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I was working with a little terrier the other week and have been thinking about him a lot today for some reason. He cannot tolerate having a lead attached to his collar or having a harness on. I started working with his carer using a long dressage schooling stick (wand) and a clicker to introduce contact in a non-threatening way. At first it appeared that he did not have a very good sense of smell as he could not locate the small pieces of sausage that we were using. At one point he even trod on the treat whilst sniffing the ground. A terrier without a brain or a nose? Surely not.
We worked for a few minutes and gave him breaks within that first, short session and then he went back to his kennels for a complete break. In the second session, he was a completely different dog. His tail was wagging, he had made the connection with the click and the treat and he found every treat I was dropping on the floor immediately. He could accept contact all over his body with the wand and also with a different texture as we wrapped a body wrap around the end of the wand to continue with the session (which he had not been able to tolerate in the first session). Of course he did have a brain and a nose afterall! He was amazing.
He had been shut down in both the brain and the body during the first session. As awareness increased we noted in the second session that his skin twitched when he was touched on the left side of his lumbar area. It was then apparent that he was actually quite unstable on his left hind leg so this was noted by his carer and further monitoring/vet investigation will follow.
TTouch and clicker training are such useful tools for many reasons, and working in small sessions can be an excellent, safe, and rewarding way of unpeeling the layers so that appropriate management can be put in place as our understanding of the potential underlying triggers for unwanted behaviour is increased. He was an absolute star and I look forward to following his progress.
Whoooo hooo. My friend’s mare has had her foal. The mare lived with us for a while so I know her well and have always loved her temperament. The foal was born ten days early, which caused a slight problem as everyone was taken by surprise as there weren’t any outward signs that she was due, but everything seems to be ok and I went off to visit him this afternoon.
I could have spent a long time watching him and his very proud mother but after a couple of hours, taking photographs, admiring his beautiful markings and his long, strong legs and falling in love I thought it was really time for me to leave.
My friend has also recently taken on a beautiful puppy and as she has had a terrible run of bad luck over the past few years , I really hope that this year marks the beginnings of positive change, and brings all the excitement, hopes and dreams that new life signals. Welcome Gorgeous George the colt, and the very beautiful Mumbles.
Tony and I are in Suffolk and enjoying a leisurely weekend together in this stunning county. I have been teaching a staff workshop at DogsTrust Loughborough and will be heading back to the centre to give an evening talk on TTouch for all animals on Tuesday to raise funds for the charity, so picked Tony up from a little station near the cottage on Friday night.
This is the first Sunday I haven’t worked for over two months and as I have been teaching I have not brought a dog with me this time. It feels a little strange to be without the company of an animal but it has meant that we have been able to engage in activities that we wouldn’t normally do!
We got up early this morning and walked from Aldeburgh to Thorpeness, and arrived at The Meare. After coffee in a café, we couldn’t resist the urge to hire a row boat. It was such good fun, if not a little hazardous when we switched positions in the boat. I adore rowing and relish the peace that it brings. We could have cheerfully stayed on The Meare for the entire afternoon but I wanted to show Tony more of the scenery as he hasn’t been able to visit Suffolk for several years. We have been to Orford, walked around Snape, and enjoyed the tranquillity of the cottage. It has been a truly wonderful two days with beautiful weather, spectacular scenery, and, of course, totally perfect company.
I have had another varied week working with horses and dogs and again, the link between posture and behaviour is very much on my mind. TTouch is such a useful tool for not only improving posture and therefore behaviour, but as a way of unpeeling the layers so that a greater understanding of the potential triggers for unwanted behaviour can be gained. Behavioural issues seem to come in groups. One month it may be reactive dogs, the next month it may be animals that are noise sensitive, and this month it seems to be horses that have concerns when working in the arena.
If your horse has a problem working in the school, there are several things to take into consideration. Remember that a horse is more likely to be moving in a different outline when in the school, than when out hacking, and a greater degree of flexibility, lateral movement and balance is also required. Your own posture may also be different, or you may use a different saddle, training equipment or bit. The surface of the school can also be a trigger for some unwanted behaviours if the surface is deep or heavy and whilst a soft surface can obviously be more forgiving than a harder surface, discomfort in the foot or joints can be the trigger for some volatile reactions, particularly when working on a circle.
Your first port of call should always be your vet to ensure that pain is not the trigger for unwanted behaviour but it can be worthwhile working through your horse’s body handling the ears, the forelock, neck, back, legs and tail to see if you can spot any sensitivities or restricted movement that may be linked to the issues that you are experiencing. Even the simple Forelock Slides can give you valuable information as to the ease with which your horse can transfer his weight onto the forehand and whether or not he can release and lengthen the top line.
Stand in front of your horse and slightly to one side to prevent being smacked in the face if the horse suddenly moves his head. Place one foot in front of the other. Rest one hand lightly on the nose band of the head collar or bridle. Remember to keep your fingers open and refrain from tightening your grip around the nose band.
Using the other hand, gently take the forelock and stroke the hair lightly from the base right out to the end. If your horse is happy take the forelock by the base again and this time, keep hold of the forelock. Gently rock your weight onto your back foot and draw your horse’s neck towards you. Hold for a moment and then slowly transfer your weight onto your front foot guiding the movement back to where it started. The release needs to be the longest part of this exercise. Look at the withers, chest muscles, shoulders and back whilst you are working. You should see movement through the entire body although some horses are so blocked to begin with that the movement is minimal or restricted to certain parts of their body. If your horse struggles with this exercise, spend time simply stroking the forelock. It can be indicative of a horse that is braced through the top line or a horse that does not want to take the weight onto the fore limbs and you may well need to consult your vet to rule out pain if the problem persists.
I have been up in Liverpool teaching at DogsTrust Merseyside and as always, had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend, working with the dogs from the rehoming centre and meeting some great likeminded people.
The month ahead is packed with teaching for different groups and working with private clients but I will also be fitting in a trip to Suffolk with Tony as I am really keen for him to see the cottage.
The auction to raise money for Harvey the little dog in the care of Doris Banham has raised over £1200.00; we are stunned and over the moon. The next auction will be for an equine charity and we are supporting the campaign to raise funds for The Horse Trust. The Horse Trust is hoping to raise £5,000 to build two stables for their littlest and largest residents, Teddy and Klyde.
Teddy is the charities youngest resident and was abandoned at the side of the road when he was eight weeks old. He became desperately ill and was rushed to the Royal Veterinary College where he spent a week in intensive care.
Big Klyde is the tallest horse at the centre and was retired to the The Horse Trust in July 2012 after serving with the Cleveland Police Mounted Section. At 19hh he struggles to fit in a standard sized stable and The Horse Trust are building him an extra high stable to give him the headroom he needs.
You can read more about the campaign on The Horse Trust website.
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