I specialise in calm, force free training for
horses & ponies.
Preventing & solving behavioural problems.
Below are some examples of the types of problems that I get called out for:
General ground manners. Some horses or ponies have never been taught general ground manners and have then developed behavioural problems such as: barging, having no respect for the handler's personal space, not standing still to mount or generally on cue, walking off as soon as mounted, or generally bolshy or flighty in manner.
Leading. It is not then therefore unusual to find that the horse described above doesn't lead well, perhaps always pulling in front of the handler, or tanking off if spooked. With this type of problem then the horse may think nothing about nudging you all the time with his/her head and perhaps always walking too close for comfort.
I train your horse to walk calmly with their nose in line with your shoulder, and not allowing them to rush ahead of you and therefore avoiding the scenario of the horse putting you back at the shoulder where a foal would naturally walk! I teach the horse to remain a good arms length away from you, mirroring your footsteps and speed of walk with absolutely no pressure from the lead rope, stopping immediately when you stop walking too and increasing speed when you do too.
All this can be easily achieved in a short space of time, within one session.
Please check out Seren's video in my 'case study' section to see an example of what we are aiming at with the leading work.
Loading problems are a common call out for me. Calls can range from horses that load but then try to fly back out of the horse trailer at the speed of lightning! to the horse or pony that refuses point blank to load, and just plants themselves at the bottom of the ramp.
There are some that walk half way up the ramp and then refuse to go the rest of the way in, or those that evade off to the side of the ramp, or some that rear upwards.
But sometimes there are those that have never been trained to load or may have had a bad experience or past accident whilst either loading or travelling previously.
Occasionally I have been to visit the horse that won't actually come out of the trailer!
Travelling problems such as: chlaustrophobic behaviour from the horse or pony that panics and kicks out once in trailer are also common or generally bad travellers who are terrifed or shaking and sweating loads during the journey.
For help with loading problems or training horses to load for the first time, then depending on the individual horse and /or the nature of the problem, then several follow up visits may be required.
I have featured a video in the menu me working with a lovely horse called Cara, helping her to overcome her fear of loading to give you more of an idea how I work.
Catching. Whether this be foals or a horse or pony that is generally hard to catch, this is one of my favourite problems too that I really love working with.
Foot handling problems are one of my favourite problems. Seeing the huge difference it has made to the quality of Duke's life featured in my case study page and to see him so much more relaxed generally and not having to harbour and carry around that fear constantly within himself is really lovely and rewarding to see.
Typical problems are horses or ponies that tend to be difficult with giving their feet to the farrier, either kicking out or not standing still, or generally not wanting to give their feet willingly.
Head shy. The horse or pony that is afraid of a hand or strange unusual objects touching his/her ears or the head area in general. Horses that don’t like anything above their head or are difficult to bridle.
Spookiness. Horses or ponies that seem to be frightened of their own shadow! Making a horse safe and bombproof for a child to ride. Making a safer, quieter hack. Work includes desensitisation to umbrellas, bikes, different noises, traffic, binbags and bins, sheep and cattle and other things you you might encounter whilst out and about. My focus is on teaching the horse to listen to the rider or handler when unsure and not to revert to flight as their default.
Clipping. Some horses have a fear of being clipped. I train your horse to willingly accept the noise, vibration and feel of being clipped.
Starting young horses. Alternatively I can come out to your premises on a regular basis to prepare your horse for their first rider. A safe and suitable good footing area must be available to work in.
I work together with my rider Alex who is fantastic with youngsters and remedial horses, she is calm and patient and has a natural feel and understanding of young horses and we work well together. I concentrate on all the ground work preparation and work with Alex through the early stages of your horse being backed after which she continues developing the horse according to the owners wishes. Alex is also available independently to exercise or school horses and can be contacted through me at this site.
Your horse would need to be physically sound before any work commenced and if in any doubt about this then I would need confirmation from a vet or qualified equine physiotherapist or relevant practicioner, to be able to continue.
My work would include: Creating a trusting and respectful connection with your horse, developing polite ground manners and training your horse to lead well. I cover foot handling preparation for the farrier and trimming, long-lining, fully accepting the saddle and rider, a suitable degree of spookbusting, introducing the horse to the various objects, sounds (including show sounds, clapping, bells etc) and scary things that you and your horse might encounter when out and about in the real World.
I cover training your horse to stand still to mount and dismount which is SO important particularly from a safety point of view. The 6 key aids are taught to the horse too: Walk, Stop, left and right turns, back up and stand still. I also cover trotting and a degree of hind quarter control and lateral movement as appropriate with each horse. Finally we make sure that the horse is happy hacking out confidently without another horse and also in the company of other horses if requested.
Your horse/pony would be trained using the Monty Roberts Dually head collar and mainly ridden off this until understanding the above.
I can introduce mouthing of the bit subject to the horse's mouth being checked out by an Equine Dental Technician, but all initial riding is from a dually halter until the horse or pony is more developed. This keeps the mouth soft and protected during these early stages. Please note however that if you are riding out of your premises in public areas, you would need to check with your insurance company to see if you are insured to ride out in a dually halter as this is not classed as a bridle. Wearing a bridle over or under the dually, whichever sits better, can work well in these early stages so you can have 2 sets of reins, one on the dually and one on the bit, so you can switch accordingly to help keep the mouth soft. Alternatively there are also plenty of bitless bridles available now a days, so finding one to suit your horse in these early stages is something I can help with.
Long lining. An incredibly useful skill to have, which is fun and easy to learn, keeping yourself fit, building your confidence of handling your horse on the ground and above all a great fun and easy way to exercise your horse.
The benefits that long lining offer to the horse are numerous including being a fantastic confidence builder for the nappy or young horse.
Long lining is physically beneficial to the horse, allowing the horse's spine to stay in alignment with its head at all times and keeps your own body in a position that isn't contradictory to what you are asking of the horse, the horse therefore working more willingly and not displaying resentful, frustrating behaviour, which can sometimes be the case with traditional lungeing.
I am happy to come out and help you develop this wonderful skill which is easy to learn and gives you an alternative, fun packed, exercise option that you can do with your horse or pony.
What to do if you have a horse or pony that you think fits one (or several) of the descriptions above:
Firstly, you can breathe out a sigh of relief, and realise that you are not alone. You are DEFINITELY not the only person that is experiencing whatever problem you are experiencing and I am here to help and fully support you.
Secondly, you can rest assured that I can help you find a way forwards for both you and your horse.
Thirdly, There is a contact form under 'contact me' on this site, that enables you to email me directly. Please outline a brief history of your horse, age, breed, how long you have owned him or her for and details of the help you would like. I may then need to email you a more detailed 'profile form' for you to fill in and return to me prior to my consultation visit. The profile form asks more detailed questions about your horse enabling me to gather as much information as I can prior to my visit so that I can get straight down to work on the day.
Due to my busy work schedule I am often unable to talk initially by phone, so email is the best way to contact me.
My aim is to set the horse's training up for success, to therefore enable and help the horse to understand more easily what is being asked. Keeping the environment calm and conducive to learning is I believe a key factor in determining the horse's progress, along with consistency and always keeping the horse's best interest at heart.
Horses as we know are intelligent animals. I always work at the horses own pace. If the horse is not doing what we expect or would like them to be doing, then I think it is because the horse is either in pain, hasn’t been trained or doesnt understand what we are asking. The way we communicate to the horse needs to be clear and consistent and in such a way that the horse understands and experiences no violence, pain or force. In the absence of force then the willing nature of the horse always comes to light.
I would like to thank you very much for viewing my website which I hope you will have found interesting.
I look forward to meeting you and your horse or pony in the future.
Frequently Asked Questions:
How long will it take to fix the problem?
Well this depends on the nature of the problem and how bad it is, and sometimes how committed you are to practicing what I suggest you practice in between visits, taking into account too the nature of your individual horse. It is very common for people to want a quick fix and whilst this is sometimes possible, it is only possible to work successfully if we work at the horse's own pace. The horse will decide whether he/she is ready to move onto the next stage, my job is to read these signs as clearly as possible and keep communication as clear and effective with the horse as I possibly can. By having a clear understanding of what to practice when I leave along with the owner/handler committing to actually doing this practice, then progress can be very quick.
Once the horse's problem is fixed does this mean it is fixed for good?
This is a common question that I usually get asked before visiting and my answer is generally "yes".
HOWEVER, take a catching problem for example. If I have successfully `fixed' the problem and by this I mean both I and the owner can now walk into the field and approach the horse, put a head collar on without any resistance from the horse and then lead the horse from here, and then the next day a stranger walks into the field in a rush and in a straight line towards the horse, waving the headcollar frantically and calling out in a high pitched voice to the horse ( which spells danger!!) and the horse rushes off, then the fact that the horse is running away should really be of no surprise!
It is not that the horse then has a catching problem, but that the horse is responding perfectly normally to body language that says "flee!” reading a high energy and flapping arms walking or possibly running towards him or her which is then interpreted as "sending away". So effectively the horse has done exactly what the human was asking.
This is why I like to work with the handler/owner and make sure that they have firstly a good understanding of exactly why the problem arose in the first place, then how I am going about "fixing" it and then what work is necessary for the owner/handler to practice in order to continue the progress of the horse. I try to let the handler/owner have as much hands on experience as possible and I try to teach as much as possible about the horse's language to help the owner/handler have a greater understanding. This then enables them to have more of a chance to know what to do when the horse presents them with something unexpected. This way problems can be avoided and both the confidence of the horse and owner/handler grows.
How long will it take to back my horse?
This would depend on whether the horse is basically untouched or whether someone has previously attempted to back the horse and failed.
The basically untouched horse is the more straight forward to work with, and this type of horse can be accepting its first saddle and rider within a short amount of time. Again though I would like to stress that it is not about speed but about working at the horse's own pace and what the horse can comfortably cope with. If the horse is naturally confident and nothing much phases him/her then I am able to work much quicker, but if the horse is naturally very sensitive and spooky and nervous in character then I would take things more slowly and break things down into smaller stages.
However, the horse accepting it's first saddle and rider doesn't really class the horse as being backed in my opinion.
I like to make sure that the horse leads well and has good ground manners.
I also like to make sure that the horse has a degree of spook busting done with it and introduce the horse to everyday things that it might encounter whilst out and about. I like to train ‘listening to the rider‘ mindset when the horse isn’t sure about something over riding their natural default flight mindset.
The horse would need to be re-backed each day gradually building up the length of time that the rider is on the horse's back.
It is hugely important that the horse is trained to stand still whilst mounting and dismounting and to move off the leg responsively into a calm but confident walk.
Stopping, left and right turns and backing up are also taught, firstly on long lines and then transferred to the ridden work.
I like to make sure that the horse has walked out in hand on a circular route several times, and then if possible and the route is safe enough, to have long-lined the route a few times, and then lastly to be ridden on this route but with a handler clipped on with a 30ft line, gradually dropping back and then leading, dropping back, leading etc.
I generally allow a minimum of 4-6 weeks to achieve all the above, but sometimes it can be quicker depending on the horse, but allowing more time allows the learning to become more engrained.
Mouthing is something I can introduce your horse to as well. Please see the paragraph on `starting young horses' in the above Services section.
Further work is obviously needed to develop the Ridden work, but only after these starting points are well established and you have a horse that is willingly and confidently accepting the above. Some owners prefer to carry this on and develop the horse themselves but is is something we are happy to assist with through home visits.
Throughout the backing process I like the owner/rider/handlers to be present whenever possible so they get a deeper understanding of their horse. This enables them to continue successfully theit development in the future.
Working with a horse that has been backed unsuccessfully in the past is not so straight forward a job. The time to retrain would depend upon the nature of the problem and the character of the horse, and often takes a lot longer.
Would you mind if spectators came along to watch you work?
I don’t mind spectators but there may be certain occasions however where it might be more fair on the horse if fewer people were around. Also some owners may not like this so it would ultimately be up to the owner.
Would you be happy to come out to our livery yard and give a talk and/or demonstration of your work?
Yes I would love to! I am happy to combine talking, interspersed with me actually demonstrating my work with perhaps one or several of the horses at your livery yard if there ar particular problems you would like me to look at.
Past demos and talks have included being invited to do a talk demo for the local Veterinary Health Centre at the Cross Country Equine Clininc in Devauden for the vets and nurses there.
I called this talk/demo 'First Impressions' as they specifically wanted to focus on how to introduce themselves and/or strange equipment to an unfamiliar nervous/flightly horse in need of treatment.
I have done several demos and behavioural talks for livery yards, riding clubs, charities and a demo at Chepstow Racecourse.
Do you run courses, workshops or clinics?
Yes I run:
•Problem Solving clinics
•Trust & Confidence Full Day and Half Day Courses
•Groundwork and Spook Busting clinics
•Long Lining workshops
•Group bookings for livery yards
•One to one Private Lessons in Ground work.
Family Horse Days:
These are fun filled days for the whole family to enjoy. Designed for the ‘not so horsey’ family members or other half’s. Aimed at instilling how to safely be around horses and become more knowledgeable about their psychology, so everyone in the family can help support each other, and ALL can enjoy being around your family horse. The day includes lots of hands on, learning how to effectively use your body to communicate successfully around horses, and practise leading your horse over, under and around tricky situations! You are very welcome to bring your own horse or to borrow one of my horses for the day.
•Bring a lovely picnic and enjoy the fabulous views over the Wye Valley.
•All the above clinics, courses, workshops, private lessons and Family Horse Days take place at my home near Monmouth, South Wakes, UK.
Please do feel free to e-mail me via my contact form if you have any questions or to register your interest in any of the above events and I can email you future dates.