Monday, September 1, 2014

1st September, 2014 Big Deal?

I always think that getting on a horse for the first time - whether it is the very first time or the first time after they have had a bad time - is a big deal. It's a big deal for the horse and it's a big deal for the rider even though they are trying not to let the horse know that they think it's a big deal. It's an honour that a horse allows it to sit on its back and it is also amazing - very few prey animals would allow it to happen.

No matter how well prepared physically and mentally, the first time horse or a remedial horse may not accept a rider on his back through surprise, fear, pain, instinct or a combination of those things and may buck, rear, bolt, or even lie down. Right up until that moment that the rider puts his weight on the horse's back we really can't predict what they will do. All we can do is to try and limit the risk though good training; few riders can genuinely sit anything but some have more stick-ability than others.

My role in helping to prepare horses for being started is to be as thorough as possible in that training and to urge owners to have physical checks carried out on their horse, to choose the best and most well fitting tack, and to consolidate their horses training over and over again. They also need to prepare themselves - learning to read their horse's body language, keep themselves riding fit and learning how to keep calm and breathe properly.

I have got a few owners now who have reached the point where they are considering getting on their horse. It's quite a responsibility for all of us. Me because I want to keep them safe and I don't want to go and see Kelly and say, "You know that nice Mr So and So I was working with? Well he came off last week and....." I also want the horse to have the best experience and chance possible.

 Today saw the first of those riders get on board and this was a first for me too. Tigerlily is the first almost entirely clicker trained horse I have assisted to back. Not only that but Tigerlily is no youngster. At fourteen she has never ever had a rider on her back. Caroline has done so much homework over the years but particularly over the last few months when we were more deliberatly heading in this direction. She was able to demonstrate that Tigerlily was completely consenting to being leant on whilst at liberty and all the signs were good that she would accept Caroline as her rider today. Balancing risks, it seemed that the very best place to do it would be beside the tree that Caroline has been using to prepare her.

Tigerlily is relaxed about Caroline leaning over her. 

There was a hiatus in proceedings whilst Tigerlily scratched her bottom

On board for the first time and we took a few forward strides.

This is what Caroline said this evening on Facebook:

"11 years ago, I met TigerLily and I knew instantly that she was my horse because I saw a golden spotlight on her and just felt and knew it. She was wild and untouched at the time and admittedly beyond my skill set at that point. Over the years I have tamed and trained her, holding fast to the passionate belief that the best relationship with a horse can be achieved with consent and without pain, excessive pressure, force or fear. There have been many who have ridiculed me for this belief (and also one individual who has told me she is the most rude and dangerous horse in the world and would break my back!), but also those who have understood, supported and helped. I have struggled to find the right way at times and was determined that I would not ride TigerLily until I could do so with her consent and happiness. Today was the big day! I would like to say massive thank yous to Sarah and Ben (Hart) for teaching me, helping me and believing in us, Rod for his support and help in my mission to lose 5 stone in preparation for this day, Tipi Jean, and Patrick Kempe for showing me what a relationship with a horse can be,  Vicki for supporting me and listening to the daily updates and TigerLily for being her wonderful self.   I am on cloud nine and I don't think anyone will get much sense out of me for a bit. Oh - and we backed her in nothing but a headcollar and a bareback pad. Yay! She was truly amazing, completely calm and happy about things. The best bit was when I slid off her for the 3rd time and she made a happy whicker sound (Wo-ho-ho-ho-ho), which means "Haven't I been clever? Now where's my treat?!". That was the best ending I could have dreamed off - better than I dreamed off over all these years!!!"