Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Taking Good Care

Last night's lesson was a reminder of how far we've come and a glimpse into where we could go.  I have struggled a lot with my pony over the last two years.  I bought a young horse (just turned 5 at the time) who didn't have much in the way of training.  I wanted a bay gelding between the ages of 8 and 14, about 15.2 hands who was super calm, not spooky and had basic training.  Somehow, I purchased a barely 5 year old 14.3 hand grey mare.  At the time, she seemed super calm and not spooky but that turned out not to be true either.  And the basic training was a bit more basic than I had originally thought.

She arrived in early summer and promptly scared the daylights out of me by being a nervous wreck.  She would barge into me when she spooked, freeze up walking down the barn aisle and scoot and bolt in the arena.  I was afraid to ride her.  Without a confident leader, her behavior got worse.  She began nipping when I brushed her.  You couldn't pick up her back legs without her yanking away abruptly.  She stopped wanting to go forward, instead kicking out at my leg or bucking.  The more she bucked, the more I froze up.

Six months after purchasing her, I decided to sell her.  She was too much horse and I was too nervous of a rider.  As a last resort, I switched trainers.  I would give the new trainer a month and if things didn't change I would sell her.  That was October of 2011.  My first lessons were at the walk and trot only.  I bought a bucking strap and learned to curl my fingers around it and take deep breaths.  That first month my trainer stood next to me in the arena, giving me constant feedback and instruction.

When the month was up, I wasn't convinced.  Our progress was there but was small and frustrating.  I asked my new trainer if she thought I should sell her.  I was pretty sure she would agree that she was the wrong horse for me.  But that isn't what she said.  She said that this horse was a great horse for me and that she could see that potential in both of us.  She said that she's been in horses for over 20 years and she's got a good eye for things and that this horse had the makings of a horse who would take care of it's rider.  She just needed time and consistency and for me to stick with it.

So I did.  And here we are in April of 2013.

When I got to the barn last night I was in a foul mood.  Life has been brutal the last few weeks and I was frustrated in general.  In the cross ties, my pony reflected this mood at me, swishing her tail at the bugs and stomping her feet impatiently.  She pinned her ears at the saddle, the saddle pad, the brush, at me.  When I got on her, she shook her head at me and refused to go forward.  Then she spooked and refused to go past one of the jumps.  I managed to ride her through it, but I pulled up next to my trainer and told her that I wasn't sure if I could do this.  I wasn't sure I could ride this horse.  I wanted my dead broke, forward going, already trained, not spooky gelding and I had a terrible week and maybe I should get off my horse.

She said she would tell me if she saw me taking any frustration out on my horse.  She said it wouldn't be the first time she's told someone to get off their horse and put it away because their emotions were getting in the way.  Then she gave me some reminders about forward and how I need to just ask once, then tap as a reminder, then ask again.  Don't keep asking.  Don't clench up.  Don't get angry.  Do lots of transitions.

In the end, we had light forward and easy canter transitions.  We jumped and jumped and jumped and jumped.  I kept going too far forward and my pony kept saving me.  She's that kind of a horse.  Even though she hasn't been jumping long, when I lean forward she automatically comes in deeper to a fence and pops over it so I can't come over her neck.  There's a name for it but I now can't remember what it is.  When I get it right and actually sit up, our lines flow and her jumps are big and round.

So, as we approach my pony's 7th birthday I want to say thank you.  To my new trainers who continue to see my horse's potential and encourage me to do the same.  Ride the horse you want is something I hear a lot of.  They know she can be that horse if I just stick with her.  And thank you to my pony who continues to mirror back to me exactly what I need to learn but who also takes care of me.  She's just the right amount of sassy, affectionate, interesting and challenging.  One of the things I've always loved about Arabs is that once you find your stride with them, they will do anything you ask.  We're not there yet, but I can see that distance now.  And we are riding toward it.
This picture was taken the day I bought her.  She's doing her second favorite activity in the world, napping.  Her first is, of course, eating.


  1. :) Your blog is one I especially love to read, because even though my mare is not an Arab, I have went thru many of the same stuggles. So happy you are sticking with Tessa and enjoying her!

  2. awesome post and good perspective!

  3. Awww what a lovely post. I feel all heart-warmed :)

  4. Great post :) Sometimes a horse like her is just what we need, and you guys will continue to make a ton of progress!

  5. You two have already come so far together - just think of where you may be in a year or two!

  6. The both of you have progressed in leaps and bounds. IMO, you have the horse that is going to teach you to ride. Tessa's attitude makes it interesting, don't you think? Your post brought back some very familiar memories of when Gem and I became partners. When I think that I am never going to get this riding thing, I watch videos of myself and Gem taken a year ago, two years ago, etc. and I can see how far we've come. :-)

  7. I really enjoy reading about your trials and tribulations with Tessa. Very inspirational!