Bud is a purebred registered Morgan. He was born with a fancy pedigree name that, to be honest, I don't even know. His papers are in the safe at my mom's house I think. I've just never cared enough to look at them. His familiar barn name was Bubba. I don't call him that either. I take offence when someone does. That life is long gone.
When I was two years old my family adopted my sister. She was 8. She was put in foster care when she and her siblings were removed from her mothers care, or lack there of. My mother (so the story is told) told her she could pick a new name for herself if she wanted to. A new life, a new name. She did. A beautiful new name.
Bud came from a similar situation. So, new life, new name. He is Bud, or Budward or Dumb Ass or sometimes even Dink.
As a stud colt he was shown all across the US and won awards that covered the walls of his breeder. He was something to look at. He still is. A champion. But as he got older he became violent and unpredictable. Only to be handled by the owner. I met him at this time, when I was hired on to muck out stalls at his barn for the summer, but never allowed in his. He was 2 and a nervous ball of power and energy.
He was only allowed out of his stall to be exercised under saddle. After his lesson he was returned to his stall where he paced in a constant state of anxiety. He became too much of a problem when he started to toss his head in the show ring. They would put up with him being difficult to handle, using the fact that he was a stallion as the excuse, but when he could no longer be shown, he became worthless to them. They had him gelded but that didn't help. They couldn't sell him as he would give them a bad name. It's at this time that we found him. Three years had passed since I'd seen him last. He was now 5 and if we didn't want him he'd be shot. So my mother and I took him. That was 7 years ago.
When he first came home we could ride him anywhere. He'd go with the whites of his eyes showing and his chest covered in sweat. It was quickly evident just how damaged this horse was. So we stopped. Everything. And started again at square one. We asked nothing of him and offered trust. We didn't ask him to go anywhere or do anything he was afraid of. Turns out he was afraid of everything. He had never been allowed out of his stall so he didn't have one sweet clue how to be a horse. He didn't know how to graze, what a stream was, what a puddle was, what the wind was. Nothing. He had instinct but no teaching from another horse on how to behave. We left him in the company of the cows and he started to learn.
We brought him back slowly using natural horsemanship and the guidance of Pat Parelli. Very similar in style to what I'd naturally been doing with horses my whole life, but with more tools and understanding. When we started riding again he would only follow the dog. And did what the dog did. So we rode for a few months with his nose dragging on the ground. It was two years before I could ride him down the road where he'd never been before.
He's come a long long way in seven years. I can confidently take him anywhere. He is not dangerous. The tension is gone. He's a relaxed, happy boy. (On a side note, what we've learned through Bud has translated to our dog and kids.) But he can still be a dink. He's a smart horse, which is why I think he snapped being cooped up in a barn all the time. He likes to push my buttons. Plus he still carries scars from his past life. He tenses when new men come around. He is very claustrophobic. He likes to scare himself like a little kid on Halloween. Having been gelded late imprinted stallion behaviour on his brain so dominance fights can be fun between us. He is a challenge and everything I get from him is earned. He is affectionate and sweet and loves to play and think. Plus he is wicked fun to ride and full of spunk.
To see a horse who was once afraid to stand alone in a field now gallop it's length, is a beautiful thing. Who was once afraid of trees, ride through the woods. Who was once afraid of a puddle, plod through a river with water up to his belly.
Then he sees his shadow flicker and jumps in fright while I'm on his back. Chases the cows so they can't have a turn drinking water. Turns his butt to me and farts when I come to say hi. Jumps into the road because he sees a mailbox. Dink.
I've always thought control is an illusion. There can't be control, control is forced. Instead, there is partnership. I had to earn that from Bud, and to know I have is an honor. He had plenty of reasons to never trust again. He can be a dink, but I love him anyway. I've learned a lot from him. Most of all, that pedigrees don't make a horse. Or a dog. Or a person.