Big Baby Syndrome

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Recently, I “made a real estate purchase,” as I’ve heard it called, off the back of a 16.3 hand appendix gelding who’s five years old. Luckily, it wasn’t a hard landing, I was able to brush off, and climb back aboard to finish our ride. It was in fact, partially my fault, I was using a more aggressive spur than his owner usually did, and I knew he didn’t care for it, but I was being careful to not use them more than necessary. The tussle began when I asked for a canter on the left lead, a task I’m told, he’s never done, and generally refuses to do. I didn’t bully him, I simply made my request clear, with a little emphasis from the spur. He stopped, and backed, I pitched him away, and tried to nudge him forward again, he rounded our his back, hopped, bucked, and pitched until I was on my back in the dirt. It did dawn on me, than in an effort to try to stay right side up, I probably tried to get more leg around him, which most likely finished our conversation. Oops! Needless to say, I’ll be 37 this month, and the last time I got tossed, was when I was nearly out, or just after I was out of high school. As promised, it doesn’t get easier, and it does take longer to recover.

The event got me thinking, has this big bonehead just been allowed to have his own way, because he’s big?

In chatting with his owner, she remarked a few times that “you don’t tell him what to do.” I’d also jokingly asked, at another point in conversation, if he’d ever actually been small? The answer was a resounding no. So here, is this larger than usual fellow, who’s got an owner that doesn’t even try to be the boss with him, are we wondering why he displays such bratty behavior? I certainly hope not! It seems obvious to me, his size has made him an Alpha by default, and nobody’s every bothered to challenge it.

In my experience, and granted, rarely with anything over 16 hands, that no matter their size, they’re still always going to be bigger, so aren’t we supposed to be smarter? I recalled handling draft horses when I was in 4-H, with better manners than the guy who dumped me, and while they were probably close in height, they were still much bulkier. The difference, is in the upbringing. Children and animals, are all a product of their environment. In the same way that Pit Bulls can be docile and affectionate, a horse, with the benefit of never being disciplined when his behavior was unacceptable, can turn into a monster. This I fear, is the case in my situation.

I feel like I should preface the conversation now, by explaining the reason I was riding in the first place. I currently don’t have my own horse, but found a friend who had horses in her barn that needed saddle hours logged. This one, has an owner who’s pregnant (thank goodness it was me, and not her, that got bucked off), so it made sense that I use him. I’m no trainer, and have no desire to train for anyone other than myself, so in my opinion, if I don’t ride this critter again, no harm done. As much as I miss riding, and having my own horse, I don’t feel it justifies putting myself in harm’s way, on the back of a giant, spoiled brat.

All that being said, I suppose my point was that, no matter how much we baby our animals, because they really are our babies, and no matter how we spoil them, and give them the best of everything, often before ourselves, they’re still 1000 pound animals with fully functioning minds, and aren’t to be taken for granted. My last horse, Buddy, was as spoiled as the day is long. He wanted for nothing, and had the best I could provide, but Buddy and I had an understanding, Mama is the law. I will dote on, feed, care for, groom, talk to, kiss on the nose, and make sure you always have nicer clothes, newer shoes, and a better car than I do. In exchange for that, I expect you to respect that I provide all that, and ask only for a few hours of your day. He would play and push the line sometimes, but he knew, without question, that when he crossed the line, he would be disciplined accordingly. When you’re handling animals that much larger than you, can you really afford to let them push you around?

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