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Things with Rowdy have come to a head. My mom and I decided to trailer to the Flint Hills Trail. It’s a very flat and well-maintained trail that’s great for putting miles on horses. To get ready to haul somewhere, I always try to ride several times that week to give my horses the best chance of success on an outing. 

I rode Rowdy three times this week. He wanted to snort, blow, and take off trotting. So we trotted until Rowdy wanted to stop, and then we trotted some more. I was feeling confident that we made some progress so that we could have a peaceful trail ride.

Out on the Trail

Cut to Saturday morning. We load up and haul out. My mom’s horse, Gunner, is completely unflappable and will calmly walk all day. Rowdy had other plans. We pranced, we did lateral movements and circles around my mom for several miles. Did I mention it was also 90 degrees and humid that day? We spooked, we backed up, we poked Gunner. It was anything but a peaceful ride. But a bad day on a horse is better than a good day anywhere else. 

After a long day of riding and not a ton of progress, I called in the big guns. My trainer has been teaching me for almost twenty years. She has a no bullshit approach and has a firm but kind hand. Sarah has a knack for fixing an issue with a horse in five minutes flat, when it would take me weeks to accomplish the same thing.

This isn’t My First Rodeo

My lesson started with Rowdy escaping the cross-ties and bucking and galloping all over our forty acres. After sufficiently warming himself up, we got to work. Instead of giving in to the bit, Rowdy evades it by twisting his head sidewise, chomping at it, hollowing out his back and stabbing the ground with his legs. He’s had his teeth done recently, chiropractic work, and a new professionally fitted saddle, which means the only issue with him is attitude. 

Sarah suggested a figure eight noseband to stop him from trying to put his tongue over the bit. We strapped it onto my western bridle (it’s a look) and tried to push on. This led to a full-on baby horse temper tantrum. Instead of going forwards we went backwards, sideways (nice side pass though), out of the arena and then nowhere at all. He refused to walk and got light on his front end; anything to not have to go in a frame. 

We kept working on it, and I kept driving my seat while keeping constant contact with a firm but giving hand. I squeezed until I was red in the face.

And then it happened: he dropped his poll, picked his belly up and started reaching under himself. I pet his neck and told him what a good boy he was. After letting him walk and catch his breath, we started trotting again. This time the temper tantrum was worse. We battled. He threw his head; I threw curse words. Round and round we went until he finally gave his head. Then we trotted some more. A whole hour, drenched in sweat, we finally ended it on a good note. 

Oh Baby, We Have a Long Ways to Go

Despite the very difficult episodes, I see the horse Rowdy can be. I admire his resilience and the fight he has in him, even when it makes me want to hang up my bridle and sell him down the road. I know we have some tough times to get through, but we’re stuck with each other for the long haul. 
 

Megan Smith
Published on 2020-06-15