We speak a lot about time here at SAFE — specifically as it relates to giving a horse the hours, weeks, months, years they needs to gain. Gain weight, gain confidence, gain the skills and tools they need to be successful going forward in life, be it as a companion or as a riding horse. This time varies between individuals, but it is tremendously reduced when the horse does not have a lot of trouble, or handling in general, in their background.

Such is the case with Theo, a relatively new addition to our herd, but one who is already showing a great deal of progress in our horsemanship program. Theo came to us as a stallion (since turned gelding) with a great temperament and without a lot of experience. This is really one of the best case scenarios, as it means that his slate is mostly blank, and free to be filled here at SAFE.

Take Theo’s first groundwork session here for example. Aside from the forced exercise following his gelding (30 minutes each day of trotting out loose), we hadn’t done any work with Theo since his arrival. But the beauty of a horse like Theo, who doesn’t have a whole lot of experience, is that his first foray into the round pen could be more about actual learning than about exploring and working to rewrite what he already knows. In Theo’s case, there was a great deal of opportunity for introducing new stimulus and ideas without a lot of drama or fanfare.

Theo’s first session in the round pen was also his first session with the flag, and the rope, and the pad. A rope around the belly or the legs can take some horses many times to get used to, but not Theo, who had barely anything to say about it. There are a few ‘wiggles’ in his cinch area, which you can see when the coils of the rope touch him there, but there is not much that bothers him. Terry bumps Theo up to the panels and gets him used to the idea of having a human above (and on!) him, and while yes, he’s a little bit away from a first ride, that ‘little bit’ is millimeters in the scheme of things, which is a nice change of pace when we are much more accustomed to feet or miles.

We show a lot of groundwork with horses who have a lot of trouble, who take time to work up to being pet with the coils so lackadaisically, who squirt out under the wave of a flag because they misinterpret its meaning, who take time to look like how Theo does in session number one. It is not often that we get a horse like Theo, and we are grateful for the opportunity to help one learn the ropes afresh, without having a whole lot of untangling to do.