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H’Appy Doesn’t Live Up to His Name

Things with H’Appy haven’t been, well… happy. In fact I broke down and told him I hated him Sunday. Not my best moment and I’m not proud, but this is reality and not some horse fairy tale. I remember hating Gem for a long time in the beginning too.

What is a shame is that the horse I brought home and rode for 3 weeks was lovable. And fun. And willing. And safe. And sane.

If that damn hoof wouldn’t have ripped off he wouldn’t have been off for six months and I wouldn’t be here now.

But it did. And I am. And I need to figure out a path forward that leads to a resolution that makes us both happy be that a workable partnership or a new home for him and a new horse for me. Right now I actually don’t care which way this story ends as long as it does soon because honestly since bringing him home all I’ve done is burn money with absolutely nothing to show for it.

His coat matches the fall hues

A lot has been against us. His lameness to start. Then non stop rain. Now add saddle fit issues to the heap with continued non stop rain and well it hasn’t been conducive for consistency. He is fat, out of shape and mentally in a place where he is a toddler saying “I don’t wanna” while he throws down a major temper tantrum.

The thing is that it scares me and he knows it so he pulls his crap more and more with the hopes it will get him out of work. He isn’t violent and he certainly isn’t in any pain. He just plain doesn’t want to and my lady balls aren’t currently big enough after six months out of the tack myself to make him.

Anyone know a company that makes horse sized rain boots? Or maybe i need some swim flippers instead. This rain is insane.

The last good ride I had with him was a magical night under the arena lights on November 6th – nearly a month ago. He was light, responsive to my seat and relaxed. I felt invincible on him that night. It was amazing and I fell on his neck in a heap of giggles at the end.

Then the lesson from Hades occurred on the 9th and every single ride thereafter has been a quick saddle test ride where I’m not really schooling him on anything or riding him out because that’s not what the fitter is there for.

So I’m not surprised that he has no interest in working. I don’t fully blame him. It’s why he hasn’t been listed as a project for a massive loss of money already. Someone recently said “never quit on a bad day” and it is the motto I’ve chosen to live by with him. If we have a ride like on the 6th and I’m still done? Ok fine. Sell him and move on.

Not all rides with him have sucked. This day was pretty fun.

Sunday it was finally done raining and while the ground is disgustingly squishy and my arena is half under water, I wanted to try the saddles and ride. He was a massive pain from the get go. I worked with him in the cross ties until he finally chilled out and then he amped back up in the arena.

He wouldn’t even stand still for me to mount and began his head shaking popping up crap at the block. That earned him time on the longe line and big boy let his energy out.

What I found impressive, and what keeps me holding out hope for us, is that even though all he wanted to do was gallop around, fart and kick up his heels as soon as I asked him to trot he did. He kept an ear on me and I could tell he was trying but could barely contain himself.

I worked him with a lot of transitions both directions until he was sweaty and that crazy glint was out of his eye and then I mounted. He still felt like a powder keg under me and the saddle was slipping all over the place so I only asked for a bit of a walk and then halted to get off. I knew if I asked for a trot he would fling around and tranter instead and there was no way I was riding that out in the County.

After I finished I debated pushing my luck in the Bates, but knowing it would have the tendency to slide forward (much like my Thorowgood which has a point billet and still does it) didn’t make it look too appealing.

Naps are very appealing to him

Things aren’t all lost yet though. I still believe that once back in actual work he will settle to being the horse I brought home. He has so many good qualities that I love: he is brave and curious in new situations, he has yet to spook at anything, he goes alone on trail or leads in a group, he has never refused or run out of a jump even with me clinging like a monkey to his back, he does water (I never would have ridden Gem even on her best day in a flooded arena), and when in work he goes in a lovely natural rhythm that makes things easy. He just needs to get over himself a bit.

He is leaving me on December 14th for boot camp. We are starting with two weeks and will go up to a month depending. I’m hoping two weeks will be enough. Well, my pocket book is hoping two weeks will be enough. I’m not looking for him to learn anything specific. This isn’t a training camp for jumping more technical courses, or adding flying changes or the half pass. I just need him ridden through this transition back to work by someone who won’t back down or escalate it. He has the basic training that I need already in there under all that bullying attitude.

It will be an hour from me which isn’t preferable but the lady is very good, highly recommended and super nice. I like her way of teaching and training a lot. I’ll get one lesson a week while he is there too. My biggest fear with this is that he will be great for her since she won’t let him bully her but will come home and return to his ways here with me. We will see.

This was early summer. Sure he is strung out, paying more attention to the camera than to me and I am a tense hot mess, but he was cooperative, steady and didn’t pull any of his current tricks.

After his boot camp one of two things will happen. He will either be great for me, or at least good enough, and then I can join up with the local trainer I want to use and get back to three day a week rides and twice monthly lessons.

Or he will flunk out of camp/ come home and degrade back to his current behavior which will tell me that our relationship isn’t going to work and he will be listed for sale. At least then I can say that he has had a professional refresher and hope he would sell easier. This is the worst time of year to sell since everyone is, but such is life.

The day we went xc schooling. We did the log into water then the log out and he was great. He trotted or cantered everything, never said no and I want this horse back.

Of course, this depends on him having a saddle that fits so come hell or high water I’m buying a saddle before then. This boot camp must happen and it must happen before I sink too much more money into him. I look back on pictures from the summer when he was rideable and I wonder. He was so good before all this time off. Not perfect but he was fun, safe and sane. Heck, I wouldn’t be thrilled to pull Gem out right now after her 8 months of retirement and try to actually ride her and that is with a decade of history with her and a huge amount of trust banked up. Where would we be if I could have ridden all summer? I’ll never know.

Either way this plays out it is going to be an interesting December and a life lesson learned.

31 thoughts on “H’Appy Doesn’t Live Up to His Name”

  1. 2 things. 1. Regardless of whether you keep him or not, he needs this boot camp. You can’t sell him right now the way he is, right? You could give him away, but sell him? Nope. So, boot camp is necessary either way.

    And 2. The point of boot camp isn’t to train him. So don’t think of the trainers as training him. They are putting mileage on him. To be honest, you don’t need to be a strong rider to put mileage on him and deal with his tricks. But, you need to be emotionally UN-invested. You are invested. I would be invested in my horse to. Trainers typically aren’t. That’s why we hire them. And if they are emotional, hire someone else!

    3. (Ok, now I’m at 3 things). Stop thinking about the what if he pulls this crap when I take him home? That isn’t what this is about. He didn’t pull this when he was first in work. He pulled it once he was lots of time off. Worry about that later after you give him a month off. Or, if you plan to give him a month off, send him to a trainer for a boot camp during that time or when you get back. But right now, just focus on boot camp and nothing else.

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    1. All good points! I was very clear with R that I have no actual goals for this boot camp other than riding him daily, pushing him past his tantrums and showing him that life does in fact still include work. She as pretty game, so I am really hopeful. The Hubby isn’t super on board but I explained to him that if I do decide he isn’t working for me after boot camp, he will be way easier to sell and will land in a much better place if he goes through camp than not.

      I’m excited and nervous and really hopeful.

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  2. I’m sorry things haven’t gone as you hoped with him. But boot camp sounds like just the right answer! Sarah’s point #3 above sounds like solid advice, too!

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  3. Make sure that that trainer is riding him at least 4-6 days a week with one day off if that. Emily rode Remus everyday if i didnt have a lesson and/or she hacked him (Or one of her working students did) or lunged his ass. He worked his ass off and he showed it when he was done 15 days there. He literally leaned up and his belly was tight. YES HIM! I didn’t care if Emily only rode half an hour as long as SHE RODE HIM and made him behave. Remus was not as bad as H’appy getting out of work but he could get a tude and he needed to be pushed through it. Hopefully the trainer can make this help! And you getting a lesson each week is great too. GOOD LUCK!!

    We are here pulling for you no matter what the end result is if you are riding him or if you decide he is not for you you can at least say pro training refresher recently done. Whew. Sorry the weather is not motivating me either. I am seriously wondering why I just don’t have Tate in my back yard. Its just not looking like a riding winter unless I find somewhere where I can board. 😦

    And I agree don;t think what if he pulls his shit again think when he comes back he will be in shape and I am going to ride him!

    You can do this!

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    1. Contract says 5 days a week with a lesson for me in there. Actually, I could take 5 lessons a week but that would defeat the purpose of someone else giving him a life lesson on being a good pony for me. HA!

      I have been tempted to board at least him where there is a covered arena with all this mess we have now. Thankfully my arena at home, while the footing sucks and is now mostly weeds and grass, is firm and still safe to ride in when under 3″ of water.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That is great!! and ha i read that as under 3 feet of water 🙂 Might as well be. More rain for us this weekend. OF COURSE the mud is just starting to dry a bit (Tho there is still water still in puddles everywhere).

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  4. I agree that boot camp is a great idea! I also think you need to be realistic about the future. What if you give him time off again for reasons out of your control? Do you want a horse who can’t have an extended period of time off?
    It’ll be super interesting to see how he does at the trainer. I’m rooting for you!

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    1. Good points to think about as I go through this process.

      There are a few things that led us to this point. One, it was 6 months off. All summer he remained pretty good when I’d give him 2 or even 3 weeks off. In fact, when I put him out to pasture for 6 weeks between farrier visits to grow hoof, he came back from that with good attitude and ready to work. He was unfortunately still lame. So either he is just an ass when he feels good (could be) or 6 months is just way too much time. Gem has been off now for 8 months and I would fear for my life getting on her at the moment. I’d hope to never have to take a full 6 months off ever again. That has sucked.

      Second, I don’t know him. At all. In 6 months I have maybe ridden him 10 times? Maybe. A big part of this is the fact that I have no idea what to expect from him. What pushes his buttons? How will he react with more leg? How much contact is he willing to accept? How much pressure will he accept? How does he react when pushed too hard? These are all things I have no answer to and had hoped to learn this past summer. Instead he sat and ate grass.

      So i’m hopeful that getting a pro on him will help educate me on all those things and give me the tools I need to move forward with him. Or I’ll figure out this wont ever work and move on. Either way the end is in sight!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Boot camp will be great for him. When you bought him, he was clearly in a program where he was worked consistently, which is why he was so calm and easy going. After the Thanksgiving holiday (5 days out of the office), I had a hard time getting back in the swing of things- and he’s been off for months, so I think he deserves some slack. Horses don’t typically expend any more energy than they need to, which is why you can keep Grand Prix show jumpers contained in a field with a fence with less height than they regularly compete over. H’Appy isn’t going to come out of his nice lush field and go into the arena and say, “Ah, yes, this is much better than eating grass with my friends.”

    Saddle fitting is the pits. Lameness is the pits. Lord knows I can commiserate with you til the cows come home. P will undoubtedly be heading off to spend some quality time with Trainer B once he’s cleared for full work because I don’t trust that my own insecurities and baggage won’t hinder P’s comeback. It’s the smartest thing to do because it gives H the best chance at succeeding, and also gives you a clear picture as to whether or not he’s right for you. Sure, he might come home and take a few steps back or not have a perfect ride here and there. That’s normal. Even the safest lesson horses have bad days sometimes. But I think he’ll surprise you. A horse in consistent work is a much more pleasant horse to work with than one who only gets worked sporadically, everytime, hands down.

    PS- that picture of Wyatt you posted earlier had me CRACKING.UP.

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    1. I asked Wyatt what his problem was and he looked at me like I was crazy “I had no problem mommy”. Oh ok…so you are just the devil incarnate then? Much better!

      I agree with everything you’ve said above. I’m cutting him a lot of slack. I’m not talking about him coming off 2 weeks rest and being a dick. This has been nearly 7 months. And we don’t know each other at all. I’m just the feed lady to him since that is all I have been doing (some riding here and there and foot care etc…) for him since he came home. If this was Gem, with a 10 year history, I’d be a lot more concerned. I’m betting he gets back to where he used to be pretty quickly.

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      1. Amen to this! I have ridden mostly appies my whole career. They make amazing, brilliant, smart, brave, full of heart….arrogant, pissy, and opinionated partners. It’s like living with an Architect. You have to finesse their egos as much as kick their asses, and a lot of the time the ego finessing will get you farther than the ass kicking. Somedays I have to get off (bc she may not know it, but I know she can launch me if she really wanted to) and take Tricia to the round pen, and she can temper-tantrum as she wishes until she agrees that I am the alpha-B in our relationship. Or somedays I can apply more cookies, and she’s good. They are so much more emotional than other breeds, and demand a lot more communication.

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    1. Yeah…I’m learning that about the breed. My saddle fitter has had Appys and when she met H’Appy she said he was all Appy with a personality x 100. I guess I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into.

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  6. This seems totally fair and well thought out to me. Hopefully boot camp will do it’s job and he’ll come home a more willing partner (and it’ll stop raining so much).

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  7. I definitely agree with the person who said “Don’t quit on a bad day” I can’t tell you how many times in that first year of owning Ramone I wanted to hang up my saddle and post a sale ad online. I also really like the phrase “Ride the Ugly” mostly in how it pertains to our own emotions we bring to the saddle each ride. I was in such a dark place in my thoughts in that first year which wasn’t fair to Ramone but I also couldn’t stop my own feelings from happening. My logical methodical self won out in the end and by staying focused on small tasks I got through it and he became the horse he was destined to be.

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  8. This is so frustrating. I really hope boot camp sets him right after all the money you’ve spent on him in your short time together… HORSES!!!

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  9. My trainer always just half humored me in winter when I would lament about selling Holly. If they have a bad habit, i feel you will see it in winter. I would whine til Spring then sing her praises all summer and fall. You have an Appy brain working against you
    Its hard not to take our past experiences and impose them on new ones, that’s nature, and you likely have a lot of memories of Gem issues. I think boot camp is perfect, you are busy and don’t have all the time, dry arena, and confidence (like most of us working ammys) to bust his ass. Hoping he comes back to you a happy H’Appy.

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    1. I think I have a lot to learn about his brain and how it works. He is wicked smart which is great when he is open to learning. Things stick and tend to not need repeating. But when he makes his mind up, it’s extremely hard to convince him otherwise. I need tools to figure that game out

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  10. Definitely a solid plan.

    Never quit on a bad day is my motto and I swear by it.

    Fingers crossed that whatever the outcome of the trainer, it ends up being the best decision for both of you.

    I’m thinking of doing the same thing when rehab is over with B. I am time poor and cannot afford to get injured. Plus the thought of handing him to someone better than me at this and taking him back where he is at a more manageable place is very appealing.

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