Welcome to the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre
Christmas 2010 Newsletter
Welcome to our 2010 Christmas Newsletter! We hope you are all well and happy and have had a great 2010 so far! The purpose of this newsletter is to let you all know what we’ve been up to this year, how the ponies are and any developments with our organisation and Dartmoor Hill Ponies in general. The ponies are doing well at the moment, if a bit cold. We currently have 18 ponies at the centre which is keeping us busy! They all need hay putting out twice a day and are also all in need of some form of training.
As most of you know, or can see by our name, a big part of what we do is about training Dartmoor Hill Ponies. This takes the form of training our own ponies; who are with us to eventually be rehomed, and also helping other people learn about training methods for working with unhandled ponies. We’ve been busy this year with quite a lot of training; we ran a 5 day unhandled pony training course with Sarah Weston from Intelligent Horsemanship as well as progressing with our own ponies.
5 day foal handling course with Sarah Weston
Jenny has been volunteering with us since the summer. She volunteered for the foal handling course to learn more about working with the ponies. Here’s what she says about the course…..
“What a fabulous success the semi feral foal handling week with Sarah Weston was. Having the privilege to help out for the week I learnt so much thanks to Sarah and her team. For the 10 lucky participants (plus one enthusiastic spectator) Sarah and her team of volunteer trainers; using feather dusters and vibrantly coloured scarves (see pic) taught and supported them through the process of building trusting relationships with the gorgeous, semi feral Dartmoor foals.
We started at the very beginning and worked right through to putting head collars on and even leading a couple of them! Sarah Weston's book 'No Fear, No Force' explains the training techniques used, including clicker training. These gentle ethical techniques are so productive I can't recommend her book more!! All participants of the course got on amazingly with the ponies, the task at hand and each other.
The feedback at the end of the week couldn't have been more positive and everyone seemed to leave feeling excited and motivated about moving forward with either their own ponies or with future projects involving ponies. One lady fell so deeply in love with the charmer known as Chester that he had to go home with her and the latest news is that he is a star amongst his new herd!”
Here’s some of the feedback we received:
"I really like the fact that ponies were not "hurried along" for the benefit of the students, which can easily happen in a course environment"(K.E.) and "there was no pressure, but secretly we had goals, we just didn't tell the ponies!"(L.S.)
For more information on the course please visit Sarah Weston’s Journal: www.sarahweston.co.uk or go to our news blog: dptc.blogspot.com. Your Horse magazine also did a fantastic article about the course in the January edition (out now.) We are now taking bookings for next years course; participant and spectator places available. Please contact us for more info.
Now here’s Ro for an update on two of our ponies; Mikey and Leo
We mentioned in the last newsletter that we’d devised a step-by-step programme to help Mikey to have his feet handled. He’d been very panicky about anyone trying to pick up his feet and we realised we were going to have to go right back to basics and take it slowly. We decided the first stage was to teach him that it was good to keep all four legs on the ground so that it would be safe and comfortable for us to work around his feet. We used a glove on a stick for this so that we could safely and calmly touch his legs. The great thing about this approach is that he is free to kick out at the glove on the stick – BUT it doesn’t move away when he does so (unlike a human hand!) The deal was that the glove was only moved away when his foot was on the ground. For the first few times he found this difficult but he’s so clever that pretty soon he’d realised that if he could manage to hold still, then the glove would move away again. We backed this approach up by using a clicker and a small food reward. So, not only did the glove move away when he stood still, but he also got a ‘click and treat’! This worked like magic and within just a few sessions we could gradually move onto using our own hands rather than the glove on the stick.
Once we were sure that he was relaxed about us touching any part of his legs then we decided that the time had come to move onto the next stage. We’d taught him to keep all four feet on the ground so how were we going to teach him that now he needed to let us lift his feet? We realised that, like most ponies, he often ‘rested’ one leg when he was standing and we used this to our advantage. We just very gently flexed the pastern a little on the resting foot. By moving him around carefully we could set him up so that we could work on each foot in turn. In the very next session he allowed us to pick up his feet a short way off the ground and for just a moment or two. He was very relaxed throughout this and we are thrilled that we seem to have been able to overcome the kick ‘reflex’ that had become a habit.
We’ve learned a lot along the way. Our usual approach just simply wouldn’t work with Mikey because he was so frightened, so we had to be prepared to try something new – and we weren’t sure if it would work or not. We also had to work at his pace. Even though we are desperate for him to have his feet trimmed we needed to move slowly from one stage to the next only when he was ready. And, the added bonus from all of this is that Mikey has blossomed into a delightful pony. He is now much more trusting and loves attention. We’re sure that the work we’ve done with him on his feet has helped him to develop a lot more confidence and will make it easier to teach him all sorts of other things too.
Our aim at the end of this is to for him to be able to have his feet trimmed regularly and safely. Watch this space for more news about how we’re progressing with this goal.
I didn’t manage to do as much with Leo over the summer as I’d hoped, so we’ve been ticking over steadily rather than making lots of progress. I’ve been carrying on with trying to make him bomb proof and he quite happily accepts balloons being blown up and then released around him!
His first outing as a sponsor pony was at our Open Day in October when you may have met him and seen how relaxed he is about being in new places and how pleased he is to meet new people. Recently we took him out for a walk with Mikey and both of them behaved very well, despite the icy conditions which made it a bit tricky underfoot in a few places. Over the winter I shall try to get him out for more walks around the lanes near our fields to get him used to as many different sights and sounds as possible.
Now here’s Jenny for an update on Tia, a pony that came to us through the RSPCA
Tia who came to us at the end of July, from an unknown abusive background, complete with headcollar is a very sensitive soul. We've just left her in peace for the past few months to let her settle into the herd and we've just been sitting in the field making very gentle connections with her, keeping the pressure very light. She has become more brave recently so with the round pen up we've begun the next steps.
Making the round pen as appealing as a 5star hotel (plenty of hay and hard food) she now chooses to join us in there! Sitting very quietly with her, looking as non threatening as possible she is relaxed while eating around us. The next step has been her accepting more contact from us with our hand in her feed bucket, she is very clever though and keeps finding a way to move the bucket so she avoids contact with us
but yesterday she was ever so brave and was accepting my hand brushing up and down her head and over her eyes!! She has come a long way but its very important to take it slow with her as she is still so sensitive to any change in movement. The biggest hurdle is removing the headcollar, I see her spooking at the straps alot!! Keep an eye on our blog for more info on how Tia is getting on!
One of our biggest areas of training for the ponies we take on is getting them used to having their feet handled. We have been lucky enough to find for the first time a fantastic farrier, Mel, who is both sympathetic to nervous ponies and loves trimming little ponies feet!!! This isn’t something that you find that often so we’ll do anything to keep her! Mel’s idea is that if she puts some time into training the ponies to be comfortable around her a they’ll be easier in the long run. Her visits form part of the ponies training and Mel is happy for us to bring ponies into the enclosure to meet her, have a stroke or have their legs handled a bit.
The idea behind this is to make the farrier visits as everyday and normal as possible. The more exposure ponies have to leg handling by different people the easier they will find it when they are rehomed and meeting a new farrier for the first time. Most of the ponies we have at the centre for training are quite comfortable being trimmed now, but there are others; like Mikey, who still need lots of work on this.
Some information from Kathryn on the recent publicity surrounding Dartmoor Hill Ponies
You may well have seen the recent stories in the newspapers about the cull of 700 ponies on Dartmoor, this has caused much reaction in many forms, there are people who want to do all they can to help and there are the unhelfpul people who just want to shout abuse.
The situation is a delicate one on Dartmoor, myself and my friend set up the Dartmoor Pony Training Centre in 2005 with a view to rescusing and helping Dartmoor Hill ponies ad any other type of Dartmoor which landed on our doorstep and making a difference but it is never that straight forward. There are many factors to be taken in to consideration and nothing can be done overnight, it will take time and lots of money to put things right.
Charlotte Faulkner at The Friends of the Dartmoor Hill Pony Association has been doing all she can for 10 years, she has helped in many ways in these years and the welfare of the ponies is much better because of her work. A Ten Point Strategy Plan has been drawn up which we would like to use and follow, unfortnately as always little funding is in place for it.
There is uproar at the cull of these ponies and it his hugely upsetting. However we have to ask whether it is a better end than being exported live to the continent. There certainly shouldn’t be this amount of unwanted foals however at the moment that is the case and we have to deal with the situation we are presented with. I myself cannot believe I would ever say such a thing, back in 2005 I had rose tinted spectacles much like many others who have made comments on this issue, however when you get closely involved with the ponies, Dartmoor and the commoners you can see there truely is no easy overnight solution that will ensure the long term survival of the ponies and keep the ecology of Dartmoor.
If you’d like to get involved or support the work we do in any way please do get in touch using the contact details below. We are super busy trying to fit this work into our everyday lives but will endeavour to get back to you as soon as possible.
We also have ponies available for rehoming and can put you in contact with people with ponies for sale.
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1 week ago