Once upon a time, In my other life as a horse trainer …
As a trainer, there is always that one those horse and rider combination that will remain with you forever. Mollie was 12 when I met her. Her pony, Abracadabra, Abby for short, was a large bay pony who adored her owner. And at 12, Mollie adored Abby. The problem was they had lost all confidence in each other after a recent incident in which Abby crashed a fence and no longer wanted to jump.
The universe had helped with the meeting arrangements. Our farm was not far from hers and I stopped to introduce myself one day after seeing her riding in her front field. As all thing coincidental, they trained with a friend of mine, however their lessons were few and far between and they were in need of help. And that is where I came in.
After watching Abby hack around the field I could visibly see that she seemed “off,” so I asked if I could take a closer look. The minute I touched the pony, she did not stop talking. It was utterly amazing! The first thing she indicated was that her girth was way too tight, hurting her back and pinching her. Sure enough, the girth was tightened too much. I quickly loosened the girth and readjusted the saddle, also noting that the pads too had bunched up unevenly causing added problems. ( By the way, do you know, I get more complaints from horses about girths being over tightened over any other complaint?! ) Once the saddle and girth were refitted properly I mounted the pony. Abby let out a big ” OUCH, my back!” as I eased my weight into the saddle. I reached back, touched her back and she sat under the slight pressure. I immediately got off of her and took off her tack. Abby showed great sensitivity as I thoroughly checked her back and neck. As I reached the occiput area on Abby’s head, she buckled to her knees. This poor pony was in need of a good adjustment.
I moved to Abby’s face, as now she had started communicating to me about her bridle being too tight. Sure enough the bit was too high in her mouth. I loosed the bridle and slid it from her face. She continued to tell me her mouth “hurt,” so I slid my fingers into her mouth to find some rather sharp teeth. I asked Abby why she was no longer jumping and she replied that it “hurt.” I communicated my findings to Mollie’s mom. Being a great horse woman, she quickly arranged for chiropractors, vets, and dentists to come work on her immediately.
Once we got Abby feeling better it was time to work out the kinks between pony and rider. This is where the real problems began. Mollie had lost all her confidence and Abby knew it. It also didn’t help that Abby associated jumping with being hurt. A horse is only going to be as confident as it’s rider. First I needed to retrain Abby. I started off slow, building my way back to small fences. Abby was now confident with me. Now it was Mollie’s turn. However she was still afraid of the accident and each time she thought of it, that is what was communicated to Abby and she’d refuse. It took a few weeks of positive experiences, but for everyone Mollie had, it gave the two of them the confidence they needed. Soon, the two became a powerful force to be reckoned with in the show ring and they spent the next few years as an inseperate duo.