Dearest Quincy, Welcome to Belgium

Someone asked me what I’ve done to help Quincy settled in and to feel at home. Which I think is a good question, albeit maybe a question oddly focused on me. I have done a lot to make his transition go well. But most importantly, Quincy has been amazing and highly adaptable. His ease and willingness to embrace his new surroundings has amazed me and continues to astound me.
Think about it, in Quincy’s case, he was moved from Southern Spain to Belgium.
What did this entail?

  • Different climate
  • Different water
  • Different feed
  • Different horses
  • Different style of stables and keeping
  • For him specifically it also entailed going barefoot for the first time in his life, and going from being surrounded by stallions to being in a stable with no other stallions, filled with geldings and mares.

I can give you two answers. A short one and a long one. 

The short one (it’s very short), is that I gave/am giving him
Horses are individuals so I don’t like to put a limit on this but I do believe, that just like you, a horse might need weeks/months to acclimate to a new place.

Now, for the long one.
Ready? Here we go!

Stuff, stuff and MORE stuff

So what did I do to make the transition easier? First off I compared the feed he was getting in Spain to what he would be getting here. Luck would have it they were the same… a lucky coincidence? Call it whatever you want, but it was a great starting point! So the only thing that changed there was the addition of soaked beets. He’s not the pickiest eater (hurray!) so he took that in stride. I waited until recently to switch to fresh hay just because he’d never had hay as we understand hay. What they gave him there and called hay just looked like *slightly* greener straw. But, as could be expected, he ADORES hay and just can’t get enough. Just not when it’s in the slow feeder I made for him, #thankless #youdoyou.
I made sure that he had a blanket upon arrival. That backfired because the blanket I bought initially did NOT fit, in the least. Luckily the stable manager let me borrow one of hers until I could go to the store and exchange the one I got. He arrived at 11PM, store was obviously closed.
I also let my shopaholic side loose and I have to say, Quincy could not have had better timing. He arrived the day before BLACK FRIDAY. needless to say, I took FULL advantage of the sales. This also allowed me to measure him in the morning for all the blankets, halters, bridles, ALL OF THE THINGS I *needed* and shop the whole afternoon. I was luckily assisted in this by his fairy godmother and his german godmother who were full of great recommendations, and shopped vicariously through me. 

Let’s get physical, physical
Let me hear your body talk, your body talk

Then I had to take care of a couple of practical things for his health. He had (to our knowledge) not been vaccinated in his life, so I had the vet come on Friday morning to vaccinate him. I know, the worst welcome lol, but it had to be done, for him and for the other horses at the stable.
Then I planned a dentist visit, and an osteopathic treatment.
These last two didn’t happen quite as immediately as the vaccination but did happen within the first two/three weeks of him being here. I did not want to overload him on new experiences.
The dentist noted that he had been in dire need of a visit, and filed quite a bit of uneven edges away. Quincy was a champ and just stood there, calmly, un-sedated. This guy was a true professional, calm and steady with Quincy, brooking no nonsense but in a very calm manner. He also explained everything he saw and did, even let me feel Q’s teeth before and after. It was a very enriching experience for me, and entirely not a bad one for Q. So all around I am very happy and will definitely be calling on this guy again in the future. APPROVED!
The osteopath is a truly amazing and hilarious Dutch lady. Her approach is relaxed and playful, she gives the horses their time to feel and process what she is doing, explains everything to you and actually bonds with your horse. I’m guessing Quincy had never gone through such a treatment and he did think it was a bit special and odd at times, but he went from wary of Anita to curious and seeking contact in the hour and a half she was working on him. She gave him breaks, treats and kept up a constant stream of reassuring words and pats. Again, a great experience for the both of us. APPROVED!
She did note that he probably had bad headaches, as well as two ‘blocked’ vertebrae in his mid-neck. Wow. This made SUCH a difference. The day of, I was only allowed to walk him, second day allowed to walk and trot, and if I saw an imbalance only trot the third day. This obnoxious rule of no canter and no play did not lay well with Q… He had more freedom of movement and wanted to RUN. But, as we saw in Rapunzel…

Take it from your mumsy

– Rapunzel, Disney

So we kept it to walk and trot for three days, long and low, very very fast trot… but still trot. Then on the fourth day, Sophieke was here and we rode for 20 minutes, in walk and trot. He did canter, but on the longe.
He was another horse. More suppleness, wider movements and just all around more relaxed and at ease. And the biggest transformation was mental. He was so much calmer, and opened up a ton in the days following the treatment. He expressed himself more, he even showed a few playful moments: he grabbed the whip out of my hands and shook it around. This was the first time he just did something because he wanted to, if you understand what I mean.
She wanted to see him again three months after the first treatment, so I am enthusiastically waiting to see what it gives. 

The mental side of things

These are things I did for his physical comfort and for his health.
There’s another aspect. His mental health and comfort. He is a stallion who has stood with only stallions for his entire adult life. He lived in closed stalls with small (think slits) windows. Here the stable is open plan, with two hallways with about 20 horses. In his hallway there are only geldings, and one sterilised mare. The stable manager was very thoughtful and placed Robin (a 12 year old Lippizaner gelding) next to him. He is a very calm and level headed horse, that is friendly without being pushy. A solid presence next to him. He immediately bonded and adopted Robin as his buddy. 

The first couple of days I left him mostly alone, just gave him a spa day, took him into the indoor arena to stretch his legs. As he had his first ever vaccine for rhinovirus the day after his arrival I really took it slow fearing a reaction to the vaccine. But he is strong like bull, and was just fine (luckily).
I spent the first week just spending time with him and letting him explore. The indoor arena with all its mirrors was a big adventure. He kept seeing this red stallion all around him and wasn’t really happy about it. So confusing. I can honestly say I’ve never seen a horse so in love with his own reflection as Quincy. The first time I let him loose in the arena he spent 15minutes running from one mirror to the next, always equally happy at seeing himself. I also spent evenings walking him along the hallway and letting him meet the horses. He has a thing for light coloured geldings. He goes nuts for them.
Black horse, bay horse… enh, WHITE horse, BUCKSKIN horse… *IMMEDIATE ERECTION*.
So we worked on staying calm, nothing I can or would want to do about his erections, but we focussed on staying mentally calmer and with me. It took a couple of days. But it did help his nerves during the day time. He got calmer with every passing day. 

That clicker and target training life

After a week of him being here I found him to be settled enough to introduce clicker training. This helped with keeping him focussed on something other than the horses around him. And guess what? He LOVES it.
He is an introvert, and he holds his stress and hides it, but it was definitely there. So the clicker training helped him to understand its okay to make mistakes, and to give something a try.
The minute he understood that trying and failing was okay, he gained so much confidence. It was amazing to see. Now mind you! This click did NOT happen in the first day or week of clicker training. It actually happened only 3 weeks ago. So a month into clicker training. But in the meanwhile he did enjoy learning, and it really helped doing neck stretches with the clicker training, we worked on him bending his neck to both sides, down and up, forward was hardest, but we got there. His mobility improved, and he started to feel better. When he hears me put on my treat pouch his head pops up and his ears perk forward. Fun times!

I am following online lessons with Adele Shaw, of The Willing Equine.
I *CANNOT* recommend her enough. I sent her videos of me and Quincy working (I am a total noob at this and YES I did watch a lot of videos about clicker training horses, and YES I did read a lot of the literature, BUT you ALWAYS do things wrong without eyes on you. It’s inevitable.) and she sent me her observations and gave us homework. After watching her video I realised *I* had a lot of work to do on myself to optimise Quincy’s experience with clicker training.
I wasn’t doing anything REALLY WRONG, but I also wasn’t doing anything REALLY RIGHT. Something Adele said really struck me. 

“Set him up for success.”

Adele Shaw

And I realised I hadn’t truly done that. Like I said in my first blog post, I’ve been planning on having my own horse for so long, and devising training regimens for so long that I kind of just ran with it. So, we are taking a small step back and I am focussing on my behaviour, and on my body language to really try and communicate in a clearer way to Quincy.
Adele is honest, positive and very supportive. I can’t wait (I know, working on my patience ahahaha) to send her the results of our homework!
In the meanwhile, I’ve already taken her tips and recommendations to heart and in our last four sessions Quincy has been calmer, more focussed and more willing to engage.
Great results already. So so pleased. 

First time outside!

Luckily for us, this winter is exceptionally mild, and this is great because Quincy has 0 winter coat. Like truly, nothing.
Good thing he’s well muscled and in great shape so he isn’t shivering in 5-8 degrees, but still, it drops to around 0 every now and then. That’s when he wears his rug.
Three weeks after his arrival I got to the stable one day and it was 11 degrees, full on sunshine and I wanted to let him outside, to feel the breeze and to get a breath of air. He was so happy, he came alive. It did help that the horses on his side of the hallway had their windows open and he could see them and sniff them.
You guessed it, huge erection resulted from this haha. Oh well, we don’t judge.
He was really happy about being outside and feeling the wind, seeing something other than the stable and indoor arena. And, being a true gentleman, he was truly relatively calm, I had expected much higher energy and less control of himself. He did run away and rear twice, but again, he’s allowed to express himself, and after his little explosion he came straight back to me and was level headed again.
He really knows how to calm himself down and split his focus between what he’s excited about and (at that moment) me. 

Variety, the spice of life

And to me, the most important thing was to offer him a variety of things to do and learn. So I tried to change things up a bit every day.

Throw some poles on the ground and run around, over (or, Quincy’s favourite) THROUGH them.
Work with his bridle, in a halter, loose, or entirely tacked up.
Work inside, and slowly but surely we started working outside too, which he most definitely approved of. When I pull open the sliding door to the outside arena, there’s no stopping him.
And slowly we started having more contact with other horses. When a horse would walk by I would ask the owner if they could sniff each other for a minute, and then, when I felt secure enough in my handling of him, we progressed to sniffing a horse in the arena. This did result in some screaming, and of course, many erections. We even got a couple steps of piaffe and some very nice pesades (drooooool). And then onwards to working in the arenas with other horses there, only geldings of course. And now, all geldings (and the sterilised mare) can come and go as they please, Quincy will strut a little, but mostly he maintains a very solid focus and connection to me.
Unless he is surrounded by white horses…
Then he still looses his shit a little. But hey, can’t help it ;).
We have now incorporated ridden work, and double longing/long reining to the agenda as well.
But I think I will make a post about what our week/training schedule looks like, so more on this later. 

From short to long, to short

All in all, I think my main point has gotten through. I gave him time. And will continue to give him time with everything we want to achieve and are working on. I am not pressed for time, and my ultimate goal is for him to be a happy, well adjusted and confident horse.
We are on our way. 

I’ve heard somewhere that slow and steady wins the race. Even though he is named after one of my favourite book characters, who is a hare.

Oh well, maybe we can have it both ways. 

Thanks for reading,
*click* have a cookie guys. 

Greetings from Belgium, Q&A.

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