A horse’s progress is not always linear — in fact, it is often not. There are hills and valleys in horsemanship, and as living creatures with their own autonomy, it is only fair that we meet the horse where they are at each time we interact with them.
Montana is a special guy. He has always been sensitive, and while he has let down a tremendous amount, this by no way means he is not still incredibly touchy. We started Montana under saddle (technically a restart, as someone had done some work with him as a youngster), and put a number of rides on him. By all accounts, he was doing very well. Then one day, seemingly out of nowhere, he bucked his rider off. Something shifted in Montana after that, a level of uncertainty entered back into him. Or, more likely, it was always there, but he was doing a good job of glossing over it, pretending like all was well until he reached a point where he was unable to keep pretending. At that point, it was back to the drawing board for Montana, to keep him from hurting himself or anyone else.
Lexee N has been working with Montana over the past months, helping him to build and rebuild his confidence and find more balance in his feet. This in turn helps him find relaxation. Recently, he has been spending more time exploring the ground with his nose, a move that is difficult for an uptight horse to achieve. Montana is still very sensitive about changing eyes, so Lexee has also spent a great deal of time working through this spot with him, helping him get more okay with things in his blind spots as they leave his one eye and move into his other. He also has a very difficult time with things above him, which is also related to changing eyes. Lexee spends time bumping Montana up to the fence so she can work on petting him from a high position, working on using the flag and the rope to pet him, and eventually working up to sitting in the saddle from the fence. In the latter exercise, staying committed to the fence is key — if Montana were to shy away, the person is able to quickly dismount without risk of getting taken off with.
While it is true that Montana has come a long way from the petrified horse he was when we met him, he still has a long way to go, particularly as a riding horse. As a companion however, Montana really has blossomed. He is a kind leader in his herd with other horses, and he has made leaps and bounds when it comes to his trust of people. He can still play hard to catch, but he knows the routine well these days, and at turn-in or grass time, makes it easy for nearly anyone to halter him. He is a gentleman for the farrier, and stands well to be groomed. He is also, perhaps surprisingly, amazing at being hauled. Recently, Declan (who is notably anxious when it comes to trailering) had to take a trip. In order to make things a bit easier for him, we popped Montana on the trailer alongside him to be a supportive friend for the ride. Montana was content as a kitten, and Declan was much less anxious for his company.
It is in ways such as this that Montana is perhaps surprising, but it ties back into my original point which is that Montana’s progress is not linear, and that is okay. Montana will be given all the time and support he needs to continue to blossom into the horse he is under all that anxiety, and we will be there every step of the way to help him on his journey.