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M P Aspen

Posted by greygelding , 16 October 2017 · 6,217 views

The more emotionally I became invested in Mayo brought Pam to the conclusion that when his time came it would be a tough time for me which would make it a tough time for her as well. While a heathy boy he was no spring chicken. Through a bit of hinting from her I finally came up with the idea of obtaining a replacement while he was still with us. While not in any hurry, I do enjoy horse hunting when there's a purpose in it, so the hunt began. I searched the Internet and local ads. The few local possibilities I went and saw in person were nice horses but I was looking for a special horse. Mayo couldn't really be replaced and his successor would have some big hoofs to fill. Then two horses caught my interest. One was in Tennessee, while I was located in California. The other was about a two hour drive away. The Tennessee horse was a young chestnut gelding with personality to spare. I watched videos of him over and over, I asked a lot of questions, and probably drove the owner nuts. If I could have seen him in person and looked him in the eye he probably would be standing outside my door right now. For some reason I can't explain I just couldn't bring myself to finalize the deal.
The other horse wasn't one I would usually look at twice but there was something about her that kept me interested. She was an 8 year old grey mare, pretty but not stunning, and had a nice style about her. She had been ridden while the gelding was untrained but that wasn't a factor in my decision. Something about her videos raised a concern within me but I just couldn't put a finger on it. She had the advantage of being within driving distance so we went out for a look see. The owner was very nice and took extremely good care of her horses. We were given a quick tour and then were introduced to MP Aspen. She was taken out of the pasture for a walk while we looked her over. She wasn't particularly friendly or overly curious about us, in fact she didn't really seem to care whether we were there or not. Still there was something about her that peaked my interest.
We returned home and the search went on but the two horses were clearly leading the list of candidates and I wanted to make a decision soon. I found myself leaning towards the mare so I made another visit to ride her. I usually don't ride a horse before buying it but this time I made an exception. Looking back I believe I was looking for an answer as to what was bothering me about her. On our arrival I went into a pen where she was and now she showed a curiosity and warily came to investigate. This time had the usual carrot in my pocket, gave her a small piece, and from that moment she followed me everywhere. I realized it was for the carrot but her following me gave me a glimpse of the horse she could be. Next she was saddled up and the owner rode her in the round pen at a walk and trot. Then it was my turn. I mounted and we started off and I rode like a sack of potatoes. I was all over the saddle with almost no balance but this was on purpose. I had seen how she went when ridden well, but I wanted to see how she would react if the rider was a terrible one. Obviously she was not happy but did her best to accommodate me. We left and on the drive home she was the main topic of discussion. Pam liked her and so did I but even more than before I had that feeling that something was not right. Nevertheless I made the decision and arrangements were made to pick her up.
The big day arrived and we took Mayo with us so Aspen would have some company on the ride home. I usually stop somewhere along the way to tryout a new horse on the trail but this time I had decided against it. When we unloaded Mayo I got the feeling that Aspen's owner was surprised that he looked great for his age. Mayo, on the other hand, was clearly worried. This was something new, alone for the trip down, unloaded at a stable, was this a one way trip?
Aspen was led by some items beside the path and she shied from them. No problem, we'll work on that. With a minor fuss she was loaded, along with Mayo, and we prepared for our departure. I did my usual last minute recheck of the trailer and saying our goodbyes headed for the truck. The last thing you expect a seller to say to you as you are leaving was "Be careful!" but that advice was given. That gave me a slight pause. Just what did I load into the trailer? We watched her on the camera during the trip and all was well. Against my better judgement I had a change of heart and turned into the parking area for the riding area.
"I knew it!" Pam exclaimed. "You're going to ride her. I sure hope you know what you're doing."
"So do I."
We unloaded a happy Mayo as he knew where we were, and an uncertain Aspen. She was very good about saddling and we were ready in short order. I led her over to the trail and part ways down it to a wide place where I deemed it safe to try and mount. She turned circles, danced sideways, pranced around, and basically did her best to keep me from mounting. Just as I was about to call it quits she stopped just barely long enough for me to step into the stirrup and swing my leg over. With one foot in and the other out of the stirrups she started backing up and nervously dancing. Now I was really having second thoughts about this. I ordered Pam to start Mayo down the trail Aspen started to follow as I hoped she would. Wound up tightly she was looking everything over and nervously stepping lightly down the trail. While still wary of everything she suddenly relaxed a bit and I found that there was really a wonderful horse inside her somewhere. After a short ride we turned around and with the change of direction the wild woman I started out on had returned. As we completed the ride I chose my dismount spot with care and timing it just right I stepped off.
On the final leg of the journey to the stable Pam asked "Well, did you find out what you wanted to know?"
"Yes, I did. There is a very nice horse hiding in there. I just have to figure out how to release it."
Aspen had a newly built stall waiting for her with a nice flat large pen. She wanted nothing to do with anybody and watched all passerby's with suspicion. The board owner warned the other boarders to stay away from her as she was dangerous. At that point in time she was correct. After a couple of days I received a reminder about how she was a horse with problems as I received a black eye. She had apparently had some rough ear treatment in the past, the left ear in particular, and wanted nobody to get near them let alone touch them. I enjoy grooming and handling horses without using a halter and started working with her that way. As I reached up with a brush to groom her from the upper neck down, she whipped that head around catching me in the side of the head, hitting me so hard that I developed a black eye. I was beginning to kick myself for not getting the nice Tennessee gelding. For awhile I referred her as my barrel horse because that was the only part I could readily touch. Her head and rear end were off limits as far as she was concerned. She was easy to halter as she understood that but she was unsure as to what I was up to when I had no halter. Each day had Pam and I wondering what we had done.
After a few days I decided to try riding her in the arena. Easy to saddle she waited for me to mount and settle into the saddle. With the first command she started to fidget and stress out. Then she started to back up rapidly. Everything I tried failed in my effort to stop her. Nervously she backed the whole length of the arena, straight, and at a speed that would make any working cow horse envious. She stopped just short of the arena fence and did a nervous jig. Speaking as calmly as I could and stroking her neck I finally succeeded in getting her to stop. I sat there for a minute or two pondering the situation. When I shifted my weight a little I could feel her starting to tense up again so I dismounted. She started to relax a bit right away and I led her over to the gate, unsaddled her, then turned her loose. She ran to the other side of the arena and then just stopped and watched me. As I sat there quietly observing her it slowly came to me that trust was the big issue at hand. She was afraid of being punished if she made a mistake and while trying to do the right thing she was sure something bad would happen if she got it wrong. Apparently she had a bit of rough handling, probably from a male trainer, and I figured that she thought I was just another one of those. She was an exceptionally sensitive horse, solid and bold, but responsive to the slightest touch. A simple finger poke was the equivalent of what would be a hard slap to other horses. Right then and there I knew what I had to do. The saddle would be put away until she could figure things out.

November 2020

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