The day we met Elvis and his owners, Elvis was in cross-ties. I noted that each time Elvis started to get restless or paw he received a mint (which resulted in more pawing and more mints).
Same when he was in cross-ties and the hose was turned on. Elvis would frantically paw until he was fed water from the hose. The running hose would be applied to Elvis's mouth and Elvis would lap it up.
Once he decided he was finished the hose would go back to the job at hand until Elvis decided he wanted more water (more pawing). Pretty soon the task at hand was forgotten as Elvis determined he'd rather have the water vs where it needed to be.
Elvis had been a handful the day we'd gone to pick him up. He didn't lead well, didn't want to load and when loaded had violently kicked and stomped in the trailer all the way home. I was surprised the walls of our trailer weren't dented when we got to the barn where I planned on getting to know him with the assistance of my Frainer (friend and trainer).
Once unloaded I'd taken him directly to the round pen to get some of that trailer stomping freshness out of him. It was a long walk from the trailer to that round pen and I had moments where I thought he was going to stomp all over me and/or get loose.
I still recall the first few times I put Elvis in the cross-ties and had to head into the tack room to grab something. There would be the loudest ruckus in the cross-ties and my barn mates would dash into the tack room wide eyed to report that Elvis was rearing. I can understand their concern - it was quite a site to see when Elvis reared in the cross-ties.
I inherited these traits and they needed to be addressed.
Elvis is a smart horse. He couldn't figure out how come he wasn't getting mints or water. My lack of understanding what he wanted incited him.
But I've been down this road before and as a result I have a rule about treats. I love my horses to death but it's rare that I feed treats to them. And if I do, rarely is a treat fed by hand. Instead the treat goes into the feed bucket.
Elvis had a real problem with my philosophy. Added to that was the fact that he didn't know me and I didn't know him. I had brought home a fire breathing steed and with my rule of knowing what you have on the ground before you get in the saddle, I frankly didn't trust him.
My Frainer rode Elvis while I observed. I took lessons to gain trust and learn how he ticked. We both worked on helping him understand how one behaves in the cross-ties. No treats were given and eventually Elvis figured out that it wasn't worth the effort to act up for no reward. These days Elvis stands quietly in the cross-ties or when tied at a hitching post.
Part of the deal with Elvis's former owners was that I'd bring him home and let him be a horse. Last May we had hauled Elvis home with very little drama in the trailer. Not the ultimate haul but better.
This really bothered me. Being a goal oriented person I felt like my compass was broken and just spinning around.
In early January I found my answer. A large answer...I wanted to try it all.
I sat down with my Frainer that second week of January and enlisted her help in exposing Elvis to various environments. And from that meeting forward, our journey truly started. These days my compass may swing from the north to the south. But I always know where we are going.
Unfortunately, when you are the one on a journey that requires you to be involved, it's hard to take pictures. I knew Elvis had been trained in Dressage and Western Pleasure but I can't show you how proficient I found him in showmanship or what fun he is on a trail course, backing/side passing, bridges, mailboxes, gates, poles, etc.
I can't show you how well he jumps or how he has no issue with being roped off of or dragging items behind him.
The future? Elvis comes back home on Monday for the summer. He now hauls like a king and I will be going up to the barn each week to take a lesson and also to attend weekly Ladies Night sessions.
Thanks to the barn and my Frainer (Rachel Koehler, love you to death!), I've met some Cowgirl Pals who are avid trail riders. Some do the yearly Chief Joseph Trail Ride with their Appy's (something Elvis and I are qualified to also participate in...a goal for 2015).
Some also participate in the John Wayne Trail Ride (which ironically actually starts about four miles from our cabin...another goal for 2015).
For 2014 I plan to ask some of my Cowgirl Pals to accompany us on some trail rides locally and also at the cabin so we can get some miles on us. I also plan on playing with poles here at home and intend to participate in a local horse show this August. Note the riding here at home. Last summer I never rode Elvis at home because I was still uncertain about him. To me, riding at home is a testament to how far we've come in the last year.
Part of the deal of receiving Elvis was the love and care I give him. These days I have a good guy who stands quietly when tied and respects my space. Elvis is a respectful, happy, content horse who no longer needs treats to behave.
It took some time but my compass is set and I know where Elvis and I are going. What I'd forgotten about setting the compass was that it never points in just one direction. It depends on where you are going on that certain moment (day).
Where we are going will allow Elvis to get to be a horse and me to continue to work on being the rider I've always wanted to be.
The Future Is Ours!