The day I met Wonder I was asked by someone at his old barn what I thought of him. I simply said he was sweet and she replied, “no my horse is sweet, he lets me hug him”. Was Wonder a little timid? Absolutely. A little untrusting? Yes. The most social and cuddly horse around? Not in the slightest. All of these things are still true. He’s trusting of me and I know he’s happy to see me and be around me, same for Nathan but he wouldn’t just go up to a stranger to hang out with them and say hi. He doesn’t like to be hugged usually, he doesn’t even like to be touched at all some days but he’s the sweetest horse I think I’ve ever met.
I’ve recently given him the choice to do what he wants (within reason, obviously he’d get scolded if he was aggressive towards a human). If we’re in a play session and he decides he wants to walk away to go look for hidden treats in dirt or look out the arena to the other horses, he’s allowed. If we’re targeting and he walks away to go play with something else that’s out, 100% fine by me. Allowing myself to give him that freedom with riding isn’t the easiest because I do want to ride some days when he just wants to play soccer or graze next to me but regardless, he has autonomy.
An autonomous horse is a happy horse and with continuing this “training” method of unbreaking, he will continue to blossom in his personality. He’s a spunky little dude, very quirky, very weird and interesting and I wouldn’t trade any of his qualities for a “perfect” robotic show pony. This isn’t to say all show horses are unhappy or that if you’re strict in your training every horse will become an empty shell but for Wonder that seems to be how it works and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to go back to traditional training with my own horses. I’ve seen so much growth in this horse and the more we just play and hang out the more his personality seems to grow and expand. Wonder loves to please, he’s so so so smart, always thinking and he’s starting to get some creativity when it comes to liberty play.
Does Wonder stand and tolerate someone’s arms around him? Usually no, Nathan is guilty of hugging when Wonder may not exactly want it. (Continued ⬇️)