‘The best feeling I have ever had’: Emma Massingale makes great progress in island challenge

  • Stormy weather, sleeping in a cave and fishing for dinner have become part of daily life for natural horsewoman Emma Massingale.

    The Devon-based equine trainer took on a unique challenge three weeks ago with six Connemara ponies.

    On the ferry. Credit: Emma Massingale

    On the ferry. Credit: Emma Massingale

    Emma set off to an uninhabited Irish island earlier this month (8 June) with just her ponies for company. The trip was delayed by a week due to bad weather making a sea crossing dangerous.

    Two of the six ponies were unhandled and unbacked. Emma set herself the challenge of backing these youngsters without tack or enclosures during her time on the island.

    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.

    Emma has kept supporters updated with her progress through her Facebook page.

    Progress with the ponies

    Within a week Emma had already managed to sit on both Evenos and Echo.

    On board Evenos. Credit: Emma Massingale

    Onboard Evenos. Credit: Emma Massingale

    “All aboard. This is probably the best feeling I have ever had,” she said on 13 June, the day she first rode Evenos. “We have a long way to go, but this boy tries so hard.”

    The following day she was able to ride Echo for the first time.

    “Echo made a huge change today, maybe he didn’t want to be left out of the club, but quite astonishingly I was just playing with him when I knew the time was right for me to hop aboard.

    “He didn’t mind at all I did it several times from both sides, he just nodded off.”

    Since then Emma has made further progression with the ponies, and has taught both Evenos and Echo to lie down.

    Echo lying down with Emma

    Echo lying down with Emma. Credit: Emma Massingale

    “Echo is coming along now,” she said on 18 June. “I asked him to lay down on command which he did really well.

    “I felt so proud of him as things don’t come as easy to him, but I knew the moment was there so I was happy to ask.”

    Emma has been training Evenos and Echowith the same liberty techniques she uses with her other ponies.

    “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,” Emma told H&H last month (30 May).

    “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 life

    Emma Massingale

    Catch of the day. Credit: Emma Massingale

    As well as training the horses, Emma has been busy fishing for food, as she only took basic supplies to the island.

    “Had an awesome time spear fishing this morning,” Emma said on Saturday (27 June). “I then made a fire from mostly peat that I had dug up and dried and a few bits of drift wood I collected from the shore line.”

    The weather has not been forgiving for Emma, who has been sleeping in a cave since her tent was left vulnerable to the strong winds and rain.

    Home sweet home. Credit: Emma Massingale

    Home sweet home. Credit: Emma Massingale

    “I woke up with the wind howling around the tent and decided that I needed to make island life more exciting,” she said. “I now officially live in a cave.”

    Keep an eye out for a further article on Emma’s return from the island on horseandhound.co.uk

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