Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Yogi

Once cantering was no longer an issue for me, I took off - literally! I loved speeding down the trails whenever possible. Trail rides with Teri were never like they were with Phoebe, but I knew a good thing when I had it and made the best of it!

We didn't trail ride nearly as much as I used to, but it was enough. We did do an overnight horse camping trip into the mountains behind the barn with several of my friends once. I can remember cantering and galloping and racing my friends for short spurts of that ride. What fun! Additionally, waking up to horses hi-tied around a smoking campfire the following morning is still one of my favorite things in the world.

With experiences like that under my belt, Teri really began to trust me more as a young rider. She presented me with a different horse nearly every lesson. Often, she'd let me choose who I wanted to ride that day. I had my favorites, and I had my very least never-will-I-ever choices (primarily a black pony named Thunder who was super picky about who his rider was - I just couldn't handle his attitude!)

One day though, Teri asked me to ride a dark brown QH named Yogi for our weekly lesson. I don't remember much of his backstory, but I'm pretty certain he was around 11 years old at the time. I do remember that his registered name was Buck Destiny (foreshadowing?). He was a dollbaby most of the time, but he had one pesky vice that cause him to be sent down the road: he bucked at the canter.

Yogi and I standing in the barn driveway.

Judging from my past fears, you'd think this would be a deal breaker for me. Except it wasn't; Teri didn't tell me. She did warn my mother that it was a good possibility Yogi would throw some bucks when we cantered during our lesson. Teri knew I could handle them, so she didn't tell me and allow me to fret about it.

And so, sure enough, when we reached the canter part of our lesson, Yogi bucked.

Teri and my mom both exclaimed, "Wooo!" in surprise. I slowed him and looked at them quizzically.

"He bucked!" they exclaimed. "BIG," Teri added.

"Oh," I replied, "I guess that's what that extra deep hips-forward motion was for me. It just felt like my hips moved deeper into the saddle."

Teri laughed. "Well, proceed!"

And I did. I continued my lesson and the cantering. Yogi tossed in a few more bucks for good measure. My mom and Teri continued to exclaim in surprise and delight each time. I was almost oblivious to the sensation. And thus, the term "velcro-butt" was coined to me for the first time. It was a nickname I'd hear for years to follow.

Teri offered Yogi to me as my 4-H project horse for the year. I would "train" him and learn about him and show him in the 4-H show in the fall. I accepted.

For most of those months the 4-H project was being completed I was the only rider Yogi had - at least for any lessons above a canter. I don't know if Teri was trying to figure out if his bucking was due to saddle fit, rider weight, or what. But I was bold, oblivious to danger, and at < 100lbs., not much of a burden for Yogi to tote around.

Yogi was the first horse I really spent a significant amount of time working with. The more time I spent with him,  the less frequent his bucks became. I had learned to read the signs that often led to a buck, primarily a lowering of the head to gain leverage to toss his hind end up. With a flick of my fingers, I could give a tiny pop to the bit to cue Yogi to cut out his crap. He'd bring his head up and life would continue pleasantly.

We developed a nice rapport between us. It was the closest I'd ever come to bonding with a horse. I don't remember when or why I stopped riding him, but I do remember feeling a bit torn about not spending time with him.

Spending time working with Yogi, working toward resolving his vice instead of sending him down the road because he wasn't perfect taught me a lot. I gained confidence in myself as a rider. I learned that bucks really didn't have to be super scary. I learned that I had a pretty good seat. And mostly, I learned that horses can learn and change with time and patience. It was a lesson the helped propel me forward into many more training pursuits with horses in my future.

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