Published by Eventing Connect
I currently own two of the most-Im not sure of the word? Unique,perhaps?-horses I have ever had. The first needs little introduction to those who know me. Mist is the most bizarre mishmash of qualities and quirks and has made me question and change everything I know. The second is Sunshine. Sunshine is a 4 yr old mare with hannovarian/tb breeding and the world’s biggest opinion of herself. She is vastly intelligent and we do things her way. She is supremely talented and by far the most exciting horse to land here in years.
I was lunging her the other day. The work she was offering was typically super,but because she is a weak 4yr old the quality can fluctuate. This means that she sometimes canters when the big trot she has gets a bit too much. She broke in her trot work a few times when I was asking for more from the trot. I told her she was good-willingly looking to go forward FOR ANY REASON should NEVER be discouraged in my opinion-I asked for trot again and then asked for slightly less trot as it was really my mistake,not hers. She also slightly mistook me when I accidentally got in front of her shoulder,and she offered a super square halt. I clicked at her,she put her two hind legs together and propped forward off the ground straight back into a gorgeous trot. Again,it was my mistake but as I stood there admiring her sharpness and her incredible power and balance,I got to thinking….
Here I was,looking at this horse making typical young horse minor errors. I was looking at why she made those errors and how she dealt with the correction,and instead of feeling annoyed that it wasn’t perfect-as I would have done 10 years ago-I was enjoying watching her mind at work and appreciating her many qualities instead. Ten years ago,I was so ambitious and arrogant. I didn’t give a shit what was wrong with the horse-age,injury,lack of education,confusion-my attitude was ‘just fucking do it already,I have plans and you’re getting in my way.’ Many horses likely suffered because of me. I can’t fix the past,but I sure as hell learned how to fix the present and future. I was slowly coming around to a better way of thinking,but it took years of Mist hammering the point home repeatedly- horses never do anything for no reason,and it’s up to you to work it out. Mist was so tricky and such a bully himself,and he wasn’t a contender for the ‘do or die’ attitude. He is 13 years old now and he and I have the most wonderful partnership. He is delighted to work-lives for it,even-but we are partners. He is allowed to have his say. He is allowed to remind me to do more,do less,ask differently.The lines of communication are fully open both ways and working him is a constant conversation. It takes time to get there with a horse and it can be as basic or as advanced as you please. It is the secret to it all. You have to thrash it out gently between you,put boundaries in place and allow them to do the same. You have to hold hands,not hit each other. I had a similar relationship with Jj which also took a while to develop but he was like Mist in time-I used to think,and Jj used to do. Sunshine is similar but different. Sunshine is only 4. It took until Jj was 6 and until Mist was about 10 to get to here. Maybe I’m getting better at it,but maybe she’s just a bit special too. I crave that connection.
I can rub along fine with most horses that come through my hands,but Sunshine is the first one looking for a connection herself. it is unlikely she will be sold-helps that she’s super careful and scopey too!!
So what changed me? What made me realise that I was a horrid little bitch who had better find another way with these horses before I got myself killed? I’m not sure. Broken bones and lost ambitions maybe had a part to play. Being exhausted riding 16 a day and hating every minute of life with the animals that I supposedly loved also massively clouded my outlook. Mist having such potential but no tolerance for my shit was a huge element. Weirdly,a developing interest in proper natural horsemanship also played a big part. (Think Buck Brannaman,not Monty Roberts) a friend gave me a book by Mark Rashid called ‘Horses Never Lie’ and it is the best book I have ever read-the point is that you ask horses for things in a way that allows their response to be exactly what you were looking for to begin with. It builds such confidence and trust so fast. The final part of the picture is in realising that no response is wrong. If you ask for a thing from your horse and he offers SOMETHING,then there’s hope and potential. It all sounds very ideal world and fluffy,but it isn’t-keep it simple,be kind and respect your horses. It’s a good place to start.