Miranda and Harley – A Team Approach


Miranda and Harley

Miranda Versendaal’s first introduction to riding was within the secure confines of an enclosed arena in her homeland of the Netherlands. From the age of 14 she trained for the highly skilled discipline of dressage and rose to competition level. Dressage has been described as the highest form of horse training and yet Miranda felt that despite her practical abilities, she had yet to form any close relationship with the horses she rode.

After coming to live in Australia, Miranda hoped to continue riding but this time with her husband as a companion, along the bush tracks and tail rides of the Australian landscape. It was a far cry from the dressage arenas of the Netherlands. Without a strong bond of trust between Miranda and the horse she was riding, she began to question her abilities. She found herself feeling insecure and fearful in the wide open spaces of an uncontrolled environment.

Miranda soon found that time spent with her horses was becoming less and less enjoyable. Taking a proactive approach to the problem, she contacted Pete Biggs of Just Equus, well known in the Veresdale / Jimboomba area for his natural horsemanship based clinics that focus on a riders’ communication, understanding and confidence.

In a series of one-on-one lessons with Pete, Miranda has been focusing on groundwork with Harley a good natured thoroughbred mare that she presently has on trial. “Pete’s message throughout our training is clear; take it slow, there are no time limits, no pressure,” Miranda explains.

“This approach has given me a greater sense of connection with Harley. I am learning to understand my horse, to read to signals she gives me and I’m taking the time to get to know her.”

Everything Pete does is without pressure, so when Miranda asked him why we they were concentrating so much on groundwork and not riding he said, “In order to strengthen your relationship with the horse you first need to understand your horses’ behaviour. Start controlling your horses’ feet first from the ground and the rest will follow.”

Much of Miranda’s problems stemmed from the tight control she was used to having when riding in the dressage arena. She had to become accustomed to riding with a loose rein and a more relaxed horse. “The lessons with Pete are conducted in a round yard with Pete teaching me how to position my body to control where Harley goes. I have to learn to be firm and clear about giving Harley instructions and rewarding her when she gets it right,” says Miranda. “The more I train with Pete the more responsive and in-tune Harley becomes.”

Pete Biggs explains, “Horses are very willing animals, you just have to understand how they think and learn. As a herd animal they enjoy companionship but they are not machines. Unlike a computer, you can’t turn them on at will, click on a programme and have them do everything you ask of them. Developing a relationship with your horse takes time and patience.”

Miranda is well on her way to taking to those trails as she first envisaged. “More than anything,” she says “I want to ride again, so I’ve made up my mind – I just have to put ‘my big girl pants on’ and give it a go!”

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One Response to “Miranda and Harley – A Team Approach”

  1. Leonie says:

    OMG, this is scarily similar to me. I enjoyed dressage and had been riding that way for years, except I never seemed to form any special bond with the horses… until I went on a trail ride in australia and I met this beautiful thoroughbred mare (Just like her) who I fell in love with

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