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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
In 2018, I started watching Bojack Horseman based on a late-night whim. The only things I knew about it were that it had something to do with "horse" and was animated. I thought that the first episode was all right. Although I did not really "get" it, I continued to watch it to unwind at night. As the series progressed, I grew more interested in it due to its portrayal of mental health and the show's quotes. I grew to realize that some of the quotes were relevant in horsemanship and my personal life.

This is Bojack. Horseman, obviously.
- Bojack Horseman
That quote is the signature sign-off by the character Bojack Horseman from the show Bojack Horseman. It is not stated why he says that, but rather it is up to the viewer to decide based on their perception and interpretation of Bojack's character and the context in which it is said. These are the main points of my journal. That quote just fits, although I mean it sarcastically.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 · (Edited)
My history with horses began in the summer of 2009 with Western lessons by a lady who was a Quarter Horse breeder, raiser, trainer, and shower.

In the summer of 2010, I took English lessons on a flea-bitten grey Arabian.

In 2011, my parents and I rented a cabin on a private farm. That was where I got my horse-fix because that cabin was about thirty miles (forty-eight kilometers) one-way to the nearest city. On that farm lived a pony and a chestnut Appendix mare; she belonged to the lady I took lessons with in 2009. The mare's aggression caused her to be retired from the lady's lesson program. I was not allowed to handle her, but I would spend hours with her in her pasture every day for about a year and a half. I loved every minute of it because she was a very affectionate horse.
I never felt unsafe with her. I do not remember her pinning her ears at me or otherwise acting aggressively. She never bit me. She kicked me only once when I had walked behind her while she was eating her feed. I was close, and she was light, so it did not hurt or leave any marks, not even a bruise. Perhaps she mistook me for the pony?
Thinking back on it, I think that there are two main reasons why I did not get hurt. Reason one would be luck. Reason two would be that I had kept under the mare's threshold for aggression. Since I was inexperienced and did not handle her, I never pushed any of her buttons that caused her to be aggressive. When any experienced person handled her, she turned aggressive.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
In 2012, I got my first, only, and current horse. At that time, my mother liked thrift shopping. Although I found such an activity to be disagreeable, I was too young to stay home alone. One day, we went to this small house that had been repurposed into a thrift shop. The shop smelled old, and the floors creaked; it was dank, dark, and rather creepy, so I decided to distract myself in the book section. I had found a non-fiction book about horses that I liked and asked my mother to buy it for me. She agreed. As we were checking out at the register, the cashier asked if my mother liked horses; she said that the book was for me. The cashier told us about how her elderly daughter had suffered a stroke and was unable to care for her horse and needed to sell it. After some arrangements were made, my parents and I went to look at this horse on the daughter's property. The horse lived alone in a small, muddy dry lot. The horse was a pasture pet that eagerly came to the fence for treats. We only saw the horse once. There was no prepurchase exam, test ride, or trial period. My parents decided to buy this horse for a sum of $600.

We boarded my mare in a hundred-acre (forty-hectare) pasture with many other horses. She seemed to enjoy having such a large pasture and immediately became hard to catch. She also seemed to enjoy being with other horses, but she frequently got injured.
I believe it was due to her being alone for most of her life. She did not know how to speak Horse; thus, miscommunication ensued. They are called "social skills" not "social instincts." Like with any other skill, practice is required to become proficient.

Since she was on so much pasture, she did not get any feed except for hay in the winter.

You know, it's funny; when you look at someone through rose-colored glasses, all the red flags just look like flags.
- Wanda Pierce
I was ten-years-old; She was four-years-old. I had ridden less than fifty times; She was green-broke but supposedly had been professionally started in Tennessee.

I was alone. That was an incredibly frustrating time. I had a serious case of "Black Stallion Syndrome." In my mind, it wasn't purely fantastical; that chestnut Appendix mare was similar to the Black Stallion. However, now, I was asking things of my horse; I was pushing buttons. My horse listened to my mother because she was more assertive than I was. I thought that if I was nice, my horse would love me; I thought that she would think I was being mean if I made her do anything.

I believed in the "bitless is better" hype, and thought that the low port curb that she came with was cruel. I rode her in a mechanical hackamore; she did not respond well.

My parents asked around for a professional trainer. We ended up using our farrier's daughter; she was a dressage trainer who believed that horses cannot understand verbal commands; that you cannot control a horse without a bit; that trail riding isn't "real" riding; and that it is always the horse's fault. She now reminds me of someone who tries to emulate Clinton Anderson with the experience of watching one clip on YouTube. She even used the term "lunging for respect." She made us use a dressage saddle, never talk to my horse, use a single-jointed, full-cheek snaffle (my horse did not respond well), never go out trail riding, and ride two-handed with short reins. We eventually stopped using her. That was the first time that I learned not to blindly trust a professional.
It wasn't a waste, though. She taught me how to be assertive while leading and how to lunge. My horse used to literally walk over me. I used to lead her by her shoulder and held her directly under her chin; the trainer taught me to lead by walking in front and giving my horse slack. If she walked over me, she got hit in the chest. I had never lunged a horse before her. I stopped lunging after the trainer left, and I do not lunge my horse now, but it is still a good skill to know.

I was alone again until my neighbors had heard that I had gotten a new horse. They specialized in TWHs. My parents and I thought that it would be a good idea for them to put a few rides on my horse. They put her back into a curb and started riding her while I was not there (both with permission). It was short-lived, though; they refused to continue riding her after she had reared. Alarm bells immediately went off because she had never reared up with me or anyone else before; even to this day, nearly ten years later, she has never reared.

I was alone again. I decided to try Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle; she responded better than any of the other headstall combinations I had tried, so I decided to keep her in it.

She was ridden mostly at a walk because she was out of control otherwise. She would do a hard pace; it was like a canter-fast, jackhammer trot. That was if I could get on; she would not stand still to be mounted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 · (Edited)
In 2013, we moved back home and boarded her in a three-acre (one-hectare) mud lot with six other horses.

Since there was little grass, she had constant access to hay and was fed the barn's feed twice daily.

She lead better; she stopped walking over me and willingly followed.

She understood cues under-saddle much better.

I was dependent on my two loud hands. I rode with loose reins. I pulled in the direction I wanted to go. I knew that I was supposed to use my seat and legs, but that required a conscious effort.

My former trainer told me that I should never let her eat while I handled her, but I was too passive. She would drag me to get grass and refused to raise her head; pulling and tugging on the lead did not work. I had to boot her in the muzzle. That was when we started working on her grass allowance. She did well on the ground and stopped dragging me to get grass; she would raise her head when I asked. Under-saddle, however, she would yank the reins out of my hands and ignore my leg cues. That was the first time when I realized that things on the ground do not have a literal translation under-saddle.

She allowed herself to be mounted, but she was very balky in the arena. She had a lot of attitude; she would toss her head and flash her tail whenever I tried to make her move. I would kick and kick until my legs were tired.
I remember when she laid down and rolled while I was riding her. I was shocked, and I did not know what to do. I did not want her to feel uncomfortable lying down around me, but she was just lying there. I got my mother, and she jerked on the reins to get my horse to stand. She was good for the rest of the ride. To this day, I still do not know why she did that; I do not know if she was off that day or if my mother's correction fixed it. She has never again tried to lie down while being ridden.

When I could get her moving, she paced; it was an evenly timed, two-beat gait, like the trot. I posted it.

There were no trails on or near the property, so I rode her in the cul-de-sac. She was a lot more forward there, but she did the wiggly wet noodle, ignored my reins, and bowed out against my leg. She was nervous, especially when cars passed, and did not want to stay to one side of the road. I remember when she did an in-place spook and slipped. She did not fall, but she was anti-road after that.
Thinking back on it, I think that her bare hooves may have been sore. Since she lived on such soft footing, her hooves were not accustomed to the concussion of the road.

For a while, I was just a girl with her horse. I did trick training with treats. I taught her to come, bow, and kiss. Her previous owner had taught her to paw, so she often pawed whenever she wanted something. Even then, I found that to be incredibly annoying, especially when it turned into striking, and she stuck me in my shins. I occasionally rode her in a flat nylon halter, blindfolded, or bridleless. She was very dull to the flat nylon halter; She did well blindfolded; She did not understand brideless riding and usually just followed the fenceline of the arena. I had to wave a whip whenever I wanted to turn.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
In 2015, we moved her due to the previous property's condition. This new place was a large property that had been used as a place to condition Thoroughbreds for racing; there was even a track. It had a busy road nearby, so she got sacked out to cars. She was in a twenty-five-acre (ten-hectare) pasture with a natural pond and many other horses.

She had access to hay in the winter and was fed the barn's feed once daily.

I remember that she still had a lot of attitude; she tossed her head and flashed her tail whenever I asked her to do something. She usually complied but complained while doing it.

That year for Christmas, I asked for a rope halter to replace the flat nylon one. I had been reading about how Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle can offer poor release, so I began riding her in the rope halter. At first, she rode as if she had never been ridden before. As time when on, she became more responsive, and her head tossing and tail flashing greatly decreased.

She was rarely balky; she was a lot hotter at this place. Whenever I rode on the track, she tried to gallop back to the gate. I had never galloped before, and I was scared that she would be wildly out of control. I remember the time when I decided to bite the bullet and let her gallop. We were in an enclosed space, and she would stop at the gate. If she didn't, I knew she couldn't run forever. It was freeing; we both gained confidence. I did not stop riding her when she got back to the gate, so she eventually stopped trying to gallop and only galloped when I asked.

There was a small round pen that I used when I wanted to ride her bridleless. I was able to turn her without a whip, but I could only ride in that round pen; she would ignore me in the field or on the track.

She would do a smooth step-pace when I asked. I thought that was a great accomplishment since she was bouncy before.

I eventually started to canter her. It took me three years to ever attempt to canter her, and I had galloped her before I cantered her. I had compared myself to other people's timelines, and I felt "less-than" because it took me so long to do what other people do in the first couple rides. I do not remember how I taught her to canter, but I do remember that I had to have a strong hand to keep her at a canter; she would otherwise try to gallop. I think what happened was that I galloped her and slowed her down to a canter and just held her there rather than actually asking for the canter.

I remember that she had some hoof problems. The farrier blamed the environment and insisted that she needed front shoes to stay sound. That was the only time she has ever worn shoes. The nail holes caused an abscess. That was the only time she has ever been lame. We pulled her shoes, did some soaks, and gave her time to heal.
Thinking back on it, it was not the environment; it was the farrier's shoddy work. I did not know it back then, though; I trusted the farrier because she was a certified professional. That was the second time that I learned not to blindly trust a professional.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 · (Edited)
In 2017, we moved her due to the previous property being sold and repurposed as a cow farm. This new place was a private property that was on an equestrian easement. It had a gun range and a military base nearby, so she got sacked out to loud noises. She was in a ten-acre (four-hectare) paddock-paradise system with a few other horses.

She had access to hay in the winter, but this was the first time that I had to choose a feed; previously, I had used the barn's provided feed. I asked for suggestions from the other boarders, and they suggested Triple Crown Pelleted Naturals. She was fed twice daily, but I did not know how much by weight. When I learned more about horse nutrition, I switched her to a pound (four-hundred fifty-four grams) of Triple Crown 30% Ration Balancer.

Her ground manners were solid. I started working on ground-tying and hobbling.

While she settled into her new place, I rode in the arena. I was bareback the first time I asked her to canter at this new place. She bucked me off. That was the only time she had ever bucked.

Then, I took her on trail rides; this was the first time that I actually trail rode. I needed to direct her rather than have her follow the horse in front. She was very difficult to control because she was barn/buddy/herd-bound/sour. Despite having relatively consistent obedience in the arena, she was too distracted to pay attention to me. She was nervous; her head was always high; she was very vigilant and hesitant and would often whinny. I trail rode her alone every ride.

I worked on her under-saddle grass allowance. If she did not listen to my leg, she got cropped forward. I was abrupt; she would shoot forward. It was as if she was reacting to my leg rather than responding. I realized that she was confused. Sometimes, I would add leg and crop her forward. Sometimes, I would add leg then tell her not to move. I found a workaround; I paired my leg with a voice command. She learned that I was inexperienced and sometimes inadvertently added leg, but she learned that it meant nothing when not paired with a voice command.

All went well until I started to ask for the canter again. She would gallop and not slow down to a canter; she would slow down, but she would skip the canter and instead pace. I was very frustrated because I thought that she knew how to canter. She, too, was very frustrated; eventually, she would say that enough was enough and would bolt. I would just hold on and hope to not fall off. It was very scary to have no control, especially in an open area. She would not slow down or turn and would only stop when she ran into something. I tried the one-rein stop, constant pressure, pull-release-pull-release, see-sawing, and yanking. She would completely ignore me. I would try reverse psychology; I would take her out to a large field, and once she took off, I made her run, and run, and run. She just got fitter; she could gallop for hours. That was when I learned that the method of working the horse to make the wrong thing hard was not a blanket method. She thought that I was just asking something of her; she did not see it as discipline. She was frustrated, but she complied.
When she eventually stopped, I did nothing about it because, even then, I knew that my window for disciple had closed; I would be punishing her for stopping.
I thought that it was the saddle, so I got a better-fitted Western saddle; she still bolted. I put her back into Dr. Cook's Bitless Bridle; she ran through it. I put her in that single-jointed, full-cheek snaffle; she ran through it. I had no other options, so I just kept her in the rope halter.
I was scared to ride her because I did not know when she would bolt; I would ride two-handed with a constant tight rein.
I thought that one was not supposed to dismount because that rewarded the horse, but I did not know what else to do. I noticed that before she would bolt, she would root her nose down to the ground to pull the reins out of my hands, so I became proactive rather than reactive. The moment she put her head down, I dismounted and whipped her hard across the hip. She was so shocked the first time that I did that and did not bolt again for a while.
Thinking back on it, that is erroneous thinking; if your horse thinks that your dismount is a reward, then what does that say about your riding? Also, I will guarantee you that my horse did not think my dismount was a reward because I immediately chastised her. Now, when I think of dismounting as a reward, I think of it as giving the horse a break after it has been giving you a good ride.

I started to think that she might not have known what I was asking, so I started over. I stopped asking for the canter on the trail and only asked in the arena. I taught her the lunge line and paired it with a verbal cue. When I would ask under-saddle, she would jump into a fast canter/slow gallop. She had an idea of what I wanted, but she still did not understand.
I watched this video on YouTube of someone teaching their TWH to canter. The rider disengaged the horse's hindquarters while walking in a tight circle. That seemed rather... avant-garde. I had not seen that method before. I was doubtful because the video had single-digit views, no comments, and was posted many years ago. I thought that I might as well try it though because no other method of canter departures was working. That canter departure worked; she pushed into the nicest rocking-chair canter. She got loads of treats, and I stopped working her after that. I cantered her every ride, and she got better and better; she performed cleaner departures and stayed in the canter longer. If she did not give me the right answer, I would simply turn her around and ask again.
Once she understood what I was asking and became consistent, I took her back out on the trails. She would take off at a canter but would try to speed into a gallop. I had to use a lot of core, seat, and rein to keep her at a canter. The only place to canter her on the trails was a slight uphill straightaway. I cantered her up that hill multiple times every ride; eventually, she would canter on a loose rein. If she got a little fast, she would slow off of a voice command, my core, and seat; no reins were needed. I started galloping her again. She seemed to enjoy it, and she would come back to me with just a voice command.
Thinking back on it, there was a lot of miscommunication; we were constantly just yelling at each other and getting frustrated when the other did not understand. I know she did not understand me; when I asked for her to canter, she thought I had asked for her to gallop. When she gave me the wrong (but in her mind right) answer, I punished her. It got to a point where she did not want to try at all anymore because she was confused and scared of making a mistake. I do not think that she thought bolting was right; I think that she thought that bolting was the only thing I would understand. She was right. I had either missed or ignored her voice, and her only option left was to yell. That was when I learned to listen to her and that it is not you versus the horse; it is you and the horse versus the problem.

The trail was a loop, and I only cantered and galloped in one direction. When I would ask her to canter in the opposite direction, she would take off at a gallop but not bolt. She would think about listening to my voice command, but she needed a lot of core, seat, and rein to slow her down. I thought that she was just testing me. In my mind, it did not matter which direction we went since both directions were back to the barn. In her mind, it was back to the barn because we were backtracking. I tried a couple of times until I realized that it was a losing battle. I asked myself what was really going on, what the real purpose was. Is this molehill really a hill that I want to die on? Purposefully picking a fight with a horse and expecting to win is ridiculous; asking a horse a trick question, setting them up to fail, and then blaming them for failing is ridiculous. I was the one testing her.

The damage was done; I learned too late. While she no longer bolted when I asked her to canter, she bolted whenever she wanted to say no to me or felt overwhelmed.
Different horses have different go-to behaviors as a no or in response to feeling overwhelmed. Some horses balk; some horses buck; some horses rear; some horses spin. She bolted.

I remember the time when I took a trail ride with some of the other boarders, and they repeatedly commended how well-behaved my horse was. That inflated my ego. She was grass-snatching and jigging the entire ride, but I did not want to appear mean by correcting her in front of them. We were headed back to the barn, but I wanted to go out to the road first. We split up, and as soon as she and I had rounded a bush, she rooted her nose, whipped around, and bolted back to the barn as fast as she could. I fell off in front of everyone. I got back on and made her walk to the road and pass the trail that led back to the barn several times until she stopped with the attitude and walked on a loose rein.
I thought that the lesson was that if I gave her an inch, she would take a mile; I thought that I could never let her say no to me.
The real lessons were that horses keep you humble, and irony is cruel. I learned that I should not let anyone's opinions change the way that I handle my horse, especially if that change endangers my horse or me. It would have been less embarrassing to direct, or correct as needed, than letting her behavior snowball into bolting; I firmly believe that if I had given my horse the direction that she needed when she needed it, she would not have bolted.

I remember the time when I asked her to take the long way home instead of the shortcut. She said no, rooted, and started to bolt. Since she had been misbehaving the entire ride, I was already frustrated. I dismounted and hit her as hard as I could several times across the chest. She flew backward and stumbled over herself; she fell. She immediately got back up and was understandably shaken. I felt absolutely awful. I led her past where I wanted her to go, got back on, and had her walk home. She was good for the rest of the ride. She stopped bolting after that. She thought about it a few times but would stop after I gave her a growl.

When she wanted to say no, she stopped. I thought that stopping was disobedience and a waste of time; I thought that she should obey me entirely based on "because I said so." When I tried to boot her forward, she would run backward. I tried cropping her forward or the reverse psychology of letting her back then keep her backing. Nothing worked; it was like that bolting situation all over again.
I decided that the next time she stopped, I would wait it out. She would stop, stand, think, and then move forward with some encouragement. That was when I learned real patience, to let her think, and be responsible for herself. She has been responsible for herself since the day she was born. Who am I to tell her that I know best? She probably found it to be condescending and hypocritical. I found that the more I had anticipated her saying no, the more likely she was to say no; she would often prove me right.

I trusted myself, but all that led to was arrogance. I did not trust her because she used to bolt. She did not trust me because I did not trust her. She did not trust herself because I did not allow her.
I had forgotten that trust is a two-way street. For her, I had to give to get. When I showed her trust, she showed me incredible confidence. As time went on, she stopped asking herself, "what should I do?" and started asking me, "what should I do?"

I rode her in the cul-de-sac. She often drifted to the shoulder. Sometimes I corrected her, and sometimes I let her. I thought that she was still a little anti-road due to slipping that one time. I rode her on the road every ride. She became more confident and stopped drifting, and I believe that her hooves and legs strengthened to withstand the concussion. When I asked for a gear change, she would perform a smooth saddle rack. At first, she had difficulty maintaining it, but soon she was able to saddle rack most of the length of the road. She seemed to enjoy it; she would shuffle along, ears pricked, on a loose rein, even back to the barn. The saddle rack is now her favorite intermediate gait.

During the summer, I would ride her in the creek. It was not to teach her anything; it was to keep cool while spending time with her. She needed the freedom to choose where to walk. That was when I learned how to be a passenger, an easy, passive load. That also helped me increase my trust in her because she would routinely safely carry me through the water.
I remember the time when we were walking in chest-high water and the footing gave way. She stumbled. I fell off. I managed to keep hold of the reins, but it felt as if we were both drowning. I was hesitant to let her go because I did not want her to leave me, but we could not find footing with both of us thrashing. I let her go, and I swam to the shallow bank. She found her footing not far ahead. She stayed. She was probably just trying to catch her breath and calm down, but I like to tell myself that she wanted to make sure I was okay. I mounted her, and we immediately went home. She did not seem to be traumatized by that because she eagerly went into the water the next ride. I did not lose any trust in her because she stayed.

She started offering herself to be mounted; she would line herself up to a mountable object and wait for me. That was fascinating because I had not taught her that. I believe that our quality time in the water had a positive impact on her.

I remember the time when I asked her to pass on the left side of a tree. She told me no, but I booted her forward. I did not realize that the branchers were so low-hanging; I fell off. That was the first time that I learned that it was okay for her to say no to me, for when she says no, there might be a good reason.
 

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I am enjoying your story! It sounds like it’s been a hard road to learning.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 · (Edited)
It gets easier…. Every day, it gets a little easier…. But you gotta do it every day - that’s the hard part. But it does get easier.
- Jogging Baboon
In January 2020, we moved her due to the previous property being sold. This new place is a co-op private property that has a dry lot and ten acres (four hectares) of pasture. She has constant access to the dry lot with other horses; she has access to the pastures only when they are dry.

She has constant access to grass hay and is fed her custom minerals (balanced to her forage), Vitamin E, salt, Tri Amino, and flax once daily.

I would describe her ground manners as "finished" for my needs. She will do almost anything that I ask or let me do almost anything that I want with/to her. While there is always room for improvement, I rarely need to correct her; when I do need to correct her, I know that it was my fault for not giving her enough direction.

She has no attitude except when she thinks that I am being unreasonable or unclear. When I ask for something different or ask in a different way, she will quickly quiet.

I got my driver's license, so I was able to (and did) visit her every day. Some days I spent ten minutes; some days I literally spent ten hours.

This is the place where I feel like I am doing "real" trail riding. Before, I had just let her follow the horse in front, follow the fenceline of the easement, and follow the creek. Now, there are no crutches.
I was not shown the trails, so I had to explore them to learn the way. Problem is that my sense of direction is worse than abysmal. I would take us out and get lost. I had to ask her to take us home and give her the complete freedom to do so. This is when I learned to trust her sense of direction. I am still amazed at it. We can go on a trail once and it is like she can make a mental map and not get lost. I, on the other hand, think that we are on a completely different trail when, in actuality, we are just backtracking.
Although I have asked her to take us home time and time again, she has not become barn/buddy/herd-bound/sour. She will eagerly move out alone. When I know the direction home, she respectfully listens on a loose rein. She does not try to turn around to take me back without me asking. This is when I learned that just because you let a horse make some decisions, that does not mean that the horse will automatically think that it can make all the decisions. I was reminded about partnership, that it is best to relinquish the notion that, in our relationship, I know best.

I remember the time when I took her out on the trail after we had a snowstorm. The first three-quarters of the trail was clear, but much of the last quarter had fallen branches and trees. I had asked her to take us home because I did not want to interfere with her finding her feet. We came to a stream. This stream is in a ditch with steep banks. The trail leads in and out as obtuse "V". A large tree had fallen on the opposite side of the "V", so we would have been unable to completely cross the stream. I had seen and thought that, so I asked her to stop. I did not want her to jump up the steep, slippery bank once she realized that the trail was blocked, and I did not want to risk her ignoring me if I told her not to jump. I dismounted. I walked around to find a safe place to cross; the find was futile. I did not want to backtrack the entire trail, so I decided that I would trust her. I got back on. She went down the first side of the "V" and into the stream. She stopped in front of the fallen tree and thought. She did not jump up the bank. She turned around but did not backtrack. She took me off the trail, walked away from draw, and parallel the stream. She crossed when she saw a safe place. She took me through the woods and onto a connecting trail. I let her brush me by and under trees. There was this one tree that we were approaching that I saw that had branches that were too low for me. She was going to go under, but I was not. I told her to stop; she ignored me. I got knocked off; I was displeased. I was going to punish her, but she immediately whipped her hindquarters around to face me and had her head high. She knew. I got back on, and we headed home again. I asked her to stop a few times on the way back and she complied with just a verbal command. She did not brush me by or under any more trees.
I learned that she is not going to do some audacious thing at the slightest inconvenience. I learned that she is wise enough to consider the consequences of her future actions without my input. I learned that she is incredibly smart. When horses have a draw, they want to go the easiest, most direct, route to that draw. It is interesting to learn that a horse can learn a complex, seemly counter-initiative, maneuver. I learned that she knew that sometimes she needed to go away from draw to get to draw. I was reminded that she is not a mind-reader or a robot; without my direction, she is going to do what she wants to do. She did not want to walk in the mud, so she walked by and under trees that were not muddy. Had I asked her to walk through the mud, she would have complied, and I would not have been bushed. She was doing what she thought was best, being diligent about where she put her feet, and I did not tell her otherwise.
Getting ignored is still annoying, though.

I no longer believe that bitless is better, but I keep her bitless because that is what she has been ridden in for the past nine years. I keep her in the rope halter because it is so convenient. I can do all that I need without changing headstalls; I can lead, send, tie, and ride in a rope halter. I know that I should probably teach her to respond to a bit for well-roundedness and in case I need to sell her, but I sold the bridle and bits I had and have not gotten around to buying more.

I thought that my reins were too long, so I decided to cut the lead rope; I cut it too short. It is long enough for a lead, but it would be unyieldingly short for reins; it is about ten feet (three meters) long. I also have not gotten around to buying another lead rope, so I have been riding her with one rein. It sounds disastrous, and it was felt awkward at first, but I rode her with one rein every ride.
I learned that I was still heavily dependent on my reins. When I ride with one rein, I do not have the option to direct/plow rein on both sides. I can toss the lead over her head to the other side, but the situation is still the same. I ride "on the buckle"; I rest my hand on her withers to prevent the lead from sliding off. I worked on not letting her bow out against my leg and neck reining. Eventually, I weaned off of neck reining, and now I ride off of my voice, seat, and legs. I do not use the rein unless she wants/needs it.
People are often surprised that I can ride her with one rein, but I have ridden her that way for almost two years, so it has become her normal. People have expressed concern that if something were to happen, I would not be able to control her. I think that is a legitimate concern, but I remember how I tried many different headstalls and bits and how she used to bolt and I had literally no control. It goes back to training. She will listen to me ninety-nine point nine-nine percent of the time; for the other zero point zero-one percent of the time, it will not matter what is on her head. Every horse has a different threshold for the volume of the cue needed for when they get hot. When she gets hot and needs a louder cue, the halter's direct/plow rein is enough because she is sensitive and I rarely use it. The principle is similar to those who ride in a curb for when their horses need it.

I often used to ride bridleless. I can ride bridleless anywhere, anytime, even on the trails. I find it to be similar to how I ride with the halter, except I have no louder option if I need it. I remember the saying "it is better the have it and not need it than need it and not have it." She can do it and does it well, and that is the important thing. For me, bridleless riding is just to show off, and that is unnecessary.

I eventually learned the trails and found the meadow. When I first asked her to canter, she sped into a slow gallop and pulled me left. I went back to the arena and asked her to canter; she cantered. I figured that she was not used to cantering in such a large open area; to her, large open areas meant to run. When she would speed into a slow gallop, I would stop her, walk her back to where I had originally asked, and ask again. She had lost a lot of fitness since her bolting days, so she quickly got tired and learned to canter slow and straight. She could not canter for more than a few strides without wanting to speed up. I would stop her before she sped and praise her. Now, she can canter for about a mile (one and six-tenths of a kilometer) on a loose rein. We are still working on cantering on different grades. She canters well on flat ground and uphill but becomes unbalanced and paces downhill. She will often self-correct. She seems to like canter; she often asks if we can canter, and she often canters in the pasture.
When I offer her a gallop, she usually does not take me up on it. She will speed up her canter, but that's usually it. Although I can force her to gallop, I do not; if she gallops, she gallops; if she doesn't, she doesn't. I do not know if I ruined galloping for her or if she learned that we will eventually get to Point B, so there is no need to rush.

I remember the time when I asked her to canter in the direction of the barn. She bolted. I had to dismount at speed and whip her hip. This was the last time she bolted; that was two years ago. I got back on and asked again. She took off at a gallop but came back to me with a voice command. I did not ask her to canter in the direction of the barn for about a year. When I would ask for the canter in the direction of the barn, sometimes she would get excited and rush (but she would come back to me); other times, she would canter nicely on a loose rein.
Thinking back on it, it is not a surprise that she bolted because she was nervous the entire ride. I have not asked her to canter in the direction of the barn for several months and will not ask again. I need to remember that when you do something, there needs a lesson or reason; doing something just to say that you can is ridiculous, especially when it comes at the cost of the horse.

I started riding her by and on the road. This road is a public road, not a private cul-de-sac. She is doing well. She usually keeps herself to one side of the road, but sometimes I have to remind her to stay. She does not like vehicles, but she is not nervous, even when the largest, loudest vehicles pass. She does a beautiful, confident heel-first landing; her frogs, soles, and digital cushions have become healthier and stronger to absorb the concussion.

She can easily saddle rack for a few miles/kilometers. She does not pace anymore unless she is unbalanced or nervous. I started working on her flat walk. It is so uncomfortable. It is smooth but there is a lot motion that I have to follow with my seat and lower back. Her back is supple, and there is a lot of power and overstride from her hind end. I am glad she prefers to saddle rack.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
I am nineteen; She is thirteen. We both have grown so much, both physically and mentally.
It is hard sometimes to remember that growth when the memories are clouded with mistakes. I feel like I have done everything wrong from the moment I got her. This journey is nothing like how I expected it would be. I often ask myself how did it work out.
I think that there are three main reasons. Reason one would be luck. Reason two would be time. Horsemanship is a relationship; relationships take work; work takes time. Reason three, the most important reason, would be forgiveness, her forgiveness.

It is said that to test your understanding of something, explain that something to someone else. For some, that saying is like explaining multiplication to someone who knows how to add. For me, that saying is like explaining the color blue to someone who is born blind.

These quotes from Bojack Horseman can put into words what I cannot.

Princess Carolyn: "Can I ask you something? So, there's work, right? I mean, work makes sense to me. And I'm good at it. I don't feel that way about my baby. I don't think I'm feeling what I'm supposed to feel - what I thought I would feel. I mean, I love her, of course, I do. Of course, I love my daughter. But... but I don't know if I love her. I know I'm a terrible person for even thinking it, but what if it never happens?"

Vanessa Gekko: "Do you love all your clients' projects?"

Princess Carolyn: "Of course."

Vanessa Gekko: "No, you don't. But you take care of them and you keep them alive because that's your job, right?"

Princess Carolyn: "Yeah."

Vanessa Gekko: "So, now you've got a new job. And it is a ruthless one, and I mean ruthless. You don't have time to waste second-guessing how you feel about it. You just have to do it the best that you can, and know that that's the best you can do."

- The New Client
Stefani Stilton: "You know what your problem is? You hold everyone to an impossible standard, including yourself. It’s super helpful for writing heartache shakedowns and clickbait takedowns - but totally toxic for your personal life and internalized sense of self-worth, girl."

Diane Nguyen: "But shouldn’t we be asking more of ourselves and the people in our lives?"

Stefani Stilton: "Of course. But we all fail, Diane. The world is unforgiving enough as it is. The least we can do is find ways to forgive each other and ourselves."
 

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This is great. You have learned so much. Most importantly, you have learned to listen to your horse and to take her thoughts and feelings into account. Many people who are around horses their whole lives never get to that point.

Your story reminds me a lot about me and Pony -- we were both very green when I got him, but I didn't know any better. It has taken quite a few years to really develop our relationship, and I had to learn to be a leader while still taking his feelings and thoughts into consideration. But he has taught me so much. It sounds like your mare has taught you a lot also.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 · (Edited)
12 January 2022

I went to the barn to meet the farrier. I caught her, tied her, and picked out her hooves. She has a minor case of thrush that I have been treating for the past two weeks; it is almost gone now. It was still early, so I decided to clean the dry lot while we waited. She got about an hour of good tie time.

When the farrier arrived, I mentioned that she had been forging even after a fresh trim. He said that forging in barefoot horses is very rare and very bad and that I should consult a veterinarian because there might be something wrong with her hocks or stifles. He asked me what veterinarian I used; he said that my veterinarian was a good one. He said that the only thing he could do was put shoes on. He asked me if she forged when trimmed by other farriers. I said that sometimes she did and sometimes she didn't. He was surprised and suggested that I find a different farrier. He complimented that her hooves were some of the best he had ever worked with and that she stood well as usual.
The last time the veterinarian came, they did a quick lameness examination because one of her hind legs had been swollen (of course, it wasn't when they came). They said that she was sound and had a very nice gait. (They concluded that the swelling might have been just an insect bite.) She may be due for a chiropractic adjustment, but I know that her forging is due to the trim. It sounded contradictory when he said that forging is very rare in barefoot horses, yet he could shoe her to fix the problem. I feel conflicted because that is the only thing that is wrong, but I know that wrong is wrong. I am not looking forward to finding another farrier. He is the best farrier I have found around here; he has kept her comfortable, barefoot, and sound on the paved roads and gravel. I did not burn that bridge, so if that find fails, I may be able to ask him back.

I took her on a quick, bareback maintenance ride on the road; she was good.
 

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Reason one would be luck. Reason two would be time. Horsemanship is a relationship; relationships take work; work takes time. Reason three, the most important reason, would be forgiveness, her forgiveness.
You left out number four: perseverance. I was so impressed when reading your journal because you never ever gave up. When one thing didn't work, you tried something else. And when that didn't work, you tried something else. Good on you!
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 · (Edited)
13 January 2022

I fed her in her stall and left her in there for about two hours while I cleaned the dry lot.

There has been a lot of static electricity lately. I try to ground myself before I touch her, but she is still a little anti-touch right now. I think that I need to wear a different jacket. Today was the warmest day it has been in a while; it was forty-five degrees Fahrenheit (seven degrees Celcius). I did not wear my jacket. There was a lot less static electricity, so I was able to give her a decent grooming.

I rode her on roads, gravel trails, in the meadow, on the sidewalk, and road's shoulder. I wanted to give her hooves some dry time, and I assumed that the other trails would be muddy.

At the start of our ride on the road, she was distracted. We went down a road that we had not gone down in a couple of months, so it was not a surprise that she was distracted. I did have to get a little loud with her to get her attention back on me. There are cars on the road, and I cannot have her ignore me and drift out into one. We are in the south; we do not get snow often. She did a couple of in-place spooks when she saw those large plowed snow mounds on the side of the roads.

Once we got on the gravel trails, she was good. That snowstorm caused branches and trees to fall on the trail. The woods that surrounded the fallen trees were dense, so I dismounted to lead her through so I would not get brushed or knocked off. I know that New Years' Resolutions sound cliché, but I would like to be able to mount her bareback this year; I was walking for longer than I would have liked trying to find a mountable object. When we came to the fallen branches, she would walk through them, not around; not over; through. Most of the snow on the trails had melted, but the bridges were still frozen over.


We got back on the road. There was a lot happening, but she was listening to me for the most part. There was more passing traffic than on the other road, and they had to pass closer because the road is narrower. There was a lady walking her German Shepard. The dog barked a lot and was hyper. My best girl gave a couple of wary looks and had her head high, but she passed with little issue. I asked her to saddle rack to the meadow.

Most of the meadow still had a thin blanket of snow. I found a dry stretch to canter her. She was good; she seemed to like stretching her legs. I allowed her to have a quick grass snack; she immediately raised her head and walked off when I asked. I asked her to walk through the snow. This snow was soft and slippery, but she plodded along.

We took the sidewalk home. When I would ask her to flat walk, she would either walk faster or saddle rack. I had to use some contact and more leg than I would have liked.

When we got to the road's shoulder, she got distracted and nervous about a truck on the gold course. She started pacing. I asked her to walk, but she just collected into a flat walk. I asked her to do a circle, and she walked. She wanted to power walk home. I asked her to slow, but she collected into a flat walk again. I asked her to stop; she stopped off of my voice and seat. I asked her to walk on. She was walking fine for a few strides before she started rushing again. I asked her to stop; she snatched some grass. I gave her a verbal correction and pulled her head up; she walked off. I asked her to back up to where I had originally asked her to stop; she dropped her head. I asked her to walk on; she was still going faster than I would have liked, but she was a lot slower than she had been. I asked her to stop a couple of times to test her attention. Since she would stop off of my voice and seat, I let her walk the rest of the way unbothered. Once we got on the private road, I got off to stretch my legs and led her the rest of the way back.

Once we were back home, I did her belly lift, butt-tuck, and tail pull exercises. I fed her her supplements and then put her back out.
 

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Ahhh, we call that over reaching. Could you try riding in bell boots?
 
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Discussion Starter · #19 · (Edited)
Ahhh, we call that over reaching. Could you try riding in bell boots?
It is my understanding that forging and over-reaching are different; they differ based on where the hind toe stikes. Over-reaching is usually more serious; it is when the hind toe strikes the heel, pastern, or fetlock of the front limb (instead of the sole). She never has any injuries to her heels, pasterns, or fetlocks.

I have considered bell boots, but I do not think that they would protect her sole. Riding boots would, but some bring the breakover forward; I do not know if my farrier knows how to trim back the breakover to fit a boot. Besides, I feel like bell boots do not fix the principle problem - an imbalanced trim. When forging due to an imbalanced trim is the only problem, it seems really minor, but I want what is best for my horse's hooves and do not want to settle if I can help it.
 

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I was imagining the over reaching you described, with the big cuts. I guess I’ve just never had something that forged.
 
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