Picasso and Happy Go Lucky compete in Polocrosse
Horses and mental health: In honour of World Mental Health Day, 10 October 2022

Don’t ignore the quiet ones. They are masters of camouflage. They do not beg to be seen, they keep to the back, to themselves, they’re more likely to move away, but if you prove yourself worthy, they will give you the world.

Esprite was unintentionally bred at a stud, therefore he was an unwanted, accidental breeding. With this he ended up at Dassenberg Rescue Centre, and at 4 years old he has always been overlooked. He’s a pony, was unbacked, he doesn’t seem to like men. He can be distrustful of people, and he is an appaloosa-Arab cross; breeds that people either love, or not.

When we were looking for a new school pony, he appeared ideal. We worked with him before making a final decision, and he seemed great. Sensible, and easy to work with; we said yes.

What we did not bargain for, was that he was a little Houdini with the brains of Einstein. During the first week of his board at ESC, the grooms found him to be missing at breakfast time. A groom went to look for him and found him on the farm next door. Esprite was brought him back, but by the evening he was gone again, same situation. Nobody had any idea of how he managed to escape, twice, but with time we have found an Esprite-proof paddock.

Since his arrival, so much has been discovered about this little pony. Esprite’s backing process was easy, no nonsense, no bucks, no rears, no leaps. He is not scared of much either. However, we discovered that he can be extremely reactive to riding aids. This of course is was amazing for an experienced rider, but not ideal for a riding school pony.

Nonetheless the little unwanted pony has the most beautiful movement and gorgeous self-carriage. Also a beautiful jump when you convince him that the goal is to go over the jump and not around. Although sometime it can be a little bit over the top (quite literally).

Esprite’s midnight explorations has made him a brave outride horse, solo and within a group. He has also competed in his first mounted games and he took to it like a fish to water, once he figured it out.

That is his thing, once you give him a job, he sticks to it. If it is jumping, that’s what he does. If he has to stay behind, that is his job. If he has to run, that was his job. He has also gone on his first hunt, and he was a perfectly behaved pony, with a perfectly comfortable, collected canter, but happy to be a flash of speed when you need him to be!

Esprite still prefers women. He is a sensitive soul, and completely in tune to the rider or handler’s emotion and even though he is a Houdini and can give you a bit of a hard time catching him, once you have him he sticks to you like a child on their first day of school. In just a couple of months of giving him time, love, encouragement, and simply allowing him consistency in how he is treated, so much more came out of this beautiful pony than what we bargained for.

So, remember, give them time, they have plenty to say and show you.

Author and photos provided by Chantell Aylward, ESC manager and instructor