A lovely story from Caroline.
I loved this story from Caroline so much that I asked her to share it with everyone. It’s a lovely example of how easily we can help a horse who has no desire to move forwards – the ones I call the Caretaker Horses..
Caroline is one of the staff members here. She has studied as an Equine Behaviorist as well as taking to our approach like a duck to water. I have put a bit of her own personal story below this one.
Caroline writes so matter of factly because this way of working and these kind of results are so standard for her. While you are reading though, have a think on how BIIIGGG a transformation it is for this horse and the difference that it has made in his life that he is finding enjoyment in what his owner finds enjoyment in too.
I visit a lady once a week and have helped her turn around her relationship with one of her two horses. She already had a fabulous relationship with her mare, but the big guy she… well let’s just say she was not fond of him, (Shire X TB, looks like a big TB with Shire feet and little feathers).
Now she sees how gorgeous and loving he is, he now wants to be with her instead of ignoring her or disappearing across the field when he sees a brush or a halter heading his way. She now enjoys spending time with him and doing the daily things EASILY…. and was very very happy when she experienced feet trimming at liberty.
She HAD a very set opinion about him and RIDING, he hated it, would rather stay in the field, “his best pace is STOP”, and while out riding he would spin and run away, etc.
I spent a good portion of time with the saddling, and thankfully his mum was very good with HER patience, waiting, listening and seeing how he started to talk to me about the process. As she herself claims, she is the world’s fastest ‘tacker upper’ and so although this was quite a stretch for her to take the time, she went with me.
Just 2 weeks ago we started little rides out. At first, he didn’t want to move his feet, he just wanted to stay put, so putting together Jenny’s teachings and my own understanding of this horse, I let him know energetically, through the beautiful ‘powerful posture’ and visuals, that this was all for him, a walk about with grazing as and whenever he wanted, without any plan other than to let him do exactly what he wanted to do and go wherever he wanted to go, it would be all about his choice.
The result was half an hour of ‘him’ time enjoying this new sense of freedom, sharing it together with a human on his back. He pretty much marched past the home gate on our return.
His mum thought it would be a really boring ride letting the horse do what he wanted, but she discovered that it was quite an adventure. So big bonus there 🙂
Second ride, this beautiful big boy, marched up the driveway and out the gate ahead of his mum and her mare.
She was gobsmacked, it was A FIRST, he had never done this before. He was relaxed and quickly into doing his thing, which this time was walking along nicely and instead of abruptly stopping to eat grass he kind of skimmed his nose along the grasses and kept walking. And now I was able to put in a few little asks, such as “OK lets go now” after grazing for while, or “what about this way?” at the fork in the track.
At one point we stopped to graze, and after a minute or two the lady on her mare, carried on up the track, she went up the rise and around a bend out of sight.
Big boy watched as they walked away and as they disappeared around the bend he lifted his head, all big and alert…. the space that I held while he thought about things, was priceless. There was no panic, no excessive energy, he just calmly and purposefully walked after them.
As he got to the rise in the track he lifted into trot so smoothly and powerfully it was joyful. I let him go at his pace, strongly up the little hill, and then there was a nano second where I felt the ‘before it happens’ thing, where he thought to canter, and with the tiniest weaniest feel on the reins, and my thoughts to keep trotting, he stayed in this beautiful powerful trot.
He has always been ridden in a bit, but I have only ridden him in a bitless bridle, and showing how light he is, was something his mum found amazing. She always rides her mare in a bit and I’m not going to suggest anything about changing that, perhaps she will feel the desire to try it for herself.
Before this second ride, I spent probably half an hour getting rid of ticks and crab flies, which he had gently requested I do, no more barging or knocking into me for this attention, something which I changed very early on, because I didn’t like it and he could have seriously done some damage if he knocked me off my feet. I also gave him plenty of scratches and let him talk about the girthing process.
He wanted to let me know about something that bothered him, there was a very small spot on his body in the girth area that he wasn’t happy about. Now I don’t know whether this was a current pain that he was feeling or a memory pain, or something else all together, but it didn’t matter, I just listened to him and we gently worked through until he was completely OK and we could do up the girth happily easy peasy.
We also received some unexpected and lovely help from the mare who put her nose on the saddle as I stood back waiting for the release…. she yawned and let out a big sigh…. and quietly waited with me.
The reason for these first two rides being successful stems right back to the beginning of meeting him. By using my eyes and MY OWN feelings of Not Quite Right, let me know when to back off, when to give space and time, and allowing him to find his own way in his Comfort Zone took off any pressure for him, which provided space for ‘learning’.
I quickly saw his inquisitiveness and desire to interact, and HE learned that someone wanted to understand him, wanted to share time together, and someone who knew how to feel for him for his uniqueness, how to listen to their unique connection with him. Practising the lessons in Fast Track teaches us how to do this.
Using this awareness while putting the saddle on, and waiting for him to release his tensions (no matter how small), through yawning, or licking and chewing, blinking or moving his feet, swishing his tail, gosh the list goes on and unique for each horse, goes towards building a solid base for safe and happy riding.
Success with this big guy, and with any horse for me, is from our heart connection. I didn’t understand this before, but with Jenny’s guidance I know this is probably my strongest connection….. a real GIFT. With this connection, I am able to see beneath why a horse behaves the way he does, understand and feel where he is emotionally and then apply practical knowledge to develop a trusting, healthy and HAPPY relationship.
The physical connection also plays a big…. sorry…. HUGE part, especially when sitting on a horse’s back, and the ‘powerful posture’ allows this to happen, and it sure as heck keeps you safe. 🙂
The energetic connection is something that seems to come and go, as and when needed for me, such as the ‘sensing something before it happens’ thing, and this provides a kind of ‘foresight’ giving me the opportunity to “hold space” as the other horse walked away for instance, or putting a feel on the rein and visualise ‘keep on trotting’ as another example.
Apparently he has a major upset about pigs that live further along the track, and his mum and many others have tried to get him to stop worrying about the pigs in a variety of ways…. but he can’t. So I shall be working with him to release that fear as we go along.
What a lovely example of how to help a horse discover his enjoyment of people and of riding. I love it!
Caroline’s personal story:
I became interested in horse behaviour at the age of 12 when I met a very dangerous Arab Stallion, who I completely fell in love with. I spent all my evenings and weekends with him just making friends, and he transformed into a “Velcro cuddle bunny”, following me around his little paddock area, playing pick-up sticks with me, however he remained dangerous towards other people. WHY ???
The question as to why horses behave the way they do niggled at my mind, and for years I read magazines and asked experienced horse people 100’s of questions, and still I couldn’t understand WHY horses behaved the way they did and WHY so many people got injured by them.
15 years ago I discovered ‘Natural Horsemanship’ and thought I’d found a way to answer all my questions, however, my questioning mind still couldn’t find satisfactory answers, and I still saw horses behaving dangerously, so I decided to go to school properly. I checked out the curriculums for all the UK Universities, and during this search came upon the Natural Animal Centre, a private study centre in Wales run by Heather Simpson, that covered the exact same topics as the Universities.
So I enrolled and studied as an Equine Behaviorist covering Ethology, Evolution and Domestication, Senses and Communication, Equine Science, Physiology, Neurology, Behavior and Learning Theory. I learned from case studies and carried out my own field studies, learned how to conduct a consultation to help others who wanted to solve their horsey problems, and have continued my own research for the last 14 years.
As part of that research, my husband and I moved to Portugal almost 4 years ago, and bought land specifically for horses, so that I could continue studying my own domestic horses behavior in a more natural environment…. and very often from the comfort of my caravan window.
The majority of my experience has been with ‘dangerous’ horses, helping their owners understand WHY and how to help them change, but even the smallest of unwanted behaviors has a reason behind it, and I thoroughly enjoy working out the underlying causes. It can be like playing detective, such as the seasonal weed by the gate that caused intermittent napping or the long fingernails that caused the horse to run off across the yard as his foot was picked up. Horses are always trying to talk to us. 🙂
Caroline is available for consultations both in person in her part of Portugal and by distance with video lessons and by email. I cannot recommend her too highly! Click here to find out more about sessions with staff here.