Earlier this year I was asked to write an article about Finnegan, now a favourite in the Healing Hooves herd, when his Mom, Rills Kelpie bred by Penny Huggons, was awarded the 2020 Foundation Broodmare award by the Canadian Connemara Pony Society. I’m sharing that article here as Finn is such a wonderful example of how a horse can grow into the work of EFW, provided we allow them enough time, support and choice.
People often talk about the versatility of the Connemara pony; how they make great family horses and can excel in a variety of competition rings. Finn (aka Rills Blue Hawk) proves all of that true and more.
I have always loved this breed. My childhood horse was a Connemara TB cross and we currently have Dain’s Derring Do (a now 31-year-old, Connemara TB cross who evented at the intermediate level) and Pickle (a mischievous Connemara Shetland cross) as well-loved members of our herd at Healing Hooves.
Finn stole my heart though the moment I saw him move. At just turned three he was younger than I was supposed to be shopping for and all those whirls on his face (at last count he has seven) meant heightened sensitivity, so we needed to approach his training slowly. But now, over a decade later, I am so incredibly grateful to and for this amazingly talented and sweet pony.
Finn has done a bit of everything during his time with us so far. Pony club, stadium, cross country, he’s even done a little vaulting! He doesn’t love dressage but will try if I ask nicely. He’s also now the reliable pony you can jump on bareback after two weeks off in January and safely go for a trail ride. He loves to jump and has taken both my daughter and I round many clear rounds, over jumps far higher and wider than I ever anticipated jumping! Several years ago, at our regional pony club show, a child’s horse went lame so she borrowed Finn last minute, never having ridden him before. He went right in the ring and gave her a double clear.
Finn has given us a few scares over the years. He reacted to a vaccination four years ago (and then again to both penicillin shots) requiring a week at the veterinary hospital to drain a huge abscess, and several months of healing. Then, last year, he contracted Potomac fever requiring another visit to the veterinary hospital. Both times he was incredibly easy to take care of and recovered fully. He’s always been friendly, and these experiences seemed to just cement those bonds further
A few years ago, Finn decided he needed an even broader job description. We have a herd of nine horses here and most of them are equine therapists, working with me and my team through the Healing Hooves Equine Facilitated Wellness program supporting clients through our counselling, personal growth and professional training programs. But Finn was originally just for me. I figured his heightened sensitivity meant he would do better being a one (or two) person horse, or maybe I just wanted to keep him to myself! But Finn decided I was wrong on both counts. He started to ‘volunteer’ for this work, meeting clients at the gate, following them around the field, and hanging his head over the fence watching if we brought another horse in. So, I decided to let him give it a try, and through this discovered an amazing therapy horse. His sensitivity, now given the time to mature, lends itself well to this work. He often seems drawn to other sensitive souls helping them feel invited, understood, accepted, and safe. In 2019 he participated in a group we ran in partnership with CCASA (Calgary Communities Against Sexual Abuse) and was a firm favourite.
Most of all though, Finn is a cherished member of our family. When my daughter and I left pony club a few years back we received several inquiries from people hoping Finn may be for sale. He wasn’t, and he never will be. So, thank you Kelpie, and Penny, for this amazing pony, and thank you Ireland for this amazing breed!
My hope in sharing this article is to demonstrate how a horse can truly grow into and choose to participate in this work, provided we are patient and allow them choice. As a three year old, or even a seven year old, Finn would not have been well suited to EFW. His heightened sensitivity meant he was unpredictable at times, and when I was working with him he needed my full attention at all times. We very much needed to take things slowly and allow him time to explore his world, develop trust in relationships, and to feel safe. Now, about to turn 15, we are truly seeing the fruits of having taken our time and allowing Finn all of the space and security he needs. I still will rarely have a client ride him (although I realise that may change one day too!) but on the ground he is showing us daily how much he has to offer in this field.
This also presents a wonderful parallel, inspiration and message of hope for many of our clients who are also highly sensitive and need to be allowed some time, invitation and safety to grow into their gifts and abilities. My journey with Finn serves as a good reminder when I’m supporting my clients on this important journey!