I’m terrible at keeping this up to date. As the quarter comes to a close, I find it harder to get excited about things. Maybe because of all the stupid shit that’s happened recently. I broke both of my helmets and damaged myself. I’m behind on my farrier homework (not that John cares, but I do). My social life is nonexistent. Worst of all, though, is that my sessions with Studly have become stressful and worrying.
He’s such a sweet little horse. Nervous, sensitive, and highly athletic. This has caused a major problem along our path because Ron thinks athletic horses need to be controlled. Before I try to discuss this error in thinking, I want to talk about what happened in the past week. I’m going to try to keep it short, because every detail isn’t crucial and I don’t want to get too angry.
After my last fall, I asked Jen for help. She came in to work with Studly because she couldn’t give me any input without seeing the horse. The first day, Thursday, went well. She lunged Studly to get a feel for him and to give him a chance to get used to her. Because it was in front of the Training One class, she couldn’t just turn him loose and get to know him in turnout. She had to work with him fully tacked.
I felt a bit like a proud parent, watching him lunge so beautifully for a complete stranger. When he was going calmly she started fiddling with his tack and hopping around. Through every step, she remained calm and kept him calm. I was able to sit in the viewing booth and hear some of the comments from the students.
Frankly, they made me a bit sick. These kids know nothing about horse training. Okay, that may not be a fair statement. The kids who were commenting know nothing about horse training. They expected Jen to just hop on and ride, because that’s what Ron had been having me do. They couldn’t see Studly’s reactions to Jen. They couldn’t feel his tension build and subside with each thing she did. Granted, they haven’t been in the arena with him, but it was so obvious to me. The comments they made about her taking too long, playing it safe, being too careful were probably the reason I had gotten hurt.
The next day was terrible. Ron decided to throw his weight around and told Jen how to work the horse. Studly was a nervous wreck by the time I took him back to his stall. Monday was the same deal, though Jen was less willing to do what Ron said. Once he realized that, he spent the hour telling the students why women don’t make good trainers and completely ignored what was happening in the arena. Jen decided that she wasn’t going to involve herself further because she couldn’t help if Ron was dictating her moves.
That left me alone on Tuesday with no help and no plan. I had a vague idea of what I wanted to do but I knew Ron wouldn’t allow it. As soon as I walked through the gate, Ron jumped on the microphone and confirmed my fear. The session went horribly and I felt like an abusive asshole. Studly wanted to trust me, was relieved to be back with a familiar person, and I had to push and shove him around like a schoolyard bully. To his credit, he stayed right at my shoulder. Unfortunately, it was out of fear rather than trust. Several times, I apologized to him (lucky for me, they can’t hear me talking in the arena), explaining and wishing he could understand my words.
I understand what Ron was trying to achieve, but I don’t agree with it. Trying to control a thousand-pound animal with fear is a tricky thing. I could feel Studly starting to look for an opening, a way to make everything stop. Why would anyone want to take that chance when they can build a foundation of trust and never give their horse reason to question them? Everything was going so much smoother when he looked to me to gauge my reaction instead of looking away for an easier, less painful route. Control only works when you’ve got it. Once the horse is gone, good luck. I’m just afraid that I’m pushing Studly to that point.