I took a breath, said a simple prayer, and lifted the saddle onto Aurora’s back…
Aurora was a friend’s horse that I was in the process of training. She was 7 years old and let’s just say a little herd bound with no experience with a rider on her back, let alone a saddle. I would say, it definitely was a little too much for me to handle at 14 years old. But, I wasn’t going to give up just because of my age (trust me, I don’t give up easily). So, two days a week with a halter and a load of treats in hand, I walked the long pathway to Aurora’s paddock.
As I said, Aurora was a little herd bound and did not want to leave her friends, so it took quite awhile to bring her into the barn on most days. I have to admit that I definitely developed patience during the time working with Aurora. Eventually after working with her as well as giving her some treats she started trusting me to bring her in.
I brought her into the arena and did simple groundwork exercises to see how she responded to pressure and different exercises. I also got her comfortable with the saddle on her back. After a while, Aurora was improving immensely and I was very impressed. One day, I felt that it was time to take it to the next level and start to apply pressure to the saddle as if a rider was on her back.
So, when I came to the barn the next day I had a goal in mind. I knew what I was wanting to work towards. I caught Aurora and brought her into the indoor arena along with a saddle, a saddle pad and a girth. I placed the saddle on her back and made sure the girth wasn’t too tight. My dad was watching at the time and I had asked him to come over and hold Aurora for me while I shifted the saddle and applied some light pressure. Now, if you knew my dad, you would know that he is not a horse person, so I guess you could say it wasn’t the smartest idea to let him hold a 1,000 pound animal who wasn’t fully broke. I stepped up onto the mounting block and started to apply light pressure to the saddle.
At the time I applied the pressure, Aurora seemed fine. She was calm and relaxed. I now know that it was the calm before the storm…all of sudden, Aurora completed flipped out. I mean, it wasn’t just a crazy horse running around the arena, but rather, a full on bucking bronco horse who did not want the saddle on her back. Honestly, I was just glad I wasn’t on her back! Not only was she bucking like crazy around the arena, but her saddle was starting to slip which was making her even more uncomfortable. While this was all happening, my dad and I were in separate corners of the arena trying to figure out what to do.
After a few minutes of Aurora running around, she started barreling towards me in the corner. All I could do was push myself deeper into the corner and hope that she would stop before me. Now the horse wasn’t the only one flipping out at the time because my dad was also. I was trying to collect my thoughts and breathe and he was trying to talk to me which wasn’t helping at all. Just before Aurora reached me, she slammed on the breaks and only her face banged into my chest. Thankfully, I wasn’t trampled that day. My dad and I were able to safely get the saddle off and calm Aurora down as well.
So, from all of this I learned a very important lesson that I believe every horse rider should know and understand. The important thing I learned is this… training horses will have its ups and downs. There is never a guarantee that it will be easy because if it was, how would professional trainers become better and how would I develop as a rider? Horses are unpredictable. They may act calm one day or jump out of their skin another day. I know that I have improved since training Aurora, but without this experience I wouldn’t have learned or grown in my knowledge.
Training horses is very rewarding to see the progress and overall improvement in the end. There will be days you may feel like quitting, but, keep pushing forward…you won’t regret it.
Training horses isn’t going to be easy, but after we have sweat and are covered in dirt from our hard work, we can be glad because we have helped one more horse and rider become successful. Until next time… don’t forget to hug your horse!