My answer was always that I didn't think that he could do it. "He just doesn't have the finesse or the moves to do that sort of stuff." Hell, it took 2 years to even get him to lope on the correct lead once in a while. Back in WY, when I went to my first ranch horse clinic, I took both Killian and Trax. I rode Killian first saying, "This is my good horse." and by time we were done the instructor said, "If that is your good horse, your'e in big trouble." It was an accurate assessment at the time.
I assumed from that day forward, that with his age, and all the crap he threw at me that day, he was better off just being a trail horse.
Through time, as some of you may recall, I have managed to get a better handle on the big red horse. He started loping better for me, he moves off my leg (which he has always done), and he surely does have a killer stop. But through and through I still believed he was better suited for trail or roping.
Insert a whole bunch of money on riding lessons for me which has made more difference in my horses than I realized. Suddenly I found myself being able to get on Killian and actually getting cooperation out of him. Of course it only stands to reason that it would be that way. Killian is a leader, he expects his rider to lead, and if the rider does not then he is perfectly happy stepping up to the plate, Of course if he is the leader he is going to use his entire bag of tricks to show you all the reasons why riding, and working is a bad idea.
For so long I was just a passenger, but clearly that has changed in the last year.
Still I was so focused on Trax and Melody that Big K was just getting left to sit, and get fat.....really fat, and really lazy. So I started trying to find someone to come and ride him. As most of you will recall, I tried a few different people but none of them quite worked out.
Then along came Rhiannon. (who I now call Rah Rah) Rah Rah wants to rope. She is pretty dang handy with a rope, usually catches what she throws at, and is a pretty confident rider at that age of 14. However, she did not have a horse capable of handling the physical strain of roping. She has a little gelding who has a ton of heart, but is older than Killian, very weak in the hind end, very sway backed, and small in stature. He did his very best though and chased after each an every one of those cows, and could easily catch them, but if he had to pull one of any size, he was done for.
So I offered to let her come and get to know Big K, and get him back into shape and see if she could rope on him. He does know his job, that we know for sure. Through the last month or so of her riding him, we have learned that he actually loves roping. In fact he loves having a job to do as long as that job doesn't include loping endless circles.
I realize that some of this redundant, but bear with me please....
So during our riding together she also started riding Melly some, and I offered to let her ride in the a Ranch Versatility Show. I rode Trax, she rode Melly, and that was all chronicled in our previous posts. However, after that event she asked if she could go back to riding Killian, and if she could try him in some of the classes at the next show. I said, "Of Course"
As it turns out, Melody ended up getting kicked again, and so was out of commission for 2 weeks, and Trax, came up lame the very same day. (I'll do a seperate post on that) So all of our attention was focused on Killian.
She came and rode when she could, I got her a lesson with my trainer, and then I rode him when she couldn't. We only had 2 weeks to get ready, and I really had my doubts if we could pull it off. One night my trainer even got on him, and boy did he throw a little temper tantrum. However, Dana is not one to be trifled with, and pretty soon, he gave in. Still it seemed like the more we practiced the harder he got to work with.
The night before the show we had a club sanctioned practice at my arena. Rha Rha was up on him, and he wasn't doing to bad at first, but as the night wore on he became more and more difficult. He didn't want to do trail obstacles, he didn't want to do anything. I told her we may have to cancel .
So I stepped on him and we had a little discussion. We loped some circles, and practiced side passing and went through the obstacles. I showed her how to set him up for success, knowing what his weaknesses are, then I had her get on him.
She took him through the trail pattern again, and suddenly a light bulb went on for him, and for her. I told her to quit thinking of them as trail obstacles and to just imagine she is out in the desert "ranching" and all these things are things she has to do in the course of the day. I think it did the trick. Suddenly they became a team, and started working together. Sure there were still some missed steps, but it was tons better.
Then we practiced the reining and other patterns, and things went pretty smoothly so we decided to go for it.
The next day we loaded up and headed to the show. Killian hasn't been to a public event other than the roping arena down the street in a long time so I really was not sure how he was going to do. He was by far the calmest most relaxed horse there. Almost too relaxed, which kind of worried me too.
She saddled up and took him to the arena to warm up and I reminded her about envisioning a ranch instead of an arena, and by golly I think it worked.
Killian went out a totally ROCKED that show!!!!
First was Ranch Trail and he successfully complete every single task. He stepped on one of the logs during the side passing task, but he still did the task. He dragged the log around like an old pro (Of course) and even backed through the L relatively smoothly. He loped in the correct lead, and basicly just handled it all as if it were nothing. He got 1st out of 3 riders.
Then was Ranch Pleasure. He was the only horse in that class, but he did his leads correctly, they did the pattern correctly, and so got first in that.
The third class they were in was Ranch Reining and the other youth rider was riding her moms reining horse, so I figured Rah Rah and Big K didn't stand a chance of winning that class. I just told her to go out and ride him like the ranch horse that he is, rather than trying to force him into being a fancy reining horse that he isn't.
Killian was up first. Rah Rah knew the pattern so I wasn't worried about that. She got out there and did her first run down, stopped, backed up and did her 1/4 turn to the left. Perfect! Departed for her left lead circle in the wrong lead, as she went past I whispered "wrong lead" and it took her 2 strides to fix it. She completed her 2 circles and went to her lead change. He didn't get the lead change the first time, so she simple broke him down to the trot and he grabbed it right away. 2 more circles to the right and then came the next lead change, she moved to the center of the arena and before she could even break him down for a simple lead change the big red horse executed the most fluid gorgeous flying lead change I have ever seen in my life!!!!!
I turned to my friend standing next to me and said, "Did you SEE that???" We were both completely blown away, as was Rah Rah!
She did her next two run downs and didn't quite go to the markers, which was my fault as I forgot to mention the markers to her, and her spins were more like spirals, but they did the correct number of spins and so she got a complete score in the class. I was so dang proud of them both!
The other girl clearly had a better horse but she hadn't studied her pattern very well,or she got nervous, but she did the incorrect number of spins both times and technically that is a DQ. However, being youth and only two riders, she still got scored, but Killain and Rah Rah won the reining.
The final class was flag work (in lieu of cows) and the other girl won that one. But Rhiannon and Killain were the high point youth riders of the day!
Here is the part about Killian that blew me away. He did mess up a few times, with leads or with side passing, but you could clearly see that he was trying, and when asked to correct his mistake, he did so without a fight. And that lead change!!! Oh! I think with a little more practice, he could actually do really well at this, and here all this time I didn't think he had it in him. I told him that day that I will never ever underestimate him again. He seems to want to do thing for this little girl, and that makes me happy beyond words.
Here are some pictures of the day.