I have worked with many types and breeds of
horses over the years, from Riding School ponies to Polo Ponies
and Arab horses, and have seen ( and used) many different methods of breaking
and schooling. I always had a reputation for working with 'difficult' or
There are very few genuine problem horses, only those who are trying to tell us
something which we are not 'listening'
to. I have also done extensive reading on various methods of 'natural'
horsemanship, and over many years have
devised methods that work for me (and more importantly, for the horses that I
Having switched from the world of large equines to that of the minis, I have
found that, not only do they have all of
the inherent 'problems' that come with equines, but also several of their own
that are exclusive to minis. To this end
I am now offering this knowledge to all or any of our owners who wish to use it,
and it has already produced results
with some of our liveries that far exceeded the owner's expectations. Comments
have often been passed to us in the past about how well behaved our horses were
at shows (generally!) and how did we achieve this. First and foremost
the horse has to respect and trust YOU as his or her herd leader.
Many problems with minis come from them being able to secure the dominant
position over their owners (often
without the owner even realising). The 'ahh' factor involved with the miniature
horse often produces a badly adjusted individual who is not sure just what
position he or she holds in the scheme of things.
Working with youngsters has always been a passion of mine as there is no greater
feeling of satisfaction than
that of producing your own animal to the best of your (and his or her)
To this end I am going to use this page this year to show the working of two
fillies that arrived here in March as
totally unhandled yearlings.
Ancaster Maybe Baby ...
.....and Ancaster Neyla
Both fillies had a good start
in life, born in to a herd situation where they were able to learn their
from their dams, as well as the other mares in the herd. A big move (from
Sussex to Wales) meant that they were
left with their mothers until the spring of this year. This was a wise
decision on the part of their owner as it made the moving and settling in
process much less traumatic for them.
Minis are still horses, and as such require all of the same things in their
social order as a large equine does.
They were weaned as a group with all of the other foals, and allowed to live
together in a large barn, until they
had got used to people coming and going (and being the providers of food!)
That is where we came in. We
collected Baby and Neyla as totally unhandled (never even having been
haltered) and brought them back here to
start their education.
Firstly they were introduced
to our 'herd' of
youngsters. Photo to the left shows Baby asking
to be friends with one of the two year old fillies
...... and being firmly told, "NO!"
- but being allowed to scratch with a filly of
her own age.
Being allowed to approach the
group ... (you can see Baby on the far right)
By introducing the two fillies together
their 'culture' shock was not so great as they always had each other to
to whilst being given the ' new girl' treatment by the rest of the herd.
They were given two weeks to settle and get used to the general yard
routine, i.e. knowing when to come to be fed,
and learning ( by example from the others) that we were not ' monsters' to
be feared. After this time they were
allowed to come on to the lawn in front of the stables to be fed for a few
days, and allowed to explore the stables
with no interference from us, until they were happily going in and out by
Haltering was not as traumatic as I feared it might be. One at a time they
were allowed to enter a stable and then I followed them with food in hand.
By looping the headcollar over my wrist and encouraging them to take the
was able to slip the headcollar on and do it up before they had even
realised what had happened! No grabbing,
hanging on around necks (whist someone else tried to get a headcollar on),
no shouting or crashing about. As
soon as the headcollar was on they were allowed to go free again. We do not
leave headcollars on in the field as a matter of course, to cut down the
risk of accidents, but in the case of these two fillies it was necessary in
for them to get used to the idea of wearing one in their own time.
Once the two fillies were settled in to the herd and had found their places
(a process which, from observation,
takes approximately two weeks ) I was able to start working with them.
As they had become 'herd' animals they naturally followed the day to day
behaviours of our group, i.e. coming to
be fed at regular times, and as they were, naturally, low in the
'pecking' order they were happy to come in to
a more enclosed space to be fed, away from the normal feed time free for all
! This meant that after a few more
days we had established 'their' routine within the routine of the herd.
Once they were used to us being providers of
food, I was able to approach them and gradually become part of 'their'
As shown in the photo to the left, always go down to their level at first,
humans are very scary monsters to minis that have had very little to do with
them before !
Headcollars were introduced, and left on for a while in order to give me
something to catch hold of once I had approached them. (We do not normally
on our horses when they are out as there is always a risk
of them getting caught up).
As you can see from the photos
below Neyla has proved a very apt pupil. Baby has learned all of the same
basic lessons and both will now stand, come forward or move back, turn on
the haunches in either direction and walk
& trot with a totally slack rope (in Neyla's case she doesn't need a rope at
Using the pressure & release system in order to
teach Neyla about the headcollar and leadrope.
(If I pull back it is uncomfortable)
If I come forward, the pressure is gone!
Neyla learning to back up without any halter
pressure or pulling.
Now backing up with hand signals only
(note rope is completely slack )
Learning to walk on with no halter pressure
' Aren't I a clever girl ? Ground tied.
(Note she is completely focused on me even
though I am a short distance away, yet totally
relaxed with one hindleg dropped.)
Look, no headcollar ! (Again note she has her
ear focused on me all the time but is still relaxed.)
Neyla is now learning to walk and
halt without the
use of any type of lead rein, and I will continue to
work with her (as we have developed a very close
bond) to see how far we can go.
Keep re-visiting the page to see how she
progresses as we will update regularly
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