When Star Dancer was born she was to be my horse, and I took that responsibility seriously. I would visit her stall regularly, and once she was old enough I haltered her and led her in circles in front of our barn and I would brush her, pick out her feet, and did as much as my 6-year-old know-how could do.
Since my parents were first generation horse people, they were still learning themselves, so we had no models for how to train horses. We did have a few books, mostly little Farnam books that you would get at the feed store. I read those, but they didn’t make any sense to me at all. They must not have made much sense to my dad either because when Star finally turned two, my dad saddled her up, bridled her [using a bar bit, the kind that come with the bridle sets, that are for a horse already neck reining], he stuck me in the saddle outside the barn door (no arena or anything). Luckily, I had been sitting on her during feeding time for quite awhile, so when I did finally sit on her with a saddle and all, she was used to me and didn’t buck. My dad slapped her on the behind and said, “Go on!” and I just rode her around the mountains and fields around our house as if she were already broke.
She went through a period where she was really spooky, or rather I was, but I thought it was her at the time. We worked through those issues, but she was only reacting to my fear. Now I realize it was me, due to an accident I got into before I started even working with her. I wanted to go for a ride on my mom’s horse, Lady, and no one would go with me [and mom told me not to.. But.. ], I saddled her anyway and jumped on her, then went straight up the mountain. The horse got about half-way up the mountain and decided that she was absolutely not going anywhere without her buddies, so she turned around and bucked me off, stepping on my wrist as she ran off. I picked myself up and held my obviously broken wrist in my other hand, and walked back home. I went in to show my mom, and when she started crying, I started crying. She drove me frantically down to Salt Lake City, about a 45-minute drive to the ER. She went to get some help, and an orderly came out, picked me up, and started running, my arm flopping all over, hurting like hell, from the parking lot into the examining room. That experience made me a little jumpy from that time on.
After I healed up, every time Star got a little skittish, I would jump off her back, causing Star to be more jumpy. Inadvertently, we reinforced each other’s skittish behavior, and it took me a long time to get over that. I was a little nervous about riding any horse, because the bucking (on Lady) seemed to come from out of nowhere. I didn’t know what caused it, and I certainly didn’t know how I contributed to it. After all, I was only a kid. That was the first time I ever thought seriously about the process of training. Funny, but, I was the one who needed the training, not Star.