Me and Rosie’s lesson on Saturday keeps mulling around in my head. Our experience was just that, an experience. After some convincing, we finally got Rosie into the trailer and off to the barn where the trainer is set up at. Rosie was super nervous because number 1 she was leaving and her buddies (Paisano and Miss) were not coming with her and number 2 she had never done this before. When we got to the barn let her out of the trailer she was sweaty, breathing hard and she immediately started yelling at everyone. I started walking her around to try and get her nerves settled and get her attention focused somewhere else besides looking for her herd mates. After about 5 minutes she stopped prancing around and her breathing returned to normal but she was still screaming her lungs out. I swear I’ve never heard a horse whinny so loud. Our trainers are a husband and wife duo who work together full time training mostly western style performance horses. Randy and Rochelle White can’t much older than me but you can tell they have had a life time of experience. They have about 14 horses that they train full time and Randy recently participated in a trainers challenge at the Utah Horse expo, I still don’t know who won :) Randy was in the barn working with a young girl, I stayed outside because the riding area was bordered by horses in their stalls watching the lesson. I knew if I tried to take Rosie in she would have a nervous breakdown seeing all those strange horses. Finally Rochelle came out and met us. She took one look at Rosie and started gushing about how pretty she was, which of course made me beam with pride She had to ask me a couple times how old she was because of how much smaller she is than the normal horses they work with. Even though she is going to be 2 yrs in April, she looks like a yearling compared to the other horses.
Then we started our lesson. She grabbed a lunge whip and we went out into a large corral with nice sand type footing. I had recently talked to them about where I thought my ponies were at and what I hope to accomplish with them this summer and the rest of our lives together. I really like how the Whites approach training, they believe in a strong foundation and they train using natural horsemanship. I also watched Randy work a couple horses before I set up a lesson just really get a feel of they handle their horses. Obviously I was pleased with what I saw. So back to Rosie, I told Rochelle that I had started lunging her but there were some things that we were getting stuck on, like changing direction and keeping her moving nice and consistent throughout the circle. I was to the point where I didn’t know how to communicate better and I certainly haven’t been doing this long enough to have any “tricks up my sleeve”. I wasn’t and am not looking for perfection, just consistency and nice movement. Rochelle took Rosie and started her in a lunge. Rosie had calmed down and not yelling quite as much but she wasn’t paying attention to either of us one bit. Rochelle started by making her respect her space and demanding that Rosie pay attention to her. Ever time Rosie went to toss her head or walk off or whinny Rochelle would wiggle the lead rope and make her back up. Pretty soon Rosie wasn’t so concerned with socializing and was paying attention to this person on the other end of the line. One thing I forgot to mention is that Rochelle is probably 5’4” and maybe a buck 25 AND 8 months pregnant :) After about 10 minutes of getting acquainted, Rochelle was lunging Rosie nicely. She made the comment that she did pretty well and she was soft so she could tell that I had been using the pressure and release type training with her. Then she made me lunge her and showed some thing to keep her moving and when/how to correct her when she started to drift off track. Pretty soon I was getting her moving in a consistent circle around me (and not me around her) and we were changing directions fairly nice. Then we decided to do some trailer loading drills and the fun really began…..
I can’t write down everything that transpired but what I learned and observed I’ll never forget. Let me start off by saying it wasn’t a bad experience just challenging, both on our end and Rosie’s. One of Rochelle’s exercises is to work the horse outside the trailer and let it rest while inside. So the horse learns that if he/she is outside the trailer they will have to work but if they are inside they get to rest. I thought and still think it’s a good way to get them comfortable inside the trailer. What she wasn’t prepared for is Rosie’s (and all Spanish Mustang’s) natural stamina. Poor Rochelle lunged Rosie for 20 minutes and she didn’t even break a sweat. She didn’t push her hard; she held her at a light trot and would stop then go to the trailer for a rest. Rosie would put her whole body in with the exception for her hind legs almost every time they went in.
Then Rochelle started getting dizzy so I had a go at her, she still wouldn’t going in all the way. By this time it was getting to be time for everyone to go home. The attitude in the air switched from training to “ok time to stop screwing around” and we started to push Rosie a little harder into the trailer. This escalated to forcing and pulling and pushing which was not conducive to Rosie’s frame of mind. After about a half an hour people started getting bored with trying to get her in the trailer, and it was within this last 30 or so minutes that I learned a great deal about my horse.
I quite trying to force her and stood inside the trailer and watched while Cody, Randy and some other fellow tried to push and pull her in. I noticed that she started to react before they put the pressure on her so she knew what was going on and she was anticipating their every move. The other thing I noticed is she would try more for one person than she would another. I got the most from her, then it was Cody, then my dad, then Rochelle. Randy and the other fella got about the same amount, but the fellow didn’t stick around for very long. Rosie at this point refused to even put one hoof into the trailer and people started to give up and leave. Rochelle and the fellow left followed by my dad then Randy and then Cody finally gave up. It was just me and the Rosie standing still and breathing. I watched her face, she wasn’t scared to go into the trailer she was downright pissed that these people were trying to force her. She wasn’t throwing a fit, trying to strike or kick or bite anybody she wasn’t even really moving around. She was just standing there in quiet contempt watching everybody’s move like she was ready for them to strike at any moment. I felt like she wasn’t upset at me just the situation. I massaged her and talked calmly to her and she started to relax muscle by muscle always keeping one eye and two ears on the people behind her. She finally with very tight lips took a piece of cube from me and ate it very slowly. Then my dad came over and started to pet her and she relaxed a little more. I stole a flake of hay and set some of it on the floor on the trailer and the rest in the manger at the front. Bit by bit she smelled it and started to munch. First one hoof in then back out, then two hooves in and back out and then she finally made it all the way, dad shut doors and the two of us stood there munching hay. She was much calmer and my Rosie had come back down to earth. Still watching and accounting for every person, but her eyes returned to their sweet soft gaze and her muscles were no longer wound up ready for action. We thanked and paid Rochelle and got our girl home.
I think that every experience be it good or “challenging” is an opportunity to learn and grow. I learned that these Spanish Mustangs are truly a breed of their own and they will not be treated like ordinary horses. I don’t mean bullied or disrespected, just treated like an ordinary horse. They require a whole new mind set and I never really understood what that meant until our little experience. I had always heard and read about it but never seen or felt what people tried to explain with words (because it’s something I don’t think can easily be translated in pen and paper). Rosie doesn’t resent me for pushing her, she stills trusts me and acts like Rosie. I think she mentally grew up a little and I know our bond grew even stronger. Everyone was excited and happy to be back home again, and I left her alone to get reacquainted with her buddies. Later that evening I went out to eat a pear and sit with them while they ate their dinner. Rosie came over and stood by me, nibbled on my sleeve a little and we both let out a big sigh. I scratched her on the cheek and we both stood there lost in thought munching a pear together.