Friday, February 12, 2010

Xena comes home

So last summer, when I still lived in Los Angeles, I boarded at a rather anti-parelli boarding stable. I have always wanted a mustang, and as my one big horse is getting older, gonna be 21 soon, my parents agreed I needed a second riding horse. Back then, we were just fabricating moving out here to Colorado, and I was convincing them to go to a BLM adoption once we got our own acreage. Around July, a new boarder came to the barn with a beautiful buckskin mustang mare she had just bought - I was instantly attracted. I stuck to her like glue. The owner had grown up barrel racing, but she hadn't had a horse in I think 10 years or so. The mare was 8 and had been a broodmare before she got her, but was supposedly a broke trail horse. She found her through her friend who was a "trainer." So Professional Predator #1 says other than a hard mouth she's a good horse...

She is very much a RBI, and quickly earned the title unpredictable. Within 3 weeks of owning her, the two got into an accident where the owner went to the hospital with a broken tailbone and the horse ran 3 miles before somebody caught her. Talk about flight distance!!! So she says the horse is probably just not very broke, sends her off to Professional Predator #2. This one was using her as the guide horse for a rental stable's trail rides. And one day she'd be "fine" and the next she would dance the whole way. Then eventually something happened and the horse took off while Professional Predator #2 was on her, and even with her big shank bit couldn't stop her so she ran her into a pipe corral type fence. Came back to the barn head to shoulders bloody. (The horse, not the rider, although it was all over the rider's arms and legs too). So she got that stitched up, and Professional Predator #2 says she gives up, the horse blows up without warning and she should find something calmer. I, who am still in love with her because she's a mustang, ask the owner if I can just play with her a bit while she's recovering.

Biggest learning experience of my life!! I find that she is a bipolar LBI/RBI. She is the way she is because she had probably 30 days of "microwave training" where she learned go where the Dope On A Rope drags you, get saddled up, go when they kick you, stop when they pull you, turn where the reins tell you. And was sold as a nicely trained horse because she can appear calm on the outside, so she looks good on paper. Also another HUGE contribution to her behavior is I was 99.99% sure she was "sacked out" with traditional methods. When she got scared, she just took it. She stood there like she wanted to move, but she knew she wasn't allowed to.... to a point. This made the friendly game horribly difficult because she simply wouldn't react. So while she was mostly still in her comfort zone, she was this quiet little creature who gave little to no feedback to what went on around her, and then as soon as she got to the point that she honestly thought she was in danger, she said forget you - I need to save myself! And that meant ditching the handler, losing the rider, and taking herself to safety.

So I built a relationship with her. Remember how I'm in an anti-Parelli barn? I literally got scolded by the barn manager if I "did that ridiculous horse voodoo" with anyone else's horse - exact quote. So anything I did with the mustang had to be 6:30 am before the manager got there, or out in the back parking lot after it closed. But she was worth it. In the safety of the arena, we could do awesome things at liberty, I could pop a balloon right off her head while she was relaxed, pony her off of a bicycle while pushing a barrel full of pop cans with her nose. But then leave the safe place and it was crazy. Something would bother her, she'd just go starey eyed so I assumed that was all she was going to do. My exact thought was "Oh if that's all that happens when she goes right brain, this oughtta be easy!" And no sooner did I finish that thought, and she EXPLODED. I knew that the problem was she was such an introvert that she had waaaay more subtle warning signs than I was prepared for, and it clicked that every problem she's had stems from people thinking she looks totally harmless, overstepping a threshold, and then blowing her up. .... So I play with her for almost a month, and fall even more in love with her. Her owner would watch us, I'd show her some Parelli things. I decide she's doing so well that one more play session and I might just get back on her. That morning I went to go play with her early and.... she wasn't at the barn!!!!!! Looks as if somebody had decided, with the influence of the barn manager, it was time to send her to Professional Predator #3. I am heartbroken; the buckskin mustang was the one that got away.

This guy is allegedly a specific mustang trainer. She is up at his place until we leave LA. I don't hear anything from or about the owner or horse. I assume he is doing something good with her, and everything's fine. Months go by. I look for a young horse in my area. Nothing works out. Until mid December when the owner calls me and tells me that Professional Predator #3 gave up, she still can't ride her horse, and would I like to have her. WOULD I!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hmmmmm..... A buckskin mustang with a spirit that can't be broken... who's seen that cartoon!

So Friday night, my girl finally showed up. The one that got away got to come back!!! My savvy has grown from applying the things she taught me before, and now I know how to read her a little better. This time around, I'm noticing way more subtle signs, and we're getting along great. This time, I'm not going to assume anything. This time, she gets a choice in everything. This time we go at her pace. This time, I am the leader she needs me to be, the voice for her thoughts, her icon of safety, .... her partner. Wish us luck!

This is my new beautiful girl, who I am naming Xena.

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