Australian Brumby Challenge ©
This write up will be slightly different than usual. Instead of the normal day to day, I thought I would go back and relive Coolabahs journey.
When picking up Coolabah from Brumby Junction he was the horse in the yards that stood and watched, instead of acting flighty and running to the other side of the yard like most of the other brumbies. I heard a few comments from other trainers like “I hope I get that one” and “he seems nice and quiet”. Me on the other hand, I did a quick step past his yard and had my eyes on the more ‘skitty’ mares. Someone told me once told that a good horse is always quiet, but a quiet horse isn’t always good... and this old saying has stuck with me for years. So as I walked back past Coolabahs yard I has a little thought to myself “he is waaay too confident…I hope I don’t get that one…
I remember going to collect my folder that had all the info on horse I would be taking home, I flicked over the pages and saw the confident silver bay staring at me in the picture! VBA Coolabah.
He loaded onto the float like he just walked into a pub to order a beer. I got in my car and we started the journey back. As per usual with any horse, once we got back I put him in the holding yard and let him eat and drink as much as he wanted and let him take in the surroundings.
I want to go through a recap of how I started Coolabah…
I started with asking him to look at me and follow, this is all patience and timing, not chasing him around the yard. After all I want him to want to be with me, I don’t see chasing him as beneficial. This then leads into following me around the yard- making sure I click when I want his feet to start moving. This helps later on with leading. So a click means move your feet, and I do this until he understands.
I take the haltering process very seriously as there is nothing worse than a hard to halter horse. Like everything I do, I break it up into small steps making sure I can be in all the places I need to be when putting the halter on, then adding a rope and so long as the horse is comfortable, only then will I put the halter on. I then ask with very little pressure to move his head with the pressure from the halter.
Then comes the leading. When the halter and lead rope is on, leading is easy, he already knows how to move his feet and follow when I ask, and he already knows the feeling of pressure from the halter.
Then lots of brushing and rubbing down his legs, making sure I can touch his whole body, and ask him to pick his feet up for me.
I then used a saddle blanket and roller, when comfortable with each one separately I added them together.
Then the bareback pad, and lots of jumping and hopping on either side to prep for mounting.
Then the saddle, with stirrups tied up to feel the weight, and I’m always standing close to give him a hand if he needs it.
When he was ready, I put the saddle on and girthed it up. I always stand close and never put a saddle on and just let horses ‘buck it out’. When he was comfortable with that, I start doing some different exercises with him to get ready for mounting.
Next was teaching transitions from the ground using voice cues. Walk, trot, canter and stop until they are smooth and consistent.
Coolabah was a little nervous with me being above him, so I spent a bit more time on the mounting block and on the fence getting above him.
Next was the first ride, which is more a less just a sit and flex the head left and right. Because he knows the cue to walk and stop, the first ride was simple and easy. I always want a horse to be comfortable and confident in walk before trot, and the same in trot before canter. This process doesn’t have to be slow, just as soon as they are moving nicely and balanced I move on to the next gate. I feel it is more controlled this way and you get better results, without the sloppiness.
By the third ride we were out on a trail through the bush. Coolabah’s main fear was manmade objects, there is nothing that the bush can throw at him that will phase him one bit.
As time went on I started to realise how much I liked this horses attitude and spirit, and decided (drought permitting) that I would keep Coolabah.
The next portion of the training was all about being consistent with my cues and making sure I ask for certain things the same way, all the time. His transitions and gates improved with his fitness as he learnt to carry me better.
Sessions were mixed between ground work and ridden, hanging out and brushing, going out for walks and searching for green pick, and general exercise.
We have been on historical trails, pony club, gymkhanas, through town, tv interviews, vet visits and riding in some great arenas around the area. Exposure is very important for the domestication process.
The Brumby Challenge is just the start of these horses lives. It is crazy to think how hard it must be for these once wild and free horses to being brought in to domestic life with boundaries and rules.
My training is based on common sense. It is about gaining trust, for both the horse and me. How can I get on his back if I don’t trust him, and how can he let me up there if he doesn’t trust me? It is a partnership not a dictatorship, and I want my horse to work with me not for me. I’d rather a happy horse that takes a bit longer to get the moves perfect, than an unhappy horse that just looks fancy.
So that is just about it. There is ups and downs in training any horse and Coolabah was no exception. He is a very strong-minded horse with the ‘horse power’ to back it up. We have had our disagreements in his training but never an argument. Some would say if there is no reaction then you haven’t put enough pressure on them…well I’d say that’s a load of crap. If you go from 0 – 100 with the amount of pressure you put on an animal, it is very likely you will get a ‘bad’ reaction or explosion. I always build the pressure so as not to get an explosion. I don’t go past the amount of pressure that I want to use to ask the question, this way there doesn’t need to be the explosion. I adjust with every horse, as no 2 horses are the same…some similar, but not the same.
As I write this we are 2 days away from setting off on the long trip down to Melbourne, which we have decided to break up into 3 days travel so that Coolabah is not on the float for too long.
As you might already know… we did decide to keep Coolabah. I have become attached to this stocky little brumby who has continued to teach me more about my horsemanship and add to the never-ending lesson that is working with horses.
This is my second Australian Brumby Challenge and it was an honour to take part again.
You can keep following Coolabahs journey on my Facebook page Mick Masons Horses.
Of course, I would never have got this far if It wasn’t for my partner Kristen and sponsors for this challenge;
HYGAIN HORSE FEEDS. For feeding Coolabah throughout the challenge and supplying him with all the necessary equipment he needed. This feed is great! We have been using it for years before the challenge and it is an honour to be on TEAM HYGAIN. Check out Coolabahs transformation on my page. The correct diet is crucial to training horses and HYGAIN provided a complete diet with their top of the range feeds.
IMPERIAL HORSE FLOATS. I have waited till near the end of the challenge to talk about imperial as I wanted to give an honest opinion on what I thought as this is the first Imperial Float I have towed. I am VERY impressed with this float, honestly can’t fault it. I have had it on some pretty rough roads and terrains and it is great. I will be doing a full report on the float down at EQUITANA on my Facebook page so keep an eye out.
Braidwood Veterinary Surgery. Greg, Nic, and their team at the surgery came forward again to provide all the treatments for Coolabah. From head to toe they have looked after him to keep him in tip top condition.
It has been a pleasure and can’t wait to see people who have been following at EQUITANA In Melbourne.
Thanks again for reading