Monday, July 26, 2010

A story of a boy who wanted a horse....(Part 2)

So here I was with a horse that I wanted to ride, but was woefully ill prepared for anything to do with horses. I didn't know how to properly care for a horse. I didn't know how best to feed them. I knew nothing about vet or hoof care. I mean, I was in the dark. As far as my parents were concerned, they had bought the horse and the rest was up to me. They didn't know anything about horses either.

As it was obvious to everyone in the stables where my horse was boarded that I knew nothing, people began to shower me with advice. Even the greenest of riders knew more than I did, so I got good advice AND bad advice, and I had no way of filtering any of it. I barely knew how to saddle my horse. Somehow, I muddled through, and started riding in the arena that was located on the stable grounds. But Tuffy Danger didn't ride straight. He liked going sideways, and it was a little unnerving. And he just got worse and worse, and started running me into the arena rails, fences, gates, you name it. He would sidepass into things to brush me off, and I was getting pretty beat up in the process. I found out later that side passing was what had unnnerved his previous owner, and she had given him up because he was too dangerous for her to ride.

"Ride him hard. Put some spurs into him. Ride him easy, don't use spurs." Every one had advice and none of it made sense to me. I'd try something, expecting it to work in 15 minutes, and then get frustrated when it didn't. I learned to longe my horse, with the direction of others. But I didn't know what I was doing, and most of my goal was to round pen my horse into a lather with the hopes that he would be too tired to run me into things when I mounted him. But it didn't work.

Pretty soon things went from bad to worse. My horse started to offer little rears in protest when I was riding him. That usually got me off him pretty fast. So then he learned to do bigger rears. I nerved up and rode him anyway, but at this point he was rearing to nearly vertical at the slightest ride! Someone told my mother, and that same someone convinced her that was dangerous, so she agreed to send the horse to a trainer.

So Tuffy Danger went to the trainer, a cowboy trainer. There, he was ridden hard by some pretty tough guys. After about 45 days, they invited me out to ride my new, improved horse. As soon as I saw him, I knew he'd had it rough. He was scarred all over from the hard use of spurs. He had fresh scars barely covered with dried blood, and old scars he must have received shortly after his arrival. I mounted him, and he did seem different. He was very wired but had a great neck rein and would trot and canter effortlessly. But he sure didn't seem calm or at ease. I rode him with the cowboy trainer, and we rode hard through the South Texas brush, and Tuffy Danger jumped cactus and plowed through anything I accidentally steered him into. He didn't offer to rear. My only instructions on the way home were to ride him hard and use the spurs.

It didn't take long until Tuffy Danger was rearing again, even more viciously than before, and it was just a matter of time before he was going to fall over completely and send the saddle horn through my chest.

I admitted defeat, and my father and me loaded him up and took him to the auction. My father had an "I told you" look on his face the whole time. I felt defeated, but I pretty much hated that horse by that time, and when he was rushed into the stock yards, I didn't care if he was sold to ride or for meat. I was just glad to be rid of him.

My first foray into horse ownership had lasted about a year. I had a few good rides on Tuffy Danger, but too few to mention. Most were on the ranch, working a few cows and with some wide open spaces where he couldn't run me into things. My first horse, a 7 year old registered Quarter Horse purchased for $750 dollars in 1985, was gone, and so was my dream of owning a horse and being a horseman. Whatever horsemanship skills I had inherited from my Grandpa Chuy must have been diluted, because I was a failure at this horse thing.

I rode horses on occasion over the years after selling Tuffy Danger, but I was never easy around them. I maybe rode 3 or 4 times over the next 21 years, but thoughts of horse ownership never entered my mind. I figured I had my chance, and horses were for people of different stock.

I graduated high school, and went to Austin for college, and then entered medical school and residency, so horses were nothing but a bad memory for me for a long time. But the longing to ride horses in a good way must have stayed way back in my brain, because events would bring me back to them.


Unknown said...

I'm so glad you are telling this story.

Note to self: never buy a horse with DANGER as part of his name.

Anonymous said...

I know just what you mean - when I was 8 my parents got me a horse from the (slimy) horse dealer next door. The mare was vicious and would buck me off every chance she got. She just seemed to hate people, and it turns out the dealer was a notorious horse abuser - he had a terrible temper and would beat the horses to the point that they were bleeding and bruised. No wonder the poor mare hated people! Anyway, she had an "accident" according to my parents (liars!).

It did put me off horses for a while, but they drew me back.

Jan said...

Great story- can't wait to hear the next installment! It's obvious from your current skill level that you have come a long way, so I'm looking forward to reading more. And thank you for sharing your history. We really do learn a lot from each other.