After buying Diamond, which I talk about in My Diamond in the Rough: Part 1, the first day I brought him home was intimidating for me. I had no idea where to start building trust with this horse. He looked at me like I was just another human that he wanted nothing to do with. Even something like putting his halter on was a challenge. He would raise his head up high so I could no longer reach to slide it on. I was quick to get frustrated and leave the stall to brainstorm other ideas. I realized every time I left the stall he got aggravated and started to rear up. I would then yell at him and tell him to stop and he would only rear higher.
This is when I understood this approach was not going to work. I had never before had to practice patience, but I was starting to see that with this horse, anything but patience was only going to make it worse. So I grabbed his halter again and walked into his stall and just stood there. After a few minutes he calmed down, but still had his head too high for me to reach. So I grabbed a bucket, stood on it, put the halter in front of his face, placed my hand on top of his poll and put slight downward pressure to encourage him to lower his head. Every time his head went down even a little, I immediately let go of the pressure. It seemed to be working so I continued to do this every time I put his halter on. I did not get results overnight but throughout the years of owning him I continued to do this and now every time I approach him with a halter he drops his head down so that I can put it on. My 5 year old sister can even put his halter on now, because he will bring his head down to her level.
The next thing I did on that first day was walk him around the riding arena and just talk to him. I told him all about me, who I was, how long I had wanted a horse, and how hard I worked to get him. I admitted to him that I had no idea what I was doing and that we were going to be learning a lot together. For the first couple of weeks I feed him by hand to make sure he knew I would be out there every night at the same time for his feeding.
When I started training Diamond 8 years ago, he was what we in the horse world call “green broke,” which means he has had a person and a saddle on his back enough times to be considered broke but not really considered trained. Through trial and error I trained him as best as I could. I never took any riding lesson during this time. All of the training I did was from observing other people training their horses, asking for advice, and doing what felt right. My sister and I showed him five years on the high schools equestrian team, and six years in 4-H. He could do Showmanship, both English and Western disciplines, all of the speed events, but his favorite event and where he truly excelled was in trail. In fact it was because of him excelling so much in trail, and that fact that I got so board because I could no longer challenge him, that I started doing the next adventure in Diamonds journey, riding in the Michigan Cavalry Brigade at Civil War Reenactments. But we will save that adventure for Part 3 of this series.