My last blog talked about my surprise lesson in learning to pay attention to my horse. I learned so much from that accident, most of all that coming off of your horse hurts. For years I continued to ride Harvey, mostly just in enclosed areas and not really asking much of him. One morning, about 3 years after my accident, I woke and was terrified of riding Harvey. I was really afraid of him. Nothing new had happened to trigger this fear; it must have been my subconscious getting to me.
After about a year of just letting Harvey hang out in the pasture I decided I needed to get over my fear. Harvey loves to be ridden and it wasn't fair to him to not ride him. I looked for a trainer to help both of us. I wanted someone that would get him back under saddle and help me overcome my fears.
I found a woman that lived just down the road from me. We talked for several days and she agreed to work with Harvey and give me lessons. I thought this would be perfect, Harvey definitely prefers women so having a woman trainer should make this much easier for him. She came and got Harvey on a Saturday and started ground work with him on Monday. She wanted to give him the weekend to settle in and get used to all of the commotion on the property.
She spent almost two weeks doing ground work with Harvey then had someone get on him bareback. Harvey had never been ridden bareback so of course he reacted to it. He didn't explode; he just became very stiff, nervous, and "danced" around. She told her helper to get off of him that he was too dangerous. The next day she called me and told me that Harvey had hurt his back and that I should take him home. He was a little sore in his back and I'm not really sure what happened. She also decided that she couldn't help Harvey, that he wasn't safe to ride. She suggested that I sell him and buy a horse from her that was better trained and take lessons from her. I agreed to take riding lessons.
The woman also ran a horse rescue that specialized in draft horses. After a few lessons on her Thoroughbred, she put me on one of the draft horses... bareback!!! The entire lesson I just sat on this mare, I don't think we took more than 5 steps. She was huge compared to Harvey and I was so nervous. I worked on remembering to breathe, trying to relax, and my balance. I was amazed at how much more confident this made me. My fear of riding was diminishing quickly.
After several riding lessons I decided I really wanted to ride Harvey again. I found a friend that was "fearless". He agreed to get on Harvey. As long as I stayed close Harvey was perfect. He had not had a rider in over a year, he was a little unsure but he did great. I decided I was ready to get back on him.
I have worked with Harvey for almost 3 years now, trying to retrain him and myself. I had to learn to make him do what I asked. He did get a little spooky during his time off too so we have worked with desensitizing both of us a lot. We have worked on the one-rein stop, verbal stops, and stopping him with "my seat". I needed to know that I had several options for getting him stopped. I have also taught him a few unconventional things to help build my confidence about getting him to stop. I taught him that "bumping" with my legs means go but "squeezing" with my legs means nothing. I needed to know that if I panic and squeeze that he will not react to it.
A few months ago I started taking Harvey off our property for some short rides. He is doing really well. I think he is finally ready to get back out on the trail. My concern is whether I am ready to get him back out there. I have some friends that have offered to ride him on trail but I really think this is something that Harvey and I need to do... maybe in a few weeks.
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