Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: State College, PA
I would like to add a personal story...I appologize for the length but I think it really is an eye opener for some of you.
When I was 11 my trainer rescued an abused, neglected underweight 2 yr old colt. His name was Raymond. I was horseless at that time and spent hours that summer reading in his pasture, feeding him treats and desensitizing him to the "simple things in life" like brushes, carrots, people...etc. I was the first to brush him, the first to halter him, the first to lead him,you get the picture. I was also officially the first person on his back when it came time to back him and he was gelded (i.e pony ride with the trainer at his head). I was light, had a "velcro butt" and I volunteered...haha!
He got 60 or 90 days from my trainer to be a western pleasure/team penner and didn't hack it. He had too much go and not enough jog...plus he ran away from half the cows he met. But for a greenie he was sane, I was riding him in lessons and occasionally on trail rides after she had put the beginning miles on him. Needless to say he wasn't going to be her next all around versatility ranch horse. So the decision was made to sell him. He was inexperienced but game and I was looking for an english mount.
A brief history of my experience at that point. I got my first pony at 4 and was on the back of a horse at least once a week after that, baring death or weather related setbacks. I was experienced with adversity, I never had a push button horse to learn on. I learned to ride with a stubborn shetland, a kids crop and how to utilize kicking, smacking and hanging onto the horn at the same time and the most we ever achieved was a plodding lope up a small hill for about 3 strides. Steering was always optional in my younger years naturally. Insert local yokel trainer and I learned about figure eights, heels down, head up and direct opening rein. I think I learned to post about this time too...I was 8. After three years with this trainer, insert the story of Raymond from above, naive parents, a grandmother with some extra cash and a trainer that swears we can learn together....(Any red flags going up yet?)
With the help of my esteemed instructor, it took me 2 years to ruin him. He was sour, he was malicious, he had learned how to unstick my velcro. With creative movements that mirrored such exalted moves as the canter pirrouette, the capriole and a few that he made up. Such as the duck and scoot, the drop the shoulder and change leads real quick, the buck coming off a fence trick was always a personal favorite of mine as well and the drop your head to your knees and hop sideways maneuver was a personal favorite of his.
I loved this horse, he was my baby...(insert 13 yr old girl whining here). The parents finally caught onto the fact that the 13 yr old telling her parents that her trainer sucks might be a valid argument and we leave. Enter...non-show barn with trails and a crappy ring. I hauled out for hunter/jumper lessons to a local stable and spent a lot of time lunging, trail riding and hanging out with him. I also started riding with an older friend and she started helping me to undo the problems my inexperience and bad instruction had created.
Fast forward through lots of money, tons of clinic and lesson hours, numerous instructors and knowledgeable friends and you're where I am today. I have a wonderful gelding, who is highly trained and a total in your pocket personality. He still tests every single person that gets on him, he is still a bit stiff and heavy in his laterals and on his forehand. He still throws tantrums when he's asked to work and do higher level movements. These days his tantrums are over whether he really wants to school 2nd and 3rd level dressage movements, or behave on a trail ride by himself or calmly accept the ground hogs, tarps, mini donkey and deer that frequently careen past our ring instead of ducking and scooting or crow hopping away.
For 5 years I said almost every week that I came home from the barn in tears that I was going to sell him. The ONLY thing that stopped me was my parents saying, if you sell him you won't be getting another horse from us. In a lot of ways they did me a favor, it made me the trainer I am now, the rider I am now and it made me appreciate how easy it is to ruin a horse and how hard to fix.
But my childhood and my teenage years could have been full of winning championships for my skills, or going on relaxing rides through the woods instead of the blood, sweat and tears I put into this gelding just to be able to go to a show for the day and not fall off. To not be disqualified for blowing simple leads or having him try to run over the judge or away with me. To be able to hack out alone without an hour long battle and impressive airs above ground.
And no matter what training I have put on him since, he still has mental scars from my misuse as a child. He still reverts back to his 4 year old self. He still does the same maneuvers, the same tricks and throws the same tantrums when he is having a bad day. That is part of his training too and it will never go away. I used to joke that I have to keep him because nobody else will put up with his crap, which isn't quite true anymore. I have finally re-taught him to be a productive member of equine society. It just took us 10 years to get there. He was born in 1996 and I bought him in 1998. I was 11, I'm now 23.
P.S-Feel free to cross post this or use it if you would like.