Thursday, December 31, 2009

Buh-Bye, Aught Nine

I won't regale you with the litany of reasons I'm happy to see 2009 make its exit. I'm sure you have plenty of your own. Nor will I bore you with the list of personal improvements I aim to make in 2010. I'm sure you have plenty of your own. What I wish to share with you are reflections and resolutions involving my horses.

As Joni Mitchell once sang, "Don't it always seem to go, that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." Or almost gone.

"Gone" is Quaker, the little one-eyed QH who finally got the perfect home he deserves. To me, he's the one that got away. I loved Quaker, and more importantly, I trusted him, maybe even more than I trust Jaz — and that's saying a lot. Yeah, yeah, I know you've all heard me say a million times that our land won't support more than 2 horses. Nevertheless, Quaker will always be the horse I let slip through my fingers. I resolve not to make that mistake again.

"Almost gone" was my sweet Jazu. I thought I appreciated Jaz, and I do, but not nearly as much as he deserves. The thought of losing him brought me to my senses.

Poco is my first horse, and will always hold that special place in my heart that only your first horse can. I was woefully naive and impulsive. If I had known then what I know now, I never would have bought him. That said, my love for the silly beast makes me weak in the knees.

The longer I have him, the better he gets on all counts, but Poco is not Jaz and will never be remotely like Jaz. Poco would walk through fire with me on the ground. That does not translate under saddle, where he is unpredictable, at best. He is not patient or tolerant of my lack of skill. He challenges me every time I get on him. That's not a completely bad thing, because he forces me to step out of my comfort zone. I have always joked that underneath it all, he's a big scared baby. I now know that is more true than I realized. He's all bluster. He is fearful, lacks confidence, and is his own worst enemy. When he's afraid, he can worry himself into sheer panic that, if not assuaged, will escalate into a bucking episode. And me in the dirt. He doesn't look out for me because he's too busy looking out for himself. We don't trust each other when I'm in the saddle.

I have ridden Poco for hours down our road with Nita and Jaz. If only on the surface, he's fine if Jaz is with us. If Jaz spooks, forget it. Taking Poco out by himself for more than a very short distance is excessive risk taking for a person at my skill level (or lack thereof). Can these things be fixed? I'm sure they can, but I don't have the riding skill, the time, or the money for a concerted effort to make it happen anytime soon. I work full time and have an hour commute each way. During the week, the only time I have with the horses is when I feed them. On the weekends, I want my time with them to be pleasurable for us all.

I have been spending what little time (and ambition) I have working with Poco, my excuse being he's the one who needs it most. That's true, but when I am on him, it's mostly a battle of wills. I'm outmaneuvering him, trying to guess his next move, and how to redirect him. Needless to say, it can be extremely stressful. I can't really ride him and concentrate much on improving my riding skills. Not only am I not progressing, I feel as though I've regressed badly. I resolve to continue to work with Poco, but not wanting to deal with him will no longer be an excuse not to ride at all.

I somehow lost sight of the fact that the knowledge and confidence I get from Jaz are directly responsible for any success I've had with Poco. What I need is Jazu, and I resolve to ride him — and appreciate him — a lot more.

May 2010 bring health, happiness, and prosperity for us all, as well as progress on the journey with our horses.



Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful - and may you have an excellent New Year!

Cactus Jack Splash said...

Happy New Year.
Amazing the things our horses teach us isn't it.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Very wise New Years resolution-to ride the horse you enjoy more.

Mrs. Mom said...

Happy New Year to you guys!! Cant wait to hear and see that you are up on Jaz!

Desert Rose said...

You have really thought this through and I think you have it right on. It takes time and patience to get a horse and rider to the point of trust and you my dear do not have that kind of time. Much better for you to be relaxed and have fun on a SAFE ride!

cdncowgirl said...

Happy New Year!
I think that deciding to take time for both the boyz is wise. As you said what you get in confidence and enjoyment only helps you with Poco.

Pony Girl said...

Interesting reflection on Poco. Being aware of his issues and faults and acknowledging you aren't sure how to get him where you need to be is a first good step. I think this summed it up well: "He doesn't look out for me because he's too busy looking out for himself." So how do you get him to look out for you, to put trust and confidence in YOU? That is the big question. I think sometimes horses just have dispositions that are there regardless of "training." Makes me think of nature vs. nurture. Are some of these things hard-wired in the horse, or are the products of his upbringing/training?? I think he might benefit from some of the natural horsemanship groundwork. I recently read about a rescue horse on a blog that had some issues under saddle (he'd bolt and she was thrown a few times, losing her confidence) and the gal that adopted him just spent a year on groundwork, building a relationship, that helped them both. I am glad that Jaz is a safe, pleasurable horse to ride. Your amount of time with your ponies sounds like mine- it is limited and highly valuable.
Sorry for the rambling post. Happy 2010, the best to you and yours!!

Leah Fry said...

Thanks, everyone. You have no idea what your support and encouragement mean to me, especially during the rough times.

Poco was sold too many times to count. It has been impossible to trace him. I don't care what anyone says, horses with that kind of transient history develop an attitude that I anthropomorphically call the "foster child mentality." They trust no one. They hesitate to form attachments to humans. They are like unwanted children acting out. Push them too hard and they either blow up or shut down.

Nita and Heather have several horses obtained at auction or that were handed over with histories like this. They have found that it takes them about 5 years to figure "it" out; "it" being that they are home, they're not going anywhere, no one's going to hurt them, and life is good. From what I hear Nita's mare Keeley was way worse than Poco ever was. They say it was like a light switch; one day, she just figured it out. I have seen this myself in several of their horses.

Jason's mare, Dee, is a perfect example. That horse was bat shit CRAZY. Jason was the only person who could get anywhere near her. She attacked people. I was up there about a month ago, she walked up to me, and actually allowed me to touch her. That was a huge deal for her.

Everyone — Heather, Nita, Jason, vet, farrier — all marvel at the profound change in Poco from when he first got here. He was belligerent, aggressive, and had ZERO ground manners. His attitude toward me was like, "Yeah? So what?" It just takes a long time, lots of patience, and consistency. It's also up to me to become enough of a rider for him. This is not a lesson horse. That's where Jaz and my due diligence come in. Poco is a LOT of horse. But I have a lot of hope ... and a super lil gray horse :-)

AareneX said...

Leah, your Poco sounds very much like my old Toad, who was a complete chicken, even after we spent 8 years (and more than 2000 competetive miles) together. He just was a neurotic horse. He did get slightly braver....very slightly.... He dumped me on the ground at least once every year. Mostly, more than that. The ground does not get softer after your 40th birthday; I have tested this.

It was good to love the Toad. It was better, at last, to get down off of him and ride my large, green, more trustworthy mare instead.

Happy New Year to you, and Poco, and Jaz!

Leah Fry said...

Aarene, that's the part I didn't say. If I only get to play with Poco in the round pen or the arena, that's fine. I am also okay if I need to love him from the ground. I have my Jaz.

Past 50, that ground gets REALLY hard. Despite all the extra padding I have, I don't bounce. I have tested this ;-)

Rising Rainbow said...

You are so right about getting your skills up with the horse you enjoy riding. It will filter down where it needs to in the end.

Hope you have a very Happy New Year!

Unknown said...

I hear you on this.

I've just recently come to understand the level of confidence some horses need from their riders. And that confidence is conveyed by our riding skills - which we can't improve on a horse we don't trust.

Quite the catch 22.

I understand what you mean about always wanting to ride on Poco although you've got a safer option. I had the same issue with wanting to ride Cibolo when I've got Lily (aka Ms. Dead Broke) right there.

When time is limited, you want to work with the horse that needs the work. And the one you have that heart connection to.

I hope you have wonderful rides in 2010 and that Poco continues on his journey to being a more solid horse... said...

best wishes for 2010 !

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