Tuesday, April 2, 2013

2nd April, 2013 The Missing Link

By coincidence I was due to go out to a South American horse this morning, a Criollo, imported some time ago and handled with nothing but care and kindness since he came. Nevertheless he is extremely wary of people, their intent and their energy.

There are things about South American methods of handling and training which I wish I had never seen. I have seen lengthy video footage of horses being grappled with, subdued, tied up and beaten until the fall over and my understanding is that this is common even with competition ponies such as polo ponies. Indeed, every South American horse I have met has been traumatised by their treatment – from one that was afraid of having her bridle on, to another that was terrified of having her back legs touched (compulsory because polo ponies have to wear bandages on their back legs when playing under rules). I have seen scars and brands on all of them . You might ask why these ponies seem to be okay about being ridden when in South America, but the regime remains harsh, they are kept slim, worked hard and it is hot. Bring them over here, give them a chance to express themselves, give them good healthy food and a cold climate and all of this is going to come out somewhere. 

For this little horse it is going to be necessary to very gently revisit some of the scenarios he has faced but overlay them with a gentle approach so that he can cope with someone walking up to him a bit abruptly by accident but then giving him a lovely rub, can cope with someone swinging their arm around but then giving him a click and a treat. Avoiding these movements, being too careful around him, means that he is alert to the slightest change in energy and there is no tolerance for mistakes. This is where I started today and at first he was tensing every muscle in his bottom but after a while he relaxed and you could see him thinking, oh, it's only you and even, please come back and do that again.

Feedback 3.4.13: "It was the greatest pleasure to meet you too.  Both J and I really enjoyed the morning and learnt such a lot.  I really appreciate the way you explained things to us, very clear and un-threatening.  Also, I appreciate your lack of judgement as I felt very relaxed about my own shortcomings, which is very important for moving forward.  I will continue with the work we set up and keep you posted - if he is able to relax both Kate [Boe] and I feel he will progress physically much better, and if his mental demons can be tamed then we may be able to move forward.  Thank you so much for your visit, and for such a comprehensive report and I really look forward to working with you again." AC

Update 12.5.13: "The work with A is going really well - really well.  He is much more relaxed and responsive and we have been able to work very well on a circle.  Kate Boe is sooo pleased with the change in him, she was able to work much more effectively last time, he just went to sleep!! He has never relaxed enough for her to work in that way before. I don't see a clear path ... so am just getting on with what we are doing quietly, and enjoying that."