Building Confidence, Gaining Trust

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The foundation for any solid relationship, whether it’s with another human or an animal, is trusting your partner. In just 11 short months (and mostly riding on weekends), I certainly didn’t expect to earn as much of TJ’s trust under saddle as I have.

Friday was a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. We worked in the ring for a bit so I could see how he was doing. The previous week he stumbled a few times and ended up limping. Since he was still a bit sore during the week, I wasn’t sure if I’d be riding. He was fine so I decided it was time to venture out into their pasture for a ride. The last time I tried it, we barely got 20′ in when TJ started to bounce and rear. One of the young girls that rides there was already enjoying a pasture ride and we decided to join her.  He was a little nervous and confused as to why he was going in his pasture with me on him. We made it past the spot he had his meltdown the last time. Skeptical, but willing, we walked around the smaller area. I could feel him tense when he saw the gate and got a little jiggy as we got closer. I let him go through the gate to take the pressure off. Once he relaxed we went back in. Encouragement and reassurance from me got him into the much larger back pasture. Half way down the fence line, turned around and went completely out of the pasture without incident. One more little ride in the big pasture for reinforcement and I was going to end our ride on a good note. In the gate, across the small front pasture and through the second gate. Head up and looking, ears forward, on a loose rein with no encouragement from me, TJ walked all the way down to the bottom of the pasture, part way across the back and back up the middle. I was shocked. I didn’t think he had developed enough self confidence to do that on his own.

Saturday was cold and rainy. I was disappointed that we couldn’t ride. The rain had cleared out and Sunday afternoon turned out to be a nice day, although somewhat cooler and breezy. Not the ideal time to take Mr Spook out of the ring, but I was going to try. I went in the ring long enough to use the mounting block. TJ seemed a bit surprised as we walked out of the ring. His ears went forward and his pace quickened as we headed for the pasture gate. He must have enjoyed our last ride. We walked through the small pasture. We barely go through the gate to the big pasture and another one of the girls at the barn came galloping up behind us and blasting past TJ.  The thought of I’m going to die ran through my head for an instant as TJ and Koko spooked. Once they past and TJ saw what was going on he was ok. I rubbed on him and reassured him. He settled quickly. A few months ago this situation would have been a disaster . Fortunately the young girl that was also riding in the pasture was far enough away that her horse wasn’t affected by this. Shortly after being told about galloping around like a lunatic that close to other horses, she took off again. This fired up Koko to the point that Greg could barely keep her controled. The other girl’s horse got spooked to the point she got off. I put the reins in 1 hand and rubbed TJ’s neck with the other.  TJ handled it. A bit up, but we continued our ride on a loose rein. This is when I realized how much trust he had in me and the amount of self confidence he was developing. I can’t begin to express how proud I was of him that day.

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