My first horse was a 14.2hh arab/saddlebred gelding (not a NSH...he was 3/4 arab and 1/4 saddlebred). Ours is a kind of convoluted story, really.
You see, he had been started as a long 2yo/coming 3yo as a hunter horse by his owners. He was started over 2ft fences as a 3yo (no build-up to them, just expected to jump 2ft fences being green broke and having no prior jumping training). He excelled at it, but started breaking down by the time he was a 4.5yo. When he started refusing fences, his owners decided to turn him into a western pleasure horse. The problem was, they didn't know what they were doing and tossed just any old western saddle on him, not worrying about saddle fit.
Needless to say, Dakota was one of the hardest-to-fit horses I have EVER met, and the saddle they picked didn't fit him, so he started acting up under saddle. Long story short, their "trainer" (who, in my humble opinion should be shot) told them to put Dakota in a twisted wire snaffle. One minor problem there: Dakota doesn't know how to neck rein and twisted wire snaffles are VERY harsh bits for direct reining. Because that pissed him off and he became harder to handle, the "trainer" said to ride him in spurs all the time. His head was also tied down clear to his chest, apparently to "prevent him from evading the bit."
So, when his owners sent Dakota to my friend to be "retrained," he was a mess. His neck was upside down (meaning there was more muscle on top than on the bottom), he had an extremely hard mouth, he barely felt anything on his sides, he "worked" with his head so far tucked in that his chin was touching his chest, and, because of the bad Parelli job done on him, he had absolutely no ground manners. Oh, and their farrier had messed up his feet so badly that we had to put corrective shoes on him for almost a year to fix them. I started working with my friend shortly after his owners sent Dakota to her. Dakota became my personal project.
I instilled ground manners into him (they were never perfect, but he was a h*ll of a lot better than he was when we got him). I taught him to lunge, both free and on the line. I got him to extend long and low instead of having his head tucked in so far. I got him working in a simple french link snaffle. I retrained him from the ground up until we were able to use him as a bareback lesson horse in a french link snaffle for a little girl who had been thrown from a big warmblood at her previous lesson barn and was terrified of horses. She LOVED Dakota. He was so gentle and responsive with her.
How my story ends with Dakota is kinda sad. His owners called my friend and told her that they realized that they couldn't deal with Dakota, he wasn't the horse for them, and since they had the max number of horses allowed on their property, that she could have him. No paperwork exchanged hands. Then, my friend couldn't afford Dakota on her feed bill anymore, so she offered him to me for free because of all the work I'd helped her with for the previous two years (completely without pay). As long as I cleaned stalls for her and lunged her horses, she would pay Dakota's stall fee and I would just have to pay for his feed. Perfect setup. A few months after Dakota became "mine," his "old" owners sent another horse to my friend to be "retrained." This one was a 4yo OTTB whose heels had been cut so short he was lame...but they were trying to ride him anyway. They sent him to my friend because they apparently couldn't figure out why he was acting out when they rode him. Gee...I don't know...maybe it's because he's in pain?!
Now, keep in mind that the entire TWO YEARS that my friend was feeding Dakota, paying board on him, putting corrective shoes on him and having him trimmed, and training him, his owners never paid one dime for anything (except for his birthday year before last, they brought a few bales of timothy hay because "it's his favorite"...yeah, no...he would take it out of his trough and PEE on it because he hated it so much).
So anyway, after they saw what an amazing horse he had become, they started acting like he was theirs again. Finally, my friend got tired of arguing with them and told them to either hand over his paperwork or come get him. They didn't exactly come and get him...she took him down to them, along with their OTTB. I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to him and only found out he was gone when I was house-sitting for my friend and stopped by the barn to say hi to Dakota...except he wasn't there.
This was my Dakota-man.