Sunday, 27 October 2013

The Calm Before the Storm?

So apparently we're about to have a storm tonight.... hmmm, the humans reckon we might get Hurricane Force 12 wind (this normally occurs in our lives only when Dragon has been eating too many carrots.... oops sorry, don't tell her I said that will you, she will not be happy!)

All around us the human ants have been scurrying and hurrying and trying to make things so they won't blow away.  It seems that they feel we are robust enough not to worry about, I feel there may be some advantages to be short and stout (no teapot jokes please for those of you that know the nursery rhyme!)

Today has not been such terrible weather though so we made the most of it... Mostly we ate a lot.  We heard FH say that we might be confined to the yard and stables tomorrow so best make the most of the green stuff while we can!

Look blue sky this morning.... it doesn't look like this now :-(

Roller was not really happy with the gusty wind that had already started.  It has played havoc with his hairdo! Don't look ladies... he is not feeling at his finest.  He said it might be something to do with standing in the rain (out of choice) overnight to try to give himself a wash so that he could then benefit from the windy blow-dry.... not sure it worked Roller really?

We are a little worried as there are quite a lot of leaves still on the trees (if I could reach there wouldn't be any but alas the short and stout comes in to play again) so this might mean that we lose some branches. 

Sounds like we might be in need of assistance from a superhero..... so in Commando Mini (ready for hurricane force action) style I decided to don my warpaint (aka mud) and camouflage (aka leaves).  Whatdya reckon?  I think I'll scare that storm right away.....

On second thoughts I might just hide out in the stable and watch from the comfort of my thick bed.  Hooves crossed the storm takes one look at my warpaint and leaves us be.  Good luck to our friends who are also in for the storm tonight!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Roller's Philosophical Friday: Style

I like to think that I am a stylish kind of pony.... I have been busy ensuring that I am wearing this season's number one style.

Yes ladies!  The Roller Polar fluff is appearing for all to see :-)

It is my very own style statement and seems to be very popular, especially when it is paired with a liberal coating of mud!

FH says I have been rather muddy this week and she has only seen me in the dark so she is missing any recent pictures of my entire fluff..... so as a reminder to my lady fans I thought I would leave you with some pictures of the main winter event.... perhaps an aperitif to the full on Roller Polar experience.  So here I am in my winter finery of last year.  Up to date pictures to follow :-)

And here's to all you my stylish Muleteer friends with my quote for today!

Fashions fade, style is eternal.
Yves Saint-Laurent

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Ever The Opportunists!

Hey Mini... come out of your stable!  I know it's all wet and windy and not very nice but every cloud has a silver lining.....

Look the wind is blowing all the leaves off of the trees right on to our yard.  And look they taste yummy!

I'm just helping with the sweeping up for FH really! She sure will appreciate it when she sees this yard is all clean and tidy and she doesn't need to get the broom out.  This is such an untidy mess, best get my Dragon jaws working out ;-)

There has to be some advantages of this miserable weather.... come on Mini out you come.

That was not quite what I had in mind.... typical man do the chores from the comfort of the armchair!

Honestly!  He wouldn't leave the comfort of his stable in case the rain made his hair go all frizzy..... alas the leaves seemed to come to him!

Sunday, 20 October 2013

No Ifs Just Butts!

What better way to brighten up a gloomy Autumn morning than a good look at some muddy mule and mini butts?

OK so we admit that these are not the sleek glossy rear views of Summer but hopefully you will appreciate them nonetheless.

It has been a miserable and grey weekend with rain, wind and fog so we decided to brighten up the humans' day by standing our pretty butts all in a row.

The rain has played havoc with our pony tails and has led to some rather unfortunate (in the humans' eyes but not ours ;-) mud packs being liberally applied but we're sure you will excuse our less than 'finished' hairdos!

There are some butts in our gang that are just always together..... honestly those minis are joined at the hip and even when there's not enough room they just gotta do everything together.  No one told them that the track is just too narrow for both of them! Somehow they seemed to manage.

Even when they're eating they gotta eat the same blade of grass and make sure that they're not too far apart... honestly, anyone would think they were best buddies or something?

As for me?  Well I like to show off my butt in a casual kinda way.... a girl's gotta look nonchalant and casual so I like to do the little hip dip if you know what I mean? ;-)  But you will notice that I have no need for a hip buddy, I am perfectly content as an independent woman.... as long as my minis aren't too far away!

So there you have it.  No ifs just plenty of butts in this gang, and mighty fine (if muddy) butts they are too.  FH says we must blog about something serious next time..... I don't know what she means but I am thinking about a post on the marvels of mud!  

Friday, 18 October 2013

Roller's Philosophical Friday: Laughter

Hehe, haha, teehee, oops sorry you caught me laughing! I have just been making the humans laugh with my Houdini pony antics again.... there was FH calling for me, where had I gone?  FH had put us to bed, all Three Muleteers happily in our yard / stable bits, but this morning FH was a bit late getting up and well I had got bored of waiting so let myself out by ninja commando crawling under the fence (are you impressed Carmen with my ninja antics? ;-)  I know you'll appreciate them!

So I thought I’d make FH jump and sneak up behind her. I hadn’t gone far, in fact I was right next to her.... it was just a little dark.  You see I had been busy rolling in the mud for my daily mud pack, I couldn’t wait for FH to get her lazy butt out of bed (OK it was still dark but in my defence I was really itchy).  Well I have to say The Mini was most put out by my antics and told me off when we were reunited, he is such a Mummy's Boy and would never do anything wrong (secretly he was happy to see me though).  Dragon was just jealous that she couldn't join in, it's a bit more difficult for her to shift her bulk under the fence (don't tell her I said that....eek, she'll breathe fire)!
So Ta-Da!  Here I am..... FH was so relieved I hadn’t been ponynapped in the night that she burst out laughing.  Brilliant!  First task of the day is achieved!  One of our most important jobs is to make the humans laugh, when all around is falling down we promise we will still make you laugh.  Laughter is good for the soul, makes humans’ faces smile, speaks a language you can all understand whatever your nationality and just improves life in general.  Oh and in case you ever wondered.... yes animals do have a sense of humour and we do laugh.... we just tend to do it behind you humans’ backs ;-)
So here’s my quote for the day:
There's no life without humour.  It can make the wonderful moments of life truly glorious, and it can make the tragic moments bearable.
Rufus Wainwright
And some pics to make you smile!

Have a laughter filled weekend!  I am off to plan my next Ninja Houdini Pony escapades.... oh the fun :-)

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Training Donkeys, Mules and Horses with Love and Empathy

The Muleteers have kindly leant me their blog to talk to you all about some issues that I have been struggling with.... for once I may just climb on my soapbox or high horse (read high mule ;-)!

I was sent a video by a  friend recently showing some "amazing therapy for phobias" and was pretty shocked by what I saw... was this for real?  So let me tell you about it....

The patient had a longstanding phobia of having his feet touched and tickled so was approached by an eminent psychologist who said that he could help the patient quickly if he followed his 'programme' of behavioural training.  The patient was a trusting chap so said yes, the Dr was a professional after all.  He went along to the Dr's office and was quickly put in to a very small room, a bit like a cell with bars everywhere.  The Dr said it was essential for the patient's safety that he was tied up, OK he thought and was a little shocked when the Dr got a thick rope tied it around his neck and head and then tied the other end to the metal bar.  The patient pulled but he couldn't get free..... this was not the kind of therapy he had imagined but he was a trusting chap so went along with it.

So the Dr then started talking loudly and appeared nervous about what was going to happen, he was already out of breath - Oh My Goodness!  What is about to happen?!

So the Dr quickly leapt in and picked up the patient's foot, so quickly the patient lost his balance.  The patient tried in vane to get his foot back!  But the Dr held on grunting and panting and then gave the foot back - yikes!  That is not happening again thought the patient!  Then the Dr slapped him a lot and pushed him around some to make sure he was thoroughly petrified.  Therapy? WHAT?

Not content with this the Dr then ran around the back of the patient and grabbed hold of his foot from behind, any wonder that the patient kicked as he wasn't expecting it and he couldn't see!  No warning, it tickles and I don't like that!!  So what did the patient get next?  A rope!  Yes that's right he had a rope flicked around his feet and then one of his legs was tied up so he could barely stand properly....  in his desperation not to fall over the patient leant on his head and neck and nearly strangled himself because he was tied up.  All the while the Dr was talking about submission and success and how he was teaching the patient to have someone touch his feet and overcome his phobia.  Really?!

By this stage the patient was frozen with fear and had just about forgotten everything but survival, he didn't want to strangle himself to death, he thought the Dr was a very dangerous person and had given up hope of ever getting out of that cell until he'd given in and the Dr thought he had trained him out of his phobia.  So he did what he was told and the Dr picked up his feet and tickled them (hard to be ticklish when you're petrified) and huffed and puffed about having taught him.  Clever man.....?

This had all taken 7minutes..... the longest 7 minutes of the patient's life.  When the Dr said he was on the way to being cured and should come back for more therapy next week the patient smiled and said "sure".  He got out of that cell as quick as could be and ran away quick smart.  The Dr was totally mad and nasty and if he ever came near the patient again he would know what was coming and fight back before he ever got the head restraint on.... surely Dr's aren't allowed to do these types of therapy anymore?  Sounds more like torture?

The video was shocking and I felt pretty sad, it has played on my mind for the last two weeks, surely there are laws against this kind of thing?  You know what was even worse?  The 'patient' was a beautiful old donkey and the 'Dr' was someone who is supposedly an expert and really should have known better, what's worse is that this is being shared with others as the way to solve all your hoof trimming issues.....

It's rare that I speak out about these sorts of things, I see bad things all the time in my line of work with donkeys and mules and know that it is not a 'perfect' world, I know even I have been guilty in the past of uneducated techniques - I have learnt and am still learning the better and more compassionate way of  communicating with the other wonderful species we share this world with.  I have been lucky to be enlightened by so many caring people willing to teach others the better way of doing things, the loving and empathetic way, not the way us humans think works quickest!

I am not going to 'name and shame' the video or the organisation from which it came because sadly there are many like it and this is just an example.  What I hope to do is give you some food for thought about judging what you see yourselves and questioning some of these 'experts'.

When I watch or listen to others talking about training equines I want to hear two messages in all they say, they must work with empathy and love.  There is no place in my world for machoism, quick fixes, gadgets or fear.  Some basic elements of donkey, mule and horse training that should be present in all situations for me are:

Love Not Anger

Always approach everything with love in your heart not anger, find something to love about the animal you are working with, some will be more challenging than others but they are never bad, naughty, nasty, evil, trouble, mean or any other such word you may use to describe them.  Animals react in response to their previous experiences, their environment, pain and what you are doing to them.  Animals do not set out to troublesome or 'naughty'.  If you go in to a situation thinking the animal is naughty that's probably what you'll get, you've already used an inappropriate label so you've set the relationship up the wrong way!

It is my real belief that mules, donkeys and horses know when you love them and when you don't.  Love does not mean sloppy kisses, treats and no boundaries, it means a lifelong commitment to learning about each other, communicating and treating each other with respect - a bit like a good marriage.

Slow Not Quick

How can anyone learn when they're in a rush?  If someone asked you to learn Vivaldi's Four Seasons on the violin in 1 week (when you can't even play the violin) or else you'd be pretty stressed wouldn't you?  Imagine that your teacher can't even speak you language.... even more stressful!  And yet we face our equines with these problems all the time.  Take things slow, learn the right language, break things down in to small steps - learning to play a fine instrument takes years of patience and practice and should not be rushed.  Small steps should be rewarded and sometimes you need to think of alternative ways of teaching, the best teachers never stick to the same 'teaching by rote' approach, they are creative, encouraging of small achievements and share in the joy of the journey.

Gadgets Have No Place

The equine world is full of gadgets that will help you achieve your goals quicker and supposedly with more 'finesse'.  In particular our horse friends are bombarded with gadgets - market harboroughs, pessoa systems, bits with shanks, cranks and ports, side reins, draw reins, spurs, whips, martingales, flash nosebands and the list goes on..... These items are never in the interests of the animal's welfare, very occasionally they may have a place in the hands of extremely experienced hands (how many of those are there?) but mostly they are used by owners as 'quick fixes' to stop their equine expressing natural behaviour in response to something the owner is doing wrong.  If you have a bit of metal shoved in your mouth that is then roughly yanked by strong hands (to try and make you 'go on the bit' - whatever that is) your natural reaction is to open your mouth and try to get rid of the pressure.... so what does your human do?  They tie your mouth shut  with a tight noseband so that you can't move it.... kind huh?  If you are tempted to use a gadget think very carefully about why you are doing it and put yourself in your horse's hooves, would you like a similar thing used on yourself? Also are your hands educated enough to be using such an instrument?  If you're not sure do not use it.

Never Fear

When you are trying to work out an issue with your equine always try to think about whether what you're doing is going to evoke understanding or fear.  Is your animal simply going to cooperate because it is fearful of the consequences if it doesn't?  This is no basis for a happy, harmonious relationship; trust me there will come a time where the fear will be so great that the fear is expressed as aggression and you may just come off worse.  In the cases of donkeys and mules it is often difficult to determine when they are fearful as they hide fear well, they will often freeze or just 'switch off' when they learn that fighting back does them no good.  It is your job to never push things this far, again put yourself in their hooves and see if you would be fearful and you'll probably find the right answer.

Listen to Your Heart

Whenever you are taking on board the advice of others please listen to your heart and have confidence to say no.  If you have a small inkling that something is not right then it probably isn't.  There are some wonderful trainers out there who work with empathy and love, there are others who should be ashamed of themselves.  Often there are words that can give you a tell - stubborn, submission, dominance, giving in, chase, fear, stupid, naughty, must, will, all negative words that will tell you all you need to know.

So if you're still here at the bottom of my rant, thanks for listening!  I hope that I haven't offended anyone and may cause just one person to question what they see a little more.  Sometimes I am beaten down by the number of 'bad' things I see in the animal world, but I do think occasionally you should speak out because saying nothing only condones.  I am by no means perfect and am still learning with every day, we are truly privileged to be allowed to gain the trust of our animal friends, may we never break that fragile trust which they place in us.  And when we do wrong may we learn from our mistakes and move on with a more educated approach.