Monday 26 November 2007

How Charlie learns

I was hacking out on Charlie today, and he was absolutely great - confident, steady, forward-going - its now just over a year since Charlie arrived, and it struck me how far he has come.

When he arrived, he was so spooky that his former owner was concerned about him bolting out of our yard, and he had a reputation for freaking out when he encountered new things. He had been sat on, but couldn't hack out and couldn't school, because he had become so frightened of their arena that he panicked whenever they took him in.

It was very clear that if you pushed him beyond his comfort zone he would lose it, panic and stop being able to learn.

We were happy to take him back to basics, and do everything slowly, but the interesting thing about him is that provided you give him time and build his confidence then he actually learns in huge leaps.

I had expected we would have to do everything with him in tiny increments - for instance, I thought it would take several stages before he was happy to be compete or work in a new environment, and that we would have to build up very gradually. In fact, it was over 6 months before we even tried to load him, and when we did he loaded and travelled brilliantly; just the second time we took him out, he came out of the trailer very confidently, giving us a very clear feeling that he knew what he was doing. As proof of the pudding, he not only coped with the travelling but was also happy going into an indoor school for the first time and doing a dressage test in a brand new outdoor school, very similar to the one that had worried him at his first owners.

[As an aside, you always knew when he had lost confidence, because he flat out refused to move, and if you tried to force him he would explode(!). We learnt to listen to him the hard way...!]

It was the same with hunting and hacking him out on his own - once his confidence is established, he seems to be able to generalise very easily and actually is an incredibly fast learner. All credit to our chiropractor, who sent him to us, and said she had a feeling he would be a star ;-)


cptrayes said...

What will you do with him now???


Nic Barker said...

Who knows? :-) Suggestions welcome!

We ought to sell him, but he's a complete babe - very handsome - and he is kind of perfect to have around because he will carry weight (he is Welsh DxTB and 16hh)and has nice manners...Our hunt secretary keeps trying to buy him, but I think we will hunt him and school him this winter then see ;-)

cptrayes said...

He's worth a fortune!