Mar 21, 2012

Aaand They're Off!

I promise I will get to the work we did that actually helped Bryan.  And we did help him, a lot. But you might not grasp just how far he came unless I share just how complex he was, emotionally and physically (which I hope to show you through time is *the same thing* to a horse). So bear with me for another couple of days of Bryan Tales.

Since I had committed to peeling the Onion of Bryan, the next Data Gathering Point was The First Ride.  

It was inauspicious.

His back was funky with a giant narrow wither and hollows behind, but I had a medium tree wool stuffed County eventer and with a Mattes sheepskin half pad and a Thinline I felt we had him comfortable. I used a hunter bridle with a regular full cheek snaffle, no martingale. I had an assistant at the time and since I wanted to watch him I had suckered…er…delegated her to do the first ride.

He did indeed seem to be settling in to his new life and was quiet in the stall that morning, his third with us. He was obedient in the cross ties, though pooping and high headed. But we groomed him and tacked him up without incident and led him to the mounting block in the barn aisle.

 I stood at his head, left hand holding the reins under his chin. Nicole stood on the mounting block, patting him and cooing. I had a cookie in my hand though as usual he didn’t seem to care. He head was up but he stood quietly.  Nicole took the reins in her left hand and raised her right leg to swing over. Bryan, apparently forgetting that he had ever been ridden before, spun away from her in horror. Nicole, in mid air, dropped off the mounting block. Bryan flew backward, eyes bugging.

Well then. We let him stand there for a minute then brought him back to the mounting block for try number 2. His head was higher but he wasn’t jigging or anything. I stood on the off side this time, reins now in my right hand and left hand holding him slightly on his side so he couldn’t step away. Nicole, always game, tried again. She made it this time, but the second her bum hit the saddle B shot forward, sent me flying, and took off down the barn aisle.  Nicole actually stayed on and they disappeared around the corner.

Yike! Paralyzed, but only for a moment, I ran after them. Before I got to the end of the aisle they came flying around the other end. Nicole, focused on survival, was leaning forward and holding on for dear life. ‘Sit Up! Sit Back!’ I cried. ‘Pulley rein! Pulley rein!!’ Bryan was channeling his track days and going for the photo finish. They flew past me. I had a brief look at Nicole’s face, grim and determined. Again I ran after them and again they came around the other end. This time I jumped up and down in the aisle, arms outstretched, body blocking and yelling 'Whoa! Whoa!' I was not confident that he wouldn’t run me over but it seemed my only option at the time.  Bryan did hesitate a moment, and Nicole, who is a big strong girl and good rider, seized the slight break in momentum and sat back hard, pulled one rein, and B actually stopped, panting, eyes wild..

Nicole and I looked at each other. Bryan looked at the apparitions in his head. We all stood there a moment. Nicole eyes were wide. Bryan’s eyes were blank and fixed and staring. I  took the rein, and Nicole slid to the ground. We looked at each other again.

'Well!' I said, striving to sound unconcerned. 'That wasn’t so bad!'

Her eyebrows went up. Bryan snorted and startled himself.

'So, you think he’s ready for the lesson program?' I asked, casual.

Nicole snorted that time, and Bryan jumped.

We stared at each other. We stared at Bryan. Bryan stared at his demons. In a moment we were staggering around the aisle, laughing to tears, as Bryan danced around between us. Oh, goodness. Oh, my goodness. He *was* going to be a project indeed.

“C’mon, you big loser” I said, gently, and took him back to the cross ties. We took off his tack, and led him back to the stall.


  1. WOW- I can't believe you actually thought you were going to get away with riding this horse without some longe time! I would have given him a month to settle in his new home, and then it would have been another month of round pen work before I put anyone on his back. I have to applaud your courage and fortitude, but on the other hand I think you took too big a risk.

    1. I might have done things differently with a different horse, but I knew Bryan had been a quiet enough schoolie at one point. I really wanted to see just what to expect, right out of the box. He was so different than a regular wrecked horse. This was data gathering >;-> He had also had several hours of (pacing) turnout time the day before. I have to say I never lunge any more. I do free lunging in a big square paddock but I never lunge with a lunge line any more. So I wouldnt have tended to do that regardless. But no, I wanted to see him 'at his worst' >;-> He never scared me no matter what he did. Some horses certainly did and I was more cautious. Not B.

    2. It's great to hear what other horsemen have experienced with rescues, youngsters etc. It helps the ones dealing with their own problems realize they are not alone. Have you seen the utube videos of William the Hackney horse. They are wonderful stories.

  2. Wow, she's brave. No way I would have climbed up on that horse.

    I can't help but wonder if maybe being around people who laughed made a difference to that horse. Creating a lighter, more relaxed atmosphere.

    1. I have to say Bryan never appeared scary to me. Lost and internalized, but never scary. He wasnt aggressive at all. He was just 'blank'. It was frustrating, and fascinating, but never scary. There were times he about killed me, but he never once scared me. Time and study showed me what was going on with him. There are lots of horses I would not have ridden, but he wasn't one of them. And really, there was nothing to do but laugh. It was so crazy! Nicole too said she was never scared that day. It all helped us figure out what was going on with him. I am so glad you are enjoying Bryan's story!

  3. Every horse is different, and at some point, you learn to trust your instincts. With a remedial horse, there are lots of training sinkholes, and they can be under saddle...on the the the stall...anywhere, anytime.

    I love groundwork, but with the troubled horse, groundwork that goes well doesn't necessarily translate to things going well under saddle. If you have a riding horse, at some point, you have to ride to figure out what's going on.

    Thank goodness, Abby, that you had Nicole, and that she stayed on. Most of all, it was great that Bryan was able to stand and that you were a calm presence ready to give him love and a release. I can't wait to hear more of his story.