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ArticlesYou Can't Bully a Killer Whale

You Can’t Bully a Killer Whale

Shawna webYou Can’t Bully a Killer Whale

A wild and rambling little farm near Bridport is where a very special group of horse training specialists work real marvels with young and problem horses.

 

A very experienced horsewoman, Connie Colfox’s relationship with horses started as a child; her cousins the Bullens were equestrian competitors in the Olympics. Connie herself rode to advanced level in eventing and spent time in National Hunt racing. She has worked for Jane Holderness-Roddam and Robert Alner amongst others and has developed her own unique training method over many years.

‘What I do is very niche,’ said Connie. ‘Although I have worked and trained with the likes of Monty Roberts, Free Rider and TV personality, Emma Massingale, and other well-known natural horse trainers, I have gone in a very different direction; my method involves positive reinforcement and getting the horse into a state of equilibrium whereby it’s relaxed and happy, and is then able to learn and enjoy life.’ Connie has a talented, dedicated and knowledgeable team in Lottie Suttle and Laura Brook; and all the team have been trained by world experts including psychologist Dr Helen Spence, who works as their consultant ensuring they understand the basic workings of the brain and killer whale trainer Shawna Karrasch, who spent 10 years training sea mammals in California using the same sort of system. Connie said ‘Shawna’s experience was invaluable. She was training an animal you can make no mistakes with and we were learning directly from her experiences. The killer whale is the top of the food chain, human ego cannot get in the way of training them. You can’t think you’re cool bullying a killer whale. Shawna spent a week with us. It was life changing, the horses were transformed. I was rewarding them more and pressurising them less. They were trying so hard as there was something in it for them. The pleasure of training for all of us took on a new energy.’

If there is a loading problem Connie is often needed to go to horses at their own yards. An example of what sometimes happens was when she managed to get a horse which absolutely refused to enter a horse box to go in. ‘When I arrived there were eight people on standby, asking if I needed ropes, help or support as this horse was such a problem,’ said Connie. ‘I spent some time away from the box preparing the horse so that when we got to the box it was happy to go into the trailer after only a few minutes and finally without it’s head-collar.’

Connie has trained horses which have gone on to achieve great things at Aintree, Bramham and Blenheim; and works with all types of owners and horses from top event and competition riders, racehorse trainers and owners, to families with difficult ponies, from all over the country. She’s even had horses referred to her from other professional trainers who have failed to make any headway. Many owners Connie helps are so exasperated and frustrated by their horse’s behaviour that they literally do not know how to cope anymore—Connie is very often the “Last Chance Saloon”. ‘This is so sad’ she said, ‘because so often it’s just a case of the horse being so stressed and in a state of heightened anxiety that it cannot work out what the human wants it to do, it resents its owner and resents being given commands. Horses have feelings—all it takes is to get the horse to be in a state of being where it is not alarmed or tense, it is then relaxed and happy to learn. As for the owners, some of them cry with joy when they see the transformation.’

Problems Connie can help with include starting young horses, napping, rearing, bucking, bad loaders, bad in traffic, rushing jumps and aggressive behaviour amongst other issues. Horses normally spend around 10 days with her for an initial assessment. She can correct all sorts of vices in quite a short time, which is why some owners send their horses to her when they go on holiday. If you are planning to sell your horse then bad habits can result in a lost sale, so time spent correcting that behaviour could result in a higher sale price.

Owners are encouraged to come to Lower Moorbath Farm and ride their horses before taking them home; where Connie spends time explaining the work she has done and how to maintain the corrected behaviour with consistent handling.

Excerpts from thank you letters from delighted owners include: “It has been an enchanting adventure into a world of the understanding of animals I did not realise existed” (of a horse which could not cope with being near traffic).

“I never imagined a year ago we would achieve this” (of a horse which was deemed unbreakable by other professionals and is now a BE event horse with an amateur rider).

Connie lives at Lower Moorbath Farm with her husband and three children. Visiting horses are housed in large loose boxes, where they have plenty of space to lie down, move around and can communicate with the other horses. She has twenty acres of turnout, an outdoor school and a round pen.

  • For more information, call Connie on 01308 424878 or 07967 026444 or email connie@conniecolfox.co.uk.

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