Bringing home a wild horse
Week 1 With Lara Beth and Cooper
What an adventure to be starting out on. Meeting Cooper for the first time on Saturday was incredibly exciting. This week I have learnt that the little, plain brown, 10yo gelding from Kosci, is not plain at all. He has the deepest eyes I have ever seen on a horse, full of age and wisdom.
Traveling home Saturday night with two horses in the back was weirdly silent, the horses unloaded like a dream and Cooper found his new stable alongside his buddy Wrangler. The matching 4yo brown gelding, Wrangler has been teamed up with Amber Matthews for the challenge. Amber is an incredible trainer who I am super grateful to be working with over the next 150 days.
First night we had a simple, short session where I began to move Coopers feet and he learnt to touch a target (the end of a training stick). Touching the target is a game we use to encourage a horse to face up and find solutions.
Facing up requires the horse to look toward me while moving the hind quarter away. It is an important first step in Coopers training and was the foundation exercise that we built on for the rest of the week.
Day two and three were about establishing my role as the leader, the more I could influence Coopers feet the more he began to trust me. There was a moment day three where I watched Coopers eyes deepen as he reached out and allowed me to stroke his neck with the back of my hand; first pat. There is something magical about a wild horse accepting you into their space, and Coopes moment is one I will never forget.
By the middle of the week Cooper had learnt to flex and lower his nose toward a halter. Offering him the halter gave him the freedom of choice, flex toward the halter or move away.
If he chose to move the shoulder away from me and the halter this was ok…. We are all allowed to make mistakes, I would simple correct him by doing the opposite - move the hind quarter away, then resume the exercise by offering the halter again. I was very careful to reward even the smallest of 1% flex of the head and head toward the halter with release of pressure.
The end of the week one has been incredibly rewarding. Cooper is now comfortable for me to approach him and offer him the halter, do it up using two hands and connect a lead. We have began to “face up - back” using the halter which is the first exercise of The Equine System.