My crossbreed stallion Brisingr is now living the lush life of a young gelding in a mixed herd. I have been training him with positive reinforcement and intrinsic motivation by using targeting, clickertraining and a lot of simply spending time together. In this blog I`ll gladly share our journey so far.
I found Brisingr as an 11 month old ball of floof. He looked more like a sheep than a horse and being put up in a herd of warmblooded stallions twice his size did not help. His playfull
disposition made him a friend to all the horses. Luckily we were free to come and go to visit and visit I did. Spending many hours in the summerfields, just hanging out with him. This was the
basis for our relationship. He came up to me from the get go asking for scritches and cuddles and I never refused. I became a part of the herd of stallions and felt at home in the nature reserve
where they grazed. Every other visit or so, I brought something with me, a sheepskin, a saddle, a whip, rope, unicornhorn, photocamera, a bucket, rug or tarp. It was always to introduce it as a
toy, something to investigate and boy, the herd was investigative! I captured many of our adventures on video and they are available on my YouTube channel.
So these were pretty much the first three years our lives together, I drove between my house, work and my two horses in the weekends and my day off. Making the time we had together even more precious. My horse Blizz was already very used to clickertraining. I started late with him as I did not believe in clickertraining for horses. Silly old me. I discovered I was actually already using it with voicecommands and having the clicker made things more clear and easy. So with Brisingr I could start with a clean slate. Clicking whatever I liked and whatever he liked doing. Reinforcing calmness as I took walkes with him away from the herd. Confirming gorgeous movement and play and standing still as I put on a saddle or a rug. And using a target for him to boop and get a treat.
One particular thing I noticed was his unease when I would sit on the fence. None of the other horses shared his reluctance to approach, that was the key to getting him close enough to click and treat. After many sessions he was comfortable enough to turn his bum toward me. Something we had been doing in the field as he loved having his bum scratched, he still does! The treat was replaced by scratches till my fingers turned grey. He was now eager for me to sit on the fence. This sounds as a small thing. However, how could I ever mount a horse that was not okay with me being higher than him? Sitting on the fence I could now lean over on his bum and scritch his flanks. I even dared to rest a leg on him. He was also fine with having stuff on his back and over his head. All of this play and socialising was preparing us for the next step.
It was now time to transport him to our freshly bought farm where all the horses would be together, three mares, Blizz and my black stallion. And for that to be we had to have his balls taken of. He was a sweet and calm stallion, though his play got more rough he was friendly to humans. Part of me wanted to let him be a stallion, but I knew I would have a horse that would always be alone in a paddock, could not nuzzle another horse on an outing and would be driven by hormones. That realisation made it easier. He was gelded with 20 of his other stallion buddies in the winter paddock where he spend his youth. Everything went well. We moved the horses two weeks later and they became a mixed herd. The young horses were now ready to learn from the older ones as cars, motorcycles, tractors and lorry`s passed the field on a daily basis. Seeing the other horse not giving a darn made them traffic proof in a week.
If I remember well Brisingr was just over 3,5 years old when I first sat on him. It just kinda happened, unplanned, it felt right. And it felt fabulous to sit on his back. He had two or three wobbly goes but after that was solid and balanced. We were going on walks and hikes with auntie Twist. She also taught him to load and ride the trailer/horsebox as she learned from Blizz. It is a home away from home for them. On one of our outings we took a wooded path and at the end of the path I found a treetrunk and mounted him. No saddle, just his halter, like we practised in the field. We turned round and he followed Twisty back over the lovely path. Our first 'ride'. I was nothing more than a passenger and have felt like that ever since.
It is hard to believe that was only a year ago. Brisingr is 4.5 years old now. We are working on other ingredients we need to become a fullfleged horse and rider. He`s come so far already and then I realise other horses his age have 'earned' ribbons in competitions. This is so strange to me as I was planning to mount him when he was 5 or older. That happened so much sooner. He has had some time of now and then, hard for me to do, but so necessary. We are now starting to collect some scary moments, things happening outside his comfortzone. He has had his first big spook and scared the viking out of me! He will speak up more clearly about his emotions and hwo much more excitement he can handle and I have had to set some boundaries for him he cannot cross. Just little ones like not bumping into me or biting his older brother Blizz out of jealousy.
I am tempted to sum up a list of all the things he can do like a proud momma. But I won`t. I will point to my instagram and YouTube channel instead, where you can see for yourself and judge or admire (or both) on our relationship. I am so proud of the little black floofball and he makes me very very happy. I never thought I would find a horse that could fill Blizz` hoofprints. Now the old boy can truly enjoy his days as a pensioner.