Here’s another ripper story from the back end of the old website.
I communicate for a living and even so, it’s hard to communicate how precious this little horse is. I go all gooey inside just looking at her photo here as I am writing about her.
Blondie was one of the scaredest horses I have ever met – right up there in the top ten and because of what I do for a living, I have met a lot of scared horses.
But many people wouldn’t have noticed how scared she was, because Blondie is that precious, precious horse who stops when they are confused or afraid.
I think it was Robyn Hood of TTeam fame who described this as the five “F”‘s. There are horses who run when they are afraid, horses who fight, horses who fidget, horses who faint and horses who freeze when they afraid. Blondie is one of the ones who freeze. And that personality trait made and makes her just perfect for looking after my tiny grandaughter.
Picture it folks – when a plastic bag suddenly blew across her path , she jumped a little, but then she stopped. When the dog rushed behind her suddenly, she jumped a little and then stopped. When someone lifted an umbrella, came up to her with a pram, crept up behind her with a pushbike, frightened her with the loud roar of a motor bike – all of these things she stops at instead of running away. She stops, freezes and won’t go forward until she is OK.
And if she senses there’s anything not OK with her person too, she stops and freezes and won’t go forward until Bree’s OK.
Do you get how BIG that is?
Isn’t that just the most perfect personality trait for our beginners … or our nervous riders … or even just as we get older and the ground gets harder to fall on?
And what do we do with these incredibly generous and precious horses when we don’t understand what’s happening?
We crack them over the butt with a whip. “Get that horse moving!”
” Make her do it, she’s just being stubborn!”
We tell the kids to “kick that pony up”. We take spurs to them to make them react even when they are confused.
We can’t have it both ways. If we want horses with personality traits generous enough to look after us and our children easily, then we have to deal with them gently when they stop, freeze or won’t go forward. We have to deal with them from the knowledge that they are afraid or confused – NOT pig headed, stubborn or being a bad horse.
I’ve seen horses and ponies with their minds broken by being misunderstood in this way. Their personality trait is to stop when they are afraid or confused and they have had the stop beaten out of them… God I’m so passionate about this it makes me cry to think of a horse with the stop, with their natural care-taking instincts actually beaten out of them.
When this happens, they can’t look after their person any more.
Blondie is so lucky that she is not one of them. I’ve made plenty of mistakes with Blondie on the journey to understanding her, but generous little soul that she is, she has forgiven all of them. I’ve gone bulldozing through her fear threshold too hard, too fast and too often – because it’s way too easy to do that when a horse is as generous as she is and stands still when she’s afraid.
It’s just as important with these horses to get them in their comfort zone as it is with the horses who run away when they are afraid or the horses who fight. We need to help them find their comfort zone with all kinds of things that they are going to see and experience – either routinely – or as they get out and about. Maybe it’s even more important because it’s way too easy for us to get away with not paying enough attention to their fear or confusion.
There are a number of breeds with the same personality trait as Blondie. Many warmbloods have that tendency and are whipped and spurred when they are not going forward so well. Do you hear that out there you warmblood people? Picture me with a megaphone…
Connemara’s generally have it. I’ve even seen an Arab with it although that is not quite so common. My horse Bobby is a thoroughbred and he has it, although most thoroughbreds come under the “horses who run when they are afraid” category.
Anyway, having got that off my chest, here’s Blondie’s story of her change from one of the top ten scaredest horses I have ever met to a humming with happiness pony looking after her little girl…
Scared horses often have one core issue that is bigger than any of the others – even when they are scared of a whole heap of things. When you help them find a comfort zone with routine things and find that core issue – you can trigger a release of all fears at the same time. It’s like magic when this happens!
Blondie’s core issue – central to all her fear – was getting her feet trimmed. I used to do it myself, because you had to pick her foot up, take a couple of swipes with the rasp and put it down again before she had complete hysterics and started throwing herself around. And it’s not OK to ask a feet trimmer to take that much time for a standard fee – so I did it myself.
In this case, when Blondie was helped to get over her fear of having her feet trimmed, her other fears were dramatically reduced too. You really know that you’ve done it right when you can do it at liberty with no ropes, no halter, no nothing – like she’s doing for the first time with our feet trimmer Cat, here in the photo.
In less than a week from releasing the fear of having her feet trimmed, Blondie was having her first ride ever – with my three year old granddaughter Bree.
Here is a lovely series of photos showing Bree starting her pony (we don’t like to “break” horses.) First she is playing with her on the ground, leading her around, seeing if they can do some “tricks” together, learning how to communicate with each other, developing a comfort zone together.
Blondie went over the see-saw easily the FIRST time – but got a bit of a fright with the tilting action and refused to do it a second time. So here Bree is in this next photo, figuring out how to show Blondie that there is nothing to be afraid of. She is tilting the see-saw up and down and saying “see Blondie, there’s nothing to be afraid of “. These photos were taken with a tele-photo lens – all this was Bree’s idea and HER way of dealing with it – we were just keeping an eye out from a distance. Sooo… cute!
Their first ride – the first time Blondie has ever had a human on her back. Can you see the pony’s soft little ears swiveling backwards and forwards in this photo? Mum, Melissa is ready to lift Bree off if anything becomes not OK. Blondie has gone from being one of the scaredest horses I have ever met to having her very first and happy ride with a person – all in under a week.
Their second ride in the photo below – lots more confidence this time. Who would have thought it – only a short week ago Blondie was an easily terrified little pony. No way would I have done this a week earlier!
Do you want to know how to help your child’s precious Caretaker Horse?
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