I got willow when she was under a year old. She was completely wild, and had never really been around people. I never knew much about her, only that she was a great horse underneath, with a lot of problems on the surface! Her owners were bringing her to a horse slaughter plant due to a sprained front tendon. I took one look at the horse, and knew that it was easily fixable. I brought her home, and put her out into a large field where she stayed until she was all healed up. Scared of absolutely everything, it took me two months to halter train her and another month getting her used to being handled. I wasn’t able to spend much time with her after that. A man who lived across the street began visiting her, at first only a couple times a week, then almost every day! He was very fond of willow. He brushed her, played with her, and fed her treats! They were very happy together, but the man knew nothing of horses. He played with her a little too roughly. He taught the little filly to buck and rear up at people. That biting and nipping was OK, and that chasing people around and running up behind them and knocking them down was play!!! I warned him many times, and asked him to follow my rules. One day, he jumped up on willows back while she was eating. She was only a year old and had no groundwork. Reacting as a horse normally would, she bucked. Instead of jumping off the side of her, he slid off directly behind her. She kicked again and he received a blow of both of her feet in his chest. After that, I could not allow him to be around the horse. He was endangering himself, not listening to the stable rules, and teaching the horse bad habits.
Soon came summer and little willow turned two years old. It was time to go to work. She was so scared of people and any objects.. She was the spookiest horse I had ever worked with!! I did my best and worked on everything with her. It took a lot of time, but soon she was lunging, wearing a bridle, picking up her feet, and acting like a good, trained horse! Then came the time for the saddle. She was two and a half years old. She was very good when I put it on and even when I tightened the straps. We began to lunge with it on, but then something happened that caused her to almost break her front leg!! The strap connecting the girth to the flank strap broke. The flank strap slid backwards until it was just in front of her hind legs. I noticed right away but before I could reel her back in she broke into a frenzy of bucking. She was kicking high, and landing hard. I was so worried! No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t calm her. She ran herself directly into a solid fence, cracking the wood and splitting the ground poles. Her halter caught on the splintered wood pulled her to a stop. Luckily she did stop and stood quietly shaking, sweating, and left with an ugly spot on her chest where all the hair had been ripped off by the wood.
After all that, we worked through another couple months of groundwork. I tried to introduce her to many new things, and get her used to being around people, but hard as I tried, she still never seemed completely comfortable. To this day she is still scared of swinging rope and fast movement. She is terrified of any whip or anything that looks like one.
Soon she had her first ride. Despite all the training and work, she bucked. She spooked again and again at the split reins in the wind. We continued to ride every day, but every day seemed like starting anew. Same problems, same bucking. We went back and re-did much of the groundwork, but we made no progress. One day, thirty three bucking rides later, she did not buck, did not spook, and did not rear. She had finally accepted a rider!! It was an enormous success.
Today, Willow is a wonderful horse. Yes she is still a little scared of rope, but not her halter, nor the lunge line, nor the reins or the leather ropes that hang from the saddle. She loves to be petted and especially to be fed treats. She is a wonderful mount! A little clumsy, energetic, and bumpy, but she is confident and happy. She gets jealous in the barn and will beg for her scratches!! She picks up all her feet like a pro, and loves her people very much. She is the boss mare too!! A bit of a bully if you ask me, but she takes pride in her position. She stands alert and keeps and eye out for any potential predators. She guards the babies of the herd and is very protective - shepherding them around like little cows to stay out of the wind and rain!!
We have also discovered she has an amazing talent for barrel racing. Her speedy gaits, needle sharp turns, and hard stops make her perfect. On her second week running her best time was already 17 seconds.
I had some pictures posted up on the internet of her. A kind lady emailed me and claimed that she had owned this horse before. She sent me records, pictures, and information. Turns out that Willow is registered! She has the ORIGINAL Poco Bueno in her breeding!! She also told me a little bit about where she came from.
Willow was bred by a man who was mean and cruel. He weaned the horses at two months of age, and brought them to auction. His practices were so bad that he was suspended for life by the AQHA. At the auction, the kind lady saw the poor little babies. Willows half brother had a broken front and back leg, and was left lying on the ground being trampled on by his other siblings. Another was standing in the corner foaming at the mouth, and little willow was amongst them, looking afraid. The lady bought all three of the horses for $50. The cruel man loaded the babies into a trailer, using an electrical cattle prod. The voltage setting was much too high for the babies, and when he touched Willow with it, she collapsed and went into convulsions. Luckily, she did recover.
The kind lady brought them home and cared for them. The horse with the broken legs soon healed up. Sadly the one who was foaming at the mouth was so scared of people; it went into shock and passed away. Little willow was put into a pen with her brother and a new mama who had milk for them. It took a long time, as the mom horse wasn’t all too happy about having more babies, but she soon calmed down and took them in as her own. Willow grew, and soon she needed her hooves trimmed. She still had not been handled and she had to be roped and tied town to get the halter put on. I took four men to get the halter on!! The little horse was just too much work for the kind lady. After much tears and frustration, she sold her.
Willow ended up with another lady. The new owner put her out in a field for a few months, and then brought her back to start some training. She thought she could handle Willow, but soon learnt that she couldn’t!! During a halter training attempt, the lady had wrapped the lead rope around her arm. When willow spooked at the halter, she pulled the lady with her. Willow half jumped half crashed into a fence. The lady was pulled into the fence as well, and ended up breaking her arm. Poor willow had punctured her leg and had sprained it as well. The lady was frustrated with willow, and decided to bring her to the slaughter house. My friend told me that she was bringing the horse to slaughter, and me trying to save the world, I called her up and begged her to sell me the horse instead. I bought her for $300 at nine months old.
That’s how I ended up with willow, and that’s her story!! Wow has she ever changed a lot. I don’t know how I ever managed to train her with her history. I think it was better now knowing about that… it’s probably the only thing that allowed me to work with her without fear!! Below are oodles of pictures of her!!
I'll post part 2 soon! Theres lots less words and much more pictures.