Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When to Quit

by Laura Crum

First of all, I want to give an update on Henry, my son’s lazy red horse. Last fall Henry developed the bad habit of refusing to pick up the lope. He would lower his head, brace against the bit and trot faster. This became very frustrating for my son. We worked on this problem all winter/spring. Henry got lots of rest; I determined he was sound and felt good; I rode him several times and reprimanded him for doing this; I put a different bit on him; and, finally, I coached my son through a protocol for addressing the problem. Every time Henry ignored the signal to lope and put his head down and trotted faster, I had my son pull him up (fairly roughly) and ask for the lope again from the walk, using the crop. Once Henry loped well for a few circles, I had my son stop him—before Henry dropped out of the lope on his own.

It worked. My son was able to lope Henry quite successfully at home in our riding ring. But he was still nervous about loping the horse at our local roping arena, where the problem first developed. Henry has a tendency to want to go back to the other horses and stop, and my son was afraid he would attempt to use his bracing vice again. I encouraged my kid to give it a try and the last few times at the arena, Henry has loped many perfect circles—willingly and with very little attempt to revert to his old habit. And when he did, briefly, put his head down, my son was able to correct him instantly. So, for those of you who wrote in and gave me good advice (and thank you—I found it very helpful), there’s my update. So far, its been a real success story. My son has definitely become a better rider because of this. He and Henry remain a good team, both in the arena and on the trail. I think this is a good example of the sort of problem that can be worked through, if the horse and rider are basically well suited.

And now, on to today’s topic.

A fellow horse blogger asked me recently about knowing when it was time to quit—or give up—on a horse, and said she thought it would make a good blog piece. I had to think about this for awhile. I’ve made the decision to quit on quite a few horses in my life—horses that I was training that seemed too unpredictable and resistant (horses that were violent)—I was afraid I’d get hurt. I chose not to ride them any more. And horses I owned that, for whatever reason, didn’t work for me. Some of these horses I sold. In my later years, however, I mostly gave them to good homes who promised to keep them or return them to me.

The reasons I “rehomed” these horses were various. But the bottom line was that they just didn’t work for me. And since I was asked, I thought awhile about what this means. And the truth is—I keep the horses that make me happy when I look at them. I rehome the ones that don’t make me feel happy when I look at them.

What does this mean? Well, it doesn’t mean that I keep the pretty ones. Pretty is fine, as far as it goes, but what makes me feel happy when I look at a horse in my corral is the inner certainty that I enjoy this horse. I like dealing with him. I like having him around. This can be an older horse that I no longer ride (like Gunner) or a horse I ride a lot (like Sunny)—doesn’t matter. I like to be with the horse, I like to handle the horse, I like to ride him (if I’m riding him), I like to look at him and touch him. He makes me feel good. I feel safe with him.

When I was younger I felt safe with a far livelier, more challenging horse than the sort I feel safe with now. But the important thing is that I realize this. I’m aware of how I feel. I like a quieter, calmer horse than I used to prefer. And that’s fine.

Some of my horses, in fact, all of my horses, give me a minor problem from time to time, like Henry did last fall. But I still feel happy to work with them and handle them, even though I may be frustrated with the problem. It’s a subtle thing. But the way I judge it is the fact that looking at that horse in the corral still makes me smile.

What sort of horse makes me not happy? A hard thing to explain. I don’t like having a horse that seems anxious or unhappy living with me. I don’t want a horse that seems in any way dangerous. I don’t want a horse that annoys me. And this is idiosyncratic. One horse annnoys me with his quirks, and another, with similar quirks, amuses me. A horse I find annoying, another horseman loves. Its personal. The main thing is that I’m aware that if a horse does not give me that happy feeling when I see him in my corral, its not a good thing.

I’ll give an example. Awhile ago I had a horse named Lester. Lester was given to me by my friend, who had given up on him as a team roping horse. Lester was, in most ways, a gentle, safe horse that anyone could ride. He was a good trail horse. In a group, anyway. Lester had a few quirks. Speed events blew him up. (Why he didn’t make a rope horse.) He was incurably herdbound—taking him out by himself was a total pain. He fussed with things in the pasture and corral, beating on fences and feeders, breaking gates, scraping the paint off sheds and trailers. Lester annoyed me.

I lent him to a friend for her teenage daughter (explaining exactly what he was), and they loved him. But the daughter outgrew her interest in horses. Once again I had Lester back. The very first morning he was here again, he woke me up by beating on his feeder like it was a drum. I was mad before I even looked at him. Like I said, Lester annoyed me. I did not smile when I saw him; I grimaced in frustration, even though I was fond of him.

I found him a new home with a woman who gave lessons. I explained what he was. She was a Parelli person and said her hobby was working with problem horses…if they weren’t dangerous. I said Lester wasn’t dangerous—at all—if he wasn’t asked to work at speed or be alone. I said he was annoying. She laughed.

To make a long story short, this gal has had Lester for many years and loves him. She lets lots of kids ride him—he does great. To begin with she tried to Parelli him out of his herdbound ways, but from what I’ve heard lately, she just sticks to riding him with other horses. I check on Lester once in awhile. He looks fat and happy. They think he is endearing rather than annoying. I’m thrilled.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m in favor of rehoming the horses that don’t make us feel happy inside. Sometimes it takes awhile to determine this. I usually give a horse six months—if I still like him at that point, I figure we have a chance. If I still like him after two years, I make a commitment to him. That’s my window.

My Sunny horse was on trial for the first six months I owned him. I had the previous owner’s agreement she’d take him back and refund my money if I found him unsuitable. But though I initially was doubtful about Sunny, who seemed cross grained and offered to kick, crowhop…etc, over time we came to a real meeting of the minds. After two and a half years, Sunny is my horse. I feel we make a good team and are each able to provide what the other needs. Sunny seems happy living with me. I smile every time I see him.

But if a horse makes me feel unhappy inside, for whatever reason—and I mean consistently, not just when we have a bad day, or a bad week—then I am going to find that horse a new home. I will be careful to be sure the horse does not end up in a bad place (to the best of my abilities) but life is too short and there are so many sweet horses that it isn’t worthwhile keeping one that doesn’t fit.
That unhappy feeling is varied. Lester made me feel annoyed. If I felt a horse was a danger to me or my kid, I’d feel anxious. I’ve had horses here that constantly paced or seemed restless, or just gave me the impression they were not content, and this, in turn, made me uncomfortable. All of these feelings are variations on “this horse does not make me feel happy when I look at him.”

As I said, this can be a fine line. Sometimes, as with Henry, a horse you genuinely enjoy can frustrate you for awhile. I think the secret of being a good (and happy) horseman is partly the ability to walk this line. To rehome the ones that don’t make us happy and keep the ones that do. And having the wisdom to know the difference.

At the moment, a huge part of what makes me feel happy with a horse is feeling safe. And I have enough wisdom to recognize this. So my answer to the horse blogger who asked me the question (who is an experienced horseperson herself and probably knows what my answer would be)—is that if I don’t feel safe with a horse I’m not gonna be happy with him….and I will find him a new home.

So that’s my take on it. Any other opinions?


Anonymous said...

Hi Laura: I have an interesting situation with my gelding. Diego is a 10 year old QH/Arabian, about 14.3 and built like a tank. I bought Diego because the lady said he was a great trail horse, the one she put all the beginner riders on. I rode Diego several times and he was butter smooth and very well behaved. When I brought Diego to the stable where I was boarding the trouble began: I couldn't catch him, and then I couldn't get the halter on him, next he wouldn't stay still on cross ties and he would freak out in the indoor arena. So much so he actually tried to climb out a mirror (for dressage riders) and ended up cracking it right down the middle. After two months I still had not him. Oh did I mention he wouldn't let me pick up his back feet, without flailing all over. Nine months later, he lives at my home with a mare and pony, and with much persistence on my part he is great on the ground. My kids can walk him, groom him and he is wonderful. Under saddle he is great for the young lady that comes and rides him for me, because I'm scared to ride him alone. I have started to ride him with someone to watch and only in my paddocks. He has given me fits under saddle, but I know it's because he doesn't believe in my leadership. He is better, but would be great if I could control my fear (which is not just with him but all horses).

But I love this horse! Crazy? I know that he and I will make it work and then it will be a great partnership. He is inquisitive, whenever I'm out in the paddock working on something I will feel this puff of breath over my shoulder and there he will be, just observing and hanging out. He has the kindest eyes and he is very handsome and loves to show off. He makes me smile, all the time, when ever I see him. No matter what he is doing. I just know that despite my fears, he is my horse, the one that will be my horsey soul mate. Okay so have I truly lost it? Horses are my therapy, my sanity and my peace. I'm fighting to hold on to that and not lose it just because, for right now, I'm afraid. So we progress slowly, and I try to do what I can. And so far Diego is being a very good boy. Well, most of the time. ;D

Anonymous said...

Good summation, Laura. Deciding when to quit and when to persevere is most certainly up to each owner (or their parents). My description of "the line" is very similar to yours, but then we'd have to individually define "dangerous" or "annoying", etc. Everyone's definitions are different, even when one is completely honest about one's skills and comfort levels.

My bottom line is whether I am enjoying (overall) working with that horse. Your timeline is about the same as mine--if I'm not having fun within 6 months, something's wrong--but that's negotiable too. The last horse I quit on gave me so many good moments that it was difficult to move on--but he also had tons of irrational fears and a deadly spook-twist-buck sequence that injured my hips more than once, without me coming off! I realized well before I gave up on him that between my growing fear of both him and chronic pain, he could be the horse that would make me quit riding. It took awhile to find his perfect home after that realization, but once I spotted his new owner, I moved quickly. The new owner loves him, they're a good match.

If you remember I now have another challenging project horse; we've approached "my line" but haven't yet crossed it. I don't feel in danger (often) and I'm still enjoying working with him. He is most likely a keeper.

I well remember and will hopefully never have to experience again that feeling of dreading working with a horse that wasn't right for me. Yuck. I'm not a pro, this is for fun, and life is too short. I also hope to never criticize someone else's decision to move on (or persevere), even when I don't quite understand.

Laura Crum said...

Wow--those are two very interesting comments.

mommyrides--I've been reading your comments for long enough to guess (from what you've said) that the fear you are experiencing is the sort of global re-rider fear a lot of us experience as we take up riding again after having kids (or just take up riding again as we get older). As you put it, you experience this fear with all horses, not just your gelding. I understand this very well, because my anxiety level went way up when I started riding again with my son. Didn't matter what horse I was on, even a horse I knew and trusted, if that horse danced around and acted fresh, I felt fearful. Let alone how nervous I got about my son. My solution was to find two relatively bombproof horses for us to ride together, and its a solution that has worked for me. My anxiety level is within reason, and I have lots of fun riding with my kid.

Diego sounds like a horse that would push my anxiety buttons, frankly. However, I totally respect your inner feeling that he is your horse and he makes you happy. I felt somewhat the same way about Sunny, despite my boarder/friend's snide comments about "Small Nasty". Its your inner sense of what's right that counts. If I felt as you do, I would ride Diego with someone trustworthy supervising, until I had the confidence to ride without them. I would not rush myself. If riding with a helper is what feels right, just do it that way. That's how I handle my fear that some "scary" thing will happen on the trail. I ask my friend/boarder to ride with my kid and me until my confidence comes up again. I think you need to go with your gut. I also think your honesty and ability to recognize where you are at will serve you well. Thanks for a very interesting comment.

And stillearning (I take it this is you)I know just what you mean about needing to define "annoying", "safe" ...etc. I actually started in on a description of what sort of horse behaviors added up to me not feeling safe, and then gave up on it. Its just too personal. My one addition would be that its best to err on the side of caution--I have known many a pro and very experienced rider to be badly injured by a horse they felt competent to deal with. For me, even in my younger days, when I trained horses, I never had any interest in riding/handling a horse who would actively try to buck me off or damage me in any way (agressive kicking, biting..etc). Spooky, flighty, sensitive horses I could deal with as long as they weren't inclined to blind panic. Nowdays my standards are much narrower. I like em quiet and steady, thank you very much. Like you, I try not to be judgemental about the choices of others, but I still feel pretty uncomfortable when I see a child that is "overmounted" by what I consider to be an unwise parent, or any sort of rider who I think is genuinely in danger of getting hurt by their horse. No horse is completely "safe"--we all know that--but some are a whole lot safer than others(!)

How is your horse doing? Last you mentioned he was doing better. the way you described him, he sounded more lazy than truly resistant/dangerous--or did I misunderstand that? And yeah, I can so remember that feeling of dread, too--of just not wanting to deal with a given horse's issues, and I am so not wanting to go there again. Fortunately all five horses that live here on my place give me a very content, comfortable feeling, and I'm really grateful for that.

Anonymous said...

Yes, that was me, forgot to mark it!

It worries me is when I see someone who is not being honest with themselves. One friend in particular has bought the horse she would have loved 10 years ago, not now. She's already fallen once and gotten hurt; the horse is fine, just quick to spook and spin. My friend is assessing things with "younger eyes" (or pride) and I worry about that. Still, I try not to interfere unless I feel very strongly.

My horse is making progress, slow but steady. It's becoming clear that the "lazy" tag was not accurate. That's how he appears, but I think he's actually very sensitive, and easily overwhelmed--and unfortunately reacts with resistance. By asking, not telling, reinforcing go and whoa as needed during the warm-up (before asking for anything more difficult) and being fair but staying focused every ride, we've built our way up to some consistantly good dressage work. He's actually quite willing to work and learn, if you never try to skip a step in the process. I've been told this is a warmblood characteristic, and I'm much more used to the TB "go" mentality, so it's been a learning process for me as well.

Sometimes I worry that I am the one being trained, of course, and that he really should be more immediate in his responses from the first step, and we're working on that...but in the meantime we're having mostly good rides. I've just started the process of loading him and hauling to new surroundings, and he's handling it pretty well. We'll see.

Like I said, I don't feel he's dangerous, and I'm learning more about dressage every day (by necessity), so it's fun for me. As long as there's progress I can be patient.


Laura Crum said...

stillearning--Its funny--Gunner, the horse I bought as a three year old when I was twenty-five, trained by myself to be an effective reined cowhorse, cutter and team roping horse, and rode non-stop for ten years (I still have him--he's thirty this year and doing great) would be absolutely beyond my skills today. Gunner had a huge spook--very sudden and covering a lot of ground in one sideways motion. He never quit doing this, though he was/is a very gentle horse in every other way. He also never dropped me--though it was close many times. Today I doubt I'd stay on through one such jump--let alone two or three per ride. Yes, indeed, the horse I need at fifty-three is very different from the horses I needed in my twenties and thirties.

I hear you about warmblood versus TB. I have almost solely trained QHs --I trained one TB horse and it was a revelation. The horse was smart and willing and he wanted to go, go, go. He thrived on being ridden seven days a week. He did not need/want rest. He wanted to work. It took me much longer to "make" him than many other horses I trained, partly because I had to figure out how to train him--he didn't fit the methods I was used to using. But he did make a great horse and I was very fond of him. Even so, I stuck to QHs after that. I like a more laid back type.

Anonymous said...

You said it Laura! My fear comes from returning to riding after being off for a while to have the kiddos. It really bothered me at first, actually sometimes it still does. I call myself a good rider that has lost all her confidence. Like you when I was younger I could and did ride pretty much anything that was thrown at me. Pride is a real stinker though, my experiences tell me I'll be okay but my current mental state is screeching "OMG!!!!!".
I do love my boy Diego but should he ever get as goofy under saddle as he was on the ground that would be it. He would go to someone who would love and appreciate him for what he is. But for right now I'm still hopeful but not stupid.
The mare I bought for my husband and older kids to ride is in that grey zone though. She was "bombproof" according to the seller and since coming home she has become spooky and goofy out of her paddock. She is good around the kids tied for grooming but I'm developing real concerns about her safety under saddle. I will not keep her should this silliness not get resolved and quickly. It's a frustrating business when the previous owner tells you one thing then you get home and find out it's not what you thought. I did like your plan of having a 6 month trial period. I got smart with the pony we leased. She was a trial pony until we figured out that she would be safe with the kids. It seems hard to find these really solid trail horses. Expensive lessons these horses teach us, but I hope I'm picking up on it faster now as I get older.

Unknown said...

I have danced on this line with my first horse - I loved him, but eventually his unperdictable behavior made riding a miserable chore. I went back and forth so much because he had so many good qualities, but finally I realized I was becoming less confident about my own abilities.

I lost so much confidence that I ended up being a terrible rider for my next horse - which was a compliant, willing horse. He was turning into my previous horse - testing, spooky - because of those emotional scars I didn't realize I carried with me.

There was an article in H&R about a woman who found that every "dead broke" horse she got became unmanageable in her care.

I finally found my confidence again and like magic, my new horse stopped spooking and stopped testing me.

I know this doesn't really touch on those annoying habits - the banging, the herd bound problems - but I wonder what percentage of issues with horses are mirrors of our own internal challenges.

Anonymous said...

Good points, Breathe. I carried some hidden emotional responses from my previous horse to the current one, and some are still surfacing.


Laura Crum said...

This a complicated subject (which I tried to simplify in the post) and you guys are really nailing it. Because, yes, I totally agree with Breathe that if your confidence is really shaky, you can and will cause even a "bombproof" horse to misbehave. In essence, as I think mommyrides said, you don't send the vibe that you're the leader, and so the horse figures he is, and starts doing what he wants. This can amount to frustration or danger, depending on the horse. With my son and Henry, Henry was testing to see if he could be the boss. He didn't do anything dangerous, however, and he did submit to my son's firm bid to be in charge. This is what I call a "good" kid's horse (or beginner horse). Nonetheless, he did test for dominance.

Horses like Lester, on the other hand (and I know, cause I helped train him) are wired a certain way. I was quite sure the new owner could not Parelli him out of his herdbound ways (and I was right). Lester's agitated behavior (we called him our ADD horse) came from his dam (the breeder warned us but we didn't listen). So another problem in ascertaining when to quit is deciding when the problems are springing from you and your lack of confidence and when they are coming from the horse and his basic nature. I would still say that the answer lies in your gut--but that isn't really much help.

I'll give one more example. When my son first started trail riding on Henry I was riding my horse, Plumber, a horse I broke as a three year old and who was eighteen at the time. Plumber was safe and reliable and I trusted that he would never dump me. He was/is also a sensitive, reactive little horse and had been an arena horse for the past ten years. We did a dozen trail/beach rides and Plumber was anxious and agitated the whole time. His growing arthritic issues made walking down steep hills uncomfortable for him and he seemed to be unhappy with being given a new event at this late date (though he had done a lot of trail rides with me in his younger days).I didn't feel that he would hurt me, but it made me anxious to cope with his fussing--I couldn't keep my attention on my kid. I did not feel happy inside. I made the decision to buy Sunny, who, for all his cross grained ways, has always been completely calm and reliable on the trail. Sunny had quite a few bad habits that came, I think from being able to buffalo his previous owners. He got over these with me because I was confidently in charge with him. So...there are two variations on the theme. I deduced that Plumber's nature (sensitive, reactive) did not fit him to be the steady lead trail horse I needed (though I still have him and still love him) and I deduced that Sunny was fitted to my job description and just needed to be shown who was boss. Though I can't say I really deduced these things. I just went with my gut. And both horses make me smile when I see them and seem happy living with me.

These have been great, insightful comments. Thanks all.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I have to say...I'm glad I didn't give up on Starlette. We were not a good match...I a rerider after 18 years, she a green broke, improperly broke, hot mare.

But the first time we "met", it was a match. I was lucky I rode her for a year before I owned her to get to know her. And even then, over the 4 years, I wondered what I got myself into.

Tonight was great...rode on the trails bareback! And I stayed on through her little antics. I know she made me a better rider!

And I love bareback riding!

Laura Crum said...

Jackie--I think you're one of the exceptions that proves the rule. No doubt if you'd asked, lots of us would have recommended a different sort of horse for you (older, broker, you know the drill). But Starlette worked for you and she makes you feel happy inside. I think that's why I used that criteria as my baseline in the post. Because sometimes its not the horse that's the logical choice that works for us--the horse that makes us feel happy inside is different from person to person and situation to situation. Like stillearning said, its important not to be judgemental about the choices of others. I applaud you and Starlette--even as I made the opposite choice and selected my reliable little yellow horse to ride on the trails. I think the important point is that we're both happy with our horses--for me that's the bottom line.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

I totally do understand what you are saying, Laura...I just have seen lately a lot of people give up too soon when the horse isn't exactly what they expected immediately (and I do believe there is an adjustment period the rider/horse have to go through).

But I am also stubborn and like a challenge. I do know I want to get a second trail horse for friends/family to ride eventually, and I do want a reliable horse for that. And it would be nice to relax on the trails more - sometimes the unexpected spook-drop-spin gets old!

Also...the difference with Starlette and a crazy horse is I saw improvement each time I rode. Sometimes not as much as I wanted, but improvement. Maybe if I didn't have that, it would all have been another result with our partnership.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for showing yet another side to the story Horsesandturbos. You have given me hope that Diego and I will yet make a great team. Every time I ride him I do notice some improvement and he really is a doll-baby on the ground. I've often heard "horsey" people say it takes up to a year to really get to know your horse. Of course I've know a few that after 6 months I was convinced it would never work.
Thanks for the encouragement :D

HorsesAndTurbos said...

Mommyrides...we are on starting our 4th year...and seriously, last year was our big breakthrough year! As long as he is not dangerous, and you want to stick with it and see progress, go for it I say - and I am now 53 years old, so I am not a young fearless rider saying this!

Laura Crum said...

mommyrides--I agree that Jackie and Starlette are a real inspiration for persevering with a horse that you love even when it isn't easy. And I do truly think that you are the only one who can make this decision. If you find your horse rewarding and he makes you smile, despite the difficulties you encounter with him, then it seems your gut is telling you that he's your horse.

I actually think it takes two years to really know a horse. Six months is my "trial" window, but two years is my window for deciding if a horse is a keeper.

To further complicate the issue, let me tell you about Flanigan, who was probably the best horse I ever had. I was partners on Flanigan with my friend/boarder, Wally. We both roped on this horse and I rode him through the mountains. Flanigan was very cross grained, pinned his ears at you and made ferocous faces, was hard to catch, was also very cinchy and came to us with the reputation of having bucked a few people off. He bucked Wally off more than once in the first year we owned him, and at one point Wally was determined to get rid of the horse. But Flanigan gave me the best feeling of any horse I'd ever ridden--I absolutely trusted him (he also never bucked me off). I refused to sell my half or get rid of the horse. I trusted the feeling I had about him. What happened?

Wally and I owned Flanigan fifteen years--until he died of colic at twenty-two. And I think both Wally and I would say today that he was the best horse either of us will ever have. And we both had and have some other great and very loved horses. But Flanigan was special. And no, he wasn't especially pretty and more than not cuddly, he was distinctly a grouch. It was the feeling I got from him that counted, and I have never regretted trusting my instinct on that.

Anonymous said...

Four years!! Wow, good for you Jackie for hanging in there with Starlette. I'm really feeling more encouraged now :D

Laura: I think two years is about right too, maybe I only heard one year so I wasn't freaked out!!
Diego and I have had a couple of really good rides lately and I've noticed that when I fall forward he will automatically stop. Which is a real improvement from him circling around and shrimping up. I'm starting to record the good days, to remind me on the "not so good" days.

Anonymous said...

Oh ya, I'm Lynn by the way, nice to meet y'all and thanks for all your encouraging comments and advice. At 43 Jackie I'm definitely not a fearless rider anymore!!!

Laura Crum said...

Hang in there, Lynn. You're so right about all horses having good days and not so good days. And just trust your own instincts. I think you'll know if you're meant to persevere with Diego--or not. Sometimes it just takes awhile to figure it out. I think we've all been there. The horse blogger who asked me the question that prompted this blog has decided that she's ready to pass her current horse on and look for one more suited to herself and her family. And it took her awhile to come to that decision. It isn't whether you choose to stick with a given individual horse or not that counts, in my book. Its whether you are able to make a choice that works for you. Sometimes that means sticking with the horse because you really like that horse despite his issues, sometimes that means finding another horse--before the one you are struggling with seriously hurts you--either physically or emotionally. Just as Jackie has found a bond with Starlette after persevering for years, others choose to rehome a horse that frustrates or frightens them (not that Starlette did this--I'm just referencing that its sometimes a good choice to give up) and are then able to find another horse that's right for them. There is no simple rule. But I'll stick with my original premise. I keep the ones that make me feel happy when I look at them in my corral.

HorsesAndTurbos said...

"horse that frustrates or frightens them (not that Starlette did this"

Oh, yes she did! :) But I just got through the teenage years with my daughter, and kept relating to that. Also, if it wasn't for the internet help I got, it might have turned out differently. There were times I didn't ride her for a week; but I always ended up riding. I found if I got scared, like when she bucked me off hard at a canter, I made myself go back to basics (at that time walk/trot) until I got my confidence back, and we were communicating again.

Even tonight, cantering bareback in my pasture, there were times she wanted to go faster, but I was not ready, so asked her to slow down. In the past she might have resisted by bucking, but now she just slowed down. We've really become a team, and it seems she takes care of me as much as I take care of her :)

Laura Crum said...

Jackie--I can relate. I feel like Sunny and I have become a real team in the last year--a feeling I never had with this horse until lately. Its a great thing to get to this place with a horse--I agree--it feels like they take care of us as much as we take care of them. I've been lucky enough to own five horses I achieved this partnership with--I'll always be grateful. Not to mention the two horses that have taught my son to ride--they've been my partners as well--in a slightly different sense. I'm deeply grateful to them, too.