Nina and I took our ponies to Somerford Park this weekend for some cross country fun. Hunting pro Nina led the way on Joseph because as you’ll see from my facial expressions in the pictures I’m not a huge fan of cross country – I like my fences to fall down! Luckily Buzz looked after me and both boys did great.
Isn’t it nice to see something written about how great someone is for a change? I don’t really do sentiment, but this is quite overdue.
This is Heath. The first time I met him earlier this year – I forget when exactly – his owner lunged him for me to see. The thing I most remember is a very angry, aggressive horse who spent a lot of his time on two legs in defiance. I don’t think his owner Elaine would mind me saying she had lost her confidence with him as he would rear and bolt under saddle – but Elaine has never given up on a horse before having had all her previous horses well into old age and she wasn’t about to start now!
Over the following months we worked on introducing a comfort zone and showing Heath an alternative, more comfortable way to express himself when he was feeling anxious, insecure or under pressure, as well as setting up memorable patterns and ‘safe zones’ in their ridden work. This involved a lot of groundwork, patience, trial and error, sweat, tears, curse words but most importantly hard work and persistance from Elaine. Heath and Elaine have had some really good days and some really bad days and on these days it can seem like we aren’t getting anywhere – but the bad days are becoming less and less now and they are so far from where they started it’s incredible.
In the beginning the aim was just to get Heath off the yard under saddle. Now this is a regular occurrence and the new goal is to box him up to a nearby park and ride him out. We have started introducing trot and periods of Heath walking around the streets on his own without a foot soldier – something that made him very anxious not too long ago. When confronted with a problem Elaine can now deal with it, push Heath through and carry on. Things that were major issues that could lead to potentially dangerous behaviour are now minor blips that can be dealt with quickly and with minimal fuss.
Heath is a perfect example of an owner doing their best for their horse. Elaine works harder and does more for her horse than anyone I know – and I’m not talking about feeding him lots of treats or kitting him out in the best tack she can afford or buying him 30 different rugs. Elaine wants Heath to be happy and to enjoy his life and all that work and effort is really paying off. It’s been amazing watching Heath slowly transform and Elaine continue to grow in confidence. I’ve really enjoyed watching the two of them progress and develop and grow and I strive to be the kind of owner Elaine is to Heath with my own and client’s horses – taking the time and the patience to notice them and asking ‘what else can I do?’
Well done guys! Onwards and upwards! But not literally please.