Written by Susan
|This is Susan Story. A story about her journey with her First Curly, Ruby.
I just finished reading Denise's article about owning a curly horse for the first time and had to respond. I have written my allergy testimony, called "One Fine Day", and that tells part of my story. Denise's article compels me to write the rest of my story. I think her advice in that article is so very, very true.
Before ever deciding to purchase my first horse I began a study of the horse and everything I could gobble up. There is no motivation like desire. Conformation books, training, housing, feeding, tacking up, and western pleasure riding books, I read them all.
Along with that I began taking riding lessons. I suffered with allergies, but I didn't care. Learning how to tack up, how to catch a horse, lead a horse, how to ride at the walk, turn, sit correctly in the saddle and even to trot were valuable lessons. I was working my way up to the canter.
Admittedly, I didn't have enough lessons under my belt before we moved to Alberta . So I found another instructor and began again. Taking English riding lessons this time because my instructor insisted I should. I enjoyed it a lot, but still prefer western. Finally, I learned to ride at a canter. I will never forget the day Linda got me off of the lesson horse and hopped up herself to show me. Suspecting me to be a visual learner she had me watch her ride. She had amazing balance and rode with no hands to boot! I climbed back on and mastered the canter! It felt awesome.
I will admit it, I was in dream land, wrongly believing that owning a curly horse meant instant success. After owning Ruby for almost two years and full of frustration and fear, I made one of the best decisions of my life. I hired a professional trainer and got Ruby back into training. After Laura had worked with Ruby awhile I began more lessons as well, this time on my own horse. Laura's words to me were quite funny. The first day she began with Ruby she said, "Oh, she is so sweet." The following day, "She sure is a moody horse." The third day was the moment I really knew I had done the right thing, "She is really pushy, it is a good thing she is so sweet because otherwise she could be dangerous." (I attribute the "sweet" to Ruby's curly traits.) When Ruby arrived she was trained. But my inexperience and fear had allowed her to begin to walk all over me. She was the lead mare, I was not. And that is the most important thing I learned in all the training that she and I took from Laura.
Having completed her training, Ruby came home to me and I began to ride. Again, I was naïve. I was naïve thinking now everything would be fine. Not. I was still not in charge. My fears were still ruling me too much. 43 years old, my second year into owning my own horse and I was still not assertive enough to be Ruby's leader. I had had many injuries in my lifetime and I was so fearful I was going to fall off and really hurt myself again. I was riding her, but not confidently yet.
I remember my first time riding Ruby down our driveway. Freezing, Ruby spotted the large round bales in the field across the road. To make matters worse she could hear the cows over in the next pasture, (she is still afraid of cows). Stupidly, I allowed her to stand there and gather fear, instead of reassuring her everything was alright and continuing with instructions. She had no where to turn so she began a hasty retreat, backwards. It was terrifying. I remember feeling that at any moment we were going to be like the Loan Ranger on the hillside, but I was going to end up on my back laying in the poop, dead. Clearing the trees, Ruby spun and trotted frantically back up our lane. Remembering my instructor's advice, I controlled the speed but allowed her to go. This was one time my life and safety came before training Ruby. I felt like a complete failure. So much for riding down the driveway, I was never going to get off our property.
After I had calmed down, I called Laura. She gave me assurance that I had done the right thing "this" time, but that I really needed to get past my fears and take the lead. Gulping back fear and tears the next day I began again. Choosing familiar safe areas to ride, I began asking Ruby to turn, side pass, turn on the haunch, back up and just about anything else I could think of. After a few weeks or so of this we continued on to the big challenge. We road towards the scary lane again, only this time we made several turns, side passes etc. until I felt she was completely focused on me and not what was at the end of our drive. I did not force her to conquer the entire lane that day. We did that over a period of a week or two, for her sake and mine. It was wonderful to feel the changes in my anxiety levels and I am sure Ruby's too.
It took us until the beginning of the fall of 2005 before we finally made it down the lane and onto the gravel road. Before this time I spent most of my time riding Ruby in our fenced outdoor riding area or around in our fenced pastures. The day we walked peacefully out of our driveway is a milestone I will never forget.
Ruby and I have gone many places now. I purposely take her up to scary objects, doing circles, getting closer and closer. I enjoy these times. It is an amazing feeling having Ruby's trust. Partnering with Ruby has been one of the best things I have ever done for my own self confidence, overcoming fears and learning to make decisions instead of being acted upon. I thank God everyday for horses. I think He made them for our enjoyment and to help us learn "to go many places".
Well, I hope my experiences help at least one person better prepare for owning and riding a curly horse. I share them because I really have learned that my dreams were not based in reality. Curly horses are still horses, calmer and less silly for sure, but they still do need a confident rider leading them. And after reading Denise's story I think that I know why Laura determined Ruby to be moody. She had had a lot of mistakes made with her and had to be retrained, poor girl. Thankfully, Ruby has a good heart and I look forward to many more happy days riding my curly horse. Taking Denise's good advice before hand certainly could have saved me, and hopefully many of you, much grief. Happy Trails! Susan :o)