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Australian Brumby Challenge ©

Rachel and Maximus - Week 21

Wow the time has come for our last Brumby challenge update before the final at Equitana next week.  What a wonderful journey it has been this past five months having the honour to change the future of a once very wild, 10yro lead stallion from the Kosciuszko Mountain, Maximus.

I thought it might be nice to take you back to the beginning of this journey so we can all really appreciate what horses can offer us when we present a picture to them that has a combination of Love, Language and Leadership in equal doses in their every day development plan to go from wild to wonderful in less than 150 days J

The journey for Max and I didn’t start until about 3 and half weeks after everyone else had started with their Brumbies due to my prior work commitments overseas however I did have a fellow work colleague and friend go pick Max up and take him home to where he was able to settle in and start on some good feed.

I can remember it like yesterday when I first got home from the UK and went over to where Max was in the yard and looked in to see this small, very hairy and sceptical Brumby in the corner just slightly looking at me.  He noticed me from a very far distance and was already thinking how do I leave.  I could see that he was very unsure and would move his feet to find relieve from the pressure of my presence.  When I got him into a smaller area that didn’t allow for him to run around so much I could see the change in his prey animal instincts from ‘flight’ to ‘fight’.  His self preservation was so incredibly high and I knew right from then that this horse was going to dictate the time line in which our partnership would develop and I knew that the margin of error with such a sensitive and highly perceptive horse was very small.

You could see how easy it would be to tip Max over the edge in the first month or so in developing him, too much pressure and trying to make him turn loose would never work.  He was the type of horse that would fight till the end out of fear and so I never caused him to get that worried or reactive when I was in his presence.  You only have to look at all the amazing battle scars he has to know that this horse had one very interesting past and was still on this earth for a reason and so it was my job to not cause him to have to go to that place again.  I have seen many trainers over the years say how wild or crazy the horse is but often more times than not this is the case because us humans drive our horse to that point of being so fearful, reactive and defensive that they are only doing what they feel is necessary to be safe.  The true test is to tame and develop a horse as though it looks easy, in way that the horse can learn and become more trusting of the human.   When you see this done right know you are in the presence of a true horseman with amazing feel and timing for reading the nature of the horse.  I am by no means at this point but I do work very hard at continually developing my understanding of their nature and how to set them up to feel safe and successful in each session we have together.  I am very thankful for having such a strong willed horse like Max as he really caused me to dig deeper into not only understanding but using psychology to develop him which in turn has meant I now have one amazing little horse to show for it.

As the days and weeks rolled on by it was a slow and repetitive process I went through to first gain Max’s trust and confidence through the taming process of accepting the human before ever going to start him under saddle.  I knew from my previous time in a challenge like this that the foundation and start is the most important to the successful future of these horses and so there were many days that felt like I made little to no progress but when time keeps going on by then you start to be able to touch them all over, have a rug and saddle blanket on and build that trust so then it just seems like it happened overnight (even though it didn’tJ)

I knew for this horse the most important thing was the relationship, Max had to know that I wasn’t going to make him do anything that would jeopardise his safety and I needed him to trust in the things I was asking of him so therefore it took several weeks before he accepted me on his back to have our first ride bareback in the arena.  It was an amazing session as the preparation had taken much more time than most horses but once I felt him turn loose and walk off with me aboard I knew this was the turning point I had been working so patiently for.

From here I’m not saying it was easy sailing but it was a change that then allowed me to go on with saddling him and having our first rides under saddle and pretty soon we were off out into the paddock riding all around the farm.  Max’s confidence and desire to learn started to grow each day which meant I was able to start putting more time into him getting connected on riding freestyle patterns out in the paddock and riding in new environments with trail rides out and about.

The connection that started to form between Max and I was incredible, he had no desire to bond with other horses instead every time I came to his paddock or the stable yard he would continually nicker at me until I came over to be with him.  I was so impressed by this horses desire to want to be with me after having such a slow start and myself thinking, will this horse ever trust a human, and here he is now calling out for me every time I am nearby.  

Our riding sessions started to become more fun and engaging for us both a couple months in, playing more with different obstacles and starting to get some great rhythm and relaxation in all gaits was just amazing.  His movement is really lovely and he is the type of horse that covers a lot of ground considering he is only a bit over 14hh.

Once I knew I had Max at a safe and confident place in his development he was then my partner for every horsemanship clinic and work shop I taught around the county.  So it was pack up and hit the road for some wonderful adventures over three states.  Max has now travelled over 3,500 km’s with me going all the way to SA, many trips around VIC and also travelled up to Sydney just a couple weeks back.  You could say he is a pretty awesome traveller and just takes it all in his stride now.  Everywhere we went it was a positive experience for him and the huge amount of development he obtained from these trips is something you cannot emulate at home so I was very fortunate to take him with me on every trip.  We have ridden in several indoor areas, been to local shows and experienced being in front of over hundred people helping to build his confidence with crowds.  For a horse that has had less than 100 sessions of development with me I am so thrilled and excited for what this beautiful horse has offered in such a short time frame and continually does in every session.  He has a strong character that is one that would not suit everyone but for me he was the perfect partner to be on this journey together.

I am so excited to be showcasing Max at Equitana next week and no matter what our results we get I know that over all I have won the heart and desire of this horse to now be the perfect partner for a human.  This connection is something you can’t fake in your horsemanship as it stands out to just about anyone who has ever been around horses, my desire is for this to shine through at the final for everyone to see. 

Make sure you come over and say hi to both Max and I during the four days at Equitana, we are excited to get to know everyone who has been following our journey this past 150 days J


go to rachel's  week 18

Go to Rachel and Maximus' Page