Honestly a little nervous about telling you all because I certainly had it very lucky and do not recommend this to anyone. So please don't think this is the norm or that this is how it works.. definitely not.
Refer to this thread: Buying a horse that's right for you.
But I was gifted my first horse by my boss for all of the hard work I have done and all of the volunteering and rushing over to help, etc.
Now he was a project. He had not been handled on a day to day basis, he was skin and bones, very unpredictable, lack of trust for people and would break down everything to just run away (he was that scared.)
Found out his past from my boss (she seemed to brag about it, how she rescued him.. which she did from that.. but this wasn't too great for him either.) His past is very dark, and it made him a challenge to work with because you couldn't quite do anything without this huge surprise reaction.
Now I was a dumb little girl when I started volunteering there. I thought I knew everything because previous instructors had told me that I did. And it didn't help that my parents supported the idea that I was some horse expert (which I am not.. by any margin!)
So here I was, greener than a newbie.. volunteering, learning the basics of lunging. I was asked to school a green mare and learned how to fall off of her, and teach her to change her pace of gait, and turn her, and break her of her "let's slam this person against the wall and drag them" habit. She really was a fun one, and we eventually took her to her first w/t show and she got 5th out of a large class.. so I'm proud of her.
That was my only "training" experience. I also helped with a filly from birth to yearling status. I would pony her bareback off of her mom and taught her to pick her feet up and how to lead and follow. She was a lot of fun.
Anyway so all this to say I wasn't ready for this greener than green 17hh malnourished/emancipated/mentally not all there/terrified/untrained horse.
But there was something about me, that he liked. Though honestly I didn't like him. He was everyone's favourite eye candy and they would talk about him like he was amazing or something. I didn't see it, and didn't like how they gave this horse all this attention.
Course I didn't know any better.
One occasion, when we was about to blow in the crossties, I'd grab his halter softly and he'd freeze and he'd look at me. Now if anyone else did it with him, or any horse for that matter, they'd get flung or their arm ripped off or reared on or whatever. But he just froze.. and looked at me. Everyone was yelling "LET GO" and when I did he turned around and took off.
A lady who thought she could ride this horse after a few "lunging" sessions on the ground fell off of him and broke 3 vertebrae via slamming into a ground post in the outdoor. He spooked, and she felt it coming but said nothing because she feared being scolded by the instructor. A shame.
The saddle was sideways and I didn't see it happen, only the aftermath. This poor horse was on the other side of the arena running in circles trying to escape. He didn't know that he could jump, else he would have been out of there. I was told to go and grab him, and I did. He came right over to me, breathing so hard I thought he was going to blow me away. "Go fix his tack and come back out with him, and grab your helmet"
So I did.. took him up, brushing him to get all of the dirt off, and re-tacked him. He was very calm, not shaking like he had been, his breathing was normal, but he had this look in his eyes.. like he was on some other planet. I took him out to that outdoor and she said "get on him" and I did because I didn't want to get in trouble either. When I got on, he started prancing and I kept with him. I asked him to trot right away and he took off, I stayed on him, posting along so I wouldn't mess him up. Just so we're clear... I was not a good rider then.. and he was an absolute giraffe. But we kept going, I asked him to trot in circles and then when I felt he was alright, we walked and I let him relax. Then when I felt him going away, I asked him to trot again. I didn't know how to canter, didn't know leg yields or how to get him to use his back. I just kept up with him.
Well when we were done, he was pretty different. He had this look in his eyes that told me this was something new.. I got off and he leapt away and backed a few steps, probably thinking I was falling off or I was some sort of cougar after him. I don't remember what I said to him, but I remember encouraging him to come up to me and he did and then I loved on him, on his face and his chest and on his neck. And he breathed really nicely out.
Since that day, he was offered as a lease for me. I work, I get to ride him as much as I want. So I did, since I didn't know any better. I worked with him on riding outside (and fell off a lot, as he was an avid bolter/spooker/leaper) and we rode inside and he learned a lot on the ground. Everyone kept pushing us to canter, but I knew neither he nor I were ready. We trotted over poles and learned to ride on a loose rein (something he wasn't used to) and we had a lot of fun. I only went on one trail ride with him but he was amazing. Course we didn't do much, spent most of it in the round pen since my trainer was convinced that he would take off with me and never come back. But the short distance we did do was lovely :)
His owner (my boss) then gave him to some guy she was dating (and ended up marrying) and they weren't doing good at all.. he would buck a little and bolt and slam him against the arena edge. It just wasn't good at all.. so they asked me to ride him more and I did and we did great.
Then one day, November 23rd 2010, I was coming up from the barn and she looked pissed. And I was scared... "Is Sky okay?! What happened?!?!" and she stopped a foot short of me, and a huge smile went on her face which took me by surprise.
And she gave him to me. It was the best moment of my life.. knowing he was mine. Knowing that I had disliked him so much and now he was mine, and I was his.
I spent 3 more months there and then moved him closer to home, working on the ground and then eventually getting on him (in an Aussie) which switched to my Dressage saddle (another gift from my Boss which fit him so perfectly.. it was scary) when I moved with him out East 7 months later. I took 2 different sets of riding lessons a week, read up on ground work, kept volunteering and became assistant manager there as well as beginning riding instructor though I plan on getting more certifications later on..
He went from a body score of 1-2, to a body score of 3-4. He knows w/t on the bit, he can be ridden bareback, he can be handled by men, he's a pro on the trails, he's working on his canter right now and doing great, he knows leg yields and can pick up all his hooves for the farrier, he bathes, fine with clipping his bridle path (I don't clip elsewhere,) he loads, he works well on the ground off of voice cues and body language.
And I'm still a beginning rider but I have improved a lot and continue to take lessons.
He's got a topline :)
We're still improving every day.