Monday, June 18, 2012

The shy one

Its pouring with rain, like blowing sideways, soaking rain, just as the all the mud was starting to dry up, the typial New Zealand winter restarted itself with a vengance.I just got all the horses turned out or brought into the barn for the day, now I'm tucked inside with fire going, watching my paddocks turn to slop, and all animals are heading for the tree line. The weather on the bonus side, has forced me to have a ' a day off', or rather a day when I can't train horses from dawn till dusk, providing me an oppurtunity to catch up on all the other stuff I need to do, like bills, emails etc, so naturally I'm writhing my blog instead.

There is one stallion that stands out amongst the rest. I talked about this horse, when i did a post on Bear, the little dark bay stallion Drifter, or Shy Boy, as we all call him. If there was ever a horse that you could make a moivie or documnetry about, it would be Shy Boy. He has the 'X' factor, that unlabelable quality that just makes an individual standout, im not sure if his big beautiful eyes, how expressive his face is, or just that he looks like a wild stallion off a moivie, despite being the smallest of all the boys, but there is somethign diffrerant about him. He is the horse that when all the girls see his photos they pick him as their favoritte. Shy Boy,has also shown the greatest change to work with, he makes you look like a magical horse whisperer when your not.

When he arrived, he was wild, really wild, while the other horses were happy to eat out of your hand the first days, he was trying to climb the wall of the stockyards. we didnt even try to go near him, as it set him flying and leaping about. Slightest noise and hed whirl in terror, eyes wide and nostrils flaring. For a horse that only stands at 13.2hh he even managed, while we were working another horse, to get his little legs over the 6ft high wall of the yards. The biggest threat to little oscar, that first day was that this horse tried to attack him every chance he got, poor little Oscar was stumbling around, and this horse would launch himself at him biting kicking in a hairball of wild fury. This was my first impression of Shy Boy, and i thought, man do i have my work cut out for me, a blind horse, a crazy viscious horse, and three other stallions that at that point were unknowns.

Every other wild horse id come across, was stoic and calm, clever and if they had a problem it was more that they had learnt to be stubborn from bad handling. Everything about this horse was differant, attitude, looks and reactions,I was a little worried at this point.But i think that the most important thing to remember is that these horses, their reactions come from fear, and this little thing was terrified.

Horses are not vicious animals, so usally there is a reason behind it.

Well first we got Oscar out of there, and kind of ignored Shy Boy, over the days, and hours of people sitting there holding food, he inched his way into our company. First grabbing a moutful of grass before darting back to his corner, watching you from beneath that thick black mane, then getting to where he wouldnt withdraw so far, finally he stayed there eating. In between these feeding sessions, we also did a bit of work wiht him in the yards, getting him to walk around us, turn to us and walk inwards. Its really hard technique to explain in writing, but you ggradually start working the horse and get them listening to you without the horse really being aware its happening. Before you know it you can work with then 4ft away from you rather than four metres, and do it all wihtout stress.

Horses are herd animals and they want leadership, not the Nazi Dictatorship, get beaten when they step out of line type, but in way that gives them security and comfort and takes away the fear and unknown quantities of their life. Genrally the more fearful, the more they respond to us stepping in and taking that leaderhip/guidance role. So it was with Shy Boy, the more we could cold work him, the less he wanted to thow himself at fences, or run at the slightest movement, the more we could tell him where to go, the less he had to make the descision for himself and the calmer he became.So when it came to haltering, we never did it in a way, that made him feel he needed to engage that flight reflex, everything was calm and slow, it took three hours from not beign able to touch him to leading him home. to some this may sound fast or slow, depends on your point of veiw i guess. But the more time you took with this horse the quicker he learned. In fact he was the quickest learner out of the five, by a long way, you just had to take slow steps.
The minute we got the halter on this horse, and taught him how to find the release in pressure ( ie not to pull against the rope) this horse literaly breathed a huge sigh of releif, and visibly relaxed.

From then on he followed like a lost lamb, he never tried to pull out of your hands, never ran, and never showed any agression. If something scares him, hes more likely to try and hide behind you than spin and run. He is still by far, the spookiest, most higly strung of the horses, and the most sensitive. Also the only one who has never been driven by food, while i feel you could somewhat if you wanted to, bribe the other four with a handful of hay to do what you want, this would never be the case with this horse. He stays so focused on you and what your asking, its only when there nothing left to do, that he finally thinks its okay to look for something to eat.

Now when you go in the paddock he comes walking up, with his beautiful eyes watching,ears pricked, just waiting for you to invite him in. He does something none of the other wild horses do, or any other horse i know for that matter. If you stretch out a hand he walks shly up and sniffs it, then works his way up you arm, inching closer, until hes at you shoulder, just resting his head there and in what can only be described as a horse hug, he breathes a another big sigh, and then no matter how long you stand, he stay there with you. Without trying to put people emotions on horses, this horse always has expression of 'please look after me' he looks genuinely relieved when you catch him to take him to or from his paddock, and always tries to stay as close by as possible, he always has a shy, lost lamb look on his face that melts all onlookers hearts.But it is the complete change in personality that is pretty amazing to see. This horse went from a highly strung overeactive wild horse, to the most polite, settled and devoted non wild stallion ive ever met. He would be the best example i have ever had, of what good training and taking your time can accomplish.

This horse is also one of the most special ive ever met, and im very pleased to report that his future owner is going to be the perfect match for him. She has been here through most of the training process and comes over and works with him whenver she can, and is used to dealing with highly strung arabian horses, has all the time and patience in the world to work with this special boy, even more important, is that he will probably be with her forever, and i think for such an amzaing horse this is important. He is definitely the horse i would pick for myself if he wasn't do small, i love this type of animal, and is another horse like Bear, that falls into the catergory of not suitable for a lot of poeple, but it really is the most rewarding process to work with him. However i could never guarantee him a permanent home, and here he would be one of twenty horses, with this lady, he will be one of three very special horses, and shes loves him and its great to see them work together. It really is rewarding seeing horses succeed with someone, and going to such a good home with another really goood horsewoman is the best i can offer a horse like this.

While i like to feel there is nothing mysterious about training horses, just understanding, timing and patience,If there was ever a horse that made me belive in magic its definitely this one, the little shy wild stallion...