Last Thursday I got a special delivery to my doorstep.
Meet "Buck" (a name change may be in order), a 5-year-old BLM mustang. He was adopted as a yearling and given a great start in adapting to a life with people. He has been started under saddle, has been on long trail rides and pack trips, and is now ready to move on to the next phase of his training . . . with me!
Buck came home to much interest from his
soon-to-be friends Tomato and Paddy, but he was not impressed by their antics and glares. We got him into his paddock and took his halter off and he just hung out with us while we talked . . . what else? Horses.
Buck seemed to be doing ok and settling in just fine so we let him be with some hay and water and Pippa as a neighbor. Of course I couldn't help but look out the window every 5 minutes to make sure he was still there! Before he came I was worried that he wouldn't want to be here and that he would jump out of his fencing and try to leave. Where he'd go I don't know, but I was stressed about it all day. Of course I worried needlessly (what else is new!?) because he stuck around and seemed to settle in just fine.
This first post is going to be long because I've been thinking about starting a blog since he showed up last week and have only now have gotten around to doing it. I don't want to forget our first few days so I'm going to put them all down now before I forget.
Day two I didn't have time to do anything with him, as I actually wasn't expecting him to be here, so I just let him be to let him get to know his new friend Pippa and graze in the pasture. I did go out and sit with him, though. Prior to coming here, he was living on 100+ acres with a small herd and wasn't handled on a daily basis, and so was difficult to catch. I wanted him to get used to me and know that I am the bringer of food and rewards and all things good so that he would be easy to catch and work with.
Of all the horses I've had, I've not ever actually sat in the pasture with them before, for fear of something spooking them and them running me over and/or kicking me by accident. Now here I am with this horse I've had for less than 24 hours and I'm sitting on the grass with my camera, watching him graze.
He noticed me and started to come closer . . . and closer . . .
He gave me a snuffle and went back to grazing. Good start.
Saturday rolled around and I decided it might as well be time to ride. I would guess he had not been introduced to cross ties so we started there. At first he didn't want to go into the cross tie area but with positive reinforcement and a couple of tries we walked in there and walked out. We did that a couple of times and then tied up to the trailer, which he is accustomed to, and tacked up.
I thought we'd walk around the neighborhood a little bit but quickly decided that that might not be the best idea with a 5-year-old horse whom I barely know. In short order we came across a neighbor's barking dog, a neighbor doing road work, baying sheep, more barking dogs, cars driving by, etc. Although he didn't act up, I thought it best to not push him on our first ride so we went back home and into the arena where we did a short ride.
Despite his extensive trail experience, Buck is basically green broke and doesn't really know about work in the arena. He definitely knows go and whoa, and he is very polite and stands for mounting, etc., but I can see we have a lot to do on refinement of the aids. At first he wanted to stop every time we passed the gate. Then he wanted to trot realllly fast. He was very wiggly (you cannot imagine how hard it is to walk in a straight line!) and really had no idea of what the expectations were. I tried to focus on keeping my hand steady so that he could find the right contact. After a short ride I decided to end on a good note. Plus, I was in my trail saddle, which I don't find conducive to arena work.
Sunday I brought him into the cross ties and he quickly remembered yesterday's lesson. He walked right in so we stood there for a minute so he could get used to the area. I clipped up one side of the cross ties and let him move his head around so he could get used to the boundaries that the tie set. I held on to his lead rope on the other side just in case he had any problems, but he didn't.
We went back to the trailer to tack up and this time I put on my dressage saddle. I also tried a different bit that I thought he might like better - not that it was really a problem yesterday, but today he was easier to bridle.
We went in the arena and today was better than yesterday. He is wiggly but mostly doesn't know what to do with his head/balance in carrying me - head up? Head down? Head up? Head down? Lean in? Lean out? Go slow? Go fast? Again, I tried to just keep my body and hands still so that he could find his balance. Today was better than yesterday and we worked on mounting/dismounting a few times to end the lesson.
After the ride (keeping them short at about 20 minutes) we worked on trailer loading and after about 20 minutes I got him to easily follow me in. This trailer is a straight load and so I'll need to teach him to self-load, but first things first.
I turned him out in the triangle pasture and put Paddy in the front pasture next to them so they could have their official meet. Everything went fine - no problems, which is great news!
Monday I was interested to see how much he remembered from the previous day's training session. We groomed and tacked up in the cross ties with one tie attached with me holding the lead rope. No problems. No problems again with bridling. Walked out to the arena and got on and had a lovely ride. Kept it short and sweet, again focusing on go and whoa, steering, circles, and steadiness in the bridle - there was definite improvement from the day before. This time, to end the ride I opened the arena gate from his back and we walked back to the cross ties. We untacked with both ties attached to the halter and he stood perfectly quietly. Great progress! We did a brief trailer-loading exercise and turned him back out to the pasture.
This morning was difficult, as it started raining and I had to play musical horses. Last night Paddy and Tomato had been in the barn and Pippa was in the barn pasture so that Buck could see him. When I put Pippa in the stall because of the rain, Buck was worried and calling for him, so I moved Buck to a closer pasture. He was still stressed and started running around so I moved him to the barn pasture. The good news in this scenario is that he let me catch him and didn't act like a crazy man while I was leading him up to the barn pasture. Paddy would have been jumping around at the end of the lead rope and it would have been a scary and potentially dangerous situation - and Paddy is 13 years old!! At 5 years old, Buck was a gentleman and very easy to handle.
So Buck spent the day in the barn pasture area with the other three horses in the barn. He found a wind break when he needed to and when the weather cleared he made his way around the pasture. All seems to be well in his world.
So far I'm very pleased! I wanted a horse who would be a project, who had a good mind, and great feet. I wanted something I could trail ride, but also something I could bring along for other fun activities - camping, dressage, jumping, XC. Looks like he fits all my criteria, and then some!