Taming Kindle: Week Two

Last week Kindle and I spent some time getting to know one another. I observed and let her come to me instead of forcing my presence on her. The result of that choice revealed a very inquisitive and brave mare when on the ground.

Though Kindle has had multiple people on her back, I don’t think she has been more than lightly started. With that being said, she acted like a very young horse that didn’t understand why this person, who should be petting her and feeding her cookies, is now sitting on her back asking her to move in weird ways. The way I decided to work on this is by spending time just sitting on her back. Not asking her for anything, just sitting. This allowed Kindle to get used to the idea of me on her back without the added pressure of cues she had to learn.

Though riding was not our main focus this week, we ended up making a great deal of progress. By the end of the week Kindle and I were trotting circles without any bucks! I discovered that Kindle really needs someone to be the alpha. The hardest part of becoming her alpha was getting her to accept me as her boss, and having her give up control. In order to get to that point, Kindle had to spook herself by trying to rub me off on a fence. Once she was spooked, and in a situation she was actually unable to gain control of, she listened. After that she became much more compliant and willing, and she listened much more.

Our biggest focus this week was manners and ground work, so basically charm school for horses. I wanted to gauge where she was on basic manners, as well as pushing her past her comfort zone to gauge how well she deals with situations that surprise her. I learned that Kindle does not like her back legs touched. I went to pick out her feet and she kicked sideways at me. Desensitizing Kindle to having her back legs touched became this week’s main project.

I started by finding a long, cotton lead rope.  These lead ropes are perfect for desensitizing work because the end of the lead rope is braided together; whereas, the poly leads are typically melted at the end, which creates a potentially painful situation. The goal of this exercise is to help desensitize a horse to pressure and movements around certain parts of their body. I love doing this with my young horses because not only does it help with jumpy horses or problem spots, but it also introduces a situation where the horse has to trust, and listen to you.

I always do this exercise in an open area with limited distractions. With Kindle, I used my arena so that she wouldn’t have the distraction of grass. I start by having the cotton lead attached to her halter. With Kindle I made a point of rubbing the lead on her neck, shoulders, and face to gauge her reaction. Once she calmed down I started the movement exercises. I start by lightly tossing the lead around her legs, letting the rope wrap slowly around her leg. The goal here is to keep a consistent rhythm, and to be reassuring. Once Kindle stood still and relaxed, I moved on to her back, hindquarters, shoulders, and lastly her neck. To be perfectly honest, Kindle took to this exercise very easily, and did not show any apprehension to having her back legs touched by the leadrope.

After the exercise she did not strike out as much, but I could definitely tell that she still had reservations about her back legs being touched. Moving forward I plan on continuing to work with her, but I do believe that the issue will disappear as I continue to gain her trust.

Kindle also went to her first two barrel races this weekend, just to observe! She handled the sights like a pro, and I believe the only thing she was scared of was her shadow at one point.

The biggest takeaway I have from this week is that Kindle and I have to have bumps in the road in order to succeed. I think she has gotten used to being spoiled, and allowed to do whatever she wants. Once I stepped up and told her who was boss, and gave her no other option (in a nice way), she started to listen and actually learn. From the way she made progress, I know she will amount to a truly good horse.

Kindle is a paint mare that I purchased from a rescue in Brownsville, Ohio. The lady who had rescued her picked her out of a kill pen in Pennsylvania. I have no idea what this mare has been through or what she has seen in her estimated five years.

 

 

Taming Kindle: Week One

Well, I said I wanted a project…
You know how your mom always told you to be careful what you wish for? This is one of those times my mom could definitely say, “I told you so.” 

When I found the page for a rescue down in Brownsville that had a gorgeous paint mare, I was already hooked. When I convinced my fiance to accompany on the almost three hour drive with our four horse trailer in tow I was already thinking about names. This girl, even from her picture, was mesmerizing. She looked friendly, well-built, and even-tempered. Even as we pulled into the drive where she eyed our rig with bright eyes and alert ears she seemed perfect. 

While at the rescue I was able to do a little round pen work with her, and noticed that she was very “food-frantic”. Basically she would dive for a bite of food any time you stopped pushing her around the pen, so even though she was doing as I asked I knew that her focus was truly split between the temptation of grass and me. This made join-up impossible, but it did give me a glimpse into what this girl had been through. 

This mare, which they called Fancy, had been ridden before, so I decided to get on her for a few minutes to test her out. Fancy had never given her rescuer any issues under saddle, but as soon as I swung my leg over she bucked. Not enough to dislodge me, but just enough to know she was unhappy. I urged her forward and she baby-bucked again. In that moment I knew that I had found myself the project my mom had told me to not wish for, and that I was already in love with this horse’s enormous spirit.

As you are probably already expecting and aware, I loaded Fancy, now Kindle, into my trailer for the ride home and for the start of a new adventure.

The first few days were hard for me. I, by nature, am a very determined person. So when I brought this little mare home I had huge expectations for her. After training my current barrel horse, Allegra, I knew that I was capable of training young horses and providing them with careers, and I was ready to start that same process for Kindle. Kindle, bless her pretty little heart, had no intentions of being trained. 

Again, I went to swing my leg over and she bucked. I asked her to live forward and she bucked. She eyed me with disdain as I made her go through her paces under saddle, but then turned back into that sweet, alert horse as soon as I was on the ground. I tried different bits, equipment, saddle pads, and cues to no avail. After a few days of power struggles I knew that my enthusiasm was hindering my progress. I was seeing Kindle as another Allegra (who never bucked once, but had the same forward motion problems) instead of evaluating her the way she actually was.

The rest of the week was focused entirely on observing and light ground work. I watched her learn to use Allegra for support when situations became too scary for her. I’ve watched her “food-frantic” behaviors slowly diminish to the point where I can hold her attention. I’ve managed to teach her to bend and be supple, a complete turnaround from the startled mare that refused to back out of my trailer. It took me an entire week to realize it, but even though I brought home a project, I also found a diamond in the rough.

We had a lot of issues this week, but we also shared many successes. We’ve learned how to communicate with each other, we’ve built trust, amd we’ve started to establish a herd order. When I stepped back and observed the baby steps she was making, she was able to show me how smart she was. Had I continued to be angry and frustrated I would’ve completely missed those little steps she was making to try and meet me in the middle. 

My biggest takeaway from this past week was learning how to celebrate the little things, that for a horse like Kindle, truly are very large steps.

Kindle is a paint mare that I purchased from a rescue in Brownsville, Ohio. The lady who had rescued her picked her out of a kill pen in Pennsylvania. I have no idea what this mare has been through or what she has seen in her estimated five years.