Today Heath and Elaine managed to conquer two major milestones. The first was a moment when Heath stopped soon after leaving the yard. Heath's main issue is rearing, so when he stops and doesn't want to go forward it can be quite dangerous as he doesn't mess about when he really doesn't want to do something! In the past Elaine would have tensed up, Heath would have reared or bolted or Elaine would have fallen or jumped off and they'd have retreated back to the yard.
But not today!
Heath stopped so Elaine used a technique we've found has worked really well for Heath to keep him calm and give him something else to think about by lowering his head from the saddle. She then gave him a slap on the neck with the reins, told him to get on with it, rode positively forward and off they went!
Which brings us to the second.
All on their own, Heath and Elaine rode around a hacking route we've been working on - all on their own! He's had his moments and his struggles but today they did it, with Elaine on board all the way round. Did I mention all on their own? This is a major achievement.
It might not sound like much, but not too long ago it was a struggle just to get Heath off the yard under saddle, never mind walk a 5 minute loop just outside the farm - and definitely never mind a proper hack out with trees and people and other scary unforeseeables! Both Heath and Elaine have come on so well - Heath was jumping just the other week! Now all we need to do is get Elaine doing it with him ;)
Well done guys - you've come really far and overcome a major hurdle. Pats on the back and carrots all round - especially for you Elaine ;) If you've cleared this one you can clear the next one. And the next and the next and the next. So best get back to work!
Jumping with Heath, Tyke and Spike
First off there's Heath. He's still improving every week but his progress has evened out a bit and he does have his bad days so sometimes it's easy to feel frustrated and like you're not getting anywhere. On these days you just need to take a step back and take a look at how well he is actually doing. Saturday was one of those days. The weather wasn't on our side from the start with it being a bit gusty and showery but we added to that challenge by taking him somewhere he's not been before under saddle on his own, which is a big deal for Heath.
Following an altercation where Elaine was attacked by a tree branch and gave Heath a bit of a fright, Elaine rode Heath much of the way up before walking him back in hand as he was finding the whole thing a bit stressful but still taking it really well. We didn't want to leave him there as he hadn't really done enough, but he'd done well so we didn't want to put him in the chambon and make him work for however long. So we did something we've not done before - jumping! He seemed to really enjoy himself and had a bit of a play with it. As you can see, he's not too shabby at it either!
Managed to get two lessons in today at the farm before the heavens opened! Lynsey who part-loans Tyke and Gina who part-loans Spike both did really well, making a lot of progress and jumping bigger than they've done before.
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.