The Power of the Herd

THE POWER OF THE HERD – Now we have our new Cannock Chase Trekking Centre website up and running I decided it was time I started writing my weekly blog again. And this week presented the perfect opportunity.

Anyone who enjoys visiting our ranch bistro knows how entertaining and interesting it is to watch the interactions and relationships between our horses.

Our team have a very natural life, living together as a herd with a distinct pecking order, and the power of the herd has a major influence on their behaviour. I often harness that power when I am introducing a new horse or training a youngster.

It can be a major training tool and it was demonstrated this week with our newest arrival, our five-year-old pure bred Andalusian. She is my trek leader Pele’s full sister and we have named her Nymeria.
Nymeria

She has always lived on the stud where she was born, never going beyond her birthplace and living a quiet life in the field.

Once arriving at the trekking centre we stable a new horse so we can carry out worming and health checks. This helps us start to bond with them before beginning their training.

But in Nymeria’s case she became very stressed. The big world outside was a scary place and she had never even been stabled before. She began to withdraw into the corner as if it was her sanctuary.

Three days after her arrival I decided to turn her out with the herd. One reason was to allow her to see and understand her surroundings. She is like a country girl arriving in the city. This is a big, busy trekking centre, she needed the company of other horses to help process this sensory overload.

I have started my natural horsemanship with her and she was starting to bond with me but I decided she would not relax properly until she joined the herd.

Joining the Herd
She was stabled alongside our lovely boy Skye, who is so friendly and laid back. We don’t just kick a new horse out with them all. We carry out a careful introduction procedure and first we put her in the field with Skye, her new friend and comfort blanket.

Then we added her big brother Pele and after ignoring each other for a little while they went off for a gallop and a play.

nymeria and pele Nymeria and Pele

We continued the process by turning out boy, girl, boy, girl. We also find it helps to first turn out those of similar ages and the group slowly grew in size. If alarmed she ran back to Skye and she soon found she liked Kitty. Interestingly Kitty is our other newest arrival and still bottom of the pecking order. So Nymeria clearly recognised a kindred spirit.

It’s incredible to watch. The other horses were calm and assertive, but not aggressive. They put her in her place with their body language.

Nymeria cctc_herd

She won’t be allowed to fully integrate for a while. The mares will keep her at least 20 metres away until they are ready to make friends with her. They patrol and even operate a shift system like armed guards. One of them is always on watch to keep an eye on her.

She will learn to go out and come in with the gang and days of play, learning and interactions will expend her energy. The other horses will teach her that this is a safe place with nothing to be afraid of.

cctc_herd cctc_herd

The power of the herd will have helped me to begin her training to become a trekking horse. Exciting times ahead for this beautiful girl!

Youngsters join the team!

This has been such an exciting summer here at the trekking centre – not least because we have welcomed three new additions to our fabulous team of horses.
All three are gorgeous youngsters full of potential and I am sure we are going to have years of fun with them.

Pele

I bought PELE in April from an Andalucian stud. He is a five-year-old  full-bred Spanish Andalucian – the best of the best and his sire was Spanish champion.
He was an exciting find. I hit it off straightaway with Helen who owns the stud and she has his full brothers and sisters and lots of young stock. We are looking to form a bit of a partnership so there may be more arrivals in the future.
We were looking for another big horse and I fell in love with him straightaway. I would normally push on immediately with training an unbroken young horse but because of our trekking centre redevelopment it has taken me a long time with Pele.
And in a way that has proved better for him. He is quite sensitive and it has benefitted him to take everything slowly. I have done lots of playing with him in the arena, loose schooling and long reining and just spending hours together.
It took me days to lean over him and then get on his back. But when it came to it he didn’t mind at all. Now we are working on his extensions and he is looking amazing in the arena.
He eats up the terrain on the Chase, he will walk through every puddle and stream, ignores every mountain bike and is going to be a massive asset to the centre.
He has settled in very well with the herd and has a best friend in Summer. They are never far apart.
The only downside is he is prone to sweet itch. But with good management we have controlled it and he is growing a lovely long mane.
I am getting to the point now when everyone else wants to ride him – and I really want to keep him for myself! But I think the time is coming when I’ll have to share him with the rest of the world.

Sahara

Our next exciting youngster is SAHARA. She is a pink-papered pure bred Oldenburg and came here as a yearling foal with her mother Saminca from the lady who sold me our fantastic stallion Zidane.
Because Sahara looked a little backward and clearly had a lot of growing to do I have left her until five years old to train her.
She has proved very different to the sensitive Pele. I think because she has been brought up here and is comfortable with her place in the herd she is very relaxed and doesn’t have a care in the world.
She hasn’t batted an eye at anything in her training, and now she just needs to go out and learn her job. I think she will turn out to be very much like Autumn – despite being as finely bred as Saminca and Zidane.

Dakota

The home-bred DAKOTA is probably my most exciting youngster because he has come from my own personal horse Zidane.
I always dreamed of having a trekking centre and a stud so that I could breed from my own lovely mares.
And Dakota, now four, is the start of that, the first foal from my Dutch Warmblood stallion. His mother was Nicoh, a Grade A Appaloosa and he was the most exciting baby, born coloured and spotted. He was spectacular.
From day one he was very much like his dad in nature and very bright and alert. I can’t believe the time to train him has come round so fast.
He has taken everything in his stride so far and is proving very bold and trainable. I think from the way he moves that he will be quite special. He floats and his paces are excellent.
I know a lot of the clients are watching him closely but he is not ready yet. He is not quite finished and he is something for everyone to look forward to next year.
All three are lovely exciting horses, beautifully bred and beautiful looking. They have so much potential. Roll on 2017!

Larosa’s Pregnancy – Welsh section D Mare First Foal

She’s a real beauty, I’m sure you all agree.

Of course I’m talking about our new arrival, little Montana, whose lovely looks and cheeky personality have already earned her a massive fan club.

I kept you all in touch with events on the night of her birth via our Facebook page and it attracted such huge interest that I thought I would share with you all my foal diary.

I always like to keep a diary when one of my mares is in foal so I can keep a record of all the changes as the weeks go by. Then I can be there to make sure that both mum and baby are absolutely safe throughout the labour and birth.

Larosa – Lola to all her friends – is our lovely bay Welsh Section D mare. She was in foal to our coloured stallion Zidane, a first pregnancy for her, and the baby was due on May 20th.

She was scanned in foal in July 2014 and continued to work up to December when she started her maternity leave. On March 10th she moved into her foaling box and we began camera monitoring on April 27th.

Here’s how the last few weeks progressed:

April 28th: For a maiden mare Lola has a huge baby bump and has already changed shape behind.

April 29th: Lola is quiet in the field during the day but has started to become restless in the stable at night.

May 3rd: Lola has started kicking out at her belly and rubbing her tail, but has not really developed an udder yet.

May 4th: Standing quietly but scratching her back legs together and flashing her tail frequently – I think the baby’s kicking!

May 5th: Shaking her head and biting her stomach tonight.

May 6th: She’s doing what I call mooching in her bed – making a nest.

May 9th: Rubbing her tail and pushing against the stable – I find mares do this when their foals are active. Lola’s udder is developing and she has a tiny bit of wax on her teats. She is becoming very restless and walking her stable and stamping a lot, signs that she is becoming increasingly uncomfortable.

May 10th: This morning Lola didn’t want to go out in the field – unlike her! But we turned her out as I find it relaxes the mare. She’s in the field next to Zidane which seems to settle both of them. We’ve seen her rolling more than normal in the paddock.


May 11th: I’ve spent the last couple of nights watching her closely as maiden mares can be sneaky and she’s showing me all the signs of labour! I’ve now plaited and bandaged her tail and left the stable light on.

May 12th: This morning Lola is still reluctant to go out to the field and her udder is very full.

May 12th – 5pm: She has now completely waxed up on her teats and is dripping milk. Foaling should happen tonight!

7.30pm: The baby is either kicking or very big – contractions are happening!

8.45pm: She’s digging her bed (nesting)! Her back end spasms underneath her four times.

8.52pm: Eating some hay.

8.53pm: Mooching her bed and digging again.

9.41pm: I can see on the monitor that the white bag is visible. This is now when I can go in to her, never before as you can interfere with the birth. I’ve learned that in the past! Once the bag is visible it’s the point of no return for the mare, the baby is coming.

10.03pm: I can see two legs and a little nose but she seems like a big foal so I give Lola a little help and our new baby is safely delivered.

10.30pm: She’s standing for the first time, a very strong little girl.

As we always expected, Lola is proving to be the ideal mother. Zidane has had a good look at his new daughter and is very proud.

Mare and foal are now out in the field in the daytime, enjoying the sunshine, and Montana is loving testing out her long legs.

Larosa’s Pregnancy – Welsh section D Mare First Foal

We had lots of suggestions for names, following our Chase Stud theme of American states. I eventually had a shortlist of five and finally went for Montana.

It seems to suit her perfectly and fits very well with her brothers and sisters, Dakota, Oregon, Indiana and Arizona.

I’m sure you all wish her a warm and loving welcome to the trekking centre.

23.20: She’s feeding from mom.

New Arrival Jake Fits The Bill Here At The Centre

We have an exciting arrival here at the centre and he’s everything I look for when I’m seeking out a new horse.

Our new boy is Jake, who has joined our herd from Derbyshire, where he was living with his breeder. He is rising five, an Irish Draught cross and is 16.1hh. He is still growing right now and I think we’ll get a couple more inches out of him when he’s had a summer on our good grass.

All my horses come from private homes. Some we find from recommendations and we also keep an eye on horses for sale adverts and the internet.

I’m from a showjumping background and I still go for a certain type of horse. I like to see a straight action, a deep girth, short back and a pretty head – preferably with some sort of distinguishing mark like a star or a blaze.

If they are too heavily built they tend to suffer from ailments like sidebones and ringbone and you don’t get the longevity with them; too fine and you end up with soundness problems. I also like a horse that is forward going rather than quiet.

I want to see a kind eye. A lot depends on the feel I get from them. I know instantly if this horse is something I can work with – I have to fall in love with them.

And I did fall in love with Jake. I could see he was going to pick things up quickly. He had been lightly backed over a few months but had done nothing since October. When that has happened with a horse I like to go back to basics.

So when I brought him home to Cannock Chase I began the process as if he had not been backed at all. That way I will give him the head carriage I like and teach him my way of going.

Within an hour of arriving he had done his first photo-shoot for my yard manager Lucy’s LVR Equine horse and rider clothing company. He took to posing like a professional model – just like his new owner!

After 24 hours I had done the groundwork with him, loose schooled him and got on him. Since then I’ve been taking him out on the Chase and so far he has taken everything in his stride.

Ultimately I want a safe and forward going horse that is going to be happy in the job. I think Jake will be exactly that.

I predict he will be a popular favourite with our clients. Not only is he flashy looking and a very handsome boy, but he is also a very comfortable ride. He will have many happy years here with us.