Sully Saturday: work it out.

With Sully away at training for the next several months (at least), I decided as he is currently my only horse-size horse (sorry, Winnie mini) he deserves his very own series. This gives me a chance to provide updates on his training as well as keep my own mental tabs on him and our future together.

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Sully at age 2, cutie patootie.

A little long background on Sully is in order for our first Sully Saturday. He is a 4 year old (technically 5, in thoroughbred world, in reality his birthday is April 8th), unraced off track thoroughbred. I bought him as a freshly turned 3 year old spring of 2015 mere weeks after Emma got hurt. I loved his sharp brain, goofy personality, and lazy unthoroughbred-ness. However we quickly had a lot working against us as a pair. Buying a second horse meant I needed to go back to work in order to afford boarding them both, which led to lack of time to actually ride him. He was luckily level headed even with being ridden 2 maybe 3 times a week, but it was a certain fact that we were not going to make any progress.

I sent him off for full training at a dressage barn late summer of 2015 to make sure any holes in his training were filled. He ended up needing way more work than I wanted to accept he needed, and then he actually started to exhibit strange kicks/bucks on the lunge that seemed more pain related than energetic. I began to doubt his training and at the same time was able to find a self care boarding situation, get back out of working full time, and get back to riding full time. I pulled him home after barely 45 days of professional training. Part of this decision was money, part of it was wanting a horse to ride, and part of it was slight jealousy that someone else was bonding with my new baby horse.

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Only seeing your horse for snippets after long days in scrubs is the pits.

Turns out, he also had ulcers. We got him diagnosed about a month after taking him out of training, and after several months of treatment I was finally like OK, now it’s time to make strides.

Hah. Hahahaha!

We did have a few productive months in early 2016. Riding several times a week (still not near enough times for a four year old, but better), regular lessons, and even attended a show. Then we finally closed on our new farm and the process of moving, sprucing up and selling our old house, and preparing the new farm for us and the horses took over. I put Sully’s training on the backburner and the lack of consistency with his program led to increased disobedience, leading to me wanting to work with him less and less.

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Happy faces after completing our first show together last February. We came in dead last but hey we finished!

Then, before I knew it I was pregnant, I got in a horrible accident with Emma, was totally out of comission until at least March of 2017, and Sully was REALLY on the backburner.

It was about November when I decided something needed to be done about Sully. He was almost five and he needed to get back to work. My first instinct was to sell him, but he was in no shape to show to prospective buyers. My accident shattered my confidence and I was (and am) so hyperfocused on anything harmful nearing my pregnant belly that I couldn’t manage to handle him on the simplest terms. So, back to training at the dressage barn he goes!

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Fatty surveys his kingdom the day before heading off to booty boot camp

Thus far, he is doing spectacular under a confident hand. I don’t even want to elaborate on how badly loading him on the trailer to get his ass there went, but we got him there. In the first week of training he got gold stars with his leading work (which his trainer calls “heeding”) and has moved on to lunging with tack. Last time he was with her these things took a month and a half to achieve. He even was trimmed and shod without drugs under her guidance, a huge accomplishment that I have not achieved since day one under my ownership.

This should all make me very happy, but on the contrary it makes me doubt whether Sully and I are a good match. Even back when I was a confident handler we were having problems. I just don’t know if I buy into the whole idea that some people and some horses “just don’t work together” on a personality level. I tend to go for the line of thinking that if things are going wrong for me but not for someone else, it is probably/definitely my fault and I need to better my horsemanship and adjust my tactics. In otherwords, I need to work it out, not just toss this horse to the side and get a new one. However it is very discouraging when I have people in my life saying I am wasting my money hanging onto him and to “just send him down the line”.

Too bad, I am going to “waste the money” and give him and I the best shot. I cannot handle him right now so I put him in the hands of someone who can, and if once I get back into the swing of things after baby we are still having trouble, I can worry about that then. It’s not easy to send an OTTB “down the line” and hope he ends up in good hands. I find this to be the most responsible route to take and I need to have confidence in my decision on the matter.

 

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4 thoughts on “Sully Saturday: work it out.

  1. I wouldn’t put so much pressure/blame on yourself. It sounds like right now you are doing everything you can to give him a great shot at life. I do believe some horses and riders don’t “click.” That doesn’t mean you can’t ride them or like them, but – just like you meet some people and just don’t jive with their personality, sometimes it’s okay if you don’t fully jive with a horse. At this point it seems like you’re doing all the right things, so at the end of the day if it doesn’t work out for you, that’s okay.

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    1. Thank you for that. I guess I should clarify/correct myself – I can definitely relate to that horsey human bond not being there and not being a match that way. With Sully and I there was a bond click immediately, he is so personable, comes up to me in the pasture/follows me around, nickers when I see him, asks for head scratches, all the like. We also click in the saddle for the most part as long as I am not asking too much of him. It’s when we start to learn something new and/or want good behavior on the ground that has always been a slight struggle, he starts to push back at me and perhaps I have not been confident enough in what I am asking of him that we’ll both end up confused. I guess this is why I think some training intervention will either help us, or show us that love/emotional clicking alone does not necessarily make for a good riding partnership.

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