Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lady Part 2

The first few nights were pretty sleepless for me, with this big beautiful animal home. I could hear her calling for a friend as darkness came, and I was afraid she would break through our meek electric fencing. To avoid any lost horse issues, I put her in the barn over night, so she would know where home was. She was so nervous the whole time in the barn. She paced, and sweated, and was hardly through her hay by morning. I figured she was nervous since this was the first time that she had been pastured alone, with no other horses in sight, so I didn't worry about riding her right off the bat. She was too worked up, and besides, I didn't have a saddle lined up, and I was a little rusty after a few good long years off. I was in no rush. In the mean time, my older sister took an interest, and wanted to get a horse of her own, if, of course, we could house it for her since she lived in the suburbs. I loved the idea. A friend for Lady would give her some company and probably chill her out a little bit. It didn't take long to find Molly, the ex-racehorse. Jenny was in love. She always had a thing for black horses, and loved to run, so the racehorse was a perfect fit. The day Molly showed up is another one etched in my mind. Partly because I was excited to be able to trail ride with my sister again after both of us had a long break in suburbia, but mostly because Lady would have company when I could NOT be at the barn. This was so important to me. They seemed to make nice to start with. Lady was excited to see another horse - her ears were bright, and she was downright friendly with her, she came over and they sniffed each other, and she trotted around the old girl - all was well until, Molly decided she didn't want a friend just yet. She kicked Lady squarely in the flank, badly enough to make a perfect hoof print of Lady's blood. From that day forward, Lady had nothing to do with a new horse. I can't be sure she wouldn't kick the crap out of them anyhow, but until Molly kicked her, she had not shown any aggression. Irregardless, she made it a point to be the head of the herd come hell or high water.
A little time passed before Jenny got a hold of a saddle, and I dug out my old saddle. The seat was too small, but it was a pleasure saddle, so as far as I was concerned, it would work for now.
We went out, and brushed them, tacked them up. All was fine. I went to mount her, and she started dancing. Not badly, she just didn't want to hold still as I got on. I had to have someone else hold her so I could mount. Not a big deal, plenty of horses have issues with mounting. Once I was up, we were kosher. We rode in the pasture, in the bigger field (that is now a pasture) and we were headed to the woods. Jenny wanted to go fast, but I was not yet comfortable in the too small saddle, and after all, Lady and I had not gotten much of a chance to get to know each other under saddle. I have always been a somewhat cautious rider, having grown up with tales from my parents and the troubles they had with famous horses in our family - Sugar & Charlie, amongst others. Mom's stories still ring in the back of my conciousness when I come on a new horse, unfamiliar to me. Caution is always better than broken bones, or worse.
Jenny & Molly trotted off, Lady and I fell back, not intentionally, but she only wanted to be by Molly. When I tried to tell her no, and called out to Jen to wait up, she went full on rodeo. Started with the twisted buck that is her trademark. As soon as her feet hit the ground again, she went into a tiny bucking/rearing/crowhop/spin combo that I couldn't sit out in the small, ill fitting saddle. I hit the ground flat on my back. Knocked the wind out of me. Jenny watched me fall in slow motion, she said later. She came to my aid, and asked if I wanted help back up, but I knew the saddle was insufficient, and besides, I needed a block to get on her, so I walked Lady back, Jen walked with me, afraid I'd injured myself. This scenario did not repeat itself, but what little confidence I had at the time was pretty well squished. But, winter was coming, and riding time quickly disappeared before I knew it.
I knew something was off, and after working with her some more, I was sure her training was lax. Far more green of a horse than I had originally thought. Not a problem, I knew we'd have work to do together.
I spent the next few months looking into natural horsemanship, watching RFD-TV and exploring her past.
I found out that she had been from somewhere out west - the foal of some pretty heavy duty halter horses (that explains the nervousness I thought). Her 2nd owner brought her to SW Michigan/Northwest Indiana area and put her to pasture as a 2 year old. Her family had some illness and the horses went by the wayside. She didn't bother pulling the colts to geld, and before you know it, Lady was pregnant by 3 or 4. She was sold to the woman I got her from, and she foaled there. She said it was a gorgeous palomino colt, and that she was sure that Lady had kicked it in the chest - why the foal was never given veterinary care until the wound was protruding, and the colt could not breathe was not explained, but the blame was set squarely on her shoulders. The colt died, and was immediately removed, Lady didn't get to see it before they pulled it out. She never got to say her goodbye, or acknowledge his death. (Yes, I do think it's important for even a horse to get that chance.)
She was immediately sent to training with a back woods jackass that beat the hell out of her with a 2x4 to get her to cooperate. When she got wild from that, he drugged her with bute so that she would be calm enough for him to ride, and possibly more submissive when he beat her.
My husband signed me up to do a clinic in Cummings, GA with Hannah Campbell, a certified Monty Roberts/Join-Up instructor. What a wonderful experience. I came home from the clinic inspired and itching for the ground to thaw enough to put up a round pen. Our first Join-Up was magical, and immediate. That spring, I also decided to breed her. I wanted to see if it helped her disposition(it did) and if she would calm a little seeing a foal to fruition (she did). I started taking lessons from Dona Sherman, to regain my confidence, and learn a little more finesse. I picked up a second hand roper saddle, and we went to work on my 'lessons' at home between lessons from Dona. It wasn't long before I realized the extent of Lady's training was about as deep as a teaspoon.

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