A Travellerspoint blog

A Taste of Home

sunny

At the beginning of April 2013 my parents came to visit me at ‘Loose Rein’, a stop off on their 5 week trip around Australia. It would be good to see them again and for me to show them what I’ve been doing and the horses I’ve been training. They would be staying at the Ranch for 3 days, one to be Dad’s Birthday and my day off!
The day they arrived I was working with Rebecca and Tracey – a barefoot trimmer. I was learning more about how to trim my horses’ hooves and have my technique critiqued. I find it difficult to hold my tools correctly and also to give my girls the best trim for their feet and the work they’re doing. (Not too much work, just in the sand of the round-pen and arena and a bit of walking on the stony ground. Rosie’s hooves would require a bit of a different trim as I was taking her onto the gravel road to harden them up.) It was good to have someone who was a bit more of a professional there whilst I was trimming and I think Rebecca was glad to have her there too as she is a friend and Rebecca’s the first one to say that her technique isn’t perfect either!
I tried to contain my excitement when I saw them arrive as I knew I had to concentrate on my horsey! (Which was Trigger I think, the poor boy with all the problems with his hooves.) It was lovely to see them again, even though it had only been 2months or so since I left! I introduced them to Rebecca, Tracey and Trigger, telling them all about his problems and how we were treating them. I had to get back to work so I pointed them in the direction of the shed, told them where to park the car and to help themselves to coffee and beer in the fridge! It wasn’t too long before I could join them and as I still had horses to feed I could show them around a bit.
After work I showered and changed ready for dinner (although mostly when I do this I just get into my pyjamas and throw on a jumper to keep out the chill!) over with Bec and Darren. Mum and Dad had bought them a couple of presents to say thanks for having me/looking after me etc and also thanks for letting them stay! I had told them how much they love their Rum so they had gotten them two small bottles, one being spiced which they hadn’t had before! As it was Easter, Mum had gotten them a small bag of Dairy Milk Eggs, funnily enough, they were the same ones Bec had given to me a few days before! 
Darren had cooked up his sausages in a yummy tomato sauce (which he wasn’t willing to share the recipe of!) with pumpkin and veggies! As ever it was delicious and as my parents were here, Dad had bought some wine and it was nice to have a change from either beer or rum! Afterwards, Dad and I cleaned up before retiring to bed as I still had to get up early and work the horses! Bec and Darren were off to work the next day and would be away for 5 days, so when my parents left, I would be all alone!  But in the meantime it was great to have some company and perhaps a little bit of help with the chores I had to do.
The extra chores I had to do, included taking down one electric fence + the poles and then creating another paddock further up the driveway for my herd. It would’ve been a massive job on my own but with Dad helping me it didn’t take too long! Mum helped me with fixing the nosebags which were now starting to show signs of wear. Unfortunately we have only 5 nosebags and with 3 of them being out of action, it was a bit of a pain feeding everyday but somehow I managed! It was a pain fixing them and I’m not the best sewer out there either! But it was something I could at the end of the day whilst watching TV, so not too bad!
Mum and Dad wanted to see me working with the horses, but because they were here I wanted to spend as much time with them as possible so I was getting up early to feed and then work with Rosie. I did show them a bit of what I was doing and Dad came out and took pictures of me whilst I was taking Rosie out on the gravel road for her daily exercise to help harden up her feet. They enjoyed meeting her and seeing what I was up to with her though.
On Dad’s Birthday I took my day off for the week. They were surprised to find that just as they were getting up for breakfast I had already been up for about an hour feeding all the horses!!! Just shows what living in the countryside and being up early every day does for you! I’m up with the birds every morning whilst they were still snoring!! :D Darren had given us a recommendation for a place to have lunch on his birthday and so we decided to head out to the local tourist information office to see exactly where it was. The Eimeo Pacific Restaurant with incredible views over the Pacific Ocean was the location for a birthday lunch, so after finding out its location we decided to nip to the library to use their free internet!

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The views over the Ocean are incredible!!!! I really cannot believe that for such an amazing view, you don't really have to pay over the odds for the food and drink here!!! :O :O Certainly one of, if not, THE BEST place to celebrate Dad's Birthday!!!!! :D

Posted by Sunshine_Sarah 18:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Cavalia :)

Back to Brisbane I Go..........................

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22nd MARCH 2013
Not long after arriving and whilst working with one of my girls in the round-yard, Rebecca mentioned that she and Darren would be going to Brisbane to see ‘Cavalia’, a horse show unlike any other. I had seen all the signs for it when I was there in February and I remember thinking, ‘I’d love to go and see that, it’s a shame I’ll not be here when it’s on.’ She mentioned that I’d be welcome to come along too if I paid for my tickets and flight. At Cavalia, the horses would be working at liberty, with no bridles or saddles in most cases. There would also be some Cossack riders performing, acrobats and horses running free around the stage! It would be good to see how they worked and also to maybe get some inspiration for things to try with the horses back on the Ranch, although I’m sure anything I tried to do would not work out and the horses would end up being all confused. A bit like me really.
Rebecca researched the dates and flight times as well as organising us some accommodation with her aunt and uncle (Joy and Warren) in Brisbane. It would be nice not to have to pay for any type of accommodation in top of everything else plus it would be nice to meet some of Rebecca’s family.
The show would be taking place under a big white tent at Brisbane Airport which would make it easy ish to get to and be picked up from – we hoped anyway. It would be all throughout March and so we decided to fly up on Friday 22nd, see that evening’s show and then leave on Saturday afternoon.
It was one of the most amazing nights of my life. The horses seemed to have such an amazing rapport with the people they were performing with, there didn’t seem to be any sign of coercion on the side of the horse and the performers never had to use whips to get them to perform. My favourite part was when the horses were galloping round the arena at full speed. It had been specially designed so that this would be possible and it sure was an amazing sight. How they managed to control them when they were in a mob like that is beyond me and something that will stay with me for a very long time to come. 

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In the interval I went to the gift shop and bought a book about the performers, the horses and how they’re trained, plus the history of Cavalia. I also bought a baseball cap and a vest top and got a calendar for free!  I would use/wear the cap and the vest top straight away and for the rest of my time here in Australia, but the book and the calendar will be going home with my parents when they come to visit in April. Best to be safe than sorry and I know I can’t carry them around with me forever!

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On the Saturday before we had to leave to catch our flight, Joy and Warren showed us around Brisbane, a nice sightseeing tour if you will! We went up to Mount Cootha, a lookout where you can see the whole of Brisbane. It’s a very popular tourist spot and it was certainly busy when we arrived! We had a nice walk around, stopped a while to enjoy the view, take a few pictures and enjoy an ice cream!

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I am (still!) so happy that I got to see this show. The horses, the acrobats, the trainers, everyone and everything was amazing. The crowd certainly enjoyed it and it looked like the horses did too.  A fantastic show and a treasured memory of Australia.

Posted by Sunshine_Sarah 20:42 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Welcome 'Mr Stitches'

21st April 2013

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The above photos were all taken on the day he arrived into the world. :)

One cold, April morning I wandered outside to check on ‘Jazz’ who we knew was due to foal. Standing by the side of her paddock, toothbrush in mouth, I looked over and saw another set of legs beside Jazz’s…….could it be???? I hurried back to the shed, ditched my brush, grabbed my phone and my boots and went to get a better look. Laying there, underneath a tree was her foal…….all leg and tail. He was light brown in colour with a white on blaze on his face. Absolutely gorgeous…….except for the cut he had above his right hip. Obviously Jazz had decided that foaling right on top of an old rusty oil drum was a good place…………Poor little dude. He didn’t seem to be too distressed or anything thankfully. I called Rebecca and as soon as she answered she said ‘I knew it, I knew she’d do it whilst we were away!’ Thankfully they were only away overnight and not out at the mines ! I told her about the 2 cuts (the second was smaller than and not as wide/deep as the one on his hip) and she said she’d look at it when they got back.
An hour or so later Rebecca and Darren were back and able to assess the wound. Bec tried to sew it herself but felt it as best to call the vet and have her stitch it properly. So Bec cleaned it up, sprayed it with purple antiseptic spray and moved him and Jazz to the paddock next door. I couldn’t stop looking at him, he was beautiful in every way. I love how, when foals are born, they’re all leg and have a small body and cute little tail! It’s adorable! I refilled Jazz’s water trough for her and tried my best to get on with my day….. 
Much later that night, the Vet came by to stitch up our foal. Bec and Darren had decided that ‘Stitches’ would be suitable name for him, seeing as that was what he would be getting! I think it suited him. I held onto Jazz whilst the Vet worked her magic, giving ‘Stitches’ an anaesthetic and cutting away the skin on the sides on the cut to be able to better stitch the two sides together. She also cleaned up the smaller cut and gave him an injection of antibiotics as well as giving Bec some medication to give to him and the wherewithal to keep the wound clean. Not long afterwards, she was finished and Stitches was waking up. Naturally the first thing he wanted to do was have a drink from Mum! A big adventure for someone so small.
Stitches’ stitches would have to come out about 10 days or so later but Rebecca could do this herself, with advice from the Vet.

foal_1.jpg This is Mr Stitches at 3 months of age :) Such a cheeky little fella !

foal_2.jpg This is him almost a year later......you can see how he's changed colour and grown! He's going to be a gorgeous horse. He is now undergoing his Natural Horsemanship/Groundwork Education!

Posted by Sunshine_Sarah 20:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Routine shows its face…………...again and again…….and again…..

So finally I have settled into life at Loose Rein and I am really enjoying working with the horses and learning all about Clinton Anderson’s way. My routine goes a bit like this:
• 6am Wake up and get some breakfast, although sometimes I just don’t feel much like eating so early! Think I must not be quite adjusted yet so I have an apple if I can manage it, cereal on other days.
• 630am Start working with the horses. Could be either of my grey girls, perhaps doing some desensitising with Trigger or a bit of Groundwork with Rosie.
• 1pm Lunchtime! If Bec and Darren are home I eat with them, either outside or occasionally inside catching up with Revenge or Packed to the Rafters.
• 2pm Back to work. Sometimes I had to refill water troughs, move horses to a different paddock, build a new one, clean my living quarters, (although this was mostly done on my time), work with the other horses and I also had to ensure that all horses got fed everyday so I would do this too, if they hadn’t all been done in the morning.
• Sometimes if we managed to get all the work done with time to spare, then Darren would take us fishing/crabbing locally. This was great fun and it was good to get away from the ranch for a while and for Bec and Darren to show us around their local area. 
• I would finish work when it was getting dark, so around 4 or 5pm usually. I just had to make sure that all horses were fed, had plenty of water and I had worked with the ones I needed to.
• After work I would be so tired!! It was all I could do to pull myself together to go in the shower and walk over to the house to have dinner (which we’d help prepare or clean up afterwards). If they were at work, I’d make something in my little kitchen over the shed before collapsing in front of the TV! ZZzzz!! That is if I didn’t have a nosebag or three to fix!!!!!! :/

Learning all of the exercises was good fun, not least because with some of them I would end up quite literally going around in circles trying to figure out what on earth I was supposed to be doing!!! :D This was especially true with ‘Circle Driving’ where I was meant to have the horse trot around me in a small circle with my stick resting on their withers (they had to be a stick’s length away from me at all times). I had to face forward and walk a small circle myself until it was time to change directions, this was where I got totally confused! (as in, I was already confused and this just topped it!), I had to pick a spot on the fence, look at it and when the horse came around to that point I was to move my stick from on their withers to beside me and use it to tap on their hindquarters to get them to disengage and then I had to walk forward with the horse on my right and my stick at my side (hopefully!). Once the horse was trotting beside me, I would again resume the position of my stick at their withers and them going around me in a small circle! It sounds difficult right? Well it sure was for this girl who has zero coordination skills, barely knows her left from her right and gets confused easily…………….Rebecca was almost in stitches watching me and said it would of made an hilarious video!!!! Thanks Bec, thanks A LOT!!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFCNfV9jSlU&feature=g-upl&context=G21c4e7eAUAAAAAAAAAA

This video was shot on location at ''Loose Rein' in 2012, it shows one of the girls working with 'Snazzy Jazz', the exercises she is doing are the same ones which I learnt. I also shot one video with 1 of my grey girls but I will keep that for later.....! :) Hopefully this gives you a good indication of the works I was doing with the horses.

Thankfully, most of the other exercises were more straight forward than this and I learnt them quickly enough.  It would be the horses that got confused not me! Although I tried my utmost to prevent this happening, as a confused horse doesn’t learn anything!

My two grey girls were coming along really well. As well as learning to have a halter on them, I was teaching them to lead beside me. They had to go when I said go and stop when I did, I taught this to them in the round-yard and the lighter one of the 2 got it fairly quickly and without much fuss, but the darker girl kicked out and wasn’t really having any of it! Good job I couldn’t see her kicking out as I would have been quite worried! As well as this I was getting them used to being touched all over and desensitising them to my stick and string and my rope, two items I would be using around them a lot and would not want them to be worried about. They had to get used to me picking up their feet, being trimmed and all the associated tools I would be using for this job. That included the rasp, hoof-pick and hoof stand. I would ask them to pick up their front legs by pinching the walnut all horses have on their legs and then letting go as soon as the hoof was picked up. I would then use the hoof pick to make sounds against their hard hoof wall so they got used to it. I would also ask them to place their foreleg onto the stand so I would be able to trim easier. This was always tricky but with time and repetition they learnt to tolerate it. (They could still be buggers when it came time to trim their hooves though!!!! So frustrating!!!) To ask them to pick up their back legs I would just twist the skin on their hocks –or knee joint- to get them to pick up, I would then stretch it out a bit and rest it on my knee so I could again use the hoof-pick and then bring the leg forward to have them place it on the stand. Essentially, I picked up their hooves every day I was working with them and then would bring the stand/hoof-pick out only on certain days.

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Along with teaching them to lead, to pick up their feet, to stand still whilst being trimmed, I was teaching the girls to be good whilst being wormed and when the dentist visited. (She was due to visit not long after I arrived and so this became a priority whilst working with them. All my others were taught this too as I think all of them were seen when she arrived.) It is a well-known fact that horses love molasses and so it was this I used whilst training them. Although I think I ended up covered in more of it than they did! I put a bit of this onto my fingers and worked them into the corners of the mouth where there aren’t any teeth, moving them around inside, taking care of course not to get bitten! I would then touch them all over their muzzle and inside the front of their mouths to get them used to being touched there. Eventually I would try a snaffle bit covered in molasses on a bridle (without a noseband) and leave it on them whilst working in the round-yard. This was so they would get used to a) having a bit in their mouths in the first instance and b) make them ready for when the dentist came and they had to wear that contraption which keeps their mouths open. Much to my relief, when the dentist did visit all of my horses passed with flying colours, even Trigger who was pretty much scared of everything!!!! All except Rosie were fine and didn’t need to be seen again until they were being broken in. Poor Rosie had to have a wolf tooth taken out! She was very brave though.

I worked very long days and even though I was learning a lot and really enjoying being with the horses, I couldn't wait for some time off just to recharge my batteries!!! Trips to town were frequent and I did enjoy going but somehow it doesn't feel like much of a day off when you have to come home and feed up!!!! What I didn't know was just how quickly that time off would come.................. :)

Posted by Sunshine_Sarah 00:39 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Natural Horsemanship...................the beginning :)

Learning the ropes !

SARAH_1.jpg This photo shows me working with a grey mare who was wild when I first arrived at Loose Rein. She and another mare were bought by Rebecca to be trained and eventually sold. It was to be my responsibility to work with them, 6 days a week every week until they were sold. I also had 2 other horses to work with each day.

SARAH_2.jpg Here I am trying my best to trim Chicken's feet! (a horse by the way definitely NOT a chicken! haha!) I learnt this very early on and I have to say it has to be (still to this day!) one of the hardest things I have ever had to learn how to do!! You have to balance the horse's foot on your leg, whilst trying to manage the equipment AND remember how you're supposed to trim them!?!?! EErrrr.............!!?? Yea like I said almost impossible............it took me almost half a day just to do do half a horse!!!! :/ Rebecca was not best pleased I can tell you! But like they say, practice makes perfect and I soon got to grips with it all and was able to trim without much supervision from Rebecca. Although I did always like her to check my work afterwards as I'm not the best hoof trimmer around!
Trimming hoofs like this is known as 'Barefoot Trimming' and essentially it means not putting metal shoes on the horse's feet and letting them grow/be worn down naturally. It is a much better way of keeping horses and with the correct training can work most comfortably on rocky/stony surfaces like this. There are 2 main types of trim, the working trim and the paddock trim and I learnt both as some of the horses were in work and others were not. I also met Rebecca's friend Tracey who does this for a living and she showed me where I was going wrong and how to approach hoof trimming. She also taught me how to hold my tools correctly!! haha! :)

SARAH_3.jpg Here I am with Rosie. She came to Rebecca from someone she knew who had purchased her from a riding school for his 10-year old daughter!! All I can say is WHY!?!??! She had ssoo much GO and not much STOP! She had obviously been allowed to get away with things whilst at the riding school and I was put in charge of re-schooling her and getting her quiet and respectful enough to be sold on. In the photo I have just been 'Roundpenning' her, basically sending her around the edge of the Roundpen, asking her to change direction (by moving in front of her and pointing with my hand, clicking my tongue and then swinging my stick & string) and then eventually asking her to come into me. Once she has turned into face me, I slowly back up towards her and she if she'll follow me by turning circles. (not too small or sharp) If she does that then there's every chance she'll then follow me to where her rope halter is and allow me also to place it on her without too much of a fight. I have to make sure that she lowers her head when placing the rope halter onto her, I will practice this with her everytime I hater her. Eventually she will just naturally lower her head without me asking her to.

sarah_5.jpg FUN TIMES!!!!!!!!!! :D Here I am desensitising Rosie to the sound and movement of the string on the end of my stick. The aim to be able to walk all the way around her (without my arm touching her) whilst swinging the stick and have her not move or be worried by it. She was pretty good at this actually and it didn't take me long to get to that stage with her.

This is all part of Clinton Anderson's Natural Horsemanship Program. There are 3 levels, Fundamentals, Intermediate and Advanced. They consist of about 20 groundwork exercises and the same for the ridden ones. You need to complete all of the Fundamentals and about half of the Intermediate groundwork exercises before moving onto the riding but I guess that does all depend on you and the horses/s you're working with! :) The groundwork exercises consist of sensitising and desensitising the horses. First one means getting them to move their feet when applying pressure, the latter means asking them to stand still when applying pressure. Horses do not learn from the pressure itself, they learn from the release of pressure. So for example, if I am throwing the rope over Rosie's back and she moves I then have to continue throwing the rope over her back until she stops. The instant her feet stop moving, is the same second that I remove the pressure (in this example the rope) from her. Therefore she has learnt that if she stops moving I take away the rope. I want her to stand still whilst throwing the rope over her back. If I was to say swing the rope at the hindquarters I would expect her to move away from it (Sensitising). In this instance the pressure is released as soon as her feet move, therefore again she is learning what I am asking her to do by the release of the pressure (the rope swinging at the hind end). It is a fine balance getting it right, but horses are quick learners and soon Rosie is doing everything I ask her to do from the lightest of pressures.

Another beautiful sunset over the Ranch.

Another beautiful sunset over the Ranch.

Isabell the farm dog

Isabell the farm dog

A view of the trees around the Ranch, a truly awesome place to live and work.

A view of the trees around the Ranch, a truly awesome place to live and work.

Learning all this I am starting to change my view on how horses should be trained. This is such an awesome method that from now on I believe that I shall endeavor to train all horses I come across this way, or at least use elements of it. The horses all respond really well to it and they become so much more respectful and quiet and I can feel the beginnings of a beautiful relationship developing between me and the 4 horses that I am working with. :) I knew I would love coming here and learning everything. It is hard work, the days are long and the weather, (when I arrived) was hot, humid and rainy!! :( Not much fun but Rebecca and Darren are lovely people, the place is amazing and I also get the occasional day off! HA! (Yea right!)

Posted by Sunshine_Sarah 18:36 Archived in Australia Tagged horses western natural riding horsemanship barefoot_trimming Comments (0)

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