I used to own an ex top gaming mare. Way back when - I think it was around 1974-5. I got her for almost nothing due to her having totally lost her mind over her four years in being gamed. I mean this mare was Toast, mentally. The way I found out about her was via her owners' son when she finally flipped out in the ring, sending his dad to the emergency room. His dad had turned down $25K back in the late 60s', so she was somethin' else ! Big cream colored AQHA mare- I'll never forget her name : "Holly Lightfoot". And oh my was she lightfooted ! Especially those fronts. I bought a very $$$$ mare for just $500.00 and a threat to NEVER bring her back, or they were shooting her.
That poor thing... she had these freaky green eyes and was cream colored from ear to hoof... But she was built, my lord she was built. Power, power and more power... the kind of mare who could spin on a dime n' give ya a nickle change. She was smart and fast as well. JUST what a person wanted for games, right ? Nope- not any more. She wasn't registered due to the AQHA not accepting that color horse.
Holly spent the first 3 months hiding in her stall. No energy or 'want to' at all. Just stood in there w/ her head in the darkest corner she could find. I had to go get her to turn her out- she was so depressed. Her lips had been sliced repeatedly, her tongue had a cut on it ; she was ear and head shy. 'Hmmmmmm, wonder Why ?' I knew the life of a gaming horse back then All to well and Holly had lived it.
I had just about given up on her, mentally, when one day I was greeted " G'morning - is it breakfast yet ? " in a nicker from her. Those eyes had some life back and I thought 'well its about time, mare". After she'd been w/ me for about 6 months. I thought its time to find out how bad she was / is. All I did was get my old
Textan western saddle out and by the time I had gotten her bridle, she was sweating and shaking . Omg..... what had happened to this mare before she came here ? Took the western back inside the tack room, and she got better. So, lets try my Pariani english saddle. Now that was something Holly hadn't seen before and looked at it w/ interest. ''Okay then, we shall go English, Holly Lightfoot !'' She wore a big soft snaffle bit and a running martingale because I knew she'd throw her head back and knock a person silly w/ ease. Off we went to the ring. Got on her and she stood there, shaking still.
Now this mare was HUGE .... 15.3 hands tall and 16 hands wide it seemed. I asked her to walk on, which she did and WHAM ! She threw her head backwards towards my face so fast I hardly saw it move. I felt the air though. I screamed at her like I was going to cook her for dinner, with ALL sorts of foul language added for effect. She was shocked and stopped it for a bit...she'd also punished herself when she hit that martingale yoke. That first ride consisted of joggin/ bouncing, threats to rear ( she did twice) and that ever present threat to smack me w/ the top of her head. Each time she'd do it, she then would duck all the way down out of the way- I think to avoid retribution ? It was not a good ride at ALL. By the time we got done a reasonable trot/ bounce/ head toss around the ring, she was soaking wet, and I was about to give it all up.
Time passed, and we kept at it. I'd take her for long walks thru the woods, letting her relax and get her brain back some what, but HOW much would she re-gain from all of that stress and tension ? I didn't know. I learned to respect her and to love her a lot. Never did care much for cream colored horses, nor AQHA horses, but this one stole my heart. I was showing Apps then and had a ton of students arriving daily so Holly got to graze in the front yard n' watch all this. She did learn to relax again. It took her TWO years of my patience and not killing her like I swore I would one day. Her name now was 'Alpo Holly'. The kids thought that was great fun and would call her 'Ms Alpo'. I guess she saw little humor in it all.. It all went the same way, each ride. Holly bouncing up n' down, hitting that martingale, and then dodging the bat she believed was going to hit her head if she didn't drop it and fast.
One day I tried another bit... One where I had a little more "control" over what her face did. I have hands that are as 'light as butter' and a seat with Super Glue on it almost, so I was Not going to hurt her, unless she did it to herself. Nor was I going off. Off we went that evening, with a " if I'm not back in 30 minutes, come get me! " to my now ex husband. Holly tried to throw her head back- wham, she got punched by the bit. All I did was sit there. She tried to rear, well she got punched again. I asked for a little collection from her, and omg- I got it ! She got softer and softer in that big powerful bit, and I could ride her w/ my little fingers, she was so light. One more time Holly had to try hitting me w/ her face and to rear : she got hit again from the bit. Soon she'd figured out that it wasn't lucrative to keep doing those things. She settled into a mile eating trot from hell, and I was in Heaven ! Wow, this mare could move. I asked for a lope/ canter- what ever she offered, and I got either one. I could slow her down w/ ease or ask for some extension and got it immediately. All the while, Holly was soft in that bit as could be. No more threats, no more near black eyes, or broken noses.. just a very nice mare.
Whewwwww, Two years ! She had been offering to get softer and slower, but never before such response from her. Holly had found "her niche" and she stayed there for a good many years. I showed her in open shows - both western and english but she just exceled in those english classes. One day, we'd just about finished up our classes, and I rode over to talk to a friend who was starting a new horse at barrels. She asked if THAT was Tim's mare , Holly Lightfoot... I said yeah, it was and she was Amazed ! They'd told everyone she'd gone bonkers and they put her down. Nope, here she was in all her glory- and winning in english flat classes now. Then a horse did a run for barrels, and guess who started shaking ? Yep, they Never forget. I swung my mare around and we jogged off to our horse trailer. When I'd dismounted, Holly ever so softly rubbed her lips on my cheek.... saying 'thanks' perhaps ? Or something more ? I'll never know as Holly never did have much to say.