Okay, so I wasn't brave enough to take the halter off... but I took my mare on her second trail ride today. We did it bareback with only her halter and lead rope on. I thread the lead rope through her halter so that it would mimic rein action. I am incredibly proud of how far she has come.
When I purchased this mare I was a very inexperienced buyer. I purchased her before I learned anything about a horse's mental state or boundaries. I bought her simply because she was cheap and she looked pretty.
On my first day out to see her it was storming. I drove 2 hours to see her, the rain didn't stop me. I was very eager to buy. When I got there her owner led me out to the area they kept their horses. We stood under a small lean-to. I didn't see any horses. Her husband joined us with a bucket of corn and dumped it into a feed trough under the lean-to. Here come the horses. I believe there were 5 horses all together, including a hackney and a mini. They all came in and gathered around the feed trough, right up next to us, bumping shoulders and pushing into each other's space, including ours, as if we were not even there. Her owner didn't ride her and didn't know much about her background. She made me feel like the expert, so I took things into my own hands asking for a lead rope to attach to her halter. To me, she seemed friendly enough. She let me lead her away from her food. She let me pick up her feet... well her two front feet anyway. She led well enough, a little close but I didn't know any better at the time. She was smaller, only about 14 hands. The two horses I had at the time were both bigger. I thought it might be nice to have a smaller one. I was sold. Although I didn't mention that to her owner at the time. I told her I was eager to come back and ride her as soon as the weather dried up. A few days later I did just that.
When I came out to ride her, her owner had a friend with her. She said her friend knew more about horses and has always helped her out with this mare. The horse was already in a small pen. The owner's friend brought her son with her and asked her son to get his saddle and blanket. We walked over to the mare. She tied her up and got the blanket and saddle from her son. With the movement of the blanket towards the mare her eyes got big, her head shot up, and she snorted. "Easy." she said. "Here, you want to sniff it a little." After about 30 seconds to a minute of sniffing, she put the blanket on her back. She repeated a similar routine with the saddle. She then asked me if I wanted to ride or if I wanted her son to get on first. I opted for her son to get on first. I watched him ride her around in circles. At the time I didn't know much to be looking for. The owner's friend commented on some things, "She doesn't neck rein, she plow reins." "She will be more controlled with an adult who knows how to use their legs and body." I just shook my head in agreement.
Then it was my turn to ride. We walked around some. I could pretty well keep her in a circle. Plow reining was different for me, both of my horses at home neck reined very well. But I thought to myself, "How hard could that be to teach? I'm a Behavior Analyst. I'm sure I can figure it out." I got off shortly and immediately began trying to make arrangements for delivery (at the time I did not have a horse trailer). Lucky for me, the owner's husband was available to deliver her that evening. I was ecstatic. I paid her cash, plus a fee for delivery and eagerly went home to make sure I had everything ready for her arrival. I got home and realized, I didn't know how to introduce a new horse. I googled it. I read a few different theories and opted for just turning her out with the other two horses and letting them sort things out. Luckily this worked out okay.
The next day I was eager to start working with her. I got to use my newly purchased snaffle bit. I slowly saddled her up, just like I'd seen her previous owner's friend do, and got on. I was ready to start teaching her to neck rein. The only problem was, she wouldn't move. I kicked and kicked and kicked.... nothing. How was I going to teach her to neck rein if I couldn't get her to move? I gave up and came in defeated.
I came home to my mother watching my children for me. I talked with her about my struggles and tried to get some ideas from her. She didn't ride and knew even less than I did. She suggested a couple people I may try e-mailing and asking questions, including a friend of hers who used to be a teacher, but was now "big into horses," and was a lesson instructor. That gave me a brilliant idea. I used to be a teacher, maybe I could get "big into horses" and become a horse trainer. I began a search for online horse training courses. After all, my Master's degree and Behavior Analyst coursework was done online, maybe horse training coursework could be found online. Success! I found courses you could work through at your own pace and upon completion earn your PHT! I could become a Professional Horse Trainer! I was very excited. I immediately began weighing my options to see which course I would sign up for first. I signed up for 1 course that night, and added another the following day. And so began my battle with stud chains and lunging...
I am a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), who has taken my knowledge in Applied Behavior Analysis, and the methodology of expert horse trainers, to create an Equine training program that is anything but average. Working with my own horses has led me to discover my passion for not just training horses, but practicing quality horsemanship. For the best interest of the horses, I hope to spread this interest in quality horsemanship.