In Memory of Ada
Ada was born in 1998 and the first ten years of her life were clearly pretty miserable. She’d been ridden in a serreton (metal spikes on the nose) and she bore the scars from this and the hobbles and ties used to restrain her, including the marks of a spiral wound where she had obviously been caught up in a rope. There were other scars over her eye and on her hip, possibly from the same incident but we have no way of knowing. She’d also been used as a broodmare and had probably bred several foals.
Chico bought Ada in 2008 along with Bibi – her foal at foot, who is still here at Time and Space working with her volunteers.
After observing Ada for some time, I could see she was alert but a gentle and sensitive type, never kicking or biting other horses or people. She would walk away from anyone approaching her and run if they were carrying a halter but once she was in hand she was extremely compliant.
As we introduced positive reinforcement she began to approach a human with the halter for the first time. Before we completely moved over to aversive-free training, Ada was ridden bitless and then progressed to bridleless with a neck string. Whilst we mixed in some negative reinforcement (a practice we’ve now abandoned) she actually made her feelings very clear for the first time, telling us firmly to go away. This was so out of character for her but it was shortly after this that we changed to Horse Charming force-free training and together we found it’s never too late to learn.
Now we know about behaviour science we realise that Ada was just VERY good at avoiding aversive situations, which was precisely why she could be ridden bridleless! Even without the bit then without the bridle the situation was still extremely aversive for her as we saw when she found her voice. We shall post a learned helplessness blog soon.
After ceasing all riding and aversive training and handling Ada started to initiate contact, coming to us for scratches after we had counter conditioned her to humans. Previously she would only come when summoned for a treat if she didn’t think we had an ulterior motive. She continued to be a favourite companion for our volunteers and our children.
Unfortunately, Ada contracted tick fever (a horse type of Lyme disease) in 2022. This is a disease that tends to stay in the system and she fought it since May, and finally lost the battle in September.
Forever in our hearts Ada.