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Chapter 6 Shady - The Beginning of the Special herd

Posted by greygelding , 17 April 2016 · 244 views

What I call the special herd horses are those individuals that we would not sell for any reason. I didn't actually consider this a special group but with the loss of Primero I realized that some horses will be special and fall into this group. Over the long period of time we have owned a lot of horses but,as of this writing, only eleven have obtained this special status with Primero and Moriah the first ones. Pam fell in love with a purebred mare named Shady. Standing about 14.2 hands, the dark grey dappled lady was the 4 year old daughter of a national champion. Not having learned our lesson with our Primero, we purchased her from the same breeder. We had watched her handling other horses and found her to be a kind person. After we moved our horses up to the ranch we had our answer. The man handling them was rough and loved the whip and chain. He brought Shady out to show us and it went in this order - hit with the short whip, jerk the under the chin chain, and then say "HO!" She came with a breeding and we got our choice of stallions. She turned out to be an easy breeder and a real stallion favorite. We were warned when we bought her that she was dangerous and would probably kill someone someday. When we took possession of her we didn't use either one of the restraints but the damage was done. Without the application of those restraints we found we had a real sweetheart on our hands, but she had her moments. Without warning she would seem to switch her brain off, break into a full body sweat, and dance nervously on the line, a condition I referred to as "nut-so". This would last for two or three minutes then she would return to normal. We spent time just interacting with her on the ground and she really started to respond to us.
She had never been saddled so I figured it was time she learned. Most people fall in between the two extremes, one extreme is just hop on and ride them until they quit bucking just like in the movies. The middle ground, which is the favored one and the proper way to start a horse in my opinion, is to teach them from the ground and prepare them for riding. The other extreme is to take a very long time to acclimate the horse to the gear. This was the method used at this ranch. They would spend two weeks putting a saddle blanket on the horse and letting it stand there. Then they would put a bareback pad on the horse and spend two weeks walking it around by hand. Next came two weeks of wearing the saddle followed by two more with the girth tighten up. Finally came two more weeks walking around with a sack of feed on the saddle. Me, I don't have that much patience and the horses seemed bored with the whole process. I figured that if a horse is good with something there's no sense in boring it to death. I will go as far as the horse wants until I get a reaction then I know that's where we need to slow down and start training. I put the saddle pad on her one evening as they were walking by. "You're actually going to teach her to ride? Be careful." After they left, I walked her around for probably thirty seconds or so with no reaction. Next I placed the saddle on her back and lightly girthed it up followed by another short walk. Seeing that she was good so far I tightened the girth and repeated the process. With a bridle on her and Pam controlling the head I stepped into the saddle standing straight up, then leaned over the seat of the saddle ready to depart if she reacted badly. She adjusted herself to accommodate my weight and Pam led her a few steps. So far she was fine with all this strange stuff. She was a smart horse, willing to try new things, so with my heart in my throat I swung my leg over and settled into the saddle. The ears moved back but not in a threatening manner but in one of curiosity, seeming to be wondering what we would do next. Gathering the reins and with Pam leading we walked around. She grasped the situation immediately so I tried go and stop with wondrous results so I had her drape the lead rope over the front of the saddle and I rode her for a few steps. Of course this was the time for the "trainer" to come back by. To say he was shocked would be an understatement! "You can't do that!" To which I replied "She seems like a nice horse". I usually stop with just a couple of steps and let the horse think on the lesson overnight but I had a bit of the devil in me and when I noticed him coming I just had to ride her around. It was almost like she was enjoying showing him up as well.
We decided that we would move Sandy and Moriah to the arabian ranch where we bought the new horse. The three shared a pasture which was really a steep hill with a flat spot at the bottom. We put up our pipe corrals and settled in. About three weeks after our arrival Moriah went off her feed. Lethargic and with no appetite we had the ranch vet out immediately. He checked her over, gave her something, and said he would be back the next morning. She was no better on day two so he took samples to send to U.C. Davis. On the third day we found her laying down and before the vet came out she passed on and Pam was now in the same shape I was when I lost Moriah's father. The test results came back all negative, with the comment that these samples were from a healthy horse. This was our second loss and even though they were young it happens when you have creatures with a much shorter lifespan than humans. The vet was devastated and offered us a gelding he owned for a very inexpensive sum. Both of us were numb but we agreed to get him which brought a new color, chestnut, and joy into our lives at a time when we needed it most. His name was Bo and together with Shady we were to learn that Arabians can live a long happy life, but it would take time to get over this new loss. Bo also would teach me the most important lesion I had yet to learn. Horses are fun. By that I mean, allowed to develop their own personality, each horse is capable of doing amazing things. He started me down the unconventional path of allowing them to do things without the restraints that most people require their horses to endure. Being the magnificent creatures they are, they do whatever we want but given the freedom to do as they wish they really step up their game.

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