Continued from part one…
We broke down problems into tiny parts and solved them one at a time and spent months breaking the associations Toffee already had with her tack for new good ones. That first year was a horror of diving into hedges, going sideways, dodging bites and waving legs.
Toffee hated being ‘told’ what do and her immediate answer was ‘No’. Because I was constantly telling her everything, I was constantly being told ‘No’. I had an intelligent young lady that would help me if I only let her so we taught her some jobs, such as positioning for mounting, backing up at gates, stopping at junctions etc. She oversaw them and was responsible for doing them without me asking. As long as she was doing her job, there was no input from me other than reward, and she bloomed.
We worked with Toffee mostly in a pressure / release halter with an 8’ lead, which suited her beautifully. It took some courage but I had a go riding her in it too, believing that I was mad to ride this young horse down the road without ‘proper’ equipment.
I threw her bridle and bit away.
We taught her to follow a bicycle, and when she got stuck, she would follow my other half on the bike, while I rode along behind. Eventually she was happy to lead and the bike was phased out.
The groundwork went on and on, and we got regular lessons to build up our confidence, we found that anything Toffee had no previous experience with she would accept like mana from heaven.
We harnessed the shire in her and encouraged it forward, she understood the concept of making deliveries (she is super intelligent) and would fetch and carry grain, logs, trees, feed, either on her back or pulling behind. This gave her confidence to try in other areas where before she saw only conflict. It helped that she realised that there was a sticky bun in it for her if she poked her muzzle through the windows as she passed.
We swapped and changed tack finding what worked and we now use a crazy combination of traditional, western, and plain old made up stuff – just like our training methods! We have an English 50’s collar, hames and tree, a western draught saddle and an invented hybrid bosal / sidepull bridle, with English braid reins…
I found the Mane Show (online showing) and used the ideas in the schedule to try out new things and get ideas from the other entrants! We had a go at a lot of different things that we wouldn’t normally do, I completely forgot about being concerned over the horse and we ended up enjoying ourselves.
We made videos, tried jumping, dressage, side saddle, and the more new things we did, the more Toffee looked forward to working. I now have a go-to horse full of her own opinions, who is absolutely not afraid to tell me what she feels, and I am absolutely not afraid to let her. We can then work things out together and get the job done. I cannot stress enough that she is not a dope on a rope, but a switched-on member of a team who will offer solutions (and cheek) when we have a job on.
We may not be traditionally successful, we are not fast, showy, big jumpers or elegant movers, but as my other half pointed out, all our prizes have been awarded where she and I are being ourselves, doing our thing and being honest about it.
Just in case you are interested, Emma and Toffee use the techniques in these books all the time…