With Valentines Day coming up and a new ride season ahead it is a wonderful time to gather your thoughts, reassess your goals, and mull over the past. Many of you have probably read our story before.
Just a year or so before I turned 50 I decided I wanted a horse again. Since I have the common sense of turkey I bought one (no make that two) sight unseen on the internet. I wanted the young two month old filly as a future endurance prospect. The kicker was that you had to take the mare to get the deal...(yeah, what can I say, that's how I roll). Did I mention that I had failed to mention the horse thing to my husband? That I did not have a fence, or uh....a barn. That I made a totally selfish choice because I knew Doug had no interest in a horse. So in two weeks time we put up an electric fence, and a 12X14 enclosed lean-to shed with gate. Why Doug hasn't knocked me in the head a long time ago, I'm not entirely sure, but he took the situation for what it was and helped me. So the two horse loaded up on a trailer by the current owner near Michigan and were hauled down to me. Out from the trailer that day stepped a thin arabian mare (backbone evident and ribs), alongside was a well-nourished, cute little filly who was also the devils spawn, which I was to find out shortly. I was told that the filly was halter broke...the first time I haltered her she bolted and half dragged me.
I later found out the previous owner had foot handling problems with this filly and things had got a little rough. I think the filly won. I also found out later that she had tried to put the brood mare under saddle, had been thrown, and broke her tail bone in the fall.
So there we were. Pretty old mare 18 years old. Mare had melanoma. Mare had recurrent equine uevitis. I put the mare under saddle and rode her 1000 miles in one year. The more I worked with the filly the less I liked her. She'd rear, she'd kick, she'd bite, and it wasn't just me...or Doug....she even beat her own mother up and couldn't be kept in a stall with her. I weaned her as early as was reasonable to do so, and the filly could hardly have cared less really. We worked, and worked, and worked with handling her feet. Doug got kicked, I got kicked, we'd take two steps forward and three backwards. She caught Doug off guard one day and injured him causing permanent damage to his index finger that required emergency treatment. It finally got to the point that I said enough, and found a local trainer to take her for a month to work only on ground manners. He's a really decent guy and puts out some nicely trained horses I'm told. He had Phebes a month and though she was much more polite to handle, he couldn't get past the hoof issues. He also told me to "never turn your back on her or get into the roundpen without a training stick." He said she didn't charge him, but me being a novice, he wouldn't put it past her to try. He said though she was better than when he started, that she had never joined up even after a month of sessions in the round pen. So I brought her home, and decided to try to keep the momentum going and not let her go backward from there. He had given me the tools I needed to at least keep the status quo. Let me tell ya, it was not easy. None of it. There were times that I just hated her. It is a terrible thing to say, but it was true. I was out-horsed, out-smarted, and plumb worn out fighting her. But I also new that her future was pretty bleak the way she was, and felt it was my job to do the best I could with her. I put her under saddle the next spring to the point of being backed. Waited another year to start trail work. Those first three months on trail were an unbelieveable terror. At one point I stopped her on trail, and just burst into tears, telling Doug that I just can't do this anymore...she makes me so afraid. I was trembling, and emotionally exhausted with her. But we got through that moment, and the next, and the next until enough rides chained together that I eventually took her on that trail loop alone. This little mare and I have learned a lot of things together. I still don't think she's given up her union card entirely, but each season under saddle she improves a little more. And I don't know really the exact time or date that I decided I love the little turd, but I do. Like Funder and Dixie, it is not yet a perfect world. But when you look at where you used to be compared to where you are now it feels pretty darned good. It also makes you feel that people that have negative opinions can just suck them up and keep them, they have no idea how hard you've worked to save an animal that was likely headed to a killer pen if you didn't do something for her. That in spite of your novice status, you did the best you could with your financial resources, time, and effort. That you do indeed have the best interests of your horse at heart. Horse stuff is a risky business, no matter who you are. We have several training goals in mind prior to ride season's start here in April. I want to get those nice clean transitions worked out especially at the canter. Now that the ground is melting off the ice I hope to get the new trainer's initial evaluation of her done. Set some incremental goals, work hard...Then we won't look back .