It’s no surprise that the horse I chose was not necessarily the horse I ended up with. Now I’m a skeptical person by nature, but I honestly do not think the seller lied about him more so than anyone trying to sell a horse hides some of the bad and plays up some of the good. Truth is, he changed life styles dramatically and it took him as long to adjust to this life and me as it did for me to adjust to him. Plus, his personality is a boundary pusher at heart and he will push the buttons necessary to see what he can get away with. It was a pretty big adjustment period to prove to him that I do mean business and there are some lines he can’t cross.
A year, or well a month over at this point, later and I’m starting to see the horse I knew was in there when I trialed him. There is just something about this goofy orange beast that gives me the shivers when I think about where we could be in the future. How much he can teach me and all the adventures we can go on. True, all of it is just a feeling at the moment, but I never felt like this with any other horse and deep down I know he is worth the effort. He has come his own long way in the last year plus.
For starters, his ground manners have done a 180. I’m not sure if they weren’t really installed in the first place or if he was just used to being able to bully his way through life, but man did he drive us all crazy on the ground for a while. He was pushy, would bite, and my biggest pet peeve of all: he’d try to barge through the gate when bringing another horse in. I despise that unsafe behavior to my core.
I’m happy to report that now he stands politely at the gate and lets the others come and go while standing patiently aside and moves out of the way with a single mare glare from me. Wyatt can now lead him safely as well and he hasn’t tried to bite me in months. His cross tie behavior has also improved. I can’t recall the last time he pawed, weaved or cribbed on the ties themselves and he has gotten used to the fact that grooming is a thing that will happen, so suck it up buttercup. He isn’t quite as easy on the ground as my Gemmie, but he is getting there and is now safe enough that I no longer am on high alert around him at all times.
Second, his tacking behavior has also improved. The first time I ever tried to bridle him he almost broke my nose flinging his head all over the place. Forget about doing it in the open. The one time I tried that by my trailer out xc schooling he left me. This was a pretty long process to fix. I started by always wrapping his lead rope around his neck so I could have some way to keep him still. Once he began to behave in the barn I switched to bridling him in the arena in the same manner. Wrap lead rope around neck, slip off halter, grab lead rope so he didn’t vacate the premises, bridle, remove lead rope. Eventually I became aware that I wasn’t having to touch the lead rope, so I stopped using it and now he is an actual real horse about it.
The last major change is in regards to his overall attitude. He isn’t the perfect under saddle horse and isn’t easy. Trainer AB called him complicated on the flat when she rode him. But here is the biggest thing. Before, last summer and all fall/winter, he had zero interest in working with me. None. He’d try to get out of it by pulling every trick he knew and sometimes it did work. Riding him was a struggle not necessarily because he was that bad or I rode that poorly, but more so because he fought me every step of the way. If I asked to go right, he would try to go left. If I wanted to walk, he would trot. It was like banging my head against the wall over and over again. I’m not sure what made it change. Time is my best guess because we really haven’t been on that many fun adventures and only took a single lesson. But all of a sudden I find that I have a willing, if obstinate and a bit defiant, horse under me. He still tries his crap, but once I say “no buddy, we really are trotting now” he settles in and generally won’t try again. It is like he sat there in the pasture and decided “ok, maybe she isn’t so bad and I should let her in” and bam! just like that he is meeting me at the gate, shoving his head in the bridle, and getting to work. We will see how this holds up in the lesson this week if it happens. It has been raining non stop since Friday. Last I saw, before the storms rolled through yesterday, we had gotten 5″ of rain. I’m sure we had at least another 2″ yesterday and it is still raining right now. My arena is flooded and I am sure the lesson facility is under water as well, so unless they have the most amazing drainage ever, I’m not too hopeful it will happen. We will see though.