This is my new blog to continue my journey with my Dales Ponies. It will also be the story of my building a new life for myself, alone now, except for my friends, horses and dogs, since my partner died in March 2009. We had lived and worked together, mostly twenty four hours a day, for nearly 28 years and I have never lived alone before. It is a tribute to my wonderful friends that I am still here, still sane(ish) and ready to re-invent myself. I love them all more than words can ever say and can never thank them enough for all they have done and are still doing. It is also a tribute to Alexandra Kurland and 'The Click That Teaches' that I know how to save myself now. To new beginnings.......

Saturday, 18 July 2009

I have had the best day today!!!! An old friend of mine has agreed to try sharing the house with me for a month and, if we get on OK, rent her house out and rent half of my house from me. I had suggested it to, her hardly daring hope that she might agree.

I have hated living alone more than I can ever say and been more lonely and desolate than I would ever have thought it possible for anyone to be, let alone me with all my horses and dogs for company. Twenty eight years ago, before I knew what it was like not to be lonely, I would have been fine but after four months of trying to get used to it I've been feeing worse and not better. The relief that it's coming to an end is overwhelming!!! We will have 6 dogs between us, so it will be a bit chaotic, but they have always stayed with us from time to time, and my friend has kept her horses here for most of the twenty eight years I've been here.

This morning we went to watch 'Jive Pony' in action. They were awesome - so full of energy and fun - born entertainers, and the horses were beautifully trained and adorable. My eyes were mostly for Ronan, being a native, but Tinker was gorgeous too and incredibly sane and steady for only 7 years old. I took masses of photos and I've put some at the end of this post. Rosie, who writes the 'Jive Pony' blog looked and sounded a really lovely person and I definitely want to try and get to them for some basic vaulting lessons when their show season ends. My friend has threatened to video me so watch this space for a really good laugh!!!!

This evening my soon to be new livery's mum came to meet me and my ponies. She seemed a bit 'old school' to begin with and was very worried about how safe clicker training would be. I explained about the benefits of positive reinforcement on the horses morale and confidence and told her how, as the emotional wreck I've been lately, I couldn't have found the strength or courage to learn to drive if my instructor hadn't been so encouraging, generous and effusive with his praise of every tiny improvement, and the way he laughed off and explained away every mistake I made. I was a nervous wreck and he has turned me into a fairly confident and competent driver in just a couple of months, through his use of positive reinforcement through warm and generous praise. I would have fallen apart at the seams without it.

I gave her a demo with Jack as before then tacked Grace up and did some gallop to halts with no reins up the field. Grace and I LOVE doing this now and could do it all day!!! She glides into a canter at the merest hint and really picked up some speed tonight before sliding to a halt the second I sat back and asked her to. It made me feel like a teenager again!

My audience loved it too and loved Grace. The mother admitted to me that she has confidence issues herself about riding now and would like me to work with her too. I'm really touched and they are both lovely people who are going to be great to have around.

More of my dreams turning to reality, thanks this time to my beautiful, clever, kind, generous ponies!

JIVE PONY - The Chiltern Show. If you click on a picture you can see the full size version. Click on the 3rd photo to see the wisest face I've ever seen on a horse!

Warming up and getting ready.


I'd like to thank Rosie and Rebecca for making me forget everything that has happened to me recently while watching them. I've often told my friends recently that I wished I could have a break from myself for a while. Rosie and Rebecca, Ronan and Tinker gave me that break and by the time they finished I felt totally happy and inspired. Thank you SO much! It was exactly what I needed and your energy and joy of life was infectious!

I passed a Land Rover on the way home which had a logo on the sides. It read "ONE LIFE - LIVE IT" You girls looked to be the embodiment of that and I intend to be too!

Friday, 17 July 2009

New Skills.

I have been working on training some new things with my pones. Grace has always found cantering quite difficult and it's taken her a lot of time to find her balance. I have always clicked her for cantering and she has become brilliant at canter to halt transitions as soon as she hears the click.

I decided to work on how small I could make my aid to halt. I tried a fast trot to begin with and just leant back slightly and closed my legs, with the reins lying free on her neck. She caught onto this really quickly so I tried it in canter, both in the school, out on hacks and in the field. She is superb at this already, after just a couple of sessions but it's also had the added bonus of making her more keen to canter, even though I'm clicking her for halting. I suppose that's because she has to canter first to get to the halt and click.

Bella has always been quite grumpy about cantering. Her natural balance is a lot better than Grace's but she just doesn't like cantering much and tends to have her ears back. Again I've only ever clicked her for the canter rather than a downward transition out of canter. I thought I would try the same exercise with her, clicking her for the halt rather than the canter and after just a few clicks she was cantering without the grumpy faces, which I was beginning to think would never happen!

I can really belt up the field on them and do a sliding stop with no reins at all and I think this could be a useful way to show people how safe a clicker trained horse can be.

With Jack, who loves nothing better than mimicking me, I've been trying to copy the clip of Ronan, the Jive Pony, in walking crossing his front feet in front of each other while I walk backwards in front of him crossing my feet behind each other. Jack's crossing over is a bit big at the moment, so he has to move the other foot out to rebalance first, but I'm finding it quite difficult to do myself, being very unbalanced on my own two feet! I have trouble doing Spanish Walk myself, on foot, too, as I keep losing my balance. I really need to start working on my own balance on foot as well!

Jack's concentration when doing these things these days is complete. He bears no resemblance to the spooky, over-reactive horse that he used to be. Grace and Bella have always been calmer than Jack so the change in them is not as obvious unless you know them as well as I do. They were all coming on well due to clicker training before I had the chance to study a really talented and empathetic teacher of people in action, but now that I copy his attitude when he is teaching his younger relatives, and me, how to do things, my horses progress, confidence and delight in their training has been phenomenal. I have told him all of this repeatedly but he doesn't believe me and I think that his humility and modesty is part of the secret, along with the endless patience, consideration, good humour, affection, empathy, competence and a very quiet but total determination to guide us all in the right direction and equip us all to be able to attain the same level of competence.

He makes us want to try our hardest and gives us the confidence to try. That's exactly what I try to do for my horses and, thanks to his example, I seem to be suceeding.

I read this passage in Margrit Coates book, 'Horses Talking' and I love it. It's written by Todd Merrell, Director of the International Center of Equine Arts, Vancouver, Canada. Another for the wall!

"The horse is one of the last few elders, like the whale. Their evolution has spanned an eternity. Only Equus has walked and danced upon the earth with man in this unique way - as a spiritual brother, energetically entwined."

Monday, 13 July 2009

More Inspiration and Plans.

Some people came to watch my pones perform today. They are having problems with their 4yo and are at a yard where the trainer tells them to hit it when it does anything wrong. The owner is very young and, although she hates doing it, she doesn't have the confidence to resist or the knowledge to know other ways of sorting out problems.

Bella and Jack nearly made me cry, let alone them! I have hardly given them the time of day for months, so caught up in my own problems, and yet they were so sweet, gentle and enthusiastic. They remembered everything and were even better than before. I played with them at liberty, getting them to chase me, stop dead, back up, do long strides and short strides, mimic me doing lateral work and Spanish Walk, just moving their legs in time and direction with mine, jump a jump on command, target my hand with their ears, do walk pirouettes and reverse pirouettes by moving away from the pressure of my gaze (backed up by a hand movement on Jack's partially sighted side) and I found I can control almost every movement of every foot almost imperceptibly at times. They loved every moment of it and never lost concentration for a second and my audience, coming from the whack and slap background of the other yard, were open mouthed with astonishment!

The horse should be arriving shortly and it sounds as though a lot of confidence and relationship building is needed for all parties concerned. The owners are lovely and I can't wait to get started. Half the problem with a lot of my everyday work is that I can do it on auto-pilot and I have WAY too much time for thought, which is often my downfall at the moment. Something that absorbs me and requires real mental effort is just what I need.

I also found a website called Jive Pony which has given me some real inspiration. It's a display team with a beautiful Highland Pony called Strathmore Ronan, who does similar things to Jack and Bella. The riders are vaulters and ex-circus, and one of them used to be in The Devil's Horsemen, who I am convinced I was really meant to be one of in a kinder life! Although I could never see me getting very far at my age, and I certainly wouldn't be aiming for the elegant, feminine look, I am investigating getting a vaulting roller and finding out what I am capable of.

I am SUCH a big kid!!!!

Here is a link. There is a video clip on the Homepage and photos in the gallery:

Here is a link to the blog of one of the riders, Rosie. If you click on the 2007 posts in the archive on the right hand side, on the post for 6th October 2007 there is a really great video clip. I find them brilliant, hilarious and very inspiring and entertaining. Ronan is to die for and they all, horses and humans, look to be having a ball. I would SO love to do something like this with mine!

Horse of Course, please could you tell me how I copy the 'Honest Scrap Award' logo onto my blog? I've been trying to do it, so I can claim and pass on the award you have so kindly given me, but I can't work it out at all! Thank you very much again.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Dreams and Plans for the Farm and the Future..

I have had a dream for the farm since the day, not long after David had died, that my main inspiration, his brother and another friend of David's and of theirs, spent the day here to begin the job of clearing and tidying up. David was a hoarder and collected endless rubbish just in case it would come in handy one day - a habit quite common among farmers! It was a mammoth task and one of them joked that they should use this place for Community Service because no-one would ever offend again after a few hours working here!

We laughed, joked and gently teased each other all day long with everyone trying to make it as easy and least traumatic for me as possible, worried about how I was going to feel about all the changes. With anyone else I would have felt the need to be apologetic and defensive of David but with these three, who loved him too and understood, it was easy and comfortable.

It suddenly occurred to me that the atmosphere here that day was really special, with everyone laughing, supporting and caring for each other, because they had no more got used to the idea of David not being here than I had. Some other friends arrived and everyone was just being so kind and affectionate to each other that I thought, if I could keep this atmosphere and build the yard up around it, with people who would want to be part of it, then this would be a very special place to be and a fitting memorial to David.

I told myself afterwards that it was idealistic rubbish and the horse world isn't like that. I would never find enough of the sort of owners I wanted to make it a reality and earning my living had to be my top priority.

Since then I have had two new owners arrive and they, along with my friend who has been here for many years, have made the atmosphere here remain just as it was on that day. One of them was having trouble with her new horse when she arrived and had they had completely lost confidence in each other. I have been riding out with them with Grace, on slow, steady rides and leading them on occasions where necessary, and I also showed her a little clicker training, gave her a start with it and pointed her in the direction of Alexandra Kurland's books and DVDs. The difference it has made to them and their relationship has been remarkable and a joy to watch. They were both, horse and human, desperate to form a partnership with each other but neither of them knew how.

I got so much joy and satisfaction from being able to help that it gave me an idea. There are loads of horses and owners out there in similar situations, losing confidence and trust in each other. Even in big yards there isn't always someone who will help or even someone they dare admit the truth too, for fear of being ridiculed. The horse world can be a very competitive and critical place.

My idea is to use what I have, to give me a happy, satisfying and fulfilled life here. I am such a different person now. I love meeting new people, can talk to anyone, feel genuine affection for most of the people I meet and people seem to like me too. I have three lovely owners here already, who are all very kind and supportive of each other, some empty stables and loads of grazing, two very quiet, reliable horses to ride out with people, and four clicker trained horses to demonstrate the possibilities of clicker training.

My dream, rather than fill the yard with anyone who wants to come regardless, is to find a couple more like minded people who will be keen to keep this a lovely place for people and horses to be and use the other stables to offer confidence and relationship building stays, using positive reinforcement in a lovely, kindly, supportive atmosphere, along with a quiet horse to ride alongside. I plan to show people the sort of horse that clicker training can produce but not push the point, and point them in the direction of 'The Click That Teaches' gently. I see role as a guide rather than an instructor because I have never been instructor material, preferring to lead by example rather than dictat.

My main inspiration has made me a much better and less resistible leader than I was before I got the chance to study a great and irresistible leader in action. So softly spoken that you have to shut up and concentrate to hear him, that's exactly what everyone does, and with total competence, endless patience, kindness, affection and empathy, underscored by an unspoken and almost imperceptible steely determination that has taken me a while to recognise, everyone quickly learns that resistance is not only futile but also stupid, as he's always right! Opposing points of view are considered by him with with infinate attention, patience and politeness, and then the correct course of action is gently and good-humouredly explained.

I am an avid pupil these days, determined to learn all of life's lessons and learn them well, and I have duplicated his attitude and leadership style with my horses and they love it, and it fills them full of confidence in me. I don't feel competent, comfortable with, or the necessity to try to lead people - just to show them the possibilities and help when invited to.

If I can put all these elements together and attract a trickle of horses and owners in need of what we can offer here I will have a future to be proud of and endless opportunities to make new friends - horse and human.

I don't know if it's possible or practical but I can only try my best and hope. If it all comes to nothing then there's always shelf stacking at a supermarket and at least I will have tried. I try my hardest to be brave in all things these days.

Still taking deep breaths, going with the flow, and trying to follow my dreams...........phew!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Magical Moonlit Ride.

I spent most of a boiling hot day yesterday repairing the guttering at the back of the cowshed, where my ponies now reside. I wanted to try and avoid anymore flooding when we have more thunderstorms and the guttering was a mess. I told one of my best friends that DIY can't be that hard if men can do it (you can probably guess that is was a male friend!).

I found myself singing as I worked and the end result, if a bit 'agricultural' should make a difference, cost nothing and gave me a great sense of achievement. I warned my friend that if anyone laughs when they see it there'll be no more cakes!!!! He said it looked just fine from where he was, which was about 5 miles away!

It was too hot to do anything with my ponies until late. I did a little in hand with Jack, including working on his Spanish Walk, which he needs to catch up with Bella in, then rode Bella and did some ridden Spanish Walk, etc. I was going to take Grace out but it was getting dark by then so I rode her in a paddock.

Even though I've only hacked her out for ages now she was going beautifully and really 'with' me when a large, white ghostly form flew overhead. It was one of a pair of Barn Owls that always nest locally. He was swooping about above us when I spotted the pair of Little Owls that nest on the farm, seemingly following me around the paddock, flitting from one fence post to another in the warm, still moonlit night.

It was a magical, mystical experience and one that I knew, even in that moment, will remain indelibly lodged in my memory forever. It felt as though we were in a fairytale and to be sharing it with Grace, when I've shared so many sad and lonely rides with her of late, seemed extra special and very appropriate. She seemed to be as enchanted and entranced as I was and stood like a rock while we drank in the peaceful, soothing atmosphere.

Since I read my main inspiration's words last Friday afternoon I haven't cried or felt deserted once, and believe me that is some record these days! I now have them printed in copper plate script and framed. I am coming to realise that, for me, words are the art form that means the most, much more so than paintings, sculpture or even music. I find endless beauty, solace and inspiration in words, and none more so than those particular words, written straight from the heart.

A good friend of mine lent me Magrit Coates book, 'Horses Talking'. Although I am not really a believer in animal communicators as such, there are some passages in the book that sent tingles up my spine. This passage in particular resonates with me and sums up the feelings I've had with some of my horses, past and present:

"There are some horses that we know slightly throughout our lives, and other horses that look into our eyes and move us so deeply it feels like our souls are shaken. These horses leave permanent imprints of their inspirational presence and love in our hearts and minds. By receiving their powerful messages we are never the same again. Many of us are only ever truly known by horses, especially the ones close to us in our lives…our soul mates.”


“The horse captures the imagination of the human whose soul it mirrors.”


“Love creates a bond and a bridge between horse and human to reach the spiritual depths of both”