Love Horse, Love Horse Art – Where did it all start? Part 3

Love Horse, Love Horse Art  – Where did it all start? Part 3


Was now the time to do something dramatic?

My relationship with my boyfriend broke down (and my obsession with Nancy played a small part, amongst other things) and it was time to move back up North. My time in forums for IH met me some nice people. And it was the right place to ask for recommendations for a trainer. Many people in the forum knew of Nancy's history as it was a place I had been recording progress (and there had been a level of progress, just not much). One such trainer was Becky Holden. She was very highly recommended, a classical trainer but also had a good reputation with difficult horses.
I moved my horses to a yard in Darwen and invited Becky to come and assess Nancy. I remember Becky's words as clear as day… lovely mare but ****ing hell she means it when she says no! We laugh now, (maybe) but Becky went through so many pairs of gloves it was untrue, and I ate dirt/sand a few times. 

She had learned the art of bogging off to a tee and there had to be some consequences. I remember one particular session, I was lunging her as I always did before any other work (by that I mean, Becky trains horses from the ground up.. everything they learn is from the ground so this helps both with their confidence and balance. A whole new skill set for me). Anyway, the little blighter turned her bum in and came at me with her back legs, bucking towards me… talk about attitude! My onlooker stated she should have been battered for that! Not my style frankly… I simply sent her straight into work. If she had the energy to do that she had the energy for her work!

Would things ever ease up?

Nancy began to understand that bogging off was not a solution, and it didn't make her life easier, it was made harder. So the sessions with her started to get a little easier. Now, don't get me wrong, she still had tendencies to be going round all nice, create a nice little security blanket, then poof, she was off! But, they didn't seem as violent. On with the long reining… 

The long reining really helped Nancy to begin to understand the contact from hand to mouth. Whereas, my time in Essex there was no contact at all, which of course in return gave no confidence to Nancy. But, at this stage she still wasn't safe to get on. And, the school was quite hard work to work in so I decided another move was needed.

I could say we were back to square one, but we weren't really. Although her education was improving she was still unpredictable, and unsafe to even think about getting on board. So, on this new yard the ground work continued. For one year.

Every day…

Becky was having problems with one of her own mares. We knew that something else was going on and Becky was introduced to a site called Calm Healthy Horses. Frankly, this site was the god send we needed. 

What was I even striving for?

Horses were not evolved to graze paddocks full of grass, they evolved to graze on branches and leaves, ink herbs, with very little grass. Throw in the crap they add to commercial feeds (just like dog & cat food, and of course our food) and you have a recipe for disaster! It's a fine balance for cells to function properly, and horses being flight animals, if their nervous system is compromised because they have too much potassium, or too much magnesium running through their bodies (or not enough) their flight instinct is heightened, making them dangerous! They also can become aggressive in the stable, even just being touched is uncomfortable for them.

It's been a long, frustrating journey getting to the bottom of Nancy's behavioural issues and if it wasn't for the help Becky, for both training and nutrition, I don't know where we would have been. Horses are a science, not for the faint hearted and shouldn't be entertained if you aren't prepared to learn. 
Problem is, most horses are submissive and put up with stuff, or resign to being bullied, thus people don't have to get to the bottom of a horses behaviour. Nancy fortunately wasn't that horse, she was sent to me to learn and grow. 

Once we started to understand this, I was able to make the necessary changes to her diet, and voila… I now had a riding horse!
You may wonder what I'm doing with my arms and hands… not long after Becky started to work with us, she began training with Phillipe Karl. And is a now fully qualified Ecole de Légèreté (School of Lightness) teacher/trainer. All what Becky was learning really simplified the education process for both me and Nancy. It was all slow work, helping her to learn balance and self-carriage, but at her own pace. With no gadgets restricting her in any way. She began to really enjoy her work, she was confident, non-spooky and a real pleasure to work with. My confidence was also growing.

Becky asked me to be her student for her exams with Phillipe, and I gladly accepted. We moved to a yard with an indoor and Nancy's behaviour returned. It was unfathomable. We looked at her diet again and took her completely off the grass. (All our PK horses were off the grass as Becky was fighting her own behavioural issues). Normality resumed and Nancy became a pleasure to work with again. 

We were really gaining ground, we were just starting to canter and my circumstances changed. I of course had Bronte, and a couple of years earlier I had bought a gelding whom I had taken pity on as he was again, a youngster who’s start had been torrid. He was a nervous boy and I wanted to help him, with what I had learned with Nancy I felt I could offer him a safe home. I had them all on part livery and I could no longer afford it. All that hard work, the progress made with Nancy and the gelding 'McGyver', was about to be lost. I found a field and turned them all out. There is more to this story, but it's too upsetting to talk about. A year after living out, I lost Bronte to colic. This was of course very upsetting. Those who have pets, know how hard is to lose them. It had been a difficult winter, and I felt I owed it to McGyver and Nancy to try and offer them better. I re-homed McGyver to a wonderful couple who to this day love and cherish him, and Nancy is back on a livery yard. Ridden work has not resumed, because the bogging off has. But not all the time. It depends on the grass. However, her unpredictability will not allow me to get on, so I stick with the in hand work. On the days that she is not 'grass affected'

For all of the ongoing ups and downs of our relationship I love her to pieces. I believe the ugly 4 year old was sent to me, to teach me a few things about good horsemanship, which I was then able to pass onto Bronte and Macgyver
Our time in Essex wasn't all bad, we entered a little in-hand class which we won. The judge stating how wonderful her trot was and we should do dressage… if only she knew haha…

Joanne GG Barrett

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