Spending time with my horse…

 Some of you may recall, I have a horse "Pico" who I unintentionally acquired (don’t we all) as an orphaned three month old colt. I’m not a "pretty horse" or "specific type" of person, but he was scraggly, gangly result of an unintentional breeding, and his tiny QH body was not much to look at. I kept him close to my athletic, graceful thoroughbreds and Warmblood horses hoping that their coordination, height and athletic ability would somehow rub off on him through equine osmosis. It did not!

Pico was on the slow track in his physical maturity to the point that up until he was seven years old I still found myself calling him "my colt." His face didn’t make him look much other than three years old.

After years of finally learning to "just say no" I have managed to dwindle down my herd to just one horse and one pony, and low and behold, Pico is the last I have.

As the old saying goes, "the cobbler’s children have no shoes," sadly (though not to Pico’s dismay) I honestly never put the "time" into my own horse. (For more of his backstory you can visit a previous blog "Confessions of a horse trainer."

But fast forward to present day and this winter is the first time I have consistently been riding Pico. I’m sure 90% of it was mental, but somehow I felt the time had come to put some quality time into my horse. A client who had leased Pico last winter had inquired about him recently and I was surprised at my genuinely enthusiastic response about riding him.

It seemed that though his lack of natural ability would never allow him to be one of the dreamy rides of my equines past, he was fun. Turn on a dime, halt to "sort-of-gallop" speed (I joke he is my "standing horse") in just a few steps.

I can pick oranges from his back and I can navigate him through the obstacle course of baling twine "gates." I can swing a rope off him or ask him to move laterally across poles, I ride him into/onto anything (porch, bridge, trailer, etc.)

Out of the herd of nine horses grazing in the pasture at any given time, I can call his name and he picks up his head, whinnies and comes trotting over. I do haunches in, to a spin to jumping over a log without batting an eye. I find myself finding a bit of the "teenager feel" with him that matches is personality.

A young child can climb up on the wheel well of the trailer and Pico will patiently swing around and sidle up as close as he can and waits patiently as the youngster scrambles aboard. I can tap his leg and he’ll bow quietly or I can sit on him and open my trailer tack room door, lean inside and grab my rope bag and pull out one, build a loop and swing a few times.

As much as he is stiff and naturally awkward thanks to bad conformation and a slight club foot, he makes me smile. His scrawny frame leaves much to be desired when riding bareback and those who are interested in the "swirls theory" would have a heyday inspecting his goofy coat. His mane and tail were why they invented false hair for horses, and his quirky moments make those who meet him smile.

He is the horse I’d ride straight off a cliff, or straight up through chest deep snow when unexpectedly encountering a summer "patch" high up in the Rocky Mountains. I can trail blaze and clear trail on him and jump him over anything I see even though he is not naturally the bravest of creatures.

The horses who arrive for training are most enthusiastically greeting by Pico whose second main goal in life is pretending to be the herd boss. He picks on the Shetland pony (literally dragging him around) when he can, and yet will stand quiet and patient next to an ailing horse. He is happy to be led by a pint size human, always respectful spatially and careful not to knock them over.

This past fall as I made the trek south, I overnighted in Pocatello, ID. I pulled into their fair grounds after dark and as I removed his halter I realized it was the first time he’d ever been in a stall, in his entire life!

He’s the horse you have to make sure the trailer door (on anything, anywhere) is closed; otherwise he’ll load himself up always ready to go, whether alone or with company.

He’ll push cows or round up horses; he’ll pony or be ponied off of towing three or four youngsters behind him.

He still has plenty of areas I could fine tune and improve, and certain things I know he tolerates but would rather not do or partake in.

Mostly at this point, I am realizing that for all of my "talking down" about him, in the end he makes me smile and I find myself truly having fun when I ride him. He is bringing me back to a time I’d experienced long ago when all the horses with human problems didn’t exist, where anything was possible with my horse and "playing" with/on my horse was the norm.

We’ve reached a point in our partnership where I feel free to experiment and he feels free to try, without a defensiveness or worry. I feel and can "hear" the conversation between us during each ride.

He’ll never be great at anything, but he has developed into the horse that I can do anything with. For those who remember the children’s story, "The little train that could," I feel like for me, it should be like, "The little horse that could."

He is a great example of finding pleasure from an "unexpected horse." For all of you who may or may not have experienced a "Pico" in your life, I wish you get the opportunity to do so at some point!




  1. Aww, Pico sounds like a great little guy!!! I do hope to have a horse like him in my life one day.

  2. Sounds like the perfect horse to have fun with. Keep smiling with him.


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