I’m Valentina, an Equine Behavioural Psychologist, and I have a massive passion for horses; the way they behave and the reasons behind their behaviour.
My interests however weren’t always so focused and clear, so to introduce myself I’d like to tell you the story of why I chose this path and what, or more importantly who, led me here.
I’ve been riding horses since I was a young girl and have had nearly twenty amazing years so far to work with these animals and learn from them. I was privileged enough to begin my love for horses at a stable yard that celebrated the animal spirit and allowed horses to be horses. We worked hard, mucking stalls and helping the grooms, riding until we couldn’t feel our legs anymore, but most importantly we played and learned to enjoy horses for the majestic animals that they are.
Over the years I never owned a horse. I always asked, but the answer from my parents was always the same. Not right now. Later on, when I started working with horses, it was never a priority to me to own my own as each school horse or private horse I met over the years and worked with have been a joy, each one teaching me something different.
In 2011 I finally decided to take the plunge and buy my own horse. I searched for nearly a year as I had a very clear image in my mind of what I wanted – an older, schooled gelding, with a nice jump and gentle nature. Quite specific, I know, so you can see why I searched for so long.
Around May 2012 my old instructor called me up one day and said she had a client who was selling her horse and thought I might be interested. All I knew was that he was a young Saddler. So I went to the stables to meet up with my instructor and see the horse. She was late so I walked around trying to figure out which horse it could be on a yard with over seventy horses.
I came around to the back of the stables where they had two longeing arenas, one of them a double. There in the double ring was a huge stallion, gleaming chestnut, and racing around the small ring, nostrils flaring, tail up. He was the most intimidating horse I’d ever met but I felt the click. This is the horse I’ve been searching for. I hoped he was for sale.
When my instructor finally arrived and showed me the horse for sale, it ended up being that wild, spirited chestnut stallion and I bought him on the spot. In the end I ended up with the opposite of what I initially wanted and a whole lot more! Not an older, schooled gelding, but a very green, straight-from-the-stud 2 year-old stallion with serious human-aggression problems. Not so smart when you look at it from this angle but I looked for that ‘click’ for nearly a year and didn’t find it with any of the horses I looked at, until I looked at him.
Joey was very difficult and he was dangerous. He was aggressive, he was really big and made himself bigger when approached so he would be even more intimidating, and he really didn’t trust people so it was a complicated and hard situation from the get-go. But under it all he was frightened, conditioned through pain and fear to not trust people and to defend himself, and unbeknownst to me at that time, he was very unhappy in his environment. It took a long time for me to learn how to help him. I wasn’t aware of equine behaviour or psychology or ethology at that time. I just saw a scared and scary animal that was now mine and I wasn’t giving up on him even though plenty people thought I should. So I started learning about all these things I didn’t know about previously and the more I learned the more I saw what I was doing wrong and what needed to change. There were tough decisions that I needed to make, many risked long-term friendships and took me into unknown territory but I made them, and Joey and I have never looked back.
Joey taught me three very important lessons:
Follow your heart, never give up and always believe in the impossible.
I hope that my journey will inspire you to not give up when things become difficult with your horse and to always know that anything is possible if you believe in it.
Joey grew into an amazing, energetic and extremely intelligent horse that surprised me daily and enjoyed his life. From a horse that was unapproachable, aggressive, dangerous, and deemed ‘not worth it’, to the amazing partner he became. I will always owe him more than I can ever repay in this lifetime.
Dedicated to my beautiful bronze boy, Joey 2009-2019. Thank you for being my teacher, my partner and my joy.