Chestnuts … Bad or Misunderstood?

In my herd I have three chestnuts Thoroughbreds … one gelding and two mares.  Two of the horses came from rescue situations and one from a family that purchased a mare to ride but was likely tranquilized during the trial rides and upon delivery.  Once the tranquilizer wore off she was a miserable, bucking mess.  I eventually traded them another horse to ride and took the mare off their hands as she became more horse than they were prepared to handle.

She likely had serious trailer trauma in her history as she has scars on her flanks and legs and the sight of a trailer made her apoplectic.  We began our journey from her current home to our farm with two sessions of 2 1/2 hours each at the back of my two horse, ramp load trailer.  This is the first mare I have experienced who was so afraid that she “squirted” and kicked violently when anything touched her hind end inside the trailer.  We got to the point where she would walk on and stand and quietly walk off.  I then asked her to walk into the trailer with the centre partition up and closed the ramp.  I thought we were OK until her bum touched the ramp … and she lost it … again.  I managed to drop the ramp and back her out again and devised a plan “B”.  I borrowed a three horse slant and removed all the partitions so it was a stock trailer and walked her on … put a flake of hay in the middle of the floor and stayed with her while my daughter drove us home.  My job was to keep her from touching any walls for the 45 minute ride.  She did great and we arrived home with no drama.

IMG_0006Daisy has been part of our herd now for several years and is a perfect lady for those I partner her with doing ground work.  Her work leading and lunging is very good and has become a great teacher to those learning horsemanship and doing leadership development workshops.  She is trustworthy and kind … even forgiving to those on the learning curve of discovering the language of the horse.  I find her pleasant … but quirky.  She is difficult to catch some days but enjoys the “catch me if you can” game very much when it is played with skill and sensitivity.

The reason I am blogging about her now is because it is time for her to re-visit the issue of being ridden.  I did ground work with her tonight in bridle and saddle.  I am sure this is the first time a saddle has been on her since I decided to bring her home.  It was important for her to just be a horse and decompress here with no training agenda.  The introduction of the saddle tonight made her quite anxious but we had no drama and she lunged well even with the stirrups down.  I am looking forward to seeing her overcome the demons in her mind and become a good partner both on the ground and under tack.

The principals Chris Irwin has taught me have served every horse I encounter very well.  Healing wounds of the mind and emotions takes patience and an approach that is not agenda based … but based on the health of the mind first.  This is why relaxation is at the very core of the work we do with horses.  A true partnership can not be forced.  Healing takes time and the journey there is rich if we are willing to stay in the moment with those under our care and who are looking to us for leadership and empathy.

Chestnuts teach me how to sensitive to the sensitive.  Chestnut mares teach me the value of encouragement for the small victories.  Chestnuts are not “bad” or “difficult” … they are the ones who call us to a deeper level of awareness of the small details … because they matter.

I love chestnuts.  I will keep you up to speed as the training goes forward.

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