FER BRAVO - Our new 6 year old PRE Spanish Stallion.
Well it has been quite a while since I last imported a stallion from Spain so this was quite an exciting experience for me. Brav arrived after several days of travelling across Europe, looking pretty confident and rather quiet.
Maybe he was feeling overwhelmed.
We put him in a stable away from the other stallions so they could get acquainted from a distance slowly and also because of any possible infection. Red and Maestu were both extremely curious but we do have horses coming in for training so I think they imagined he would not be there for long!
The following day I took Brav into the school which is placed only a few feet away from the stallions stables and the introductions seemed to go quite smoothly.
It was cold and windy though and wet and Brav was very unsettled in the school. I usually say HELLO with my loose work and circle the horse around me to connect with my breathing.
Well actually this seemed like a pretty bad idea! Brav was suddenly erupting and galloping around the school at every noise he heard. I did not feel confident to encourage his higher energy and ask for connection but rather I asked- and he would canter off. Instead of continuing this conversation, I turned and walked quietly away to leave him to sort out his feelings.
I felt rather vulnerable as when he erupted he was focused on his fear rather than on the direction he was going – at speed!
I decided as he seemed so on edge in the school, to place small piles of hay around, in the spooky corners. He then wandered around more calmly from feed to feed getting used to the feeling of the school on a very windy day!
When we lunged him from the cavesson , with no side reins, he did seem to be more secure and lunged rather fast with a few explosions but other than looking around he did begin to settle down.
There was so much new routine for him as he had for several years been stabled 24/7 with a grill over the door, rather like a prisoner. The handling though, had been good and Brav seemed respectful but not fearful of people. So the first thing, was to let him get used to putting his head over the door and looking around. He had not been at liberty in a school other than being wound up in high energy, to show off, for photographs. He had no idea how to feel comfortable on his own in a large space.
I wanted to see this attitude change in him, before we took any risks to put him out to graze. A frightened insecure horse can just bolt and injure himself in the great outdoors and I wanted his first taste of freedom in the field- to be a great experience for him. For days I took handfuls of grass in to the stable so Brav could develop a keen taste for it before we put him out in the well fenced field.
Over days he began to settle into our daily routine and seemed to enjoy watching the horses in the school which I think he found entertaining!
The day came when I felt we had built up trust together and the weather was calm and warm so I led him down to the field and stayed in there, with him. It all went very smoothly and soon he was being turned out twice a day as he seemed to connect with this environment. He would stand and look around, then browse and come over to see us often.
I was beginning to see what a wonderful horse he could become and felt so fortunate to have him here with the other boys.
Our first couple of weeks the school was about Brav enjoying exploration, freedom, lunge/play but nothing too structured with no pressure to ask for much.
It was also about connecting with his reactions. We were using a different language entirely from his Spanish male handlers so it would take time for Brav to understand what we wanted. For instance when we gave a request with our breath energy and body language we were pleased when he responded even if his response was not quite what we had in mind. If he was listening and reacting then I was really pleased to encourage a positive empathic dialogue between us.
I could see Brav gradually becoming more settled and content, so I felt he was ready for more education. His mind was ready to focus so we began small steps of training.
The videos show our slow progress of communication and also Brav had not seen trotting poles so I decided to do this at liberty and encourage him to look at and walk over the poles.
Its funny now as he seems to love the square of poles and after work/play when offered liberty in the school, he will go and stand in the middle of the poles as if to say , ‘come on lets play’! I like to offer time at liberty after the horse has worked either on the lunge and/or ridden. I do this with Red too.
If a horse still wants to connect with us after training then the session has been productive. We have stayed with our bond of trust and empathy which for me is the most important aspect within training.
We will not be riding for a while as Brav’s shoes were removed and his hooves will now slowly change but they have been rather brittle. I may pop the saddle on and walk quietly soon but nothing too much until he feels secure in his new balance on ‘new feet’ which becomes more natural for him. We will be building core muscles through our ground work, building the correct muscles for riding in natural posture and self carriage.
I also like a horse to connect well to my breathing from the ground as I am not physically strong and don’t wish to be strong in my riding. Brav has been ridden quite strongly and I want to change his responses from our lungeing and work in hand. All this will evolve in its own time and we will show his progress on future videos.
There are two videos of Brav lungeing this month just to show how we have progressed so I hope you enjoy them and if you have any questions or thoughts then do contact me.