Having just got over the fact that the New Forest ponies seem huge compared to the Dartmoors, it was off today to one of the tallest horses I have seen. At only 17 months old, Breeze is giraffe-like at the moment and just as wild as those Dartmoor ponies. He has had some sporadic and rather random training in his old home so that he is ambivalent about touch, doesn't know how to lead and isn't sure whether humans are his mates (he's entire), his enemy, his mother or his girlfriend. We started today with the absolute basics rather than trying to unravel each individual issue. Accordingly, it was out with the feather duster in the paddock and later a more enclosed area to teach him about space, direction and touch. We've got some work ahead and it might be a tall order (did you see what I did there?) but his new owners are prepared to give it all ago. It's going to take some common sense and some real horse sense and a good deal of help at the start.
More thoughts - 4.11.10
It can sometimes be quite a responsibility to advise clients in these circumstances. Horses don't just arrive with manners and if they have had some confusing and predatorial experiences, they can be even more convinced that being around humans isn't a good idea and engage in flight or fight (or an interesting combination of the two) - and in the case of an entire be driven by testosterone. I don't like to label a horse as dangerous but their behaviour can be. The safety of the client has to come first. I had never really felt that my job had anything in common with David's (he instals and comissions air traffic control equipment) but this morning he was telling me about his responsibilities as an electrician on site - here, the responsibility falls entirely on to his shoulders as a qualified and competent electrician. He can't just follow orders or take the company line if he feels that the electrical systems he is working on are unsafe. Accordingly, it is open to him to declare a site closed until it is upgraded. At the moment, the horse I went to see need some careful and thoughtful intervention before he will be safe for them to handle.
In the same vein, today I went to work with a loader or rather, a non-loader. She seemed very genuine in her concern about going on the trailer and it was clear that we needed to do some work on leadership. She had been very calm in the yard but as soon as she was out in the field and near the trailer she began to whirl about. We did some very useful groundwork asking her to be calm and present and she brought her own adrenalin down bit by bit until she was working with us. However, I always want to look behind this kind of behaviour and as I worked with the trailer, I had more and more misgivings about it and I expect she had been feeling the same. For example, the ramp was slippery between the slats and the second layer of flooring was beginning to rot around the edges where the urine gets trapped. Closer examination revealed that there were rivets missing where the front of the trailer meets the floor. We always have to be conscious that the horse might be trying to tell us something, rather like Black Beauty at the bridge. The owners are going to have the trailer thoroughly checked and repaired as necessary and are going to make sure that some of the functional problems are addressed too - why do manufacturers make trailers with sticky out metal bits on the side of the ramp? Unless your horse always loads nicely within the confines of position A, there is always a risk of injury. I seem to be getting through an awful lot of pipe lagging in my attempts to cover these things up in order to protect the horse.