Thursday, April 02, 2009

My take on it

Marge stopped by to talk to me Tuesday night when I was at the barn. She is very good friends with Fire's owner, and wanted to know my take on the situation.

Her is what we know so far. Basically her friend bought Fire as a young horse and he was pastured until he was eight. Her trainer broke him and then began showing him Country Pleasure. Marge said she wasn't sure but she got the feeling that the trainer had an open slot for a Country Pleasure horse, so Fire was a "30 day wonder", meaning that he was broke and ready to show in 30 days, or there abouts. This implies that his training was a bit rushed, to say the least. When the owner got him from the trainer's barn a few weeks ago she was told that he was an established show horse and was child safe. However, unbeknownst to the owner, the horse had spent the entire winter in his stall, with no work or turnout, no grooming or foot care. She picked up the horse when she learned this, as she thought Fire was being used as a lesson horse like she had been told.

Here is my impression so far. Fire has a lot of fear, but is really a sensible and kind horse. The first day I rode him he was stomped his foot at me and threatened to rear. I believe that this was a defensive move on his part and an attempt to make me get off of him. He wasn't being nasty, because if he'd have wanted me off bad enough I would have been eating dirt. I think he was just thinking that he really couldn't handle being ridden.

How can I put this nicely. Well, there is no nice way to put it, so - I think that Fire was trained with a hard hand. I wouldn't say he was abused exactly, but I think that any misbehavior or mistakes were dealt with swiftly and harshly. He didn't know me, didn't trust me, and was scared to put a foot wrong, lest I punish him. I think he did a little test, and when I didn't cream him he tried to go through with the plan of scaring me off. This is not the only reason why I'd have to dispute the "child safe" label. The fear makes him spooky, and he will bolt but only for two steps or so. Still, it would be easy for anyone to fall off, especially a child. I would never put one of my kids on him.

Since the first ride I've noticed that he is a very very smart boy. For example, the first day when I took off his bridle he wanted to rub his sweaty, itchy face on me. As any horse person knows, this is extremely annoying, not to mention painful (horse's heads are very bony!). I didn't want to yell at him because he seemed scared enough, but I didn't want to be rubbed on either, so I moved back away from his head towards his tail. He just bent his neck and kept trying to reach me to rub on me. I kept moving until he was bent in half with his nose almost to his hip. Then he straightened up and I walked forward, only to have him try to rub again. We've gone through this dance several times every day after our rides. Except Tuesday he stopped doing it. He didn't try to rub on me at all, and instead rubbed his face on his leg. Ah, he can be taught!

Another example is the canter transition. I wrote before how he had been trained to pick up the canter from the walk only. I've been working the verbal canter command on the lunge line and on his back. On Tuesday I tried the canter from the walk, using my leg and the verbal command. He picked it up on the first try.

Tuesday was really a "turn the corner" kind of day for him. I think he's finally started to trust me and is no longer scared of being punished unfairly. We're working trot serpentines and he is as bendy as Gumby (or Pokey, really) but has real problems with balance. He's getting better about the connection and really trying to figure it out. He had a few days where he was bucking at the canter, but I think that was because he got too low in his head and neck, and couldn't figure out how to move the front end up without the use of his neck. I fixed this by no longer allowing him to get that low at the canter, but instead I push him into my hand a little bit and keep the impulsion going.

Anyhow, I think Fire has a lot to offer. He's got some very nice gaits, and the best walk of the three horses. And, thank goodness, he's smart! Who says Arabian horses can't do dressage? I found three of them and I didn't even try.


Heather said...

I really enjoy your "Fire" posts. I feel a strong connection to him in a strange way. My first horse was named Stolen Fire and was a purebred Arab Country pleasure horse. I loved him very much. Though your Fire doesn't look anything like mine did, I have a real draw towards him and I have been silently rooting for you to take him on as a project! I know you will do well for him and with him.

Dressage Mom said...

Thank you! It's very sweet that you thought so highly of your horse that you feel connected to Fire. I don't know if we'll ever make it to the show ring but I'm going to try to give him a job and a life that he can enjoy.

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