Oh man. M'boi Trigger. Very long story. He came to us hot, forward, scared, shy, terrified of men, especially loud talking men or boys in sunglasses, sunglasses in general, lariats - especially if you were practicing roping nearby, crackling water bottles, would lose his mind if you tried to touch his ears.
In my novice ignorance, I did everything wrong with him that could be done, and at the advice of people whom I thought I could trust. But they had the old school cowboy ways of things.
He bolted one time on me, I bailed, got wadded up, knocked out for a few seconds, and it scared me so bad I found any excuse to not ride him again for a full year. I found people who would take their cowboy advice and use it... enthusiastically. I let bullies and abusers try to dominate him for almost a year. He would come home with his mouth tore up, having been whipped mercilessly with reins for rearing, and he scared the gentler types who tried to 'ride him down for me.'
He went from shy and untrusting to simply untouchable, uncatchable. Never mean, not a mean bone in him.
He was terrified.
I was resigned to sell him. He wore the same crappy blue halter in his pasture for 18 months - because we couldn't catch him to get it off and we were afraid if we did, we'd never have that leverage - the halter - to snatch and catch him. We had to rope him a few times, and that sent him into orbit, emotionally. He was lost and scared and unfocused, and I made it 100xs worse by listening to all the wrong people.... They're actually the RIGHT people for any normal horse. Trigger isn't any normal horse. He's weird. (Delightfully so).
My husband, NOT a horseman, but someone who's ridden a lot in his life, pulled me aside one day, said: He's bad. He's getting worse. I know what you were told, I know I agreed with them - but you're going to have to try to take him back the other way.
Win his trust with kindness is what he meant.
So. EVERYONE was banned from going in his pasture, from harassing him, riding him, trying to catch him, chasing him with the four wheeler to wear him down and catch him. Don't look at him, don't talk to him, don't feed him. I had to become his go to person.
A month and a half of trying got me no. where. Finally I felt sorry for him, he was lonely in his little pasture, so I turned him out with the rest - there were storms coming in a few days, so I just opened the gate between the two pastures so they'd have access to the big run in shed.
Sarge began to hound him mercilessly. Chased him all over that 40 acres, for hours, unrelenting.
I was planting flowers... saw what he was doing to Trigger. And I got angry. I don't know what I thought I was going to do, but I stepped right thought the wire fence, bowed up, and stalked toward them. They were coming at me at a hard run. I yelled at Sarge, waved him off, and he knew he'd ripped his drawers with me. Trigger... God love him, he's so tender... HID behind me.
After that, I became his person. My weeks of being there with him, for him, paid off. I just didn't know it would until that moment. I put him back in by himself, kept him in the round pen for a week, spent every morning and every evening until dark and sometimes after, just hanging out with him. A friend came over, we round penned him/lunged him a little, and started to work desensitizing him to ropes, lunge whips, sunglasses, water bottles, walmart bags on fishing poles.
He's just. so. weird, but he's my buddy now. It took two years of consistently being there, learning to not be afraid of him (Because then he thinks I'm scared of boogers in the bushes), learning to trust him, and him trust me. We go camping, he's my favorite trail horse of them all, despite him still having no brakes. He rarely spooks, and when he does, I rarely even change my heart rate now - and we just chug right along.
The fact that he came to trust me, despite what we think must have been a bad mishandling of him in the past, his willingness to forgive and trust me after all my horrible missteps, and the fact that he will go wherever I ask him, even when he KNOWS he's right and I'm wrong, and I get us in a pickle from time to time, is humbling.
Below are my favorite pictures of him, because all of these represent a landmark in our partnership:
His first picture. My daughter took this while I was at work and sent it to me.
The day Sarge nearly beat him/ran him to death. He didn't like his picture taken, he wanted to turn his face away. Note the overgrown hooves - we couldn't even catch him for a trim before this day. Note also the crappy blue halter. It's now faded to white... and it hangs off the top rail of the pen - as a reminder to me there's a better way. It will hang there till it rots off, then I'll find another way to hang it up.
Summer slick, dappled and grass fat. I was working on finding a saddle that fit him right. This was later in the summer, after the spring butt whipping by Sarge. I spent a lot of time that day, sitting at his feet, under him, around him, just sitting on the ground as he ate. It was hard to do, at first - trust him to not step on me. He never did, never has.
This one is tremendous for me: He posed for a picture, and he had let a friend braid his mane. He'd held still, never shied or acted nervous that day.
The day last summer when Gina snapped her lead rope at Coffee Mill and ran away from camp, and tracked us for three hours, way behind us, along the same trail. This day, when we rode up and I noticed her gone, the tone of my voice changed, the way I held myself int he saddle changed. He reacted IMMEDIATELY by acting out, being upset. My friend I ride with has been around horses her entire life. Said she's never seen one pick up on his/her rider's emotions and react as immediately as he does. I learned that day to keep calm, no matter what and he will too. At this point, Gina was still missing. I was using him as bait, near the trail head. I'd hoped he call for her. He never did... I taught him too well to not holler when he's with me.
This was last summer's last Big Ride at Coffee Mill... Importance of this photo is that he kept photobombing, not looking away from me or the camera.
Lastly: Our greeting ritual. This was established early on when I was earning his trust. If I don't follow the rules of our greeting ritual each and every time, he gets horribly distressed. He's very well mannered and expects the same of me. He turns, gives me two eyes. I stop whatever I'm doing. Approach, sometimes its me, sometimes it's him that moves first. My hand has to be palm down, fingers fully relaxed. He taps my fingers with his nose ever so shyly, I run the back of my fingers down his face. After that, I can do anything I like around him. Skip a step, and he's nervous and worried for a few minutes longer than if I just took the time to greet him properly.