The Little Big Brown Horse and The Golden King
"I came across some videos of Karen and Leslie Desmond at a point in my horsemanship where I had reached a dead end.
I had my dream horse, a 4 year old, just backed PRE (Spanish) stallion. But I couldn’t ride him. Or lead him. Or lunge him. And I was teaching other people horsemanship and about training horses in-hand and under saddle, so it wasn’t good on many fronts.
Today that horse, Tycoon, and I went out in the Devon drizzle wandering around the lanes, relaxed, content and un-afraid and that is more than I ever thought was going to be possible. I am hugely grateful, and I know the thanks have to go to Karen; and she’s never even met us in person!
On the day Tycoon arrived with me he panicked about something when being led in, hit the end of the lead rope and took off. He is a very powerful horse and I didn’t have a hope in hell of stopping him. He did that on and off most days for about 6 months. I spent many an evening trudging around darkened fields while he tore about with a lead rope trailing behind him. On the lunge if he got scared he ran off dragging me with him, and under saddle more of the same.
In the end, two years into our time together, despite huge amounts of progress on the ‘training ‘ front (we could now do all lateral work in walk and trot, walk to canter transitions, jump etc.) I decided to stop riding him as he was too dangerous. He was fine when he was fine, but when something worried him he was out of there at high speed. No amount of pressure could hold him. No amount of ‘familiarisation’ exercises really got to the heart of it. I couldn’t keep him on the aids when he was really worried, which made me realise my aids were meaningless really. They just lay on the surface of this horse, but when he wanted to leave that was it...
I turned him away and got on with my other horses, knowing I was missing something important. Then one wet day I sat and watched all of Karen’s videos, and watched them again and again. And I went out, put a halter on Tycoon and in a very rudimentary fashion had a go at offering a release when he went to panic about something (pretty much most man-made objects in unfamiliar places/funny noises/traffic/rocks etc.) . And something significant happened in that he stopped trying to run. He was still worried, but something about the feeling of release enabled him to stay. I was surprised to say the least...
Then I took virtual lessons with Karen and the changes in that particular horse, and my horsemanship, have been immense. If I was rich enough I would fly to the states once a month to hassle her for more of this stuff!
Since then, my other horse and I have been accepted on the instructor programme with French Classical Master Philippe Karl. I am certain that some of the reason we were chosen was because of the work I have done with Karen. He is a great horse, but inclined to be very sharp and somewhat tense – he can be obedient, but not soft.
Some of the ‘small things’ that Karen has had me explore with him have started to trickle their way into his way of being and have significantly changed how he feels about humans.
It is an ongoing job and in some ways trickier than Tycoon (who was so desperate for something different he just jumped in with all four hooves!) but I am confident that with Karen’s virtual help we will chip our way back to the inside of this glorious horse.
When Philippe said about our ridden work, ‘If your horse trusts your hands as much as this you can do anything’, I was pretty sure that I needed to send my thanks again to my mentor in the states – this feeling of release has helped us under saddle as much as on the ground."
Kate Sandel, Des and (RIP) Tycoon