From My Saddle – Don’t Forget the Basics

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Senior Horses (and Senior People) Need Confidence

I got my horse Chip in the fall of 2022. I wasn’t looking for a horse after losing my mare, April, but the opportunity presented itself and I brought Chip home. I’ve recently learned a valuable lesson: it doesn’t matter how old you are, there’s always something to learn. Even though Chip is 16 years old, he and I needed to connect before having successful outings. I’d ridden him on a couple rides shortly after bringing him home and he was pretty good but a little spooky. I hadn’t been riding much, and since I didn’t know exactly how Chip would respond to different situations, I lost confidence. 

I owned April for 20 years and always knew how she’d react. She could be spooky but never bolted or did more than jump a little. We had a bond that was formed over decades of training and riding together. Chip was new territory, and I’m not getting any younger. My balance and reflexes aren’t what they were even 10 years ago. After a couple of situations where he spooked at things that horses don’t normally spook at (like people), I became hesitant to take him out for rides. I found excuses for not riding. 

While attending a Downunder Horsemanship Tour in Denver this past July I was intrigued by the success Clinton Anderson and his trainers had with horses they’d just met. I was reminded about the importance of the basics while I watched diligently for two days. While groundwork may seem boring, it was an interesting lesson in building confidence, staying safe, and bonding with the horse. My friend Wendy, who has studied Anderson’s method, offered to help me gain my confidence and Chip’s.

After our work, Chip is now a new horse. He trusts me, I’m learning to trust him, and the bond we’ve created is exciting. I recently purchased a round pen which has made the whole process much easier. Now I can’t imagine working with a horse without one. I never would have thought that so much groundwork was necessary. 

Safety has become much more important as I climb into my senior years, and I’m so glad I attended Anderson’s tour. I’m now spending a mere 15 minutes training/riding each day but the consistency is paying off. 

Be sure to read about our senior horse contest winners on page 6. Congratulations to our winners, and thanks for sharing your stories!

“Don’t be pushed by the fear in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.”Roy T. Bennett, Author (1939-2014)

See this article in the November/December 2023 online edition:

November/December 2023

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