Today’s transformation features an adorable Haflinger (and y’all know how I love a good Haffie!) from Adventures of Shyloh. Here’s her story!
She is a little spooky, but not at things horses normally spook at. ” This is what I was told when I went to look at Shyloh before I bought her. The buying of her could be a story in and of itself, but it all ends to I bought her. She was just what I wanted: a mare, a Haflinger, and a trail horse (?). Yup. She she was a drop out from a local trail riding rent-a-horse place.
Shy was brought my new boarding barn on one of the hottest days that summer and I had her pasture boarded. So the first time I went to get her from the pasture turned into a two hour and six person catastrophe in the rain as this horse did not want to be caught. You could see the fear in her eyes. You could feel it in her body language. And boy was she quick! After that, I kept a halter on her with a catch. When trying to catch her, those who said to stand in the pasture with my head down and wait for them to get curious and they will come up to you. . .yeah, I’d still be standing there today if I did that. Eventually, someone got smart and called the old owner. Grain was the answer! Shy would come over for grain, but I had to be quick or she would be gone!
I started out just grooming this tense, wide eyed pony. When I say tense, it was so bad it just radiated off of her. You could feel it. Any sudden noise would send her into a startle or a flinch. It was never really a move your feet spook, but more of a rigid startle with giant eyes and leery looks. Lots of flinching, like she was waiting to avoid being hit. So I read and I read. And I became a purposeful (mostly) giant klutz. I dropped brushes, kicked buckets, made noise, moved big, until over time it was a non issue.
Shy absolutely refused to have her head touched. Brushing her forelock was off limits. One time, in an effort to get her head down, I tried a treat. She lowered her head and I started to brush her forelock, but because I was holding the treat all wrong, she almost took off my thumb when she realized what I was doing. Eventually, she accepted that fact that I was not going to do whatever scary or painful thing to her face she thought I might do. Now she loves her forelock brushed and braided. Her ears are still another story and we continue to work on those.
A couple months into owning her, I rode her. I had a very experienced rider on her previously, and Shy almost left that rider in the dust with her turbo trot. But I still got on her a few times. Shy was the tensest ball of pony that you could ever imagine. Once I got Shy to stand by the mounting block with at least one other person to keep her there, and if she didn’t take off forward once I stood on the mounting block (she did not like it when people were taller than her), I was golden to get on that stiff horse. She usually wouldn’t move off at my first request, but the second request would send her scooting forward. You could tell she would get so anxious as to what she thought might happen to her if she did something wrong. It would get worse as the ride went on. Upon dismount, the slightest graze of a foot on her back end would send her scooting forward. In fact, any touching of her butt would send her butt muscles into a clench, even today.
So, I stopped riding in order to work on more desensitization with her to get her to relax and for her to get to trust me and that I wouldn’t hurt her. We did so much ground work stuff during this time.
After a few months of that, I started riding bareback. While she was still a nervous little pony and gave me a hard time for mounting, I was still able to do it on my own. When I would get on, she would stand rock still and not breath. You could feel it. But we would go on short jaunts around the arena. Shy was super sensitive. Leg meant go forward quickly. But she stopped just as quickly. One day, I got caught off guard by a scoot and fell off Shy backwards. Ouch.
Shy was eventually put on 2 training rides and one lesson ride a week. It started out good, but the trainer/barn owner was a bit inconsistent. When I rode Shy, I would sit on her for a few minutes to get her to relax before I asked anything of her. Once I felt her relax and start breathing again (me too, because that fall had me out of commission for a while and put a huge dent in my confidence), we would begin.
Part of her problem is that she is just so smart. She over thinks everything. She has a lot of try but also has a mind of her own. So when Shy gets it into her mind that she wants to do one thing and you want to do another, she has an internal fight. It’s quite visible to an observer. . .Shy wants to go one way, you want to go another, Shy fights it, then gets so worked up about being corrected and doing something wrong that she just melts down.
By this time, Shy had been moved to a stall inside. Going inside was good in that she was stalled right in front of the grooming stalls and next to the arena, so she saw a lot of people daily. Getting Shy to realize that people were not bad was good for her and she had a lot of interaction because she was the cute pony next to the arena.
After a barn change, Shy promptly broke her saddle and we had decided to concentrate on driving. We had some major mistakes with driving, but we were also able to show some classes over the summer and had lots of help from my Ohio friends.
Now we are focusing back on riding. Just now, over this winter, Shy is starting to actually respond to her name. She walks more than halfway up to me in the pasture. If I sit in my car too long, she will come to the gate to see why I haven’t come out to see her. I can jump up on the mounting block or even round bale holder and Shy doesn’t bat an eye. I can put wiggly kids on her, drape myself over her back, and just be stupid with her. I can make crazy noises, drop things, put other animals on her back, and Shy just takes it all in stride. I am pretty sure she has come to the conclusion that I am crazy and do all kinds of crazy things, but I won’t hurt her.
Have a transformation story of your own to share? Whether it’s training, mental, physical… or all of the above please share it with me so I can spread your story!