Monday, October 8, 2012

Mouthy Monday

Hey Guys,
Yes, it's your long lost Mugwump, gearing up to come back to the literary side of the horse world. At first I didn't understand the burnout, until I realized I've been posting pretty steadily for the last five least it will be five years come April...
Who knew I'd have so much drivel to commit to cyberspace! I'm not done yet, still have some stories to finish and share, and still think I have some training questions and answers to toss out there.
I'm going to ease back in with good old Mouthy Monday, but believe me, I've been thinking and working the horses, and still have a story or two left in me. Hope you've been well.

I love this story. the author, Faith, has one of the rare qualities that makes for a true Horsaii. She acknowledges her fear. She takes responsibility, then she does something about it.
How many times have we watched an over reactive rider, farrier, trainer or veterinarian, thumping on a horse for a mild or imaginary transgression? They then cover their actions with bluster, anger and justification, my favorite being, "Some horses need to get beaten once in a while."

Faith caught herself and deals with her issues with honesty, while keeping her horse's best interest at heart. My guess is she did a heck of a job training this horse.


I pulled Kitten out of the pasture today and rode her for the first time in months. Wyoming is bitterly cold during winter and previous years I hadn't had access to an indoor arena, so it's typical that I pull shoes and send her out to pasture with her buddies in about November. Then, as soon as it's warm enough to ride, her vacation is over.
My relationship with this horse is one of the greatest prides and joy of my life. She suits me down to the ground, and part of that is all the things we have gone through together. One of the biggest issues we had wasn't even about her, it was about me, but she showed me the way out.

Before I bought Kitten, I was helping at a rodeo camp. There was a little girl trying to figure out how to trot around the barrels, but her horse was just being a pig and would not for any reason trot. I took her and her horse over to a quiet corner of the arena and was making that horse trot in circles so that she could think about steering and posting and not having to spend all her energy on trying to get that horse to move. Well, he was getting pissed. I should have seen it coming, really I should have. He gave me warning, but I was focused on helping that little girl ride.

During one of the circles, as he was coming around in front of me, he swung his butt towards me and let loose both barrels. One of his hooves (thank God he wasn't shod!) got me right in the thigh. I honestly thought he had broken my femur. My leg swelled up so big I couldn't put my jeans on, and I have never seen flesh turn the colors that injury did! Right then a deep, gripping fear of any horses' back end started. I hid it pretty well, putting on a brave and careless face, but it was there, growing and taking hold.

Right about that time the bottom of the horse market fell through. I had been looking for a horse and my dear friend had found a good prospect. Kitten was a 2 year old at the time and she was awesome. Even as a two year old she looked great, tall and lean (for a quarter horse), and her breeding was fantastic. I bought her for $250 at a local auction and marveled at my good luck all the way home.
I began the training process with a friend of mine. This was the first colt I had ever trained and I needed all the help I could get! Things were going so well, she was very smart and kind, just so kind. Even when she tested me it was sort of half hearted, she couldn't bring herself to throw a real fit.

Unfortunately the fear was still there, freezing me up and making me mistrust this horse that had done absolutely nothing to deserve it. At that point I was riding her regularly and really enjoying her. But I had stopped picking out her back hooves. I avoided them. I reasoned and excused myself, thinking that she was just fine, her hooves were fine.

There came a point where I just couldn't excuse myself any more, so I decided I would force myself to use a hoof pick on her back feet. I crowded myself in as close as I could get to her flank, picked up a hoof she was more than willing to give, and started in on it. It felt like my insides were frozen. I was clamping down, forcing myself not to think about the power she had, about another horse that was willing to hurt me to get his own way. I was so tightly wound up inside that I was going to explode at any minute.

Then she did it. She shifted her weight over onto her other back foot and I blew up. I punched her belly with my fist- fear making me move quickly and strike as hard as I could. I will never forget it. Me panting, shaking,adrenalin pounding in my ears, standing a couple of feet away from her. Her breath had left her in a grunt and she had tucked up her belly from the force of the blow. She stood frozen on all four feet, not wanting to make another move in case I pounded her again. She had no idea what she had done, she was merely shifting her weight like a good girl to take the weight off my hands and make it a little easier for me and more comfortable for her.

Then she looked at me. That's another thing I won't forget. I don't anthropomorphize animals, but if she could talk, she would have asked:

Why indeed. This horse had so much try, typically she would give me all she had during every training time. Many times she wouldn't understand what I wanted but she always tried to understand, tried to get along, tried to please. I wasn't that good at communicating with her but she had bent herself in knots trying to get it right. She had never tried to hurt me. Never even thought about it, I'm sure. I had let out all my fear in the ugliest of ways towards her and she hadn't done a single thing to deserve it. It was me. It was all me
At that moment I thought: "I am going to grab this fear with both hands and KICK ITS ASS."

So began the retraining process of myself.

Every time I rode I made myself clean out her hooves first, slowly and thoroughly. I made myself stand behind her and brush out her tail. When I was done riding and just hanging out chatting with my friends I made myself stand by her butt and sling an arm over her. At first it was so hard, I would jump at every movement she made. I would only be able to handle a little bit at a time. Slowly, though, it got easier. Every time I saw her do absolutely nothing in response to me being behind her chipped away at my distrust. She hadn't done a thing to lose my trust, but she was building it back all the same.

It felt so great to control and abolish my fear rather than my fear controlling me. I attacked and attacked and attacked until that thing went away.

And that's just one thing she did for me. I don't know if I can even explain how I feel about her. I know she is an animal, a horse, but there is a connection between her and me that is precious to me. When she has those bad days, I'm willing to give her a little grace. Because over and over, in all my bad days, she's given me a lot of grace. She's gold to me.


  1. Thank you for this. I had a bad fall off a horse and broke my hip. I've been fighting my fear in a similiar manner ever since. It's the only way I know how to get over it. But I am riding, and riding confidently once again.

  2. Good for you Rachael! Had a great conversation about fear with the big K this past week, it's post worthy and then some.

  3. I had the top 3 vertebrae in my neck broken by my first horse, and although I have no fear with my current mare, I catch myself expecting the geldings behavior out of other horses. Fortunately the greenie I've been helping put miles on for my friend is sweet and calm, and for the most part completely ignores my little panic moments. I've only caved once when riding a friends horse, but the knot of anxiety is still there on occasion.

    Next spring my filly will be 3, and I'm planning on having her broke in May. Hopefully she'll be calm and sweet and not scare me back out of the saddle.

  4. That's a beautiful story.

  5. Wow. Good story. The funny thing is, the fear doesn't have to be started by a horse. A few years back I had 2 accidents in one year, both resulted in broken bones, I wasn't anywhere near a horse. But they left me with pain, mobility, and balance issues. I felt incompetent on a horse. It's tough, thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Great post! I fell of my horse recently, and have been battling fear ever since. I hadn't fallen off in probably 6 or more years, and it was a real wake up call. I haven't ridden since, partially due to the fear and partially because here in New Hampshire it's getting dark earlier and earlier. Would love to read more about this. It's good to get the reminder that I'm not the only one dealing with this!

  7. I almost forgot, yay!!! Mugwumps is back. Can't wait for the next chapters.

  8. Excellent share. Brought tears to my eyes.

    So often they do ask Why? and we have no good answers for them. Very difficult to become aware of the need to respond and not react when the Fear is running us.

    Happy to see you again Mugs!

  9. So happy to see you back in cyberspace, Mugs!

    Love this story and her honesty. Grace is a good word.....given freely, especially when we don't deserve it.

  10. Hi Mugs! Good to see you back...

    I loved this story. What a good filly Kitten is...

    I also faced fears with my mare... I was afraid to ride her, afraid she'd toss me, afraid of her, ahem, very athletic spook. It took a long time and a good trainer to get me pointed in the right direction. One thing I realized is that this mare doesn't do one "dirty" thing under saddle. She might be scared or just testing me, but she's not trying to dump me. She is a safe sane horse, spook and all.

  11. This is a fantastic post! I definitely can relate. My sweet pony nailed me right in the chest out of blue when I was cleaning out his shed. And then my other good guy bucked me off when I'd only just started riding again after having my second baby. The fear has been a daily companion. It makes me not want to ride but like you said, every time I don't get mauled, the fear gets a little easier. I'm still working on picking up those back feet. :)

  12. Welcome back Mugs, you were sorely missed!

    Good pick on the story. I think many of us aged re-riders have been in that exact spot. I had three back buck-offs in a row (due to my own stupidity) and now I have to strangle that fear monster every time I crawl on the back of any horse other than my Old Faithful boy.

  13. Sometimes we are patient with our animals, sometimes they are patient with us. Kitten sounds lovely. So glad you two are together!

  14. Thanks for sharing your story Faith! Well written and touching. Isn't it nice how our horses can be so forgiving? Makes us love 'em even more and want to try so much harder.

  15. Wow - All of my respect. I had a similar injury from my new horse a few months ago. I am not so much worried about her rear end as her defensive reactions. Am tackling the problem of fear as well.

  16. Great post and a very real situation that most of us face at some point. It is funny how the fear can be so irrational. I have no fear of my horse but have to battle a knot of nerves deep down whenever I get on a different horse. The irrational part is my horse is a strong demanding stallion that not many will even try but after seven years with him I know that he will take care of me. Riding my friend's mare puts my stomach in a twist. For those of us that aren't trainers spending all day at the barn or riding a wide range of horses on a regular basis sometimes the fear is hard to overcome. Thanks for posting a reminder that it can be fought and conquered.

  17. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Sadly, I am dealing with an unrelenting fear of a horse that has never done a thing wrong!

    I lost my treasured gelding that I always said I would ride to hell and back and know I would survive and was gifted with a nice QH filly. From the time she entered my life she has had my number and we have never been on the same wavelength.It is hard for me to admit with over 50 years of riding under my belt but the mare scares me...

    I messed around with her trying and trying to get her started myself and by the time I gave up and brought in someone who would really get her going she was almost ten years old. I paid a local cowboy to ride her under my direct supervision for a solid year. She was so broke he started doing tricks with her, roman riding, loping circles cracking a name it she could do it. And still I was scared spitless to step on her. Not other horses, I would ride my friends goofy rope horses, jiggy barrel horses etc. with nary a bobble.

    Finally, I sucked it up and rode the mare ONE time and the next day she spooked when an errant bear passed through the neighborhood and ended up trying to jump a five foot fence which was optimistic for a 14.2 hand chubby QH. I saw it happen and saw her struggle to her feet with what turned in to a long term shoulder injury. It took her almost five years but she is moving sound this year. I know I could use her for a saddle horse and believe me I NEED the head clearing that riding would give me but I have NOT been able to make myself throw a leg over her and see how much of that expensive training she remembers. I am so disappointed in myself.