The baby Brego

Many dream of buying a foal so they can “create” their own dream horse. One that’s well behaved and kind and who trust you 100%. One that might excel in whatever sport you’re doing (even if that sport is cutting your lawn), and who neighs at you when you say his name. A few of you guys have noticed that I got Brego when he was just a colt, and one asked me how it was to have a baby horse in the stable.Β Asking me a question that might take a long time to answer is dangerous, guys – but alright, lets go!

bregolego.jpgBaby Brego with his ribs poking out, tired after 5 minutes of “do’s and don’t’s”. Yes that is Lillens rope halter, by the way…

Buying a little colt or filly can be great. They are curious (adorable!), they are totally dependent on you (aww!), they are in serious need of bonding and guidance (how cute!), and you can describe them as blank canvases ready to become the most exquisite artwork (perfect!).

But take a deep breath. You’ll need it.

Having a baby horse is adorable, yes. Having a baby horse will also test your knowledge about animal behaviour, your ability to guide and teach, your timing, your patience (oh gosh your patience is up for a 6+ year trial) and your ability to hang in there.

See; a baby horse doesn’t know shit.

Or, as a matter of fact, he knows shit. It is about all he knows. He knows how to put things in his mouth and make poop. He also know that eating poop from healthy horses might be good for him if his tummy feels weird. But can he be lead around in a halter? Nope. Can he walk inside the stable without freaking out because the ground looks different? Nope. Does he understand you better if you get frustrated? Also nope.

DSC_0122.JPGThe baby draft looks more like a potato on toothpicks, but hey, he’s adorable.

See, when you’re tired and just want the dang (adult) horse to listen to you, you might just end the argument with a grunt, some angry body language, or a whip (single smack, only used by people with short temper who feel very ashamed afterwards). And here’s the thing; the adult horse usually get’s it. They have lived long enough to have an idea of what humans want and don’t want. They have us humans figured out pretty good,, as long as they’ve spent enough time with us. They know we can get fairly angry fairly quick.

The baby horse, however, doesn’t know this. The baby horse has no tools in his toolbox. He has no screwdriver for when his drill stops functioning. A smack doesn’t give him knowledge. He doesn’t know how to behave “better”. And if you put him in a situation without giving him the correct tools, he will have a meltdown. That meltdown might happen in the riding arena (safe place), or in the middle of a road (not a safe place). And that situation might be a situation you had not planned or prepared for, which still happened, because you know; the world does not adapt to your needs.

A human baby can be picked up from wherever the meltdown started and carried to safety, where they can finish the meltdown and restart their brain. The same does not apply for baby horses. They’re flight animals, who’s brain doesn’t restart. When they’re out of capacity, they’re out. Good luck dealing with that.

I still remember that time I took Brego out for one of his first strolls – along a quiet gravel road just to keep it calm and safe. Guess what we met? A fire truck! And all you riders out there know the deal about large trucks slowing down. You know, that hydraulic “PSSHHHTT”. Yeah. Yes, exactly. Me, and my little baby horse who had not seen anything else than a regular sized car in the distance, had been forced off the road and into a ditch when this unpleasant noise was thrown right at us. But we sorted it out, after Brego almost ran face first into the side of the truck because he was so blinded by fear.

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There’s also a lot of things you can do wrong. There are about 20 different ways to create a well behaved, kind individual, and about 6000 ways to create a four legged piece of terror.

He will learn everything you teach him.

Good or bad. Things you meant to teach him, and things you most definitively did NOT mean to teach him. Positive reinforcement is defined as positive by the horse, and if it makes him feel good, he will want to do more. When having a baby horse, you will experience this a lot. After all, this is what we should base our training “system” on.

I had worked very hard at teaching Brego that hacking = exploring and not parking head-first into a bush to eat leaves, when I ruined it all by laughing my ass off that one time he reared up to eat from a tree hanging over the road. Brego’s mind said “hey, this was fun!” and there you go. Now he rears up to eat leaves like a damn giraffe no matter who he has on his back, and what I thought was hilarious one time has turned into something that will scare little children away from ever getting up on a horse ever again. Way to go, Emma, your horse now scares baby humans. Great job.

DSC_0017Brego and his Mr. Pengwing (named after Benedict Cumberbatch inability to say ‘penguin’)

Watching him grow and develop is moving, and I feel like a proud parent whenever he calmly lets younger and inexperienced kids fix his hind hooves.

Because I still remember that god damn time he had a meltdown whilst I was trimming his hind hooves, and he sat down on me. And not just a slight lean, but with such force my only option was to counter his weight by picking up his entire hind and slam him into the closest wall, so he could support himself on it whilst I got away. Surely; he was only two and a half years old at the time and not the biggest horse, but I did lift his entire hind (bum and two legs included) up from the ground with my thighs, and moved him a few feet to the left in order for me to escape unharmed. He was just as surprised as me. Let’s just say he stood very still the next time I picked up that leg.

The thing about having a baby horse in the stable, is that you never know what he might do. I’ve taught him how to be lead in a halter, but do other people use the same body language as me? Have I been thorough enough in my teaching so he is equipped to understand more people than just me?

If something scary happens, is he as calm with another person as he is with me? Does he look at other people and think “this person knows what’s up! I’ll trust her!”, or is it just with me? Have I taught him to trust other people of all ages and levels of experience? How will he ‘test’ others?

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that your baby horse has to become a dream horse for other people too.

 

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Sure, I don’t get scared when he rears up to eat leaves. Will someone else get scared? Most definitively. Will they end up punishing him for rearing? Most definitively. Because scared humans do that.

And my biggest concern with Brego has not been how he would handle a rider once he got old enough for that, or what we would do if we met a truck on a narrow road. My biggest concern has been whether I’ve taught him humans good enough. I don’t punish my horses. Other people might. Have I taught him that ‘shit happens’ and that he shouldn’t take it personally? Have I taught him that different people behave differently? Have I prepared him for the outside world? If I died tomorrow, would he find ease in someone else’s hands?

After getting my own ‘blank canvas’-horse, I’ve been very aware of painting a picture that everyone can enjoy. I don’t want to be selfish. I want him to go out there and say “HELLO I’M BREGO AND I’M THE BEST AND I LOVE ALL HUMANS” instead of “hi I’ve lost my mommy and I don’t know what to do now”.

The secret is to give your baby horse a hell lot of self-esteem, and a massive interest in paying attention to what humans do. Boost their self-esteem without making them spoilt or blind. Once your baby horse thinks he’s the best, AND wants to play along to anything you do, you just have to go ahead as a good example and he follows as a great one.

It sounds easy, but it’s not.

Having a baby horse in the stable has been funny and nervewracking. But when I see my ‘baby’ walk around like the handsome young man he has become, boy has it been worth it!

(I know I sound a bit overly dramatic but it’s true!)

Emma

Questions and Answers

The deal is simple; you ask, I answer!

Yesterday I posted the news about my new blog on Lillens Instagram Account, and asked you for questions. I recieve a whole lot of questions on a day-to-day basis, but boy I had NOT expected the amout of questions I would recieve once I asked for them! You guys rock! Many of them was sent by DM, but some also appeared in my post. Let’s gooo!

Where did you get Lillen? question from @marlee.sip (IG), @audreywalke (IG) andΒ @madi_275 (IG)
I found Lillen’s ad on the Swedish site hastnet.se – a place to sell and buy horses and equipment. There aren’t many Shire Horses in Scandinavia, and I frequenty searched all the pages I could find for a good looking and handsome Shire. I sent Lillens ad to my mother, who fell head over heels for his slighly ugly (yet very charming) looks. Not very long after he was bought and on his way to Norway.

How long have you had Lillen? question from @audreywalke (IG) and @x.mia.and.roo.x (IG)
Lillen came to us in May 2012. So about 5 years and 4 months or something.

544968_10150869075271681_2066592149_n.jpgLillen, two days after his arrival in Norway. Look at that babyface! His bum is so much larger than anything else! He has no neck! Aww, adorable!

How old is Lillen? question from @audreywalke (IG)
Lillen is 10 years old.

How much did you pay for Lillen? question from @thehappynouille (IG)
Asking how much someone paid for their horse is quite the personal question, in which I feel a bit uncomfortable to answer. I also didn’t pay for him (he is officially my mother’s horse), so I have no exact number πŸ˜› His previous owner asked quite little for him, as he was a bit behind on his education, as well as having some issues in his body. However; take into consideration what we had to pay at the border to get him in to Norway + transport, and he was no cheap horse at all! We fixed him up and have taught him a lot of things, and now he is probably worth double as much as what we paid for him five years ago.

How do you plan things around the horses once the darkness of winter comes around the corner? question from @tinyastroide (IG)
There is not a whole lot of planning to do, actually. The horses stay outside until it gets late (we pick them in around eight in the evening), and are very used to everything being dark. Our riding arena is equipped with huge lights, and mucking the field after work is no problem with a good headlamp. Riding out in the forest is also easy once you get a good headlamp to put on your helmet (just take your time to make the horse familiar with being half blind, as you will shine light into his eyes every now and then).

During the “worst” periods, it’s daylight for maybe 6 hours a day. If you go to school, or have a dayjob, you will miss those 6 hours! But that’s no problem for us norwegians, we just put on some hi-viz clothing and some good headlamps, and life proceed as normal.

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I’d like to know how you have time and energy to reply to everyone’s comments individually to make them feel special! wondered by @czarneckigirl (IG)
Haha, well, first of all; thank you!

I talk A LOT. I read quickly, write quickly, and spend a lot of time online. Replying to people on IG gives me energy, actually! πŸ™‚ I also wholeheartedly live by the belief that if someone take their time to write to me, the least I can do is to write back. It’s not that I feel like I owe it to anyone, but I feel some sort of weird responsibility to be kind and loving to everyone. You guys are not just any followers, you guys are MY followers! I’ll always do my best to make you feel special. Unless you’re an asshole. Because I’m good at being mean and sassy whenever needed x)

Jumping or Dressage? question from @aizha134
Dressage! Forever and always!

Why do you get so mean when someone ask F4F, ‘self-advertize’ (as you call it) in your comment section or tag you in their pictures? questioner wanted to stay anonymous (which I will respect).
Good question! However; saying that I am ‘mean’ is pulling it a bit far, I think. I mark the comment as spam (which will delete it), and I send a short and fairly neutral explaination of why I did it to whoever posted it. Because I think they deserve to know why, as they are persons just like me. And why, you ask? Because I don’t believe the amount of followers define you and your content. I also believe that going around and openly seeking attention is a negative thing, and will have negative input on people around you. I don’t want all the young girls following me to see that craving for followers is a completely normal thing to do. Because it is not. And I refuse to pretend it is.

As far as tagging me in random pictures just to have me see it (i.e. a post with no correlation to me whatsoever), I get annoyed because IG alerts me of a comment or that I’ve been tagged in something, and I immediately go and check it out so I can give a response. Given the amount of time and effort I put into replying to EVERYONE who says someting to me, being spammed with random shit (sorry, not sorry) is very bothersome. It takes away my ability to see those who actually try to get in touch with me. Those who spend their time and energy in writing a comment or DM, only do have it drown in attention seeking people’s posts.

And YES, I get that you probably want me to see you and that you want to share your content with me. Because you are proud of something. And that is nice. And I do appreciate those of you who want to share your content with me, because you think I will enjoy it. I wholeheartedly feel honoured that people think of me apart from when I’m spamming you with pictures of Lillen.

But A LOT of the stuff I’m tagged in is purely “hey look at me, give me attention”, with Β 15-20 other super huge accounts tagged too. And THAT is attention-seeking, annoying, and feels like spam.

And that is the very long answer to why I do not like self-advertizing and delete it from my account πŸ˜›

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Do you have a personal account? question from @anneliewallin21p (IG)
No πŸ™‚ I don’t have time for that! I think…

Why do you ride without stirrups? question from @anneliewallin21p (IG)
Well, this is also something that might take me some time to answer πŸ˜›

Because I ride without stirrups more or less only whilst riding Lillen. When riding Brego (unless we’re bareback) and Diego, there are always a good pair of stirrups involved (Sprenger 4 System; I love you).

There are mainly two reasons for why we ride without stirrups on Lillen though; 1) His “saddle” and 2) Our leg length. Let me demonstrate:

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With a stirrup on, you need a certain angle in your knee before the stirrup can offer any actual support and be helpful. The more defined angle in your knee; the “shorter” your leg will appear. And be. With stirrups on, there is no way for us to offer him any actual support – nor will we be able to use the leg aid in the desired position. We have to communicate with his tummy mucles, not poke ribs! πŸ˜› (Yes I know one pic is bareback and one with the saddle, but you get the idea. And we can talk about the spurs another time ;P)

The other reasen as of why we don’t use stirrups all that often, is because of his “saddle”. He has out-grown his dressage saddle, and now all we’re left with is a cheap, brand-less treeless saddlethingy. With no actual tree, the weight distribution is poor, and we don’t want unneccesary preassure points on his back.

Besides, we don’t need stirrups when riding Lillen. When he spooks, it is in slow motion (surely, it’s a large spook to sit through, but slow? yes) πŸ˜› And any rider should in my opinion have the strength, balance and flexibility to ride without stirrups on a regular basis.

Fun Fact; I can’t get Diego to do leg yields when I have stirrups on, they ruin everything.
Fun Fact 2; If Diego spooks and I don’t have stirrups on, I’ll die.

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How much money goes into a huge ass horse? question from @my.pony_star (IG)
Haha! Well! Even if he is a large horse, he doesn’t eat that much food. Think of him like a (huge) fat coldblooded pony. They get thick just from looking at grass πŸ˜› And yes, it takes a bit of hay to feed him, but he eats about the same amount as Diego to be honest.

Now, food is one thing. The only farrier in the area who is willing to shoe Lillen want’s about 4500kr (about $570) for the job, and due to his weight he need new shoes every 4th week. Now THAT is expencive. And of course we will not pay that much πŸ˜› So we trim him ourselves. Equipment is a pain to find within the norwegian border, so whenever he need something like a rug, we need to pay the prize of the rug + quite a lot to get it through customs. If he need to go anywhere, we need to book him a full size lorry, he need twice as much medicine then an ordinary horse, he break things about ten times as easily as an ordinary horse… etc.

I have no exact numbers on how much he costs us a week, but he is in no way a cheap horse to have around πŸ˜›

What is your favourite breed? question from @my.pony_star (IG)
I don’t have a favourite breed, I am more of a personality and potential-kind of person. Any horse with a good temper and a nice body is good looking to me; wheter it is a Shire Horse, a slimmer sport horse, a chunkier and smaller draft, an iberian etc. The only horses I “don’t like” are extremely fragile-looking horses, such as arabians, thin thoroughbreds, slim ponies etc. I like them heavy!

Would you get another Shire after Lillen? question from @my.pony_star (IG)
I probaby would! But I would not be in a hurry. I take my time to find the”perfect” horse, and if no perfect shire is around whenever Lillen decides to ‘move on’, I’ll just have to wait.

Is there anything you would like to change about him? question from @my.pony_star (IG)
He could use a little more mane and tail!

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If you could invent one horse/stable thing, what would it be? (Either tack, props, machines ect) question from @my.pony_star (IG)
There’s a lot of things I’d like to have, but I think most of it is invented already. But automatic water buckets for the horses would be nice, with heated pipes so they don’t freeze and break during winter! I HATE carrying water all over the place…

And whew!!

I think I’ll draw the line there, seeing as I’ve already written a small novel about myself here. I’ve warned you, guys; I talk wayyyy too much! πŸ˜›

Hope you learnt something new, and that I answered what you wondered! Many asked the same questions, but I tried to get you all in here πŸ™‚ And if there’s anything else you want to ask me about; reach out!

Emma

 

 

 

Welcome!

Well, hi there.

How did you end up here? You seem both curious and slightly lost. No worries though, let me guide you through this in a calm and collected manner.

Easily explained; this is a blog.

My name is Emma. Seeing that you ended up here, I’m sure you clicked a link which said “Holy Cow, I’ve started a blog! In English!!”, or something. If not, I am seriously impressed by your ability to stalk me on the internet. Have you checked with your local police department if they need a highly skilled internet detective? I’m sure your abilities could do some good.

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Well, it was about time though. I have been an equestrian blogger on the Norwegian site hest.no for 9 years now, and have long been slightly interested in starting on my own platform. I was however not entirely sure about how to pull it all of. Leaving my beloved blog Vrinske, just to explore posting stuff in English? Nah, I couldn’t do that.

But sticking to the tiny post descriptions on Instagram is not my style either. You see, in February I opened an Instagram Account for our Shire Horse, Lillen. I had never before even had an Instagram Account for myself. You have probably seen him, and if not, I’ll make sure you don’t miss out on the biggest living thing in my life. The Instagram-thing was all just a cozy little thing I did, because my Norwegian blog mostly featured my other two horses, Diego and Brego. I wanted to give Lillen his own space. And here we are, half a year later, with 36 000 followers, and rapidly growing. Like, holy shit. Where do you all come from?

And well, I talk. Like a lot. I need more words and more space than Instagram can offer. And therefore I came to the conclution that there is just too much on the English part of my mind. I needed a blog. One in English. So here we are!

I doubt I will get much of an audience here, as I have no idea how to blog in English and how the international blog-thing works, but thankfully I am perfectly capable of talking to myself as well. No worries, future me or potential readers!

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This is Lillen, by the way. If you want more of him, stalk our Instagram Account @lillentheshire. Or pay attention to this blog, as I will try to post regurarly. And just to avoid any confusion, my mother is crazy after horses too. Yes that is her, sitting on his bum. You can tell us apart by my gigantic head, velvet helmet and hair flying everywhere. My mom is a bit more classy.

Anyways, if you want updates from this blog; follow Lillen’s IG page, and I’ll alert you whenever I post something here!

Emma