This is a mare I used to own who is named Missy. Missy was on her way to the doggers when I took her on. She was very nervous. She was terrified of anyone touching her head and would snort when I was around her. She would leap sideways when I tried to get on her back and she was almost impossible to catch.
It took me twenty minutes just to get her to relax enough for me to sit on her. I got on her the first time bareback she was snorting and had her head up like a llama. I kept repeating that - I'd get off and do it again, each time I would giver her a pat and a piece of carrot. She was still hard to catch though and it would take up to half and hour to catch her.
So I decided I needed to forget about riding her and catching her and that she just needed to be healed emotionally before continuing any further.
So I came up with a plan. I would give up on riding her and I wouldn't even pet her. I'd put my goals on the back burner till she could trust me.
I would walk up to her and she would run away we would do this for a long time till she stopped. Then I would stop and walk out of the paddock. 5 minutes later I'd come back and do it again and again and again.
Then as time went on I would approach her until she stopped and faced me. (She would be a lather of sweat by now just from nerves) and then I'd leave her alone. I would repeat the same ritual in the afternoon and she picked up on it very quickly.
Soon enough she would go to walk away but instead of running away she would turn to face me. Then I would stop - back away and then walk up and pat her, give her a carrot and leave her alone. This ritual went on for at least three weeks then it started to take 10 mins instead of the original half an hour or more. Within three weeks the sweating stopped, the snorting decreased, and before I knew it she was trotting up to me and would stand as I patted her on both her shoulders and her neck and then gave her a slice of carrot. Then I would leave her completely alone - no riding, no catching.
When I did catch her there was snorting and the whites of her eyes were showing but I ensured this was only a positive experience for her.
On the occasions I did catch her, I would get her out to brush her and put her back in the paddock (every time I caught her it was a very positive experience for her) and I would not catch her every time I was around her either. I let her know I respected her and wasn't going to take advantage of her.
After one month of doing this the situation really reversed and she would catch me now. She loved the idea of me going into the paddock and she would trot up to me when I called her. I would catch her without the snorting etc now, and I would take her for long walks on the ground, through creeks, up hills, to nice patches of grass so she could eat. I'd bring her home, brush her, feed her and let her go. Everything was positive, we kept that up for a few weeks and then I decided to ride her again and from that trust we had built on the ground, she stood dead still when I got on her.
Her ears were pricked back and her head was high but she stood still and never moved a foot. I talked softly to her and gave her a treat from the saddle and I would just walk her around no fast stuff - nothing like that yet.
After a couple weeks, catching her was easy. She was there waiting for her treat.
Now that she was trusting me, I could swing my self up into the saddle. I could walk, trot, canter, gallop without any snorting or jig-jogging. There was no more leaping to the side while I was getting on either. She had beautiful movement. Whoever mouthed her did an amazing job as her mouth was so sensitive and she was really responsive.
We could go from gallop to then walking with no jig jogging nothing nervy at all.
Some days I would just pat her and leave her alone. On other days I would catch her and take her for a walk. Other days I would catch her, walk her and ride her, all with out any problems.
couldn't believe how far she progressed in such short time. She was still very afraid of having her feet trimmed (picking them up was fine but once you had a file in your hand, she would snort and dance, she had clearly been flogged with it).
From then on things got better for Missy. We did some cow work and she was good at it. I rounded up the neighbour's cows on three occasions, when they had broken out of their paddock. I could not believe how good Missy was at cow work. She would anticipate the cow's movements and turn with it. The first time it took five minutes for her to pin her ears at those cows and get the both of them together out of the massive field and through the gate into their own paddock. I could not believe how amazing this mare was at her job. I was just a passenger on her back when she was rounding up cows.
One day, one of the cows from our paddock got out we went through long grass up and down hills, through creeks and galloped up a very steep large hill after this cow (and I mean large hill - the massive hill that is directly across from the North Arm school). The cow had no idea what sort of mare it was dealing with. Missy chased it all around through these different paddocks over gullies and through a creek.
At each gate we had to stop. I had to dismount and lead her through the gate and re-mount. There were about 5 gates in total. Not once did her feet move as I had to remount. She stood still as a rock for me. The owner of the property wished us luck getting the cow back to our paddock. He said he doubted if that cow could be herded back into our paddock. It was a feral of a thing to round up and it was all by itself. So there we were trying to not only get the cow out of the neighbour's herd of cattle which it had joined, but also we had a massive long way down the hill and across a creek to round it up back to our place. The neighbour wished me luck and said I don't think you can do it (and quite frankly I also had my doubts) but we tried and this mare dominated that cow like nothing I have ever seen. She anticipated its every move. She knew when the cow would go faster and she went faster. She turned and cut the cow off in front of places were it was trying to get back to the herd, all the while I was just hanging on in amazement of this mare. A dogger mare? She was incredible! She just needed the security of being able to trust a human being not to hurt her.
So, you know what!?! We, well SHE got that ONE cow back single handedly down a hill, across the creek and away from all the HERD of other cows.
It took us nearly two and a half hours but we did it and she never backed down or gave up. Missy had so much heart and so much try. I was beaming with pride for how hard this little mare worked for me. She never let me down.
She had a bath and a big feed that night with about six carrots to follow! Next morning easy as pie to catch. She really did trust me now and I really trusted her. She was an incredibly good horse and she was completely different now that she was calm and enjoyed her work. She didn't live in fear-land anymore (apart from when she saw the farrier's file).
I did barrel practice on her and took her to pony club. She walked straight on the float without any problems. She did some jumping and she tried her heart out there too and she never spooked or danced once - despite picking up feed bags in one event and having flags flapping around everywhere. Missy got straight on the float to come back home too.
When my friend rode her she did everything that was asked of her and never once snorted or reverted to having her head in the air like a llama.
I took her for a few more walks and she would catch me every time I went into the paddock. She was a completely different horse now with a new found trust in humans and a calm attitude even though I wasn't too heavy for her I was too big. My legs hung right down on her. She had done everything I had asked of her and more. She did have a bond with me, but I knew she would be better off in a new home were she could put everything she knew into the benefit of others.
Katt came to pick her up and she got on the float after a long sniff and look.
She is perhaps the greatest mare I have ever had the privilege of working with. She really saved my neck quite a few times, but it's so good to see her at the riding school with kids and doing so well.
I think this is a incredibly happy ending for a very special horse.
I invested a lot of time and effort into this horse and it makes me very proud to see her doing so well under the excellent care of Katt and Corrine at Heartland Horsemanship.
So beautiful to see her bloom into the horse that she was not previously allowed to be, because of fear. She is now the horse she was supposed to be.
Thank-You for everything Katt and Corrine!! Just goes to show how powerful love and trust is when put to good use!