In August I happened upon an incredible situation where I was told I could have unlimited riding of 6 horses for free. The owner didn't have a lot of time for them, her kids had no interest in them, and they were basically just sitting there collecting dust.
I immediately proceeded to fall in love with an 8 year old Halflinger pony named Diego. The first time I opened his stall door to bring him out, he busted out and ran past me, nearly knocking me over. He was horrible in the cross-ties, super pushy and basically having no respect for me whatsoever. When I rode him that day, he was barn-sour, took off with me once when I asked for a trot, and bucked and bunny-hopped more times than I can count. I dealt with his behavior simply by being there and working with him every day. He pushed me, I pushed him back. He wanted to run away from me - I took him out and free lunged him so he could run away from me. He had been handled every day and ridden maybe once ever two weeks, so there was no excuse for his behavior other than he was allowed to get away with it. In about a month of me working with him, he had drastically improved.
The problem with riding and working with a horse that isn't yours is, it isn't yours. The owner sold him to a 10 year old girl who had just started riding a month before. I was there when she test rode him - her mom led her around the ring on him once, she said "Mommy I want him, I love him!" and they trailered him away after agreeing on a payment plan with his owner.
Monday, I got a call from his owner. They hadn't paid a penny on him a month after they bought him, and when she tried to call them, they had changed their phone number. Luckily the address they had given her was correct. When she drove out to check up on him, she found him alone in a field and knee-deep in mud. Since they hadn't paid for him and were nowhere to be found, and he was obviously in a bad situation, she came back with her trailer and took him back home.
She told me she was selling him because of financial reasons - I'm riding all 6 of her horses for free, and she originally refused any kind of payment. I just offered again, and now I'm taking over half of his board. We haven't arranged any sort of contract yet, but after we do, he will pretty much be half mine.
So yesterday I went to see him for the first time and he was even worse than he was the day I met him. I took him out to lunge him and he got away from me and crashed through a gate. When I went after him, he walked right up to me and put his nose in my hand, and I just really got the impression that he was laughing at me. The problem with Diego is that he's INCREDIBLY smart. He's one of THOSE ponies. You guys know, I'm sure. I rode him last night just at the walk and a little bit of trot, and he was a perfect angel.
I just want some tips on how to get him to respect me more and be easier to work with on the ground; I think I can handle the riding aspect, but I know ground work comes first. I don't want to constantly be hitting him all the time because I'd like to be friends with him. He's so intelligent and I feel like once we're on the same page he'll be so trainable.
Thanks everyone! And here are a couple not-so-good pictures of him, just for fun: