Ok, I DID IT! I'm thrilled, I'm happy, and I didn't get a single picture. I went out and rode Velvet.
For those who don't know Velvet's story, here's a short recap. I bought 3 horses from a woman, and all 3 were racks of bones. All 3 were bred, but one aborted late term. They were fattened up, and placed into wonderful homes. Ebony is living at a youth center with her owner, and working as a mount for disadvantaged children on the side. Sioux went to a lovely hunter jumper barn in Oklahoma, where her rider is able to gain confidence on a smaller horse that still has talent. And Velvet... she went into my broodmare herd.
Velvet is really the only horse that fit into my program. The other 2 I just couldn't stand to leave.
Now, Velvet has produced a LOVELY filly for me, but sadly, it seems that Velvet produces short offspring. This means that it's time to place her in a new home while she's still young enough to be a valued riding horse. She's currently in the prime of her life.
Well, selling her means that I need to put some time into riding her. When I bought her, I was warned that she's cold backed and will buck. It's my opinion that she bucks when her saddle doesn't fit, as I've never had that problem with her. But, she does have a few issues of her own. She's balked, layed down and rolled, and been a general problem child when I tried to fit her into the schedule before.
Now, I'm also a bit cursed with her. I've gotten her a ride or 2 before, and then she got injured. This week, I fought to even get a change to climb on her. From rain to sun, the weather made it impossible.
Welp (yeah, that's a technical term) I rode her today! I tried a new theory on her. When Velvet is loose (no halter, nothing) she's the most amazing horse ever. Put a halter on her, and she becomes belligerent, and passive aggressive. After thinking about this for awhile, I believe that her problem is fear related. Sound familiar?
Velvet is so sure that what comes next will be bad, that she preemptively becomes bad. So, today I started with hugs, kisses, praise, cookies, brushing, more hugs, and even some sugar cubes thrown in... and that was just while tacking up! Oh, and if you didn't know, Sugar is a great way to keep a nervous horse's mouth moist on the bit.
From there we went to the arena. I walked her around, stepped up, stepped down, laid across her back, and finally climbed on. It was pretty uneventful. I lavished praise on her for EVERYthing she did, even standing still. She was eating it up! But, when it came to the next part... you know, walking... she didn't have a clue. Oh boy.
Jae walked around with us, and Velvet would follow him anywhere he wanted to go. She was praised for that. But when I kicked him out of the arena, and tried to get her to just step forward, she froze up. Poor girl. I tapped, I kicked (lightly), I tried the turn to get forward momentum, and I tried the reverse until you will take a step forward. None worked, BUT, she didn't get upset, because I praised her each time she did what I asked.
Finally, I decided it was time for "tough love". I tapped her rump with my hand. I kept increasing the tap until she leaned forward. Give praise, pause, and repeat until I got a step. That first step was the hardest part of our ride! Of course I made a big deal out of it, hugging on her, petting her, and telling her how great she is. From there, it was a few laps at the walk, a few circles, some left, some right, some stops, some starts, and then we were done.
I know, not a big deal, right? That's exactly what makes me so excited.. it was a completely uneventful ride!
A Note about Sugarbush Draft Horses
I see it over and over again, and no matter how many times it's said, it's still wrong. "Sugarbush Drafts are just an Appaloosa Draft Cross". Uh.... no. The Sugarbush Draft Horse was a breed created many years ago in Ohio. While the initial cross was made using Percherons to Appaloosas, in the many generations following, the breed has been solidified into a consistent type. Saying these horses are "just" a draft cross makes as much sense as saying that AQHA horses are "just" a Thoroughbred cross, American Cream Drafts are "just" a dilute Belgian, or that Morgans are "just" a grade.