Monday, August 31, 2009


The place I've had Fox for the last year hasn't really worked out unfortunately. A lot of the paddocks were resown and we completely ran out of grass. So we've been moving from paddock to paddock some more suitable than other but this last one really takes the cake.

We were told the only hazard in there was a old post hole. The day we were to move the horses, I walked the paddock and got the shock of my life.

Machinery, wire, pipes, posts with tin around them, pretty much anything you don't want in a horse paddock was in there.

Here is just a sample of what I found:

Pipe, just right for hooves getting stuck and legs cut.

More wonderful leg slicing materials
Warratahs freak me out after hearing a local story of a horse getting a fright in a storm and impaling itself on one of these. It had to be destroyed.

And best of all

Let me give you a close up of that blade.


So this and a few other issues including arena being constantly closed but only for us, nowhere to put our tack and feed but other people have places, our horses not being allowed in paddocks by the owners horse but other horses are fine and having to remove our poo from the property ourselves WTF..... means I'm having to look for new grazing.

The problem is that the only other place that has a decent facility, the owner is apparently a bit of a knob. I really don't want to move from one place I have problems to another place I'm going to have problems. But I may not have any other choice because I've had it with paying good money for a terrible service and ridiculous passive aggressive tactics.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Sad News

The storm I spoke about the other day caused this:

So I guess I had good cause to worried about my fellow.

Condolences to the owner. Very sad sad news.


I like to think I don't drink the koolade of anyone. That is that I don't get hooked on one way or think this one person is the be all and end all of training. I want a more eclectic base for my training. Take a little of this and a little of that and see what happens.

For example I will be starting to work through the 7 Parelli games with Fox. I think these will all be benificial for him and his trust, touching and respect issues. But at the same time I'm not going to stop riding my horse and do purely groundwork. I like riding and Fox I think enjoys being ridden. I'm also not going to stop talking to my horse. I know some people say its a big no-no but I like telling my horse he's a good boy. And I'm not going to be buying some fancy schmancy carrot stick when I'm sure my dressage whip will do just fine.

I've got all these things I'm itching to try but time and weather seem to be against me at the moment. I realised that it's been nearly a month since I had my bum in a saddle (even longer since I've been in Fox's saddle) and I've not even had time to give Fox a good groom this week. Bad me. I am still picking his feet up every day though but now Fox has thrush so I'm worried that me treating it will put our progress back a few step.

I've posted some links on my blog now. These are all blogs or websites that I've found hugely helpful.

Mugwump Chronicles - Good sense training techniques and wonderful stories.

Horsetalk Forums - Lots of wonderful people dispensing advice on a multitude of topics.

I Will Jump Sweet Jumps - Great insight to a showjumpers world and some good jumping tips.

Eventing-A-Gogo - Not so much training as such but gives some hints and I really enjoy following Andrea's progress. Go the barefeet!!!

FHOTD - Learned so much about conformation and breeding from her early posts, not so much now but credit given where credit is due.

Go-Lightly Fiction - Interesting perspective on riding and the horse world.

The Barb Wire - The way she trains her horses seems to be similar to what I want to acheive.

Horseproblems Australia - This guy has some good articles and tips. Keen to try his float loading technique.

Glenshee Equestrian Centre - Some really good tips and stories.

Enlightened Horsemanship - Interesting news articles and training theories. Will be doing a bit of research into this T-Touch stuff but this could be bordering on a kool-aid thing I'm thinking. Also love her motto which is 'Mindfulness in horsemanship'.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Fox on a miserable day last year
(I'm having to use old photos as my USB cable has ben stolen by my parter for his PS3 and now he's gone and lent it to his friend grrr)

We had a major storm last night. We got hit with everything, wind, driving rain, thunder and lightening. I spent half the night worrying about Fox and thinking this is a time when it would be really nice to have a warm, dry, safe stable to put my monster in.
Of course when I got there this morning he was fine, but still I'm sure every horse owner can relate to the worry. It's still pretty windy today but the rain seems to have cleared off which Fox seems thankful for as it means he can be naked again.

He was fully uncovered by September last year so I'm hoping it'll only be a couple more weeks before I can leave his cover off for good. He's still a bit on the light side so covering at night seems to still be a good option till he's put on a little more weight.

I'm hoping I'm going to be able to start riding again next week but after all this learning I've been doing, I think that is going to need a whole overhaul as well. Some of the things I've been doing I don't think are quite right. And now that there are no competitions that I can actually do, there is no pressure and we can start from scratch and work on this trust based training in the saddle too.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Fox in his winter woolies last year

Yay we've had a major breakthrough!!! Two even!!!

As I mentioned in an earlier post we've had a few problems with Fox and picking up his feet, especially for the farrier. He will step, shove his foot down, resist and generally just be a rotten little man. Well big man really. So I've been picking up and picking out Fox's feet daily in preparation of the farrier coming to do Fox's trim.

For the first week, I put aside half an hour a day. Before I went near Fox I would focus on being calm and patient, the last thing I wanted to do was get angry which would negate what I was trying to do. I started on his front feet which he is better with. I asked by gently pulling on fetlock until he picked his foot up. If he stepped I would keep my hand on his leg. I kept my hand on his leg till he reasiled I wasn't going to give up and he stood still. If he pulled his foot away, I would pick it up again till he let me hold it till I was ready for him to put it down. The first week was difficult and it took the full half hour. But Fox is a smart cookie and it wasn't long before he realised that just picking his feet up nicely was much easier then resistance.

It only took three weeks before Fox was picking up his feet like he had never had never had a problem. But now came the big test. Would Fox behave for the farrier?

Yes he did. He was an angel!! The farrier was really impressed and said 'Oh maybe he's not such a bad guy after all.'

I was so happy.

Our second breakthrough was not quite as significant but nice none the less. Normally when Fox isn't tied, he doesn't really want anything much to do with me unless I have food. But yesterday after putting his halter on, he stood still and let me brush him with his leadrope just slung over his neck. It was a really nice feeling.

This trust thing seems to be working. Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Fox and Al

I’ve been writing an assignment on Equine Assisted Psychotherapy for one of my papers and a common thread through them all is the fact that a horse is a mirror. If you approach a horse in way that is angry, fearful or disrespectful, the horse will immediately let you know by his body language that he knows how you are feeling. Even if you try and hide it, he knows. He may turn away, eat, or a number of other things that show he’s not interested in knowing you.

Where is this going? It is how I was feeling and how Fox was reacting. Whenever I went into his paddock even if I would be feeling great, there would be an underlying current of anxiety, some days fear and towards the end, anger. Of course he didn’t want to be around me.

I have been so busy for the last few months with study and renovating the house that Fox has come last place. But for the last few weeks I have been making a conscious effort to spend time with him. There is no pressure, just hanging out. Every day, when I step out of my car I make my mind clear. Today is a new day, a fresh start. And it’s working. I’m calm and happy to be there and Fox is calm and happy for me to be there.

I’ve only been able to ride about once a week but I think that has been beneficial too. I like spending time with Fox so I’ve had to think of other things to do but ride. Some days I just sit in Fox’s paddock and watch him and his paddock mate Al. Other days I just groom him. I’m starting to feel the connection we had when he first arrived.

It’s wonderful.

Friday, August 14, 2009


Fox thinking "What on earth are you up to?"

Everyone who owns a horse has opinions on how a horse should be treated and trained. So there are as many theories as there are horse owners. Which doesn’t make it easy for me. Fox’s problems have propelled me onto the Internet, I read horse articles, blogs and forums, all in an attempt to find the magical button for Fox.

At the moment I think I’ve narrowed it down to four general opinions.

1. If your horse doesn’t want to do something do whatever it takes to get him to do it including extreme cruelty

2. You want your horse to be your buddy and to like you so you must be nice to him

3. Your horse needs to respect you as the alpha animal so you must behave as the alpha animal

4. You need to respect your horse and treat him with compassion and he needs to understand and trust you as an equal (I haven’t explained this one very well but the writers of Glenshee Equestrian Centre and Enlightened Horsemanship have done so a lot better than I.)

Obviously I don’t agree with 1 or 2. I’ve probably been using 3 to some degree but I’m starting to think it’s not quite right. There is evidence that dominance based training doesn’t work and doing my canine behaviour paper and psychology papers made me realise that punishment will teach an animal something to a certain degree but it is much more effective to use positive reward for when they do things right.

Which leads to 4. This is an approach I guess I haven’t really tried and makes the most sense to me at the moment. It will take more research on how I can use this method with our particular problems but I think this is our next step.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


Fox having a munch

Through all of the problems Fox has remained awesome under saddle. This is what has kept me persevering even though at times I have felt like selling him. On the ground it felt like a constant battle, Fox not standing still for grooming, bad with his feet, aggressive when lunging, super pushy at dinnertime and refusing to get in a float.

But riding has been great, Fox loves getting out and about and we seem to have a really good connection. This has also been part of my problem. I would rush through the hard bits, the grooming and the feet picking and ignore his bad manners to get to the riding. Obviously this didn’t help any of his problems.

My first step to realising that something had to change was after a disastrous float loading session. I was off to a rodeo fun day organised by my old facility. (I know, not the type of thing you normally do with a big warmblood cross but I enjoyed barrel racing even though Fox was terrible at it)I didn’t make it. I was furious and upset. I blamed Fox, I blamed the float, I blamed my partners bad driving the last time we had moved Fox, I blamed everyone but myself.

So I knew something had to change, but I still wasn’t looking in the right place.

Then a month ago we had a particularly bad trimming session with the farrier. Fox would not stand still. He stood looking perfectly relaxed but every time the farrier went for one of his back feet, he would step. Step, step, step. I tried to make him stand still but he just got a look in his eye and at one point his front feet started to lift off the ground. I was so angry at Fox. He had been getting better for the farrier, why was he worse now? I felt like he had let me down.

Then I realised something, it was me. I had been letting my horse down not the other way round.

Something really had to change...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The e-mails

Fox and I jumping tiny crossrails (yes I know, the wrong way)

Here is what she had to say over a couple of e-mails.....

A very bad handler lady had him, he walked all over her and she was scared of him. this made him a very hard horse to handle. 17hh of missunderstanding coming at you.Came to me as he was too dangerous, Just did not understand the rules of engagement. Would attack when he was challenged and was Confussed about people, his face would be hit at every time he came in contact with people.It didnt take long to turn the corner I gave him strict rules and lots of touching,lunged him in a round pen, got him to back off me as I asked, and come in to me when I wanted him.retrained him under saddle and remouthed him.

fox had not been handled well prior to him coming out to me, The owner was very scared of him and he would be sedated every time she went riding or had his feet done or floated or groomed. she would call the local vet and he would go to her with sedative. When I brought him I was given 3 tubes of sedative APC which is illegal now. It came with him. I never used it,

Aaaah that explains so much. Thanks for telling me before I bought Fox.

Headshyness – Check (though that only was a major problem for me when Fox was ill, most of the time he is fine)

Dislike of vets – Check

Aggression when lunged – Check

General pushyness on the ground – Check

Trust issues - Check

Obviously I was upset that she hadn’t told me. I would have probably bought Fox anyway but I would have been much better prepared for the type of horse I was dealing with. I was so sure that I had asked all the right questions, he had been checked out by some very knowledgeable horse people but this is stuff that you can’t find out unless the seller discloses everything.

Don’t get me wrong, the seller cares a lot for Fox and is very glad I have him. We are still in contact and I e-mail her updates on Fox. But I wish she had told me.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Fox a week after his arrival
The first sign of trouble was at Fox’s first shoeing with me as his owner. Unfortunately I wasn’t there, the facility manager was though. Her report was that Fox was extremely difficult. He wouldn’t stand still and apparently tried to kick the farrier. He was fine with me picking out his hooves so I didn’t really understand what was going on. The manager suggested maybe Fox had some trust issues.

The next indication was lunging. Fox hated it. He would turn to face me with a wicked look in his eye and toss his head. I put it down to my inexperience as he was the first horse I had ever lunged so I obviously wasn’t doing it right.

His ground manners left a bit to be desired, he was rather pushy but nothing that I didn’t feel I could handle.

Riding however, was mostly good. Initially Fox tried to evade the bit but soon settled into it. He was a bit stiff but that was understandable after so long out of work. He also had a wicked shy. He didn’t do it often but when he did, it was an impressive 180 degree spin in a split second. I fell more than once from those shies till I learned how to sit them. But generally we had a blast.

Then Fox’s shoes were due again. Again I couldn’t be there but the manager was. This time Fox was such a prick that the farrier couldn’t even put the shoes onto his back feet. He managed to trim them but anything more was impossible. He said Fox was dangerous.

This episode coincided with Fox getting ill with an undiagnosable problem. One of the symptoms of which was hypersensitivity which was attributed to him being so awful about his feet.You couldn’t even put a halter on without him freaking out. It was painful for me to watch him.
It was also when I found out about his fear/hatred of vets. He was especially afraid of the needle. The vet tried to take blood to run tests but Fox fought. He fought for nearly an hour. A twitch didn’t work, Fox would rear and pull it out of the vets hand. He threw his head around and even kicked out at one point. There were three of us, two strong men and I trying to get Fox to stand still for two seconds so that the vet could get the needle in. We had to give up. Fox wasn't going to.
The vet came out again the next day. I couldn’t be there and I didn't really want to see as Fox was put in a crush. Thankfully the blood was taken with no problems. This illness was never identified but was eventually solved by putting Fox on a mycotoxin binder which he has to take all year round. The current theory is that he is highly sensitive to the toxin that casues ryegrass stagger but who knows.

After Fox’s extreme reaction to the vet and his shoeing problems I finally decided to contact the former owner. Boy did she have some surprises in store for me...


Fox would have had so much potential as a youngster. His sire is Spoken in Jest who also sired Tregonning a successful sport horse. Spoken in Jest was awarded a principal stallion status with the New Zealand Warmblood Horse Association and his grandsire, Witzbold was a hugely influential Hanoverian sire that reached elite status. It makes me sad that his potential was wasted but then I guess I wouldn't have ended up with him.


Merran Hain winning Lady Rider of the Year on Tregonning

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


I first saw Fox on-line as I was browsing through horses for sale on Trademe as I did on a regular basis. I was smitten. Fox looked like my dream horse. A 12 year old 17hh chestnut Hanoverian x Thoroughbred. And even better, he had a big blaze and four white socks. I wasn't in a position to buy a horse at that stage so I looked wistfully at his photos and moved on. I couldn't stop looking though. Every week I would check to see if he was still for sale. Then one day he was gone. I was gutted.

I kept browsing and waiting till the right time came for me to buy a horse. I never saw one that grabbed my attention like Fox did though. Then one day, nearly a year after I first saw him, he was back on there. I had a deep sense of conviction that he was supposed to be mine.

A month later everything fell into place and I was able to start thinking about buying a horse. The first thing I did was e-mail his owner with a long list of questions. He had mostly been used as a farm hack and had was only just back in work after nearly a year off but the only bad thing she had to say was that he could pull a bit especially when he was going fast. No problem I thought, I can handle that. So we organised a time for me to ride.

The day came and the weather was wild and windy but we couldn't postpone as he lived quite a ways away in Golden Bay. When I saw him in real life, he was better than his photos. He had a real presence. I wanted him.

I knew it was the wrong thing to think, I should be shopping around, trying lots of horses out. But I didn't want any other horse, I wanted this one.

He was a little head shy about being bridled but nothing major. His owner said he had always been like that, just didn't like the bridle being put on. No worries I thought again, I can handle that.

The ride was fantastic. We rode for two hours on Pakawau Beach. We trotted and cantered and galloped and jumped logs. Fox was awesome. His paces felt great, powerful and flowing. His jump was bold and strong. If I hadn't already been hooked, I would have been after that ride.

We organised a two week trial and after some trouble finding a truck to bring him over the hill, he arrived at the place he would be living. I was so excited and couldn't wait to ride him again.

When the dressage instructor first saw him, I was opening a gate on him. She gave me a look and said 'I hope that's not someone's fancy dressage horse you're trying to open a gate on.' I laughed and said 'no he's just been a farm hack for the last 5 years'. But inside I was glowing. My horse looked like the real deal!

The two weeks flew by, the decision was already made. Fox would be mine and I would be the proud owner of my very first horse!!
We had about three weeks of bliss hacking round the farm and doing some basic arena work then the first signs of trouble started appearing...