Saturday, March 24, 2012

It's decided - and I'm relieved!

Well, after much mulling back and forth I finally put my foot down with myself and made a decision - I'm going to keep Toad.  I don't know if I'm going to keep her for the next 15 years or even the next 3 years, but for today and the future that I can conceive of (like say a year) I'm planning on keeping her.  She is so much my horse that I realized there is no one out there I'm willing to sell her to.  And I'm looked at a bunch of ads about horses and met a few and emailed with a lot of owners selling horses and none of them match up to Toad.

My reasons for selling her were that I felt she was out of my league (which alone she would be!).  But I thought a lot about what my horse-life would be like without Toad and without the rigorous 6-day a week schedule of working with her and 3-days a week of training (plus all my non-training days when I'm following Trainer K. around with questions) and I realized that although fun is very important to me with horses, learning is far more important to me.  I told Trainer K. today what I decided and asked if she was disappointed or thought it was a foolish decision and she said no, as long as I don't mind being patient and continuing to put in the work.  She also agreed that I will learn a lot with Toad and already have.  So, I feel very secure and relieved that I've made the right decision for myself.

Another reason I feel like this will work is that I've started taking riding lessons every week on Misty so I no longer feel like I'm backpedaling with my riding because I am out there on a horse at least twice a week practicing and getting lessons, even when Toad is not in a space where it's good for me to ride her during her training.  And add my new pilates classes - designed especially to help riders with their balance and riding - I feel like I am still moving forward instead of spinning my wheels with a horse I can't just hop on and ride whenever I want.

Some of the things about Toad that I would miss in another horse are - most importantly! Our connection with each other and the trust we are developing together.  Also that she is so incredibly sensitive, attuned and smart.  And that she tries so hard and learns so quickly.   I'm so spoiled from lunging her because she does everything to voice commands and is so push-button about it.  She's also being trained from the beginning the way I want her trained.  She's being trained to raise her back and have proper horse-posture and she's learning to stretch naturally.  Trainer K. sent me this video which is like a synopsis of the way Toad is being trained (ie: Classical Dressage) and I like that she is being started like this as opposed to having to take an older horse and having to re-teach old bad habits away.

What I want for Toad is that she only be with someone like me.  So there are so many requirements: must be willing to work with her 6 days a week every week (that it's possible - and if not then find someone to fill in like if they're sick or out of town and can't work her every day), must be willing to keep her in training with a qualified Classical Dressage instructor, must be willing to do massage, stretching, wash off her belly every other day at least, and all the other high-maintenance things she needs.  Must be willing to do chiropractic on her once a month.  Must be quiet and patient and not prone to losing their temper and getting into fights with their horse over every little thing.  But at the same time must be authoritarian and not put up with bad habits.  And must never use the "D" word (ie: "Dangerous") to describe her (unless it is in jest because they're frustrated).

Normally I'm fine with labels but to me a "dangerous" horse is a horse that can't be handled and can't learn - no matter who is handling them.  It is true that the situation would be dangerous with Toad and the wrong person, but any horse can be dangerous with the wrong person.  I've never actually met a real, true dangerous horse but I have heard a couple stories that they might exist - though very rare.  For me Toad is not dangerous.  But that is also because I am always vigilant, and if I have a question I go to someone way more advanced in horsemanship than me and ask them how to handle her. 

Slowly but surely I'm starting to understand what is behind some of her "crazy" behavior.  A couple weeks ago when she freaked out so badly about having her stomach brushed Trainer K. discovered that her skin under her fur had been burned by the acid in her pee.  So I started rinsing her off instead of brushing her when she gets pee on herself and now she's fine about having her tummy touched.   Before putting her saddle on I either use a very soft brush or my hand to wipe off any dust and dirt and she's completely fine - even on the right side. 

Today she flipped out really badly over having her bridle put over her head and I wasn't able to do it.  Trainer K. had quite a battle with her and ended up having to get on a stool to be tall enough to get it over her head.  When she got up there she gasped and said, "Didn't you say she hit her head in the free lunge?" and I said yes (she was trying to eat bits of hay off the ground when she was supposed to be running and I began to chase her and she swung her head up and banged it on the gate), Trainer K said, "Look up here. She has a huge wound!"  I stood up on the stool and sure enough she had a huge, bloody welt on her head - no wonder she didn't want the bridle on!  Once we knew what was going on and comforted her that we wouldn't be touching it she got all lovey and sweet and snuggly again.

I told my daughter we're not selling Toad and she was so relieved.  For some reason she is really attached to her and cried really hard when I told her I was selling her.  I don't know why - my daughter has been on leadline rides over a hundred times with Girlfriend and there is no way I'm doing that with her with Toad - at least not for a few more years.  But she loves Toad and loves to pet her and give her treats.  It might be because Toad is so beautiful and looks like a super-model of horses.  Or she just senses what a sweet girl she is.  I don't know.  But my daughter is thrilled I'm not selling her.  She seems to think that in a few years Toad will be her horse.  We'll see although I think Toad will be way to big for her even in a few years.  She's a little too big for me even, but we're working that out.  Me and my tall, leggy horse and my short little legs.

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