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My  Horses

Sunray  Supremacy

Ferdy  of  Westoak

Heavenly  Grey

Fiona of Westoak

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In the summer of 2013 Jason started Dressage training with Hannah Esberger.

2014: Jason had a successful first show of the season, unfortunately it wasn’t to be his year, due to injury and gastric ulcers

2015: The year started well, with Jason back in work and happy. Training going well, until I broke my foot on New Years Day 2016! :-(

2016: After time off over the winter, Jason returned to Hannah Esberger’s for training, but a fetlock injury put an end to training and Jason returned home in the autumn.

2017: So far so good! This winter I have been taking mornings off work to be able to continue training my horses. I am working on Jason’s straightness and building up strength…

Thank you for reading Jason’s story... so far.

This is Jason’s Story...

I first met Jason when he was 5 years old. I was working as an Equine Behaviourist and his owners got in touch with me because he had started rearing, and twice he had fallen over backwards onto his young rider. He was a champion small riding horse - but his rearing had become a huge problem.

He had been sent to two producers yards in Derbyshire to sort out his problems - his owners were told that he was scared of his own shadow and was useless; the advice was to shoot him. He had been checked for physical causes for his behaviour and given a clean bill of health. Fortunately, someone recommended they try me instead of shooting him.

When I was contacted to help, Jason would now only walk backwards when mounted, no attempts to get him to go forwards had been successful.

I started by putting him on a long line; he charged around for a mad 10 minutes or so, while I waited for him to get it out of his system, there are no negative consequences for this because I like for the horse to realise that excitable behaviour gets no response - it is powerless. When working with horses I have found that patience is most definitely a virtue! My motto, “approach a task like you have all day, and it will take 5 minutes... approach a task like you have 5 minutes and it will take all day”

Horses feel our energy levels, it is not just our body language and words that affect their behaviour. Keeping a calm mind, calm breathing and remaining patient at all times is imperative. If a horse sense's that we are hurrying them and getting impatient they pick up on this as a rushed energy which translates to the horse as "flight mode"... and if the herd leader is showing signs of fleeing then there must be something to be worried about!

When Jason calmed down and turned his attention to me I started my groundwork exercises with him. Jason was easily panicked if he didn’t understand what was expected of him. So I worked on exercises aimed at improving his confidence, by him EASILY understanding what is required of him and therefore not failing to do the "right thing". First circling, and then pointing, (whereby he learns to move in the direction that I am pointing) this is so easy for them to learn and is a great confidence builder, not to mention useful tool for all sorts of situations. Jason started to relax, and enjoy himself. An owner needs to assert themselves as herd leader, groundwork is invaluable in developing a bond, and time spent with a horse on the ground has an effect on all areas of handling including ridden work. Introducing a horse to new things increases trust and bond, providing the horse is never 'forced' to meet new things. They are naturally inquisitive about everything and this should be used to our advantage, if pushed too much and too fast a horse will resist and become untrusting, making all we ask of him a struggle. The more positive we can make new experiences, the braver the horse becomes upon meeting new things and situations.

I thought that Jason was rearing because he had got overwhelmed and scared, which triggered his natural instinct to take flight. With a rider aboard he had felt that he was blocked from going forwards, and being unable to flee, the only directions left for him to go were up, or backwards.

My methods involve sorting the problem from the ground first, even a ridden problem - the problem isn't that a horse rears, the problem is why a horse rears and the answer to that lies in the horses head, (having ruled out physical causes) so that's the area I work on.

I have found many times when I ride a horse after the groundwork sessions that the ridden problem ceases to exist.

I wasn’t sure that would be the case with Jason though. So, in preparation for riding him, I played a circling 'game' with him, I asked him to turn by placing pressure where my foot would be when riding and turning his head towards me, when he turned his body I removed the pressure, he then stopped and I rewarded him with a rub on the withers - somewhere I would be able to reach whilst mounted. He very quickly got the hang of this.

Jason became very happy and relaxed during groundwork sessions so the time came for me to get on and ride him. He stood quietly and calmly while I mounted, then true to his reputation he started walking backwards! I didn't ask him to go forwards, instead I used pressure on one rein only and my inside leg and we played the circling game like we had on the ground, I removed the pressure and he stopped and was then rewarded with his rub on the withers. He instantly relaxed, his confidence grew as he understood what I wanted from him, and at least we were circling forwards - it beat going backwards!

I wasn't going to ask him to go forwards, that decision was up to him, when he was ready.

We circled alternately left and then right, again and again. We had circled three times to the left and just as I bringing his head round from the left to ask him to circle to the right for the third time it was like something clicked in his brain and he just started walking forwards, yes... FORWARDS! He decided he'd had enough of circling. He walked calmly around the school as if there had never been a problem.

His owner rode him and he went beautifully for her, but she'd had some scary experiences on board him and couldn't shake off the image of him rearing, so they put him up for sale... and I bought him.

A few days after he came home to me, I took him out for his first hack - wearing only a head collar and lead rope, he loved it and walked out calmly and bravely.

I rode him every day for nearly a year after buying him, and he just got better and better. Then one day, I tacked him up but he just didn't seem himself, I prepared to mount him and he moved away from me... this was very unusual for him, he loves working. I lined him up again and told him to stand still, swung my leg over his back and he did a little bunny hop, I asked him to walk forwards and he did a little rear. I thought 'oh no, not rearing again' I called to a witness "there must be something wrong with his back" and I leaned forward to dismount, but this seemed to place pressure on his back and cause pain because he reared up fully vertical. I attempted again to dismount but every time I did he reared up, eventually I could see no way out other than letting myself slide off... that is a scary thing to do, let me tell you! The comment from one of my witnesses that day was "he hasn't got a bad back, once a bad horse always a bad horse..."

I had two back specialists out to see him and he DID indeed have a bad back, they both felt he had probably hurt himself playing in the field.

The moral of the story...? Jason tried to tell me nicely that there was something wrong, but I wasn't listening.

Jason taught me horses hold all the answers - we only need to listen.

Back to top Sophie Ostler Horse Whispering Sophie Ostler and Jason Sophie Riding Horse Jason Foal Jason and Hannah Esberger

In March 2008 Jason's breeder Bab’s from the Sunray Stud got in touch after 4 years of searching for him!!

Our first show was a success, we won!

Our success at this show was made all the more special because just three years earlier Jason had health issues, severe foot problems, the vet warned me that the best outcome we could hope for was that Jason would be a field ornament, a huge pet on medication and wearing remedial shoes for the rest of his days, but more than likely Jason would be put to sleep.

I obsessed with healing him, researching equine diet and nutrition, I demanded his x-rays from the vet – they really didn’t want to hand them over! After daily Reiki sessions and just the one set of remedial shoes both the farrier and vet could not believe he was the same horse, he made a full recovery. To this day Jason is repeatedly complimented on his great feet, by farriers and other professionals who have no idea of his past issues.

Over the years I have used Jason in many demonstrations; he acquired the nickname "Jason, the wonder horse”. These days he is as chilled out as a cucumber, his new nickname is Granddad.

Sunray Supremacy Showing Horse Whispering Sophie and Jason Jason Problem Horse Jason and Sophie Jason SOequine Sophie and Jason Jason and trainer Hannah Esberger Return to My Horses Main Page

Summer 2016