The story so far

Brandy the Brumby

Brandy the Brumby the RDA Wannabe.

Training diary

Brandy the Brumby - Week One part One

On the 27th of the 7th month in the year 2010 .. love at second sight.
Like; is that her?

Then Terry let her out of her pen, and wow she’s elegant. Nice Roman nose too. Aristocratic is the word I’m looking for.

Who is she? Brandy the Brumby.

Her certificate of authenticity tells us that Toolara Nutmeg is a genuine Australian Heritage Brumby captured in the wild in Toolara State Forest in South East Queensland on the eight of the fifth  month 2010.

This is gonna be easy  - Week One part Two

Terry delivered her to our property on the 27th of the 7th month 2010. He had spent a couple of weeks halter training and desensitising her. She easily moved of the float and Terry showed us how well behaved she was on the lead.

Terry had put in the hard yards. This was gonna be easy.

Next day, she didn’t agree.

Me halter trained? What is that thing hanging of your shoulder?

So we’re now a week later and she still won’t let me approach her.

Meet our stallion - Week One part Three

Baileys Mangojam Foursocks, our piebald stallion miniature pony, overnight has run a trench as deep as himself. After a long night of sustained effort we can just see his ears bopping up and down as he continues to scale the fence in his failed efforts to say hello to the Brumby. We are relatively relaxed seeing that the fence is about a foot higher than our pony and him jumping that fence would indeed be a world record.

Overnight, Baileys has lost about 10 kilos where it was desperately needed to go and our Brumby is now in season.

Don’t worry .. Week Two Part One

Ok, I managed to put the lead rope on once. But it sure didn’t make her happy.

Lucky for me Terry phoned the next day to see how we’re doing.

‘Terry, she looked at the lead rope, seeming to say, “What is that thing you attached to me?”’

Terry said, “Don’t worry, it’s OK to put a little pressure on her.”

Next day I managed to sneak the rope on her again and yes finally we are walking around the paddock together.

Horse etiquette .. Week Two Part Two

There’s a lot of flies around annoying her and she won’t let me near her again. “Terry, help, what can we put in the food to keep the flies of her?”

Terry tells me to continue ‘getting in her space’ and putting pressure on so that I can clip her on the lead rope once more.

I’m now, against all rules and horse etiquette hand feeding her.

She likes that. Me too.

Discouraging flies - Week Two Part Three

As Baileys is whinnying over the fence to his new found friend we add another name to the mix; Brandy. So now we have Brandy Toolara Nutmeg the Brumby.

I finally manage to put Brut on Brandy, scrape off the bott flies and discover what to put in her food to discourage flies.

Vitamine B, apple cider vinegar, garlic and sulphur. I am still figuring out the amounts.

Sisters .. Week Three Part One

My sister was gonna show me how to break a brumby, by simply jumping on and riding her. The lead rope never made it any further than the side of her halter and then my sister let go. Brandy flew around the paddock with the rope dangling off the side, chasing her, as far as she was concerned. She bucked and reared and kicked and flew and bucked and reared and kicked and ran. And I stood there praying and thinking off all the ways to eliminate sisters from ‘helping.’

Friends? Week Three Part Two
She lunged at me. I thought that we were friends. Man she looks mean. Her eyes and nostrils are massive. Honest I think she spits fire too. She grew about 3 feet when she lunged and yeah I don’t have to put up with that crap. I told her too. Like I jumped back at her, after I scrambled out of the bushes I’d fallen into.

My mum says she loves her fluffy ears, yeah whatever.

I could’ve .. Week Three part Three

The lunging is part of our dance, determining who is boss. She’s still figuring it out and it is my job, in the nicest possible way to let her know, that I am the matriarch. I probably should have left her alone after the excitement we had earlier on. But after she settled we were all very relaxed and it felt like I could have climbed on her back then and there .. but I didn’t.

Every meal time I sit in the paddock with her and she comes close and loves the company as long as I don’t try to touch her. We’ll see about that.

Resources and helpful friends  - Week Four part One

It’s time to put a training plan in place and I’m going through my resources. If it wasn’t for Terry’s ready availability on the phone .. Thank you Terry! My coaching mentor last week lent me two fantastic books on horsemanship’s and she is watching with interest. Another friend from RDAQ (State Head Office) is very encouraging and brought me in contact with the Northern Territory RDA centre. They have about six brumbies, some coloured; nice going. My family and neighbours are all supportive with time and materials where needed.

Today Baileys met with Brandy’s back hoofs and is keeping respectful distance. Brandy has a lot of food in her paddock so we decided that they should share. She’s happy to share her food but nothing else with this raring to go little stallion.

Our goals - Week Four part Two

The long term goal is to have Brandy as a happy RDA horse and no longer a wannabe. Short term goals are for her to come when I call her and to be able to  put a saddle on her. I just have to figure out how to do that. Up till now I have mainly been studying her behaviour and building up trust. It has become much easier to study her now that she’s in the paddock with Baileys and I can and see from a distance what’s going on.

I’ve also actively worked to steadily increasing her responsiveness. She now stops when I go, Whoow. That’s kinda cool.

Still naughty  - Week Four part Three

After four weeks I’m still doing the naughty thing and handfeeding her. She follows me wherever I go regardless if I have food on me or not. When I feed her, she wraps herself around me and when I push her away she’ll continue to come back leaning into me. I know, I know, bad habits I have to train out of her next. We do what we can. Her ears don’t go back so often anymore and I can clip her on whenever I want to. When she’s on the lead, she’s good. I can check her hoofs and touch her nearly anywhere so that’s massive progress. The other day I managed to put a natural saddle pad on her.

I’m happy with the progress we made in four weeks. With many thanks to all my support people and resources. Next week I’ll come up with an official training plan.

Who’s teaching who? -  Week Four part Four

I discovered that there is a few more days left in this week. I intend to focus on her coming when I call her. I’ve noticed that she is very deliberate and takes her time with everything. In the wild there probably is not that many second guesses and she’s learned to get it right the first time. It means that when I call her, she doesn’t come up running, but she’ll think about it. She’ll look around and have another little chew here and there and then maybe, maybe will make her way over. I intend to speed those responses up by disappearing when she doesn’t respond within a certain time limit. We’ll see how we go with that. I don’t want to confuse her either.

I’ve been watching Brandy and Baileys checking each other out ever so graciously and very courteous and I don’t want to be found out by them to be some slow learning klutz.

It’s been three weeks and three days – Week Three  part Seven

Today it’s the 23rd of the 8th month and actually exactly three weeks and three days since Brandy arrived. Today I managed to test out our three saddles (keep an eye on other people’s bins) to discover that my one girth is either too long or too short.

As long as I let Brandy smell everything before I put it on her back, she was absolutely fine with it. She’s now also equally happy with me patting her or giving her chaff.

Y E A H ! Three weeks and three days!! I also got to measure her and she is the exact size we’re looking for at RDA.

Brandy still looks suspicious at a carrot or a bit of lettuce. Baileys happily shows her what the deal is but she prefers the hay and the chaff.

When Brandy arrived we had a paddock filled with grass. We soon discovered that Brumbies like to roll .. a lot. She pretty much rolled the whole ¼ acre and we’re looking into adding some fresh pasture. Our neighbours generously allow Brandy to roam on their property and all we have to do is add a few more pickets to get her more space and food.

I’m no Guy McLeanyet  .four weeks

OK the dates are all over the shop, what with all the excitement and that but the truth is that after three weeks and three days I managed to put a saddle on her. So Guy McLean does this in half an hour, well I intend to improve but for now I’m happy with three weeks.

Before we managed to write up an official training diary; Brandy comes when I call her, I can lift up her front feet and stroke her pretty much all over. I kinda hung over her a bit the other day to see what she would do and she looked around with a big question mark on her face. That was it. She’s cool as a cookie.

This weekend we were supposed to be riding her; that was the plan. My sister once more was going to give it her best shot; this time around, no halter, no saddle. Just rider and horse. It didn’t take long for Brandy to charge her, which was fun to watch from outside the fence. But by the time they finished playing, no one got to ride her.

New gear.

Baileys desperately wants to be her friend. Brandy is more interested in the ducks and hares skipping around the yard and me opening the garage door. Whilst initially she would dash all the way to the other end of the paddock, now she is doing quite the opposite. The sound of our garage door means company and food and she loves both.

Whenever I get a chance I eat my lunch and breakfast with her and our other pets all sitting out in the paddock. Brandy, me, puss, dog, pony and the other day our puss’s pet snake baby brown. I reckon having Brandy watch me play and hang out with our other pets all makes a difference.

Brandy is helping me purchase our new gear too. Initially I offered the fertiliser for free to our neighbours which they politely declined. Since I put the bags of poo up for sale at two dollars a pop they are selling like hot cakes. Bought me a new girth and lead rope already. Aiming for a new saddle next.

Still figuring out the amounts.

Brandy is not too keen on the sulphur, it makes her pull faces and spit. I try it on Baileys first who is about half her size and Brandy tolerates about one fifth of what I put in his food. Talk about being fussy. She loves the hay, chaff, oats and copra. She’ll pull up her nose if I put as much as a smidgen of anything else in it. So, yes, I’m still working on that and figuring out the amounts because I rather keep the flies off her by putting stuff in her feed than continue to put brut on her.

Riding to the bay. 5 ½ weeks

Today my sister decided to ride Brandy to the Bay. I told her that Brandy is not ready but she insisted. She also insisted on going bareback and I guess that I should have left it at that but I figured that it would be more comfy for Brandy to have a saddle on her; not that I expected them to leave the paddock together.

I walked Brandy around with the lead, saddle and the stirrups and she was surprisingly fine with it all. I told my sister to put some pressure on Brandy’s back before actually mounting her and she leaned over her and all went well. I then suggested that she shouldn’t put all her weight on Brandy to start off with and she promised that she wouldn’t.

This took us all the way back to our childhood years were we would ride the wild horses on our property.

She’s a dancer.

My sister once more leaned over Brandy, only this time putting her full 61 ½ kilos on the horse with her right foot in the stirrup and for about one milli- second, all was well. Next moment this horse which I was gently going to lead around the paddock for the very first time with a rider on her back, arches her back sky high, aiming for the moon.  Near enough simultaneously sis is passively embracing the rocks underneath Brandy whilst pressing her cheeks deeply into the soil. Meanwhile a voice from the side lines is urging us to Get the hell out of the way.

My sister’s elegant nosedive is followed by a swift scramble through the electrified fence to the edge of the paddock as I also run to make place for this impromptu break-dancer.

Ace performance. Back arched, manes, nostrils and stirrups soaring through the air with her feet barely, if ever, touching the ground. Just a whirlwind flying through our paddock. It seemed to last for an eternity. I don’t know if the on and off leaning into the electric fence spurred her on or eventually slowed her down. But we mainly credit her visiting friend, Calypso the gelding, for telling her that, enough is enough.

Eventually her pupils returned and the white of her eyes, by now a little bloodshot, disappeared. She had had a good workout. Hell, we’d all had a good workout.

Maybe the extra 40 kilo’s my sister put on since our childhood years made all the difference, or have I lost my touch already?

Plan B

We are grateful to the good forces in the sky for keeping us all in one piece. Just a few scrapes and bruises .. pfew. An outta control 350-odd kilos randomly flying around the yard and no one got seriously hurt; that must have taken a whole stack of guardian angels for sure.

We got the message, we heard you loud and clear Brandy, you don’t want us to get on your back .. as yet.

First words out of sis’ mouth were, “How did I look, how did I look?” After carefully considering the response she decided that horses aren’t on her to do list any longer, so we’re moving on to plan B.

Not quite but nearly three months later

Calypso has gone back home and Brandy is now well and truly setting the pace.
For plan B I’ll be drawing on all my resources, my friend Terry, Richard Maxwell and contemporaries and ‘The Ten Steps” given to me by my mentor.

Really what I’m coming to is that it’ll be easier to follow Brandy’s clues than setting my own schedule. On the days we’re good, she pretty much does whatever I ask her, within reason. But there’s still the odd occasion where she treats me as if I am a stranger, ouch.

I’ve learned to recognise that when Brandy is already stressed even ten minute sessions strain our friendship. I’ve noticed that already without my input, she’s learning so much every day, the sights, sounds and smells of our laid back neighbourhood are clearly a little overwhelming to her at times. But whenever I put no pressure whatsoever on her we can hang out for ages and it’s all good.

Three and a half months later

Plan B quite unexpectedly included spending very little time with Brandy for the last month. Which turned out to be just the right thing.

Baileys (our miniature stallion) begged us if he could please spend some more time with Brandy. Initially she snubbed him but when the tree lopper’s chain saw got going, Baileys became her refuge. Our neighbour’s weekly test of the roaring jetski motor saw her running to him for cover as well and within no time we found them cuddling up together at night. Baileys has become Brandy’s measure-of-normal.

Over the last few months Brandy has come to appreciate our neighbour’s love of rock and roll music. Like us, she isn’t that much into it but it doesn’t make her gallop to the end of the paddock any more either. But it is Bailey’s behaviour which teaches her that banging noises on shed walls and motor bikes and kids on skate boards and builders with rock grinders, annoying as they may be, are equally innocent noises.

It is Bailey’s rock solid, even-tempered and composed presence which calms Brandy down each and every time a new noise, sight or smell presents itself.

Nearly four months later

Brandy has been with us for nearly four months. I don’t know if using my friendly aid, the little stallion, is considered cheating a little. But because Baileys and I have grown quite fond of each other over the last year, Brandy is now equally eager for some of my attention and instead of me having to coerce her, she now waits in line for attention.

Man, this is good!
Haven’t done much at all for the last month or so yet made stacks of progress because of this little fellow. He has been quite a handful himself in the past but that’s a different story.

The desensitising is quite a large part of the training and obviously takes a lot of time. Brandy clearly needs to absorb and process each and every new sound, sight or smell a number of times before she’s OK with it. Looking back from four months ago till now, we’ve come a long way. In the early days, the only movement Brandy didn’t react to were the movement of clouds, wind, birds, hares and leaves, anything natural. By now she’s added lawn mowers and whipper snippers, loud music, playing children, pool noises, all kinds of different engine noises and whiffs of back burning bushes and wafting bbq’s. 

She’s  not even jumping anymore when my sister is trialling her new exercise regime of rocketing down our drive way on a mini skate board.

So yeah, we’ve come a long way.

Bikies It’s been nearly five months

Next week it’ll be five months. Brandy and Baileys are getting friendlier every day. He has become her refuge when all the ‘baddies’ are out to get her. Such as the motorbikes. We barely hear the punk kids passing on their bikes every now and then a few streets away. For Brandy however this is a RED ALERT which makes her kick, buck and gallop around the paddock till she finds her refuge Baileys. We figure that she may have had a few run-ins with bikies in her wilder years out in the Toolara Forest.

In the end it is all about exposure. Every single time she is exposed to a what-she-thinks-to-be life threatening event, she does what all decent flight animals do. And that is, run for her life. However, every single time this perceived life-threatening-event turns out to be OK-ish, her reaction gets tempered a little bit.

This is becoming more and more obvious. Not from day to day but thinking back over the four and a half months there’s been massive progress. I read somewhere that Richard Maxwell found that a horse needs to be exposed over a hundred times to the same ‘threat’ before this becomes normal to them.

A different breed

Over the last few weeks the most progress I’ve made is due to my very deliberate ignoring of Brandy. This has resulted in her following me wherever I go, pleading for my attention.
Terry’s long pep talk the other night really boosted my confidence and put a lot of things in perspective. In hindsight a lot of things have become much clearer. It really makes all the difference to talk to some one who has experience with and understands brumbies. Their body language is so much more subtle than domesticated horses. Annie also managed to make me see the whole ‘breaking-in’ from a fresh perspective. She mentioned the infinite patience which Terry seems to be able to apply and how different personalities deal with the horses differently.

Just exchanging our (mainly mine) frustrations and little victories (mainly his) relaxed me enough to come up with a few fresh angles and approaches to work with within the next few weeks.

A whiff of Brandy

Brandy has been fine with Sam our dog whenever he walks with me tidying up the yard. Unexpectedly the other day Brandy decided to have a closer-up look at this tiny Dane sized ‘horse’. Which kind of unnerved both Sam and I because for Brandy closer-up is really quite in your face, and she’s not small.

Sam has a quirky habit of jumping up with all fours at once when he plays with Baileys. Sam’s playful leaps clip Baileys’ ears or ruffle his mane, which our little stallion takes in the good humour as it is intended. I wasn’t so sure how Brandy would respond to a dog hurdling himself up at her throat with a grin the size of a Dane.

Sam wasn’t either so he decided against it. Pfewie. My heart rate slowly returned back to normal over the course of the rest of the morning. Later in the afternoon Sam must have thought, you started it, when he leaped through the electric fence to go and have a closer-up himself. Or so he thought.

Before he could even think, I go and have meself a little sniff of Brandy, she was onto him. Baby, was she onto him. That dog rocketed back so fast that I never even saw him move from A to B. One moment he was heading up towards Brandy, the next moment he’s safely panting his little heart out right next to me on the other side of the fence.

Brandy’s frolics managed to half heartedly tempt him to get back in but in the end we all sat back and watch Brandy run it off. 
She doesn’t mind charging either, our brumby. In a closed up paddock with nowhere to go, in the end she just goes for it; thumping hoofs, bristling manes, smoking nostrils, the works.

I like.

Recapping at five months

At some stage we thought that three months was not an unrealistic goal to be able to throw the saddle on and go for a ride on our brumby.

After three weeks I actually managed to test out all kinds of different saddles on her and she had no problem with any of this. We walked around the paddock together with the stirrups dangling on her sides, no problem.

How come that after five months I feel that I’m going backwards instead of forwards?

Green as grass after six months.

By now I had expected to be riding her and early on all indications were that this was going to happen. Instead, all of a sudden, seemingly out of the blue, she’s gone pretty feral on me and I booked some ‘ol hands for advice and an assessment.

“Well, she’s pretty green this one, isn’t she? Haven’t done any work with her yet have you?”

What is going on? I am now really confused. After chasing and cornering Brandy the three of us (two expert hands and me) finally get her on the lead-rope and Expert Hand 1 is testing the desensitisation of Brandy with a carrot stick/lunge whip.

Expert Hand One said, “Look, can you see how green she is, even my two year old foals don’t quite act like her, she’s ready to go the moment she’ll see an opening.”
Brandy’s sweat drenched quivering body was expertly being handled by trainer two who continued to run the whip softly against her body.

Expert Hand One continued, “That’ll easy be a good two years before you’re going any place with this one.”

We were doing so good. Were we?

Who is boss?

Early on Brandy and I developed an understanding where I was matriarch and she did as she was told. This worked mostly. The only hiccup in this scenario was that she had forgotten that she was halter trained. So the majority of our work has been at liberty. I managed to clip her on every now and then but way more often then than now.

It didn’t seem to matter much because the training progressed pretty good without the lead rope. I could pick up all her feet, stroke her all over, brut her (fly repellant), put saddles on her. She came whenever I called her and followed me wherever I went. We were pretty much ready for the next phase when she charged our dog a couple of times and so we decided to keep him out of the yard. Then out of the blue she charged me when I asked her to move from one paddock to another.

We had noticed that after five months Brandy still seemed to over react quite a bit to many things. Like for instance when the whirring sound of the council’s new fangled street cleaner water spouts reached Brandy’s ears, her kicks and bucks went on and on and on. Mum said, “She just doesn’t let up. All her responses seem so out of whack to whatever is going on. Especially now after five months.  Just cool it already, that dog was here well before you, he’s never even barked at you, we kept him on the lead because of you and now you’re spinning out of control because we’re walking him on the lead all the way across the yard? What the?”

All of a sudden Baileys our mini stallion who has been head over heels all the while, is kicking at Brandy. That’s new; he’s never before lashed out at her. It seems that he also has enough of her antics.

We can’t make head or tails of it. So the next day we’re on the phone for an assessment and are told that she’s greener than our grass. This is after a good solid 5 ½  months of very intermittent training. Uummpphh.

This is despite the fact that I can pretty much do whatever and she is OK with it .. most the time ..

OK, I hear you .. not solid. I knew that, I was working towards it, but trickey without being able to clip her on.

We’re not sure if this is what happened but piecing all the bits together it appears that even though Brandy was coming along nicely and doing all the right things .. most of the time. She was not behaving all the time. And the more pressure I put on, the more she baulked and eventually she must have decided that it was time to have it out with me.

It’s kind of fun to think that this is why Baileys had a go at her a number of times but truth be known he probably had reasons all of his own.

I was acutely aware that I had to get the training more solid but felt that this would come in time and felt very close to being able to naturally clip her on without a hassle.

We had considered but not executed to build a little pen to facilitate the clipping on but realistically she just goes beserko at a moments notice if she feels challenged and my pen building skills aren’t such that they would keep her in guaranteed wholly undamaged.

Yes, I know, a round yard would have been handy. Surplus panels anyone?

Forever a wannabe? Miss Moody? seven months later.

Brandy maybe a wannabe but man, she’s gotta try a little harder if she’s serious about it. I keep telling her that RDA horses are solid horses. She’s too young to realise or care that RDA horses are usually a little bit older and generally they have pretty much seen and done it all. But if she wants to join the crew and me at the centre, she really has to grow some maturity quickly.

The findings at seven months are that I’ve a nice relationship going with a belligerent tantrum throwing teenager who seriously has got to be pulled into line. I obviously don’t blame her for any of it because even though I never let her get away with anything, what the heck was I doing allowing a little stallion in with her? Who did I think was going to be the matriarch in this scenario? A no brainer really, so Expert Hand One told me, and who am I to disagree.

Brandy’s utterly charming personality certainly pulled the wool over my eyes and she had even me believe that really I was the one .. till her moods took over.

Professional help had been called in because Brandy’s fiery nature though still likeable was becoming displaced and needing containing. I had kept thinking that she had a reason for charging (the dog led around the yard on the lead by my sister, Baileys our mini stallion, etc) but have come to the conclusion that in MY yard, nobody has any reason to charge anyone and that’s the message miss Moody will be getting from me from now on.

My ten step program

I have been following a schedule of ten steps by John Chatterton where the first step was face-up; tick. Part of the face-up was halter training; she forgot. Step two; standing still, kinda and also pull and release; when on lead yes. Step three touching all over; beautiful. Step four backing up; tick. Step five flexing; check at liberty. Step six yielding to pressure; tick. Step seven yielding shoulder and hind quarters; can do shoulder on lead and hind quarters at liberty. Step eight, accepting spooky objects; yes and no and a loud and big NO when the professionals tested her on this. Step nine, leading in position; on the halter yes, otherwise no. Step ten lunging; well without a round yard that’s a no.

But when put to the test, none of it solid; it has to be solid.

After crying on Terry’s shoulder, I understood that leaving Brandy to her own devices for a little to let the domesticated herd (Baileys) work it’s wonders, is successful to the extent that he shows her what she should consider to be ordinary sounds, smells and happenings. But leaving her to her own devices for too long also made her challenge me once more. Because hey, she had been just fine without me and who was I to tell her what to do?

I was right about one thing and that is that we are ready for the next phase. The message coming from all directions once more was loud and clear; Round yard.

Today I’ve spent a little time building a pen, just for the purpose of clipping her on. I’ll be feeding her in the pen and fingers crossed I’ll be clipping her on within the week.

Meanwhile I’ll be building a round pen and “”WHIP””. Despite all evidence possibly to the contrary (when Brandy was put to the test by my professional horse breaking friends) I believe that a lot of groundwork has been laid and we’ll be steaming ahead once I get this baby in the round yard. Watch this space.

I just stumbled a little.

If I’ve been sounding confused it is because I was puzzled for a little while and couldn’t make head nor tail of what was happening.

We were doing real good and only waiting for the right person to come along and take our brumby for a ride. Both my sister and I’ve perfected our flying lessons recently (different horses) and have come to the conclusion that we may be better suited next time around to be part of the ground crew.

Brandy was ready, we were ready but I tell you what, this mare can also be the most ferocious unicorn. I’ve seen her grow horns/batwings in an instant, exhaling fiery furnace and all when she’s not happy. The last tantrum threw me a little. Those teeth are seriously big from very close up. But after watching our professional friends giving her a run for her money I remembered the sweet natured brumby which Terry delivered all these months ago and I felt negligent for not having coaxed more of that sweetness out of her more of the time.

I’m now more remorseful than anything. The yard is tidied up with all pruned tree branches woven into a neat little pen. With our next tidy-up-branches I’ll create us a round yard. Brandy is ready, I am ready. Many thanks to the author of The Arabian Art of Taming and Training Wild and Vicious Horses by P. R. Kincaid with John J. Stutzman. During one of the recent rainy spells I had a bit of a browse through this ebook. It is a free download from the web. Funnily enough I very much followed his guidelines before reading the ebook. Can’t give you a better endorsement than that. I discovered that there is many different brands of horsemanship, and gentle and easy-does-it works well for us.
We are on the right track. I just stumbled a little but she never missed a beat.
It’s all about the horse and if it isn’t working .. where am I going wrong?

Priorities and prioritising ..

Riding for the Disabled started its new year this month and all the preparations have certainly kept me on my toes. I’ve also just returned from meeting with friends on my travels and the RDA State Conference where we had a ball with carriage driving, vaulting and Hippo-therapy on the menu. I had a good old yarn with the other coaches and learned STACKS. Huge thank you to the organisers, it was awesome.

And on 21st and 22nd of March Franklin Levinson will be visiting our RDA centre for an equine facilitated learning and horsemanship workshop. If you want to find out more about this I suggest that you visit his website There’s a few places left for both active participants as well as fence sitters.

One of the horsey secrets I learned from Franklin is to allow the horse to show affection. I am usually so busy to show Brandy this and teach her that and desensitize or feed or brut, scrape out her hoofs and so on. Always busy doing something. Well that’s a lot of input for a horse, way more than what they usually get in the wild. In the wild they just hang out together a lot and give out (energy) as well as take in. When I thought about it, it made a lot of sense. It is very easy to overwhelm horses’ senses and never allow them to return some of the affection which we lavish upon them.

So for a little while I’ve just been sitting on my newly build fence watching the birds and the sky and the uninvited white-ants with her. And it doesn’t take long for her to be wanting to be close to me and nibble and smell a bit before she dozes off with her fluffy ears tickling my face. So now hanging out has become one of my top priorities.

It’s all about priorities and I’ve got a zillion of them to categorise and prioritise. Brandy knows she’s number One, as is Sam and Rain, oh yeah and the RDA and ..

Clipping Brandy on the lead-rope.

It wasn’t Brandy, it wasn’t the pen, it was the lead-rope.

The day that I couldn’t find the lead rope was a good day. Because it meant that I had to order another lead-rope. The day after the new lead-rope arrived in the mail, the old one mysteriously showed up. But I didn’t need to mention that because we all knew that this was going to happen. It was good that the old one showed up though, this meant that I didn’t need to double it up any longer as the dog lead also. Now he can have his own lead.

I clipped Brandy on the new lead-rope the day it arrived. Same colour, same feel, no probs.

Just didn’t have the smell of the dog on it.


TIme Management and training?

Truth be known there’s been a lot going on at the RDA centre which absorbed a great amount of my time and Brandy really has been on the backburner. This wasn’t the plan from the beginning but I found myself in a position where I had to sort through an awful lot of priorities all at once. In the end obviously, people are always on top of my list.

My time management and haphazard training with Brandy, if you can even call it that,  just reflects a rather chaotic period of time I was going through.


As well as Brandy all the children at the Riding for the Disabled were a priority in my life. There’s been a little reshuffling in that the RDA centre is no more. At the moment there’s still a bunch of parents left organizing rides for their kids every now and then, but, despite them continuing to carry the same name, the centre is no longer affiliated with Riding for the Disabled Australia.

As a registered coach with Riding for the Disabled Australia I decided that it is a good idea to stick with national protocols, policies and procedures when working with children, people with disabilities and horses and as such chose not to be associated with the the local centre any longer.

It has caused me a lot of heartache because I love all the riders and cherished the time we spent horsing around but when dealing with horses and children, it’s safety first.  

What about Brandy the wannabe?

Exactly right. Now what? Brandy has been put out with the herd for a little while and due to access issues such as overgrown acres of mushy paddock over the last few months, she has pretty much gone brumby again.

Does Brandy still want to be an RDA horse?

Time will tell. At one stage during her training I considered her to be a perfect EFL horse because of her sweet and gentle nature and her responsiveness to the people around her. She is just so eager to please.
I can’t remember if I mentioned Equine Facilitated Learning LINK before but I did a great workshop about a year ago with Franklin from and have come to appreciate how people learn and progress through their interaction with horses.
What I like about the discipline of EFL particularly is that people don’t have to ride a horse to benefit from the interaction. This makes equine therapy available to anyone, not just people with a desire or ability to ride a horse.

Through the desensitisation process I went through with Brandy I noticed how alert and receptive she was and I was getting close to introducing her to my rider friends at the RDA. The plan was to utilise the EFL training with Brandy and this way slowly incorporate her into the program. I had noticed how much the riders enjoyed to handle the horses on the ground and not only be involved with riding them.
Brandy would be perfect in that regard because she is so pure if you like, un-spoilt with her responses real and as yet not tainted by bad habits or too much handling of inexperienced hands.

I learned much from Carlos

The main hick-ups Brandy and I encountered in her training were the lack of ‘quality’ time I was able to spend with her and me occasionally misunderstanding brumby language, being more familiar with the average horsey language.

I learned much from Carlos Tabernaberri in this respect and he put my mind at ease with regards to the charging which Brandy would get into on a couple of occasions during early training sessions. Real street fighters they are, he told me for instance and that explained a few things away.
It had been hard to reconcile Brandy’s soft and gentle nature with those few instances, but basically brumbies don’t muck around. Carlos and I agree that brumbies are so personable and really interact and are engaged. Overall they also tend to be very friendly horses to those whom they trust. The people which I’ve spoken to that know and have worked with brumbies agree that if it were a possible choice we’d only work with brumbies. Best horses ever.

Carlos is coming over again for another visit to the Fraser Coast, not sure if there’s any spaces left for his workshop.

Carlos Tabernaberri from

There’s nothing I like better.

There’s nothing I like better than horsing around surrounded by big grins and smiley faces and I’ve spent quite a few years doing just that. At the moment we’re enjoying our own version of this within our circle of family and friends.

Whilst I am having a spell from the official regular rides, Brandy is also having a spell out in the paddock showing them all how a real horse, a brumby does it.

Brandy is growing up.
It didn’t take Brandy very long to become the matriarch in the paddock during her little holiday. All good if it wasn’t that the old lead mare returned to the paddock and asked for her job back.
Brandy said no.
Brandy is now moving on to greener pastures.

No, I can hear you thinking .. No broken bones, nothing like it a. we’ve been told that there was some chasing ..  no one saw a clash but former lead mare appeared with some scratches and a limp. Just horses sorting out their hierarchy as they do.

Horse behaviour.
What we learned from Brandy’s spell in another paddock is that if people are not familiar with horse language they very easily misinterpret what is going on.
In the wild where horses freely move around in herds there is a hierarchy which to some extent we’ll find mirrored with horses in paddocks. All’s usually fine as long as people don’t interfere too much with the natural order of things.

The best way to understand horse lingo is to hang out with them as much as you can and talk with old hands. There are also plenty of interesting websites around which tell us about horse behaviour. A few of my favourites are Rick has endless info on all subjects, John is so honest, straightforward and un apologetic with great dedication to educate the novice horse owner and many article resources, has a huge store of answered questions about horse behaviors and issues owners have, Franklin is also very involved in EFL, Carlos is a truly gentle horseman - which I love, and he has great understanding of herd behavior and in particular much experience with brumbies

Back to the lead mare role however
In the paddock we generally don’t find stallions and there’s usually limited space and food to share, sometimes barbed wire to keep the herd in. Not quite mirroring the wild in those respects. But like in the wild, it’s the matriarch which decides which herd member will move where and when, she will also take care of any disciplining that needs doing, will be alert for her herds safety at all times and for the privilege of having the most responsibility she gets to eat whichever patch of grass takes her fancy. When the paddock owner thought that Brandy was ‘challenging’ other horses, she was probably just observing matriarchal behaviour.

A little on the lead mare

Also brumby-behaviour not sure what the site is about as a whole but I have read the write up and its pretty accurate

Who is lead mare?
Sometimes this can take a little while to play out, depending on how determined each mare is to keep her role or move up a rank. Horsey language in these cases will usually involve a little chasing, a few kicks and bucks and maybe the occasional bite. Only till such time that one of the parties submits after which all’s well again in horsey land. How long will this whole process take? It will take however long the mares need to sort out their hierarchy. Usually a few days, could be weeks or on and off over a period of months.

We never saw Brandy displaying lead mare behaviour when she was in our paddock. Fierce as she was on occasion during the early training, a lot of this was merely adolescent behaviour and she was always happy to submit to the other horses she shared space with at our place. She wasn’t too keen on our dog and undecided about the cat but with stallion, gelding, mare, we only ever saw her share and not caring much about her food or anything really. Brandy just liked to hang out with other horses. She always finished eating long before any of the other horses had finished eating with plenty food still left and didn’t have any preference either. Hay, Lucerne, pony pellets, carrot, apple, grass, it’s all the same to her, she just isn’t fussed about any of it. As long as I was careful with the sulphur.

Tia Maria The Pumpkin
When Tia Maria The Pumpkin our skewbald Shetland came home with me after our local RDA centre was no more, we wondered if there would be some sorting out to do between the two girls. It did not take very long to establish that Tia the Pumpkin is the gourmet whilst for Brandy the grass is green wherever she is.

There were a few squeals, mainly Tia’s, and afterwards we saw a couple of hoof prints on their bums and that was that. They had settled their differences. The Pumpkin in charge of the food, Brandy took care of the rest. Tia also bonded with our little stallion which took a load of Brandy’s mind. She had struggled to make sense of his advances and was more than happy to let the two of them get on with it.


As soon as I realized that I stuck Brandy in a high oxalate pasture I researched it quite a bit with phoning around and getting advice from suppliers who manufacture the supplements, produce stores and knowledgeable friends on the subject. There were a number of options with none of the supplements however guarantying the prevention of bighead. Just the same we can safely assume that it is better to supplement than not to supplement.

One of the horse owners in the paddock had supplemented with calcium but was not too happy with the results I believe. This may have been because according to my research minerals should be taken in balance and correct ration to other minerals so that the body can absorb and utilise them properly. For example calcium also needs magnesium, phosphorous and boron to be properly assimilated. Also feeding too much calcium on its own can cause gut stones, this includes feeding lucerne on its own as its got good calcium content.

About minerals interactions

Supplementation for Bighead
Another option for supplementation against bighead / nutritional secondary hyperparathyroidism is fortamin which I am no fan of because I don’t like giving molasses to my horse. I particularly don’t like feeding sweets to a brumby whose diet has been quite varied and divers with very low sugar levels. Also I’ve noted the aggression with which the horses attack the blocks and each other when there’s molasses around. A little bit like a bunch of kids around a candy jar. As I said, I’m no fan of it.

The alternative is the 007 blocks which has most the same things as the fortamin in similar ratio but only 3% of molasses instead of 45% and lacks the copper. Not a bad idea to leave a few of those blocks out in the paddock. Because it is not so sweet the horses are as not likely to go beserko over it either. In Brandys paddock the horses collectively would tear through a fortamin block in a couple of days whilst it was supposed to last a couple of weeks with the amount of horses there was in the paddock.

I choose to supplement with Equilibrium
After the advice I received I decided however to give Brandy a double dose of Equlibrium, her coat likes it and she seemed to do good on it.
The jury is out on what the best supplementation is and it may well differ from horse to horse and paddock to paddock. Even though I am no fan of molasses for my horses I’ve seen other horses  do really well on it, so it is very much an individual choice.

Just the same when Brandy was in the paddock I vigilantly checked her for the bighead signs such as weepy eyes, protruding facial bones, lameness, depression, tender joints, a stiff gait. I’m pleased to say that she showed none of these signs.

I only really mention it here because even though I had heard of Bighead before I had never had a horse in a high oxalate paddock before and it pays to check this out before you make arrangements.

Update update ..

Drought, drought and more drought.
We’ve had more than a year drought where we live and we’ve had to move the horses and ponies on to greener pastures.

It is now 2014 and Brandy is doing really well and lives with her new family nearby.

Tia Maria the Pumpkin was joined in 2013 by Michka a dark coloured Shetland with a heart of gold who was very happy to join our herd.

Happier than both of them together was however our little stallion Baileys who fathered 3 foals with Tia the Pumpkin and Michka.

Happy Jabula was born to Pumpkin in January 2013 and she is 10 hh at 16 months old and the spitting image of dad, absolutely gorgeous with her piebald tobiano markings and wild mane. The filly who was born a year later didn’t manage to break the sack after she was born and didn’t survive.

Lancelot’s was born to Michka in March 2014 and loves running and playing with his care takers more than anything else. Michka now lives with her colt in a lush green yard.

Baileys has returned to the person who initially rescued him.

Pumpkin and her foal still live with us but both have their sights set on greener pastures too and are looking to move soon.

Even though horses and ponies do quite well on hay and other feeds, we believe that whenever possible horses ought to be out in the paddock grazing. We cannot provide that for them where we live at the moment and are very happy that we’ve found suitable homes for them where there is juicy grass for them all year round.