I was 19. I was running scared. I was like a colt that had been through the ringer, hesitant to trust anyone and hyper-alert for any danger.
I was in self preservation mode. I had an '86 model Falcon ute (that I loved), a saddle and my (very little) dog. I was running from a pretty bad home situation and in hindsight, could draw many parallels between myself and the horses I was (trying to) start. I took a job on a way-out stud handling and starting their young warmbloods. I was in way over my head but I needed something, anything to get me by and a place to camp. It suited me, I could work by myself and be away from criticism and failure, get bucked off as many times as I needed to without someone chewing on me.
For a while, it was great. Little Dog and I would get up early and fumble our way through the day with these young horses, each day putting a bit more healing and confidence over our battle-scarred souls, thinking it was the horses we were helping, but in reality it was the other-way around.
I was sitting on my bed that night in the loft above the barn, my bed that was sitting on bricks, reading the latest Horse Deals. I saw and ad for a Ray Hunt Colt Starting clinic coming up and knew that I needed to go along. I calculated that I could pay for it all with the money after I got paid from these horses, so I booked in. I knew I needed help. I really knew in my heart what I wanted to do with horses, but I didn't have enough knowledge to do it. I had to get help.
The next day I woke with a new sense of purpose - keen. Around this time I was riding all these colts out around the paddocks and up and down the big escarpment that was the entry to her place. The big filly I was loping along at that time felt great. The paddock was huge and flat and she had room to run. I was opening her up when behind me all the other young horses started to run with me. That's right folks, I was loping a big dopey Warmblood on its third or fourth ride out in a paddock FULL OF OTHER HORSES (FACEPALM - oh god I needed Ray). She kicked up her heels and ran with them - somehow I got the thing bent but just as I did she tripped and I went down with her. It was a mess, but we were fine. Little Dog ran up to check on me but all that hurt was my pride - or so I thought. Little did I know the owner was watching from her big mansion on the hill and saw me walk that horse back up to the yards - and the filly was lame. My face was burning and I was berating myself for being so dumb. I tied her up and hoped she would get better (what?!). I rode a few more and came back that afternoon and she was worse. Oh shit, here it comes, I thought.
The next day the owner came down to check on my progress. I rode all the other horses but not the filly. She asked why I wasn't riding her that day? My pulse quickened, my eyes went wide, I got all flinchy waiting for the blow. Here I was, the scared little colt, tounge-tied and afraid. I mumbled something about her being sore - and the owner said, why, what happened? I started shaking and stammered, "Uh, I don't know" ... I felt I was looking around for an escape, but the roundpen walls were too high, I was tied up with sacks strapped to my back and my tail was clamped shut between my butt cheeks. She looked at me and and yelled about how much these horses cost, she saw what happened yesterday, I should have told her straight away (truth) and its not good enough... I cant even remember what happened after that. I crumbled and fled. Packed my ute, and Little Dog and I were gone, in a cloud of dust up the driveway. I still feel awful about that. I didn't finish my job and I did the wrong thing. I was so preoccupied in saving my life that I struck out and did things I regret.
Sometimes colts do these things that label them as "bad" or "rank" - but mostly, they are just afraid. I know how that feels, because I have lived that. Its tiring, and not fun at all. I think that is why I enjoy "bustin' broncs" so much, because I can see similarities of myself in their eyes, I can walk in their shoes.
Little Dog and I made it to the showgrounds where the Ray Hunt clinic would be at. I had lined up a colt from some friends of friends of friends that I could ride in the clinic - they would go halves in the clinic cost for me if I started their colt in the class. Sweet deal, I thought. I was camping at the showgrounds for about a week before the clinic started as I didn't really have anywhere else to go. The people that owned the colt I was going to ride said they would send it to the showgrounds for me - would give me a few days to get to know him before the clinic.
The next day a cattle truck showed up at the grounds, and I wandered over to see who or what was getting delivered - it was my colt. Oh God. This thing was about 14.2hh, was as wide as he was tall, had feet on him like flippers and not a piece of mane or tail hair that wasn't tied up in some kind of knot around a Bathurst Burr. He actually looked like he had a beaver tail - thats how many burrs were in there. They were stuck in his forelock and mane so bad, and would have been scratching the crap out of him. He had come off a pasture crop with some cattle, and the oats were over his head high. He was so fat. Like, so fat that he had two necks - one on top of the other. Oh God. He had been gelded as a foal and never touched since and he was a 4yo Welsh x Quarterhorse. What had I got myself into? Why was I always getting in over my head? He ran off the truck and into the yards - the truckie gave me a lazy thumbs up and drove off - I was left, alone, with this sketchy FAT horse, like a 44 gallon drum on legs, in an old set of wooden yards that had scotch thistles up to my waist littering them, with my dog, staring agape at my prospects. Time for the big girl panties.
....Stay tuned for the next installment! Facepalms abound!