Belle was purchased by novice horse owners from a horse breeder. They told the breeder
about their inexperience, and they had an experienced horse-person test Belle out. When
the experienced horse person tested Belle out, she was relaxed and calm. She was green (did not
move off leg cues, did not neck rein, and her cues were not refined), but the experienced rider
felt that the novice owners could continue working with an experienced horse person to
teach Belle what she did not know. Everyone was impressed with how calm and quiet
They gave Belle about a week to settle in when they brought her to her new
barn but after the week was up, an experienced horse person began working with
Belle. She took Belle out to longe - using a halter, longe line and longing whip.
Instead of quietly walking, trotting and cantering on cue, Belle tore around
in circles at top speed, barely controlled. Her handler could not understand
her behavior since she had been so quiet and calm at the breeder's farm. The next
day the handler left her whip in the barn, and Belle was quiet and calm on the longe line,
listening to her handler and walking, trotting or cantering when asked. The
handler guessed that perhaps Belle had been beaten in the past and had a fear
After a week or so of ground work, Belle's handler began riding her. She
was easy to work with and before long her novice owners rode her a few times. After
several months, they moved Belle to a bigger barn with more horses and more
activity. Belle's behavior on the ground remained good, but she began acting
out under saddle. She crow-hopped and tried to bolt. In fact the last time
one of her novice owners rode her, she ran away with him.
The experienced handler continued working with her, but she always seemed tense
and nervous when ridden - she was constantly on edge. She never got better and
slowly got worse. She was examined by a veterinarian and her saddle and bridle were examined. No one could determine a physical cause for her behavior.
Her novice owners were now scared of her, so they decided to rehome her.
However they did not want her to go to another home where she might be abused, so they
carefully screened anyone interested in Belle and discussed her behavior. No one
was interested in Belle and they finally donated her to a rescue.
She found a foster home in the rescue who worked with her, and her behavior
under saddle was better in a more controlled environment - she did not do well
in the hectic atmosphere of horse-shows or busy boarding and training barns, leading
the Equine Behaviorist to believe that she had either been abused in a training barn
or pushed too hard and damanged psychologically.
Belle did not get better in busy environments but was eventually adopted by a family
with young children. They kept her on their farm with a steady, calm environment and
she settled right in. She loved the children and was well-behaved when they rode her, although
adults on her back could still make her nervous.
Belle's behavior was not "cured" or "fixed", but instead the Equine Behaviorist
helped her, through the rescue, find a home where she would not have to face
the things that caused her stress and resulted in her bad behavior. Sometimes
you cannot fix behavioral problems and instead have to manage them, and Belle
was one of those cases.