I love the photo I have used for this blog of horse and rider in harmony and happy; they look like a solid partnership, and what we are all striving for with our horses! But this relationship doesn’t necessarily happen overnight and there can be a few stumbling blocks along the way.
I am having a blast working with my daughter, Rosie, and her two new ponies, Annie and Poppy. She bought them with her own money from the well-known Erimus Stud, but at 7 years old, and unbroken, they are definitely “projects”! It has been interesting for me to realise the differences in body language that we have as adults and children. For example, in this quick video clip, I am teaching Annie to lunge. It is clear to Annie that when I put my arm out, it is the cue for her to move forward, but when Rosie does it, her arm is much smaller, and lower, and not as obvious to the pony. It is a clear example of a pony having to adapt to a new trainer, and this is something we may not take into account enough when dealing with our own horses.
I get a lot of remedial horses sent to me that are not what their new owners thought they were buying. The majority of these owners have given the horse the benefit of the doubt, and realised that their new horse may need time to settle down to a new yard, environment and routine, but have had their horse’s behaviour continue to spiral downwards. When this happens, we also need to consider the horse’s past experiences and we need to think about how strange it may be to a young or inexperienced horse to have a different way of being handled or ridden. They may be receiving totally different cues, which can cause confusion and anxiety and could lead to the unwanted behaviours.
As always when training our horses, we need to look at ourselves first. Are we physically different from their previous owner? Are we riding at a higher, or lower, level, or are we asking to much, or too little, from our new horse? Do we handle the horse differently on the ground to the old owner? We need to do the homework first, and go right back to basics from the off… its so much better to do that, than throw your new partnership into the deep end and develop problems that will take a long time to unpick!