground, and how come nearly all driven horses, and nearly all working horses just get on with it, but a large number of leisure horses just can’t relax when they are being ridden? The answer is that horses just find it really difficult to deal with grey areas – they need to know and understand what is going on. If they don’t know or understand, they don’t feel safe, and that is when you get all the tricky stuff happening. It’s a fair enough deal, I’d say: the horse is entitled to feel safe, or worry – that’s what horses do.

So I set off on my search for grey areas when I ride my horse. It didn’t take me long to find some. Here’s a really basic one that I reckon a few of us have come across. When I asked my horse to turn right she went nicely around the curve but when I asked her to turn left she fell across the turn. Now, before you all go, ‘ah, now what you need to do is this, blah blah blah’, I want to explain what I thought my horse made of this. She thought that my cue for turn one way meant one thing, and my same cue on the other side to turn the other way meant another thing.

For a while I just assumed she was stiff or bent or something, but now I have worked it out. If I get her to completely release all her tension, and then I explain the two types of turn, and have them on different cues, then she is fine. When I got this organised I felt like she was saying to me, ‘Why didn’t you explain that to me properly before?’ Looking further into that situation I suddenly realised that there were a whole lot of movements there that my horse had options on, that I wasn’t in control of, she was. That, for her, was a huge grey area.

As it turns out, the two things we have found that make the difference with pretty much all horses are understanding the bit, and balance – front to back and straightness. Getting a nice relaxed mouth, and nice soft hands with no pull, and getting the horse balanced on all four feet, can make a huge difference. So that’s how we work. Everything must make sense to the horse. It’s just not fair if it doesn’t. And if it does, what do you get? You get a nice calm horse!

Monday, 23 March 2009


So what are we all looking at?
OMG, who bought those?
Well, the thing is they are organic and they are pedigree!

Now all we need is Glenatron and Zorro
to come and round them up!

Thursday, 19 March 2009

A question of bits

The other day I met a horse who doesn't like a snaffle bit. I once would have taken that at face value, but now it leaves me wondering whether they quite understand that bit or whether it just comes down to other reasons. Have you found horses that, once they knew what was meant by it, still showed strong preferences between bits, and if so what do you attribute that to?

Many times I have seen horses who really can't get on with a particular bit, but when they are shown some logic in how it works they settle down with it. What they really struggle with is irrationality.

I have to admit I never rush to change things. I would really need to be convinced that it is the actual bit that is causing the issue, and I have to say I don't remember the last time I personally changed a bit for physical problems. I do often change them if I feel that the bit is designed in a way that makes the communication between the rider and the horse 'blurry'. I like the bit to sit pretty still in the horse's mouth, so if there is a lot of side to side movement I change that. I also can't see how leverage bits can be clear in the way I like, because it is very hard for most of us to guage the effect of leverage.

Now I know this might sound arrogant, but hopefully it may be helpful. We have one horse who gets really fidgety and chewy on her bit. When we ride her she settles down and makes no fuss at all. We sometimes use her for other people to ride, and pretty much for the next few rides she fidgets with the bit. To me that clearly says, if the horse understands the bit she is fine. If things change, maybe it's just the change, or maybe if there is a bit of 'pull' in there, she loses confidence and worries.

I was talking to a friend of mine this morning and she was using slobber straps. She has a spare set she was trying to sell me. I personally don't think slobber straps would suit the way I use the bit, but her and her horse were getting along fine. What I am saying is this. I think there are probably loads of ways of communicating with a horse using a bit. So if you use a bit, I would just say, make sure it makes sense to your horse before you rush out to change it. If you don't know what 'making sense' is when you are using a bit, then firstly, how is your horse going to make sense of that, and secondly ASK someone you trust to explain how they use the bit and see if that makes sense to you, then you can make sense to your horse.

I guess I'd have to say I haven't really seen horses that prefer one bit majorly to another, but then I always use the same bits, and I don't see that many horses, and I don't see that many different breeds.

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Endless Discussion!

This is a question from our friend Carrie, to Sarah. It relates to the 'bitless' text on Dr Cook's website. I thought you might enjoy reading it, not so much because it's a bout bitless, or bits, but more because I think it important to try and get to that point where the 'endless discussion' stops.

* * *

hi sarah, as i said on the fone the other day the vet said to look up bitless. so i did. im not going 1 way or the other but was just interested and open to both sides. at the moment i use both methods, ie bit and riding of the head coller and cant c me changing yet. ive copied and pasted dr robbert cook whos seems to be very opinionated but he did throw up a question for me i wanted to seek yr opinion? the question is wots yr opinion on the bit interfering with breathing? ive also put other info of his just for u 2 read

* * *


Hats off to you for researching stuff - I'd say the majority of horse people I meet can't be bothered, or read something and pick out the sensational bits, pass them on as gospel and then immediately forget about it all again!

I haven't really got time to read through all this right now (I've read quite a bit of it, and way in the past have read the whole thing). But I might make a few general observations:

1) Be wary of 'scientific' claims made by people who are trying to sell you something.

2) I'll take back No 1 if DC has full and proper, extensive, provable and repeatable scientific evidence for everything he says (maybe that comes further down the text?)!

3) This whole dichotomy between 'bits' and 'bitless' seems completely artificial to me - and I think to you, as you are doing both. My feeling is that it has arisen over the past few decades as horses became primarily leisure (not working) animals and people began to see them as pets - with all the sentimental, ill-conceived baggage and shrieking about 'cruelty' that goes with that. There are traditions of riding where both bits and bitless are used at various different stages of training (eg vacquero cowboys, who progress from snaffle bit, to bosal, finally to curb for the fully trained horse), and plenty of people who mix both as they like. I ain't got a problem with that, would do it myself, and riding with just a sidepull or headcollar or indeed nothing is fun and different for the horse and rider, good training, and so on - but for safety's sake, and 'kindness' sake, it does presuppose your horse being responsive to your feel on the reins (whatever is on the horse's end of them), weight, body movements, breathing etc, which many horses that are being 'tortured' in bitless devices aren't.

I just think pitting bits against bitless is the wrong thing to do - both have their place, depending on your individual preference, where your horse is at in his training (or lack of it!), and what you want to do with your horse, both overall and at any particular time. Humans naturally want to seek one 'truth' and stick to it (and slag off anyone who is doing things differently) - basically, it's easier that way - but the reality of the situation is that there are many 'truths' built on top of some (possibly) universal principles. Hence, all the different riding styles that have evolved around the world, for different purposes.

4) I do think you would find it hard to achieve some things with some horses without using a bit - you need that fine, subtle communication and clarity for the horse. If you think it's 'cruel', fine - stick to doing the things you can do without it.

For example, if you look at the proponents of bitless who do High School, you'll notice straight away that they select their horses really carefully - mainly Iberian horses - because these horses have been bred for correct balance for collected work from birth. And at least one leading proponent I know of adds a bridle at the end of training in order to reach the highest level of refinement. (He also said, when I went to watch him, that most horses could not offer you anything beyond shoulder-in - which is clearly nonsense, but might be true if you couldn't offer THEM anything extra in the way of help with their balance.) Ditto for NH - everyone focuses on the riding in a halter, but these systems too end up with a bit. Why do you think that is?

5) I tried out a DC bridle many years ago and found it pretty gross and unclear for the horse. Others obviously have a different experience - but we're all looking for different things from our horses. (And it's not the equipment, it's how you use it - I recently watched a chaotic lesson with someone who was adamant that she would only ride both her horses in a DC bridle because it's kinder, and neither had the slightest understanding of what they were supposed to do - is that kind?)

6) This is the same type of debate you get between barefoot and farriers, vets and equine dentists, treed and treeless saddles - again, note that many of these debates are based on business/market share rather than a search for what is best for each individual horse and person. I'm sick to death of it all, to be honest. In my view, people need to get informed, just as you are trying to do, then make up their own minds and shut up trying to tell everyone else what to do! The difficulty is that it takes a long time to get a good overall view of all these aspects of horsemanship, see where they overlap or contradict, how things fit together, how different training methods are aiming for the same or different things, and what ARE the universal truths (if any?) about horses - mentally, anatomically, biomechanically, emotionally, etc. It's this understanding that then allows you to look at this overwhelming morass of STUFF and make an informed judgement, which then allows you to take things forward in a way that makes sense to and benefits your horse.

That's the quest I've been on for decades, Carrie, and the one you are on, too. It's worth the journey even to get as far as I have, but it's tough. And when you reach a certain point, you truly feel liberated - you can make up your own mind and be confident that at least you won't make things worse for the horse, and very possibly you'll make them better. KEEP GOING!!

Write back if any other questions/comments. And do you want a slot on the next clinic (£35 per day this time, as an old timer!)? Got a couple of people interested already, so don't wait too long.

Lots of love to you and your horses

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Living with the Dinosaurs

Some years ago I heard Mark talking about sitting on his horse and how he could feel this energy underneath him ready to go in any direction he asked. I imagined it would feel like sitting on a ball that could roll in any direction. Now, some time later, I can see and feel this myself. I can look at the horse being ridden and see which way the energy is falling, or not. I can see that the energy we add to this 'balance' is crucial. To watch a horse in balance and in movement is a very pretty sight, far more beautiful than the list of regulated moves that have become the benchmark used to prove horsemanship.

When I was with Mark last year, I noticed he was working really hard on getting people to feel the communication between them and their horse down the reins. We were talking one evening and I said to him that I thought it was really cool the way he was doing that. He said to me that it is interesting that a lot of the 'top' horse trainers say that you can't teach feel, it is something that you have or you don't have.

In our next clinic I started to do the same thing. For some people it was a revelation that such a small thing could be so powerful. For me that is one of the beauties of horsemanship - less is so often more. We are working slightly differently now, using that feel to reach a different level, but the feel is still the same thing.

So where to go from there? I am more and more convinced that the goal itself is the feel and the balance. As soon as the goal becomes something further on and we sacrifice the feel and balance, it is all too easy to get into a 'this must happen' mentality. There is a fine line between that pure communication and a pull, and why do we pull? I think it is because our focus goes beyond the feel and on to some other target. Things like us looking good, having horses in outline, winning stuff, mastering specific moves, and so on, take over at the expense of perfect feel and perfect balance.

For me, I see horsemanship as like life itself. It is difficult to build good stuff on dodgy foundations. But put in a good foundation and the good stuff can come along. With dodgy foundations, I don't think it ever truly can.

Monday, 26 January 2009

First clinic of the year

After a rather desperate post Xmas dip in energy, we are back!

Just enjoyed a great clinic here, and I got to have my first ever ride on an Icelandic. Ednah invited me to have a ride on Glaesir. What a horse! I've just been looking online to see what's for sale out there, and boy, they are expensive! I'd have to sell at least a couple of my horses to buy one of those.

I was in some trepidation about this clinic. We've learnt a lot this winter and it's always a bit confronting taking new stuff into clinics. I always have this slight fear that someone is going to say, 'Ah, but last year you told us this, and now you're saying this'. Anyway, it was fine. In a way, good horsemanship is good horsemanship. The feel that horses respond to doesn't change.

One of the horses in the clinic was a ten year old Haflinger mare who just pushed her way through everything and everyone who came in her path. We used to go out 'sorting horse problems' and it took me back to the stressy times that go along with that kind of work. We made a lot of progress but even after two days she was no way sorted enough to go home. She is staying with us for a few more days. Today I carried on working towards one of our goals - taking her for a long walk - she was loads better and I am feeling pretty confident she is beginning to glimpse a happier way of being. We have also made a good start getting her to relax her mouth and neck while she is being ridden - I think she's going to be a nice little horse.

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Trying to keep it simple.

It is impossible to try to educate the mouth if the horse is not in balance.
Philippe Karl

I promise you I am only here through necessity. I don't mean here writing this blog, I mean here in my horsemanship. I am a happy hacker with not much ambition to be anything else. Having a happy horse has always been my goal. I have always strived to keep things easy, mainly because I am lazy and that combined with an instinctual feeling that 'complicated' is, if not wrong, at least unnecessary.

But things were happening with my horse that I needed to get sorted and this is the way I am doing it. To be specific I realised I needed two separate cues for turning, as on one side she couldn't make the bend, she just fell over sideways (not literally - instead of turning around the bend she fell around it like a board). Now I know this is a very common problem and I have heard many many ways of addressing it. My original plan was that as my horse improved and got more and more happy and clear about our work then surely this would sort itself out. But now I see that couldn't happen because I simply had never explained to her what exactly I wanted from her in the turn. It's not that things were that bad - anyone who knows my horse will tell you she is pretty nice to ride. She goes anywhere and isn't scared of much. I can take her out of the field after a month and go for a hack. She's a good horse.

But the realization that I needed a bit more than her just to be happy and relaxed has lead me to a whole new world. To get to what I want now it is not enough for me to have her just not leaning on the bit, and happy to go where I want. Now I need her mouth relaxed, and I need her balanced from front to back, and I need her specifically cued up for bend on both sides. Don't run away - for any of you who are like me and thinking, phew, this sounds heavy, stick with it. It's possible that more experieced riders will be reading this (actually they have probably already stopped reading it by now) and they will be thinking, 'about time too'.

So that's what I'm up to. It's quite precise stuff and I'm not finding it that easy, which goes against the grain a bit as I have always had this feeling that if it's not easy it's probably not right. I am sticking with it though, because it makes sense to me, and it is getting easier for us both as we go along. But Splodge is one of those horses that tries really hard to get things right, and when she gets confused she kind of seizes up, and then I start to feel I'm letting her down a bit, so I have to be pretty careful to try and keep things clear for her.

I am excited by my horsemanship right now. I have a clear picture of what I am doing, where I am going and how to get there. I'm enjoying it!

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Right from the beginning

So we got pretty spaced out over Christmas. See my wife is really lazy, and I am even lazier, so we get a little excuse like a pagan festival or even a non-pagan one for that matter and we are all curled up in front of the log stove checking to see if there are any good films on telly that day.

All we've done is fed, mucked out, and a bit of worming. We worm the horses once a year after the first heavy frost. That kills all the bots too then. It's highly unscientific but it seems to work well for us. It's also the time when we have to handle last years foals. Up till then we have pretty much kept away from them, but they have to be wormed. This year it was really good because we had guests working with us who wanted experience handling young horses, so this was their opportunity. Working with foals is a great way to set up how you need to be to keep the horse onside.

So what's the trick - being soft within yourself, and in all your actions helps, that's for sure. I know it's a much over-used word these days but softness in your mind and body is good. I find it works for most things and also, as a bonus, it helps keep you feeling good within yourself too. And horses tend to trust it too. So in no time you can be putting a headcollar on and off these seven month old foals, and putting your hands around their mouths getting them ready for the wormer. The whole job was done in about three half hour sessions, and the foals were happy with it too.

I don't want to sound cocky about this, because I'm not, but what I do think is important is to try and keep things right with these little horses from the start, because our experience is that then, you get good horses out of it at the other end. This years foals are solid little guys. Simon is going to make a great 15hh plus cob, he is really sound in his mind and you can just see what a solid little horse he is going to be. His little half sister Kate is going to be a really pretty little riding horse. She was just a tiny tiny bit more wary to start with but as soon as she saw we were ok she was fine about everything too. It's just so great to have horses that haven't been cursed with a load of human rubbish in their lives.

Compare that to those poor horses born into human confusion. Horses not born into herds, that know no boundaries, or get weaned too early for no reason other than money or ignorance (sorry, I'm off on a rant here). Just to say, if you are planning to buy a youngster, buy one that's been raised properly - it's worth it, and also the more people who demand that, the more it will happen.