Australian Brumby Challenge ©
Day 1- We headed off early for the long awaited pick up of my Brumby. When we arrived I was excited to find out I had been drawn VBA Ember, a gorgeous little black mare caught out of the Bogong High Plains. The whole pick up process was so well organised, it couldn’t have gone smoother. We had a stock trailer which I feel was a good choice as it was open and bright and she had plenty of room to move around and get comfortable for the trip home. She travelled great and was very relaxed when she got off the trailer. I spent a little bit of time when we got home just standing in the round yard with her. She was happy to look at me but was not having any part of being my friend just yet. I let her be and called it a day.
Day 2- I again started with just standing in the round yard. She is a very curious horse, I have never had a horse that is so 110% focused on exactly what I'm doing all of the time. It was raining and her yard had turned to a complete mud bath. Having spent time in the USA I learnt how to use a rope. This was the method I chose to first catch her. I had done some basic work driving her around the round yard and having her face up to me. She picked this up straight away and always kept her attention on me. She was calm and relaxed and I roped her after my third throw (I'm ok at roping but not super good). Once the rope was around her neck she shot forward. I let her run with it until she decided that running wasn't all that fun. Once she stopped and settled I just let her stand for a while (a lot of horse training involves lots of standing and doing nothing!). Then we stood some more. And then a little more. Once she was totally unfased I began to pick up a bit of the slack and just started applying pressure, releasing every time she looked at me. Eventually it worked up to her taking a step towards me. That for me was a big step. I also began edging closer to her until I was right by her side. She was happy to sniff me but was very tentative in doing so. I eventually got to a point where I could rub on her, and she soon figured out that it felt good. She loved having her cheek scratched, but only on her off side. I could rub and pat her and pull on the rope on the off side but she wanted no part of me going to her near side. I was in no great rush so I just worked with what she was happy with. I had a rope halter which I turned inside out so it could be done up on the offside and although we had a few 'discussions' about whether or not something on her nose was a good idea, she eventually let me slip it on.
We then stood a bit longer. And then a bit more. By this stage she was quite happy being patted and me moving around (still no go on the near side though). Throughout this whole process she would have moments of what I would say where a combination of confusion/panic/stress? Maybe a little defiance? I had a few of my students present when I was with her and I made sure they knew that it's not always all smiles and rainbows. There were moments that she was trying at all costs to not be near me. I would just continue doing what I was doing until she gave me the response I was looking for and then stop. We both got pretty muddy but finished on a great note (haltered, rubbed and petted & relaxed) and ready for another day.
Day 3- very similar to day 2. I roped her and started moving her around the yard. A lot of progression from the day before, I could walk her round where ever I wanted. Then haltered and moved around again. This time we made it to the near side (after some convincing) and she figured out it wasn't so bad. I find she moves better from the rope around her neck than the actual halter. We spent some time taking the halter on and off and just generally moving around. A few of my team where busting to give her a pat as well so I introduced her to Tori & Starzie. She accepted them both like a champ and they were able to give her a few pats and scratches. We still had a few 'moments' which subsequently covered her in mud a bit more so once I got her leading better we decided to make the trip out of the outdoor round yard over to the indoor round yard (I have a round yard adjoining our indoor arena- I know, spoiled right?). She very tentatively followed me through a paddock, through a gravelled area, across the outdoor arena, down a little hill over a small drain and into the indoor (with only 2 'moments'!!). I was very pleased. So into the round yard she went, where we did some more standing. The inner showie came out in me and I decided to give her a bit of a brush and get rid of the dreadlocks. She is now quietly standing (in the very middle) of the round yard observing our lessons going on, kids buzzing around and horses coming and going.
Day 4- I didn't have as much time to work with Ember today as I had a lot of lessons on so in the afternoon I thought why not make the most of this busy environment I work in and let her come and stand in on a few lessons. I could not have asked for a better behaved horse. She was curious yet calm and between music, people in the grandstand, horses racing past and kids pretending they were horses jumping over jumps she took it all in her stride. She has now been patted by about 30 kids (maybe a slight exaggeration but there was definitely plenty of kids!) and has settled into 'school life' as we call it.
Day 5-. A lot of progression again today, Leading far more confidently, groom all over her body, walked into the wash bay and had her legs hosed off (I may have washed her tail also because it was a lump of mud-got my priorities in order can't you tell?). What a ripping horse she is.
A lot of what I am doing is to get her ready for what her future life will be. Due to her size and placid nature I would imagine she will end up being a kids horse. So I have to get her used to all the things kids want their pony to do. I'm just very fortunate I work in pony crazy kid central! In the evening we went for a walk around the property and I just let her stand and have a green pick of grass. She was a little nervous at first to eat while on the lead but soon settled and was munching away. She also came into the stable for the first time. As soon as she was in there she was happily eating hay from the feeder and looked like a seasoned show pony. There where horses, dogs, kids & plenty of loud noises going on and she never once panicked or seemed too fussed at all.
Day 6- So many awesome things happened today. I had one of my students help me with her training (Jess who is 13 years old). She had her trotting after her on the lead around the arena, walking over poles and over a white tarp. In the evening we were having a farewell party for my business with over 100 people in attendance. At the end we did a thank you for all our horses and I also brought Ember out in the front of the crowd. I asked everyone to clap very quietly, to which she was quite unfased. We then did a louder clap which startled her, but she still chose to stay close by me. One more big clap from the crowd, again she was a little startled but handled it amazingly well I thought. I could not be more impressed with how she handled herself in such an intense environment.Day 7- because of the intense-ness of this week she gets to hang out all day in the sunshine and eat grass. She has started eating chaff happily, still a bit dubious of the pellets but trying them. Had another good groom this morning and did some learning to tie up. She is so light off pressure that she figured out the whole tieing up deal very easily. I am loving every bit of this experience, she is truly a wonderful horse!