Starting Out

Written by Tamzin Renfew

After attending some Natural Horsemanship clinics at Helen Green's yard (top European instructor for Reach Out To Horses near Monflanquin, the time had come for Ras (my 4 year old Arab horse) to be 'started'. I wanted to be involved as much as possible and to visit him every day, not just to see how Helen would approach the task, but also to be involved in Ras’s progress.

Sönke Dose - another ROTH practitioner - came over from Germany to be Helen's ‘ground person’ and as he worked Ras in the round pen it was slightly disappointing to see how easily Ras found a new friend. I wanted him to throw the occasional glance at me and send me loving looks.... but no, Sonkë was his new BFF and he was happy.

Helen and Sönke went through the stages of ‘starting’ and eventually Ras was introduced to the saddle. There was no rush and I could see Ras was completely happy with the idea of having this 'thing' strapped round him. I remember watching and seeing him working things out – he already had so much faith in both of his BFF’s that he knew they wouldn't ask him to do anything impossible.  Every new thing they introduced him to he accepted happily and willingly. The first time Helen leant over him to put her weight on the saddle he stood relaxed and confident and when Sönke led him a few steps it wasn't a big deal.

It wasn't long until Helen was riding him in the round pen on her own. Sönke stood in the middle watching, giving Ras confidence and encouraging him forward when he thought it might be good to stop.  Sönke returned to Germany, then Megan Webster - a very accomplished horse woman ( - took his place and, of course, Ras soon decided although Sönke was great, Megan was just as good.

Helen took her time with Ras and by the end of 4 weeks he was happily riding out on his own or in company. He was never pushed, every new thing was introduced gently and only when he was settled and relaxed with a new experience did Helen start another.  Occasionally you could see Ras needed more time to process something new and Helen would react instantly, taking the pressure away from him and letting him work it out at his own pace.

The calm and thorough starting process has stood Ras in good stead; he (almost) always approaches new experiences with an open mind - but still has his moments of being a scatty Arab! 

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