I’ve always dreamed of being able to ride bareback with ease. As a younger girl, before I actually got into horses and started riding, I was just amazed at the natural/liberty horsemanship guru’s. I watched the videos of Stacy Westfall riding her mare bareback and bridleless and thought “That will be my thing.” Some people wanted to be show jumpers, some wanted to be barrel racers, I wanted to focus on liberty and being “one with the horse.” Now, I see that I need a bigger foundation. I have to be able to master things in the tack. That’s important. Real training is important, and I can’t just fast forward straight into the galloping through fields bareback and bridleless. But I’ve also lost sight of who I am and what my dreams are because of my fears. Deep down, I still love that type of horsemanship that drew me in years ago. It still ties in to who I am. Following the horse’s lead, becoming partners in a very deep way, it goes right along the lines of my other passion which is rescuing and rehabilitating abused and neglected horses. Oddly enough, Gracie, the chestnut mare, is the thing that reminded me of this. This horse thrives in a liberty type of situation. I worked with her once, and within minutes, I had her doing the most incredible things on the ground at liberty with no halter, no whip, no lead. I mean, she backs up with me, sidepasses with me, turns with me, follows me, even sets herself up at the mounting block with me. The first time I worked with her like this, I felt like I was the kid in the movie Black Beauty. It’s cool to find a horse that can make you feel like that. Red made me feel like that at one point, and I realized just this week that it wasn’t his fault that I didn’t feel like that anymore. It wasn’t his fault that I lost my trust in him. He did nothing that should have inspired fear, or any sort of lack of trust. That’s on me.
Gracie is this incredibly good horse. She has a good heart, she’s sweet, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. She has a very eager to please personally. Although she’s very lazy under saddle, it’s just pure laziness, no bad behavior, and if you ask her to knock it off, she will. She has no buck or bite or bolt in her, no mean bone in her body. She’s just a good horse. I’ve ridden her a total of 4 times (although she’s been ridden a lot more here, just not by me) and already, I trust her enough to go hop on her bareback and in a halter in the field. She’s not going to do a thing, and I trust her.
Oddly enough, I used to have that same kind of trust in Red but it has disappeared. Why? I want to blame it on his random fits that he tends to throw. The little “I’m going to crowhop” or “I’m just going to stop and ignore you” types of things. But I don’t think that’s it. Those things have always happened with Red, it’s Red. Those things didn’t used to stop me from being fearless with him, from letting him literally be my best friend and partner. I’d hop on him and ride him to the barn with nothing on, with no fear. Where did that go? Somewhere along the line, I got nervous, and I stopped trying. I got back on the horse, obviously, but my mind really never mounted up again after that. I got scared, and I let myself disconnect. Red has been paying for that, which sucks for him because he’s still trying. When he was blowing that second abscess and miserable, I was the only thing he’d walk for. He wouldn’t walk for food. Wouldn’t walk on a lead for anyone. But if I sat there and called for him, he’d slowly make his way to me. When he went lame a couple winter’s back, it was the same thing. He’d walk through anything for me, not so much for anyone else. So why is it that I would mount a mare that I don’t even know that well yet, in a bosal (something new, something I didn’t know how she’d react over) and bareback (which has always terrified me) but I wouldn’t do that with Red?
Is it because I have a connection with her that I don’t have with Red anymore? I don’t think so. I want this with Red more than anything, and still, while Gracie is fun, and she’s great, and she’s a confidence builder, she’s never felt like my horse. She isn’t, but I really don’t think I’d ever get that feeling with her. I’ve had that with Red since the beginning. Red and I are partners, we go together, we always have. So what’s up with me? I stopped trying completely. I just quit. Out of fear, out of a lack of confidence, maybe, I started listening to people too much. People are doubters, they always have been, especially over my horse. I never listened to them before, but somewhere along the line, I started to. I lost my passion for him, and I used hard training as a way to make up for it. I tacked him up and every time we rode, it was about bettering ourselves as far as training went. Better EQ, collection, headset, and so on. But I stopped riding for myself. I lost track of why I started to ride to begin with.
I kept thinking…with Gracie, I can get on her bareback and in a bosal and feel comfortable. At ease. Then, I started trying to pinpoint the difference in her and Red. Red is much higher energy. While he isn’t a hot TB by any means, he has his moments of pure energy, but still, he has never let himself get away with me or do anything bad out of that. He may crowhop once, but he can contain himself. He knows that he has to have permission to do anything, and he respects me. I thought back on all of the “bad rides” that scared me…the ride that made me stop riding him in the bosal, and tried thinking “What did he do to make me so scared?” and I realized something…he never did anything. His ears were a bit more perked, he was a bit more excitable, but he never got carried away with me. He was happy, and I got mad at him for that. What even, Kalin? So yesterday, I tested something.
I got on my horse bareback and in the bosal, and nothing happened. I walked him around, he respected me and my limits that I set out, and everything was fine. Completely okay. In fact, he behaved better than Gracie did on all three of our recent rides. Again I asked myself, “Why on earth am I scared?”
Am I scared of him throwing me? Because he never has. Really, he’s never tried. He’s thrown a buck or two, but I’ve seen the most deadbroke horses ever do that. He’s very, very easy to get a hold of after those moments, he does them, then he’s apologetic that very second after. He knows when he does wrong. Am I scared of him bolting or something? He never has. I’ve spent all this time trying to plan out how to stop him from doing stuff that he’s never done, ever, and I’ve made a completely different horse in my mind. One that is the opposite of the horse in my pasture.
So I decided that I’m going to be going back to my roots for awhile. Focusing on getting my trust back with this horse until we move on with anything else. Even if it means forgetting that tack exists for awhile until I’m back to how I used to be-running around bareback with my partner and not relying on my saddle or big hack to keep me safe. We’ll see how it goes, but so far, I’m a heck of a lot more positive than I was the day before yesterday.