I was standing under large oak trees where civilization seemed miles away – and I guess it is. I was faced with a jig saw of corrals with a wide variety of cobby black horses standing in them. I needed to pick one, take it home, train it for 4 months and then present it for a competition with 3 other trainers. How do you pick the perfect partner in under 30 minutes? This is the Vaquero Trainers Challenge – a debut program to try and promote this hidden treasure of wild horses in Southern California. They took applications from a variety of trainers and accepted 4. One trainer was not able to make it to today’s pick up. That left 3 of us. We each needed to pick a horse, and we would show it and work with another younger TMH in October. The winner will get a $1000 prize, a belt buckle and lots of bragging rights
Steve’s little mare was not eager to leave her friends and they had to work to separate her from her herd. Once she was in the chute, she again hesitated and looked worried – but when she finally made the choice to enter the trailer, she just put her head down, looked at the ramp and walked in like a pro. Now we had to push the herd all around to get a path to move my two down near the loading chute. People kept trying to talk me into taking both of them, and it was seriously tempting. But I really felt that if I took both, then I would not have as good a chance at forming a good bond. So while separating them seemed hard; it would make my job easier. As they started moving Blackie and Brownie around, I saw the knee again. And a funny step. And I second guessed myself. And at the very last moment, I said, “Load the black one”. He had the cleaner legs and is true black and seemed very similar in nature to the brown one.
Instead, we arrived home without further ado. We did a bit of adjustment to the stalls. I wanted Corey (as I was already calling him) in a middle corral, with old wise geldings on either side. This was for a couple reasons – one it would make him less likely to try and bale out over the side rails – and if he did, he would just be in a corral with another horse, not loose on property. Second, I feel that the other horses can role model him – showing him that humans are OK.
But now we had to get Old Wrong Way OUT of the trailer! Since I was going to have to put pressure on him, I might as well have it be useful pressure. So I climbed into the trailer with him with a halter in my hand. I figure one of two things would happen; I would either get a halter on him, or bug him enough that he was willing to jump out of the trailer. We had some nice moments in there. I started out feeding him bits of hay. Then I was just moving my hands over the air around him. I believe that horses can feel the aura around them – or they have an energy field around them, and if you run your hands over the edge of that field, they can Feel you without feeling invaded. He was irritated at first and gave one single VIOLENT kick to the side of the trailer. I was glad it was Not my knee. It made me respectful of how quick he could react. But Gradually, very gradually, I got to touch him. I petted his shoulder and his cheek. Then I touched him with the halter. And very slowly, I put my right arm over his neck and slipped the crown piece into that hand. I actually had him in my arms. It is hard not to get greedy at moments like this. I held still, breathed out, excited that I just MIGHT get a halter on the very first day.