Long-reining a Shetland Pony

Today with Coco I really started to work on long reining. I have been planning to do this so over the past few days I have been preparing her for it by guiding her on left and right and not doing too much facing up. I hooked up the halter, and guided her left and right with one rein; then I joined the halter and guided her from the left. To change sides I would quickly step around the back of her. She would loose me for a moment as stepped across but I was quick to move over to her right side so that her right eye caught me and I only turned her once her right eye had seen me. It is quite easy to have a horse turning to the left long reining and then as you pull them to the right they loose you and get a little bit confused – they don’t want to turn and they can fight against the rein so what I started to do was to get her used to me walking from one eye to the other (or from one side of her brain to the other) first.  I would have her turning to the left, then I would let her straight out a little bit, then after she saw me with her right eye I would put her onto a right circle, so it was very much like she was back on a right circle if you were just lunging her on a little circle. I continued this until she got soft at it and started to find the change of rein quite easily.

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The next stage was to start to walk across behind her rump and change rein at that point so for example if she was going to the left I would let her straight out for a bit and whilst I was still behind her rump I just gently take up the right rein, then squeeze the right rein before stepping out to the right side of her body till she could see me.  She would relax and offer the right side of her body until she got to the stage where she could start to look for me through the feel of the rein and bend and turn to her right whilst I was still centred behind her rump.

Once she was comfortable with this step I would ask her to hold a straight line, and then turn, then hold a straight line and turn. I did this in the halter first so that if she tried to spin or fight she can’t get into too much trouble. I don’t want her to step on the reins with a bit in her mouth and pull it through her mouth. I also had prepared her with the in line work by touching her on her blind side of her body with a stick almost feeling like it was a rein falling over the back of her hocks, over her rump and that side of her body that she can’t see.

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So by the time I got her doing that in the halter then I got her to do a similar thing in the bit, she was right for the long reins. If she tensed and tried to rush, I would get her to do a circle around me because that is what she got used to and could relax in. Then when she relaxed I would open her up get her to walk out on a straight line until she could go around one way, turn right and left and she was happy with me trailing along behind as I steered.

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Once she could turn left and right and I could walk comfortably behind her I started to apply a stop. To start off with, when she was standing I would squeeze the reins and get her to soften, and take a few steps back, then soften again and more steps back. Then when she was walking I would squeeze and get her to soften, then stop, then ask for a few steps back. I make a habit of asking her to take a few steps back as it gets her body better prepared to stop and we want to constantly improve the back up – it is an important thing for every young horse to learn.

Then I did a bit more with the whip, cracking it, and at the end the kids wanted to play with me in the big round yard. I was running around crazy with the kids and she was stopped in the middle standing quite calmly. She is really figuring out that we are not there to hurt her. She still has a disapproval of the whip when it is cracking close to her. Over time her tolerance to it will improve.

The next lesson will be taking her out like a work horse and long reining her over the hills.

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Educating a Shetland – day 3

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Today with Coco I started off just with a saddle and a long lead, guiding her out at a distance, just following the lead, getting her to bend and do some soft circles and follow the lead of the rope. I wanted her calm and walking in nice rhythm.  She was far more relaxed, and when I ask for energy it was energy without any flee. I quite quickly went to steering her just laterally with the bit in her mouth – same thing really – opening up a circle and then tightening up a circle and steering her, then following me for a bit, then I would do the other side until she started bending to the bit and softening in the circles to the feel of the bit.

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Once she was doing that I put Ebony on and just started to guide her around with someone on her back. I worked on getting Ebony to speed her up a little bit just to get her to bump her and get some energy using her legs, then slowing her down and picking up energy again. Ebony had a couple of little trots on her back to help Coco to relax and balance at the trot.

She is slowly getting more relaxed and not so worried about things. I was walking around and I would lift the rope up and there was a lot happening – the dogs running around and Ebony’s little brother was climbing on the fence. I noticed that Coco was really starting to relax to random things that were happening and focusing on the guidance that I am offering her which is nice.

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I then took her out in the paddock with Ebony, though a gully and on some big circles that bought her back into the lead before going back out on the circle again. She looked about a bit at the other horses in the paddock but she handled herself well and on the whole lesson she didn’t spook and rush at anything.  All of this is deliberately done at a calm walk. There is no point going faster until she can handle the walk.

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Towards the end of the lesson I introduced the whip again – she wasn’t completely relaxed but she is starting to accept it and isn’t so frightened of it – I could be quite close to her to crack it today.  She had a bit of a rush to the whip on her bad eye but she calmed down.  It still does create tension in her.

So this time I introduced it after she had worked and she was focused and relaxed.  Originally, I introduced the whip right at the start of her training to find out how reactive she was when I hadn’t done a lot with her. I also wanted to show her right from the start that the whip was a part of me and it wasn’t a tool of punishment or something to be frightened of. Imagine if she was scared of my hat – well I wear my hat – it’s a part of me so she doesn’t need to be afraid of it. She needs to know that from the start. The other factor is time – she is only here for a short time so it was important that any potentially big issues get tackled with time to resolve them thoroughly.

I am really just doing things like this so that if I find something that worries her I can work on that and offer different things. Eventually it will the relaxed focus that she has in her personality together with her accepting the leadership that people offer that will make her not worry about the random things that happen out the paddock that you can’t really control.

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Finally, teaching her to soften in the bit and take some backward steps. If she softens I release. If she takes a backward step I release. She will put the two together soon enough. 

 

Educating a Shetland: day 2

Educating a Shetland: day 2

Today I started Coco on the long lead to give her plenty of space from the stock whip.  I just kept walking away from her with the whip, putting a crack in every now and again.  I kept encouraging her to follow me until she would just walk along behind me at a distance and calmly follow the whip. This was also designed to build her confidence because whilst ever she is following it, it will make her more confident and brave as oppose to the whip coming towards her.

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She started to cope really well until she would stand dead still whilst I cracked it. Then I asked her walk up to me one step at a time, then I would crack it and ask for another step. Still when she is close to the whip she is worried, but this is a big improvement from yesterday.
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Then I started to do some guiding on her and getting her out on a lead, getting her to follow the rope, getting her to look into the turn and then change directions – as in change directions in front of me – this was encouraging her to change from one eye to the other because she was quite nervous at the start with anyone on her off side.  She started to change directions really well, I was really happy with her progress. She started to do turns quite evenly and comfortably.

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Then I introduced the stick. The stick was not there to chase her or to make her change directions so I deliberately put it up in the air or away from a horse when they change directions so that they can think about the pressure on the rope and change their focus through the guidance of the rope. I was using the stick to encourage energy so I would give a gentle bump with the stick as a rider would with legs. I wasn’t chasing her or driving her with it, I was just getting her used to the stick and to not be frightened of it. I was using it to touch her in all areas while she was moving. I could touch her down her legs and down her rump and find any areas of worry.

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Then we introduced Ebony. I would say this is the first time she has had anyone on her guided from a distance so I led her around for a while and then let Ebony out from a distance and she went very calmly and changed directions smoothly with Ebony on her back. I also got Ebony to bump her with her legs occasionally to encourage energy. She started off reacting a little bit abruptly but became a lot smoother with understanding.

 

I am very happy with her progress. I think people spend a lot of time trying to quieten a horse of this type whereas I have spent my time guiding her and slowly introducing things – I kept her mind busy whilst I introduced things. My guiding has been to build focus, trust and leadership – I guided her by leading her towards me and then when she was ready, I allowed her to walk around me.  I haven’t chased her around at all. Just guiding her. Now she is less worried and she is remaining more focused and starting to relax more.

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Re-educating a Shetland Pony

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Meet Coco, a Shetland pony who has come to me for some education.

She’s a lovely natured mare but her owner is concerned that she may not be safe enough for her young children.

So for those of you out there with similar ponies, I thought you might be interested to see how I approach her education.  She is booked in for 5 lessons at the moment – we’ll follow her daily progress in this time.

In a quiet environment Coco can be quite relaxed and quite trusting of people but as soon as something changes and there is a lot of energy or you introduce say a whip or something scary she panics and goes straight into flight mode. Today I noticed that as soon as I walked in the yard she ran around trying to look for an escape so we worked on getting her calmer and trusting me; to come and relax when I catch her.

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Then we worked on a lesson of getting her used to some tools that I knew she would be scared of.  On a long rope I just let her find me through the rope and relax and I just kept her moving and kept introducing the stock whip in a way that hopefully built a bit of curiosity until she started to relax.  At the same time I still tried to ask her to do things and to think and to follow the feel that I offered her and to keep her feet moving so that she learnt to work and relax whilst her feet were moving and remain focused whilst the whip was touching her and also being cracked.  She didn’t like the whip at all; but she did well and at the end of the lesson she stood still whilst I cracked it.  I was very pleased with that.

 

 

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If you have a little Shetland like this my advice is to treat them like a big horse: it is very easy to be all over them; it’s easy to get a kid on them and to lead them around but we still need to treat them like a big horse and we need to build their trust in people.  I think some people treat them a little bit like dogs but this horse is a very soft kind little horse and is just very frightened, I don’t know if there is a history behind it or whatever but the basics of understanding that pressure is an okay thing is something that she doesn’t understand so as soon as you apply some pressure or something happens, she gets worried and I think she has a certain worry about people.  She is frightened of people but once she trusts somebody she feels safe around them; but as soon as that person applies energy or something new she loses trust and runs away quite quickly. So it is important that you not only build trust with people but build trust AND give your Shetland little jobs to do that require a little bit of energy and introduce things whilst they are working, don’t desensitise them to things so that they stand there rigid whilst you do things like flap bags; it is more about introducing things while you are working, and while you are asking them to do things.

They will follow leadership and put trust in leadership.  If something happens out in the paddock that you can’t control then if your horse feels happy and safe around you things are less likely to become dangerous. If they do worry, it is much easier to re-position their focus to take their worry away.

Mark Langley
www.EquineAbility.com.au

Working problem horses in Germany 2014

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I’ve just come back from 4 days in Cologne, Germany, where I worked several serious problem horses. You may or may not remember that Monty Roberts went over to Germany about 10 years ago to film some of their toughest horses doing his join-up. Monty decided to not continue with these horses. Intrigued by what the horses must have done to have been given up on, I asked to have the chance to work them also.

I’m also doing a 3 hr demonstration using problem horses at Brook Farm Training Centre, north London, 28 June from 6.30pm. We would really appreciate you passing on the details on to as many friends as you have. Click here for more info.

So I was given a mare who was of the same bloodlines as the ones that Monty tried to work and who was described to me as actually tougher. She was a super sensitive mare.  Only one lady could coerce her into being caught, through food. When she was lead away from the herd she would pull away and panic, getting very stressed – and this would start at about a 50m distance.  She was 15 yrs old.  I was able to spend 1 1/2 hrs working her, trying to gain her trust in people so that the stable could continue working with her after I left.

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Once the mare was handed over to me, my main objective was to find out the way she thought and what triggered her nervous reactions. But first, I needed to connect with her in a calm way.  So, instead of trying to separate her and work her, it was much better to start her lesson and make the connection where her mind is more at peace. I guided her around the herd, getting her to gently follow me. I wanted to use the most gentle squeezes on the rope. She responded quite well by maintaining quiet focus with me and if she got a bit distracted, I could gently squeeze the rope and regain the connection. I spent the whole time guiding her, walking away from her, and making her feel calm when she was close to me.  After about 20 mins she started to give me the feeling that she was wanting to centre with me, that the security I offered her when she was close made her feel good. Whenever she came close I would rub her, manipulate her a bit and make her feel calm. I opened my arms to her and took away any pressure. When she didn’t want to be with me, when she was off, looking around and getting anxious, I just stood there and let her do her thing, but as soon as she paid me attention, I let her know that I would be there for her.

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After some time I felt that she was calm around me and not resistant to the pressure.  Through feel, I decided to stimulate her a bit more.  I walked off gently squeezing the rope and creating a bit more energy until she lightened in the rope and gained a bit more energy in her stride.   As soon as she broke into a jog behind me, I felt her tension really rise. She panicked in a way that gave me the feeling that I didn’t know if she wanted to attack me or run away.  I got her to calm and then suddenly she tried to run away.  I stopped her and gave her space, allowing her to settle. This happened only twice.

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Now I felt ready to take her away from the herd to the gate that leads away from the pasture. There was still a few horses near the gate so it wasn’t a big change, and she accepted the transition quite well. I gently led her around, constantly feeling the rope and asking her to walk at different paces, bringing her attention again and again back on me. Once she was ready we passed through the gate into a large lane way that feeds the barn.

In the lane way there was a hay feeder, some dirt and some piles of sand.  We had made it through the gate, but now I had to make another connection and find calmness again – the different environment and visual obstacles scared her enormously. She elevated and became very fragile and stressed. She showed all the signs of a horse that cannot cope by herself. Without her herd she was obviously lost and extremely frightened.  The whole time since I had caught her and all I was really doing was showing her how to find me and find comfort with me. If this mare didn’t understand that she could find comfort in me then there would be no way to make any connections or progress with her training. The whole time I was also trying to show her that I was here to help – not to create pressure or make her feel uncomfortable.

So this is where the real dance began. She had really lost the plot by now – I had to use 100% of my concentration.  She was looking at everything, literally everything – eyes bulging out of her head – everything was a threat to her and she could not stop moving. Even though there were times that I thought I would be jumped on or run over whilst her mind was in escape-and-return-to-my-herd mode, we had done enough work previously on the lead for me to help calm her. Just the weight of the lead was enough to stop her when she got to the end of the rope. I kept showing her that as she paid me attention I would acknowledge her doing the right thing. At one point, she came right up to me, in between my outstretched arms. She was starting to look to me for support and comfort.

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From this environment I look her into the arena and decided to take her off the rope. A bit of a gamble – if she chose to run and panic at this stage, all the work we had done would be forgotten and lost. She started to pace up and down the fence, now in a lather of sweat and very stressed again. All I could do was to remain absolutely calm while she processed her extreme anxiety. This time I wanted the onus for her to come to me to be a bit clearer. As she paced one way, I would pace the other and as she changed direction, so would I; crossing each other in the middle, up and down the arena.  I started to be able to walk closer to her, until we were passing each other with only a small distance between her. She started to pay me little bits of attention  but was still very focused on her herd. So then I started to use her favourite corner, which was the gate we came in. Every time she left the corner I would go to the corner and wait. And every time she came back to the corner to where she felt safe, I was there, waiting. When she approached, I would stand there for a moment, before walking out of it, away up the fence. Now she would follow me for a bit and pass me – locking on to the other corner simulating her previous pattern of pacing up and down. I would go back to her favourite gate corner.  and wait for her. Every time she came to my corner, I offered her support – I did nothing other than gently rub her.  I could see that when she was there she enjoyed my company and I could see that she was wanting my help more. Once we had had a connection, I would walk out, and soon she started to follow.  If I felt that she lost me, I returned to my corner and waited again. This went on for about 30 mins, maybe more.  We got to the stage where we would walk out of the corner together and as I would turn to walk back, she would also turn and follow me right back to the corner.  There also moments where she followed me in other directions, not just up and down the fence. All of this was at liberty – through no applied pressure – an untrained mare that could not be caught easily.

At this stage I was happy enough and felt she was ready to wind down. I knew having the rope on her and that constant connection would calm her down more than keeping her at liberty.  I put the halter back on her and lead her around the arena before taking her, through the lane way and back to her paddock.  She led like a lamb, head down and soft as anything. If I stopped, she stopped. As I moved, she moved. Very switched on. Very focused. Over piles, around the machinery.  All the things she was super frightened of on the way out, she passed calmly on the return. Purely because I had made her feel safe with me.  She followed me as a leader and helper; a chosen leader.

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I had basically broken her lessons down into sections – one in the paddock, one at her paddock gate, one in the lane way, one in the barn. I hadn’t used any complicated horsemanship methods – but I had to be extremely focused to ensure my timing on every little movement was perfect.

I was very pleased with the result. I had spent about 1.5 hrs with her.  This was the first time the owner had seen her lead like this. For them, me coming – an unknown trainer – was a big risk. Other trainers had worked her and made things worse and understandably, they were nervous about another foreigner coming through to test their methods on her. The owner has since made me feel very welcome to return to her stable.

This mare is a very good example of why the join-up can’t be used on every horse. You couldn’t chase her away and expect her to submit – any process like this would cause high levels of unwarranted and unacceptable stress. I didn’t chastise her or chase her once.  I was just there for her.

Being there for horses is what I hope my horsemanship will lead to. I loved spending 4 days working horses in Germany. I helped many different issues that have been very stressful to the owners and managers of the stables I went to and it is to their credit that they have been passionate about not giving up on these horses.

The owner now has something that she can go on with and hopefully this mare’s trust in people can continue to grow.

Starting John’s Mare: the last day here

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley.

John’s mare has finished her education with us now. She left today, with her owner.  Her confidence and aggressive character was clear from the start – she bucked pretty hard with the saddle and it was a photo with her hooves higher than the rails of round yard that prompted us to follow her through this blog, giving you an insight into how Mark handles an unusual sort of horse and how she has developed in her understanding and trust of people, especially Mark.

We’ve seen how she has gone from not letting Mark touch her down the sides at all, to accepting a rug. We’ve watched how she has learnt to lead, to give to pressure, to take the bit, be fully shod, taken a stock whip, opened gates, ridden out on the property, float loaded, and even used as a demonstration for a training video on how to turn on the hind quarters (you can also see this once you sign up to Mark’s free horse training tips here).  Pauline even rode her today.

Now, after so many milestones have been reached, John’s mare is ready to go back to her owner.  She has had just 12 rides out on the property.

Here are the results of Mark’s efforts, time, patience and amazing understanding:

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Need I say there was not a moment’s hesitation going on the truck.  With time and work Mark is sure that she will make a super horse. “I haven’t ironed out all of her issues but I hope I have ironed out at least half of them.

“It was sad to see this mare leave. It is these types of horses that draw the most out of me.  There was quite a long time building trust, and even when I started riding her, for quite a few rides all I was doing was trying to get her to relax and only giving her the basic jobs that were planting seeds to her foundation.  It wasn’t until the last 5 rides that this mare started to accept my ideas and go with them in a more relaxed way. All of a sudden she was going with pressure and calming to it.  When this happened, she was picking up things in a far superior way than some easy going horses do over a longer period of time. When I started moving her hips under saddle more, there were certain areas (especially near her rib cage) that caused her a lot of aggravation and tension.  She would round out her back and push her hip up into the pressure and her head would brace in search of an escape.  Then all of a sudden, after some chipping away, finding the right moments when she was centred to move her hindquarter, she freed up and moved her hindquarter in a soft and calm fashion that I would not have expected from her for some time. She even managed to keep her tail still whilst moving her hips.  She also showed natural ability to work on her hindquarter and was very good at opening her shoulders up. 

She even started to read my seat when I asked her to move sideways.  When I took my centre sideways she started to pick up on it without needing my leg to help.

This mare could handle steady miles, general day to day poke-around-cattle work.  She is intelligent and quite talented but this ability shouldn’t be flaunted with. I believe that if she was now pushed hard without appropriate time out, she could sour and quite easily become resentful.

She has a lovely soft side. I am pleased that I have been able to see it. “

We’d love to hear your comments on this blog on our facebook page.

I have added the links to the previous blogs here if you want to recap:

First blog: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/14/following-the-progress-of-johns-mare-as-she-is-started-captured-by-photos-i/

Second blog: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/15/following-johns-mare-in-work-through-photos-ii/

Third blog Introducing the saddlehttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/17/following-johns-mare-iii-introducing-the-saddle/

Fourth blog Backing: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/19/following-johns-mare-as-she-is-started-iv-backing/

Fifth blog Softening: http://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/20/following-johnsmare-v-softening/

Sixth blog Ponying with the saddlehttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/22/following-johns-mare-vi-ponying-with-a-saddle/

Seventh blog Rainhttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/02/25/following-johns-mare-vii-rain/

Eighth blog After 10 days offhttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/03/07/following-johns-mare-being-started-blog-8-back-in-work-after-10-days-off/

Ninth blog Mouthing & the first rideshttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/03/13/following-johns-mare-mouthing-the-first-rides/

Tenth blog Trottinghttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/03/24/working-johns-mare-trotting/

Eleventh blog Gaining Evenness on Lateral Flexion: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/03/27/johns-mare-gaining-evenness-on-lateral-flexion/

Twelfth blog Riding with Calmness: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/04/12/johns-mare-riding-with-calmness/

Thirteenth blog The First Ride Out: https://marklangleyblog.com/2014/04/13/the-first-ride-out-on-a-young-horse-johns-mare/

Fourteenth blog Musteringhttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/04/18/mustering-on-johns-mare/

Fifteenth blog Shoeinghttps://marklangleyblog.com/2014/04/23/shoeing-johns-mare/

 

Shoeing John’s mare

Words and photos by Jenny Barnes with quotes from Mark Langley

John’s mare is leaving tomorrow to go back to her owner tomorrow. Her education here is nearly finished – Mark has got her to the stage where he deems her safe and competent enough for her owner to carry on with. Mark has spent the last few rides on her outside, spending time cantering her on the last few rides. And he has been rugging her the last couple of days, which is going to help with today’s lesson – getting shoes on.

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Pauline comes in to the round yard to help clean it – Mark is about to use John’s mare for a training video on turning on the hindquarter (if you want to see this, make sure you are signed up soon to get our free newsletters and the video link will come straight to you). She seems little fussed by Pauline. This is important – as you will see later. John’s mare seems and quiet around Mark…but she is a particular mare….

Mark warms her up to some exercises before the filming starts.

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With the video taken (and she did brilliantly), Mark unsaddles her and asks Pauline to go back into the roundyard to catch her. Mark likes someone else to have handled and ridden his newly started horses before they go  back to their owners. He knows John’s mare will be weary but we didn’t expect an all out refusal! Look at this!

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She not only clearly flattens her ears but she nods her head up and down enormously before turning away from Pauline. There is no way she wants Pauline near her. So this is just a reminder of what Mark has been working with – she looks soft and calm in the photo’s now – but Mark has won her trust and friendship and underneath, she will always be a strong minded mare.

“70-80% of un-handled horses generally accept a new person fairly quickly after being started. She fits into the small category. It will take a little bit of adjusting.”

Mark goes in and demonstrates what Pauline needs to do.

I was showing Pauline that where she stands and holds her hands are important for her safety.”

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Mark decides to trim her in the round yard, which she is familiar with.

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Then he takes her outside, to shape and put on her two front shoes.

 

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Mark works efficiently, and the mare gives little argument. She is uncomfortable at the end when Mark has to place himself under her chin to finish off. “Horses don’t like you under there – its a blind spot. That’s why it’s never safe to go under a horse’s rope that you don’t know. Always safer to go around their hind.”

Mark leads her back to the round yard to work on getting her hind feet picked up for tomorrow. She moves a little, then stands for him.

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Mark will ride her out again this afternoon, and then tomorrow will be her last day with us. I’ll try to put as much detail into the stage that she is at for you tomorrow so you can really get an idea of how far she has come.