Written by Jenny Barnes with comments from Mark Langley.
John’s mare has been with us since late last week. She was reasonably quick and confident to face Mark. There are only 2 angle’s that she likes – running away from him and facing him. She is very nervous and protective of both of her sides.
Mark had got her to the stage where she could accept rope pressure and come off it; lead; and Mark could rub her on the front of her face; her forehead; and the sides of her face until her shoulder. But she is still uncomfortable with him there.
So now Mark has decided to use my “pony horse”, Henry, to get up close to her. They had already been yarded together and got on well and Henry is a seasoned pony horse. Mark wanted to try to get her softer and responding better on the lead. He also wanted to get her to the stage where she would accept him much more – to a point where he could smother her whilst she remained relaxed.
As you will now see, Mark starts leading her and sometimes she would let him in, sometimes she would duck away again, and Henry had to be patient as Mark worked her again.
Then, all of a sudden, she went again – lunging forward and often up. Mark had to make sure he always had Henry and his rope in the right position. “During the lessons, she showed an ability that she could be quite soft and supple to my rope but under certain pressure, or changes of pressure, she could be quite reactive and brace. I really have to work on taking that trapped feeling from her mind.”
Calm again. She just needs to stand still so Mark can touch her. Will she let him?
Mark is careful to work her on both sides, so Henry has to be able to move easily around the rope – and often under the rope to make it easier for Mark to do this. (How good is Henry?!) “She still had quite a lot of trouble accepting Henry and I beside her.”
Mark gets a little closer…
Next, Mark introduces a stick with a bit of material on the end – his flag stick. It’s just enough to be visual with a soft feel and light enough for Mark to place where he wants it. It maintains contact when she moves. She doesn’t like it at first…
…Then she gets better. “It wasn’t long before I was able to rub her all over with the flag stick.”
But all of a sudden she was off again, ducking under the rope and spinning back on herself. This mare can move – the round yard Mark is working in has rails that are about 1.4m high – she’s jumping sideways here and clearing the rails! Mark is quick to let the rope go here – it wrapped over her head as she spun and he doesn’t want it to hurt her at all.
He catches the rope, and settles her down. And now Mark wants her to calm as much as possible again.
Time to try that physical touch…”By the end of the lesson I could only just rub her with my hand across her back to her hip for a brief moment before she would move. To me though, that was a good change.”
And to end on a good note. “At the end, she followed softly on a lead out through all the yards, happy to travel at my speed, without looking for a way out. She seemed to have lost the brace that she had at the start of the lesson.”