Monday, 25 April 2016

Gundog Training Adventures with Jazz: 3 months old

The above photo makes me laugh every time I see it because damn there is a grain (no word play intended) of truth in it ;) Jazz's play biting is becoming more and more controllable but there are moments when I want to run and hide ;) 
She was 3 months old on the 21st of April and it's fascinating to watch her grow and change. Today I taught her hand targeting in 5 minutes. More about this exercise HERE. She started to understand how to fetch (you can watch her in action on my Instagram HERE) and she is even containing herself enough now to obey "wait" command at times. 
She's clever, adorable and full of life. 

Home DIY is her favourite hobby...She likes to organise our stuff in her own order and most of the time she decides that we don't put the stuff in the right rooms. She likes the socks to all be in the front room, ideally spread evenly on variety of surfaces - chair, sofa, rug, some in the kitchen. 
She also likes to bring me my white competition gloves and stock into the front room a few times a day even though I explained to her I would rather they were in the box in my little office. 

She recalls on the whistle pretty reliably in all situations that I have tested her - I follow training tasks from Total Recall book by Pippa Mattinson (more on recall here: including horse shit. Yes, the last one has been most troubling but now she found a way to both recall fast and enjoy some shit. Namely - she grabs a mouthful of horse manure and then runs like a wind with it if I sound the whistle. If I sound it before she gets to the pile, she will turn around to me. If I sound it too late and she is a step away, she will grab some for the journey.
She loves poo.

In the last few days she started noticing birds...First she chased a little robin at work and at home we have some serious choice of birds around from pigeons through pheasants, kites to peacocks! She has not seen the latter yet, I try to avoid them as don't want to fry her brain ;)

From what I read about young gundogs I should not encourage any game chasing in a young spaniel. I should keep her entertained and focused on me on the walks, no free roaming and self-rewarding. So far I think we are doing well.

I learnt that when walking a gundog puppy one shouldn't just stroll in a straight line but walk in an unexpected pattern of zigzags so the pup is constantly curious about where we are going. Apparently such walking mimics their hunting behaviour so they find it naturally engaging as they are wondering what are we hunting.
Even though zig zaging through the fields feels a little on an odd side I must say she is rather taken by it and keeps an eye on me all the time. I don't dare to tell her I am not really hunting in case her great behaviour changes.

House training is going ok, as long as I take her out 7-8 times a day, all is good. She's pretty good with the training pads in general too but sometimes she seems to think that front paws on the pad will do...Thankfully she agrees with us that pooping in the house is a no-go and she consistently asks to be taken out if she needs number 2.

3 months on 21 April 2016

Mid evening on her last longer walk at about 7.30pm she usually goes bonkers and runs around like a mad person. Sometimes I manage to play enough with her so she calms down in the house but most of the time I do not succeed.
While making dinner tonight I heard her drinking water. I looked at where her water bowl was but she was nowhere near it. I looked from kitchen into my front room just to see her helping herself to my cup of tea with loud splashes of the tongue.

Puppyhood is intense ;)

Until soon! X


Sunday, 24 April 2016

Question of trust and confidence

One of my favourite moments in teaching is pairing horses and riders and watching those partnerships develop. Most riders "get used to their new horse" slowly and so do many horses go through a slow process of getting used to their riders.
Today I watch one of my young riders trying a new horse so we can decide if it's the right pairing for the moment. She rides the horse tactfully and he goes very well for her. I'm delighted as it's potentially a nice horse that can give her plenty of education and benefit himself too.

I keep the whole session simple and add a little pressure as we go and it's clear to me the horse trusts the girl. He allows her to correct his way of going in a way I have not seen him react before and it's wonderful to watch. The more he responds to her, the better she rides him of course and that cycle of trust produces confidence that in turn gives us some lovely work today where they both learn from each other.

That volatile trust between horse and rider is what I reckon makes or breaks the lines of communication. There are more and more courses, workshops, advice out there on "building confidence" but the more I watch those first encounters or moments of reunion of horse and rider after incidents of being bucked off, the more I wonder whether it's trust manuals that we need to master, not confidence ones...

Don't get excited, I have no real clue how one would go about this!

A lot is said about how it takes a lifetime to build trust and seconds to destroy it. It sure is true in many cases but I also know that sometimes I can sit on a horse and before it even makes a step, I just know I can trust it (within reason mind you!). How do I know it? If I knew I could probably make a fortune ;) The length of the neck that somehow just becomes part of my arms? The width of his back? Energy?? Whatever it is, that feeling of trust lets me give the horse a good ride even though I don't know it well.
Similarly with people. I don't know about you but I might know someone who I feel I can trust with whatever I share with them which in turn makes me feel at ease and myself in their company. For sure it doesn't happen often and with many horses or many people. In fact, it could be a rare state of affairs indeed.
On top of that we can be very wrong of course ;) The horse we trusted bucks us off on the second ride or someone we had a great time with screw us right over but that's a separate point.

The fact remains however, that in the particular moment in which we allow ourself to trust, our behaviour and actions are very different to when we are defensive, worried and unsure of what will happen next.

What comes first then? Confidence or trust? Can one exist without the other? Can either be truly taught...? Should we teach riders how to trust the horses and horses how to trust the riders? Or should we teach guts and grit?


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The third draft and the decision

Having a puppy means I all of a sudden find myself awake during big chunks of every morning that I had happily slept through a few weeks ago. Sometimes she sleeps until 5am, sometimes until 6am before she needs to go out and as once she is up, she requires constant supervision or house will be chewed, there is not that many constructive tasks I can fill my mornings with. Instead, I find myself having a lot of time to think.

Jazz at work with me
From all this thinking came a conclusion and I would like to apologise for what I am about to say as I really do value everyone who comes back and reads this little blog. I don't run any detailed stat counter on here as I have never planned to monetise this blog, it's largely for my own self expression, some pleasure of documenting life, share and meet other bloggers. My simple stats tell me there are a couple of thousands returning readers on this blog each month which might be nothing to a google analyst but I do value every single person who pops over here for a moment. I feel like I owe you this post.

Without further waffle, I am really sorry to say that having gone through my third draft of the "Never Give Up" book, I decided not to proceed further for now. Here's why. To do any story justice, I believe it should be as full a story as possible. With a job like mine, more of a lifestyle job than a city career, private life intertwines very closely with working life.
When I first started writing the book in 2012, I had all the intentions to self-publish it but the last four years have brought with them life events I have never expected to experience and which have and continue having a significant bearing on most of my work decisions, directions and choices.
Part of me thinks that sharing the full story might help someone out there but that full story is not just mine to tell.

I am not saying I will never publish the book. Maybe one day I will but I don't want to be keeping anyone waiting.
Even though I am not proceeding with the book, I will continue blogging on here so feel free to stay around.

Once again, apologies to all who keep coming back, reading, sending me little messages and just being awesome and who were looking forward to seeing my little story out there. You have not missed that much I promise ;)

To those of you who maybe feel worried by my reasons for not going ahead, please don't. Remember the biggest cliche of all: life is either a joke that we can take seriously, or a serious matter to be taken with a smile...we always have a choice.

Until soon!
W. x


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

I found myself a "new" hobby ;)

Oh so you work with horses and you teach and that's also your hobby too? Ah yes, so it is. Oh, oh I see.
Cue a little worried expression on faces of non-horsey people as if the fact ones life evolves around horses was potentially a rare illness of sorts (which actually might be considering the amount of money it all costs to keep running ;) ).
Well, I am maybe not all lost to that illness because I seem to have stumbled upon a new-ish hobby without much trying. 
It amuses me how life runs in some bizarre circle or perhaps not at all and we only perceive it as such. I was brought up with grandfather whose greatest passion was hunting, wildlife and gundogs yet I have never appreciated the influence it may have had on me. The amount of stories from his days out I have heard, the amount of books and old hunting chronicles he left me - it could all fill in an audio and mainstream library. 
When something is such big part of your childhood it fills it up completely you no longer see it does, you take it as a given. Maybe it shapes you in ways that is impossible to predict and maybe many decisions you will make thirty years down the line, were all already made when you were 6 years old, wide eyed and immersed in stories. 

Jazz sleeping on me as I type ;) 

I would lie if I said I remember all the stories. All I really remember is how they made me feel: curious, awaiting some adventures, a little worried sometimes, excited some other times. I remember passion for observation of nature, of wildlife, passion for training. 

When I decided to buy Jazz it was a spontaneous act because she was the breed I favoured and wanted for a long time but let me tell you, I sure didn't think, fabulous, let's get a gundog and let's go hunting! 
I wanted an energetic, intelligent, happy dog that will last a day work with me and horses and do some working days in a field a few times per season.  

Jazzmine 2nd April 2016

And then I started reading more about gundogs training...and more...and more...(many thanks for recommendations of Pippa Mattinson book Kelly if you're reading this! :) ) and started seeing the incredible thinking cogs this breed has when experienced first hand. More so than I have expected. I've been obsessed with dogs for longer than with horses and have been around huge variety of breeds but this little pup, she's something else. 

So just like that, I find myself fascinated with the training that goes into producing a working Springer Spaniel so get ready for some Very Novice Gundog Owner Diary posts coming up ;) It actually feels great to be a beginner at something, I love learning and look forward to this new-ish hobby-adventure!

Until soon :) 
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