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Country Horse Moves to the Big Smoke

Kate Fenner - Friday, March 01, 2013
Settling your horse into a new environment successfully is so important. Much of what he experiences at this time, as soon as he steps off the truck/float, will stay with him in to the future. Be sure to keep calm and give him plenty of time to take everything in.

Horse at traffic lights 

Learning about traffic and road crossings

Harry, bred and trained in the country, recently moved to Sydney to live in the centre of the city. He faced many challenges in his initial acclimatisation - he felt tarmac under his newly shod feet, saw traffic (including cars, trucks, motor bikes, push bikes and scooters), children running, masses of umbrellas (as it was pouring with rain), joggers and close equine neighbours (he is also newly gelded).

Horse in a stable 

Harry in his new stable

Harry appeared to take it all in his stride but I was very careful not to over-face him or push him to anything he wasn't ready to confront. For example, when we needed to learn to wait at the traffic lights to cross the busy road to the park, Harry was reluctant to stand so we spent the waiting time walking to and from the standing point and I kept offering him the opportunity to stand, until eventually he did. It is important to give the horse time to work through it in his mind but it is equally important to keep him doing something. If you simply allow the horse to put his head in the air and race about at the end of a 12foot line then he will, in all likelihood, never be completely comfortable with the new place. Help the horse by giving him a job. This enables you to praise him. For example, you might practice 'give to the bit', as Harry and I did all around the new stable block. This meant he walked around, listening to me and I told him how brilliant he was several times a minute. He was never left on his own (mentally) to work anything out for himself - I guided him through all of it. Of course, you will not be able to cover everything that might be frightening in a matter of a few hours but knowing when your horse is scared or in need of guidance will help enormously. As soon as you feel that - quietly put him to work and guide him through it.  

Jane ( commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
Lovely story telling with beautifully clear instruction on how to support the horse. So many people underestimate the impact that changing homes has on a horse. If only they all had so much support as Harry... In my work, I meet (bodywork) clients' horses who've not been long in their new home and who are, quite simply, not 'feet on the ground' yet. It's not just the change of environment, but the separation from old friends. Being understanding of this while providing clear guidance is such a good thing!
Kathleen commented on 09-May-2013 09:48 PM
A fantastic article, Kate ... I'm so glad to hear Harry is settling into his new home well. He is such a special boy and I will always remember him (and Bear) for changing my attitude to stallions.

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