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.