When working with a rescue horse, a timid horse, a horse needing mind or body rehabilitation, a young horse, a green horse there is no quick fix.
There can be no set plan and no set goal. We need only TIME and we need only PATIENCE.
We can have a general training plan and set general goals but as we work towards them we must keep in mind that progress will not be continuous and we must be flexible in our expectations. There will be days when we take 2 steps forwards, days we take 2 steps backwards and days where nothing much different happens. And its ok.
TIME and PATIENCE create TRUST - with TRUST we can build a solid relationship with any horse and as we LISTEN to them we can move forward, TEACHING them and as importantly, LEARNING from them.
Bill trusted me.
It really didn’t take all that long before I felt that bond, that attachment, felt him choosing to trust me and felt that feeling he would take care of me. It sounds cliché but those who have had the wonderful experience of working successfully with a rescue horse will understand the connection. It is a special feeling.
Bill seeked somebody to rely on, somebody to understand him and to help him to understand his purpose.
As it turns out, his journey ended too soon after his time with me. However, he is one of the horses who I have worked with that has taught me the most.
Working with Bill, teaching Bill and learning from Bill is a gift that has now been passed on to many horses and I will continue to share his lessons gratefully. I often refer to Bill in my lessons, or talk about him in training discussions. Bill is a wonderful example that with TIME and PATIENCE we can build TRUST.
Bill, with his big goofy face and soft eyes and loud neigh whenever he saw me was such a special horse, with a heart that extended well beyond his chest.
Thank you Bill for being exactly who you were. You will never be forgotten. RIP my friend.
BILL’S TRAINING NOTES - Number 3.
At Week 16, Bill’s body was looking healthy. He had developed correct soft muscles and his body was looking toned.
Most days, I still worked Bill In-hand before riding, his body and mind was still a work in progress and I was able to help his body achieve the correct posture more easily during the in-hand work. However, he trusted me and was now safe enough that I was able to ride him without lunging when I chose to do so.
Last Day In-Hand
Photo 1: A soft relaxed happy trot with good posture.
In this photo, we can see that Bill has even diagonals, he is slightly curved with his whole body to the left side, his outside hind is reaching forward and under his outside fore and his tail is soft. Bills back has developed some lovely muscling, his neck now also has a lovely arch shape telescoping out of his shoulders. Bill's head is at a great angle. Here, we can see that the angle of his face and his shoulder are parallel to one another, allowing Bill the ideal amount of room for his neck to move with freedom.
I am still walking. I will forever be walking when I am lunging any horse. It is very important that our bodies are soft and in movement, not rigid, stiff and still.
Walking with Bill allows me to be closer to him, helping him while he is still able to travel on a large circle.
My left hand holding the lead is soft while my right hand has hold of the bamboo pointing it towards Bill’s hindquarters which asks him to continue moving forwards.
Photo 2: My favourite photo of Bill and I.
Words are not really needed for this photo but I do need to say that these moments were frequent. It is in these quiet and still moments that our connection was at its strongest. Bill, I think loved to be the gentle giant lowering his head down to meet with me and share the praise he so deserved.
I still remember the first time he did this. It was during our first week together, I was in the arena alone with him and I just sat in the corner and waited. His eyes were alert, his body was tense, his feet were glued to the ground, not able to move. I stayed sitting, waiting and breathing. Eventually, he lowered his head down and smelled me. A moment or two later, I gave him a pat, the rest was history, he loved praise - I have an iPhone photo from that day, I will include it in the comments section below.
Photo 3: The Canter.
Hallelujah, it took a while but by giving Bill the time he needed to build TRUST and to work on his RHYTHM and BALANCE in walk and trot, the canter came when it was ready.
Each week, I would check in on the canter maybe once or twice. I would ask Bill to increase his trot speed little by little and using my voice, I would click and ask for the canter, keeping my body very calm and still yet moving so as not to frighten him during the transition. The canter sorted itself out. Yes, he needed the practice as well but for the most part, it came together without too much work, when Bill no longer was afraid during the transition. I would ask him only for half a circle of canter, I would then ask for trot, then walk, then I would go to him and praise and pat him. As he got stronger I would then ask for 1 full circle at a time, then 1 and a half circles and so on.
Why? Because when I asked Bill for only half a circle he thought I was his dream come true. With only half a circle, he didn’t feel over faced, it was something he could handle. He understood that I wasn’t going to ask for more than he could handle and when the day came that I asked for that little bit extra, he tried, and was successful. I walked and rewarded him as I usually did. He felt good about himself, he wasn’t worried when I asked but he did know that he was doing more than previous days.
The goal here with the canter was to have quality over quantity - we always have time to build the quantity but quality is the most important and comes first. And TRUST again comes into play.
Photo 4: Ending the work session
Something Manolo and I always do is to allow our horses to walk freely with us after they have finished their in-hand or ridden work. It is so nice for them to feel that we trust them to come with us, to have that freedom and equality with us at the end of the working session.
Last Day Ridden
Photo 1: Bill in trot to the right, his weaker side.
In this photo, I am riding in a light seat in order to be soft on Bill’s back. He was still learning to use his body correctly and improved with each ride. I have a gentle contact and rode steady within my body and my legs. Bill’s head and neck in this photo is still a little high from the ideal posture I was after but he did have moments where he lowered into the correct posture. The stronger and more balanced he became the more often he was able to carry himself better.
Photo 2. Preparing to go for a walk.
This photo was taken once the arena door had been opened and Bill and I were about to go for our “After Training” walk outside. As you can see Bill was like a kid in a candy store, he loved heading outside.
Photo 3 and 4. During our walk outside on our last ride, such a happy character.