Bond With Your Horse
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In August 2007, Jo held an Open Day in Perville. The day was split into three parts:
I undertook 2 sessions with Quintessence. In the first session we worked in the roundpen to develop a bond of trust and respect. The young mare was soon following me everywhere. I then desensitised her to 'scary' objects including a plastic bag on a stick and a swirly, snake on a stick. As the bond that we had formed was so strong then I was able to progress quickly through this desensitising work. I prefer to use the desensitising work before putting on a first saddle or rider as it means that the horse is more relaxed about being touched by new objects. In addition with the twirly dangly stick I can represent both the riders legs down the side of the horse and the height of a rider above the horse and so neither of these things are a shock to the horse when the rider is on their back for the first time.
The mare then had a rest and some water and hay. In the second session I did further groundwork to cement the bond and then put on the saddle. She stood perfectly still while the saddle, girth and breast girth (essential to ensure that the saddle cannot slip back or under her belly) were attached. She was then sent away and reacted dramatically to the sensation of the girth, doing huge leaps around the roundpen. However within 30 seconds she had settled completely to the saddle, having realised that in fact it was doing her no harm at all and that I (who she trusted) was completely relaxed about what was happening.
We then worked using long reins to introduce her to the aids. The long reins were attached to the rings of a Dually halter and not to a bit so then no damage could be done to her mouth while she was learning about the aids. In later sessions with a youngster, once she was reacting to very light aids on the Dually, I would introduce a bit.
We then proceeded to putting on her first rider. We worked slowly getting her used to the weight of a rider (whilst belly overed) and moving with the weight before putting the rider fully up. The rider is after all my husband and I have to be sure that the horse is not going to react dramatically to him being on her back!! She did not react at all even when the rider sat up fully and she followed me all around the pen, in walk, without any issue at all.
The rider dismounted, we removed all the tack and I spent some quality time with her....scratching her withers, caressing her etc. She was completely relaxed, was still following me everywhere and was not sweated up at all. I hope that having her first rider, which is often considered to be one of the most traumatic experiences a horse has to face, has in fact been a positive experience which will be an excellent foundation for her future relationship with humans.
Andy gave a demonstration of long lining with Sana, my arab stallion. We set up an obstacle course which Andy and Sana did perfectly in a walk and then a steady trot. Just for fun we then put them against the clock with the crowd cheering on. They soon had their time down from 36 secs to an amasing 24 secs (Andy was highly motivated after a member of the crowd threatened that he wouldn't get any of the BBQ lunch if he didn't get under 25 secs!).
We did this demonstration to show people the use and fun of working with long lines. It's a great tool for schooling but also for varying the horse's training routine. It's also a great way to warm up both the horse and rider before doing ridden work.
Damien is very suspicious of people he does not know. He had previously had an abscess in a front foot and had been treatly very cruelly by a vet. Since this time he is wary of people in general, terrified of men (the vet was male) and will snatch his feet away, almost falling to his knees, to avoid having his lower legs and feet handled.
After creating a bond with him, I used the desensitising work to get him used to being touched all over with a plastic bag on a stick. He soon settled to the bag against his body but was very wary of it around his legs. This was a deeply ingrained problem that would take several sessions to resolve but we did make good progress. Afterwards he was happy to stand there while I touched him all over, including down all his legs.
I then invited all the male members to come into the pen, one by one, and touch him all over including on his legs. He was completely at ease with all of them approaching and touching his body. He was even happy for them to touch his front legs but became a little unsettled when the final man tried to touch down his back legs. So there's still clearly more work to do there but at least he's now more relaxed with men around him in general.
Please take a look at a selection of the photos from the day - Album