Australian Brumby Challenge ©
Well where do I start?
This is the final update for the challenge and what an experience it has been. There have been highs and there have been lows, and I have learnt so much, both as a trainer but also on a personal level. Solo has been such an amazing teacher, and I’d like to think he’s learnt almost as much from me as I have from him.
Looking back at the first few weeks, I spent a lot of time watching Solo, working out how much pressure was ok and how much was too much. I remember feeling a little disillusioned when I wasn’t able to touch him even after a couple of weeks but after getting him comfortable with me being in his space, and teaching him to yield away and into pressure the first time he trusted me enough to accept my touch was so rewarding I can’t really find the words to properly describe the feeling I had!
It was pretty evident once he made the decision to start to trust me that he is a horse with a lot of pride and a lot of try. From the start he has constantly been looking for the right answer, and quickly forgave me the mistakes I made, sometimes after expressing quite clearly that the pressure I applied was too much at the time. His pride is one of the things I love most about him and everything I have done has been to nurture that pride without allowing it to make it a potential issue.
As the weeks went by, what I expected of him increased, and he rose to the challenges I set him when asking him to step out of his comfort zone. This started with leading and yielding to the pressure of the halter, desensitizing and sensitizing to different things that he hadn’t previously been exposed to like ropes, towels, blankets, obstacles, cars and the horse float and the more I got him out of the paddock the more curious and outgoing he became.
Our trust in each other was growing and I think the highlight of this journey was the day I was able to approach him in the paddock when he was lieing down and he stayed down and let me sit with him, talking to him and rub him all over. For a horse so recently wild and unhandled to stay in such a vulnerable position was just humbling!!
Solo’s first adventure off the property was to the beach with a couple of the other trainers and their brumbies and he was a superstar! He was the most hesitant to approach the water but being the dude he is was trusting and brave enough to be the first in and we had a good time playing in the water. At that stage I had done the pre-riding work but hadn’t backed him yet but thought he was ready so hopped on and had our first ride.
His ridden work progressed slowly as I wasn’t in a rush and am often working with the horses alone and didn’t want to ride without someone there but by his third ride we had smooth turns, soft responses to the forward aid and I couldn’t have been happier with how quickly he was picking things up!
He had a bit of a fright under saddle so we went back to the start to get his confidence back up, doing exercises from the fence, standing on mounting blocks and leaning over him without getting on and going for a walk along the beach with my dear friend riding her pony next to, in front of and behind us till Solo was relaxed about t all again and I was able to get back on and progress to trotting. All this was done without a bit and at a long rein so he learnt to control himself with me on board so I don’t have to.
It was at about this point in the journey that things turned a little sour for me with my back and I was forced to rest rest rest and rest some more! There were weeks at a time that I was struggling to walk so working with Solo was unfortunately out of the question so we pulled his rugs off and turned him out with a few of my established horses for a spell.
It ended up being a lot longer than I expected before I was able to increase my activity level and even longer before I was given the all clear to ride. When I started working with Solo again we went right back to the beginning and he hadn’t forgotten a thing, in fact the spell allowed things to set and he has come back better than I could have hoped!
That said I haven’t ridden him again as we are back to working on his confidence with me being above him and until he is relaxed about that I won’t ask him to carry me. What this spell also meant was that we weren’t able to work through the rest of the training plan I had in place and we didn’t make it to all the events I had planned to take him to in preparation for EQUITANA.
With all this in mind, I have made the heartbreaking decision to withdraw from the competition as I, with Colleens agreement, don’t believe it is in Solo’s best interests for his first experience at a public event to be one that is so busy and high energy.
So while Solo’s journey from Wild to Wonderful has had its bumps in the road, his story doesn’t end here, with him staying on with me to continue his training and exposure to this domestic world which is still so new to him in preparation for his future.
As for me, after experiencing how honest, sensible and trainable the Australian Brumbies are, I also plan to continue to work with them in the years to come to learn whatever they have to teach and to help manage and protect them in the wild for our future generations.