Emma Massingale survives island challenge with just ponies for company

  • Equine trainer Emma Massingale has returned from a challenge of a lifetime on a remote Irish island, accompanied only by six Connemara ponies.

    The Devon-based horsewoman put her skills to the test by backing two of the ponies, who were previously unhandled, without the use of tack or enclosures.

    Emma purchased the untrained ponies, three-year-old Evenos and four-year-old Echo, from Clifden in Connemara National Park. They accompanied her four own Connemaras — Atlantis, Nahla, Comet and Calypso — onto the island.

    She camped out for the duration of the four-week challenge (8 June – 8 July) and fished for food with just her ponies for company.

    Both Evenos and Echo made far better progress than Emma expected and within a week she had sat on them both.

    “It was the perfect challenge apart from the weather — I only had four dry days, but it was the most amazing experience,” Emma told H&H.

    She explained that she used her older horses to help train the new pair.

    “When I was riding Evenos, I used my four horses to translate my commands,” she said.

    “I taught Evenos to lie down pretty much straight away by showing him the others doing it. From there I taught him to stop, turn and go while riding another horse at liberty (without the use of tack) so he got used to seeing me up above.

    “I started to ride him with one of my trained horses walking alongside him so he had back up from my cues.”

    Emma has returned from the trip with renewed enthusiasm for her work.

    “Even though I’ve started hundreds of horses, this was completely different from anything I’ve done before as they had to totally accept the concept,” she added.

    “For me it was the first time it felt completely pure.”

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