I’m out of action for a while after having heel surgery on Halloween but the horses needed to be taken back to their big field until Winter SO Mark took them back down there…Riding Storm bareback and leading Bella from him. He said they were very well behaved and really enjoyed a wee yeehaa when let off back into the big field. He also opened up the hill grass for Autumn, I’m sure they’ll really enjoy that 🙂
Stretching their legs in the big field feels GOOD…also having a lovely roll….mucky girl
Oh and a very muddy boy Stormy >
Weds 6th Nov
Am missing the horses a lot whiles not able to do anything at all for a while with foot out of action, even once I start to ‘walk’ again it will take quite a while to get my heel/leg back to normal SO Mark took me down to the big field to have some equine cuddles…..just what the doctor ordered 😉
They didn’t have any worries about my crutches, my wobbling walk or the plastic bag on my moonboot
Stormy wanted to check out the plastic bag on my foot….Bella was fine with it too but not so interested in it, well there was no food in it for her. lol.
Bella was fine with me ‘hand grooming’ her, getting the dried mud off her neck, side and bum. I held onto her withers for stability and she was a very good girl standing still for me to hobble around her.
Such a good girl AND Stormy didn’t bat an eyelid when I asked for a theraputic Storm-Hug with my crutches flailing over his back 🙂
And…last but not least Bella and I had some connection kisses <3 SO lovely to spend some time hanging out with them, it’s going to be some time before I can ride again but hopefully once I start to get a bit better I can do some ground work play whilst sitting down 🙂
This is about what we might WANT and what our horses NEED and how to find the balance so that progress can be made.
Often we may want many things from our horses, for them to fulfil our dreams in a competitive way is the big one but also many small ones such as we want our horses to be perfect, know how to engage their bodies or even just calm for grooming.
What I have noticed is that if we allow the horse the timeline (ie. They get to say what they can do when and where) and we help them by being non-predatory and kind then we all win. We find what we want by allowing the horse what they need and if we don’t there often ensues a predatory vs prey animal argument.
I wanted to talk about an eye opener for me when I brought our new horse Bella from the field she’d been in with Stormy, the first three months of her being with us, to our winter paddock behind our house. It’s just a mile down a lovely track and our herd have been doing this change for about 10yrs now. She was a bit sceptical about coming out of her ‘home field’ but was interested in her surroundings and willing to follow our big boy Stormy with his confident manner of the route and snatching at fab grass along the way. We allowed them to stop regularly for a good look about and chance to graze, which Stormy did but Bella didn’t apart from snatching at some silver birch branches.
It was interesting to see how much they were mirroring each other, where they looked and where they stopped. About half way home Bella, and then Stormy, deposited a poo each…like a sign post as to where they’d come and how to get back. We got them to their new ‘home paddock’, gave them some hay and allowed them to check out their new ‘digs’. Bella sometimes led the way, sometimes she followed Stormy but they stayed close together.
Over a few days it was also interesting to see how much he settled into things again and how she kept standing looking back to where the other field was…her ‘home’, but it was also very interesting to see how Stormy helped her. He never pushed her, made her go away from her ‘lookout place’ and he never insisted she follow him. What he actually did was pamper her in her lookout place, make sure she was watching and following him when we put out their meals and allowed her to feel safe, confident and calm before venturing away from her. He was making sure she was alright because he knew that once she was alright the herd was alright. He’s a very clever boy.
In the meantime I ‘wanted’ to take her for short walks, do some training and get on with what we’d been doing in the big field but I realised that what she NEEDED was more important that what I WANTED.
She needed to feel safe, to feel confident and happy in her new surroundings, to be able to be relaxed and responsive and not fearful and reactive here. For me to push her out of her comfort zone so early in a strange place would not have been conducive to a happy partnership between us. For me to allow her to settle and feel able to think while I asked her to do stuff I know she already knew was the best way to spend that time…time settling. I needed to think more like Stormy and less like a trainer.
I remember learning that horses have 5 Confidences and these are (THELL)
Confident in THEMSELVES (Bella and Stormy are pretty confident in themselves)
Confident in the HERD (Bella is confident in Stormy and also Mark and me too through consistent handling, feeding and play)
Confident in their ENVIRONMENT (which with Bella had just dramatically changed with the new field)
Confident in LEARNING (which she is getting better at but changing fields comes with a lot of near learning…where the water is, where the best grazing is, what are all the new noises around our house, being near a track where vehicles go along, seeing walkers and cyclists on that track)
Confident in their LEADER (Bella is confident in Stormy because he allows her time to be herself, she is also confident in me as I also allow her time to be herself and to listen to the ‘thresholds’ she has with new things and places)
I like to think that being a horse ‘trainer’ (as we all are that have horses) should not be about the ‘goal’ or the ‘competition’ but about the needs of our animal, our Connection, Trust and Friendship and that we help our horses find relaxation when we’re with them whatever we’re doing and with that anything is possible. Our priority should be about how to help them feel calm, safe and happy when they’re with us. We must never break that friendship or trust because it’s easy to lose but hard to gain.
This is our FIRST attempt at some of these tasks: 1) draw/drive over pole
(done before but she preferred me working in front of her so need to work on being beside her as a S2M task) 2) Carrying Sacks
(first try and she was fine with it) 3) Over Bottle Bank
(first try and she was SO COOL with this task) 4) Trot poles on blocks
(never done poles on blocks and she was fab) 5) Circle in walk both ways
(done before so she did this nicely, her changes of direction are getting really smooth too) 6) Circle in trot both ways
(done before but thinking I need to start working on our 22′ line now) 7) Weave in trot both ways
(such a good girl with such a small-ish circle too) 8) Fig 8’s in trot
(again, just started doing more trot work so I was impressed with her today) 9) Over pedestal/under arch
(putting two tasks together can be hard but she got it okay, did it twice as wanted her to do it better than the first time) 10) Front feet on a carpet square
(put feet on/in things before but new to carpet)
It’s been 3 days since I last played with Bella so today I went down at breakfast to be with her and see if she wanted to play. At first she was sceptical and this made me realise that she needs some play or interaction every day with me….this is totally normal and once she has been here for longer and this routine is a good routine then skipping a day or two won’t make that much difference BUT this initial 6 months to a year is vital for our successful connection.
< Firstly we did some ‘mirroring’…this is where I walk the way she’s walking, at her speed, step for step and also then with the same energy and even breathing if we connect well. It really helps our connection and shows her I can ‘be’ with her in her world, we don’t always have to play or do something.
We then did some circles on a hill in w/t, moving circles w/t, circles over a pole w/t, draw & drive from a distance and sidepassing without a fence using Focus L&R 🙂 She did very well and our connection is back in tact ready for our next session.
Tues 8th Oct
After not doing much last week I now need to find my Connection back to Bella. It will just take some regular play and weather so won’t take long but made me realise how short a time Bella has been with us and how fragile the bond is. Today I managed to get half an hour between rain showers and we did some nice S2M including TROT 🙂
Weds 9th Oct
Today was on/off drizzle again BUT I managed to get out an hour before giving them their dinner and I’m so glad I did. We managed some nice play in the Agility area adding poles to the cone circle/weave which went well. Then I put her saddle on and we played around with circles in walk and trot with the stirrups down and she didn’t bat and eyelid. I then did some DHQ into LF on the ground both sides which went well and then stood on the mounting block and asked her to come over to it, relax and stand still. I then put my foot in the stirrup and put my weight on/off it to make sure she was okay with that sensation and then as it was okay I mounted and sat quietly in the saddle. She stood quietly and then turned her head to the left with a nice LF to smell my foot and then I got off. One small step but a big step. Hopefully next time we will do some walking and the saddle will help keep my balance if she decides to go up to trot.
< Cone circle/weave with poles
Ground tying >
Trotting with saddle on and stirrups down >
Sitting on Bella w/Saddle and Stirrups
We have made wonderful progress together. Now we need to work on our basic riding skills/techniques with the saddle on firstly in the round pen, then in a larger arena and then in a bigger area.
Sat 12th Oct
Today was the FIRST time riding Bella with the saddle/stirrups on. She did amazingly well and I’m so proud of her. I think I will make a bigger rectangular arena for us to work in now so that will encourage forward motion more for her. I have this session on video in the ‘Bella’s training video’ section and we also did a fab 4th Agility session also on video in the ‘Bella’s Agility video’ section >>>>
Sun 13th Oct
Today we took the smaller round pen down and made a rectangular arena for Bella to work in, the longer straight lines will help her walk out more in our riding sessions and we can also use this for her to follow Stormy to give her confidence following another horse. Today we just allowed both horses to work/ride in it for a short time. Here’s some pics from today including some of the fun ground work we did together:
< A ‘moment’ together
Managed one foot on the smaller pedestal >
< Sidepassing without a fence 🙂
Getting a nice ride on big Stormy today >
< Storm is now a ‘teacher’ for Bella
Nice ride on Stormy >
< And such a nice trot with Storm today working on the Corners Game
Bella’s Lateral Flexion on BOTH sides today was soft, light and easy >
< Managed to get more walk steps working in new bigger area today
Also walked out of the arena back to where I take the tack off, through the agility area >
Mon 14th Oct
Today I decided to try a new thing to help Bella’s confidence in being ridden…..asking Mark to ride Stormy with us in the arena. This really helped Bella, she followed what Stormy was doing and we managed a lot of just nice walk next to each other. It will take time for Bella to gain new muscles for being ridden and taking weight on her back but she’s doing really well.
Riding together is a lot of fun and I can see she and Storm will make happy hacking pals once we’ve done more training and then walked her out locally (probably next year now)
We walked companionably on both sides of Stormy, love that these two get on so well, no niggling, no kicking out or trying to bite each other.
Tues 15th Oct
Had a lovely play with Bella today and it turned out to be a play with her AND Stormy together a bit too. Stormy at liberty, Bella on line…some pics….
Playing the games with Stormy helped Bella feel more confident, allow her to see Stormy doing the same things and to make Stormy feel included more 😉
Draw and Drive over a pole went incredibly well with the two of them 🙂
Some treats for both for a good job done.
4 feet on the pedestal at last….well 2 of Storm’s and 2 of Bella’s…great to see how well they get on that they can be this close 🙂
Pedestal fun and then some solo circling with poles for Bella. She really engages her core when there are poles around so we will continue to build with the pole work to help her muscle up for being ridden 😉
After some play I went to do a bit of riding, Bella was good but very very distracted by something (farmer moving cattle probably, very noisy business) SO I decided that it would be easier and better for Bella if Mark rode her and I stayed on the ground with Stormy so she could follow me and be near Stormy. It went very well and Mark had a couple of really nice TROT’s on her which was great to see.
Good start and her basic bitless techniques are going well (LF. DHQ. FH and Walking on). She is still more confident with Stormy around when being ridden but that’s to be expected 😉
You can see she is thinking about something in the middle distance here.
Mark did a great relaxing job riding Bella today. Her trot ridden is as nice as her trot when she’s working online which is lovely to see.
Here she’s trotting well following Storm and me. We still need to work on left and right but am very pleased she’s got walk and now trot under her belt, we can progress slowly now.
I then spent some quiet time with Bella which was really bonding. She is really cuddly and I love being around her.
Tue 22nd Oct
Just back from a clinic in the Borders so have missed 5 days training with Bella this week BUT hopefully that has given her a small break to think and rest which is often a good thing for any horse. Went out to give them their dinner today around 5pm and take this opportunity to get ‘re-connected’ to her and Stormy.
Bella remembered everything we’ve done and we had some nice circling in both directions, realised we need to start working on a 22′ line now to help her trot circles be easier for her. Draw & Drive was light and polite and she did two very nice, light Lateral Flexion both directions. Lastly, after I took her halter off, it was lovely to have her follow me for a bit at Liberty 😉
Sat 26th Oct
Bella has had a slight swelling in her right udder so we decided to be able to keep an eye on her more to bring her and Stormy to the home paddocks. (at the time of writing this her udder is 50% smaller so looks like it is probably hormonal). It will also allow her to get used to the Winter turnout before they have to come up for Winter so it’s good in two ways. She was a bit sceptical coming out of the field she’s been in for 3 months since coming to us but not too worried that she couldn’t move and follow Stormy. Stormy is a great confidence giver as he’s been doing this run every Winter for 10yrs although this is the first time with Bella. Here’s some pics of our wee adventure.
Bella was quite unsettled to start with , quite sweaty too but I went and rubbed her down with some dry grass and that helped her, she also had to listen to Stormy with how to not worry about the wee bridge we have in the middle of the paddocks over the wee stream. She relaxed enough to watch and think about it and figure it out so that hopefully tonight she’ll know where things are and relax into a quiet night.
Wee video of Bella figuring out the bridge 🙂
Sun 27th Oct
We left the horses to just mosey about today, allowing Stormy to show Bella around the field more and all the nice tasty spots of grazing, find their resting spots and for Bella to get used to her new surroundings. She is on lookout a bit but nothing worrying, just her getting used to where all the normal sounds are now coming from as she is nearer the farm and road noises.
When I go and walk doggie Beau, Bella walks the fence line with me, she likes watching everything that is going on.
Bella also likes to follow us whilst poo picking, she like to make sure we do it properly. She is also mirroring Stormy often, he knows the field well so is a great help to give her confidence and calmness.
Resting together is lovely to see and also how calm they are coming and eating their 2 meals a day 🙂
Mon 27th Oct
Bella is really relaxing more each day she’s here in the home paddocks, this is going to help her so much when they come back for a few months over Winter, usually end Dec through to March. It makes it easier for us to feed and take care of them as often we can get snowed in here. She isn’t fully relaxed yet but it’s only been 2 full days so far and I’m impressed with how Stormy is helping her and being a good partner for her.
Today she followed me around while poo picking and that was even over the bridge but it was also lovely to see them both coming over for their breakfast nice and calmly and Stormy even allowing Bella to share the end of his bowlful…she is a cheeky minx, lol
Tues 29th Oct
Today I decided to ask Bella to have a wee play session and walk up the road by the paddock. This gives her the comfort of having Stormy int he field next to her but also allows me to see how she can respond and connect to me. Having her able to play will allow us to develop a deeper connection in a new place and for me to gauge her emotional and mental fitness. Here’s some lovely pics Mark took of us today….
Weds 30th Oct
This morning it was interesting to see the Storm and Bella following each other around. There was a bit of noise and movement around the estate with the farmer moving cattle around. Our two are so sensitive to changes at the moment but happy to be relaxed and calm around us.
Today was also ‘trimming hooves’ day, Bella’s hooves are so much better than when she first came to us 3 months ago, still some way to go with her back hooves but getting there. They were both pretty well behaved even though this was a new place to stand and hang out for Bella 🙂
This is the 2nd time I’ve backed and walked her on but the first time (2 days before this one) she didn’t understand how to move forward due to the difference in balance with my weight on her, this video is only 2 days later and although she is stop/starting a lot there is much more understanding with her balance and my cues. I look forward to helping her learn more riding skills as we go along our journey together 🙂
This is Bella’s 3rd lesson video. We’ve got all the basic ABC’s of HorseSavvy Horsemanship under her hooves now and we’ll be progressing each game for lightness, politeness and then higher gaits and longer ropes…..having fun and think she is too 🙂
I’ve been laying over Bella’s back and sat on her a couple of times once with me sitting on her with Mark walking her in-hand a bit and also had Mark sitting on her and the start of walking forward, this video is the first time I sat on her and asked her to walk on. She seems a bit off balance and unsure but by taking it slowly she will get there, her confidence and relaxation are the most important things going forward 😉
Here is a map of the course (we missed #11 – the sidepass on the round pen but never mind 😉
1. Weave walk
2. Flag familiarisation
3. Narrow bunting lane
6. Draw/Drive between two barrls
7. 2 front feet over pole and sidepass off
8. Tarp transitions
9. 2 feet on pedestal
11. 2 front feet in hulahoop
12. Relax by mounting block
Didn’t manage to sort out doing a video for this course but here’s some pics of Bella doing it really well 🙂
1. Pole – Transition
2. Under Arch
3. Trot over poles
4. Onto Tarp, halt for 5 seconds then walk off
5. Walk calmly through Scary Lane
7. 2 front feet in hula hoop
8. Walk Cone Weave
9. Under Curtain
10. Front feet on Pedestal