Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Horses Who Made Me: Pegasus


Summer of 2011 I moved back to my hometown to begin my career job. I had recently gotten my first horse Orion (to be covered in next week's episode), and was given an additional opportunity to work with a rotund 3 year old, 14.2hh paint colt named Pegasus.

No, we're not standing in front of a green screen, that was the true
My vet had recommended me to the couple who owned Pegasus because of my level head and enthusiasm. This horse needed time, patience, and determination. The owners wanted to be able to ride him around their property (a commercial campground) without issue. I'd never truly started a young horse before, and the challenge sounded fun. I didn't request any payment, as I had zero qualification to do this work. I only wanted the experience.

Experience is just what I gained!

Pegasus lived on the property with one other horse - his mother. He had never been separated from her. He'd never met another horse in his life. He only knew his mother. Additionally, he'd been socialized to the point of being incredibly rude towards people. He had always been coddled and spoiled, so he had developed quite an oral fixation with anything and everything within his reach. His curious nibbles would quickly turn into more aggressive nips.

I did my best to work with what I was presented with. I quickly realized that I'd need to bring my own tack though, as the hodge podge assembly of older tack available on the property wasn't quite up to par with what I needed and wanted to do.

My options for riding consisted of a private dirt road and a large back field with tall grass that was mown into a maze that was - if viewed from an airplane - a sunflower.

The first sessions with Pegasus were accompanied by my then-boyfriend, Chris. Chris is even more gung-ho than I as far as pushing limits goes; he was, and is, a true adrenaline junkie. He and Kenai played and watched as I tacked Pegasus up and made a very sorry attempt to lunge him - an effort that proved nearly futile due to the facilities - or lack thereof - I had to work with.

I ended up doing some modified in-hand work with the colt around the property, showing him a myriad of "strange" things. By the end of the session, Chris lay across Pegasus' back just for the hell of it to see if the little colt would respond. Pegasus didn't even flick an ear! Chris went further, throwing a leg across the colt to properly sit on his back. Pegasus still didn't flick an ear, his focus on me as I held his halter and lead. I led the colt, with Chris astride, back to the barn and ended on that note, to the great pleasure of his owners who were certain I was a miracle worker by this point - HA.

The next couple sessions proceeded the same as the first; ground work in hand followed by pony rides. With time, the pony rides evolved into solo mounted pursuits.

Pegasus was a quick and willing learner who took quickly to pressure and release methods, learning to turn left and ride off aids from both the reins and my legs.

Here is a video a friend put together of me riding Pegasus at one of the last sessions. Be Advised: It was on one of THE HOTTEST summer days I have EVER experienced in WV. I recognize the adherent risk and danger associated with no helmet and flip flops around horses. The risk was mine own and I don't recommend others pursue the same.


He had all of the associated "baby" breakdowns, mostly mental. He was particularly awful at throwing his head whenever he disagreed with a request. When doing on ground work, this wasn't as big an issue, but work under saddle? I lost track of the number of times I nearly had my nose broken. I eventually added a tie-down to our get-up, and his outbursts stalled.

The colt's biggest issue though? His separation anxiety. For the life of me, I don't understand why he was never ever separated from his mother. There was certainly enough property to do it. There was even a neighbor with horses who was willing to take the colt or his mother for a time, but nothing was ever done.

I quickly learned that I had a 20 minute window with Pegasus before he'd lose his shit about not being with his mother and completely break down. His mother would call for him incessantly from the moment I took him from the field. Even when I would take him to the furthest available point to work with him we could still hear her echoing whinnies of distress. You can imagine how these negatively affected everything I tried to do!

Sadly for the colt, I had a bit of a falling out with his owners after I'd moved Orion there for a short time. The wife absolutely disagreed with the natural hoof care methods that Orion was receiving and really got in my face about it a time or two. This, on top of her blatant disregard for my safety after a few incidents with Pegasus and with his mother (incidents that I will never mention in a public format), caused me to step away before further harm came to me. The last I heard from my vet, Pegasus had been given to one of their family members. I don't know what became of him other than that.

The whole adventure of working with Pegasus taught me so much. I learned what worked and didn't work when training a green horse. I learned what facilities were crucial when training vs. what could be improvised on the spot. I learned patience. I learned to say "no" when things got to be too much. I learned that I had a lot more to learn.

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