It's All Coming Together
I got my first horse sometime around April of this year. I hadn't ridden a horse regularly in over 15 years, and had no practical horse experience since childhood riding lessons. My horse of choice was a super green broke Missouri Foxtrotter/Arabian cross named Buck. I adopted him from the local animal shelter, and he had been ridden a handful of times before he came to live with me. I probably logged more time in the saddle making my decision to adopt him then anyone had ever ridden him before in his life.
Despite being green broke and intact when I was test driving him he was good natured, intelligent and a bit lazy. He never tried to bolt, buck or spook with me on him - I had some very scary experiences on other horses before adopting Buck! - and was pretty good about going in the direction I pointed him. When I brought Buck home I barely knew how to saddle a horse, and he barely knew how to carry a rider. He was underweight and undermuscled, and still adjusting to being a gelding. Our first ride went well, despite my being terrified. We spent a lot of time getting to know each other after that. He gained weight and muscle and I gained confidence. We made a lot of wet saddle pads together. He knew absolutely nothing, so I started training him to do little things in order to engage his mind. I taught him to back up on command, turn in tight circles, flex at the poll, and some leg queues. I have no idea if the commands I taught him were standard or not but we figured out a way to communicate that we both understood.
After a few months I felt comfortable enough in the saddle to start riding him at a trot, which increased in duration and speed until we were occasionally cantering. When he was good I praised him and when he was really bad he got spanked. He showed the occasional display of defiance but he never got the best of me and I had gained so much confidence as a rider that the behavior didn't scare me like it would have back in April. I even had a minor accident while riding him, something that might have turned me off of horses forever if I didn't have such a good relationship with my horse.
We were standing around an area that I sprint him when some sprinklers from a grey water sewerage system unexpectedly went off next to us. He spun and reared, and caught off guard I lost my balance. As I leaned back in the saddle gripping the reins I decided to fall off on my own terms, and so I did. It was a long fall, but I dusted myself off and caught Buck, who had bolted back to the spot where I mount him and looked more upset and scared then I was. Instead of going trail riding that day we walked back and forth past those sprinklers until both of us had lost our fear of riding in that area.
In the past month or I've felt especially pleased with our relationship. We communicate well, have a relationship based on mutual respect and he responds almost perfectly to my queues. I feel more confident as a rider then I ever have in my life. It feels like all my hard work with Buck is paying off, and when we ride together (even though it's just trail riding) we do it as a team. He's taught me so much about horses and about being a better person, as silly as that sounds. I learned from experience that the angry, forceful and dominant approach I took with him initially - when I was trying to psych myself up and be brave - just doesn't work, at least with him. I've learned to pick my battles. He taught me to respect him as much as I've taught him to respect me, and our bond is that much stronger as a result. He's happy to at least attempt to do anything I ask of him, and I only ask him to do what I think he's capable of.
Our ride today made me feel really proud of him, in terms of applying his training to a real-world situation. There is a trail where I ride that is blocked off at the mouth but accessible through the woods. The woods are pretty thick, but I decided to take a chance and try to ride through them to get to the trail. Buck and I carefully picked our way to the trail, with him relying on me completely to guide him through the woods safely. We made tight circles, lots of little zigs and zags, and had to back up a few times when the brush was too dense for us to get through. What a wonderful feeling when he listened perfectly and we emerged onto the trail!
I don't know if there are any other people on this forum that got their horses under similar circumstances - no practical horse experience, no clue what they're doing - but I wanted to share my story. I know the adage about not putting green on green, but I feel that at least in my case I have a more satisfying relationship with my horse then if I had bought one fully trained. Every ride becomes about improvement, and most rides end with the satisfaction of a job well done. When he runs to the gate to greet me, catches on to a new command, obeys an old command in an unusual situation, or even when I ride out a spook without loosing my cool I get a feeling of pride and accomplishment that I've never experienced before owning and riding Buck. I feel like we could go far together, if I ever wanted to do anything other then trail ride, because we work so well together as a team.
Anyway, I just wanted to get this off my chest to a community of people who will read and understand rather then read and dismiss me as being horse crazy. Thanks for taking the time to read my story!
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