Gaia Horsemanship



Arab gelding, born 2005


“Khalil” – meaning “friend”.


Khalil came to me in 2010 to be backed and to start his ridden training. He was 4 turning 5 when he arrived with me and he had not had much handling at all. He was gelded just 2 weeks before coming to me and had previously been living with a ram named Rambo.


He was, therefore, less handled than I had expected, meaning that I had a lot of work to do with him before even thinking about starting to back him. He lived on his nerves and was wary of people. He was tricky to handle and would literally shake if I touched him.


I fondly remember his early training, in particular the bonding and relationship work I put into him. He is, and always has been, wonderful to work with on the ground. He has a lot of playful energy which can be directed into some beautiful, expressive free work. This relationship building work was very important as he was by no means an easy horse. In fact, I recall a conversation with someone on the yard who said “well, if you manage to back him, you can back anything”.


I fell in love with this little horse during the very early stages of our relationship. Once I had started to develop trust between us, his loving and wonderful character started to shine through. I had him in training for a year, and he had turned into a fantastic little riding horse. During our last ride, before he was due to return to his owner, I removed his bridle and rode all sorts of intricate circles and patterns in trot. It was a memorable experience, a real mix of emotions; I felt proud, happy and accomplished, yet underneath was a feeling of great sadness and heartache as I knew he would be leaving.


It was in 2011 when he returned to his owner, and the emotional pain was immense. He was on my mind a lot, as he is very much a “one person” type of horse and therefore I felt something very personal between us. He had developed a deep bond with me and I was the only one he would let get on his back.


We had a year apart, until I moved my two mares from the livery yard onto a private field and I knew I would need another horse to keep one horse company when I was out riding. The first horse that jumped to my mind was, of course, Khalil. His owner was happy for me to have him on loan and I remember the intense elation I felt that I was getting my boy back.


There is a saying that rings true for our story; “If you love someone, let them go. If they return, it was meant to be”.


In 2012 we were reunited. He had reverted back to his wilder self during his year off, so we had to start things almost from scratch. I often wondered how he felt when we were parted and if he knew how much it hurt me.


In 2014, I eventually brought him as my own, officially. Although, I think on an emotional level we had belonged to each other from day one.


It is sometimes hard to remember how far he has come, and just how difficult he was in the beginning. We are doing things now which would have never seemed possible in the early days.


One of our biggest achievements has been riding over the Malvern Hills bridleless. It was one of the best experiences I have ever had. Khalil loves the hills and the view, and the day we went bridleless there was no one else in sight, just me and him. After riding up to the top, I dismounted and sat with him for a while. It was incredible. I think he was a mountain goat in a previous life.


Khalil lives a happy life with my herd, although he doesn’t quite know how to “horse”, so he does get bullied quite a lot. His problem is that he doesn’t seem to read the other horse’s signs and body language and therefore pushes his luck until the mares get fed up with him.


He is a quirky arab and has always had a nervous disposition. He has his own little ways which I work with and not against. He does the arab head toss, where he will spin his head right around, and a few times when riding I have actually seen his eyes in front of my face!


It has been quite the love story over the years. On the day he left me in 2011, I honestly didn’t think he’d be coming back into my life. I could say that our story has had a happy ending, but I believe our story is far from over yet.


His name, “Khalil”, suits him down to the ground, as a friend is exactly what he has always been to me.