1 June 2012


At last, this week, I have felt able to get Trigger back to work with the physical confidence to give him reassurance. I am going right back to the basics. The first day I met Anna Bonnage, she asked me to lead Trigger away and tell her what I felt about it. I said I thought he behaved like a foal behind its mother; weaving from one side of her to the other with the nerves of one new to the world. He also would constantly get very close in to me, nudging and wanting to rub. At his vetting, before I decided to take him on, he managed to crack one of my ribs with a nudge. Anna worked with us on respecting personal space to start with and we had great results. However, after nine months without frequent reminders, this has gone by the wayside and that's what I've been working on this week. We went for a walk with Snippet and, by the time we got back, Trig was walking calmly behind me at a safe distance and to the side I asked. He remembered the principles quicker than I was expecting. Coincidentally, I received Anna's email newsletter this week and this is a passage she wrote, far more eloquently than I possibly could, on the this very subject:

Safety is important when working with a young horse, important to the survival of both the human and horse. There are a few things that really matter when handling a youngster, and one is developing personal space. Youngsters who have been bottle-fed, isolated from a herd or de-sensitised to objects, will often push on us and if they do this, then it is likely that if they become scared, they will jump onto us. It amazes me how many people will let a horse push on them on a daily basis but would never accept it if a person they’d just been introduced to stood only four inches away and occasionally pushed their shoulder into them or head butted them! I found out at first hand how important personal space is when I left a fully opened umbrella propped on the fence, as I turned with my horse and walked towards the centre of the arena. Suddenly the umbrella fell off the fence and before I could turn around, my horse had skidded up behind me, leaving a two foot skid mark in the sand. I barely had time to raise my hand, so that he knew to keep out of my space. By the time I realised what had happened, he had diverted his direction in order to keep out of my way and then stop. I was very pleased that I had made a point of prioritising personal space on a daily basis when working with my horse in the past. These situations remind me that every day we are teaching a horse things that we do and don’t want them to learn.

I do think Anna is an inspiration and I felt like I needed to unlearn everything I had been taught in the 1970's! Do have a look at her website:

Trigger out on the road behaving well

The nuthatches fledged this week on the same day that our neighbour's bees swarmed. Sadly, despite a fantastic photo opportunity of a fearless fledgling VERY close to me, I was too busy holding back Snippet, who saw them as potential snacks. The perils of terrier ownership. If it's small and it moves, it's under threat. My neighbours managed to tap the huge cone of bees into a basket and are hoping they will establish in a new hive. From watching 'Springwatch' this week, I understand we're very lucky to have nuthatches in a nest box as opposed to a hole in a tree. We'll be checking for the mudding up of the cracks in the box once we're sure they've all gone. It was fascinating watching the female bringing in mud rather than food sometimes - the instinct to do so is so strong.

A cone of bees

Last Saturday, we were at some friends who live by a mill stream and there were damsel flies and demoiselles everywhere. The little girl was in the stream up to her knees, delicately picking them off the plants and letting them rest in her hands. Every time the rest of us went near them they flew away. She seemed to have a magic touch.


On Wednesday, I was thinking how barren and bare the moors can look if you don't look down. I sat on a rock and stared at the ground for five minutes. The amount of life was incredible, and given a better macro lens, I will try and photograph it all one day. At the moment, the grass is full of Tormentil and heath milkwort in different hues. They are TINY. The odd minute violet appears too. There are spiders everywhere and, given Snippet's obsessive interest in every other grassy tussock, many rodents and reptiles hidden from view. The butterflies are increasing in numbers now. I've been looking very strange creeping about trying to photograph them this week, to no avail. Better luck next week!



Four different Heath Milkwort colours

Yesterday was the last day of building work in the kitchen. To save money, we're going to lay the new floor ourselves and put the sink and some of the units back too.....this could be disastrous! Today is cloudy, hot and muggy. The midges are everywhere and I look like I've got nits, scratching my head and ears, which are covered in bites. Here are a selection of pictures from our walks this week.

Hawthorn blossom, like snow

I love the four distinct stripes here

About 9.00pm (taken by Mark Thompson)

Snippet sheltering from the sun 

Shin bashing ensued thanks to this stick

Related surely!

Cotton grass in the marsh

Betty and Lizzy today

Foals one, three and four (I think), who are very pally these days
And finally, I wanted to put in my friend's daughter's watercolour because I think it's so lovely. It has a freedom that so many of us lose as adults and I think the composition is fantastic. The background in the original is a brighter green but it still looks good. Have a lovely bank holiday weekend!

By Lily, aged 7


  1. ooh a lovely post. I particularly enjoyed reading about triggers training as I had a youngster to rear myself many years back.
    Lovely photos.I'm sure Snippet goes to the same hair dressers as my 2 LOL
    well done Lily, your picture is fabulous. You might have it printed onto a t shirt :-)

  2. Thanks Kath. What's very challenging is treating a 13 year old pony as a youngster. It seems to be the best way of addressing his behaviour though and many people think he's young due to the way he looks. When I was riding him, I had to adapt a bridle made for a Shetland with a slightly wider browband and, before I got him the rope halter, he wore one in a foal size!

  3. Hey Em
    Trig is looking v calm!
    I love the pic of the greys-L's fave!
    L v proud of pic x

  4. So she should be - it's fantastic. I like Kath's idea of printing a t-shirt! x

  5. I think that's by far the best thing - going back to essential basics, as quite possibly he never had any proper spacial awareness and respect for humans taught to him as a youngster. He certainly doesn't sound at all confident. I suppose you had him vetted before you bought him, as another thing I would think of would be defective eyesight. Handling horses in the 1970s and now, are two totally different things as we have finally be able to shake off the largely Army-orientated training regimes for horses where they had to behave or face a wallop. I have taken bits from various training ideas over recent years - mainly IHDG but I have friends whose use of clicker training has literally been a life-saver for their formerly dangerous horse.

    LOVED the photos of the moor, and the mares and foals, and the flowers, and that lovely painting by your friend's daughter. I know just what you mean about losing that artistic freedom.

  6. One of Anna's main principles is to ask rather than tell, which has been extremely helpful. Breathing having a calming effect too. Having found methods different from the behave or wallop regime, I find it really hard to watch people still behaving in that way and occasionally gently suggest an alternative, which rarely has any effect. Like breaking bad habits and addictions, I think you have to want to change and can't be persuaded by other's nudgings! Interesting about the clicker; I used it with Snippet when he was a puppy but fault, not his, as I kept leaving it at home so there was no consistency. Both he and Trigger come to a whistle though!

    Lovely to hear from you and have a great holiday weekend. We're off to the Two Hills Race tomorrow. I wonder if you went to it or even ran in it when you lived here? I am certainly not running...


Thank you so much for leaving a comment. It's great to read them and I will always try to reply.