In the story of... series we tell you the full trainings story of a horse. We try to give a lot of detail on their past, their issues and their character. We talk you through the full journey we have gone through with them and what the results are, and where they are today, We hope these stories will inspire you, and give you a better view in how we train horses here on the ranch. Feel free to shoot us a message if you have questions on these stories or if you'd like to know more about the things we've worked on with this horse. We love to connect
I think all horses that I get to work with teach you something, and I feel you grow as a horse trainer with every horse you get to work with. Working with Frodo reminded me of such an important lesson when you are training horses: A horse can not feel safe if he does not see you as their leader.
Frodo was treated very harshly in the past, he was ridden so badly that his tongue was actually cut open. He still has a deep scar on his tongue that shows his past. Of course he is traumatized by this, and would freak out if you would try to ride him. I needed to gain his trust again.
As always we start with the ground work, he was super nervous and jumpy about everything. Always felt like he had to be on high alert, he did not see people as something he could trusts. He needed to see me as a leader who he can trust and respect, so he did not feel he had to be on high alert all the time. It started with a lot of round pen work. Him being loose, and just "playing" around. Here I could show him that I can be a leader he does not need to fear. He responded quite nice to this, and started to relax fast. The interesting thing of Frodo is that he goes from nervous and jumpy to pushy and full of him self quite fast. So yes I had to show him that he can trust me and follow me but it was so important to also show him that every time he tries to test me by being a bit pushy (bending into me, crossing my lines while following me, leaning into me, etc) I noticed it and corrected it. And as I kept correcting all the little things he started to calm down more and more, he started to pay attention to me instead of his environment.
Once we had established this in the round pen it was time to confront his trauma's with feeling more contact. I needed to show him that I would not pull on his face as he associated that with pain. Instead of pulling him where to go, I’m only blocking where not to go. We started with a lot of in hand work, every time he would get nervous about the contact and wanted to rush off I just showed him my response was not to pull. I would simply push his hind end away and ask for a turn on the forehand. After a bit of time he realized that contact was not to be feared, it was there to help him. Now this was easier to show him with in hand work because he does not associate this too much with the pain, as the trauma he had was done while someone was riding him. So I knew that even though this was a big step, we still had to take it slow for him to be okay with me riding him.
I started with keeping him calm in a nice frame while being around the mounting block. I showed him that instead of stress when he thinks someone is going to get on he can actually feel good while standing still by the mounting block. After a while he was completely calm and stayed in contact in a nice frame while he was standing next to the mounting block, and while I put my foot in the stirrup and almost got one. This is when I knew he was ready for me to get on. I knew the trust was there, and we build up such a good connection that I knew he would look at me when he would feel uncomfortable. And that is so important.
I was convinced the riding would bring up some stress again, but what we needed is that he would look at me when he is starting to feel stressed. Because of all the groundwork I knew that we had this connection so it was the perfect time. He stayed calm with me getting on, it was when I asked for forward that he started to stress a bit. But I asked for a turn on forehand, and showed him I use my body to ride him not just the reins. He calmed down quite fast and showed me that our groundwork paid off we had a fantastic first ride. And after that fantastic first ride we had so much more fantastic rides this past summer. After he felt that riding was not causing him stress but made him feel good he loved it. He has such a good mind, and made so much progress in a short time. At the end of the summer he was going nicely in walk trot and canter. And had beautiful transitions. We started working on lateral movements and he was picking it all up like it was nothing. This is when I decided to stop for the season and give him a very well deserved break. I can’t wait until next spring when it's time to start him up again. I will definitely share more updates about him and his journey here.
We are not riding Frodo with a bit. And will never put a bit back in his mouth. He still has scarring on his tongue and we don't know what a bit would do that, so we would never feel comfortable trying that out. We choose a bosal for him, we've tried different options and this he responded the best to.