Tuesday, November 1, 2011

surpassing expectations

I have been slowly falling behind on the story of the grey mare from the wild. Mainly i have written about Matai and his adventures, every so often dropping in details about the mare, and pictures here and there. But I have left out a lot of details, of what been going on behind the scenes. Its not just sneaky escapades to the local rugby fields, or day trips to the beach that have been taking up my time, horse riding is not that glamorous unfortunately.

Behind these outing have been the day to day slog of training horses, the mundane boring stuff. Teaching a horse to turn, stop, and go when asked, all these basics that when done right create the final product of an overall happy horse. But first is the hours of the baby steps where the horse learns the ABC's of being a ridden horse, much like a child learns the alphabet before they can read their first word. Because for those who maybe didn't realise, no horse and certainly not a horse from the wild is born knowing, what on earth a human wants when we sit on its back, its not instinctive to them unfortunately.

the first time you sit on a horse, it has no idea that squeezing with your legs mean go forward, pulling its head mean turn, and pulling back is the command to stop. Why would it, its not exactly logical, is it? Put yourself in a horse position, suddenly you have all this weight on your back and some creature squeezing you around the middle, would you really have a clue what was wanted, i doubt that the first thing that popped into your mind would be "oh of course i get it, i meant to walk forward when i feel annoying pressure squeezing my rib cage"...nope they don't have a clue, for all they know you might want them to walk forwards when you pull their mouth and stop when you squeeze their sides. In fact you could use any aid you wanted for any desired response and a horse would learn it if your consistent enough. consistency and timing...

These are the only two real ingredients to training horses, especially in those first early break in days, when i horse acts like a sponge soaking up everything you teach it unintentionally or otherwise. So the last few weeks for the wild mare have just been boring consistency and rewards and asking things of her at the right time. you just keep asking the same thing the same way until you get the right response and then reward, and you do this hundreds of times, until the horse just knows and reacts straight away. then bada bing, bada booom, and magically one day you realise you have a horse, that at the lightest touch trots off from the leg, slows down when you change your seat slightly, and turns to the lightest touch on the reins.

So the wild mare has been going through this process, and to be honest she has surpassed all my expectations, just like people some horses have different aptitudes for different things, some are more intelligent and some are more sensitive. Of all the horse i have broken in Fern the little wild mare, has surprised me the most.

Fern has never been difficult, but until she started being ridden she radiated a slight air of suspicion, always doing what was asked but not completely happy with the situation. She always came across as a bit withdrawn, she took her time to asses things before reacting, and would often take a fair bit of encouragement to get good work out of her. She also never really seemed to grasp the concept that other people were trustworthy, she was fine with me, and got to know the boyfriend and a few other regular farm visitors, but would eyeball any people she didn't recognise and back as far away as her lead rope would allow. The opposite of the wild stallion, who within a short while loved all people, was not suspicious in the least and loved to work. Ferns love was her baby and food and the rest she tolerated.

Not anymore. For whatever reason it is, that little wild horse dropped all barriers once she had a rider on her back, maybe it just finally allowed her to drop all that suspicion she was carrying around, but whatever the reason she relaxed completely both physically and mentally. her neck dropped her back relaxed and she got this lovely soft but alert look in her eye. It took one lesson for her to learn what go forward meant and she naturally just picked up the cue to slow, and from then we have never looked back. Where i thought she was going to be a bit dull and resistant she has become one of the most sensitive and willing horses ever. She surpassed even the little stallion in willingness and progress. instead of being lazy she loved to work happily trotting and cantering right on cue within days. where Matai was chilled out and happy to go with the flow, she was alert and ready for action, just the kind of horse i love to ride, sharp and sensible.

Funnily enough all others issues she had just fell away after that. When i took her to the beach, everyone came up and patted her all over, some thing that would have sent hers eyes rolling and as far away as she could get a few weeks ago, but instead she happily stood there quietly excepting everything no matter how many people surrounded her. I guess all those defense barriers she had are now well in truly gone. The trip to the rugby fields, you would never know she hadn't been there a hundred times, she just quietly grazed under the goal posts, nowadays she just accepts everything as if it just another day at the office.

All of a sudden now that all the tedious basics are done the future for the wild mare is looking very exciting indeed. i think she may even have to start her competition career in the not to distant future ( opening a whole different can of worms entirely). Funny how life is, i was sure she would be the one i sold and the stallion i would keep for myself, but it ended up the other way and far better for it because Fern has turned out to be just the kind of horse i love.


  1. Yay testament to your excellent training and patience me thinks Chloe...can't wait to revisit the new and mproved Fern xx