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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Poptart
(not totally sold on the name, but so far it's the only one that is sticking!)
PopTart is a coming five year old Quarter Horse mare. I am her third owner. The folks that bred her just let her hang out for the first two years of her life with only limited handling, like for necessities and at feeding time.

They started her by just doing the old let her buck method, and then the guy I got her from took her over after she had been going under saddle for a few months. He had her for the next two years and did limited trail riding with her although she has been ridden up into the mountains. But the majority of her life was learning to be a head horse. As a result she is jittery on trails and does not relax very well.

I brought her home last Wednesday the 25th of September. She was hyped up being separated from her barn buddy for the past two years as well as a new barn which is completely understandable. We tossed her in the round pen to let her stretch out her legs before we put her in her stall which is a 20 x 20 area that is half covered and half uncovered.

I came to visit her a day later and sort of just hung out in her stall with her where she was impeccably behaved. She would follow me as I moved around but with a respectful distance. I groomed her and cleaned her stall and cleaned out her automatic waterer as she seemed like she dipped half her alfalfa in there.

Fast forward to yesterday when we went out there. I took her out and groomed her. She danced around a little but stood after being corrected. Then since another horse was in the round pen, I decided I would just walk her around the barn a few times just to sort of handle her and get the two of us on the same page. PopTart was practically walking on top of me then spooking at other horses who were running in the arena to the point I had to circle her around me a few times to get her in hand. Eventually, I did a little horse musical paddocks and put the guy in the round pen in a stall so I could work her in the round pen.

She was respectful in the round pen. I sent her both ways, had her turn to the inside and outside, she would yield her hindquarters and front end. I could get her to flex and bend. I worked her for a bit, and then just let her walk around the round pen. She rolled and walked around and kept coming around to sort of check in with me.

When I took her from the round pen back to her stall, she was completely respectful, and did everything I asked of her.

I would like just a bit of advice as to what people think this could be so I can focus my efforts. She was going to the roping arena five nights a week before I got her and that is all. I did notice when her previous owner was handling her there was not overly concerned with space on the ground and he let her walk through the gate before him and she rushed through. I know I have to get her to where I want her and feel comfortable.

Do y'all think that she is pent up from the change in her work schedule? She is currently eating straight alfalfa. I didn't want to change her feed along with all of the other changes, but although eventually she will be my barrel horse I would really like her to settle down first. I honestly think she has been pushed too hard with no breaks, and so that's the first thing she gets but I haven't had to teach a horse to relax in a long time.

Thoughts?
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Update on PopTart!

I took her out and she was perfectly behaved. I corrected my rookie mistakes with leading her, and then she became the perfect mare I know she can be. We worked in the round pen and although she does not stay on the rail (she is used to a tiny round pen and ours is 60 feet) she listens very well. She has an excellent verbal whoa. She seemed way more settled, so I think she's gonna be great once she gets used to me and being at a new barn.

I'm leaving her feeding program the same for now as it is the simplest thing.

I think we are almost ready to try under saddle at the new barn. :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I still have not yet ridden PopTart at the new barn. It has been three weeks, but it's mostly because most of the time I go out there alone. I think it would be a stupid decision for me to try to ride a new horse without having someone there just in case. Also, the other boarder has two of her horses in the arena and her other horse in the round pen. So I also would like someone there since I have to re-arrange horses and I don't really know her horses outside of petting them by the fences. I do have her permission to move them around. I made sure to ask because I know I tend to get quite territorial about my pets.

Because I am no longer a person with reckless abandon who will just hop on bareback and head down the trail without a second thought I want to ride her first in an enclosed area (with a helmet!). I've got multiple degrees stuffed in my brain, so it would be a shame for all that student loan debt to have accrued for me to not wear a helmet. My boyfriend is currently doing a crazy work/school schedule, and the times we've been at the barn together have been mid-day where we just groom our horses and meet the farrier (yesterday) and clean stalls and discuss the hay situation. (seriously, all we ever do is talk about the price of alfalfa and look for places to get good quality but not ridiculously overpay as well).

I am both getting antsy about riding because I don't want her to sit and then be a beast when her previous work schedule was so strenuous. Then I am also a little nervous. I've had some bad wrecks in the past and she is only 4 so I would consider her green even especially on trails. I don't want more and more time to go by where I am just all inside my head reliving wrecks to the point I freak myself out.

P.S. I bought this horse to get back into barrel racing, although I want her to relax a bit before we undertake that as she was quite "hot" when being roped off of so much. But the other day I was watching a continuous loop of barrel racing wrecks and my boyfriend made me stop. I had been living a life of fear essentially for quite awhile prior to meeting my boyfriend....and he is not letting me do that, so although he will never see this...I have to say that I really appreciate that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
I have finally started riding. Only in the round pen because that's all I feel ready for at this point. I actually just looked through this forum on fear and anxiety related to horses and riding as I nearly threw up before I mounted yesterday. The whole saddling up process always goes absolutely perfectly. She will stand ground tied, or tied to the fence or wherever. All my stuff is new, so the first time I had to fit it to PopTart with the exception of the bridle which I'd already fit to her. The junior cowhorse bit was suggested to me so that is what I have put on her. She has a really good verbal whoa and being in the round pen only made me feel confident enough to try a new bit on her. Anyway, she doesn't stand super still when mounting which I knew before purchasing, and she's tall and I'm not, so I have been standing on the rail to mount on her off-side. Funnily enough she stands perfectly still for this!

We have just been walk/jog around the round pen and doing a little turning type work. She seems very inflexible, so I want to work on that. Also she is definitely more go than whoa, so working on getting her to just relax has and likely will continue to be a struggle. I have left the tie down on so far, but she is starting to walk on a loose rein with her head lowered. I think, at least for trails, she will learn to ride without one. Her previous owner never rode her without a tie down.

Yesterday when I rode there were kids playing next door. You can hear them from the round pen, but the visibility is limited because of all the desert plants and cacti. PopTart kept wanting to run from that side of the pen to go stand by the people who were watching us. I kept turning her towards the noises and she would stand head high and snort at them. This went on for quite a while, so I am thinking some desensitizing work as well. Apparently children laughing and playing next door can be quite dangerous!

I have no idea where this fear is coming from. I have ridden independently since I was 4 (I'm 38 now), I've come off in various ways, I've had the accidents that landed me in the hospital, and the minor scrapes. I've done shows and trail rides and worked cattle. Yet I am shaking like a leaf when I first get in the saddle. Then by time I calm down, PopTart has identified something coming to kill us which then I find that I just react rather than overthink. I do get nervous, but when I am focused on encouraging her and reassuring her then I forget my own nervousness. I have never dealt with this before. Even after hospital visits I would get back on the same horse without this large almost overwhelming feeling of fear.
 

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I can relate to your latest post very heavily! I've been riding since I was 6. I took a break from 22-29, because kids and money. When we bought land and now our own horses and I was able to ride whenever I wanted, I discovered I was quite fearful. Even just leading them. It's gotten better now. But I think as adults we are just more aware of their size and what can go wrong and the reality of our mortality. Then, there's the vet bills haha. I am constantly thinking something is wrong or will go wrong!
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I think you are so right @WildestDandelion as I am constantly assessing the barn or the trailer or basically anything to determine if it is safe enough for the horses. I think the more I do it and the less time I spend overthinking about doing it the better I will be. I absolutely love my mare and she catches on quickly to what I ask of her. When I first started leading her she would be right on top of me and now she doesn't do that. She backs when asked and our round pen work is getting most excellent. I need to get out of my head and just enjoy myself!
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Today I took to the trail! There is a wash that is an excellent place to ride about half a mile down the road from the barn. Of course, I did not have my thinking helmet on because I went out there alone. My boyfriend is out of town, and although I asked the other boarder if she wanted to go she declined. So I was riding around the round pen, circling this way and that. Jogging and stopping and just being comfortable with her when I decided it was time.

We rode for over an hour in the wash. She pranced and danced the whole way down the side of the road (it is way busier than I remember), but she wasn't trying to run away or anything. She was just excited. Her headset did come up higher than it was in the round pen (I have completely taken the tie down off!). She looks at everything. But she never once spooked or startled or anything. She got slightly nervous when we went through some tight areas but she was fine. I did notice that on rockier ground her answer is to speed up. I imagine her reasoning goes like this, "oh this ground is harder than the sandy ground, I should probably just dart through it really fast to get it over with." Obviously this is the exact opposite but she does respond well.

I ended up having to dismount halfway through because my feet and legs were killing me. And my curb strap had come undone so I was riding with only the bit. I had to let my stirrups out a notch and stretch. I realize it's been awhile since I had to break in a new saddle.

We came across another horse and rider on the trail. She did great. Some dogs ran up to us and not a flinch. Cars on the road no problem including a big yellow horse eating yellow school bus and a semi truck. As well as the requisite people who whistle and make lewd comments when a woman is riding a horse. PopTart was a rockstar!

Then after we got back to the barn and I untacked and cooled her off she shook and almost went down on the concrete wash rack. *face palm* She recovered quickly and is fine.

Overall, I'm feeling silly for being so anxious and nervous about it. While I do not proclaim to be world's most amazing rider or horse expert, I have been on the backs of horses and around them my entire life. I think I am a decent rider who genuinely likes to learn more and cares deeply for the animals. What I do not have is self confidence. But this partnership is giving me that.

Cheers to PopTart (& Rhonda).
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
The journey continues.

We have been riding as much as we can in order to get in at least thirty or forty minutes. She's doing really well, and we have not been using the tie down at all. Today we rode for forty minutes in the round pen working on better whoa and just overall less contact with the bit.

I have to say that I really love this horse. She still does not lead the best and wants to be super close to me. She likes to put her head on me to get her face scratched. She knocks over the wheelbarrow if I'm in the stall cleaning it.

Last Thursday, on Halloween, I went to ride for a bit. I went in the arena where I put the other boarders two horses in the stall that is in the arena and left her 21 year old paint gelding out. He followed me for about two laps then decided he'd rather lick the feeders clean without the other two horses bothering him. I had bought some of the Tough1 pop-up barrels because I board and I wanted something easily transportable. I put one of them in the center of the arena. This was not my best or brightest idea because it was super windy. Also the arena is pretty hard ground (Arizona whoooo!) so I couldn't pin it down. I did secure it, after it blew away twice, with some rocks.

Anyway, PopTart is staring at it while we are grooming and tacking up. JJ (the paint gelding) is nosing it and seeing if it is something to eat. I take her in the arena and the first time we pass it she almost jumps out of her skin. I'm thinking "great, the horse I bought to be a barrel horse is afraid of the dang barrels!" We just kept riding with me ignoring the barrel completely. The first ten minutes she would not walk. Dancing, prancing, sideways jigging. She just wanted to GO. The wind was blowing around all sorts of scary things which had her this side and that side.

We were trotting and she broke into a lope, then I'm not sure what she did...but I ended up on her neck. She turned her head to look at me and stopped while I managed to maneuver myself back into the actual saddle. We ended up riding for another thirty minutes after that. She did trot right past the barrel without incident multiple times through out the ride.

I also rode her this morning and she was beautiful. Walking when told to walk. Not trying to constantly go a speed faster than what I asked, and working off seat and legs. We did multiple circles, and we even started doing some work to get her working off her hind end a little more.

I'm super excited about her progress. I think she is going to be amazing when she's finished.
 
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