Taking the Reins

November 19, 2021

I am a kinesthetic learner. Due to my lifelong visual and recent auditory impairments, hands-on learning has always been more practical. I am also fiercely stubborn and independent. However, this week I learned an important lesson about knowing when to back off and let your trainer take over for the day.

In full disclosure, I got kicked in the hand by my mare on Wednesday when I began to lunge her. Despite not feeling it, my trainer immediately made me pull her up and took over. Recently, she had been learning a couple of bad habits, including kicking out towards the lunger, not in a vicious way, but rather, in an excited, playful way.

While some might get angry at this behavior change, I was actually proud of my horse, since she was feeling so much better than her previously emaciated condition. In 2 months, we were able to make significant improvements to her diet, bringing her up to a healthier weight and gaining back lost muscle tone. Her “kicking out” was a way to express her glee when exercising, her second favorite activity after eating. Horses cannot speak so this action was her using her “voice”. However, it was still very naughty behavior that could not continue.

As I mentioned earlier, I’m fiercely stubborn and independent, so it was difficult to sit back and watch my trainer take over for the day. At first, I was frustrated that I could not handle my own horse and be able to correct bad behaviors on my own. Yet, that is precisely why I am working with a trainer who specializes in OTTB rehabs. I don’t know everything. My trainer does not know everything. We both have strengths and weaknesses, and can learn from each other. I know far more about the field of Equine Assisted Services through my years of experience as a volunteer in various adaptive riding lessons and OT/PT sessions incorporating hippotherapy as a treatment strategy whereas my trainer knows much more about equine first aid and how to properly fix naughty behaviors through her many years in the equine training industry.

As horse owners, we have to admit what we don’t know and outsource help in order to avoid further injury. If I had continued to work with my mare post-kick, she would have learned that this naughty behavior was okay and continued to do it. There were a lot of factors that contributed to this incident, but the biggest one was my lack of focus. I let my mind wander for 2 seconds and in turn, got kicked. While it was thankfully only a superficial kick and I bounced back right away, we are dealing with a 1100lb live animal who could have done so much more damage, not intentionally, but because she is still a baby and does not know any better.

So while I was extremely frustrated and felt powerless in the moment, I had to take a step back and hand the reins over to a professional who not only corrected bad behavior, but gave me tips to avoid it from happening again. (Of course, my mare was a perfect angel for our lunge lesson the following day). This incident also gave me insight that I will not always be in control every single training session. In fact, some sessions I may just sit back and watch my trainer work her magic on my unicorn.

With H.O.P.E.

Diana Bezdedeanu