It was apparent to me that all my time with Tucker had spoiled me. I adopted him at the age of 6 months, and while he was wild and untouchable for the first 2 months, once I was able to halter break him, the rest of his life with me was pretty easy. He accepted everything with no questions. Now I was back to owning an OTTB...while very level headed, she was none the less, a very young Thoroughbred. What was I thinking??
I had resolved that I was not in any hurry to get on Secret, and that the plan was to bond and work with her on the ground. Because she had just turned 3 in April of 18 and was so big (and growing), I was in no hurry to push her mind or body. It had been many years since I had done ground work with a baby, so I decided to enlist the sister of our vet, Kirsten Nelsen, who had recently moved to the area and had impressed us all with a clinic we held at the barn.
Kirsten (www.kirstennelsen.com) specializes in bio-mechanics and balance of horse and rider. She has studied under Jean Luc Cornille, Dr. Gavin Skofield, Ray Hunt, Tom Dorrance and Pat Parelli.
She showed me how best to work Secret, who was very unbalanced, from the ground, utilizing both lunging and long lines. It was a little different from what I had learned to do, but fascinating and result driven (and no gadgets!)
The long, hot Florida summer was spent bonding and learning...both Secret and I learned much about each other and ground work. Summer finally gave way to fall and we continued the ground work, as well as long walks and trots alongside the golf cart. As time passed, I became more secure and less reactive if she reacted to something new (temper tantrums were usually on the lunge line, as she learned to balance herself.) We practiced walking over tarps and jumps, and I bought an assortment of toys from the Dollar Store which to torture her with...blow up pink flamingos, flappers and more, all of which she took in stride, probably wondering what the hell was I doing to her? Her sire's reputation of being brave and smart had obviously been extended to her.
There were comments from time to time from people, questioning why I had not yet mounted Secret. I made no apologies. I am in no hurry and that day would come. But in the meantime, I was enjoying the journey and learning so much!
So it is almost 2020 and where are we? Well, in some ways we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.
After Tucker's death, a week later, I had decided it was time to sit on Secret. By all accounts, all the boxes were checked. She was working really well on the lunge and long lines, I had been putting my weight in the stirrups and leaning over her. But when I straddled her and picked up the reins....yeehaw, it was a bucking bronco rodeo. I think I stayed on 8 seconds...there is video proof, but I ended up managing a dismount, which would have gone fine, other than being sore ( I did have my eventing vest on as well as my Charles Owen helmet ) but on the way down, my calf connected with a flying hind hoof and I was struck. Painfully so. I laid on the ground, unable to move, as everyone who had gathered to watch the big event, made sure that I was alive and not paralyzed. I don't think I uttered the F-word more times than I did that afternoon lying there, waiting for the ambulance. I was transported to the ER where x-rays revealed no broken bones, but an MRI, 2 painful weeks later revealed a torn calf muscle. By the time I returned from the ER, Kirsten was riding Secret, who was pretty calm.
We determined that the box missed was her lack of acceptance of contact. I thought that had been long worked through. I was wrong.
A plan was developed and Kirsten would work Secret for the 2 months that I was laid up. Eventually, I could manage to lunge her and Kirsten rode. Secret came along very nicely with no more rodeo episodes.
I wish I could say the same for my brain. I was emotionally a wreck. It is one thing to fall off a horse that you know, and say that X caused it. But Secret was a blank slate. Could I trust her again? Would she result to bucking again if scared or stressed? I had questions and fears but no answers. Months went by and I finally resolved to get back on Secret, with Kirsten at her head. I was mortified that I was a nervous wreck and needed someone close by. But Secret was good and the following lesson I didn't need Kirsten at her head.
In June, I started a new full time job.
It was hotter than hades. My son was getting married in August. Days went by and I didn't ride. As we got closer to the wedding date, I realized I was making an unconscious decision to not ride...just in case...I didn't want to attend the wedding on crutches or with a black eye!
I continued ground work and Kirsten rode 1-2 times a week. We had balancing issues but we persevered and honestly, it turned out to be the best plan for Secret, as she really matured over the summer. She filled out, she grew both physically and mentally and she figured out her balance. Kirsten has these amazing bio-mechanics training tips and they did wonders.
In the fall, I got back on Secret and rode her. Even stayed calm when another horse took off in the adjoining field and Secret got tense.
But then the time changed. It was dark by the time I got to the barn. I would run into the barn, grab her and go lunge her for the 15 or so minutes of twilight that was left and then groom her. I realized this was not good for either of us.
So I made the difficult decision to move Secret to Kirsten's barn, up the road. Secret has only been there for 2 weeks, but it was the right decision. She has 12 hour turnout, which she really needed as her fitness level increased. Kirsten can work her during the week and I will work her on the weekends. It's a good move.
We list our house in February and will look for a farm, so she can come home. By then, I expect that she will be turning 5 in April as a wonderful event prospect, ready to start showing.
It has been a slow journey but well worth it. I look forward to what next year brings!
|Secret blossomed over her summer as a 4 year old!|
|Our longest ride!|
|Lots of ground work!|