Vikki Fear is our trainer based in Bretforton, Worcestershire UK
When I was 5, I was asked if I wanted horse riding lessons or roller skates for my birthday. Well, as far as I can remember, up until that point I had only ever seen Shire horses, so feeling a little daunted, said roller skates. I wasn’t particularly skilled at skating, but it was OK because we lived on a nice flat street, but fast forward 2 years and we moved to the side of a steep hill. I gave up roller skates and asked if riding lessons were still on the cards. That started a life long obsession.
I had weekly or more riding lessons for over 10 years and eventually my parents loaned me a horse when I was 16. He only stayed with us for a year because he wasn’t the ideal “schoolmaster” he had been made out to be, plus, my favourite mare from the riding school came available for sharing and I begged and pleaded for the chance to take her on. We were together for 18 months until I left for university. All that time, I had the “don’t let it win” mentality knocked into me.
Fast forward again, many years later, financially stable, I started riding lessons again, then, after being made redundant from work, bought my first horse of my own, the gorgeous Echo (Mr Shmecs, Shmecipants, etc). Echo was a 5 year old western trained Quarter Horse who had been started and turned away the previous year. Things went well for the first week, then he found his feet, I could not stop him. I would take him down to the arena, get on, canter 20 laps one way, then 20 the other – at which point I could stop and get off. Things improved a bit, as long as I stayed in walk, I had control, but trot just led to canter and he got fitter, so we had to do 30 laps, then 40 then more. Hacking out was the same, at walk, we walked (well, jogged) but trot became canter became flat out bolt, don’t let him win wasn’t working, he was stronger and fitter than me so won easily. I turned to Natural Horsemanship for my answers, they helped, I gained a semblance of control but still couldn’t canter out hacking.
A few years on and my hubby fell in love with American Paint horses and bought himself a filly, Tes, to learn with. Have you ever heard the saying “Green on Green leads to Black on Blue”? Well it happened, after she was professionally started using natural horsemanship techniques, he got evicted, at great speed and cracked several ribs. A few months later, when he felt OK to ride again, he took her to some clinics at the place where she was started, after a couple of bucks when the saddle first went on, she settled down to work. This became a common theme, unless we worked her every day, she would buck as soon as saddled. We worked through this and managed a few rides, even riding to the local pub on a sunday afternoon, because we could. Then one day, she spooked, spun and dumped my hubby on the road, this time his bones survived but he got concussed and was very disorientated for several hours afterwards. That put him off riding and Tes became chief lawn mower.
I decided that I needed to take over Tes’s training so started where we had left off, but wasn’t making progress, she was still bucking when she was saddled and saddling itself was becoming difficult. As she was OK with a bareback pad, I had started riding at walk, but one day, she bucked me off, which hurt, the don’t let her win techniques didn’t work and nor did the natural horsemanship methods, they were just causing her to become more vociferous in her objections. By this time, I had met Max and as we were friends, I followed her training on Facebook. I noticed the success she was having teaching her horses things with sticks of carrot rather than carrot sticks and asked for help. I haven’t looked back. It’s slow progress with Tes, we have been uncovering underlying physical issues and undoing her fear of saddles (bad advice lead to poorly fitted saddles) and my fear of getting hurt – I’m self employed so don’t get sick pay – but we are making progress and have a much better relationship than I ever thought possible as I really didn’t get on with her when she was younger.
Echo will be 20 this year and has been promoted to chief lawnmower and Tes will be 11. I don’t need to ride her, but I would like to be able to, if she wants it. We continue our training towards this goal.
As well as being part of the Horse Charming team, I am an Equine Podiatrist in Worcestershire and surrounding areas so my focus is on hoof handling issues. I have several hoof clients who are also Horse Charming students and love that I can have a three-way conversation between me, the horse and the owner about how to make hoof handling easy for all.