Laddie - The Early Days...
I don't know if anybody has wondered why I've had Laddie this long and am only "this" far with him. So I thought I'd tell a bit of his/our story.
After the riding accident that broke my neck in 2001, I spent my horse time driving. I didn't realize it, but while I never was afraid of driving, I'd cultured a real dread of riding. I had a different horse to ride at the time, but she, too, was primarily a driving horse, though I did ride her a little.
Laddie came along roughly ten years later and was an acquisition not based on noble character, but of long time covetousness...I'd wanted him for years, just from seeing him in someone else's pasture. When the opportunity arose to buy him, let's say his "deplorable excess of personality" was grossly under reported.
Well, it was me or the auction. I wouldn't have sold him to someone else. So I spent countless, countless hours trying to get through to him. And I did, but no fairy-tale endings here. He was a bona fide wannabe bolter. No buck, no rear, just get outta Dodge. You couldn't bend his neck. But then I found a bit that enabled me to bend his neck. And from there he learned a one rein stop. And from there, I got him to where I could drive him. And so that's what we did. Quite a bit actually, but the tendency to bolt was ever present. I could always predict it, and I could always stop it. But over time, the tendency to try to bolt on the way home was getting to be scary, and so I quit driving him, too.
One of the advantages I had in driving him, was I could drive him at a blistering trot for several miles if he was feeling too strong. I had no ability to do this under saddle, and wouldn't have done it anyway! But you know, it was't teaching him anything. I did ride him during this time and the feeble resistance he throws at me these days is NOTHING compared to his efforts to thwart me in those days. I did get SOOO tired of his apparent inability to learn anything in those days but in fact, quite the opposite was true. He catalogued everything. He learned it all. He just chose not to offer the desired behaviors. This was a bit of a tragic testimony to his fear of trying new responses and getting punished if he made the wrong choice It seemed like he was just a hopeless blockhead, but the "teachings" that I was following said there was no such thing, that such labels were obstacles to training. That gave me hope and stopped me from judging him.
The loss of my mare, the discouragement with Laddie's slow progress, riding anxiety, advancing age, and then the acquisition of another horse combined to form the decision to retire Laddie. Again. But of course the next horse had undisclosed issues too, so there I was again in a remedial program with a "beginner safe" horse. During the time I worked with her, I occasionally saddled Laddie, and I noticed there seemed to be some cracks in his armor, that "try a little" was a new theme with him. But by this time, "the bit that could turn him" had become an obvious obstacle to his progress. He hated it and was constantly preoccupied by it. I was faced with finally giving up that crutch, and getting on the big runaway with the gentlest snaffle I could find. In the meantime, the new mare, that learns like a border collie, had been helping me finesse myself and I'd found new ways of thinking that helped me adjust to Laddie's learning challenges.
Laminitis, and another bout of feeling too old, interrupted my work with the mare and I gave up riding again, until the smoldering spark lit a fire under me and I saddled up Laddie once more.
And here we are. Seemingly not so far from where we were ten years ago, but as the saying goes, "you had to be there" to understand how far we've come.
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