Monday, October 6, 2008

Ginger-Great little green trail horse.

I met Ginger when I worked at a riding stable, which was known as a ranch, but that's just because "ranch" was in the name of the place. In Southern Ohio, I don't think we have ranches, just farms.

My first impressions of Ginger were: I didn't want anything to do with her. She was young, 4 or 5 at the time. She seemed flighty. She seemed spooky. She seemed to fit her namesake, kind of flaky. She was named after Ginger from Gilligan's Island. Her buddy horse was a big black Walker gelding named Gilligan, who was in love with the fair haired Ginger. She was sorrel with strawberry blonde mane and tail. Don't hate me for picking on sorrels, but there are just so darn many of them. Remember, that was my thinking when I first met her.

The first year I worked at the ranch, I avoided Ginger as much as possible. During the programming season we were busy through the weekends with riding programs and barn maintainance through the week. By December the programs ended and we had the winter months of January and February to fill. The manager divided the 14 horses up among the four of us for down time training. There were three staff members and the manager.

Ginger was assigned to one of the more experienced staff. I was assigned three of the more experienced, older horses. So, for the most part, my students taught me that season. When I saw Ginger being worked through the training/off season, I stopped to watch. Ginger wasn't behaving very well during her training. All the more evidence I needed to determine I really didn't want anything to do with her.

I went about my own methods for my three students. Granted, they knew the ropes better than I did at times but I was willing to learn some things from them. Later, when spring came around and it was time for riding programs to start again, I was happy my students had been checked off all their "tasks completed". Ginger, however, was missing a few.

The staff member who was responsible for Ginger's training, told me one day, in no uncertain terms, that she didn't like Ginger. She told me Ginger wouldn't learn anything and she was just plain crazy. Now, I started thinking about this. I tend to gravitate toward underdogs. And being the strange thinking person I can be, I started feeling sorry for Ginger. I thought, Ginger can't be all that bad or she wouldn't be here as a school horse. Well, that was a misnomer because she had come to the ranch as part of the property deal. When the organization bought the place they acquired half the school horses that the previous owner had at his other farm. I hadn't known that originally. Ginger had been in the bargain and had never been officially trained before she landed in a schooling program. So, I'm thinking, Ginger needs consistency and some ground work for starters.

Well, there wasn't much I'd be able to do that season. Ginger did fine with our riders as long as they didn't try to trot her. So we kept Ginger in the beginning classes which did not allow for trotting or loping. When a rider tried to trot Ginger, she would raise up her head, do all kinds of head tossing and feet came off the ground loose reins and all. As long as we kept her at a walk, and in the horse care part of the programs, she was fine.

The next year we were able to choose the horses we wanted to work with in the next off season training session. After deciding to work around Ginger to get to know her a little better, I chose her. I also had charge of a little Appaloosa named Speckles. We were down a staff member that year, so we decided to work with those horses who seemed to need the most training, and the other seasoned horses the three of us would work and ride as the time allowed.

Ginger had developed a few more bad habits over the year. Or rather, she was never taught what was expected of her. One, she didn't want to raise her feet to be cleaned or act mannerly for the farrier. Two, she had a problem standing quietly under saddle and while tied. I had decided the previous year that part of Ginger's problem had been in her ground handling since the staff member told me she didn't like Ginger. I believe they had been working against each other. I also knew I'd need to work on that trot issue. The manager wanted Ginger to be able to be used in the more advanced riding programs which meant trotting and loping. So began a relationship that turned into me learning not to judge a horse by it's coat color for one thing, and another, what patience and consistency can get you when it comes to working with horses.

Ginger and I started out with her mild problems. Standing quietly and lifting feet for cleaning as well as for the farrier. I don't know what it was with Ginger, but for some reason, she responded to me. I suppose it was my attitude toward her. I wasn't judgmental. The other staff member who'd had problems with Ginger couldn't even go into the stall to put the halter on her without a fuss from Ginger. That was not a problem for me.

Over a period of the two months the other staff member and the manager both told me they saw a big improvement in Ginger's reactions. By the time March rolled around, Ginger was standing quietly for the farrier. I had also been able to get her through her trot issue. We had checked her out making sure it had nothing to do with equipment or her mouth. After a few times of resistence, but I kept persisting, Ginger finally would transition easily from a walk into a trot without resisting the rider, me, or anyone else. I was proud of myself! And of her.

We took her out on trail rides. Myself and one other staff. Ginger was a pro at picking through the rocks, climbing and descending the often steep hillsides, walking over trees. You would have thought she'd done it all her life. I did have to slow her down when it came to ravines and dry creek beds, she wanted to jump them. I made her walk. She had been allowed to jump over those earthy obstacles in the past, I had been told. After my experiences with her, if I had a choice, I always chose Ginger as my trail mount.

Ginger also was not a typical mare, in my opinion. She didn't seem to have moody days. I labeled her as the tomboy of the ranch mares and we had majority mares over geldings. Some days we had hormonal hell with all those mares! My experience with Ginger taught me that not all mares are moody and hormonal. She gave me a different perspective in many areas. Ginger will always be at the top of my list of memorable horses from my time working at the little ranch. She changed my opinion about many ideas in horse training because I worked through her problems with her and she responded.

I'm not sure how Ginger is doing these days. I've lost touch with anyone that worked at the ranch. When I left the job, I told my boss I would miss the horses more than anything. I haven't been back. I sure hope Ginger is still the good girl I tried to coach her to become. I know I'll always appreciate what she did for me!

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