When did you meet your Heart Horse, and how old were you?
Heather Wallace: So, I was 41 when I met Ferrous, also known as Iron Man, that is his show name – not that we show too much (laughter). Actually, I had a nasty fall on the Horse I was riding before him and broke my ribs, bruised my lung, and lost a lot of assertiveness that the Horse that I was riding needed and so, as much as I love that Horse, it just wasn't a good match, and Ferrous was one of the horses that I actually rode just after and we absolutely clicked.
HH: What made him your Heart Horse at that moment and what drew you together?
HW: He's got a lot of personality, which I would like to think I do as well. When I went to mount him he shied away, and my trainer was like "you have a crop in your hand, and that is why he is doing it" and then I realized that I needed to be a lot more aware of what I was doing with my body from the beginning and when I started riding him he was crooked and I just realized oh my god, I really have to be aware of where my body is and what I am doing and not zone out and for me I like a good project, and I like to learn a lot in any given atmosphere and so I figured this Horse was going to challenge me, but he is going to do it in a way that I feel comfortable, and we had so much fun getting to know each other. Every day, we have fun, whether it is trail riding or jumping or just doing flatwork.
HH: What discipline do you focus on with Ferrous?
HW: Whatever I feel like that doing that day (all laugh). I was raised in the Hunters, but I was always a little bit of a timid rider, and as much as I love jumping, I am never going to do more than 2 feet. I don't have the confidence, and as an equine sports massage therapist, I am thinking more about how my Horse is moving and how I am helping him to move. So, because he is stiff because he had EPM years ago, I ride him the way he needs to be ridden on that day. Sometimes it is flatwork, with a lot of circles; sometimes we go on a trail ride.
HH: And EMP is?
HW: Equine Protozoal Myeloencephalitis – it is a parasite that comes from contact with infected by a raccoon or opossum feces it creates a neurological condition, and it can be deadly to horses. So we are cautious, and I am always looking for muscle stiffness and making sure he is moving the way he should.
HH: Do you think that is part of the reason he became your Heart Horse? You are an Equine Horse Massage Therapist; do you believe that this was some divine intervention of sorts?
HW: I hope so. I think some people knowing that he had EPM wouldn't necessarily have bought him. I was fully aware of it, he was at the barn for years, I was there while he was sick and he had always been in the background as this Horse that I was not allowed to ride. Had been the owners favorite and I would like to think that he now benefits from having me as an owner because I am not thinking about what show I am getting him to, I am more thinking about how he is going to feel, so that is for, me the priority. So when you asked about discipline I don't think about that, I think if you looked at my equitation, you would probably laugh but at the end of the day, he is moving the way he should be.
HH: So, really, your priority is?
HH: What is your best memory so far?
HW: We have created a lot of good memories; I have to say, moving him to a new barn and having the ability to work with him off the lead and at liberty has been eye-opening for me and our relationship. Under saddle every once in a while we will disagree because he tells me when he is feeling off or when he does not want to do something, but when I am doing Liberty work with him, I feel like we are strengthening our relationship.
HH: And by "Liberty" what do you mean?
HW: With liberty work, I close the arena doors and let him off the lead, and we play, do some tricks, and I bring out a clicker. I started clicker training with him, and I am learning, and he is so smart! It is a lot of fun.
HH: What kind of tricks are you teaching him?
HW: Lead and follow, I can get him to do a leg pass around me in a circle by following me. I am working on getting him to bow, but the most fun one is when I bring out a massive ball, and I am teaching him how to play soccer (laughs). So the other day when we were doing flatwork, he saw the ball, and he tried to go and play with it, and I was like, no, no, no, buddy not today (laughs).
HH: Do you have a memory that is not so great?
HW: Yes. So, I am a timid rider, and I struggle with that periodically. I have more good days than bad, but I have always been a fan of the slow and steady approach to life. I took him on some trails, and I've been taking him out alone, which has been good for both of us and our confidence. But recently we went out with a couple of people that we didn't know, horses we didn't know, and he was very forward. I wouldn't say fresh, but he was arguing with me the whole time, I was struggling to keep him from just trying to race them, and it made me embarrassed that we were having this argument in front of people. At the end of it, we were calm and quiet, and we walked back to the barn. Nobody got hurt, and I was never in danger of falling I was feeling out of control, he was angry with me when we came back. I went to put him in the wash stall, and he went to nip at me, which he had never done before. He was mad. I was not trusting him, and I absolutely know it, but at that moment, I physically couldn't do it. I could not let myself go.
HH: What does Heart Horse mean to you:
HW: For me, a Heart Horse is a horse that makes me a better person that teaches me something about myself, and makes me want to do the best for them.
HH: How many years have you had Ferrous?
HW: I got him a year and a half ago when I was 41, and I waited my whole life for him.
HH: Thank you, Heather.