Episode N°1 Arrival in New Zealand and meeting “Saint” the wild horse.

New Zealand, near Christchurch. I am in the St-James Station, territory of the wild horses… Yes ! You can even find them ‘down-under’ in the wide-open territories of the South Island.

I am going to tell you the story of “Saint”, a local wild horse that endured a lot of mistreatment after being caught with a few others during spring 2010. Eventually, a sympathetic rancher family purchased Saint, but despite their extended experience with horses, Saint refuses any kind of physical contact. Although he enters the stables with other horses, one cannot get closer to him than a few yards.

Jean – the manager of the Stables named Hanmer Horses– was desperate, as she did not want to resort to crude dressage methods. To make a long story short, after a couple of e-mail exchanges, I found myself sitting in a plane, heading for the other end of the world…

It’s springtime and the rangers are driving a group of wild horses from the St-James Range to be branded and gelded. Saint is leading.

Three years old Saint, waiting in a corral for an uncertain future, with some companions, shortly before the auction begins.

Saint is now at Hanmer’s Horses, a place where horses live almost free, roaming with the herd in the surrounding hills. But, after one year, despite all attempts, he still refuses any kind of contact with humans.

Day two of my relationship with him; only a few inches left…

… but they certainly are very precious to him.

For me it is also an interesting challenge because I cannot apply any pressure (or so little) and I have to work free hands and without a proper and solid round pen.

I want to get him interested, to follow me, to let me get closer to him so he can look at me too. I want him to get all his attention on me. Saint is curious, but incredibly distrustful.

3rd day : Curiosity prevails over fear and, as long as I don’t touch him, he follows me most of the time.

I am now working with a stick to prepare him for a first contact that might be easier than by hand. This session and the one with the halter are the only ones I made in a narrow space, but after three days in the pen, it went over with very little panic.

And here we are! It took me some more days of patience to make him accept a contact on various parts of his body. I still wonder what happened to him to be so afraid by humans and by their physical contact. No problem with the legs, but the most critical part remains his head, the center of his trauma…

His first halter; two hours of patience and lots of massages. (the blood have nothing to do with my work..)

We are at the end of the first week and he seems to take pleasure in learning. However, he still doesn’t like the contact with his head. We work at a quiet rhythm. Time is not of essence. If you are going to work with horses, throw away your watch!

The following day, I decide to jump on his back. He has a reaction of surprise but remains calm and let me do my gymnastics! I can feel how tense he is, but having no previous experience with a rider, he has no problem with this. No experience, no related trauma, it’s as simple as that.

Proof of how relaxed he is… Licking is a sign of relaxation for horses and they often do it when they understand what we wont them to do.

I keep moving on his back and he seems to appreciate this kind of massage. For me, these are very gratifying moments.

Thank you, little horse for trusting me.

I must now introduce Cecilia, Saint’s future rider, and then teach her how to develop their relationship. See how he goes over various obstacle on is own. One can hardly believe he was wild and untamed two week ago!

Cecilia is facing a lot of work but she is calm and sweet tempered. Saint tries to understand her body language and apparently is willing to play further on.

“Stitch”, a friend of Saint, is saying goodbye to all of you. See you shortly for more news from down under… and don’t forget : “Horses are always right” !  Esh Pewa.


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