Dancer is a grey 16hh ID x TB, 16 years old. I bought her as a 6 year old whose history was largely unknown, but clearly quite pretty turbulent.
She has always enjoyed being around humans although it was clear from the day I got her home she had suffered psychologically and physically in the hands of those who she had come into contact with previously.
A loving and genuine character, she was highly stressed; keen to please but a natural worrier.
Physical pressure was something she simply couldn’t bear, and I learnt very quickly that attempting to manoeuvre her via a headcollar and lead didn’t work. I was just pulled off my feet as she flung her head around violently.
It took many years for her to begin to accept any kind of light pressure on her head without it causing massive emotional angst in her. I essentially re-backed her over those first few years, eventually re-introducing a bit.
The only bit she would happily accept was a Myler combination, however, looking back now, she wasn’t truly accepting it, she was just slightly happier with the fact it worked mostly off her nose and therefore a lack of movement of the metal inside her mouth. She was not carrying the bit, nor did she have confidence in it at all, quite the opposite in fact! She became overbent, behind the vertical as she attempted to suck back away from the weight of the rein in my hand.
Being a BHS Assistant Instructor, my experience prior had taught me that this was indeed the correct posture I was aiming for in a horse and so I believed I was truly moving in the right direction!
How wrong could I be!
All ticked over for a while until eventually the knock on effects of riding a horse behind the vertical began to become very apparent…tight, dipped back, damaged lumbar muscles, ears pinned, refusal to go forward, bunny hopping on the spot and general out of character behaviour.
I suppose it was at this point when our journey really began and picked up some significant speed.
I found bareback pads, treeless saddles and bitless bridles. All of which completely transformed Dancer over the following months as her body started to heal from the damage that riding behind the vertical had done. She has been ridden and trained bitless ever since.
I look back and I am so glad I listened to her thoughts and feelings, even though it did take me a while. Luckily, the damage which had occurred to her body was reversible to some degree, although she now has advanced ringbone and I don’t know how much of that is as a result of those days and training methods.
They were tough times! Turning away from those I trusted and looked up to, who I truly believed at that point in time had more understanding of horses than I did, learning to ignore their advice of getting after her because “she is taking the mickey out of you”.
Instead, I began to listen to my horse for the first time – really listen. And then go in search of answers and solutions which would help her.
Tradition often has its limitations because it can be closed to new knowledge, new research, new learning.
Since being guided by Dancer I have been on an endless journey of research, study and training. For more information on my specific experience, click on the ‘Experience’ tab at the top of this page.
At the time of writing this post, Dancer has been diagnosed with chronic ringbone in her right pastern joint. So many trainers out there would have written her off and moved on to another horse when receiving this diagnosis. Strangely, it’s actually been the process of training correct balance which has brought her sound, at the ripe age of 16 with chronic ringbone!
Also at the time of writing this, she and I are firmly within the realms of Clicker Training. We have been training with the Clicker for about 4 years now both in hand and under saddle. Just over a year ago, I found Alexandra Kurland and her Equine Clicker Training and have been following her work with wonderful results.
The balance and posture which are slowly forming in my horse continue to blow me away on a daily basis. :0)