A Project Named Pistol

With well over a month until the next IHSA meet and finals only a few days away, you’d think that things would be settling down around here, but we’re still busy riding and studying.  (To be honest, I think I’d be going crazy if it weren’t for riding.)  In fact, though I usually update you on the teams or talk about riding at home, today I’d like to tell you about my pet project.

Yep, with a name like "Pistol," you already know what to expect with this one.

Normally stock seat team lessons include riding one of Denise’s school horses or one of her client’s horses, but recently I have had the opportunity to work with a gelding that she has in training.  Pistol (and, yes, his name fits his personality) is a chestnut overo Paint with a bit of an odd history.  Though we still don’t have all the details, we know that his previous owner was killed in a car accident several years ago and, upon his death, Pistol was given to the man’s girlfriend (his current owner).  The woman had spent a little time with him, but after he threw her she stopped working with him.  Although we can’t be certain, Denise and I believe that the reason for his buck was a large horsefly landing on his rump because he seems too lazy to ever put that much effort in to trying to get a rider off but does seem relatively sensitive to even the smallest of flies.  In addition, he doesn’t come across as a mean-spirited horse.

I’ve been riding him twice a week for about a month now and he has really come a long way.  Our first ride involved a constant battle of wills just to keep him walking and jogging – and getting any sort of lope or canter out of him was nearly impossible.  In addition, he was horrible about picking up his feet and bounced around on the end of the lunge line like a Mexican jumping bean.

(We now know that he only had minimal training to begin with – and we were later informed that he was never lunged or taught to canter and had only been minimally trail ridden.)

One way that I've been building his confidence is by working with trail obstacles. This was one of our first attempts at walking on the bridge.

As a result, we’ve spent most of our time building his confidence and we’re finally getting somewhere! He lunges like a gentleman, picks up his feet much better than before (though there’s still some progress to be made), and today he got both of his leads!  (He has a hard time with right lead and has never gotten it under saddle before.)

Working with Pistol has been really rewarding and a little bit stress relieving as well.  Now if only he would behave as well for everyone else as he does for me!  Denise keeps telling me that we have a special connection and I guess she’s right.  There’s just something about Pistol that I really like – I suppose it could be that he bears a similar resemblance to my mare or just that he’s a challenge, but either way, I have that boy eating out of the palm of my hand – literally!  He has pretty decent confirmation and I’d love to see his papers to learn more about his family tree, but sadly they were misplaced due to his previous owner’s death.

Nevertheless, I plan to continue to ride him and dread the day that he has to go home.  But even then, he has taught me a thing or two about riding, as I have done for him.  In the end, riding isn’t about going to big fancy shows and getting first, it’s about being able to get on, work with what you got, and enjoy every minute of it – a lesson that I have learned from riding in the IHSA and working with horses like Pistol.

…and with that lesson in hand, bring on the exams.  I’m ready!


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