Kirsten AL, one of our horsemanship volunteers, has been working with Bijou the past several months, and has had the following to say about their time spent together:

What a fun horse to work with! In both being a gem with a heart of gold and a challenge with her set ways, Bijou doesn’t ever fail to impress with how attentive and sensitive she is. She has a huge willingness to try and willingness to learn.

In being assigned to Bijou in mid-November and in working with her 3 times per week, there have been some improvements with the following. Thank goodness because during our first lesson in the round pen, Bijou was a crazy lady and exhibiting tons of bucking and kicking and ‘was a lot to watch’. She has come a long way from that point!

· The most important progress for Bijou is learning to be a less pushy horse that now attentively watches for you to stop, turn and back up. It was when Terry was showing her to a potential adopter that I was reminded that shifting shoulders back is a cue to backing a horse prior to an ask with the rope or moving your feet. Bijou has picked up this piece of the shoulder shift as well as leading from a distance with a long rope. She is also able to back while facing her with just a slight movement of the rope as well as waits patiently and for long periods until you are ready to move. She also exits the stall patiently and attentively rather than her old M.O. of blowing past you as she raced out of the stall. With Bijou as a safer horse to lead for all volunteers both in and outside of the barn, her potential for a happy adoption is that much closer.

· The farrier, Lisa, remarked that Bijou is now better at picking up her front feet willingly. With guidance from Terry in learning to use a rope and much repetitive practice, Bijou has learned also to not pull her front feet away from you, is able to hold a hoof up for extended periods, isn’t alarmed with banging on her foot (mimicking the use of a hammer while getting shod) and shifts her weight to the other feet and off of the one you are lifting up. She has even been seen to give you her right foot as you move in that direction!

· Moving from walk to trot to lope and back down with as little ask as possible has been a surprising lesson learned. It only takes a slight sound or movement to get her to increase her gait. This big girl likes to move in the round pen and burn off some pent up energy resulting from stall and paddock life. Seldom does a flag need to be used as she is quite sensitive to being asked. This also makes the release that much more important, for which she is also looking for and will slow her gait accordingly.

In moving around the round pen, Bijou has the biggest challenges with her right eye. She willingly moves off the fence and towards you with her left eye, but not the right. Recently, with Terry’s suggestion to be ‘less creepy and more black and white’, I’ve paid close attention to giving clear direction and quick, meaningful releases to assist in Bijou’s challenges with her right eye. It is still my hope to learn the ability to teach in a black and white method and to hear others in action demonstrate this skill that could help in many circumstances and serve many horses and trainers well. Terry also mentioned the need for the following which I’ve incorporated to the best of my abilities;

  •  Move quickly away from the horse to demonstrate a clear, apparent release and to “pull” the horse toward you
  •  Increase “the ask” to move forward and decrease “the chasing” to move forward

With suggestions from Candi; more trouble shooting with Bijou’s ability to come toward you from the fence with her right eye resulted in a recent win with Bijou happily walking all the way across the round pen toward me and my ability to quickly approach her right eye to catch her ‘like the barn is on fire’ but in a “non-greedy” manner.

Lesson learned from Lily, ‘progression is not linear’, which is always a good reminder for patience in the process and the twists and turns in learning new skills for both horse and human.

Work in progress include;

  • Picking up back feet with a rope and then more safely with hands
  • Continuing to assist Bijou to turn in and walk forward from the fence with both eyes
  • Increase the use of short transitions between gaits to create a more pleasing expression and decrease pinning ears and a cranky face
  • Moving through the isle of the barn when other horses are absent to increase her confidence in this space

It is with lots of licking and yawning (Bijou’s – not mine) that most sessions with Bijou end as well as a sweet face rub and affectionate head hold. I’m fortunate to work with and learn from Bijou to best help her find a forever pasture in which she will be adored.”