At the end of last year an unexpected addition joined the herd in the form of Richie. Richie is an 8 year old Irish Sport Horse with some Belgium warmblood. He is 16.3hh with lovely big round hooves, wide chest and deceitfully short in his back. Richie is a sweet natured gelding that is easy to handle and very friendly. He is very food orientated which should help with any training undertaken. Richie is a lovely individual to be around.
So the big question is how Richie came to join the herd? Richie was on a hunt yard but showed signs of not coping, this was in the form of ditching riders by putting the brakes on and dropping the shoulder. He also did this in schools. As far as I know Richie had done some showjumping in Ireland and possibly hunting before coming over to England to hunt. Richie was given a last chance at the hunt yard but started to show signs of not coping again. As a result he was sent back to his owner. Due to a number of circumstances Richie came to join the herd.
So the plan was to take things slow with Richie, allow him to settle into herd life. He had already had a couple of months off with his owner but I felt the extra time would allow Richie to open up, relax and be a horse.
It was planned in the new year (2 months time), that ground work would be started. With very basic in hand work such as walking, poles, walking backwards, stepping under with hind quarters, core exercises (belly lifts, pelvic tucks) and stretching. Lunging would be introduced gradually starting with walking and then introducing small amounts of trot and eventually canter over 6 weeks. During this time Richie would be measured and fitted for a saddle to then start ridden work. Ridden work would start very basic with walking for 5 min and then gradually adding small amounts of trot and pole work. This is when the plan hugely depends on how Richie is responding and will be reviewed at this point.
How the Plan has gone so far
As everyone knows things do not always go to plan when working with horses, however Richie has shown he wants to be doing something. I came to this conclusion due to a number of things. Richie was very interested in the work the other horses were doing. He got to the point that he would come and join in by jumping out of his paddock. When I did start basic ground work he was very engaged to the point that when I took him back to his paddock he still wanted to continue. As a result the original plan was implemented a month earlier than planned. Ground work went well and lunging was introduced however it soon came apparent that Richie was very good on one rein but was very confused as to what he is meant to do on the other. So far Richie has shown that he is highly engaged but there are moments that he doesn’t know what is being asked of him. The fact that we don’t have a fixed timescale to get Richie to being a regular hacked, schooled or jumped horse means that we can give him the time to process things and understand what we are asking of him.
One of the key elements I want to work with Richie on is trust. I want to build a bond that allows him to trust me and for him to want to look after his rider. I am trying to create an environment were he can express his emotions without repercussions or having to fit in with a timetable. In a hope that we can take the stress response away. The main problem with Richie is that we don’t know what triggered his previous behaviour. We don’t know whether there was something specific that caused him to offload his rider or whether it was an accumulation of stress due to not being able to cope with his job. As a result I have stripped things right back to be as natural an environment as possible. He is turned out 24/7 with a small mixed herd. He is not clipped and is barefoot. He is handled every day but in a manner that is not demanding anything of him. He does get hard feed twice a day as do other herd members and hayed morning and evening. The herd have free range of about 8 acres. I regularly watch how the herd interacts and Richie plays with the others, participates in mutual grooming and communally sleeps when the others do. Richie regularly lies down to sleep. Richie also likes to watch over the two foals that have recently joined the herd and are currently in an adjoining paddock.
Watch this space for future updates on Richie’s progress.