I drove 5 hours to pick Heidi up. We had to go through Atlanta traffic and it was hot and stressful for her. When we got home, I turned her out with my ottb gelding, Baron. He adored her immediately. After a few days, I integrated her into the herd, which is just two other horses- Sunny, an elderly palomino quarter horse, and Charge, a young, spunky Saddlebred. Heidi is the only mare, which I’m sure she enjoys.
My plan with Heidi is to do a whole lot of lunging and ground work before I do much riding. I did want to ride her a little just to see what she knew and see what I’m dealing with as far as her “attitude” and bucking issues go.
The first couple days with Heidi I didn’t do anything but groom and feed her. She would pin her ears if I approached her in the pasture and she resisted fly spray, picking up her feet and being groomed in certain areas. She didn’t seem to care much for me. I didn’t blame her. She barely knew me.
The first time I rode her, I hopped on bareback in the pasture while my friend rode Sunny. She followed Sunny around and did all right. She seemed a little nervous, but she didn’t give me any attitude.
The second time I rode her was with a saddle in our little grass arena. Again, she seemed nervous but she listened to me and tried to do what I asked. I noticed she moved off of leg well.
The third time I rode her she was a totally different horse. I got on bareback and asked her to move away from the barn. She bucked me off. I got back on and she reared then bucked me off again. Well, that wasn’t going to work, so I took her in the arena and made her move her feet for about 45 minutes. I worked her hard that day so she understood that bucking got her worked much harder than just letting me sit on her for a few minutes.
Given how pissy she had been with the bucking and how she didn’t seem to care much for me, she was very respectful while she free lunged in the arena. She would turn and face me and she didn’t kick out or charge me or do anything blatantly rude. She did not like being made to run, so she was looking to make friends and make it stop. I was impressed by how respectful she was. Obviously she’s not a totally rank horse; she just has issues under saddle.
After getting bucked off twice in about 2 minutes, I decided I was going to completely restart her. Obviously there are holes in her foundation and the best way to go about fixing them is to start over from the beginning. I started lunging her in a bridle every day. I tried using a chambon, because I had a lot of success with it on my last project horse, but she was too reactive about pressure. She braced against it instead of giving in and lowering her poll.
Lunging in a bridle vs. a halter is all about getting the horse to accept the bit and reach forward into the contact. The people I bought her from had been riding her in a halter and reins, so that told me she had issues about the bit. Sure enough, when I tried to bridle her for the first time, it took about 15 minutes. She pinned her ears and clamped her mouth shut. With a lot of patience and perseverance, I got the bridle on her. Every day after that it got a little easier. She’s not perfect yet, but I can do it in 2 tries now, rather than 10 or 11 tries.
At first on the lunge line, she only went to the left. She did not understand the concept of changing direction at all. She was also extremely nervous. She rushed around in a lightning fast trot and was very reactive about the lunge whip. Again, patience and persistence paid off. She quickly learned how to change direction and before too long she gave me a walk instead of the crazy trot. The key with her is consistency and patience. (Actually the key to every horse is consistency and patience.) Once we got into a routine where she knew what to expect, she was much more agreeable. As with many horses, it seems a lot of her issues come from not understanding what’s being asked of her. The more I stick to a routine, the better she gets.