February 7th,  2022

By Karine Vandenborre

My first own horse Niki

My first own horse was Niki.  She was 12 when she was given to me by an acquaintance. She was sweet and willing, but very energetic and quickly stressed.    She also couldn’t stand still easily.  She would stand still for a moment, but after a few seconds, she would get tense and wanted to start walking and moving away.

I tried different ways to teach her to stand still longer than a few seconds, but that only made her want to move more.  So I decided to do it differently. ‘Cause  I learned already from other horses in the past, that the better my relationship with them, the fewer problems there were during training and the calmer they became. So I decided to stop “training” her to stand still.  And even more, I decided to stop haltering her and training her on a lead rope all together.

Instead, I spent 2 months, only in liberty. I worked with her in a field of a few hectares, because I didn't have access to a riding arena.

During those 2 months, I learned so much from her.

She was very clear to me about what she wanted and what she didn’t want.  She especially taught me how to canalize and calm down my energy, because I am from nature a very energetic person, and that was something she didn’t like.

Every day we did things like hanging out together in her huge field and walking together in liberty but we also played with high energy and I would ask her to trot and she would trot away from me and sometimes come back in full speed to see how I reacted on that.

After those 2 months of liberty, I had a different horse.

Our connection was amazing.  We went on long walks in liberty, she would follow me and stay close to me on the 60 hectares of unfenced property where she was boarded at that time. She enjoyed being with me and I enjoyed being with her.

And after those 2 months, she didn’t have any problems anymore with standing still when I asked her to, also not when she had a halter and a lead rope on.  She would stay soft and relaxed and would even lay down next to me sometimes.

But what struck me the most: the day I rode her again she was much calmer and relaxed. Before our 2 months of liberty, she would be nervous under the saddle, but now it was a dream to ride her.  I could even ride her without tack.

This story is about my first horse, but in all the years that followed, every time again, I learned that the relationship and the connection somebody has with his horse is what makes the difference!