Merry's Blog: Diary of a Sassy Red Mare
I'm working with a great little mare, Haflinger x Arab, 14.1hh, coming 9 years old, belongs to a friend of mine but if things continue to go well with us I'm going to be buying her within the next few months. It's a really exciting project for me! I had a similar snotty pony that I totally turned around a few years back but after I sold him I got a horse who just wasn't good for me and have been horseless ever since celling him.
To start, she had a good foundation but hasn't been in the right hands in awhile...she's extremely rusty. She has a kind soul, but she can be very, very sassy...likes to kick, snap, paw, whip her butt around unexpectedly during grooming and nearly knock you over, etc. I haven't ridden her yet (due to very poor weather which is finally clearing up now!) or seen her ridden yet. My friend hasn't had her all that long and knew pretty quickly that they weren't the right match, so she hasn't ridden her more than once or twice. She did, however, send her to the same trainer who started her and had her worked with for about a month. She rode her after the trainer had worked with her and it seems that she was kind of difficult, testy, and crowhopped quite a bit at the canter. I know that there is a good horse underneath, though, because she has previously done quite a bit of trail riding and such and supposedly did quite well.
I have been working with the Merr for about a month and a half, admiring her from afar for probably what's nearing a year by now, and I must say I have a really good feeling about this. I tend to be one who just wants to have one good horse to really solidly bond with and do a lot of widely varying things with them, and I have a strong feeling in my but that she's going to be the one I've been looking for. I have a big soft spot for sassy snotty sour horses pretty much everyone else gives up on, and the fact that this mare is such a sweetheart on the inside really gets me. You can tell she has a lot of spirit and heart, it just needs to be productively placed.
So far I've already made a lot of progress with her...honestly she has obviously been very confused and frightened by the way people had been handling her (in a very harsh, unforgiving way) and seems to have sort of switched over to her own little world to escape that. Because of that, she sometimes comes across as being nasty and impossible to get through to...and sometimes she gets much worse before she gets better. I can absolutely see her getting better, though.
The first time I ever approached her on my own, she was stalled at my stable. I walked up to her, she cautiously checked me out for treats, then pinned her ears, turned her butt, and stormed off. The first time I ever lunged her, she ran like a mad woman, bucking and tossing her head wildly, not listening to a thing I asked. Within the first handful of times I groomed her, she paced back and forth, swung her body with significant force towards me, completely disregarding my presence, swung between giving me a sweet face and snapping nastily at me, kicked out at me, refused to move when I pushed her, etc.
Now, already when I approach her she greets me with a happy expression, ears pricked forward, with an occasional whinny in my direction. When I lunge her she is more on the lazy side than reactive side, but tries to do as I ask for the most part. When I groom her, for the most part she stands stone still, even when I brush her legs (which are very sensitive), holds a pleasant expression, and rarely offers to nip at me. She is normally extremely independent, but the other day I hung out with her in her pasture for quite awhile and she chose standing with me far above standing alone or with the other horses.
It has taken a lot of work to get even to this point and there will be much more work on all of these things and more in the future, but now that she better trusts and understands me she is very willing and happy to work with me which is just thrilling. I can already see her becoming an awesome, enjoyable partner for me and I'm excited to see it unfold.
But again, I still haven't gotten to ride her yet. I doubt if there will be any big issue for me, though, because from what I hear about her I feel pretty sure that I've worked with worse and gotten far. I just can't wait to get in the saddle! At the moment I'm out of town, but the weather is staying nice so when I go back I should hopefully finally get the chance! I'm very excited.
Anyway, sorry so long, I just wanted to make sure everything was caught up so I can continue to update from where we are right now! :D
I finally got to ride her today! It went really, really well. I have an odd perception of well, though.
Since having a horse who was as bad a match for me as my last one was, my confidence has been kind of low for the most part and I haven't been comfortable riding most horses...I have kind of a comfort zone with these horses that tend to be naughty and need a lot of hard work put into them, as odd as that is, I do genuinely get nervous with horses who are too well behaved (unless I trained them myself) as was well displayed today.
Earlier in the day I rode for the first time a really sweet older lesson mare who was extremely well-behaved and kind...I felt really nervous and uncomfortable the entire time, I could shake it off to a point but I couldn't see myself even taking her above a walk at any point in the near future.
Later I rode Merry for the first time and she was pretty naughty right off the bat, she's got a habit of flat out refusing to move off when you first get on her. As soon as I asked her to move forward she flattened her ears and threw it in reverse, trying to rub me off on a nearby tree branch. My friend, her current owner, came to the rescue and lead us for a minute to get her settled with moving and she got a lot better. Once we were on our own again she stopped and tried to refuse a few more times but I got down a system of asking her to turn and then urging her forward and it seemed to work really well. She seemed to just need a minute to realize that I'm still the same person when I'm on her back, and after that she was back to being sweet and willing and kept her ears on me the whole time.
I'm really excited about how good I felt. I haven't been able to ride without being really nervous in way too long, which has been no fun. At this point, if I wasn't before, I'm completely sure that she's the one for me. At first there was a lot of sudden changing of direction and questionable behaviour and motives (and let me tell you, I am in no shape for a bronc ride at the moment) but I stayed right with her and stayed calm (well, maybe not entirely calm for a few seconds here and there in the beginning, but even then) and felt very secure. I may have only walked her but this ride solidly confirmed for me that I'm ready and willing to work with her on any problem she might have in the future (and I have worked with chronic buckers before, I do have the skill...buried in there somewhere) so I'm very excited!
Also, it was recommended by her trainer to put her in a twisted wire snaffle...but I'm just not comfortable with that bit, especially for regular use but really not personally at all, and I wanted to put her in a regular smooth snaffle but I didn't have one on hand so I rode her in her rope halter, only because I knew she responds very well to it, so it makes me even more excited that she did so well. By the end of the ride she was listening attentively and turning on cue, and when I stopped her she dropped her head and licked her lips...I'm very proud. I'm so glad that this is going well and I can't wait to see her progress!
Oh, and I almost forgot, here she is all saddled and in the halter I rode her in:
Went for another ride today! She has been in season for a few days now so she's a little less cranky but still a little bit on the antsy side and was being a big handful on the ground today because of a mixture of that, the wind, and one of her neighbors not being where he was supposed to be...but she was trying to a point!
I tried her in a bridle but it didn't quite fit her and I didn't have mine with me so I put her in the rope halter again. She's going so well in it and responded so differently to the bridle that I'm beginning to think I might keep her in the halter for awhile until everyone is a little bit more comfortable, but still undecided. At least next time I will bring the other bridle that should fit her...and we'll see.
Anyway, when I went to mount she was really antsy, so I had to have her owner hold her because I'm just too out of shape and sore lol...but once I was on she was great. I loved on her a little bit and then asked her to move off and she just barely resisted so I pulled her to the side like before and after that she was as good as I could ever dream. I decided to still stay at a walk for now, I'll know when we're both ready, maybe sooner or maybe later. I'll probably at least wait until we're comfortable in the arena down the street that we'll be borrowing on a weekly basis.
Either way, though, she was very soft. She was mostly listening to my outside rein and leg, which is a good sign. She has a great stop; I'll be interested to see it from a lope because I get the feeling it will come out. She's been very kind and forgiving which is awesome because I'd been so off. I'm really excited to see where we're going to go together, and even just to get our feet wet for showing at the tiny local halter show this June. I'm already planning for it!
Wow, I haven't updated in awhile...well wow, she's been doing just fantastic. We've been riding a lot, even down the road, and she's been a dream. She's very independent, so even if her buddy gets nervous she remains calm. Even at her worst she's extremely easy to keep under control.
I have her in the bridle now, as you can see. She is extremely responsive and easy in it, she's in a smooth sweet iron snaffle and I just can't fathom anyone putting that nasty twisted wire in her soft little mouth. She's been an angel.
I have a short video my mom took on her phone of us today on a very lazy day just walking around the paddock, it's better than nothing lol:
ETA: wow, it shows up tiny on here...if you watch it on YouTube it's bigger.
I haven't updated in way too long! I've been very busy. But she's doing absolutely exceptional. I've been taking her out to the side of the property where there's a big open field and she's gotten really comfortable there. I'm still taking it slow more because I'm really out of shape and practice than anything, haha
But we're working on getting a really solid trot going. I'm so out of shape that I get tense which makes it worse...and she gets over-excited and starts to want to take off a little bit and I have to hold her back a lot. So today I worked on just going and going until we got some solid strides of a nice, easy trot and I was so exhausted by then I literally nearly wanted to throw up! But once we got there it felt so good to have accomplished that together. I really feel like she's just an amazing partner in everything, so willing to work with me and listen. She just needed someone to give her credit is all. If I ever doubt her I can feel her start to decline and I have to take a step back and remember just how genuine she really is, she really tries. I just adore her! I'm still working on getting her over to my stable...soon!
Please excuse the size and my weird face, she kept catching me talking =(
Wow, I haven't updated this in forever. We've been at the stable for several months now and she's doing just fabulously. I'm hoping to start working with a trainer in the near future so that we can do some shows and have some things to work towards!
I mostly wanted to share this video. I'm admittedly a fan of going tackless. Sorry it's such poor quality, and I wish I had someone to film for me but instead you get the saddle view, lol
As usual with these videos it's best to click over and watch on YouTube so it's not tiny.
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