Getting to know Kaya
Updated: Nov 26, 2018
Lovely Kaya has moved in to our stable beginning of the month. I'd like to share what we have been up to in the first 3 weeks.
Especially for a young horse it is so important to start of with a plan. But even if you buy an experienced horse, you and your environment are new to the horse. It is important to introduce changes gradually and see these from the horses point of view.
First things first: the safety procedures
Because Kaya is not an entirely green horse, she already knew some of the basics. But before we can be safe even in new situations, the basics need to be very good. I see so many adult horses that just never learned to do the basic daily routines with excellence. They get by every day, just pulling their human around, being nervous in the wash stand, not relaxing when being ridden. And somehow, the owners get by too! But I see so much potential to improve...
So what are my safety requirements:
- a horse that steps back for me to enter the stall
- a horse that helps me put the halter on, from the left or the right
- a horse that picks up his foot because he understand that's what I'm asking
- a horse that stays at a safe distance next to me when I'm leading
- a horse that goes with me with slack in the line
- a horse that stops when I stop
- a horse that I can lead from the left and from the right
- a horse that understands these concepts are always valid, and is therefore calm and trusting
A gentle and polite horse will be happier in his life with you, so teach them the basics with excellence
The inevitable transportation
Our first challenge as newly formed team, was for Kaya and I to travel home safely. It is really great that she grew up at her birth place, together with friends and family. But if at 3 years of age the first trailer experience presents itself, it's a gamble if things will go well...
Kaya is very sweet, until she suddenly finds herself beyond her comfort zone. As soon as she realized the trailer she just stepped into was closed from all sides and there was no way out, she completely panicked! I could understand her so well, but this was the day and I had to bring her with me. So for the first 2 hour ride of her life, she had to be sedated...
The very first weekend we spent together at home, guess what we practiced: trailer loading! It can be scary, it is easy to postpone, we can come up with 1000 excuses. But if your horse can not be transported without stress this is not fair to your horse!
What if he is already sick, feeling very bad, and you want to take him to the vet? This could set you up for a nasty situation.
What if you always arrive at lessons, clinics, shows, with a horse that has burned up on the way over? How do you think your horse will feel about going somewhere?
Take the time to explain transportation to your horse, so every adventure is a positive experience for both of you
These days there are many known options for stabling.
My favorite is for any horse to live in a herd 24/7. My Quarab Kai has been living in this type of Offenstall environment for 2 years now and he is very happy.
There are horses, that somehow can not adapt to this lifestyle. I have seen some examples in our herd and these horses are now better of with some private space and their own hay servings.
The goal is for Kaya to become a great dressage horse. This means that she will be going places! I really like to attend workshops and clinics at different locations. This will already set us up for later competitions. Also if she would do very well, there might be interesting events to participate in that are further away or over multiple days.
So it is important now that she is young, that she learns the option of being stabled. That is why I have chosen not to add her to Kai's herd just yet. Over the winter she has her own stable, which has many advantages at this moment:
- she learns to handle the daily motions people feeding, mucking out, handling other horses around her
- she learns that horses next to her can come and go
- she gets used to noises, of things she can see or that she can not directly see
- I can monitor what she eats and how much she eats
- I can monitor how she feels: does she greet me at the door, stay back, is she tired?
- we practice the daily politeness routines of hoof picking, haltering and leading at least twice a day
Make a conscious choice for a stabling option that fits your horses needs. Remember: if you educate your horse for different options, you can be flexible in the future.
Getting to know each other as equals
Every day we play together, and by doing this we learn a lot about each other. I always start by asking questions. I don't start by making the horse do stuff.
How does the horse feel? What tendencies does she have? What is easy for her and what is difficult? What is interesting to her, how can I keep her attention?
Many questions go through my mind because I am curious about the horse in front of me. These questions not only apply to her behavior and mental or emotional state. It is as important to ask yourself questions about the physical state. Discover the easy movements, difficult movements, bends, stiffness, everything!
In this stage I want to learn everything about Kaya by observations and asking her questions to see her answers.
A young horse needs us to be playful, fun, curious and creative. This is the opposite of lunging until he gets tired, getting a saddle on any way you can and having a rider to carry before having found mental, emotional and physical balance.
So far Kaya has shown that she is very smart. No need to repeat exercises often, after rewarding the first try she knows what to do!
She likes to investigate everything. And by that I mean literally everything :-)
She investigates mostly with her mouth, by touch and by licking.
But for example with the ball, after rolling it forward a view times with her front legs, she was so funny to try if she could roll it away by backing up too! Totally her idea, this horse might have more imagination than me.
Kaya has also given me a lot of information about how she feels in her body. I can use exercises and pay attention to how she does them, to help her improve.
This is very important for our later riding. Her balance, strength and suppleness will have increased by then and she will carry me with ease.
Every horse deserves the time to develop their mind and body for the tasks we have chosen for them
All this in only 3 weeks? I told you she is smart... ;-)