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By Sheryl Lynde | Horsetrader columnist

A round the start of my career, a gentleman brought me a pony to train for his 12-year old granddaughter. He had purchased him with the intention to ride together on the weekends in his local equestrian community. Riding in equestrian communities can be challenging with street traffic, dogs charging fences and other unforeseen obstacles.

I asked about the pony’s background and was told that he was used in a carnival sweep at the fairgrounds. I explained that the pony may be desensitized to noise and foot traffic, but the extent of his experience was walking circles on level ground behind another pony going in one direction and kept in line by a handler. The gentleman was unwavering—his granddaughter was going to learn to ride this pony, and the two of them would be fine.

I got to work. This little guy had no steering, no stop or back-up and was unable to maneuver the slightest variance in footing. Although the granddaughter listened well to instruction and had a natural seat as a rider, she was not a trainer. She wouldn’t be able to provide the necessary guidance this little pony needed out on trail. Someone in the relationship had to know more than the other. Remember: green rider + green horse = black and blue. I had a discussion with the grandfather and expressed my concerns about his granddaughter’s safety. She needed a Quarter Horse with some age that was seasoned and had experience riding trail. He was not to be swayed, though, and he gave me three months.

I worked hard on this little guy and spent hours in the saddle building a stop, getting a back-up, developing speed control, as well as riding him out in the hills over a variety of footing in different environments including equestrian communities. At the end of three months, the pony had progressed well, but not well enough for a 12-year-old rider.

The gentleman announced that it was time—he wanted to try him out on trail with his granddaughter. I vehemently protested, and he insisted. He had hauled his horse over, against my better judgment. I agreed only if I could pony the granddaughter off my gelding. We barely made it out my gates when the pony began to crow hop, and Susie started to cry. I was able to keep the pony from escalating any further, but I got off my horse and asked her to dismount and ride my gelding back home. This gentleman was a successful businessman and was used to calling the shots, but because of his haste, the pony’s training took a few steps back—and Susi’s confidence had been undermined.

He was a tough client, but I am grateful for him. I learned a great lesson. He was successful in his career, but I was successful in mine. I learned to trust my instincts that day. Good training takes time, especially if the horse and rider are not a suitable match. Someone is going to get hurt in those situations, and the horse gets the blame.

Fast forward 14 years and a little over 1,000 colts and problem-horses later. Jimmy is a 5-year-old Quarter Pony that was brought to me by the owner/breeder to get started. He proved to be quite tricky. He is small in stature, quick, and agile, but he lacked confidence. The first month was ground work, everything from dragging ropes to ground-driving to being worked from the back of another horse. Even though he was calm on the ground, while in the saddle he was extremely reactive with any movement from me. I would bump my legs, move my seat and raise my hands with every ride until he was calm, but we would need to start all over the next day. These were issues I needed to fix in the saddle.

The owner was retiring from breeding and let me know she had a buyer for Jimmy—a gal who was shopping for her 12-year-old daughter. They wanted to meet and watch me work Jimmy. Jimmy has chrome, he is a looker, and he is incredibly kind. But he is not for a 12-year old. The buyers were sold. Their plan was to put him in training for jumping, but I knew he wasn’t ready. He needed a foundation first. I let the owner know that I just couldn’t let him go. This purchase was not in the buyer’s best interest.

Jimmy was sold to me where he remains in training. He is coming along, still tricky at times. Some colts take longer, but taking the time secures a future where he can be a great companion for the right owner down the road.

Trust your instincts; they are a product of God’s grace, of lessons learned. They reveal your true path.


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