I admired the young, pint sized red roan perfection as I walked up to the open stock trailer. Not much more than 14hh, he was cute, cute, cute! His owner is on my team of professionals and she brought him along for our trail ride.
I loaded Ziggy into her open stock trailer and tied him next to the little gelding. As we were driving to our destination, I asked her about him.
He's highly bred, which is obvious from his confirmation. She'd been trimming him since he was a youngster, so she knew him well. He was soft, quiet and willing. Then she told me she bought him cheap, on a spur of the moment deal.
"Why?", I asked. She said the man started him in between trimmings. One trim, he was fine, the next trim, the colt was all battered and beat up. He had saddle sores, he was head shy, afraid of her for the first time.
She bought him just to get him out of there.
She told me that her early rides on him were difficult. He held his head vertically, straight up, right in front of the saddle horn. He was unable to walk without panic; any faster speed was out of the question. She spent months getting him to trust her and relax at the walk.
Recently, she had her equine dentist out to take a look at him. Sedated, the vet opened the colt's mouth and was horrified to discover a deep (not completely healed) scar across the colt's tongue. It had nearly been severed. There was a triangular flap of thick, red and inflamed skin sticking up in the center of the scar.
Hearing her tell the story, I was nauseated. My mind works in pictures, so the scene flashed in front of my eyes as I saw the brutality that man used to create this injury. I asked if she was riding in a bosal and she said she didn’t own one. We talked briefly about where she could get one and then she told me that she had figured out how to snaffle bit him so he would relax.
When we arrived at the trail head, we unloaded and saddled up. She pulled out an interesting little snaffle with a center roller and called me over before she bridled her colt. She showed me the damage. The scar is deep and thickened. The flap is smaller and no longer inflamed, but still sticks up about a half inch; easy to snag against feed or the bit. I can’t imagine the pain when something touches it.
I watched her bridle him with gentleness and consideration. I noted the loose cheek pieces and I watched the colt maneuver the bit over the scar and then hold it quietly. I was impressed.
On our ride I observed the two of them. As Ziggy play bucked and fooled around, her little guy calmly walked along, ignoring all of Ziggy’s attempts to get him involved. She rode with a huge loop in her reins. Her slobber straps were short, not much weight to them and they hung straight down. Her reins were a light cotton marine rope, further eliminating unwanted weight.
We’d gone maybe a hundred yards when the colt asked her if he could jog a bit. She was surprised and glanced back at me with a wide grin. She kept that huge loop and sat quietly while the colt worked the bit back behind the flap. He arranged everything to his liking and picked up the pace. Soon we were trotting out and that colt was loving life. She never took up on the reins, which allowed him to experiment with lowering his head at the faster speed. By leaving him alone to work things out, he gained enough confidence to step out into a good solid canter.
As I mentioned earlier, I was highly impressed. We rode for several hours and that little colt would not allow that scar to interfere with the fun he was having. He put all of his troubles behind him, placed his trust in her and we’ve decided to take him trail riding with my guys as often as possible.