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Stubborn Pony

by Caitlin Yoder

Published: Friday, August 9, 2019

Cowgirl to the Core

Although I've always been crazy about horses, I never had to beg my dad to let me have one. He does a good job of feeding my horse addiction, because he too has a deep love for the animals. There was a time, however, that I did think I needed a tiny pony in addition to my horse.

I wasn't yet big enough to throw the saddle up on my horse by myself, and I thought the shorter stature would allow me to saddle my own horse whenever I wanted to go for a ride. Honestly, the real reason was probably that I just thought they were cute and hadn't yet figured out that ponies are even more hard headed than my crazy boss mare.

I had pretty much given up on the idea by the time I got my first pony to train. Really, it was more like get the pony in shape and give her a bit of a tune up. Her owner wanted me to ride her for the entire summer. I don't even remember if I ended up getting the money I was promised; I was just so excited to have a pony to ride.

The little paint pony wasn't actually much shorter than my own mare, but that didn't matter. She was still all pony; attitude included. Looking back, she didn't have the worst pony attitude I have ever witnessed, but she was still stubborn at first. The first time we took off down the trail, things started out great.

Until we came to a fork in the trail and the pony refused to go in the direction that I tried to steer her. I was instantly confused. How could this perfect little pony refuse to go forward? It didn't take too long for the pony to give in and move forward that time.

She tried this several more times, but I kept urging her forward. Soon, we came to the creek. This time, the pony had made up her mind that she was not stepping foot in that water. I quickly followed suit and decided that she would, in fact, step through that water, and she would do it that very day.

I made up my mind that I would beat the pony in any war of will she tried to start. At the time, it did work. I convinced the pony to get into the water that day and soon, she started to realize that I was just a bit more stubborn than she was.

There have been other horses that I tried to use this technique on, and most of the time it worked. It took a lot of time, but eventually it worked. Until it didn't. I have learned that I am much more successful when I negotiate with the horse, or try to make them think it is their idea to step into the water.

I don't think I had one moment that made me realize that I needed to change my stubborn attitude. But I recently read an article where Julie Goodnight talks about her "eureka" moment. Goodnight used to exercise racehorses when she was a college student in her 20s. One difficult horse taught her the importance of patience in the saddle.

As the only girl exercise rider, she felt she had a lot to prove. The first time she swung up onto the horse's back, he broke into a bucking fit. She said he did this every time she got on his back, but she wouldn't let him throw her off.

As she put more rides on the colt, he slowly started to postpone his bucking for later in the ride. Soon, Goodnight recalls boldly telling the trainer that if she could get the horse to buck just one more time, she would "have him licked."

Her trainer quickly scolded her, telling her to never pick a fight with one of his horses. Goodnight instantly realized she had let her ego inflate after staying atop the toughest horse in the lot. She almost learned the hard way that picking a fight with a horse in the hopes of conquering them is never the answer.

Horses are powerful animals and picking a fight is a good way to get hurt. Finding ways to build trust and understanding with a horse creates more success.

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