I'm 44 and live an hour from Texas in SE Oklahoma. My husband and I own 110 acres and a couple of dozen cow/calf pairs. I'm a mom and work full time for an attorney - I have a desk job. I'm overweight, I'm out of shape (seasonal).
Last March, I wanted my own horse.
This wasn't how it was supposed to go, you know? We started by buying a very short, fat paint pony (Possibly a mix with Welsh in her) for our 17 year old daughter.
She wasn't fat, she was bred. The foal is named Oops. She's turned a year old in February.
All that led to ME wanting my own horse to ride. It was a chance, as an adult with the land and the money (my parents never had) to afford one, to fulfill a childhood dream - having my own horse. A friend, the same guy that sold us Nope (Is that horse bred? Nope!) called us one day and sent some pictures of a high-stepping, long-maned, long-tailed seal brown and white paint. He'd picked him up at the auction in Cleburn, Texas, along with an older well used, fully rigged Ammerman roping saddle. Both were for sale, cheap.
Because that's what he does. He runs a rodeo company and buys and sells horses and other livestock every single day.
In love with the idea of having my own horse, I didn't think twice, even when we were first 'meeting' him to pay for him... and he wouldn't let anyone touch his ears without having a horrible reaction.
We brought him, and the saddle, home the next day.
He didn't have a name, we just knew he was 7 years old and had his Coggins papers. We still don't know what breed of horse he is, not for certain. One thing I do know: He is no quarter horse. Absolutely NOT a quarter horse, which is the common breed in this area.
The first sign of trouble was that he would. NOT. allow my daughter to get his headstall on him. Every time she or I reached for his ears, he lost his mind. Convinced it was seed ticks deep in his ears, our friend gave him a shot of Ivomec and in a few days, he would let us touch his ears, but he wasn't comfortable with it.
In fact, he was down right distrusting. And then if my daughter tried bullying or bulldogging him into letting her get the bit in his mouth and his headstall over his ears, he would get so stressed and upset it wasn't worth fighting him.
Once you did get him saddled up and in the saddle yourself, he didn't want to hold still. If you let him have a tiny bit of slack in the reins, he would take off like a shot. He apparently had two speeds... fast and really scorching fast.
I still wasn't confident enough to mess with him by myself.
A few weeks later, with the help of a teenaged boy who lives with us (A friend of my son's) and my son, I decided to saddle and bridle him up myself and ride him. While the boys were getting the other two horses caught (We don't have stalls, or a barn, or a lot. We let them have 40 acres of the 110 in a 24/7 turn out. They have a horse shed to get out of the weather, but that's it), I decided to take a stab at it myself. Not being sure of the horse and him not being sure of me, I let him see The Scary Thing (Saddle pad, then the saddle, etc) and smell them, see them, smell them. By the time the boys were back, I had him saddled and bridled up. But it took a lot of low talk, a lot of seeing, smelling, looking, touching, looking, smelling, rise repeat.
I thought he was high strung.
A year later....
We've named him Trigger... and aptly so. But.
Trigger is not high strung.
He is fearful. He is a nervous wreck, suspicious, and untrusting. He is not terribly forgiving if you betray any trust he places in you. It takes a long time for him to 'get over it'.
Let me say this: I realize now that yes, some horses are just introverted nervous wrecks by their nature alone, and that may be part of his problem, but he's afraid of sunglasses. I don't mean just sitting on the hood of the tractor or laying around on the ground sunglasses. I mean on your face. He gets stressed just looking at them on your face. I always take mine off and let him examine The Scary Thing or don't wear them at all around him. My husband thought I was crazy, then he walked up to Trigger with his huge Oakleys on. Trigger was scared to death of him... until he took them off. And as he did, the horse tracked them with his eyes until they were put away.
He is terrified of ropes. I don't mean a lariat, laid out on the ground or coiled up and tied to the saddle horn. I don't mean a scrap of rope that could look like snake laying the grass.
I mean if you pick up a lariat and start twirling it and throwing it at imaginary cattle, another person, the dog, or a barrel or a bucket, or don't throw it all... he starts to shake. He has tremors. He will turn away and hide his face in my chest while shaking uncontrollably.
Men and older teenaged boys make him nervous. He tenses up, gets fidgety when he's tied up and I'm grooming him if my husband or daughter's boyfriend, or any grown men come around, but especially if they have a loud tone of voice, no matter how good natured the talk is. Men talking loud worry him.
He will not defend himself when squabbles for a place at the troughs occur, which is each and every day. Its been like that since he came here. I have to pour up his own tub of feed, place it well away from the other horses, and stand guard while he eats and make myself look big and run the other horses off just so he can eat in peace. They don't want his feed. They just don't want him to eat or be anywhere near him.
If our horses were a wild herd, Trigger would be the one driven from the herd and fed to wolves, I've decided. I don't know why, except that he will not take up for himself, so they bully him.
He's bolted on me once, a year ago, and I bailed out of the saddle (I wasn't skilled enough to know the one-rein, pull the head around to disengage the rear end maneuver yet), and after that, my husband wanted to sell him to someone else. Anyone else.
I don't have the heart to do that to him.
I am convinced he's intelligent and there's not a mean bone in him.
I am also convinced someone has been brutal with him. I suspect someone that roped him to catch him and then beat him with the loose end of the rope. I say this because once you lose his trust, you are NOT catching him, huh uh. He can run all day btw and once you've pushed him into running from you, he is 'blown up' for the day. You might as well forget it because if you do wear him down, he'll be so stressed he's hell to deal with. His reaction to the lariats speak volumes. Just seeing one in your hands will make him shake if you don't let him look at it and talk him through it soothingly.
I am convinced that someone was a man, and a man that wore sunglasses.
I am convinced someone grabbed his ears and twisted them often and hard.
I could be totally wrong, but of the 9 horses we've owned in the past two years now, even the most battered ones, Sarge and Leroy, were not fearful, suspicious, or untrusting. They'd been beat down by other horses, not people.
I don't want to give up on Trigger. Rather than sell him, I want to get to know him. He doesn't buck, and the only time he's reared is when we tried a Tom Thumb bit on him (Boy, what a useless piece of work those are in the wrong hands, or on the wrong horse...) or when he's building nervous energy and we try to make him stand still (that energy has to go somewhere, and if a horse can't go forward, I've learned, he'll go up).
So, I think the better idea is that I learn to ride better, and in the meantime, work on building his trust and confidence.
I hope I can use this forum to show some progress, both for him... and me.
Wish me luck.
This is Trigger: Trigger's Barn at horseforum.com