Liberty trainer to back ponies during remote island challenge

  • A natural horsewoman will be taking on a unique and testing challenge with six Connemara ponies next month.

    Devon-based equine trainer Emma Massingale will be living on an uninhabited Irish island for four weeks from 1 June with just her ponies for company.

    Two of the six ponies are unhandled and unbacked and Emma aims to back these youngsters without the use of tack or enclosures during her time on the island.

    Atlantis Nahla Comet Calypso on dartmoor (3)

    “My challenge is to be able to work with and ultimately start two unhandled Connemaras completely at liberty,” she said.

    “This will be a huge undertaking to understand how horses feel and think and in turn create a relationship in just four weeks.”

    Emma purchased the untrained ponies, three-year-old Evenos and four-year-old Echo (pictured below), from Clifden in Connemara National Park last week (23-24 May).

    Evenos and Echo my two new Island ponies that I shall be atempting to back completly at liberty on the island

    These ponies will accompany her four own Connemaras, Atlantis, Nahla, Comet and Calypso, who she has trained using the same liberty techniques she will be putting into practice with the youngsters.

    “I keep them in even numbers [when training] and match them up in pairs according to their age and height. This is something they do naturally,” added Emma.

    “Liberty training is all about understanding what horses need — they know when you do something for them and in return they do what you want.”

    Island from Letterfrack North side of Clifden (2)

    Emma will camp for the duration of her time on the 70-acre island, which is situated off the coast of Connemara National Park.

    She will take just basic food supplies and plans to fish using a stand up paddle board.


    “It will be lonely and it will be tough,” she added.

    The project will be documented by Emma using a video diary, aerial drone, island cameras and GoPro footage.

    Emma, who has trained horses for 17 years, set up her own yard in 2001 where she backs horses and helps with difficult equines.

    Current Connemara team which I brought in Ireland

    Keep an eye out for updates on Emma’s progress on horseandhound.co.uk

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