It’s only now that I’m finally caught up on sleep and the days have returned to normal (with 90 some 5th grade trudging through my classroom doors) that I’ve begun to reflect of the blissful chaos of this past weekend (and week really!).
It started nearly two weeks ago when a little (okay 15hh and not so little) buckskin mare that I had admired for the better half of nearly two years became available. She was in need of a loving home first and foremost as her situation wasn’t bad (at all) but her owner had come to the decision that the mare needed better. Better. Better how? A home that would love like her owner did, where she could be cared for, safe, loved, and potentially work. She had a bucking problem but a kind eye. She’s had plenty of days of professional training and was beyond beautiful. WIth a few discussions I messaged about her. A few moments later I was set up to meet her. A week later the news came that our home was selected and we’d be getting her. It was between the first message and the good news that I decided to enter her in the local mustang show. I’d have no time to work one on one with Kahlua, the new mare, before the show. I figured she was trained and I had a fair amount of horse sense. It would work. We win the extreme trail course and take home the money. It was a perfect plan. We didn’t need a bond. We both had past experiences.
I will never underestimate the bond between my horses and I and what it does for us again. Until I forget and I do underestimate it’s importance at least!
Don’t worry; we did not win.
Kahlua is going to be a phenomenal mare (in most aspects she already is). But we didn’t have the critical bond, the trust, needed to succeed.
This show was a scary one for me at first. I was going to enter with a horse I barely knew, on my own, and show out of my car. What was I thinking?
In case you’ve never seen a scion packed for a horse show, here it is! Hay, buckets, grooming tools, tack, and everything shy of the horse itself all thrown into the hatchback.
I was nervous. A horse I had only met once, I my friendship with people at the show was Facebook friends at best and even then only a small handful, I was on my own without my show assistant/mom. I was excited. The horse I was entering was drop. Dead. Beautiful. I was confident in my ability. I was confident in my mare.
Well… That bond is crucial.
Kahlua was a good girl. Kahlua was an amazing girl. Nothing spooked or phased her. When she was concerned she simply lifted her head and stared as she evaluated the situation. She stood tied,unflinching and unmoving when I had to use the restroom or get a drink of water. But we didn’t have that trusting bond despite her saintly behavior. We didn’t have the established relationship and roles of who’s is truly lead mare and who is supposed to listen. She didn’t know to trust me, to listen, when I said “let’s go” in an uncomfortable situation. Trail obstacles that presented a challenge were met with a refusal. A soft, kind, mule like stubborn refusal. I’ll take that over rearing, kicking, bolting, etc but I know had we worked and practice it could have been better.
Trust with a horse comes from time. It takes time to get to know a horse, time for a horse to get to know you, and time working together. It’s through working together that a partnership is formed-a team created. Round pen work is where I like to start, followed by in hand walks and trails. Trick training is another favorite of mine as they’re quick exercises that get a horse’s brain to engage differently than when you’re simply asking for physical tasks such as walk, trot, canter. Kahlua and I will work on these just as Flint and I and Juno and I.
The show itself was an absolute blast. It was different than any show I’ve been to before. I’ve found that often, with breed based shows, people tend to look out for their own and their own alone. This isn’t to say helpful people can’t be found but it’s… different. With the miniature horses I met plenty of friendly people, a few helpful, but most stuck in their own cliques that seemed to form around barns, stables, and/or trainers. The mustang show was a world apart. Everyone was willing to help out everyone else. When Kahlua refused to move into the wash rack the nearest person offered to step in and help with pressure from behind. The same when loading her into the trailer. People were happy to help hold horses, offer training advice, help out with a difficult horse, set up props, and just plain check on a newly-met-friend/former stranger’s well being. It was a
community family of support. We all understood the trials and tribulations that come with wild horse ownership/training/domestication. Everyone wanted everyone to succeed. There was still the edge of competition but it was offered with such a supportive network behind it that the experience was nothing short of magical.
It leaves me waiting for the day I can return with Kahlua (and Juno and Flint) to experience it all over again but this time win.