I haven’t written too much about it, but there have been moments of real despair when I’ve thought that Z would never make a riding horse. That may sound bizarre but I, like Hempfling, think there are some horses – whether due to physical build, emotional trauma or mental ability, which simply don’t make riding horses. Their lot in life is to be companions and pets, not servants or partners to humans.
I briefly owned a horse named Red, who, due to her genetic tendency inherited from her mother, and some sort of emotional trauma, decided that whenever she was mounted it was time to rear and fling herself over backwards. Other then trying to kill her rider she was the most sweet and tractable of all horses.
Z had some ground manners similar to Red and when I discovered that, I thought UHOH. I really should have paid more attention to her breeder who told me that Z’s dam (who she looks like a mirror copy of in coloring and conformation) was extremely difficult to put under saddle and the breeder hadn’t ridden her in years.
Her level of aggression and intractability, quite evident when we had her at 3H (she was about 2 years old), were such that my husband thought she would never settle down to riding. His prejudice might be due to the fact that Z kicked him in the face and he ended up in the ER. The barn owners both avoided any contact with her, and other boarders felt I was getting in a lions cage so would watch in entertainment. I was the only person there that felt relatively safe entering her pasture, and even then I carried a whip (but not a chair).
While at FR, her aggression seemed to be keyed to “hunting.” If anyone small (person, dog etc…) entered her paddock she started to stalk it. I cautioned the BO strongly not to allow any of her children in the paddock. Z refused to back down from any fight, and at 14 hands creamed the heck out of my 16.2 gelding, Big Guy and tamed the 16.3 mare Dee. Now at WCS she mostly takes second place to the 17 h gelding (nicknamed Gigantor by Rugby Guy), the bites and marks I find daily on her show that she has not taken second quietly.
While I can admire all this fight and gumption, it makes it difficult to turn her into a riding horse that needs to take #2 place in the human-horse plan. When she came back from the trainers last spring, there was good stuff done but she was still very much “green” and ready to continue her own battle against the idea of riding (i.e. standing still no matter how much you asked for forward).
Last fall, during Rugby Guy’s rides, we would have a good day or two, but would quickly backslide into bunnyhopping, striking out with her rear legs (that’s how husband got clipped), or just not moving. I started to pull my hair out again thinking maybe I should just give up and let her be a pet…?
When we went back to work 4 weeks later (through the holidays and Z being swollen all over her chest and shoulders from a fight with Gigantor – who got stitches in his head just like husband!), I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I was guessing that we would have some fits and starts, bucking, striking, and standing still, but I am very happy to report that the success seen in Week One continues!
Baby is starting to grow up and take some pride in her work!
Most of our riding work has taken place in the roundpen. My plans were to get her out of there as soon as she stopped bucking. It’s my belief that a horse that is bored will find mischief (idle hands or hooves as the case may be); if they misbehave then find something harder for them to do!
This last week, Rugby Guy has been taking Z (after an initial RP warm up with some walking and trotting) out to a big pasture vacant of horses (these two went back to the east coast I believe). They even started some cantering! Z’s ears are perked up and she seems far more interested and moving forward. We had a bit of rain, so Rugby Guy took her through rain puddles and rode her a bit around the property.
The only hitch was when the BO dropped a piece of sheet metal – Z levitated into the air with all four feet and moved sideways by about two feet. Other than that (and who could have blamed her?) she really is becoming a riding horse!