The ‘alarm bells’ story

Every year we get three or four phone calls that set off our ‘alarm bells’. A few years ago we received a call from Renske. “Annemarie, we have such a sweet Frisian. He is three years old and has been with us for two years. He has never put a foot wrong. Basically just the perfect horse. We started about three weeks ago with introducing the first saddle and carefully bellying over and mounting. But we are really taking our time, you know. There’s no rush! He actually accepted the rider right away. But you know, now we’d like you to go ahead with it. We want to give this horse the best possible start and that means we would like you to start him further in walk and trot.” 


That is very special, I thought then. After all, you wonder if everything is going so well, why she is not going to continue starting this horse under saddle herself. After all, it costs money to have a horse in training with us. They lived two and a half hours away from us, so they would not be able to be there to watch most of the process. I was therefore impressed by these owners, that they had so much commitment for their horse. The Frisian, named Bouke, came to us and it was indeed a very sweet animal that quickly felt at home. The owners returned home the same day, but were due to come back the following weekend to check up on the progress. The day after, we went to work and we found it not so easy. The horse showed more tension when mounting than what we expected from the stories, but yes, perhaps it was because he was now in an unfamiliar environment. The first few days we decided to pick up the training as if Bouke had never ridden before and luckily it caught on quickly and on the fifth day we were able to ask for a slow trot. On Sunday, the owners entered our classroom and asked with some hesitation how it had gone. We said that after a somewhat tense start it was now going quite well. Owner Renske reacted surprised: “So he has not….?” She didn’t finish her sentence, but I realized what was going on. After a few further questions, it turned out that it had gone completely wrong at home on the third day of riding. The rider had gone down hard and every time they tried to get on afterward, the horse had bolted explosively. “But why didn’t you just tell us?” I asked, and Renske replied: “Because we were afraid that you wouldn’t take him on anymore …” 


In the time that followed, we occasionally received more of this kind of questions, but by then we were prepared. Like last year. A nice lady called that she wanted us to continue starting her Haflinger under saddle. It was all going great, but she really wanted what was best for her horse… We had already heard that story before! The Haflinger came and we started suspiciously asking all kinds of questions and as went to work the next day… we found nothing… Turned out that this time, it really was an owner who only wanted the best for her horse. So there you have it! 

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