I don’t think Color did…
She has earned her semi-retirement, but it gets to be a little annoying after a while to pay for a horse you can’t ride. And it was rather depressing to hear about all my friends riding and getting ready for summer shows. I have a great horse just sitting in the pasture, so it’s about time that I fixed her.
Earlier this week, I saw the documentary Buck which tells the story of master horseman Buck Brannaman. It delves into his background, his philosophy with working with horses, and several situations he encountered. There were many details that I have never even realized, but those difficult times really made him the horseman he is today. I definitely recommend the documentary which coincidentally has won many major awards at independent film festivals across the US. Anyone who has even a passing interest in horses should go see it.
I’ve always loved Buck, Ray Hunt, and other similar trainers. I was first introduced to their style of horsemanship and colt starting when I was 12 years old. We needed professional help with my 3 year old quarter horse, Dune, and were referred to Mr. Gary Townsend who ended up being an answer to prayer. I learned so much about training horses from watching him, and his methods influenced the way I still ride and train today. I still use the original Double Diamond rope halter with the extra long lead. Mr. Gary taught me that to be in control when riding, you have to be in control on the ground.
After seeing the documentary, I was inspired- and also a little depressed. Buck had a quote in the film that your horse is a reflection of yourself, and that most of the time, people don’t have horse problems… horses have people problems. I know I’ve made mistakes with training and riding, and most of Color’s bad habits are my own fault. We’ve done a lot right, but I’ve also created some problems and allowed them to continue.
So, in 100 degree weather with a 20 year old thoroughbred, I pulled my rope halter back out.
Wednesday was a bit of a disaster. I did about 20 minutes of groundwork with her, and I was pleased to see she remembered how to move her hindquarters, respond to my cues, and still respect me on the ground. It was a further starting point than I had anticipated. I had optimistically brought all my grooming supplies, saddle, and bridle into the middle of the ring in case things went well. She was listening, responsive, and stood ground-tied like a pro. So, I saddled her up, did about 5 more minutes of groundwork and led her to the mounting block.
As soon as my butt hit the saddle, kids descended onto the farm, people started feeding their horses, the wind picked up, and Color threw a temper tantrum that resembled the Tasmanian Devil. I quickly hopped off, did a few more minutes of ground work, and hosed her off slightly annoyed. I was on her back a total of 4 minutes. Wouldn’t you know… everyone disappeared as soon as I fed her! I also could hear a little voice that sounded an awful lot like Buck and Mr. Gary telling me I ended on a bad note. I needed to remember to control my emotions and anxiety, or else not ride.
This morning I was a little more determined. I dumped all my stuff unceremoniously in the middle of the ring, trekked through the pasture, and led my reluctant, old mare back to the ring. Ground work commenced just like last time, and I was a little firmer in how I worked with her. I pushed her a little further, and she was just as good. So, I saddled her up again, and tried to breathe deeply as I stuck my foot in the stirrup.
We rode around the ring for almost 30 minutes practicing circles, walking nicely, and we finished with a slow trot. She threw a few small temper tantrums, but for the most part was very well-behaved! It was a pleasant surprise! She was a little anxious, but quickly responded when I asked her to come back to me. I rode her with a kimberwick, which I know Buck would not approve, but I really don’t want to be on a bolting retired racehorse, so we might go back to our snaffle next week to practice one rein stops and start completely back at the walk. I definitely need to remember to be patient. Ahhh, my arch-enemy…. Patience.