I’ve been training Silla now for more than half a year and a lot has happened. As most of you know, Silla is very sensitive to stress, but also rather dominant. In the beginning she wasn’t very social and respectful to me. When stressed, she would crawl up against me or sometimes even kick or bite. When this happens it will just become too dangerous to train. This is why I decided after two months of training to take a few steps back. It was important to me to first get a solid base. Together with the massages of Ramona Knuivers, this training could positivily change the vicious circle of Silla. In the beginning a solid base meant to me: standing still while brushing, giving hooves, moving backwards/aside if I say so, being able to touch her everywhere and all this preferably in relaxation. This took us about two months. First in the hallway of the stable, then outside, until we could do this inside the riding arena.
Thereafter we focused on walking together. Walking at a gentle pace, not passing me, and while relaxed. This also included standing still and backing-up. While standing still it is important to me that she shows relaxation: deeply exhaling, chewing, and lowering her head. This is why we never continue walking until she has found relaxation in standing. To help her find relaxation I often scratch her favourite spots from the massages. This way there is another connection between the massages, relaxation and training. All this has made it possible again to continue training in the riding arena. For example, we recently started training standing next to the stool. Silla is still often stressed during the training, but she is able to calm down a lot quicker than before. Earlier she would need 5 to 10 minutes to calm down. Now she is able to calm down and pay attention again within one minute. We now have a (thin) base to fall back on.
There is still a lot to improve about our base. I would really like to try some Natural Horsemanship exercises with Silla in freedom. However a tiny voice in my head warns me. Silla is still quite dominant and not as respectful and attentively as I would like her to be. It could be that training in freedom will raise more stress than she is able to handle at the moment. It could be that she would feel abandoned. The responsibility of holding her own might be too much for now. On the other hand we did already train some academical groundwork. Bending and forward-down on a cricle is something we started training, but didn’t work out because of too much stress and too little trust. This is why I will first resume training the academical groundwork. Tension that will arise during these exercises will hopefully go away quicker, due to the overlap with the previous walking trainingsessions. Besides helping her physically, these exercises will also strengthen the base and trust that has started to emerge. With time these will grow in such a way that Silla will be able to hold her own in freedom without panicking.