Ever Sacred is a registered Paint gelding who has been one of my greatest teachers. Now 10 years old, I have known him almost since the day he was born. He has lived on my farm for 7 years and became my horse 2 years ago after my brother decided he preferred riding mountain bikes to riding horses. Apparently, mountain bikes don’t have minds of their own and go where you tell them to. Although, I remind my brother that one of the first times he was out on his bike ended with him needing stitches in his knee because he and the bike went different ways while going downhill over rocks. But, I digress …
Ever most definitely has a mind of his own and very strong opinions which he never had any trouble expressing. His first answer to any request was always either a very loud “NO” or “ABSOLUTELY NOT!” He had all sorts of games up his sleeve. As soon as I had an answer to one game, he brought out a new one. For years, he tested me every single time I worked with him. He challenged me to become better. As I advanced from being able to play checkers to being able to play chess with him, his tests became smaller and smaller until he no longer needed to test me. I have finally proven myself worthy of being his leader by gaining not only his trust, but also and more significantly, his respect.
This process took a long time and many people wondered why I persevered when I had easier horses I could work with. But, there is something special – a connection – between Ever and me. It was there when I first met him as a foal and his mischievous ways intrigued me. If anything was within his reach from his stall he had it in his mouth. He was constantly coming in from the paddock with bites, kicks and self inflicted injuries from testing his herd mates, fence lines and other solid objects. He didn’t like to be told what to do nor did he like taking “no” for an answer. He was a bully with horses and with people. But, still there was something about him. I admired and was intrigued by him.
The relationship that Ever and I now share is a testament to the training method I have learned from my mentor, Chris Irwin. Ever would not be strong armed, intimidated or “loved” into being a well behaved horse. He needed very clear, but appropriate boundaries; pro-active rather than reactive training; and empathy. I could not win his respect by avoiding the inevitable conflict. I had to be able to push through it without escalating it. That was probably the toughest lesson for me – that I could not avoid the conflict if I wanted to improve the relationship. I had to go where I knew he would have a strong disagreement and then deal with his temper tantrum. Each time we worked through the conflict, things got better. His attitude became more positive. He went from being a definite “no” horse to a “maybe” horse.
Ever is now the horse I can take out of the field any time and take for an enjoyable ride. It doesn’t matter how long it has been since he was last ridden. When I ask him for something, he sometimes replies with “really? are you sure?” and when I say “yes”, he says “ok”. He seems to enjoy the time my company as much as I enjoy his. We have developed a truly sacred trust and mutual respect for which I am for Ever grateful.