'Speculaas biscuits'

Sometimes there are horses and events that will stay with you forever. One story I will never forget is that of a horse and his speculaas biscuits…


The horse, which was called Boy, had already been send to several trainers and his underlying history was enormous. Boy was especially difficult under saddle, his owner Joke said. There had already been several accidents, and recently he had started to rear, with the result that he had gone over backwards with a rider. I think this is the single most dangerous thing that can happen in riding. The idea of ​​getting a 500 kg horse on top of me is not very appealing, then probably even getting bucked off is a better idea! 


In addition, Boy was virtually unmanageable in his stable. Very restless. According to Joke, he really tore the place down. She thought this was because the horse was not getting enough attention and was bored. Walking Boy to the field to turn him out was a problem and hacking out was simply not an option, you would not even get off the yard. In short, not an easy case… We were asked whether we could help the animal. Given his background and the fact that the behaviour had been around for so long (about three years), there was going to be no simple and quick fix. The owner indicated that if we were able to calm the horse in the stable and take him to and from his field without incident, she would be more than satisfied. The day came when Boy arrived at our training centre. And indeed, he was very nervous. He could not stand still for a moment and immediately tried to create an extension to his box. Of course we took the time to discuss the coming period of training with the owner, and the expectations we had of one another. During this intake, we thought she had brought us a present, because she handed us a packet of spiced speculaas biscuits! But the cookies came with an explanation. Every time we entered the stable, we had to give Boy a biscuit, Joke said. Otherwise he would really bring down the house. The speculaas would keep him calm. 


During training sessions, we would sometimes be pulling our hair in despair. The animal showed such specific behaviour in saddling, lunging and what more, that we were sometimes left feeling stumped. But with the help and advice of many people such as Dan and Grant (our colleagues in England), we eventually reached the point that the horse could be ridden again. And his stable behaviour? After a week, Joke came back to visit and see how things were going. And of course she brought a pack of speculaas with her. Karel gratefully received it, saying that the first packet was indeed all finished. We had all found them very delicious…. 


What we regularly notice is that people do not realize that they sometimes create certain behaviours themselves. If you accustom the horse to the fact it will get a speculaas cookie every time you enter the stable, he will show more and more extroverted behaviour to get what he is counting on. Boy took a day or two to understand that he was not the centre of the horse universe. Sometimes they can be just like children… 

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