Spirit – January ’19 (First week)

WEEK 1 (17/1/19)
SO…this is SPIRIT, he arrived at 12.30 today on a Gillies big lorry.

His details are:
Free Spirit
Clydesdale x Friesian x Hanovarian x Cob
16 hh at moment (but very bum high so expecting 16.2-16.3 hh when 8yrs old)
5yrs old (born 2/6/2013)

Apart from his breeder he has had one lovely caring home before me and sold only due to the young lady being at University and working hard with her job and recently finding out she’s going to have a baby this year 🙂

I will be taking him slowly and at his own pace through my HorseSavvy Horsemanship training, working through some fun Agility and teaching him to be ridden bitless so that we can have a long, fun relationship together.  This is the beginning of our journey together and I hope you enjoy reading about our adventures  🙂

Day 1:
Here are some pics of him arriving, the walk to his new home/field and having his first dinner with us.



Just off Gillies lorry






Very calm walk to the field





In own paddock for first night or two to help him settle and not be bossed around by Stormy





Rugged for the cold night and some dinner with plenty of hay and fresh water






He is very  calm and happy to just looking at our two older horses Stormy and Tara. We had them separated by two electric fences over night. This is to help Spirit get his bearings, feel safe and to settle in calmly but also to allow our two to get used to him in their field. it worked out very nicely, all calm within an hour or so, Stormy pacing a bit and pooing his territory but Spirit just keeping his head down and eating his hay. They all ate their dinners calmly and we left them for the night.


DAY 2:

Everything going really well, Spirit has such a lovely nature and Storm and Tara very calm so we opened up our big horses field to allow Storm and Spirit to touch noses over just one fence (made sure electric off so they don’t get zapped whilst being nice to each other). It went so well. Calm and Spirit giving calming/baby signals to Stormy (lowering of head, licking/chewing, following and mirroring him and turning head away). After a while they stopped parallel to each other so I put hay in front of both of them and they happily munched away at the hay. Tara stayed at the breakfast station eating hay, she will visit Spirit in her own time and when she knows the boys are friends and isn’t in the way of male bonding…wise girl 😉




Standing about 16 hh at moment, very bottom high which means his withers are playing catch up, he will fully mature around 8yrs old






Enjoying a wither scratch






Stormy goes to meet Spirit when we let him out to say hello, keeping one fence between them allows Spirit to move away if he feels he needs to but also allows them to smell each other and get used to one another





Nose to nose…this is how horses greet and meet each other 🙂






After parallel following and mirroring each other they stand for a while next to each other SO I give them both some hay and they’re happy to eat next to each other with the fence between them





Go down to see Spirit for a while before dinner and he looked happy to see me and even started walking towards me when I called his name, what a nice boy he is




Wanted to measure his height SO started off some Horsemanship Familiarisation, first with the tape measure. He wasn’t sure at first but quickly realised it was okay, this is a great way to build trust and get our connection




I then put the tape opened up a bit on the floor and after sniffing it when I bent to touch it he quietly and easily walked over it. This is teaching me a lot about his responses and reactions to things so we can start having more ‘conversations’ about things, energy, motion, noise etc.





Here I ask him to touch the ‘spirit level’ that I use with the tape measure to measure his height





Fed, watered, plenty of hay for the night and rugged so nice and snuggly

as going to be a bitterly cold night tonight.  Nitey nite Spirit, sleep tight 😉




DAY 3: 

Today we put Spirit in with Stormy and it was such a calm, happy event it was really a non-event 😉 We kept Tara separate for now to help the boys bond, she’ll be in with them tomorrow 🙂


Stormy following Spirit (or is he moving him on? 😉







Spirit checking out the fab views. He can see horses across the glen, sheep in the field below, cars on the road, houses, lights, noises and smells…big views






Storm and Spirit eating hay peacefully near each other 😉





Storm and Spirit, a view I will never tire of






A little bit of ‘liberty play’:


Familiarisation: getting Spirit used to being touched with the training arm/stick and string






Touching with hands is very important, Spirit likes being touched and around humans which is super




Hanging out together





Familiarisation of energy: this is a hard one at liberty but I wanted to see how my energy/skipping about affected him, he wasn’t overly worried but will get this better once I start working on line




DAY 4:

Today after breakfast I let the boys and Tara out together, opened up all the fences so they can meet each other properly and have enough space to get out of each others way if necessary. Spirit and Tara exchanged breath, which is how horses meet each other, and Stormy and Tara taught him some of the ‘house rules’ that horses do to make sure everyone knows their place in the herd. Spirit is so non-confrontational and has such good social skills that all went really well. He also was confident enough in himself to check out the whole bottom area of the field, poo piles, hay piles, put his nose onto the cones and into the tyre stacks. Loving his confidence, calmness and the every now and then he looked to me for a ‘good boy’ too.



Spirit and Tara ‘nose to nose’ greeting






So photogenic against the beautiful Perthshire hills






The BOYS 🙂






Spirit checking Tara out more, Tara lets him know where her personal space ‘bubble’ is and he stays on the edge of that out of respect 🙂






I hang out with the herd for a bit…I call this Undemanding Time where we all just hang out together





We did our first little Play Session today. Haltered him in a rope halter and 12′ line and did some Familiarisation with my hands and then the very basic set of Feel games which involved moving his feet in all 4 directions. I was just asking for lightness and one step on each game which will develop the basic Foundation of Horsemanship moves for later on. If I get these done nicely and with lightness then our journey towards refinement will be easier 🙂

I have set up another Category to see all Spirits Horsemanship Video’s so check it out on the right hand side of the page: ‘Spirit – Traning Videos’.


Day 5:

Today the barrel of water in the field was empty so I decided to walk Spirit to where there is more water just in case he didn’t know. We have a trough near the bottom of the field and a small stream running at the top of the big hill.

I haltered Spirit in a ‘normal’ headcollar and rope’ as this is what he’s used to and I want to change things slowly for him so that there isn’t too much to think about at any one time, they also have breaking points in them in case of emergencies which my rope halters/lead ropes don’t have and until I am certain of his nature and we have a good connection I won’t risk him getting into a panic and getting into trouble. I use my horsemanship equipment in a safe environment first (round pen/arena) and once I know we’re okay then I’ll use it all the time, best to be safe than sorry 🙂



We walk together nicely, we have walk on/halt (breath out) going nicely enough but when I get too far from the herd (Stormy & Tara) he tries to get in front of me with a little bit more energy than normal. I see this sign as the ‘baby stop’ signal that foals use to stop their momma’s when they need feeding, are weary or are worried by something. Taking this signal seriously helps me to adjust where we go SO instead of just going where I want to go I change direction back where we came from so that Spirit can feel more at ease. This ‘approach & retreat’ technique helps me see where his ‘thresholds’ are (threshold today was going away from the herd into new territory) and stops me pushing him over the edge of that to where he could panic or loose his confidence in me as a leader. Another technique I use when he’s a bit worried is to just stand, back him up a step or two with my hand on his chest and wait until relaxation kicks in.


Pic above shows Spirit smelling a poo pile. From this pile he gets a LOT of information about the herd, we’ve recently put some fresh poo onto the piles around the field to help settle him in. The info is important, they often poo when on a new trail so that they can find their way back, others can follow, others know the status of the horse and what emotions they had at the time, whether in season etc SO poo piles are like postcards of knowledge and I’ve noticed this week that he has pooped in all the new places he’s visited around the 10 acres of field, this helps him return to them knowing he’s already been there and helps him map out the field in his mind 🙂

I didn’t get to show him the water sources but it did give me an insight into how he will learn and it was lovely to see Stormy come over to see where he was going and that helped Spirit go further on which is great to see as that means the boys are bonding.


After our little walking in-hand session the herd eat hay companionably.
Lovely to see them closer each day.







We had serious weather warnings for snow/ice/wind today, supposedly coming in tonight so we decided to not chance the horses being too far away down the road and bring them back to the home paddocks. Our two know these paddocks well but it will be Spirits first time here and on top of only just arriving it will be a challenge to bring them up and to settle them into a new place again. Easy travel options is for me to take normal two, Stormy & Tara, together in front to show the way and for Mark to walk Spirit up behind, this also emulates the herd dynamics where Spirit is following Stormy around and Stormy knows he can stop Spirit by stopping and waiting himself.

Fab, it worked well and Spirit was happy to follow us up a new track to our house. The paddocks are a fraction of the size of the big field so we knew there were going to be some shenanegans getting the herd settled again SO the first thing I do is walk Spirit around two of the three sections of his new home, this way at least he will know where the fences are, where the stream is for water (and to know where it needs jumping into paddock 3). Stormy whinneyed for him as we went over a hill so again when Spirit’s energy came up and he walked in front of me to stop me I turned and walked back to where the other two were.

We let them off and Stormy ran around a bit showing Spirit his territory, Spirit following but also being moved about a bit. One of the things Stormy will do (and was doing in the big field) was shielding Tara from the newcomer SO we decided to once again let the boys bond and settle by taking Tara out of the equation and putting her in our large back garden. She is very happy there, knowing the boys are about but knowing she’s not getting in the way or being pushed 🙂


Taking Tara out in-hand allows the boys to follow at their own pace and without me being in the middle of any territory chasing. Notice how Stormy will follow Tara, he’s also blocking Spirit from being near her, and how Spirit is happy to follow on behind. The natural order of things in the herd is the best way to take it, knowing that Storm will follow Tara and that Spirit being the new boy will follow Storm makes going up the big field hill easier for me.



It’s nice to know that Spirit is non-confrontational as I know he won’t try to shimmy in on me and Tara’s space and Stormy has him under his control…here Storm shows that the order is in place by stopping on the hill and waiting, testing his herd place by stopping Spirit in his tracks behind him.

We were concentrating on leading the horses so didn’t get any on the track this time.




Once in the home paddocks Stormy stands at the water barrel and so clever Spirit walks down a hillock and finds his own natural wee stream to drink.





Stormy makes sure Spirit is still listening to his requests….This is MY corner, move away and he does. There is quite some running around with Stormy making sure Spirit moves, follows and stops with him.





Spirit following, Stormy showing him the paddocks but makes sure he’s behind him.





Storm racing up the fence line, Spirit jumping the burn/stream. Now Spirit knows where the water source is 😉




The boys stop and realise Tara is still close by but out of reach of being pushed around.






Beautiful Spirit, lovely paces this boy has 😉




Spirit following Stormy…bonding going on now, quieter and less running around.






The boys got so sweaty running around, mostly on neck and chest area’s which to me says not so much physical but emotional SO rugs and neck covers on tonight to allow them to warm up and dry off.




DAY 6: (Wed 23rd Jan ’19)

First 24hrs in home paddocks for the boys and Tara in our garden. All seems to be going well, the boys were quite close on the hill this morning. Spirit is quite hungry for his food so we’ve upped the amount and giving them all plenty of hay. We are also rugging Spirit at night as he has very little muscle mass so want him to make the most of the food we give him by allowing him the comfort of staying warm with a rug (for now).



The boys rugged and together 😉





Stormy has realised that Spirit is listening to him a lot and shows some refinement in asking him to move hay piles this morning….



Storm on his pile, Spirit on his…






…Storm decides he wants Spirit’s pile of hay so wanders over calmly with head lowered and ears pinned, Spirit politely listens, lowers his own head and moves his forehand away….






…Stormy keeps his left ear on Spirit as he moves away, notice how Spirit knows where Storm’s personal space ‘bubble’ is and keeps on the edge of that, moving in would mean Stormy would push him out again, the language of Equus is not that hard but there  are rules and Spirit is learning Storm’s rules….




…horses happy eating at changed piles of hay. Lovely to see such a peaceful exchange, shows me they are bonding and settling. Knowing how Spirit moves from ‘pressure’ from Stormy is helping me to know how to ask him when I train him 🙂





After breakfast this morning the boys move off, I wonder why as they jump the stream and then realise it’s because Tara has moved in the garden.


Stormy, who is confident in himself and his environment just walks over the stream…..






Spirit is confident in himself and getting used to the environment jumps the stream with ease, nice to know there’s a jump in him






Tara has moved along the garden fence line and the boys want to be close to her…at least this way Tara isn’t in the way of things, she’s quite old now and doesn’t move quickly so don’t want her pushed about.





This is the closest the boys have been without being pushy, they share some grass and water together.





After poo picking I see that they have all found their places. Tara laying down as close to the fence line as she can (she doesn’t often lay down so this is wonderful to see), Spirit is being look out and taking care of Tara while she sleeps and Stormy is on the hill keeping an eye on things and allowing Spirit to be near Tara…..a huge change in dynamics and allows Storm to rest too…lets hope it applies when we put Tara back in the paddocks with them later on this week hopefully 😉




Beautiful and so peaceful 😉






Day 7:

Lovely seeing the boys together every morning, one reason we love having them at home for a while.







Hungry Spirit has eaten his breakfast and tucks into his hay so I decide to have some ‘Undemanding Time’ with him for a while. I put my hand up and wait to see if he wants to touch me which he does really gently, then I just sit with him When he touches my nose I breath into his nostrils the way another horse would do.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy





Training Tip Video: ‘Sidle to a Mounting Block’

One of the most useful techniques I use and it can be so much fun to play with. I even use this to groom our big horse as he’s 18.2hh and standing on a barrel or mounting block to clean him whilst he moves around for me is a great example of using the techniques for a purpose and a great connection.

This first video is of me and Solly who has not been played with for about 3 months over Winter. He’s got sticky feet and is a bit mouthy so I thought it would be interesting for you to see how to sidle to the mounting block with a slightly uncooperative horse first. The second video, done the next day, is of Solly, Tara and then Stormy all sidling to a large stone as a mounting block, just to show how good training is not about tricks but about communicating with the horses mind to his feet.

If you’re starting to try this out remember a few things:
1) Always have a good drive away before trying to ask horse to come towards you
2) Always reward (with a rest, a rub and a good boy/girl) for the SLIGHTEST try. I ask for more with mine as they have already been trained and they know what I’m asking but can be sluggish or dis-connected.
3) If horse goes INTO the pressure they are either not understanding or being polite and not wanting to come into you (which hopefully you’ve already taught them) SO don’t get frustrated just keep gently asking for the slightest try and reward immediately they try, even if it’s just a shift in weight.
4) Progress on one side to start with (which ever side you and horse find easier) and then ask for the other side so that when you’ve progressed enough the horse should be able to go from sidling to the right and to the left equally.
5) Try sidling up to many other things as it’s not about the block it’s about the techniques and communication of moving your horses feet about. Try from a large stone, a gate, put horse into ditch, a block in a different place.
6) If your horse is not understanding your ask to come to you and goes around and around the block then place the block against the fence so that he can only go so far, hold the lead rope underneath the chin and that arm straight and strong (like he’s tied up) so that he can only move his hindquarters out or towards, this will help stop forward movement or circling.

Video 1


Video 2

  • Shelley – HorseSavvy

Training Tip Video: ‘Foot on a block’

Here is another Training Tip Video showing progression of ‘putting foot on something’. If just beginning this sort of thing then try with something bigger first and progress to more specific, smaller things. Always make sure the object is safe for your horse to put it’s foot on.


  • Shelley – HorseSavvy