Training Toffee Part One…
I do not have, and probably never will have any aspiration to be a great rider, eventer, jumper or be a dressage diva. My only aspiration is that one day someone will say “Ask Emma, she is good with horses”.
Good with horses… what a monumental goal!
I have always had horses, and had a lot of reckless moments in my youth but always came back grinning ear to ear after chasing cattle down a verge on the back of a 4 year old Clydesdale with no brakes at 15.
However, one particular horse put me off riding for life and I was left sickened at the thought of ever riding again.
I hit 30 and had an all-consuming job and everything else I did was for someone else. Time for a horse of my own again I thought, remembering those happy, windswept moments of long ago where there was just me, the dog a horse and the road.
I resolved to not just buy the first one I looked at, I bought the second… Why get a plod? I would be bored! This cattle racing, Clydesdale riding teenager would buy a 4 year old with issues. Good idea.
Toffee had been purchased by a family for their 10-year-old daughter as an unbroken 3 year old. She was duly broken in and given to the girl to bring on. I know some 10 year olds who were born in the saddle who could have done this, but both the girl and her family had had 6 months total riding school pony experience between them and it went wrong. Several people tried to help the family but by 4 years old this horse was not the horse for them. The family bought a 17-year-old sturdy pony. I bought Toffee.
Taking on a horse for me is to give it a home for the rest of its life, selling is not an option for me so you can imagine the stress I experienced when I got her home and found that the brimming confidence I had as a teenager had completely vanished. She dragged me clean across the yard on day two, and on it went from there. I cried every day at my complete inability to help this horse as she could not accept the simplest of tasks without seeing them as a challenge.
She would not be led, tacked up, touched, feet handled or be bridled without biting and kicking. She hated her tack, hated her bit and she hated me for being associated with it. It took several people 20 minutes to get the tack and me on her if we did not bribe her with a bucket first.
I wasn’t confident riding her out, she was not confident to be rode out and we ended up stood immobile at the top of a road dying of shame in the traffic for 45 mins with helpful people shouting out of the car windows to “take a whip to it”.
I did not. In desperation, I bought one, took it with me and smacked myself with it, hoping the noise would help. It did not make any difference to Toffee and gave me a sore leg…
This was no way to live. I was doing this lady no favours and decided to seek help, I found it in a short, jovial lady who rode enormous monsters with just a bit of string. She taught us that if we could not trust each other to lead across the yard, then how could we help each other when the chips were down? How could a horse that hated her tack cope with a rider too?