Keryn’s Horse Journey
Keryn Visser feels a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when she looks out over her green paddocks where her horse and two ponies graze contentedly. She knows she’s come a long way from the disappointment and sense of failure she felt earlier.
“If anyone had told me this was possible in the early days, I wouldn’t have believed them. Before I met Pete I didn’t know this level of communication even existed,” Keryn.
Kodi her tall and handsome gelding feels pretty good about himself too. He and Keryn now have a bond, something that was sadly lacking in their relationship a few years ago.
Keryn has been involved with horses since childhood. Her grandfather bred and raced them and one of her most vivid memories is being hoisted up onto a horse and holding onto the mane as her grandfather led them around.
In her teenage years she rode fearlessly on any horse she could beg or borrow. It seemed only natural to get back into riding a few years ago when she moved onto acreage. The horse paddock was already occupied by a couple of ponies, but when that number dwindled to one she did the only thing possible in the circumstances. Keryn bought a horse to keep Elmo the pony company.
“I guess I went into it a little too trustingly. It wasn’t long before I realised this horse and I were not going to get along. The final straw was when he bucked me off, spraining my ankle and breaking a rib.”
Kodi was a horse who liked things his own way. When his difficult behaviour continued Keryn spent a fortune on dentistry, chiropractic treatments and farriers. “He was a million dollar horse, because that’s how much money I spent on him. My husband paid thousands for a float and was totally flummoxed when Kodi refused to get in it!” she chuckles.
Keryn knew that she would never advance with Kodi if the present situation continued. Keryn is slim and fine-boned, her voice and mannerisms are quiet and gentle. Kodi is over 16 hands and weighs about 500 kilos. He’s a very dominant horse; he could be pushy and obstinate. “When he didn’t want to co-operate he would look at me like, ‘where do you think this is going, lady?’” Keryn laughs.
“At Just Equus there is an opportunity to observe the relaxed and accepting environment”
A friend invited Keryn to go along to one of Pete’s Foundation Clinics. She attended as a fence-sitter, something Pete generously encourages. It was an opportunity to observe the relaxed and accepting environment Pete maintains. Keryn liked what she saw that day. “There was no judgement or pressure from Pete. Everyone was allowed to learn and progress at their own pace. I couldn’t wait to sign up with him.”
“It was clear there was no equity in this relationship,” says Pete after he’d carefully observed the interaction between Keryn and Kodi. “There was work to be done on both sides of the partnership. I just had to guide them through the process.”
That process has given Keryn and her horse a completely different relationship; one that gives her confidence is her abilities and builds incredible trust between them. Kodi is learning to be in tune with his rider. “You need to have 100% faith in your horse when you put your leg over him,” Pete says.
“All horses are smart, you have to learn how to read them and communicate with them.” – Pete
“Kodi and Keryn have been working towards becoming better match,” says Pete. “All horses are smart; you have to learn how to read them and how to communicate with them. Give them the opportunity to learn and have patience. It doesn’t matter if they don’t learn it the first time. Repetition and dedication pays dividends in the end.”
“My lessons with Pete are more for me than they are for Kodi. I am learning to ‘talk horse’,” Keryn says with good humour. “I feel safe and supported during our lessons together and love the way Pete is quietly encouraging.”
“He never says things like, ‘you’re not assertive enough’ or ‘you’re doing that wrong’ he says ‘if that’s not working try something different’ or ‘look for the little things’ in reference to reward for every try. There are lots of ‘Pete-isms’ as I call them and if I’m not feeling well, Pete will step in and help.
Keryn suffers from an auto immune disease that causes her pain, especially in her hands, shoulders and hips. She hasn’t felt well enough to ride Kodi for some time now, but Pete has helped her come to terms with that.
“Keryn doesn’t have to be on Kobi’s back to maintain control and communication.” – Pete
“There is much to be learned from groundwork,” Pete says. “Using the flags Keryn has taught Kodi to respect her space. He now backs from verbal instructions and a lot of the domineering behaviour has stopped.
Pete has given Keryn the tools she needs to better communicate with Kodi and always encourages her to be consistent in her interactions with him. So when Kodi reverted back to form and refused to float recently, Keryn knew instantly that she had the knowledge and the skills to deal with that.
“I knew I had to persist. Pete had taught me not to back down, but to be patient and to put into practise what I have learnt. I spent the next 40 minutes working with Kodi to get him to float and the feeling of accomplishment when he finally did was better than anything!”
“I’m grateful to Pete every day; whenever I spend time with Kodi and he respects me.” – Keryn
“I don’t think I would still have this horse if it wasn’t for Pete. I’m grateful to him for every day I spend time with Kodi and he respects me. Every time we walk through the paddock together and I feel our bond and each time I go through our routine of feeding and rugging he shows me how much he appreciates it too.”
“He is showing me his personality now; the cheeky side of him, not the dominant side. He tugs on my sleeve when he’s impatient for his feed, much nicer than biting me! Before the evening feed, he walks to me and stands quietly while I rug him then closes the gate into the paddock with his nose. I am more confident because I have a horse that is listening.”
“It makes owning a horse so much more enjoyable. Now we have Ninja, a companion for Elmo since I’m spending so much time with Kodi,” Keryn admits. “I am working towards the day I can go for a quiet, relaxed trail ride on him. I know that day will come, but in the meantime I am working on my own fitness and focused on being a consistent leader for my horse.”
“Keryn and Kodi have forged an established routine, a trusting connection and mutual respect.”- Pete
by Janette Jenyns
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