Tuesday, October 21, 2008

My horses, Part 1, Sassie

I am going to say a little about what's going on with her too at the end, but we'll start about my mare, Sassie. (that is her above and also her pretty side in my little avatar) (and I can't get my spacing to change right, so I'm sorry about that too, lol)
Registered name, Sonny's Hot and Sassie. My mare is 7 years old. She is exactly 2 months older than my son. I know they say all horses birthdays are on the first of January every year, but it's hard to say that when it says on their registration their exact date of birth. Anyhow, she's 7 and for the first two years of her life she was kept in a stall. Not getting taken out for any reason at all. No exercise, not to clean stalls, not to be groomed (if that even ever happened), nothing. I take that back, and I'll explain in a sec. Unfortunately we knew the owner personally. Instead of actually cleaning out her stall, he would open the door, empty a bag of shavings or two on top of the dirty stuff and slam the door shut. My husband helped him clean out the stall one time, and hubby claims it was the only time that stall was probably ever cleaned, and it took them two hours to just dig it out! When they fed her, they would dump the grain through a little opening in the one part of the stall and they would throw hay over the top because they were "scared" of her. Hardly any human contact. When he did take her out, as I mentioned above, it was to "break" her. That meant that he tried the old barbaric way of tying her to a post and trying to beat her into submission. She was deathly afraid of him and even after we took over her, if he came in, she would get really worked up and you could see fear in her eyes.

Along came us. I'm not saying we are her savior or anything, but her life is definitely much better. I'm sure anything would have been. We got her about 5 years ago because we were painting at the riding center. To explain, our friend came from a very affluent family. They owned their own business, the whole family was employed there, and they also owned this therapeutic riding center which also boarded horses. And they show Tennessee Walking Horses. Our "friend" had two horses (both registered paints, the other one was Remington, RIP, and I'll talk about him in another post) that his mother had bought him that he was going to "break and train" to do god knows what. Well, the riding center needed the carpets cleaned and some painting so my husband busted his butt after working all day and on the weekends to do it. The son, our friend was tired of his horses (he didn't know how to actually train them) and knew we had wanted horses, and we had actually kind of started taking over their care anyhow, by cleaning the stalls. His mom couldn't pay us with cash, so she said she asked if we wanted the horses, she would just give us them and we could call it even. YAY!! Free horses, right?? Wrong!! lol. The mare was super crazy. You could not touch her. You could not lead her without her blowing up. You could not do anything. The more I cleaned her stall, the more comfortable she got with me because I would talk to her quietly and not really throw myself at her. She was very curious and would eventually come over and sniff at me. She's still curious to this day. When my husband would try to clean her stall, she would pin him in the corner and face her rear end at him. He wasn't too keen on that, so he usually let me clean the stall. I guess you could say we bonded. She did not like men. It took her forever to let my husband do anything with her at all.
We had her about 2 1/2 years and just kind of let her be. We went out and cleaned her stall, turned her out to run and play, groomed her (in her stall) and just interacted in general with her.
After 2 1/2 years my husband was like ok, we love her but we can't just let her sit here. Her friend Remington had already died and we had adopted Chip (again, his story will come later) and I had been riding Chip, but we needed to do something with her. I sent her over to my old trainer that I had lessons with because she always seemed really good with horses. She said yep, we'll get her done. Well, two months and $800 later (and really only one month of training), the trainer was moving and all my horse had learned to do was lunge. When they had tried to put a bareback pad on her, she took and ran right into the end of the arena and had a stifle injury, a HUGE hematoma. How the HECK does that happen??? So we ended up taking her home and the only thing we could do was lunge. She lunged beautifully, but that's all we could do.
Then she had about a year of rest (and lunging for exercise and practice voice commands). We had a friend who was 1/2 Indian (I only point that out that because she was AMAZING with horses and was just natural, they did whatever she asked them to do, like a horse whisperer, lol) and we employed her to help train my girl. After about three months of training three days a week, we had gotten her to the point where we could touch and groom her in cross ties, walk her without her jumping on you, got her saddled AND to the point where we could sit on her. I could sit on her for hours and she wouldn't flinch. (It would take more than this blog to describe everything about her, so I'll just try to keep it simple for now.) When it came time to actually move with someone on her, the trainer was going to have me hold the lunge line and she was up on her to steer. Well, that day there happened to be a bunch of young girls running their horses around inside and my girl was a little freaky anyhow and she kind of flipped out. We ended the lesson there. That was the last lesson with that trainer as before our next scheduled lesson my girl had gotten kicked in her lower hind legs and had nasty gashes that we had to soak with bleach wraps. That was going to halt lessons for a few weeks. Then the trainer found out she was pregnant. Then we ended up leaving that barn because a bunch of BS that was going on. The next barn didn't have anywhere safe and enclosed, so training didn't go on.
There were lots of things in between, but the third and final trainer started this spring and Sassie was actually broke to ride. The trainer's girlfriend was polishing up another horse at our barn and said she stated she was in no way interested in training the young rank horses anymore, lol, but said her boyfriend might be up for it. He judges at a lot of the quarter horse and open shows. We made arrangements for him to come out to evaluate her. He basically took her out, walked her around the arena and said, well, I don't have much hope and you might want to send her down the road, but that he'd give it a good honest try if we wanted to, he just didn't want to waste our money. He thought she was really skittish and was jumping at nothing, head to the sky, trying to hide her head in his side and was just goofy in general. (This is why the b.o. nick named her Alpo) I would be super guilty if I didn't give her one last good honest try since things had happened at the previous two trainer's to stop her actual training. He said ooooohhhhhh kaayyyyy and we set up our price and frequency and he would come out to our barn, which was a plus. He started lessons and voila, after the first week, he was up and riding her without anyone holding her. It was magical, I was truely in awe. I really wish I had had my camera with me to do a little video of it. I kick myself now of course. He says he wishes I would have got him telling me she would never be ridable or a quiet horse. And now here we are 6 months later and I'm riding her like she's been ridden for years. Ok, that's not totally true, but after 5 years of not riding her, it's a dream come true and I'm so glad I didn't just give up like everyone was telling me to do. I knew deep down there was a good horse in there. It just took lots of time and patience (and $$), but we're there. I hope she will be my forever horse no matter what.
So here's what's going on now. Things have been going good but just recently I've been having problems with her. She's not a bad horse anymore and she has a lot of give, she's not trying to just be a brat, I don't think. I think part of her reason for acting up is that she's out somewhere in her neck or hips. Her and my other mare (named Sis, a rescue, and her story will come later as well) must have been attempting to figure out who was alpha mare in their little herd of three. I don't know if it was an age before beauty type thing (Sis is 23ish, Sas is 7) or what, but both came out with battle scars. lol The third little mare wanted nothing to do with it and just stayed out of the way. Anyhow, one good blow probably did it and I think she's out, because she was good before their fighting started. My husband said her gait is a little off as well and she won't turn or tip just her head to the right. She just turns her whole front body in the direction. Anyhow, with that in mind, I haven't been working her too hard. Last night, with the advice from someone who made comments on mugwump's website about her similar mare, I worked just basically on transitions last night. Just walk to jog, jog to walk, walk to stop, jog to stop, etc. I had found myself to be giving her more or stronger cue's than I probably should have been. Like for walk to jog, I was just squeezing really hard. I went back to what I used to do of just bump bump bump until she started going and then I stopped. I also had her go at each gait for just a little bit of time and then praised big. When she did stop and balk, which is what she started doing recently, I just was persistent with what I was asking, didn't get frustrated or punish her in any way, which I normally don't anyhow. I just kept at what I was trying to do and she would go each time with less and less asking. She did excellent, even with it being cold out and darker. I didn't want to ride inside because a girl with an idiot crazy draft horse was working in there and kicking up too much dust and I know our two feed off each other's craziness. lol. So we stayed outside as it gradually darkened into night. And she did just fine. I decided to hold off on loping until the chiropractor comes out and see what happens then. But it was a good night, I was relaxed and my girl had a good night of riding.

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