Jenny and Miska’s Story
My Dream Icelandic Horse
Miska came into my life nearly 4 years ago. She is an Icelandic Horse, just 13’3 and almost 10 and half years old. Icelandic’s are unique horses and mainly a fun forward going ride, although you can get into competitive tolting. My sister Debbie and I fell in love with the breed some 26 years ago. She has had two since then and I always hoped that one day I would have one of my own.
Within a few days of organising, we were on our way to Wales to see her. I fell in love straight away, she was a beautiful black beauty, such a lovely ride and forward going. I was completely hooked. So in March 2017 Miska arrived at our yard.
Where the Problems Began
Miska settled into our daily routine quite quickly but it became apparent that she was quite spirited. She was dominant to the other horses and a bit of a madam when it came to handling her. Still I loved her and couldn’t quite believe she was mine. She was amazing to ride and nothing fazed her, completely bomb proof in all situations, she made me feel confident. I absolutely loved riding her and we definitely had a great connection. However on the ground she became quite difficult for me. She gave my sister a nasty bite on the leg; so she took to lunging her regularly, which did help and she gained Miska’s respect.
It was a different story for myself. Over the months she became very bargy. She would sometimes be difficult to lead, started being naughty when tacking up, throwing her head around, not standing by the mounting block, trying to bite me and generally being awful. I was constantly shouting at her and on one occasions she reared up and landed on my shoulder. In the end I had to rely a lot on my sister and my daughters to help me deal with her.
The Final Straw
The final straw was in the winter of 2019. I was putting her rug on in the field, when out of the blue she lunged at me; leaving a severe bite on my thigh. I was so upset about it and became very nervous around her. She had completely lost my trust, so It was a very dark time in our relationship. I enjoyed our rides out, but I dreaded having to deal with her on a daily basis and got quite depressed about it.
Looking back, I now realise that I was so starstruck that I actually had an Icelandic Horse… I wasn’t treating her as a horse, I was too lovey-dovey with her. That’s why she became dominate over me.
In the spring of 2020 my sister and I were talking about Miska, she asked me if I loved her. My reply was no I didn’t, I just liked riding her. It then hit me; all these emotions from the bite and the difficulty of dealing with her on a daily basis had come to a head. My sister had a stern talk with me. She told me, unless I addressed all the problems I was having, then she wasn’t for me and must be sold on.
That day was a turning point in my relationship with Miska. I decided that I did want to love her, but equally, I had to address her dominance over me and build a better relationship moving forward. With the help of my family we set out to do just that…
Finding a Solution
Debbie had already started looking into alternative aids for training. She had bought a foal that was being delivered in the summer and we started putting these in place with Miska. Over the weeks I started to see a lot of good changes in Miska. Debbie had also been in touch with a dear friend of ours Sandra Williams. She used to give riding lessons to our children when they were young. We had lost touch over the years but Debbie knew shewas an Intelligent Horsemanship trainer. To be honest I really didn’t know what this was or what Sandra did; so was curious to see what it was all about.
The first session with Sandra was booked in for Debbie’s foal. Sandra started getting to know the foal and did simple exercises of standing, bending, walking, stopping, backing up and generally getting the horse to feel comfortable moving in her surroundings with her handler. All of which were rewarded by a lovely rub on the neck. This was all done in a very calm manor with no stress to the horse or handler. I was amazed at how quickly the foal responded. I had a light bulb moment…
‘Could this really work for Miska and I?’
After the session I talked to Sandra about Miska. She said she would have a quick look at her. We got her out the stable, she was raring to go as per normal. I thought this would be a big challenge for Sandra. But I was wrong… Almost immediately Sandra had done a short sharp correction, followed by a lovely rub on the neck. From that moment on Sandra had compete control of her. I was stunned at how quickly Miska responded to the exercises; from being a feisty mare to walking round on a loose rein, totally relaxed and behaving impeccably. I was in shock!
From that day on, Sandra came over once a month to do training sessions with Miska and I. Through her guidance and expertise, her easy teaching techniques backed up with useful handouts on the lesson and her boundless energy of encouragement through texting and checking up on her progress, things started clicking into place. Sandra gave me the tools to deal with situations that Miska presented to me, and there has been many. She is such an intelligence horse, but I now understand that she is just being a horse and is not aiming it at me personally.
Six Months Later..
Six months on, Miska is such a different horse to what she was a year ago when we were in that dark place. I no longer get dragged down the path hanging onto her head collar as I put her out into the field. We now have a loose lead rein with a smile in the rope. She no longer turns round and gives me two barrels when I turn her out in the field. The use of a horse lick stops all that. She is much better at putting her bridle on and standing by the mounting block; solved by reinforcing techniques of standing, walking bending and backing up exercises. She is listening to me and waiting for the command. The biting has stopped too.
We still have situations that arise that are a challenge to us. But I am much more confident in dealing with them. I have a better understanding in my approach to treating horses in a kind calm manor and constantly reinforcing the training techniques that Sandra has taught me.
Miska and I have certainly been on a journey… but we have both come out of it in a much happier place. She seems a lot happier and calmer in the field and is now, in with my sisters Icelandic and the foal. They all graze together and it is lovely to see. I’d like to think she has more respect for me and I can now say I absolutely love her! Finally I am enjoying owning this amazing Icelandic Horse and for many years to come.