Santa's horse whisperer

'Horse whisperer' tames unruly animal into posing for Christmas card


6th December 2006

Top: Tom - who was once "deadly" - poses for the Christmas card in Emma's house. Below: Horse whisperer Emma, 24, at work with one of her problem patients

Curled up beneath a Christmas tree, Tom the horse looks the picture of peace and goodwill to all men.

Yet the eight-year-old chestnut gelding used to be so dangerous that he almost killed his young owner.

He repeatedly threw Rhiannon Walker to the ground, leaving her needing hospital treatment and scarred for life.

Thanks to 18 months of treatment by equine psychologist Emma Massingale, however, he is now so placid that he posed for two hours for this Christmas card picture in her sitting room in Bradworthy, Devon.

Miss Massingale, 24, managed to guide Tom into the house and position him under the tree merely by laying her hands on different parts of his body.

"When he came to me Tom was a very dangerous horse," she said.

"He used to plant Rhiannon into the floor when she rode him, and basically tried to kill her. Her back is scarred where he has thrown her down on to jumps.

"Now Tom is eager to learn, he is an exceptionally clever horse and very well behaved - a complete transformation."

Rhiannon, 13, is now able to ride her beloved horse and has even been winning competitions with him.

"I am 100 per cent sure this is the first time anyone has got a horse to pose indoors for a Christmas card," added Miss Massingale.

"But it was easy to get Tom into the house - he did it first time. It was no different than going into a stable for him.

"My fiance Jeremy was horrified when he heard I'd had a horse in the lounge - we have only just moved into the house and he was terrified Tom would mess it up.

"But I had a helper standing behind him with a bucket all the time, so fortunately there were no accidents.

"I decided to do this Christmas card to show that even the wildest of horses can be controlled and tamed just by building up a trusting relationship. The only problem we had was when he tried to eat the branches of the tree and pull off the baubles."

Miss Massingale works with problem horses throughout the world and trains owners, vets and equine science colleges.

She learned her techniques at the age of 18 after attending an equine training camp in the Australian Outback where she was taught to understand the psyche of each individual horse.

She is printing 1,000 cards of Tom to sell in packs of five for 5.99 on her website (external - login to view).

A donation of 20p from each card sold will be given to Brooke, a horse charity.
A slightly different method..........

My Dad, who died in 2003 at the age of 86, used to tell about his friend Percy.........

Seems young Percy, in the early 1930s, was fencing on his father's farm. The posts were being dragged by a particularly nasty and uncooperative young horse they owned, and when Percy bent over to pick up a post, the horse bit him on the ****..........

Percy took exception to this assault on his dignity, and wheeled about with the fence post and smashed said horse soundly between the ears.......down goes the horse, and stays down.

Percy has killed it. He fetches his father, who after proper recriminations, orders Percy to get the team to haul the dead offender off to the woods.

Then, as Dad used to describe it, an ear flicked. Then another. Then the head came up, and after a bit the horse found his legs...........and from that moment on was as compliant and gentle a beast as one could hope for.

A true "attitude ajustment"

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