From Aggressive Rescue Pony to Trick Training Superstar: Tribute to Murphy

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Murphy this week as his health failed him in his old age. He joined mine and Rachel’s herd in 2004 as a rescue, who was due to be put to sleep because of physical and behavioural issues that his owners did not feel able to address. We took him on as part of our plan to rescue, rehab and rehome – we rescued him, rehabilitated him but, of course, he stayed with us!

He was an important pony for me on my own equine journey as he was very anxious and had learned to be aggressive towards people. He was especially difficult around food, so I had a big learning curve as I discovered how to use reward-based training to help horses regulate their behaviour and change their emotions. Of course, Connection Training is centred around the horse’s emotions and building a great relationship together, so it was a great experience as I first learned how to work with abused and aggressive horses in a way which was soft, calm and positive.

I took him to an Alex Kurland clinic in 2006 and she introduced me to the concept of ‘protected contact’ where I learned how to train him with a barrier between us to keep me safe and help him to settle down. This is a technique that I use often now to help both horses and humans move to a better relationship until the barrier is no longer needed.

As he overcame his problems, the most fantastic pony emerged. Murphy was bright, eager and so much fun. He was part of all my crazy projects over the years. Watch the video to see him star in Cinderella, as a zombie, cleaning the kitchen, fetching an umbrella in the rain and as a Christmas pony!

We’ll miss his bright, cheeky self on the yard but we’re so glad he was part of our herd for such a long time.

If you want to watch the full versions of some of the videos I referred to in this film, follow the links below.
Please note that most of these videos are hosted on our 2 previous Youtube Channels from previous incarnations of our business, NaturalHorseCompany and HannahDawsonEquine.
Trick Training for Likit
Cinderella – a Pony Tale
Snow White – a Pony Tale
Creative Ways to Make Loading Fun
Trick Training Photoshoot
Zombie Horses Attack
Horses Playing
Merry Christmas Trick Horses

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16 thoughts on “From Aggressive Rescue Pony to Trick Training Superstar: Tribute to Murphy”

  1. My heart goes out to you and Rachel. It’s really, really hard to lose a horse, especially one who has been such an important teacher. I’m so sorry.

    1. Thank you Barbara. The fact that he was old and had been beginning to struggle made it easier, but he will be sorely missed on the yard.

  2. My husband and I rescued an OTTB almost 8 years ago. He was very aggressive on the ground, and would try to bite and kick us during grooming and tacking up. He would also rear when we attempted to walk him in the ring from the ground, and try to strike us sometimes. He attempted to mount me once, which was very scary, he had become studdish due to being turned out with a mare (he is gelded). Oddly, he was an angel once I was on him. Clicker training saved him, I have no doubt in my mind about that. I don’t think anyone else, other than another clicker trainer would have stuck it out with this very dangerous horse. He is our best friend now. Clicker training helped him to realize we were not the enemy, and we have a true bond with him. He trusts us, and though tacking up and grooming is still not his favorite thing, he is very good about it. He had kissing spine surgery two years ago, and after 18 months of rehab, he is back to work under saddle. I learned how to work with horses using the clicker from Alexandra’s books. I am a professional dog trainer who switched to clicker methods 17 years ago, so it was doable for me to learn from books due to my prior experience. So sorry for the loss of Murphy, but it sounds like he had a great life with you.

    1. What a great story, Linda, so glad your horse found you! Reward based training is amazing, isn’t it? Thank you for sharing your story and for your kind words about Murphy.

  3. Fantastic, Hannah. Your love and respect for Murphy (and all others) radiates and is contagious!
    ESKIMO SAYING:
    Perhaps they are not the stars, but rather openings in Heaven where the love of our lost ones pours through and shines down upon us to let us know they are at peace.

  4. The video is worth watching if only for Hannah’s great 1950’s housewife look!! But what a pony! He was adorable and so talented. It’s very inspiring to see that you can take a horse from his original state to this wonderful, relaxed, engaging pony!

    1. Haha! 😀 I don’t often wear make-up, let alone a dress…! But then, when a pony comes round for tea, you have to make an effort right? 😉 Murphy was such a bright spark, so pleased he has inspired so many people!

  5. It is so sad to lose a best friend. He was such a cute and clever pony. I watched all the videos and they were all fantastic. I think my favorite was Snow White. I wish all you wonderful ladies good health and Happy Holidays🎄🎠🎉🦓 Your work with horses is a true inspiration to me. Happy Training.🐴😁

    1. Glad you enjoyed the videos – some crazy projects over the years but a lot of fun!! Thank you for your kind words and happy holidays and training to you, too! :

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