Saturday, December 13, 2008


I was going to write about cold weather precautions tonight as it's -32 Celsius without the wind chill factored in (for my southern neighbors, that's -26 Fahrenheit.) But instead I'm asking the question what makes a person a horse trainer? Whiskey my coming 10 year old mare was started by what cowboy's up here call a Gonzo. The word Gonzo is a derogatory term loosely interpreted as a wannabe idiot who thinks they're all that and aren't. The Gonzo sent her out to a feedlot rider/trainer for extra seasoning (this after she pile drove his wife into the ground).

When I got her as a 4 year old she was a stressed head case who could run and roll back. Not what you'd expect from a horse with supposedly 3 months training by a "real' trainer. She was a jittery, twitchy mess. I by no means consider myself a horse trainer. While I have years of horse and riding experience and I've rode with some fabulous trainers, this is not how I make my living. It's not even how I'd like to make my living. I freely admit I don't ride nearly as well now as I did as a teenager.

If you made the mistake of flicking a rope or moving too quickly Whiskey quickly became an equine freight train. The first time I round penned her (which I do with all new purchases) I thought she was going to go through the fence. She ran and ran and ran. All I did was stand still and make soothing sounds. Eventually she got so that she didn't jump out of her skin when I flapped a stirrup. I spent the first winter I owned her doing what I called retraining. I started her as though she was a baby who'd never been touched.

It took close to a year for her to settle down. The thing that amazes me is this mare while very, very athletic, is also very, very quiet. (So quiet, my farrier actually crawled under her to show me he could!) Whiskey is now a very broke horse with all kinds of bells and whistles. We can do flying lead changes, basic dressage moves, go over jumps, track a cow, stop, spin, go over a beaver dam. If you ask her, she'll try for you. (The only thing she hasn't done is hit the roping pen because I hurt my shoulder and can't rope.) Except she has these moments that I call her ghosts.

She will never make a starter horse because of this. She's one of those horses that will buck you off if you get stupid on her. By this I mean if when you go to mount you hang off her side or kick her in her belly. She's not particularly tolerant of human stupidity. And she dislikes pressure. Put too much pressure on her sides or on her mouth and she will express her displeasure with you. While she bucked my dad off (not a horseman), it really was his fault for pulling, kicking, and taking an excessively long time to get on. Quite frankly, I'd have bucked him off too. She has never bucked me off, she's never actually made an honest effort to dislodge me. The most I've gotten out of her are high spirited crow hops when she's particularly fresh.

So I sit and wonder what type of a horse she would have been if she'd had an honest start. A good start. Would she still have these little quirks? Or would she be a superstar? Either way she's still a fun ride. And I kinda like knowing that not just anybody can ride her. (And yes I've had horsey friends ride her with no issues.)

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