By Patty Wilber
(Pictures thanks to Kathleen Jesse)
The sky was low and snow had been fluttering down all day. I donned my black Swedish fleece hat and my “hand knit Norwegian” (says so right on the tag) sweater. Channeling my Nordic ancestry (Swedish on my mom’s side), I went out to work with Curly Moe, the Norwegian Fjord.
CM is either 6 or 9 depending on which set of paperwork you might choose to believe. I have found Fjords more difficult to train than the more sensitive lighter bodied horses and I had vowed to leave them to those that have a better mind meld with them than I ..but Curly Moe is a rescue and my very good friend Kathleen asked… what could I do?
He hadn’t been here too long on the day of the snow, and he was still settling in. I put my Carrhart vest on top of the sweater and pulled on some lined deerskin gloves (to maintain some cowgirl personage, ya know), and we went to the arena for some basic ground work, to see where he was.
Hmm. Responsive! Lots of lip licking, which usually means a horse is thinking/trying! He did not have a whole slew of precise and snappy ground skills but he was very respectful of my space and not at all pushy. I kind of liked him. Sucker that I am.
Just to make sure I had the right Nordic Aura
, I continued to wear the “outfit” over the next few days (plus it is comfortable and warm!)
Fjords are typically pretty low key, but CM was a bit edgier than the garden variety Fjord. But he has not had a whole lot of consistent handling so he needed a little time to get to know me.
Over the next few days, we worked on saddling–he was afraid of the saddle pad…and the saddle. So, it was a lot of “Here sniff this.” Then rubbing him and tossing it on him, over and over, smoothly and with rhythm so as to be predictable. It is a desensitization process.
We did more ground work. He definitely can move his parts with little pressure.
Disengagement of the hip. Soft (loose rope, head toward me, moving the hip away nicely)! The helmet on top of the Swedish hat is such a good look, too.
He did not lunge (go around me in circles) very well–especially to the right, at first.
This is lunging. Working the horse in a circle around me. He got lots better, fast! The rope is not taut, which is nice because that means he is not pulling away. A pulling Fjord can be a sand-skiing lesson if one is not careful!
Got on, after making sure he was not scared of the stirrups or my weight or the saddle shifting. Then I asked him to bend his head. A soft give is so much nicer than a stiff refusal! He was soft.
i might look short and stout, but a) i am not a teapot (short and stout); b) i am flexible!
Part of the reason I took all this time to ease him up to riding is because on his last ride with a prospective adopter, he got worried and dumped her. I hadn’t met him yet, but I am thinking it was a fear reaction rather than an evil buck fest, because, guess what? He had never been trained for riding (which was discovered out later)! Still, it is never good if a horse learns he can lose his passenger with a well timed flick. I don’t think he has.
We walked around the arena, practiced stopping –right this minute, not a dribble down–, and backing. He is not a reiner. He is not built to slide. But he does use his hind end well, so his only excuse for sloppy stops is lack of knowledge, not conformation! He needs work on his knowledge base.
He even felt confident enough to attempt (successfully) the bridge!
So we are crossing the short way...better than no way.
I’m thinking 30 days is going to go by too fast!
Here's the skinny: I have a thing for horses. They make sense to me. I have a small horse training business (it's a "boutique" training business, not because it's super fancy, but because the horses get a lot of personal attention). I also go by Dr. Wilber, and teach biology full-time at a Central New Mexico Community college.
Loved reading about Curly Moe and the training process. He is a nice looking little horse, and you were quite resplendent in you training duds. I suspect he is winning your heart?????
Do Norwegians tolt, or is that only Icelandics?
Maryann–he is a pretty swell guy…downside of training–I like them and don’t like it when they go away!
Katy–You are right–the Icelandics are the tolters. Fjords are walk trot canter sorts.