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The Joys Of A Tricky Youngster

There are 2 types of youngsters; there are the ones that happily accept lunging, long reining and finally the ridden work easily and then there are the ones that refuse to accept any of it, making life difficult.

I love the process of doing all the groundwork, backing and breaking the youngsters. It's so fun and rewarding watching them progress and gain confidence. I've been so lucky that at the start of my buying and selling project ponies/horses journey I had such lovely easy ponies. Until I got my Welsh D mare and she violently bronked when a roller or saddle was put on her, however, I later found out that the previous owner tried to start the backing process and it went wrong. I ended up dealing with the consequence and got headbutted in the face by said bronking pony cracking my teeth. Thankfully though once she got over that issue she was a dream to back and ride away. I said to myself, although it could have been worse id prefer not to have another tricky youngster… then i got Rory a 14hh connemara. I was really excited to have my first Connie to play with but little did I know he was going to be the toughest youngster I'm probably ever going to have to break- I like to think you can't get any worse than Rory.

I bought Rory 7 months ago as a christmas present from me to me and the plan was to break him in, have a little bit of fun with him and sell. However, that didn't go to plan at all, within 4 weeks of owning him I had been pulled over multiple times and I had fallen off twice, spraining the same ankle twice. Rory was very nervous when he arrived, which I didn't mind as some of my other projects were nervous and just took a bit of time to build some trust. As always with my youngster started off with groundwork of leading and lunging which turned out to be a disaster. Every time Rory was nervous, unsure or confused he would react by going into a blind panic run, which was unstoppable. This made things tricky for me as I'm a small petite person and I was quite literally flown like a kite round the arena. Thankfully, the more we did it the better he became and the panic running occurred less. After a couple of weeks we were lunging with tack on and had taken some little walks down the road. Once we had mastered all that we introduced long reining which started off well but because it was something new we did have some panic runs again when we changed rein and other little things. We quickly overcame these fears and everything was going well as I started to lean over, pet him all over and take a few steps with me lent over him to which he took it all in his stride like a champ. So then I was left with the last task of sitting in the saddle. When that day arrived I was really happy with how everything had gone and was feeling confident until I hopped on and he ran off in a blind panic, I fell off and sprained my ankle. So whilst my ankle was sore for two weeks he was doing groundwork again and then when my ankle was better i got back on again… and the same thing happened, he ran off in a blind panic and i sprained my ankle again.

Winter arrived, so I decided to just give him some time off whilst we had bad weather allowing him to have some time to think about everything he had done and then come back to him when the weather is better with some fresh new ideas. Spring was around the corner and I decided to start bringing him back into work and BAM we had back to back storms. When we finally came to the otherside of all the storms, the long reining and lunging commenced with the help of my dummy rider (aka Jill) . This was a safer way for me and Rory to help desensitize him to having someone sit on him. We made some great progress to the point it was time to attempt getting back on board, which was both very exciting but VERY nerve wracking after my last 2 attempts ended with me having busted ankles that hurt for a long while. After my dad sarcastically said I'd never get back on the pony, you bet I stormed outside to prove him wrong. A thorough lunge and firm but pleading words with dad that under no circumstances does he let go of the lunge rope once I’m on board. I could finally say I was safely in the saddle and maintained up there for a lovely 10 minute ride just walking round on a circle practice halting and walking on.

Fast forward 2 weeks and I can say Rory’s education is doing well! Some days we still need to lunge before getting on and sometimes i have to start off on the lead rope just until i get my bearings but we are trotting under saddle, popping cross poles and we even went to our first pony party. I’m hoping that as more time passes with more exposure to life he will settle into his riding lifestyle.

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