After Shanni was sold in the summer of 2017, and a couple of failed attempts of purchasing my own horse, I got frustrated with the whole horse idea and took a break from all things horse. I was mostly hurt. For the months prior I got a taste of something that I felt like I was always meant to have, then that was all taken away from me rather quickly and at the time I couldn’t see a possible way that horses could be a part of my life. I felt that perhaps it was just a silly dream that I would have to give up on.
But let’s be honest, I couldn’t shake it. Around December 2017 I started thinking horse again. There was a riding school that I had kind of following on Facebook that kept coming up in my feed. I had seen some of their events come up here and there, and it seemed like a bit of a different place, and in October I saw they were looking for ‘halv parts’ (partial lease) for some of their horses. At the time I ignored it, but it kept showing up in my feed. I kept thinking that no one who doesn’t know me is going to let someone with very little horse experience do much with their horses.
But want/need took over and I wrote a longish message in what I am sure is terrible Danish to them, explaining my experience level and my interests, and their response was ‘great! Come out, let’s meet and work something out’. So I went out fully expecting to either be told it wouldn’t work, or be paired up with a pony that anyone could work with. I was 100% okay with that second outcome. If they had said it was best for me to start out doing ground work with a small pony, I would have jumped on it. That isn’t quite how it went.
I arrived, sat down with Helle and we chatted about me, my experiences so far and what it was I was looking for. After chatting she told me she had two horses in mind, Gwen, who was her horse, but has some training and is used a little bit in the riding school, and Angel also her horse, but one she hadn’t really thought about doing any sort of halv part deal with, and has little training, and isn’t a horse just anyone can do stuff with, but she felt that I should really meet her.
Helle kind of explained that Angel had been through a couple of owners, and had been labeled ‘that horse’ by others, but without really an explanation as to what that meant. She explained that Angel has some anxiety issues and had a hard time standing still. Because of this, some people get nervous while being around her, which makes things worse. But she was also a very sweet and kind horse and just needed someone to do stuff with her, give her some guidance and spend time with her. I don’t normally get nervous around horses, cautious at times yes, nervous no, so I said sure, introduce me to her.
We went and got her, I spent a bit of time up in the stable with her brushing her, and we didn’t even bother introducing me to Gwen at that point. I was quite content on taking on a project, and if Helle felt comfortable with me doing that then I wasn’t going to object. I think at that time I felt that Helle has maybe over exaggerated about Angel, because in my mine who would let a completely inexperienced person work with a horse that is a bit of a project.
The next time I did something with Angel, and the first time pretty much all on my own, I decided to take Angel for a walk in the small forest that is at the farm. Well, let’s just say it didn’t quite go as easy as I had imagined it would. I was expecting perhaps some struggles with leading, I wasn’t expecting a horse who would get upset about a puddle, worried about the lake in the middle of the forest she could see, and getting completely worked as soon as she couldn’t see the field with the horses or the stable. This ended to her spooking when a branch touched her butt, her hopping into me (luckily as soon as she felt contact with me, she jumped away from me, bucked, bolted a bit) a couple smaller spooks, then frustration on her part, which lead to some jostling.
It was a very informative walk in the forest. It was also very clear that Helle had not over exaggerated and Angel was perhaps more of a project than I had first thought. But I also learned something about myself. At no point in all the spooking, jostling and discussion with Angel did I feel nervous or like I couldn’t handle it. I also knew from that point it wasn’t where we should be starting together. She had no trust in me at that point, and we did attempt it one other time, and it went pretty much the same way, but that situation was different, and my fault and shouldn’t really had happened. That is perhaps another post.
Since that day in the forest, I have just spent a lot of time with Angel getting to know her, working on some focus work, a bit of leading with her in the arena on and off the lead rope, and that is about it. And we have come a long way with just that. We have gone from her trying to bite me if I tried to hold the halter to me being able to touch her face, hold the halter and move her head down. When I went to catch her, in the beginning, she would ignore me, move her head away from me, and hesitate to come with me. Now, most of the time she will either greet me, or put her head down so I can put the halter on, and come willingly with me. If I am out in the paddock, she also comes over to me and sometimes walks around with me. And then this happened just this week:
She allowed me to sit down beside her, scratcher and talk to her. She rolled and slept laying beside me. I think this says a lot about doing ‘nothing’ with your horse.
She isn’t broke yet, and that isn’t something I am all too worried about getting to. And when I started out, I had no real idea of what I want to accomplish with her. I really just want her to feel better about herself. The more time I spend with her, the more I see a horse that is not 100% comfortable around people, doesn’t have a lot of confidence in herself and has a hard time relaxing and letting down. I don’t have a 100% good sense of who she is really, but I don’t think she does either. She is sensitive and kind and very gentle, but also don’t really express herself until she gets really worked up, but then it is in an anxiety fidgety way. But the more I do with her, the more I start to see little bits of confidence here and there. I am also starting to get some more ‘no’ or clear communication that she isn’t liking something, but without her getting all up and ansty about it. The last time I worked with her, she tested some boundaries (can I run over you and back into you?…) and got a very clear define no’s from me as well. Some might have seen this situation as her being bad or dangerous. I did not see it that way at all, I think it was a good step in the right direction for her. She did not react in panic and worry when I had to react bigger to make my message clear.
That all being said, I would really to work with her to get her to a point where she can relax when she is up in the stable. Right now, if you put her in a stall, she paces. She does stop a bit, but if anything happens, she is moving again. She also can not be in there without another horse in the stable in the stall beside her. If you take the horses horse out, she goes into full panic mode and starts rearing. I would also like to get her to a point where you can take her for a walk in the forest without getting worried about everything. I want to teach her to figure out how to relax on her own, without me or someone else telling her to do it. Those are my goals with her.
To do this, I have decided to try taking her through the Horsefullness Liberty Training Program. It has a very big focus on working on trust and communication between you and your horse and also helping your horse to figure out that it is okay to just ‘be’ when people are around, and that we are not always asking for something, and it is okay to relax around people. All the work is done without a lead rope, and the idea is that it is the basic stuff people should be doing before going further into groundwork so that they can build up a relationship with their horse first. It usually takes about 4 months to complete, so that is what I am going to be doing for the next 4 months with Angel. And I am going to try my best to stick to it and not jump into other stuff. I will have to write a whole other post as to why I chose it.
So that is Angel. She is not my horse, but I will most likely be doing a bit with her, so naturally, I will be blogging about her and her progress her.