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Farmette 1769

by Monica Melograna-Ward

Attempting to be “One with the Horse” has always made a lot of sense. The “Big Man” Dakota is the horse that truly inspired me to give Natural Horsemanship a try.

In 2008, I purchased my first horse. She was a big beautiful sorrel quarter horse with a lovely band of white down the front of her face. This horse was also hot under the saddle. I am an advanced rider and was happy to take on the challenge of a speedy mare.

But, there is a big different between an advanced rider and an experienced owner. I did not realize that our starter Farmette was not the place for a horse with a cribbing issue. I was told that she was a cribber when I bought her, but I had no idea what an obsessive drug-addiction-like habit it was. A horse that cribs heavily needs an extra large pasture, constant workouts and careful feed management.

Also, this horse was hard to hold back. As my neck problem reached a point where my arms lost some power, our short partnership as a riding team came to an end. As much as I hated to pass her on to another owner, she needed more than we could give her. My first horse went to live on 30 acres of pasture with an able rider.

So, my horse energy now focused on our blind boy, Big Man (originally adopted to keep my riding horse company). He needed a lot of work just to get him calmed down. For several months, it actually took two people to handle him safely.

At the beginning of this year, 2010, I took my first ride on Big Man. As our bond became stronger, I realized just how gentle of a personality he really had. The jumpiness was purely fear from the blindness and nothing more.

He is so easy going when you get on him, that a big saddle with a strong bridle seemed like overkill. I tried him out bareback and realized that worked well. We sold off the heavy duty Western Saddle set and bought a well-made bareback saddle. This gives you a handle if need be and stirrups for better balance.

"Big Man" wearing a bareback saddle

He is less than fond of a bridle and bit, so I started with a jointed snaffle bit. This is easier on a horses mouth. Big Man still protested almost every time I put it on, so alternatives were looked into. I have a bitless bridle in mind, but have not gotten it yet. So, this week’s ride was with a field halter and reins.

I was surprised at how well you can control a good-natured horse without all the complicated equipment. You do have to be able to trust the horse and vise versa. This much I know now. As I gather more information and try new techniques, I will add supplementary blogs on this subject.

Big Man is learning leg, balance and voice commands very quickly. If the only thing we ever do is meander around the Farmette, I’ll be happy. But, I expect him to improve a lot with time. And, only time will tell how far we can get with our natural horseback riding partnership.

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