The first winter Gem spent at LA's, he was turned out with 3 other geldings. A lovely 15.2hh horse named S. was one of his turnout mates. I first introduced you to sweet S. when he and Gem made an escape attempt. S. was purchased by LA the same summer Gem and I came to her place. He's a very different looking horse; a light orangy brown with a wide white blaze down his face. LA purchased him from a reputable trainer, with the hope that S. would become a good lesson horse so that she could start semi-retiring some of her older teachers. At first, he was pretty good with having different riders on him. He liked working and looked beautiful doing it. He was not fussy with being in the arena however; he tolerated it because he's the kind of horse that wants to please.
After he wintered with The Boys, he was turned out with the herd. Over time, S. seemed to loose his spark. Out in the herd, he was relegated to the lower portion of the hierarchy. He lost weight. He was covered in horse bites. If you were walking out in the fields or trail riding, he would join you. He looked depressed. This picture pretty much says it all for me. S. is on the far right..the horse without a rider.
Do you think that some horses need a human?? I think S. did. He really needed to belong to someone. I think he needed to be loved.
Our arena is like the picture below. Even though the roof is rounded, snow still accumulates on the very top and when it breaks off and slides down the sides of the area, it is very loud.
In addition to the loud train-like noise as the snow slides down, there is also the visual from the inside of the arena. Many horses have spooked as they came down the length of the arena and had a batch of snow break off and slide down beside them.
The winter of 2010/11 was not great for S. He was still being used in lessons regularly. He was actually a very polite horse, willing to please. Unfortunately, he became a victim of the sliding snow monster + inexperienced rider. Instead of the students helping him through his anxiety, they made it worse by becoming anxious themselves. It became so bad, that S. was having a hard time being in the arena at all; he was always waiting for the sliding snow monster to appear. His confidence continued to diminish. A shadow or a funny noise would set him off. He started having a reputation as a spooky horse. LA had to rethink about S. being a school horse. She leased him for a month in the summer, to see if having one rider would make a difference to him. It did, but the girl who leased him was not interested in purchasing him.
In the fall of 2011, a student of LA's purchased S. He had been taking lessons for about 18 months and was ready to make a commitment. It was a match made in heaven. Shawn had been using S. in lesson, knew of his confidence issues and had experienced some of S.'s meltdowns. He still wanted S. and with LA's help has been working on his spookiness. Now, it's been a challenge. Shawn has been dumped a couple of times when S. spooked. But Shawn has a lot of patience and he loves this darn horse. He has been out at the barn almost every night since he and S. became partners. The transformation has been amazing. S. looks happier, has put on weight, he has fewer bite marks, and he seems taller! :-) Shawn has spent a small fortune on the perfect-fitting saddle, the perfect bridle, the perfect halter....you get the idea. :-) Having a human has helped with S.'s confidence....Jean has been spending a lot of time out in the fields with Stu and the herd and she says that S. has moved up in the rankings and even has a couple of "girlfriends"! S. has blossomed.
S. proudly takes Shawn out on the trails, showing off his human to his herd mates. He is a gentleman when they are riding outside and his incidents of spooking out on the trails has been reduced tremendously. Yay, S.! Yay, Shawn! However, there is still the sliding snow monster......
I joined the Saturday lesson with Shawn and S. this past weekend. With the mild temperatures, the sliding snow off the arena roof was non-stop. I knew S.'s history with sliding snow and in my mind, I was preparing to see Shawn eat dirt. Gem and I walked/jogged beside Shawn and S. during warm up. I couldn't believe how calm S. was! Did I mention that the sliding snow was non-stop??! I complimented Shawn on how well-behaved S. was considering the circumstances. His reply: "Ear plugs."
Ear plugs?? WTH??? I didn't know that ear plugs for horses existed! Shawn was at a clinic recently and the trainer recommended them for S. when he saw S. spook due to sliding snow. I could not believe the difference the ear plugs made!! There was no anxiety in S.'s (or Shawn'!) face or body. S. could still see the snow falling, but because he couldn't hear the loud train-like noise, he was fine. To me, this is nothing short of a miracle. Shawn beamed though the whole lesson. S. was focused and performed every task without hesitation. It was absolutely wonderful to watch. Something so simple has been life altering.
I am so happy that S. has found his human and Shawn has found his forever horse. It's a bonus that Shawn was told about the ear plugs so that he can continue working on S.'s confidence without the sliding snow monster interrupting. Seeing how happy S. is makes me smile. I see great things in S.'s future. It's going to be fun watching their relationship grow.