(Sunday Success Stories have been revived here at Eventing-A-Gogo! Each week, we feature a reader's own personal journey through overcoming difficulty and adversity, sometimes against all odds, and pulling through no matter what. These stories are about those who never gave up, and who made a difference in the life of an animal who just needed a little love and care in order to turn around and really bloom again. Send your success stories, past or present, to EventingAGogo@gmail.com!)
This week's Sunday Success Story comes from Kae, who blogs over at Partners In Crime. She writes in to tell us about her new and budding relationship with her mare Reina, whom she found just five weeks ago in someone's muddy backyard. In just these past few weeks, Reina has begun her transformation from balking and sour to confident and forward. It's only onward and upward from here!
Partners In Crime - Reina's Story
I first saw Reina in small pen in someone's muddy backyard. She was tall, super thin, muddy, and her hooves were a mess. But she was still breathtakingly beautiful. The first thing I thought when I saw her: "What's a pretty thing like you doing in a field like this?" She was bought to be a trail horse for the man of the house, but she was too tall for him to get on by himself. So, she sat in that field, doing nothing, for at least two months before I came to visit her. They said they got her from a big breeding farm in Kentucky, and she had papers, but she was never raced.
We had two rides - one on a trail - together before I bought her. She didn't understand basic direct-rein steering, and she certainly couldn't neck rein. Any pressure on any rein meant "STOP! BACK UP!" and back up she did. That was just about the only thing you could get her to do under saddle on cue, actually. She would go forward, but only if she wanted to go forward. Any leg pressure for a trot and she'd hump up, pin her ears, swish her tail, and continue walking. If you somehow managed to get her into a trot, and wanted to canter? She'd let out a giant buck! And then canter. A stride or two, maybe. But there was something about her - aside from the sad state she was in - that I loved. She was smart, and even with all her ridiculousness under saddle, she wasn't spooky on that trail. She went under, over, and through whatever I asked (as long as it was in the direction she wanted to go, at the pace she wanted to go, of course).
So, I bought her. I brought her to the barn I had all picked out, got her feet trimmed, put her on free choice hay, started pouring feed into her, and groomed her almost every day. I decided that we would try to go bitless, since the bit thing obviously wasn't really working for her. We did flexions, worked on leading, manners, standing - anything she told me she needed work on, we did! Everything she learned, I taught with clicker training - and wow, did she ever respond to that! And, of course, we played and bonded. I wanted her to love me and trust me, so I made sure my visits were enjoyable for her. I didn't ride her again until about two weeks after I bought her, when I was satisfied that she would listen in a rope halter and that she'd gained a little bit of weight.
I hopped on her bareback and rode her around at the walk just to make sure she understood the steering situation. I rode her once, maybe twice more after that, before I took her out on a trail ride with one of the co-owners of the property. She was really nervous at first, with her head in the clouds. But she never spooked at anything, never took off with me, and there was no trace of the sour, lazy, grumpy horse I had first ridden! She was absolutely perfect, and would stop and back up with light pressure from her rope halter at all points throughout the trail ride. And about halfway through that first trail ride, a switch went off in her brain - she finally started to relax.
That was three weeks ago. Earlier this week, we walked, trotted, cantered, and galloped around a paddock. She listened perfectly. She moves off my leg and is happy to do anything and everything I ask of her. She understands my cues and works hard to please me. Her ears are always pricked up and she loves to go for me! What a difference from the horse who would only walk in one direction! I'm so proud of her progress I can barely even stand it. And she looks so much better - happier, healthier, fatter! And she makes me laugh constantly. She drinks out of the hose, plays with her tongue, yawns at me when she's bored... not only is she smart, but she has a great sense of humor!
We did trotwork today, and she responded beautifully. She moves into a trot at the lightest squeeze, and she stops within strides of when I ask. She never fights me anymore and I swear she feels like a different horse. I can feel her happiness and her relaxation in the way she moves, and I can see how easy it comes to her now - she carries her head almost level with her body, instead of flung up in the air. After our trotwork, we went on a trail ride, where she led the pack and kept up her happy, swinging walk the entire time. She didn't look, stop, or spook at all; we just enjoyed each other's company the whole ride.
And all of this... in five weeks... and bitless! I can't believe how much I lucked out with this gorgeous girl I have; she's really made me believe we can do anything!
(Send your submissions and stories to EventingAGogo@gmail.com! Gogo wants you to!)