In Mercury part 2 we left off with me ready to start backing Mercury. Little did I know what was in store for me. Mercury and I were great friends and companions by now on the ground. He didn’t mind me leaning on him and laying over his back. I could swing a leg over him bareback no problem.
I usually put a rope around a horses’ belly to give them the feeling of a girth or cinch. I will take the rope and lay it over their back a few times. Then I will take it under their belly and using only my hands, I will gently tighten the rope and then release it. I will do that 3-5 times and then take it off. Carefully reading the horses reactions on how to proceed or not. That step went fine. The next step I do is to use a lunging surcingle which is light and small but has buckles so it will feel very much like a girth. When it came time to use an actual saddle and girth, that’s when problems arose.
I had a saddle that I frequently used for starting young horses and I put it on him gauging his responses. He was wearing the saddle and I always do the girth up gradually to allow a horse time to get used to the feeling. He was standing very still and attentive. It is not unusual for a young horse to be ok while standing still with the tack on but when asked to move, the feeling causes them to stiffen and buck a few times. Well Mercury didn’t just stiffen. His first time moving with the saddle unleashed a fit of bucking the likes of I had not seen before. He bucked and would not stop bucking. He kept going around bucking blindly to get this monster off his back. He wound up taking down an electric fence before I finally got him to calm down enough for me to safely approach. I took the saddle off.
I had two thoughts. One: This horse was so powerful and athletic, I could see that those bucks could easily get even the best seated rider off and possibly worse. I have started many young horses and I have never to this day seen a horse buck like that except in the rodeo. Two: he was clearly not ok with the saddle or the girth or both. At first, I thought well he’ll get used to it in a few more sessions. He didn’t. Each time I put the saddle on he screamed loudly NO! I don’t like it! He bucked with the same violence and ferocity in two more sessions. I had to put on my thinking cap.
I could get on bareback but I wanted to be able to ride in a saddle too. I knew he was very sensitive. I started looking into alternative equipment. I kept going back to “bareback he is fine” How close can we get to bareback with a saddle? The answer (or in this case Ansur) was a treeless saddle. I also found a very soft completely elastic girth. I played with equipment and found that he was more agreeable as I practiced “Horse Listening” When I took away the time lines and agenda, Mercury gradually became the horse he is today. A horse that I never thought I would ride bridless let alone collection and jumping.
With Mercury, has come many important lessons. One of the first ones I remember clear as day during this time was saying “It takes as long as it takes” Mercury also taught me about how to build trust around his big Nos. He taught me to pay attention to his communications and that so called “Naughty” behavior was really his way of saying “I am so sensitive” Please listen to me and I can be soft, calm and relaxed. He asked me to question things I had been taught in horsemanship. He has shown me that a deep bond and friendship is the gateway to places you never dreamed possible. As many of you have heard me say, Mercury is my 4 legged soul mate. His name fits him to a T. Though I have done many amazing things with Mercury, The most special thing I have ever done with him is enjoy him for who he is and all his Mercuriness (as I call it) To deeply connect to another soul is truly magic beyond all else. Mercury and Oliver are finally at Ohana Farm and settling in. I can tell he misses his friends from his other farm, but I am bringing in new friends for him in the coming weeks and months. I have been sitting with him and Oliver in their paddock telling of all the plans we are going to have for Ohana farm. I am also listening to their ideas for the farm. There are new upcoming clinic dates in the works. As details firm up, I will post them. Please share any comments on this blog it makes you think about. Upcoming Events