Friday, January 20, 2012


I was riding a new horse.

It wasn't a matter of the way we got on together. We had been good for a long time.I backed off the strenuous work outs and simply wandered around the property for several days, letting her meander with minimal direction from me.

She was fun to play on. All of her fear and anger were man made. Out in the fields, left to our own devices she was calm, bold and willing.She would work her way down the creek embankment and into knee deep water without hesitation. We could scramble across a shale covered slope like a mountain goat. Blowing plastic, blaring car horns, rattling traffic signs and heavy traffic meant nothing to her. She would lope free and easy without a sign of bolting up the wide open fire trails in the National forest.

I was starting to get a glimmer.

It was about acceptance instead of tolerance.

We always seemed to share a non-stop silent conversation when we were training.

"Oh no you don't," Tally would say.

"Sure I do," I'd reply.

"Well, OK, but just this one thing, and only for you. I could change my mind any second."

"Great, now let's try the next thing."

"Oh no you don't."

I had been desensitizing her to frightening stimuli, building her trust through careful give and take and ya da da, ya da da. All the great stuff I'd been reading and learning had been working, or so I thought.

There was a trap in all of my gentle, intuitive, body language reading, open minded training. I got physical results, but I didn't truly have Tally's understanding. She had learned to tolerate touch, riding, training for maneuvers, but I hadn't gotten her to accept any of it as a way of life.

Tyler had got on and rode the tar out of her. It was simple as that. It wasn't about kindness or cruelty, reading the horse or not. It was about getting on and staying on until she accepted him as a fact in her life. Not somebody to tolerate today, but accepting the fact she would be ridden. Period.

It had worked too. She was calmer, happier and easier to ride. All her small resistances were gone. No more wild eyed jumps when I got out the same brush she had been groomed with every day. No more sucking back because I approached on her off side instead off her good side first. No more snorting, leaping jumps in the air when we crossed a shadow from the arena windows.

It occurred to me I had been catering to her quirks and fears, even if it was only to stop what I was planning in order to handle the problem she had just dumped in our way.

The Big K was eternally telling me to "Just go!" I was finally beginning to get his point.

By trying to explain every single step to Tally I had lost the original goal. To get on and ride.
Tyler had ignored the little stuff and focused on the primary. Tally had accepted the big fact that she could and would be ridden. The rest faded away.

On the flip side, I had made enormous headway with a horse deemed unrideable. Could she have come this far if she had started out with Tyler's (and by osmosis the Big K) simple, across the board training style?

When did finesse and careful thought need to be replaced with pure and simple riding?

I snapped out of my deep thoughts when Tally snorted at a nose full of No Seeums. I had more questions than answers, typical of my relationship with Tally, but I had a sudden flash of insight.

For the first time I had trusted her enough to let her go. I had become so lost in thought I'd forgotten I was even on her back. She hadn't let me down.


Becky said...

What a GREAT way to start my Friday. Thank you for this chapter!

When you're finished with this Tally series, will you start a series about how to find the, uhhh, "balls" (for lack of a better term) to just calmly "get on and ride" a horse that's sucking back, blowing, snorting, and leaping around?

KD said...

"Tyler had got on and rode the tar out of her. It was simple as that. It wasn't about kindness or cruelty, reading the horse or not."

Love that....wish my friends and I had the courage to do just that with some of our goofball horses.

nagonmom said...

This sounds like my trainer. He says that to be a good horse, the horse must submit to being ridden. I think that is like the acceptance you write about. He called it being broke, not broken of heart or spirit, but being used to having a job, and that that job is to be ridden.

Anonymous said...

Oh jeez, this post makes me so darned happy I'm about to cry. It also gives me a lot to think about, like, stop riding so much in my head, and start riding more with my butt.

SweetPea said...

I've always found that when I am out on the trail by myself I get "lost" in thought and have the best rides and the lightness we all crave.

When I'm in the arena "trying" to ride it all seems to go sideways.

I guess that's why I like being out on the trail so much :)

Shadow Rider said...

I don't think she would have made it without your intervention. Yes, she did well with the 'ride the tar out of her' work now, but that was after you had broken through all her other issues, and made a trust connection.

It's a delicate point, knowing when it is time to switch from trust building to 'ok, time to work for a living.'

Peanut said...

I agree with ShadowRider - Tally needed the broad foundation you provided her first. You showed her she could trust someone - only then was she was ready to expand that trust.

MichelleL said...

There is a lot to be said for Trust being a two way street. Glad you both managed to make that happen with out getting yourselves run over too much in the process.

mugwump said...

Becky -those would be "ovaries" not "balls."

It doesn't take a series, just K giving me "the look."

strivingforsavvy said...

Awesome. Please come here and help me with my 'problem' horse. She sounds so much like Tally!

Sh said...

Pa rt of me is wondering how Bill took to all this too... After being mangled twice by Tally, it must have been hard for him to not be resentful, and learn something from the situation.

mugwump said...

Ahhhh Bill....posts, stories all kinds of stuff about Bill.
BUT I think you guys may have noticed, I like to write about horses, not people.

Anonymous said...

“Don’t treat them like they are. Treat them the way you’d like them to be.” Tom Dorrance

I read this quote every day because it is a sticky note on my computer's desktop, however, until reading your post, I never really "got it".

RHF said...

I have been going through a huge growth spurt in my riding and these posts are totally where I've been headed, Mugs! I ride at a busy barn, and, increasingly more often, I find it myself looking for ways to ride alone. It's hard to "get my zen on" when I'm splitting my attention between what I'm asking for and where everybody else is. I hope someday I'll be able to ride with total clarity in any conditions.

Chiron said...

It should go without saying, but not everybody is physically or mentally capable of doing what Tyler did. He sounds like an exceptional young horseman.

I'm curious, Mugs. Knowing what you do now, would you be able to ride a "Tally" thru it like Tyler did? I think some of us can ride some of the tougher ones, but only a handful can ride the ones like Tally.

Each of us has to find our own level of difficulty. I'm not saying that most of us couldn't step up a notch or three in the courage dept., but from what I've read, courage alone wouldn't get you thru a ride like Tally.

I applaud you for having the brains to take her to someone else, and I envy you for having someone like Big K and Tyler to take her to.

The decision on when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em is pretty much case by case and different for each of us.

mugwump said...

Chiron - I can't really answer that one. I looked at it as a learning experience.

I did WTC Tally. I took her out. I thought I was on the right track. If she would have quit bolting with other people I never would have figured out she needed to step up a notch.

If I had ridden her longer I would eventually have become OK with letting her go. I also have confidence she'd have been all right.

I am still to slow to encourage my young horses to move out, but I make sure I get it done.

Where my problem lay was in not knowing how to get her to accept another rider. My fault was in treating her so carefully she wouldn't tolerate any mistakes or differences in how she was ridden.

Was I afraid of her? Not at that point. Earlier on, hell yes.

mugwump said...

Chiron - I'm old. There's no way I have the chops to deal with a horse like Tally now. I leave that to the kids who still bounce.

Chiron said...

... and the congregation said "Amen".

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