When Victoria Smith first met Rascal, a bordering-on-homicidal mustang, he had few redeeming qualities. But Victoria saw straight through his shenanigans.
Once upon a time, a little red mustang fought and bit and kicked his way out of a loving home and into a 22-year-old’s arms. Yeah, very funny… but really, my first few experiences with Rascal were great, as long as I didn’t ask him to do anything but walk. If I asked him to trot, I got a strong kick out. And a canter? I got a few strong bucks with so much force that you would have thought a mountain lion was coming to kill him. (I guess that mustang instinct is stronger than most believe, especially since he was out in the wild a whopping total of six months of his life.)
I will never get the image out of my head of the first time my friend and I went to ride Rascal. He was owned by a 20-something-year-old guy and the guy never rode him–well, he might have been used on a few trails, but I’m not so sure I believe that. His first words to us were actually, “Ya’ll be careful now! He ain’t very nice.”
Being the sissy that I am, I told my friend that I would rather her ride him first, you know, just in case he’s crazy or something. She isn’t scared of anything or any horse, so she saddled him up in the only saddle that was out there, a large western saddle that was two times too big for her. She started to walk (with no steering by the way) and he was fine. He was actually decent when she asked him to trot, but the canter was a whole different story. The first time she asked him to canter was insanely entertaining, with her legs flapping, since she had no stirrups, and him bucking his little heart out every time she popped him with the crop or put a little more leg on.
Did this deter me? No way. For some reason I fell in love with his grumpy demeanor and decided (much against my boyfriend, now husband’s, opinion) to purchase him for $600, too much if you asked me now, but it was completely worth it! I thought that this horse had something special, but most people thought that this horse’s something “special” was how much he wanted to kill me with his striking hooves and nasty kicks to the face. But no, I didn’t see that! Yeah, he has kicked me in the stomach, gotten super close to kicking me in the face and actually hit me from behind with his front hoof, but that didn’t matter to me. What mattered to me was that he was unbelievably cute and funny!
The first few months that I owned him, we took it easy: We walked and trotted and learned that he didn’t have to buck every time I asked him for a canter. His transitions got smoother and his demeanor started to get better, so much so that he started to trot up to the gate to meet me when I came to see him. It took over a year to establish a good bond between us. But now, when playing Parelli games, it’s like he’s asking me, “Mom, how did you want me to do this?” and “Really, you want me to jump that?!,” instead of attempting to kill me.
His jump has improved from a very uncomfortable “cat hop” to a smooth, gliding jump that has really taken me by surprise. Now trust me, none of this was easy to achieve, nor has it been completely achieved. Just this weekend some friends and I were walking on the trail and I asked for a trot. Rascal thought trot meant, “Mom obviously wants me to act like a fool and buck, not to just quietly trot through the pines!” So what did we do? We pushed through the obnoxious buck and trotted for a while until he decided that it wasn’t so fun trying to buck his sweet little mom off because she actually might make him work. So with that said, we are still learning and it will take time (probably a lot of time since I only get to ride once or twice a week) but it’s a work in progress that I am looking forward to.
His training has been difficult and a huge learning experience for me, but it all paid off when I had a lesson with former Olympian, Imtiaz Anees, who said, “Wow, that mustang has a lot of potential and his jump is really nice!” Trust me: I’ve never smiled so big as when I heard that–it was probably the coolest moment of my entire equestrian career. His bucks, kicks and bites are getting much less frequent and his attitude is getting much better. I’ve learned his personality and I’ve learned his body language, so much so that I know when to expect a buck, bite or kick and I’ve learned how to avoid them.
The way I write about him makes him sound like the meanest horse anyone’s ever seen, but I promise that is not the case. He was a misunderstood horse with a very dominant personality but through natural horsemanship training, we have come so far from where we began. I can’t wait to write about all of the entertaining adventures of Rascal and myself. Go riding!!