Read below to get to know my horses, and my gradually expanding herd.
I am the custodian of four equine souls.
Sureño de Centurion
For four years I have kept my eyes peeled for a young horse. There have been a many lovely young horses I have optioned and came close many times to making a decision. But the timing was off, or the situation didn't feel right.
Easter 2022 everything aligned. A student and friend of mine Cara, living with her family in Girona, Spain, breeds American Quarter Horses only a couple a year and her personal mare gave birth to a wonderful colt on 10-4-2022. I got in contact and we made an agreement. Anoki is now reserved to join my team!
Coming from Poco and Doc's AQHA bloodlines he has strong reining and cow horse ancestry and should prove to be a confident, energetic, athletic and brave horse with a performance appetite
He will be living with his mother and breeder for another 2 years, to be weaned slowly, carefully and kindly grown up. I am so lucky to have this arrangement and worked very hard to get to this place. I will be able to make choices regarding his diet and lifestyle, which is invaluable to making sure that in 2024 Anoki comes home a well adjusted, happy horse without any trauma from his background.
From there, he will become a member of the Emotional Horsemanship team and every step of his training will be documented. He will show me what to do.
Caleb came to me in March 2020, during the initial height of the COVID19 pandemic.
His name originally was Tuco born in 2002, or 2001, his papers show conflicting dates. He had a bit of a reputation. I think horses will live up to the names we give them. Some research showed me an ancient meaning for the name Tuco as; 'The ugly bully'. It might not be the only meaning of the name, but this is what I found in my research.
So I decided to rename him to Caleb, meaning 'The brave survivor'.
Caleb was owned and loved dearly by a tremendously well respected local horsewoman here in Andalucia. She passed away from a sudden, unexpected horse related tragedy, which Caleb probably saw, but did not cause.
I do not know much about his life before he came to me and I asked to not be told too much. I wanted to understanding him with a fresh slate as much as possible. But this is what I DO know about his life before he came to me.
- He was 19 when he arrived. With three known owners and unknown breeder.
- His breeding is highly questionable. His awful conformation is either a cause of terrible/irresponsible breeding, accidental breeding, or lack of nutrition and care early in life or a combination of all of the above.
- One of his earliest owners was mentally disabled and was left with Caleb unsupervised, and it is assumed, Caleb was tormented and molested by this differently abled young man who unintentionally caused a trauma upon Caleb and a deep mistrust of people, particularly men.
- Caleb was rescued and came to his previous owner with a lot of behavioural problems and signs of moderate to severe neglect and he was lovingly and painstakingly rehabilitated to health, and lived almost 10 years in this home with peace, care and attention to his needs.
When Caleb came to me he had obviously been through a lot. He displayed a fair amount of moderate to severe behavioural problems and I have no idea if they were chronic, or triggered by recent stressors. Ultimately, that was not important. What was important was finding a way to help him feel better so he stopped being a behavioural liability.
All I know is that he was
- Hard to catch
- Invasive and pushy
- Spooky and unpredictable
- Aggressive around food and training
- Aggression towards strange men
- Severe dislike of touch and physical affection
- Confusion in training and generalised high anxiety around communication with people
When he came to me it was originally for rehabilitation only and a 'last chance' at life. Nobody else had volunteered to help this already 19 year old horse, and if he did not come to me his other option of euthanasia.
After 6 months of work together I found him to be a friendly, engaging, hopeful little horse who found most riding, handling and training to be physically or emotionally painful on some level. This finding was based upon trial and error and my own intuition. Once that pain was utterly removed AND his trust that the pain would NEVER return had been rehabilitated, his behaviour vastly improved.
Caleb is a non-ridden horse now and I do not try to ride him. In our early days together, he allowed me to ride him totally tackless and he showed great willingness and cooperation to work together, but ultimately it was painful for him to be ridden at more than a walk or more than 10 minutes. He displayed this with behaviour that might be traditionally described as bullying, dominance or aggression. I never punished him for this, I would just dismount and finish the training immediately, as I saw that this was an acute pain response, not an "attitude" problem.
I have suspected a KSS diagnosis, based upon his spinal palpation and presentation, but in rural Spain it is not possible to diagnose definitively. KSS, or Kissing Spine is incredibly painful and is known to cause explosive and unpredictable behaviour.
In summer 2021, my vet and I discovered a benign tumour deep up inside his sheath. This tumour does not stop him from urinating, but it does cause him tremendous discomfort and pain when touched or under pressure, even under heavy sedation he attempted to protect himself when it was palpated and inspected by the vet.
According to vet analysis, this tumour gets squeezed and bumped any time Caleb 'Collects' his body, or;
- uses/engages his stomach muscles
- tucks his pelvis under himself
- carries himself with his hind end and becomes light in the fore.
Collected movement is the holy grail of all horse trainers, and this was essentially not on the cards for him, due to pain.
He can move collected but only when highly aroused in his sympathetic nervous system by fight, fear or explosive play... all of which activate adrenaline and other blood chemistry all of which is a natural pain killing hormonal response produced by the body when in these physiological states.
To train him in a relaxed and calm fashion, AND collected in his body so he can carry a rider safely and successfully produces only pain for him. Making riding unethical and for me as a professional, impossible.
This is also the cause for his asymmetrical tail carriage, distended belly (no matter his BSC) and front limb deformation.
According to vet analysis and best estimate, this tumour is years, not months old.
Today, Caleb is a part of my team. I can talk about conformation, trauma, pain behaviour and rehabilitation or he can simply demonstrate that. He is a companion for Sanson and greatly improves Sanson's quality of life, and my own.
He is a brilliant teacher in groundwork and for trimming and anatomy lessons, superb. I am happy to hold space for him in retirement and new career as an educational horse. I love him and he has a forever home with me.
Sanson is a Hispano Breton born June 1st 2009. A registered sub-breed of the French heavy horse, the Breton. In the 1930's Breton's were bred with Andalusians to create a versatile new breed of horse. A horse that is strong enough to plow and pull a cart or a log, but light and athletic enough to be ridden by the family. In Spain, Bretons are bred for meat, for the bullring or pleasure riding. They are a considered an endangered breed.
Though Sanson looks chunky, his saddle fitting is a standard Andalusian size! So it is like working with a PRE with the power, turbo charged!
I have known Sanson since he was 4. He was a young prospect at a trekking stable I volunteered at in the summer who was having issues in his training and developed some dangerous behavioural problems.
I had no idea of all that when I was first asked to work with him, but from the first moment, Sanson and I got along. I have never before or since felt anything quite like it. It was like slipping into a pair of custom made shoes. We just fit! It was my first taste of FEEL in horse training and I continue to follow it since.
For 4 years I visited Sanson in Spain every chance I got. Often, I was the only person who did much training with him and when I wasn't there he was ridden irregularly by the Trail Guides, or in lessons. When he was put together with the trekking clients, it was a mixed bag of success and some people came off worse for wear.
I purchased Sanson in 2017. I changed my entire life to accommodate him. It has been very difficult but I regret nothing, because he has changed and enriched my life beyond measure. He is the greatest project of my life so far, and we are still not done growing!
They say you get that one special horse in your life time, and I got real lucky that my first horse is just that.
Sanson was two years with me in Poland where I re-trained him from the ground up in my own methods, rehabilitated his health and his hooves. We were working together in a busy lesson and saddle fitting operation when we had to return to Spain.
He taught me how to be clear without being coercive. How to reward without producing mania and mental fragmentation. He taught me how I can use my emotional expression to communicate with horses and how little aid he is willing to respond to, if he feels aligned with you. Sanson is a horse who either aligns with you, or not!
He is a fabulous teacher in congruence, confidence and honesty.
Long before I bought him, he displayed a variety of digestive related issues. These continued when he came into my care. Although they did vastly improv as his diet and lifestyle improved, the symptoms remained none the less.
In 2019 we got a mistaken diagnosis of Salmonellosis. A very contagious and life threatening bacterial infection of the gut which causes the death of the horse. Most horse owners upon that diagnosis would have PTS the animal. I did not. I worked toward a management plan.
After 1 year we disproved beyond a shadow of a doubt his Salmonellosis diagnosis and after consultations with Equine Nutritionists, several vets, and hind gut microbiome analysis it seems he suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is an auto-immune disease. Today we have an effective management plan in place and Sanson is happy and well.
Sanson needs a VERY species appropriate lifestyle with minimal stressors. He must have room to move, forage (high quality) always available, and peaceful connection to the horses and people in his life. Harsh weather, harsh training, confinement and sudden changes trigger his health issues as does anything that is species inappropriate. For this reason I have had a huge learning curve on equine appropriate horse keeping and ethical horse training because the health of my horse depends on it!
I do not train or work him beyond very light duties when his symptoms flare up, and he is not ridden or trained by anyone else apart from me unless under my supervision. I always feel safe and cared for by my horse and he remains my main inspiration!
Sanson is the cornerstone of my business, my life and my work and I hope to be lucky to have decades more time with him, and be with him until the end.