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(Failing At) Making the Super-Horse Day 1

May 8, 2010

One of the reasons I was so excited to come back to the ranch was because my horse is here. Now that he’s finally sound and in good weight, I imagined we would spend countless hours together, perfecting his training and developing that special bond that has eluded us for these past few years. I envisioned rewarding training and riding sessions where he became the horse I always wanted and I became the rider he always needed. By the end of the summer we would be an unbeatable super-duo.

So I decided to start my first full day here on the right foot by taking my boy out and working him a little. I didn’t have high expectations. I didn’t even plan on riding. I just wanted to apply some of the simpler training tools I learned at the clinic.

I’m normally a capable rider and confident in my abilities. I don’t usually struggle with other horses. I can get on another horse and know that I essentially know what I’m doing and for the most part, get a good ride out of them. It’s only my horse that manages to reduce me to a beet red, frustrated, sweaty, teary mess. Maybe it’s because he’s MY horse, so his behavior is a direct mirror of my own failures and ineptness.

He is a great teacher of humility.

I confidently asked him to do what I learned in the clinic (my horse in the clinic responded beautifully btw). Kinetic looked at me and blinked. I asked again. He took a hesitant step backwards. NO! You’re supposed to go forward. I ask a little more forcefully. Look. Blink. Swing haunches. Step backwards. Blink. We’re now doing the exact opposite of what we’re supposed to be doing.

After a few more attempts, I realize I don’t want to fight this battle and decide I’ll just lunge him. He lunges beautifully, and when in doubt, I know he’ll always excel at that. Surely this will be a piece of cake for him. He’ll get a little exercise, exercise a little focus, and we can end on a good note. Surely.

Silly me. I’m ashamed to go into details, but we ended with him kicking, striking out, and snorting. And me dizzy and crying in the middle of the arena. And this was supposed to be the strong point of the day’s training session.

So I decided to go ALL the way back to the basics and just walk in hand around the arena. We worked on walking, halting, backing up, not walking in front of me, and not trotting over to anything interesting.

He’s still confused and he’s still herdbound, but we made it from one end of the arena to the other on a loose lead without anyone getting trampled. I’ll consider it a victory. A small victory for a 17 year old horse who should have developed manners oh…….15 years ago. But I’ll take it.

High Points of the day: He walked, halted, and backed up in hand. He was able to do the emergency stop from the ground.

Low Points: Most everything else.

Goals: Spend an hour with him every day. Give up all conceived notions of what I think we’re supposed to accomplish. Don’t get frustrated.

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