Monyana’s story part 1: A fiery redhead with a heart of gold
PART 1: RISING TO THE CHALLENGE
I met Monyana, a gorgeous saddler-cross-warmblood, a good few years ago when I was still quite new to horse training. I was busy learning from various different trainers, honing my skills and broadening my understanding of training in general. Most of my time then was taken up working with my own horses – learning and practicing the techniques I now use, as well as developing new ones – basically finding my own style.
I had worked with a couple of horses at this stage, but Monyana was one of my first big challenges, not because of the severity of her issues, but because of the number of issues we had to tackle. She was basically one of those horses who had almost every problem a horse can have from a training perspective.
Looking back, there are definitely some things I would have done differently with her, and I still had a lot of learning to do after this, but as the saying goes, “When you know better, you do better.”
Her owner, Candice, was looking to re-stable Monyana because the stable she was at presented too many challenges that both horse and owner couldn’t cope with at that stage, including crossing a busy road to get to the arena.
Candice couldn’t ride her as the arena wasn’t suitable and wasn’t able to lunge her because Monyana wouldn’t do what she asked. She had no idea what she was doing wrong or how to rectify the problem. She called me and we made a plan for me to come and meet Monyana at her old stables.
The first time I met this feisty redhead, her owner gave me some background and basically told me she was at her wit’s end, didn’t know what to do and felt she had run out of options. Monyana was 10 at the time, and Candice had had her for 2 years. She, herself, was also quite a novice at that stage, both as a rider and owner. She just wanted to know, after 2 years of ownership, when she would be able to have a good ride on her horse.
“From my side I just had no idea how to communicate with her and with her displaying behavioral issues it just made it all seem impossible. Thankfully you came along and broke it down with me into manageable chunks and taught us how to work together.” ~ Candice.
The first session
I started by asking her to show me what she was doing, and I thought I’d soon be able to spot the problems. She set out to show me, and after a close shave where Candice was very nearly kicked in the head, I decided that I had my work cut out for me. I told her we needed to get started right away with some exercises designed to gain respect on the ground. There had been a massive breakdown in communication and respect, and we needed to start by rebuilding a relationship between Monyana and her owner.
I started with simple lunging. She was quite happy to go one way round, but definitely not the other (horses often have a ‘preferred’ side, just as humans are right or left handed’). This was where Candice had been struggling and hadn’t been sure how to follow through and insist that Monyana respect her instructions.
We worked through lunging to her non-dominant side. As I applied the pressure, there were several tantrums and a lot of bucking in the process, but we got there in the end. I then taught Candice the skills and got her to the point where she could successfully lunge in both directions without any acting out.
A new home
A few weeks later, Monyana moved to my yard and we continued with the groundwork. She had traveled down from Johannesburg shortly before being stabled with me, and the trauma of the move seemed to have brought all her bad traits out at once, her owner told me.
I immediately noticed she had some issues with the other horses, but especially with small animals. She charged down the dogs, chickens, pig and whatever crossed her path, almost as though she was aiming to kill. She had no interest in making friends or having a relationship with any of the other horses and saw them as nothing but a threat. She would charge them at top speed and if they didn’t move quickly enough, they would be swiftly and assertively kicked, sometimes double-barrelled. To say she was quite the handful is an understatement!
At night, when she went into her stable, she had terrible weaving issues, where horses sway from side to side in the stable, (a sign, in her case, that she hated confinement). She would literally weave all night, and I wasn’t sure how we would address that either.
Candice and I didn’t know what had happened in her past, but a horse doesn’t get this way for no reason – there must have been something there. The only thing I could do was look at fixing the problems.
I was actually quite worried that I would have to ask them to leave for the safety of the other animals on the property, but I was determined to try my hardest to address the issues before I made that call.In PART 2, the work begins…