A year ago this month, Rudy and I were going through a rough patch. He had developed stomach ulcers and it took a few months for me to figure out that this was the cause of a variety of unwanted and uncharacteristic behaviors in him.
In the recent weeks, he had started bucking when he was asked to canter under saddle. He offered to kick if I so much as grazed my hand over his flank and he had an excessively sore back. A series of events left me with little confidence in me, him, or us as a team.
There were several tear-filled conversations with well-meaning people who told me he might not be the right horse for me, but I felt like I wasn't the right human for him. He needed someone with more experience and confidence to lead him. When I searched inside myself, I didn't see that person. This thought made me beyond sad for both of us. I utterly adored Rudy. His sweet, playful, goofy personality brought me joy and the thought of anything but us working out felt like giving up on both of us.
A friend who had been with me through my entire journey with Rudy offered to take him for the summer for a boot camp. This would be a reset for both of us. He would get a change of scenery and she would do all the things she does with her horses; school them walk, trot, canter, trail ride, and more. While she had Rudy, she’d give me her steady, confident, sweet mare. Feeling both desperate and grateful for her willingness to help, I agreed.
She spent the summer taking Rudy on riding adventures. She rode him on the road, down to a local park where she rode him all through the trails. He was exposed to hikers, dogs, mountain bikes, and more.
I spent the summer riding her horse, Breeze, bareback. We rode in the arena, and on the trails around the barn. I felt instant relief and joy at being able to get on a horse and not worry about something crazy happening.
I also got back on Rudy with Allison's guidance. First on the lunge line, then off, we even rode to the park although I was not brave enough at that point to be off of the lead line. Still, we were progressing.
Weeks passed and things were going well. Rudy was back to his usual self and I was regaining my confidence. In September. I moved him to a new barn that had a trainer to provide us with the support we needed.
Meanwhile, I realized I needed to step up for Rudy in many ways. It has been a combination of stepping up and knowing when to step away that has worked. I’ve slowly and successfully expanded what we've been able to do together.
This week all of our time together was spent outside versus the perceived safety of the indoor arena. Twice I worked Rudy in the backfield, far from the barn and the security of his horse friends. We did our full walk, trot, canter routine, albeit quite energetically.
I even mounted him from a large rock, on his right side, and he didn't move a muscle. We went on to have an amazing ride. We explored more areas of the property under saddle. All of this was absolutely unthinkable a year ago. I'm proud of myself for learning how to be the human he needs. A relaxed confident person helps to produce a relaxed confident horse.
Written September 2019