Henry was 1/2 Irish Draft and 1/2 Selle Francais. He was imported from Ireland when he was just turning 4. He did not show much talent as a jumper so he was brought here as a Dressage prospect because he had 3 really nice gaits. It was love at first sight. I adored this horse. He was tempermental, funny, sensitive, smart and so willing to try anything that I asked him to do.
For the first few weeks after he got there he was uncatchable when turned out. He had been rushed as a youngster and was overfaced with big jumps so being ridden was not something he enjoyed.
I started out by bringing him lots of treats and I would just sit with him in his paddock. He got to the point, eventually, where he would come galloping flat out to me whenever I called and he would come to a sliding stop just inches in front me. He would follow me around like a puppy. I let him just be a horse for the first few months and developed a really good relationship with him on the ground before I even attempted to ride him.
The first few rides were rocky at best, He had not been started well and instead of being taught what was expected of him he had been forced. So he just didn't understand basic aids. When he didn't understand something he would stop toss him head up and down several times and stomp his right front foot. A lot of trainers might want to smack him forward and get on with it. But I felt that this horse had been frightened with that kind of riding and needed patience and a chance to work things out with a calm, patient no-rush attitude. I would let him get over his little tantrum drop the reins and just ask him to walk on. Then I would back up a step and ask him to something really simple that I knew he could do well. By using this approach he learned to trust me. When he "got" something you could see how pleased he would be with himself when he got praised.
When he progressed through the levels in dressage if something was a little challenging he still would do his little head toss and foot stomp. I used to joke that the tempermental side of him was his French side coming out and at those times he was known as Henri (pronounced with a Fren.ch accent).:)
He eventually showed great talent as a jumper and we would play over the jumps but I decided that we could continue down the path with him as my Dressage partner. He was a BIG boy 17.1 hands and was just a late bloomer. One day he started having trouble getting his 3 tempis. For you non-Dresaage folks ..three tempis are multiple flying changes of lead every three strides at collected canter.It requires a lot of strength and precision from the horse to do them. Henry started have trouble with them one day. He had spectacular flyng changes and would really jump through them. But now he felt funny like he couldn't organize his hind end to even do one. Over the next few days he started to resist work and he seemed afraid to even go forward under saddle. He, also, got very clingy to me on the ground.
It was eventually determined that he had EPM which is a protozoa that attacks the nervous system. I miss him terribly.... He was such a great horse.
I think one of the reasons I got out of riding was that I went through a string of loosing my own personal horses to a variety of illnesses and freak accidents. I get too emotionally attached and it just got too hard having to make the decisions to put the horses down or to give them up. I needed a break. I continued teaching for a while but then moved on to painting them.
This is photo of Henry right after he arrived from quarantine. He is just shy of 4 years old (he had tiny little M & M teeth!), already 16.3 hands. I always seemed to end up with BIG horses. He has the big head that so many Irish horses have. Once he developed a good topline everything came into proportion. Oh, and he was not over in the knee..he is just standing funny in this photo.
Deborah O'Sullivan Art