I’ve been referring to my first horse in several posts. Let me introduce you to Juniper Moon Wind, affectionately called Iggette. If you’ve read my posts on what & what not to look for, this is a very good lesson in what NOT to do for your first horse. Iggette, in her younger days, was an absolute nightmare for any novice. I will add that in time with a lot of patience & training, she became the best horse ever for both me and the countless students that she taught how to ride and overcome their fears.
Iggette is a race bred Quarter horse. In 1979, she was in training at a smaller track in my area. She had about 60 or 90 days of training. To be quite honest, I just don’t remember anymore. As with a lot of young race horses, her legs just couldn’t stand up to the strain of hard training. Before she ever had an official race, she hurt her front legs. This wasn’t a life threatening injury, but it did end her race career. The only good therapy was complete rest.
Iggette was taken off the track to recover at her owner’s home. She was put in a pasture with feeder cows. Unfortunately for Iggette, she has a lot more cow sense in her that a race horse should have. She herded the cows around the pen, cut them into corners and wouldn’t let eat. She did this several times a day. Let’s just say she wouldn’t let the cows fatten up and a skinny cow is not what you want to take to the butcher. To top this off, Iggette bucked off the owner’s wife when she was ridden. Remember Iggette only had race training, she didn’t know how to be a pleasure riding horse. This just added insult to injury. It was time to sell her.
This is where I come in. I had never owned a horse, I had never taken care of a horse and I had only ridden a few backyard pets that my friends had. I was a stupid 20 something and was just as horse crazy then as when I was at 4. Oh yeah, I was also recuperating from a very bad fall off a lesson horse trying to learn how to jump fences. I was told Iggette was going to the sale barn and I just couldn’t let that happen. I talked my husband into buying her. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with her, but I knew I couldn’t let her go to the sale where she might end up in the hands of the killers. I bought her without even going to look at her first. This is how I became a novice owner.
When I went to get her, her former owner had offered to trailer her for me since I had neither a truck or trailer. Being off the track, I thought she would just jump in the trailer & off we’d go. We tried loading her the normal way by just walking into the trailer, she won that battle. We tried a rope around her backside to try to pull her in, she won that battle. We tried backing the trailer in the ditch so she wouldn’t have very far to step up, she won that battle. We finally had to put her in a stall and back the trailer up to the door. After an hour of trying to coax her in, we won – sort of. She did get in the trailer, but she did the 4-foot shuffle all the way to her new home. Whew, was I glad that was over.
Iggette’s new home was a stable not far from my house. I did the good owner thing and walked her around the pasture so that she would know the fenceline. Just as I took off her halter, a jet flew overhead as it was taking off from the airport. The airport was less than a 1/4 mile from the stable. Needless to say it was low and loud. Iggette reared up at the sound of very loud jet engines & took off running. She had never heard this sound before & it scared the daylights out of her. I couldn’t catch her the rest of the day. Within a week, jets didn’t phase her anymore. Catching her while in the pasture remained one of her biggest vices for quite a few years though.
As for riding her, I quickly learned race training is just what it implies. The only gaits she knew how to do were a fidgety walk and run at top speed. I needed help and decided to use the resident manager/trainer. This was another big mistake. ALWAYS - ALWAYS - ALWAYS check out the trainer before hand. Talk with some of their customers, watch a few of their training sessions and talk with other people in their barn. If the trainer discourages or flat out won’t let you talk to their clients or watch them train, pass them up. Don’t even think about it. After finding out a few of his “training techniques”, I knew this was definitely not the trainer for me or my new horse.
I suffered through trying to train her myself or maybe it was Iggette who suffered through a complete novice trying to train a green horse. We didn’t get very far. Since I had no idea of what I was doing, the best I could manage was a somewhat slower walk and a trot that would jar your teeth out. I didn’t try to lope at this point. To be quite honest, I was intimidated and she knew it. She never tried to dump me or rub me off on the nearest fence, but she was never willing to give to in to me either. She seemed to do better with women than with men. My husband would ride her and she would do little bunny hops sideways.
So to sum up this part of my novice experience:
I bought a 3 yr old horse.
I bought a horse off the racetrack.
I bought a horse that only had race training and no other type of training.
I bought a horse I had never even seen.
I bought a horse from sheer emotion.
I bought a horse that at times was almost impossible to catch.
I bought a horse that would not load in a trailer.
How many more wrong things can a person do?
You can see now why I am passionate about helping other novice horsemen out there. It can be mighty painful without some experienced help.