During my travels and work, I’ve met, ridden and trained hundreds of horses around the world. In this blog series I will go through some of the most impactful experiences I’ve had and lessons I’ve learned from the horses I’ve had the pleasure of working with. Read the first blog here, about my horse Bats and how she taught me to have insane amounts of patience and how to have a conversation with horses.
Listening to horses is also something I spoke about in my last blog in this series, about my Arabian mare Bats. Bats taught me to have a conversation with horses, but Pigeon is the first horse to teach me to listen more closely. Working with Pigeon was a challenging time, especially in the beginning. He was a wild pony in the mountains of the Drakensberg for almost his entire life, and they tried to break him in in the worst possible way. Like Bats, Pigeon never gave up on being heard and protested during the horrific breaking in process. He protested so much that they eventually gave up on him and released him again. This was his only experience with humans until I started working with him. Terrified and extremely aggressive, he was a unique and challenging horse to work with. During the first days, he taught me to listen to even the smallest movement. In one of our sessions, I managed to connect with him, and his ear turned towards me as he almost took a step in my direction. I could see that he wanted to move towards me from a slight tension in his shoulder and a minuscule shift in his weight. I immediately walked away, opened the round pen and set him free again. He quickly rewarded me for acknowledging his try, and made incredible progress in his training over the next few days. We are now at a point where he comes to greet me when he hears or sees me, I can cuddle him and touch him everywhere, and he genuinely trusts me and enjoys spending time with me. I am so glad I listened to that tiny shift in his weight three years ago, as it was the start of an incredible friendship with a unique horse.
Despite already knowing this, I did have the feeling that I really wanted to ride Pigeon, even though it was never a priority. He wasn’t backed like I said before, and he was untouchable during the first few sessions that I worked with him. I actually spotted him in a large herd of horses for the first time, and out of a hundred other horses I felt incredibly drawn to him from the first second I laid eyes on this pretty little gelding. Like I said before, he’s come a very long way in the past few years, and I can basically do everything with him, except ride. I’ve always loved spending time with horses, more so than actually riding horses. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love riding, but only if I have a genuine connection with the horse and if I can feel that they truly enjoy the riding too. I’ve sat and walked around on Pigeon quite a lot, and he’s had the saddle on a few times too. He always handled it like a champ, he trusted me, but I could feel he didn’t like the saddle at all. Pigeon didn’t have the same type of uncertainty with the saddle as other young horses sometimes have. With other young horses you can easily teach them that the saddle is a nice and positive thing that they learn to enjoy over time. Pigeon wasn’t scared of the saddle either, but he honestly looked devastated or even depressed when I put it on him the couple of times that I did. You could see and feel how traumatised he was and it physically hurt me to see him like this. That’s why eventually I made the decision to never back him "properly". He likes the bareback pad and feels safe in it, and he is always fine with me hopping on him when we’re out on a walk through the mountains, and that’s enough. I’m not quite sure how old he is, but he is not young anymore. He’s happy to hang out, it’s his favourite thing in the world, and it’s become mine too. Some horses are not meant to be ridden, and Pigeon happens to be my very own Spirit.
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