Angie has entered a competition called The Australian Brumby Challenge like The Mustang Makeover in America where 16 experienced trainers were selected to train unhandled brumbies and turn them from ‘wild too wonderful’ over 150 days. I was allocated a brumby called Major, we have changed his name to Major Bob, after John’s late father Bob who we lost to cancer last month. In this video I met Major Bob for the first time and talk my way through his first training session. Major Bob comes from Long Plain Kosciuszko NP, NSW Australia and is a 5 year old Australian Brumby (the same as an American Mustang). He has never been touched by a human before. In this video I explain how I read his thresholds with everything I do with him. I talk about how I use my body position, body posture and energy. You will notice that I never approach him directly or ever face directly towards him with the front of my body. My posture and energy is completely turned off at all times. I walk back and forth around a big arc and every time he looks at me I stop to acknowledge him. This is the very start of our communication. You will notice that I take big deep breathes at times, this is just a habit that I have developed when I work with horses that find it really hard to relax. I need to be really present in my body and mind, emotionally neutral and breathing from my belly as he will feel how I am in my body and my emotional state.
This has taken me years to learn to tune into my nervous system and really regulate my emotions when I am with horses. All of these things that I have mentioned have a huge impact and effect on our horses, especially a wild brumby. I use approach and retreat to walk into his ‘bubble’ and this is a form of pressure and release, the pressure is walking slowly and the release of pressure is turning or stepping away at exactly the right moment. You can use this exact technique if you have a horse that is difficult to catch. I explain that you will build your horses trust and confidence if you focus more on the retreat than the approach, it’s the retreat that builds their confidence and eventually this leads to more curiosity. My goal is to grow his confidence, curiosity, engagement and eventually play drive and bring out his own unique personality. This is my goal with every horse that I work with.
Toward the end of the video I start to move his feet, I step out past his ‘drive-line’ (the point of his shoulder) in an arc and this helps unlocks his hind feet and the moment he faces up I instantly release the pressure as I want him to know that I am listening to him. Over the coming sessions if my technique and timing is right it leads to me putting a drawing feeling at the end of it to where I get him to unlock his hind feet and take a few steps towards me. You will also notice anytime he stretches his neck out towards me I steps away to reward his curiosity. Towards the end of the session I talk about how I start to desensitise him to moving my arms around using rhythmic motion and stopping every time he shows a tiny sign of acknowledgment. I do this to simulate putting my hand towards him. Every next step that I want to do with him I have to then break down into tiny steps and do these little steps from a distance to prepare him so I never do anything to lose his trust in me. If I don’t desensitise him to my arms moving around from a few meters away it will scare him when I raise my arm for the first time for him to initiate the first touch.