Saturday, March 19, 2011

Day 70

Today we went for another trail excursion with Becky and Col.  I put the saddle on Little Love, because I thought I could use it while trotting up hill with her (to hold on to).  I used to be a vaulter and this saddle has sort of a "handle" in the center (it's a Barefoot dressage saddle) which I was hoping to use as a "crutch" in the trot.  Little Love was not happy to get the saddle on her back, in fact, she threatened to bite me three times.  That was a clear message.  She hates the saddle (= she hates riding?)  Of course we were in the stall and usually whatever you do in the stall doesn't make her happy.  Again another subject to understand... why is the stall different than say outside (not tied)?  When I first met her years ago, she would threaten to kick or bite anyone who dared enter the stall.  You always had to halter her first thing, for your own safety. 

Anyways, I was fairly set on putting the saddle on since I wanted to try trotting with her more than before and running beside her uphill is challenging.  My plan worked!  When we started trotting, I positioned myself next to her and grabbed the center of the saddle with my right hand, using it as a support.  This enabled me to keep up with her with no problem, even thought we were REALLY trotting (she has a huge stride).  At first she sort of looked back at me with confusion, and a bit scared, too, but then seemed to accept me jogging so close to her (our sides were touching - another thing she is not so keen on...).  One time I lost the rhythm and that was hard, but once I picked it up again, it was alright and we went flying up the hill.  I was still out of breath at the top, but at least I was able to keep up! 

Eventually I got on her for a short period of time to get over a very muddy field, but other than that it was 45 minutes of walking (and running) beside her.  When I was on her, she walked a bit slower and I'm wondering if she could feel the extra weight in her feet.  Probably.  I'm not sure what I'm doing with the riding bit, if I'm riding or not riding her ever again, but at the moment I'm sort of going with the flow.  Which seems to be less riding and more trekking in hand.

It was raining on and off, but Becky wanted to practice trailering Col.  He hasn't been in the trailer since she drove him over from England, which was a long haul.  Col usually just walks into the trailer, but this time he decided it wasn't a good idea.  It didn't help that Little Love was calling to him frantically from her stall.  After about ten minutes of kind negotiation, he finally walked into the box.  At that point Becky asked me if I wanted to try Little Love, too, since Col was already in and eating hay without a worry in the world.  Sure, why not.  I had already decided that whatever happened, I was not going to put ANY pressure on Little Love, it would have to be her own decision to go into the trailer.  If she followed me in, fine, but if not, then that was fine, too. 

We walked up to the trailer and she actually looked interested in going in.  Obviously the fact that Col was in there was a big insentive.  She walked up the ramp and stuck her head in.  We stood there for a while, then she back down again.  Then she walked up again.  She did this about five times.  The whole time the lead rope was either loose or on her neck.  Finally, since it was raining, I told Becky to go for her drive with Col.  I took Little Love back to her stall.  She entered willingly, but called out to Col who was screaming back at her as the trailer drove out of the gate and down the driveway. 

I was happy about how she had approached the trailer, with an open mind.  It is just too much for her to think of being a small space such as the half trailer.  Becky will hook up the trailer again on Tuesday and we have another opportunity to get comfortble with it.  I definitely need to work on this A LOT.  I also have to brainstorm about building something else Little Love could enter, like a tight space similar to the trailer.  I would like to help her get over this fear of confined spaces she has, it would make her life a lot easier in the long run.  I know that certain memories cannot be erased, but perhaps we could learn to live with them?

Col was gone for thirty minutes and Little Love was definitely on the edge the entire time.  She did eat the hay I gave her though (So she wasn't that nervous) but kept a close eye on me as I went around the barn cleaning up and prepping food etc.  The one time I walked out of there, she stopped eating and was waiting for me to return, head up, all her senses alert.  It's not easy to be a horse.  Not that it's easy to be human either :-)


  1. Love hearing each day's new experiences with you and Little Love. I can really feel Little Love's processing as she makes her choices and works some of her ingrained fears out. It's amazing to watch this journey. I wonder if very bad things happened to Lilo in small tight spaces in her former life...?

  2. I don't know exactly what happened to make her so afraid of trailers (or confinement) Her previous owner told me that at 4 year old, she was in Germany (where she was born). They had her bred at that young age, most likely as an attempt to "calm her" personality. Had her baby at 5 after which she was sent to a sales barn in Belgium, after which she was sent to a sales barn in France, after which she was sent to a sales barn in Switzerland where she arrived at the age of 6. During that year, she had 16 people take her home and "try her" in hopes of buying her. By the time this Swiss lady bought her, she was already a difficult loader (difficult was her middle name). The lady told me that her trainer "beat her into the trailer" at several occasion. And who knows what happened to her before that. All I know is that when I started working with her a few years ago, I could not walk her between two poles that were ON THE GROUND. She would freak and try to break loose. She has come a long way from those days...

  3. Hi Katariina, I have been enjoying reading your blog. Some posts have been thought-provoking, and I think it's good for me to examine my own actions.

    I have wondered how you reached the point you did... it is very lucky for Little Love that you are the patient, kind and open-minded 'guardian' that you are (it is odd to say 'owner'). Was it purely your experience with her and other horses? Have you been inspired by any trainers, etc? And what do you think of Nevzerov, Lorenzo, Donald Newe, etc?

    I also thought you might be interested in a book that I have been reading. It's about equine personality. I'm not offended if you are not interested, but I found it quite interesting because it allows for the fact that each horse is unique and an individual. I found it quite practical and insightful. Here's a place that has some info on the book -

    In any case, I wish you and Little Love the best and look forward to following her progress! :)

  4. Hi OneHindResting, nice to hear that my blog is provoking thoughts, that is always good! I decided to answer your question in my next post, only because I thought it was a good one and made me really think deep and hard about who has influenced me. So thank you for asking the question! I checked out the book you recommended, I'm not sure it's quite up my alley (any more) as I am moving away from the dressage world. I read part of the book online and sentences such as "whatever personality type your horse is, almost all horses can be trained productively and effectively, depending on your intended use" really just make me hair stand up. I don't think we really have the right to "use" horses for anything (although we do, but seeing it in written word really shocks me now). I read a book by Klaus Hempfling called What Horses Reveal, you can check it out at - It also talks about personalities, but in a very different manner (IMO). It definitely made me think (yet again). But thank you for the recommendation, I do believe that everyone has something to teach, even if it's not exactly what you believe in (and more so if it isn't!) PS. And yes, guardian is a better word than owner

  5. Embedded in this great post was that tiny bit about you gettingvon Little Love for a few moments. I want to hear more about that! I'm just wondering if you surprised yourself with that decision.

  6. Hey Muddy K, I'm not sure I was surprised, I guess I was just curious (as usual). THe thought just sort of popped into my head and so I got on. It didn't feel entirely right and I felt relieved to get off. I can't see myself riding her in an arena for 45 minutes ever again, but maybe getting on her for a canter up a hill (since I can't keep up with that on the ground)??? I don't know. I'm trying to figure out how to make this work for both of us. This may take some time. Becky is not putting any pressure on me, but on the other hand, she does want to trot and canter when she is outside (so the pressure is there, if I want to go out with her). Little Love really likes to go out with Col, she is so much more relaxed when we go together. But how to combine the two, going outside but also trotting and cantering when I don't really want to ride her? I wish I had someone else to go out with, who also just liked to take long walks...