"When I first met Duke I could approach him and even lift his fronts. However, that all changed the moment I put my trimming apron on. It was absolutely impossible to get near him, he was panic striken. His intense fear and confusion of anything related to being trimmed was obvious.
Over time, Gill has worked very hard with Duke, desensitising him to all things related to trimming! I can now trim his front hooves and we are nearly there with his hinds. Her patience is unending! Gill has been totally open with how he is progressing and we have discussed the best approach before my visit and how far we can go so we don't cause him confusion and ensure his and our safety.
Duke's fear was so intense he was a danger to himself and in the wrong hands I am convinced he would no longer be with us. Gill's patience, skill and understanding has helped Duke to enjoy life again and have a future! " Lindsay Cotterell (DAEP)
" Hi, my name is Helen Wells. I found Harley when I went to look at a large coloured horse for myself to ride. Whilst I was there, I heard some knocking sounds coming from a small, old railway carriage which had no windows and was all shut up. I asked the person who was showing me around what on earth was in there, but was told that it was nothing that would interest me. Every effort was made to try and turn my attention away.
After I insisted that I take a look, the door was reluctantly opened and I saw that the carriage had been divided into two. I thought to myself, "surely there can't be a horse in there?!" It was then that a little pink nose tentatively poked out at me, followed by a pair of tiny, squinting eyes that had obviously not seen daylight for a while. I realised that what I was seeing was a small foal, barely 6 months old.
My heart was thumping in my throat as anger and tears welled up inside me. I turned to the owner and said "That's it, I'll take this one", but then quickly realised that I had no way of taking him back home with me straight away as I had no transport available. That made me ache. The owner agreed to deliver him for me in a few days time.
Harley arrived 2 days later, chained to the back of a sheep trailer, shaking all over with fright. I held my tongue and somehow managed to control what I really wanted to say to the guy who had delivered him, as I just wanted him safely off the trailer and with me. I walked up to him, placed my hand lightly on his neck and told him it was all going to be ok. I hoped that this much was going to be true.
Harley was in such a poor and sorry state, with his own muck caked on him so tightly that it was pulling at his flesh. His belly looked wormy and ribby and he was crawling with lice. The only thing for him was a vet.
The vet came the same day to check him over and put him on an immediate 5 day worm plan. I was given some lice powder to apply to him and he left saying "we will just have to see how he copes from here".
Later the results of Harley's worm count showed him to be in the thousands, and 350 is inconsidered high!
Luckily I had another older horse called Jack, who had in the past done well with looking after youngsters and I knew that he could do it again. Harley settled in well with Jack, but it wasn't long before a major problem started - CATCHING!
No matter how long I persisted for I couldn't catch him or even get near to him. There was no way Harley was going to let me near him. There was a part of me that thought I couldn't blame him after all he had been through; but this was not good. If he ever was to get out and I couldn't catch him then we could potentially be in big trouble!
I persisted for a week or more, still with no joy. The vet was due out soon for his check up so I had to find someone who could persuade Harley more than me, this was when I found Gill Bradley.
My initial thoughts were "how on earth is she going to take me seriously, especially when she learns that I've had horses for ten years - great! and I can't even catch a foal!" this amongst other thoughts were running through my head.
Gill assured me Harley would be fine and that he was displaying a typical foal behaviour. She said that she could show me how to use my body in such a way that would draw Harley towards me. I felt relieved and intrigued and couldn't wait for her visit.
When the day of her visit arrived, Gill took the trouble to listen to me whilst I told her all about Harley's story and the ordeal he had been through, and this was before even approaching him. She also explained to me about how horses communicate to each other through body language. Straight away I began to see the importance of how our body language and movement can affect the horse and immediately I could see the sense and a way forwards.
Gill came to Harley and myself with a sympathetic approach, always explaining every step that she made, her approach and how she was using her body and energy to communicate with Harley. All the time she was around Harley she kept her voice and energy very low. I was fascinated that she was able to predict what Harley would do in response.
It wasn't long before Gill was able to put on the head collar, but just as soon as she put it on she was taking it off again! My initial reaction was " oh, no don't do that we'll never catch him again!" but before I could say anything she was putting it on again with no resistance from Harley, taking it off, then she was walking away with him following it and then putting it on again etc. really showing Harley that it was ok and getting him to fully accept it.
At the end of the session I realised that although Gill had done her work, that now it was going to be my turn as his owner to carry on this work! Help!!!!!
Gill e-mailed me a plan of action, clearly pointing out what to practice and when and for how long and also helped me to realise the importance of committing to practicing and seeing it through so that Harley and I could become a team.
I worked in short sessions as she suggested for 2 weeks and soon Harley was 'wanting' to be caught, showing a great deal of trust in me. In fact he is now so joined up with me he follows me everywhere. Gill now visits on a regular basis to make sure Harley's training plan is going well and to progress onto the next step. I am proud to say that Harley is continually growing into a beautiful, healthy and confident, well mannered, appaloosa, quite a contrast to the skinny, frightened foal that arrived.
Gill also introduced and taught me how to use a Monty Roberts Dually head collar and as a result Harley has never pushed or pulled me around and always has had respect for my personal space. I have really enjoyed having Gill as a trainer both for myself and harley. She is always making new and interesting training programmes for him, and he is now enjoying lots of different experiences which is helping to continually build his and my confidence, some of which has included: pole work, tarpaulin work (which he walks over and wears with no objection!), spook busting, loading and in hand hacks. Gill has also made sure that Harley is fantastic with having his feet trimmed which makes everybody's life easier and safer.
One of the main things that I have learnt along the way is that whilst it is possible to train Harley to do the things we want him to do, such as loading, walking past spooky objects etc. I feel confident that if he was to say "No" to something for whatever reason on a particular day, then I have learnt what to do to get us both out of the situation positively and safely, and more importantly how to get him to saying "yes" again, and as a result my confidence has grown which I am sure Harley picks up on as well.
I am so glad that Harley has had a successful second chance in life, having now had so many good and positive experiences and I am hoping that the old memories from his rough start in life will gradually fade.
This is mine and Harley's story, and I hope that if any of you have any problems with your horses then please don't feel you have to battle away on your own, or suffer in silence. Gill is someone who understands horses and their psychology, she will never judge you, never use violence of any sort and she will help you and your horse to find peace and a bond between you.
I would like to say a big "thank you" to you Gill for all that you have done for me and Harley. You have really made such a difference in my life that you could not believe, and Harley and I can't wait for what you have install for us in the future." Love always, Helen and Harley xx