In last months article we introduced Katy’s new horse 'Olly' a rising eight year old and although Katy has noticed a few big differences between Olly and her older horse Apollo, things are going well.
Apollo is what Katy calls 'Bomb Proof' and Olly is most certainly not. Although Katy puts some of this down to the age difference between the two horses’ with Apollo being six years older and wiser, she is also very much aware that although age is a contributing factor to Apollo’s well behaved and relaxed manner that there is also a lot more to developing and training a horse to become a well mannered and confident riding partner.
Katy has owned Apollo for seven years and when she first got him he came as a big shock, especially after her very well mannered 14hh jumping pony – Apollo was going to prove to be her first real challenge. Apollo was bought from a very respectable producer and he did exactly what it said on the tin and when he arrived he certainly knew his job, he jumped amazingly well, this said it was everything else that was a problem.
Apollo really didn’t understand a great deal other than jumping, trying to simply turn him out was a challenge; he would just stand and stare at me and eventually just jump out of the field. Loading him was also a problem and when hacking out he stayed in shock mode. I was only fifteen when I bought Apollo and really didn't have a great deal of experience in handling a young unconfident and ill mannered horse. He would rear, buck, kick out and just stubbornly plant his feet.
At just fifteen years old I knew this behaviour had to change and decided that Apollo was going to do everything I wanted him to do. I went to the yard everyday and we did exactly that, yes it took time, patience and will power but I was determined that our journey together was going to be a complete partnership of trust and respect.
So when all my friends went on a hack across the moors - Apollo and I followed, when all my friends went for a day ride out at the beach – Apollo and I went too, when everyone decided to go Cross Country schooling – Apollo and I went too. Apollo didn’t like it at first and we had a few tantrums but I knew that perseverance would allow us to get through this together, I never fussed him or worried about him, I stayed calm and confident and continued to take him every where, ensuring he got used to all the different experiences and knowing that I would be part of all the new experiences with him.
It took a few months and eventually Apollo relaxed and learnt that the world outside of jumping wasn’t such a scary place after all. He soon became the horse that was "perfectly behaved”... "Well mannered" .with a “can do attitude”.
At the time of working with Apollo I’m sure I didn’t realize what I was doing. But looking back on that journey, I now realize that Apollo is the way he is now because of my approach and desire to want to be with him in all the environments I knew he would enjoy… once he overcame his fears. I now have a well mannered and confident “bomb proof" horse.
He has experienced so many different things since being with me that now a flapping plastic bag, a big truck or even a double decker bus just doesn’t phase him. Although we still haven't quite overcome our fears of pigeons flapping in hedges and bushes, but then I must admit that I am just as scared of those grey cooing birds as he is.
Apollo is now an amazing partner and he isn't the worried or anxious horse anymore and this really shows at competitions. A relaxed horse always performs better and gives a better jump, now when we are out competing he is able to simply focus on the job at hand.
I hadn’t quite realised how far Apollo had come until Olly arrived and I could see some of the old worries and concerns in him that Apollo arrived with all those years ago.
My plan for Olly is very similar to that I had with Apollo, he needs to experience so much more than he has done so far in his young life. Over the coming months we will work together in him gaining experience and confidence and hopefully I will have a relaxed, confident and focused horse for 2014. He is already proving to be a fabulous horse and I am really excited for 2014. We are still getting used to each other but hope to be out competing soon.
Developing a ‘bomb proof’ horse isn't easy and it takes time. But it is worth it.
Experiencing so much with your horse is really important and your horse begins to trust you and his environment he will achieve more and more each day.
Apollo is certainly a great example of this. He isn't perfect all the time but he is definitely relaxed and happy ….. A relaxed and happy horse performs so much better and is a joy to ride and have around the yard.
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