Per usual, Saiph brought up some good questions in her comments on my last post about getting a back up horse. After some reflection, I figured I’d write it out here for future reference for me and for full disclosure to those reading along on my journey.
Is H’Appy the horse for me?
Short answer: I don’t know yet.
Long answer: Let’s go back in time to 2009.
Gemmie had just come home with me. And I HATED her. She was a hot mess, most of which I knew when I got her. 150lbs underweight, belly full of worms, front shoes that her hooves had grown around. I had been prepared for all that though. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the running backwards down the barn aisle when I went to bridle her, the stubborn refusal to move an inch under saddle followed by unexpected and mad bolting, her insane spookiness at all things on the trail (which, by the way, thousands of miles later never went away), and eventually her hatred of jumping.
The entire first six months I had her saw me leaving the barn in tears declaring that she was for sale to the lowest bidder if that is what it took. To say I hated her is an understatement.
Looking back, it wasn’t all her fault. I was dumb and had too many wild ideas in my head that were not based on reality. I eventually moved her to a training facility at $1,000 a month for 5 training rides and 1 lesson a week. It was a waste of money and a complete sham. The best thing to ever happen to us was my move to WI which placed her in my backyard and gave me time to slowly build up a relationship and understanding of one another.
Being completely honest, it wasn’t until about 2 years into having her that I began to like her and a solid 3-4 before I was in love with her. Which again, not all her fault. I didn’t even start liking our new dog until we had him 2 years. I take a while to warm up to new animals in my life.
So when Saiph brought up the point of being in love with H’Appy’s potential instead of H’Appy himself, it took me a moment to think on it. Yes, at the moment I am more interested in his potential than in him and I think he has a lot of potential even if the here and now isn’t that great. Thinking more on it though I have come to this realization.
On the ground, I adore H’Appy. He is a complete PITA. Take last night for example. The water trough was low enough to dump and scrub before refilling. I was in the pasture after putting them all out after dinner, dumped the remnants of water from the trough, righted it up and bent over to scrub away the algae on the bottom. Next thing I know I have a large, sloppy wet Appaloosa tongue in my hair and wuffles of air on the back of my neck. I giggled like a 12 year old and looked up to push him away because the dude doesn’t know the line between being cute and biting a chunk out of your skull. While Gem and Pete looked on in disdain from a distance, he followed me all around the trough “helping” with my evening chore. Dusty thinks he is a 1300lb nuisance. I adore it.
There are a lot of things I actually do like about him under saddle. I think back on the time we went xc schooling right after I got him. He was a lunatic at the trailer because other horses were there and OMG 10 FT IS TOO FAR AWAY -MUST BE INSIDE THEIR SKIN LIKE A SERIAL KILLER WHACK JOB and the warm up was hairy as he was not paying any attention to me whatsoever. But…once his head was out of his butt he was steady, never spooked at a single thing, took me over every single jump happily and calmly and I had an absolute blast. That day seems ages ago because three days later he ripped his shoe and most of his hoof off and the rest of the summer was lost to his lameness and hoof regrowth.
On our two trails rides, while again he had that same annoying herd bound behavior at the start, he was willing to go down the trail, over logs, around machinery, by the lake etc…all without a single spook at anything even a deer that leaped out ahead of us. My seasoned 100 mile endurance horse would have spooked at least a dozen times in the first two miles at various trees, logs and stumps. And he was 1000x better the second time out than the first.
Yes, I will admit that there are times he scares me. Gem’s signature move was to drop her shoulder, spin 180 degrees and bolt. It sucked and threw me off more times than I sat it, but I always landed on my feet. H’Appy’s signature move is to curl his head and pop up. I’ve never had to deal with that before and the one time I didn’t stop him he threw me over his head where I landed on my butt/side. It scared me. I don’t like it. It isn’t worth selling him over at the moment, but it is a big reason why I shut him down way to much in our arena work and why I need lessons on him to help figure out the best way to deal with it (boot him forward, I know..but that is hard to make myself do when I am alone).
Well, this post is now rambling, but the point is I really do think H’Appy and I will work out once I can actually ride him, take some lessons, maybe even send him to boot camp for 2-4 weeks this winter as a tune up. Each time I repeat a lesson learned such as trailering out for a ride, the second time he is way calmer and easier to work with. If I can keep that consistency up I just know he will be great. He just needs to stay injury free long enough to get there.
Is he 100% the horse I thought I was getting? No. Is he 100% the horse that is best for me right this minute? Eh..probably not. A horse without any of those issues would be best for confidence boosting fun. Is that horse in there? Yes. Do I believe that with more time he will be there? A qualified yes if I can get him over this herd bound issue which is the only thing that really, really bothers me about him.
The truth though is that even if he isn’t the best riding horse for me, I really enjoy having him around. He makes me laugh on a daily basis with his silly antics, friendly disposition and curious nature. Gem and Pete adore him as well. In all my years with them and all the horses that have come and gone from their pasture with boarding, they have never blinked an eye at another’s arrival or departure. With H’Appy, they nicker when he returns home from an adventure, call for him when they wander off and he doesn’t realize it and then takes off in a panic to find them (amusing to watch and happens way more often than it should) and are always hanging out near him and/or playing with him. I honestly believe they would be heart broken if he disappeared forever.
So at least for now, he has a permanent spot on our farm. Time and miles will tell if he remains my main mount to conquer my eventing dreams with or not, but I foresee a future of him brightening my day for a long time to come regardless of his saddle usage as we move along.