I have lost count of the number of horses I have worked with. I started riding at 9 yrs old and training at 16. The number is in the hundreds. One thing I have learned is that you are never done learning. Each horse has taught me something new. Some are so unique that I have totally had to go in a different direction to teach them something.
Here is one example: I had an Arabian mare come in for training. I had to go pick her up because she would not load unless tranquilized. No matter what kind of trailer it was. Now, when I go to pick a horse up, I don’t just force them in the trailer. I take time and coax them and have patience. I don’t start right in with a big training lesson. I have time for that once I get them to my farm. Most horses I get in have never even been loaded and all they need is just a little patience.
This Arab mare was petrified, so after some time and patience, she still wasn’t loaded. I then took the owner suggestion and we tranquilized her and assisted her in. We gave her the vets dose that was prescribed. It didn’t knock her out, just calmed her down a lot.
Now the next thing you need to know is that these people bought her for their 16 yr old daughter as a project horse. The previous owner talked her into it saying she needed a project and she could handle it. Well, let me tell you the rest of the story. They could not brush this horse below the knees, or go behind her. Especially not to brush her tail. This mare was a fear kicker! They gave me 30 days and didn’t expect me to be able to ride her.
Training begins: I started the Arab mare in the round pen as I do all my horses. I do John Lyons methodology mixed with a little of my own. She progressed as expected. Of course, I had to spend a lot of time touching her all over to erase all those fears. Then we progressed to the saddle. She was great getting it on and all cinched up, stood like a champ! Then, I sent her around the arena lose and realized that also now, you’re never done learning!
This poor horse ran for her life!! She was so petrified! She ran so fast she ended up slipping and falling. As a result of the fall, she had a huge hematoma on her whole hip. So, finally, I got her to stop and settle down enough to get her untacked. Of course, now she is hurt, I can’t work any further till we heal up the hematoma. We were told by the vet to wait a couple of days then he would drain it. That is what we did.
It took a couple of weeks for it to heal up, but it looked perfect when it was all done. She happened to come into heat whilst she was on her layup and the owners wanted her breed. They hadn’t bred her before then because they couldn’t trailer her to a stallion. I just happened to know of a beautiful Reg. Black Arabian Stallion in the next town that would bring the stallion over so we could breed her. This mare was a beautiful Bay. So we got that accomplished without a hitch. We even thought of riding bareback but decided to let that pass.
Training Continues: Now we can put the mare back into training. We start from the beginning again. She remembers everything perfect. So, we get to the saddling process. This time I decide to put her on the long lines so I can rate her speed a little. We saddled up fine and I hooked up the long lines and sent her out. BOOM! Off she goes again! She was so worked up, I could not hang on to those long lines no matter how hard I tried. But, I did get her to stop and come to me before she hurt herself this time.
I have at this time come to the conclusion that this horse needs something different here. She would be fine if I lead her around with the saddle, or even just walked with her without a lead, but when I sent her out around that roundpen to deal with it by herself she just couldn’t handle it. Now, if I had unlimited time with this horse, I would back up and spend a year just getting her used to things around her, but I didn’t have that.
So, I had to figure out a way to accomplish what I wanted with neither of us getting hurt in a reasonable amount of time. Since she was ok with me around her, I figured she could deal with it if I was riding her. So, instead of getting on her loose in the round pen, I worked her in a set of cross ties set up between two trees out in the field. I went through all the steps I would have with her loose in the roundpen, but she was cross-tied instead.
This worked great. I also ponied her out with one of my personal horses and showed her some of the world. I have found this to be a great way to settle down a nervous horse. It also gets them used to you being above them in a riding position. All of this worked great. In the crossties, I was able to mount and dismount and she was totally relaxed. I then took her back to the roundpen for our first ride.
Our First Ride: Now I already know not to send this horse away from me, because she needs my support to handle situations. So, I just take her to the roundpen all saddled and ready to go. Of course, I have my helmet on. Let’s see how she goes. I just mounted up, and we just stood there like I had done it all her life.
Now comes the part where she needs to know she can walk with me up there and everything will be ok. I work her like I normally would at this point. Pulling right then left then right then left……till I get one little step, and before long, we are walking around the arena very relaxed. At this point, I dismount and praise her like she just the most amazing thing in the whole world because for her it was! We then repeat this a few times and then progress like that on till we can canter and be comfortable.
First Trail Ride: I feel we are ready to trail ride now. So, we start out in the roundpen like we have many times now. When I feel she is relaxed enough I get off and lead her out into the pasture. This is where we take our first trail ride. I mount and around the pasture we go at a nice relaxed walk. Now, the rest of the story is like any other horse. Except that I have only had two weeks of riding on this horse and my 30 days are up. The owners come to ride her and take her home. Her owner comes and I show them how she is doing. They can’t believe she has progressed so far. They were so amazed that I could brush her tail!!
Owners First Ride: Now this owner has not ridden a horse in 15 years and he just wants to get on a go. It is his horse, so I can’t stop him. He goes to get on and lands on her but not the saddle and of course, she bucks him off. I have only been riding her two weeks, what did he expect. I walked out and she came to me so I held her and he got on again. He rode her around the pasture for a while and they decided it was time to take her home.
The Trailer: The trailer they brought was a little 2 horse cowboy trailer in excellent shape, but remember, they had to tranquilize this horse to get her here. I had loaded her up a couple of times in my stock trailer but didn’t have a 2 horse to practice with. But, I really didn’t have much of a worry. They did. I walked that mare up the ramp and in the trailer tied her up and then shut the door and she acted like she didn’t have a care in the world. They were so happy.