Robin, a 14hh Palomino Mare who is on the yard to be broken.
With Robin, she’s very intelligent but also naturally spooky. She can embrace some things with a level head but her natural way is to shy away. When I got Robin at first, it was important to be able to build trust with her. Building trust made her feel safe and in turn, she looked at me for comfort when she was unsure rather than embracing her natural instinct and running away.
Every step of the breaking process should set in stone that the horse is both happy and comfortable during each phase. Breaking a horse is our chance to establish work ethic and a bond with the horse. In breaking a horse, we are teaching the language of communication through the voice and aids. It’s important to keep the horse as happy as possible in each phase and not dramatise any issues that may occur. Like children, horses will remember the negatives and if we allow negatives to be established in our work.
In the breaking process we should be able to refer to the German Training Scale and teach the horse according to that. Rhythm, relaxation and contact.
This is a horse who is sensitive. Each step of the way she is made comfortable and happy before moving to the next. In doing so, we minimise the risk of bucking and tension in the following steps.
We don’t have to expect horses to buck and plunge through this process. It can happen without that behaviour. Robin, a 14hh Palomino Mare hasn’t tried it at all.
I wasn’t made aware of the quality work the owner had done with Robin and as a result the start of the breaking process was slow. I had to revisit basic concepts to a young horse such as long-reigning and steering. She wasn’t desensitised nor was she quite happy with tack.
Over the weeks Robin had progressed, albeit slowly. I was happy with her progression and her eager mindset to please.
Robin began showing signs of discomfort in her riding – largely through tension. She got harder to catch from the field. Tack checks showed no sign of pressure and changing saddles and tack didn’t help matters. It progressed to pinning her ears back and bucking. It was clearly pain and not her natural instinct to act this way.
I had no other choice but to inform the owner of this, and I decided it was against my beliefs in horsemanship and against the good nature of Robin to continue working with her.
Robin shows that sometimes you just have to do what’s best for the horse.