It soon becomes clear, after setting off from the hotel in Coimbatore, the reason my suggestion of “I’ll just rent a car at the airport and drive out to you” was met with stony silence – a mad woman!
I spent the first few minutes wondering if India had adopted the US/European way of driving on the right/wrong side of the road since my last visit, several decades ago, but apparently not. The drive to and through Ooty is nothing short of spectacular (but one I would recommend doing on an empty stomach, apart from a few motion-sickness tablets perhaps).
We drove up and down the mountain, through manicured tea plantations and into the Tiger Reserve. Hill View Farm Animal Refuge is inside the reserve and the residence and animal yards (where the animals spend the night) are fenced off for protection from the wild elephants, tigers and leopards (and I thought Queensland was a challenge!).
After a gorgeous curry lunch, we set off to meet the horses. What a fabulous group of equines they are, each with their own special story of survival.
My aim for the next week is to develop a program of training for the local staff that makes the horses, especially the new arrivals, feel safe and become easy to handle. Given their histories, many horses arrive with a deep distrust of humans, so it is of paramount importance that their new routine is structured and predictable. We need to teach the horses about pressure-release and how to find an answer in movement. In many cases we’ll need to show the horses what a reward is – something they may never have experienced and without which training becomes a matter of out-muscling the animal.
We also have a couple of the family’s own horses to work with, an older mare and a two-year-old gelding. Interestingly, all of the horses will be starting with exactly the same lessons – learning to look for answers in movement to earn a release of a light pressure cue.
If you would like to follow along, I’ll be with IPAN for the next month and sharing photos, videos and more here.