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My first two years at college were for equine science and management. Within these two years, I learned everything from basic nutrition, anatomy, and even breaking and training young horses. I will focus mostly on the breaking and training part in this article. This experience was the first time I had ever broken out a horse on my own. We were kind of prepared, but at the same time, how prepared could you be to have to sit on a confused 1200 lb. animal?
In my first couple of days, clients were dropping off their precious children to us at the campus barn. We were all so excited to see what kind of creatures were stepping off of those trailers. We had everything from a 12 hh. Haflinger to a 19 hh. Percheron. Some horses had been handled since they were weanlings and were so sweet. There were also some wild horses that were sent up a chute from the field straight into their trailers. I couldn't tell which would be more rewarding to work with.
We were partnered up and given a different horse to work with for about a week. From there, we could select our top three picks. The professors got the final say in which horse was given to which person.
I had only one pick, a little dun filly named Nebraska. She had been halter broke as a yearling and then sent to a huge field in Nebraska to grow up. She was very timid and wouldn't even look in the general direction of people as they passed by her stall. I don't know why the heck she caught my eye–obviously, I didn't catch hers.
Every day working with this filly taught me so many things. I learned respect for her and her boundaries, but I also learned how to break down her walls. I learned patience and how to go with the flow. Some days it felt as if we would take one step forward and then ten steps back. But I learned to cherish that one step that we had taken together and not take it for granted. Every step, no matter how small, was still a step in the right direction.
I rode her a few times before my first and only fall on her. We rode in round pens and all the activity going on around the pen must have spooked her. I started to fall but hung on for as long as I could because I knew if she saw me hit the ground that would scare her more. Unfortunately, I fell off and hit my chin on the horn of the saddle and the back of my head on the round pen. My legs were so bruised and I had gotten a concussion so I wasn't allowed to ride for a little while. I made the stupid decision to come back early, even though I knew I still had a concussion.
Nebraska and I took it slowly at first and it was hard to try to get back to where we were before. I hate to admit it, but it did make me intimidated of her. Once I got used to her pace, which was fast and non-stop because she was bred to be a reiner, everything turned around. We did everything and more than the clients could have asked for. When she left, she could walk, trot and canter in traffic on her own. She also left being able to look people in the eye without backing away, which made me so happy.
This experience was so rewarding and I miss that horse every day. I know she will go on to do great things and I am so proud of her. I continued on after that to break out two more horses, that I will probably end up writing about as well. I would recommend this experience to anyone who is willing to try it! Just make sure you pick the right horse for the job and never give up on them. Some horses will just take a little more time than others.