I've struggled with the decision to replace my horse, Cisco, who I lost to Colic last month. He was my confidence booster, a horse who after months of sitting in a pasture, I could climb on and have a nice, low stress ride. Those rides would raise my confidence in riding Champ.
Recently I've been spending a lot of time at the barn with Champ. Although we have our two Belgians at home, my time with them has been spent at feeding time. I've also found that three is a crowd at our place. When there are three horses, someone gets left out. So I've wondered if I should pursue replacing Cisco.
It appears my dilemma has resolved itself. Meet Sunny Bear (referred in our household affectionately as "Bear"). He's our older Belgian, whom we rescued a few years ago after two other parties had taken on the task and failed. He came to us underweight and lost. Here's my husband, (who is 6'6") with Bear the day we brought him home:
The first few days we had Bear he only ate and slept. He didn't seem to know or care where he was or what was taking place around him. His interest level was 1 on a scale of 1 - 10. We kept an eye on him but left him alone to eat and rest. You can see his left hip bone jutting out as he rested in his pasture.
As times passed Bear has filled out and his interest in what takes place around him has increased - although not much gets him excited. Bear and I bonded after my efforts to give him a 'beauty treatment' with all the works thanks to an abundance of 'stuff' our daughter had left over from horse shows. That's all it took for him to become my best friend. He loves being pampered.
Somewhere in his past life he's had some training. He knows "Whoa", "Back" and yields sideways in both directions when requested. He loads and leads nicely, halting at my side when I stop.
We weren't sure if we should ride Bear because his confirmation isn't the best. So for the past year he's been a pasture pet. However, after the loss of Cisco and a visit from the Vet last week to do dentals on both of our Belgians, we were encouraged to ride him lightly to assist with his oncoming arthritis.
As the sun started to set last night and it was feeding time, I pulled out Cisco's saddle and put it up on Bear. It looked like a pony saddle on that big Belgian but amazingly, Cisco's saddle fits him perfect! With my husband's assistance and the mounting block, I climbed up and laid across the saddle to see what type of reaction I'd get - nothing. I found Bear is only a little taller than Champ. I was also pleased to find my confidence at a comfortable level as I experimented with the saddle. Must be from my recent rides/ground work with Champ (Yeah!)
This afternoon, I'll saddle Bear back up and we'll go for a walk around the pasture. My husband will hand-walk his Belgian, Gus, next to us. I don't expect any problems. And that's all I really want from my "home horse" is to get on and walk around a bit.
If it all works out, I'm hoping we can take both horses on low key trail rides. Bear will also be a good horse for my 50+ friends at Cabin Creek, who would love to go for a ride but will need something to help them with their confidence and provide a slow pace so that they enjoy the experience.
Having a horse like Bear at home, to climb on whenever I want and putt around on is exactly what I need to keep my confidence at a comfortable level. I'm thinking my replacement for a confidence builder was right underneath my nose all the time. And if so, perhaps for us 50+ riders, the older, slower, calmer breeds are a key to confidence and thus, happiness.
I'll take my ride today and let you know what happens. Stay tuned! :)
==================================== Later That Day...
I used a snaffle and some longer, home-made reins that I thought might help what I suspected we'd encounter (and we did), steering issues. Although I checked multiple times before I climbed on, I feel the bit is too far back...hard to find a wrinkle in all that hair. I'll get a larger headstall for future rides. And as you can see below - my comment on a Pony Saddle is pretty close to being the case. :)
I found such happiness/confidence today on this ride with my sweet/aged Belgian who has been sitting in our pasture, right underneath my nose! Maybe being 50+ causes us to make life more complicated then it needs to be. Today I found simplicity and a new found love for my big hairy Belgian who, like me, held his head a bit higher when we finished our ride.