My story starts in October 2021. I was asked if I would take custody of a horse whose former owner passed away since no one else who had been asked would take in a 15-year-old stallion.
I had been contemplating getting a horse for some time, and since I had no other horses that could conflict with an intact stallion, I agreed.
Even though I had never owned a horse before, I realized that a 15-year-old stallion was far from an ideal starter horse.
We had to borrow a horse trailer and went to pick up Diamond coincidentally on my birthday.
When we pulled up in the drive, Diamond was not in a corral but was sunning himself on the south side of his former owner’s trailer.
Evidently, Diamond was tired of being alone because he got up and walked alongside the pickup and trailer and stood behind the trailer.
We opened the back door to the trailer, and he picked up a front hoof and set it down on the lip of the trailer a couple of times.
He probably would have leaped inside the trailer right then if we had slapped him on the rear.
We were so amazed at his actions that we were unprepared to load him so quickly. He evidently perceived our hesitancy and decided to walk away.
After grabbing a small bucket with some horse feed and a halter, we were able to quickly retrieve Diamond and load him into the trailer for the trip home.
When we arrived home, we led him to a small 1/2-acre pasture with a shed that had previously held llamas.
Since the pasture was directly above a lateral field, it had lush growth plus I had a good supply of hay bales that I had harvested earlier that year.
Diamond was kept in that pasture for several months to establish it as a safe home base.
A couple of months after bringing him home, I secured him to a post and tried to saddle him for the first time using a borrowed western saddle. He accepted the saddle well, so I viewed it as a win.
After talking to the people I borrowed the trailer and saddle from, I decided to see if Diamond would accept me getting on him.
Once again, I secured his halter to a post, saddled him, and carefully climbed aboard. I stayed on for a few minutes and then carefully climbed down.
Around this time, the grass in the small pasture was getting thin, so I haltered him and opened the gate to allow him access to a 2-acre pasture with more grass and freedom.
I was a little concerned it would be difficult to retrieve him from the larger pasture, but, towards dusk, he voluntarily returned to the smaller pasture.
I guess giving him a scoop of feed in his home shed every morning and evening gave him a reason to return.
During these months there had been several events that were a cause for concern. Occasionally he had a practice while facing me, as he would spin and kick.
Fortunately, when he would do this, I instinctively started backing up. Twice I just felt his hoof touch my belt as his leg ran out of travel and once I felt the wind in my face from one of his hoofs.
Due to these events, I had to consider having him gelded.
In March of that year, Kansas held an event called Equifest.
Since I was needing to learn more about horses quickly, and advice about having Diamond gelded, I decided to spend the 2 best days at Equifest.
At Equifest, I learned about groundwork, observed horses being safely ridden using only a halter as a bridle, and received instructions on how to desensitize a horse to fears and distractions to ensure safer trail rides.
After receiving advice from several experienced equestrians, it was determined that since Diamond had an unknown history and there were no plans to breed him, it would be best to have him gelded.
While gelding would not erase 15 years of established behavior, it was expected to help settle him down, especially if he encountered any fillies during trail rides.
Since Diamond was gelded, he has not exhibited any aggressive behavior towards me again.
Since the roads around my house are gravel, I was concerned that they might be hard on his hooves.
However, after doing some research, I learned that gravel roads can be beneficial to clean the bottom of the hoofs and naturally wear the edges.
Due to this, I started walking Diamond out about three-quarters to a mile and then walking him back.
Since he has some difficulty following my guidance, I started to saddle him before taking him for a walk.
Once we reached a turnaround point, I would climb on him and ride him gently home.
He seemed to know we were returning home and generally did a better job of following my guidance.
The most difficult problem I’ve had to overcome had to do with insects.
Early on, I tried sprays and wipes but was dissatisfied with the results. After I got tired of seeing blood trails down his lower legs, I researched fly socks and bought a set.
They worked great! About a month later there was a report on the radio of a study done on African big game and fly infestations.
The study noted that Zebras had almost no problems and it was postulated the striped pattern was the reason why.
Two weeks later one of the online equine supply houses had a Zebra pattern mesh fly sheet on sale in his size.
I immediately ordered one and it appeared to work as well as the fly socks.
When I removed it in the fall, however, I noticed a number of ticks on his back.
As much as I hate the idea of putting chemicals on him, I have decided to use a pour this coming spring in addition to the socks and sheet.
Things seemed to be going well with Diamond until mid-October. After having a rebellious half-mile walk, I decided to climb on him to ride back.
Since he was somewhat fidgety, I thought it would be best to get up on him quickly.
About the time I was in the saddle but before I could get my right foot in the stirrup, he decided to spin to the left, dumping me on the ground.
At first, I just laid there, but since I could breathe ok and wasn’t spitting blood I figured nothing was broken.
Fortunately, we were in a nice patch of grass on the corner of a field so he did not run off but just commenced eating.
Due to falling on my side, I was hurting way too much to get back on him, so we just had a gentle walk back home.
It was about 6 weeks later before I tried to ride him again.
I was invited over to neighbors a few miles away, and since the trailer I had been working on was in suitable shape to make the trip, I managed to load him up and head over.
It would be the first test of how he would react around other horses, and how I would react to him for the first time since our accident.
He backed out of the trailer well and seemed pretty relaxed while saddling him despite the presence of 4 other horses.
Due to the nature of the previous accident, I felt it best to keep the halter around his neck and secured it close to the trailer until I was squarely on him with both feet in the stirrups before I released the halter.
We had a good ride on a gravel road of about a mile out and a mile back.
There were a couple of interesting events during the ride. On one occasion, Diamond flirted with a filly and about got a face full of hoof.
On another occasion, Diamond thought one of the other horses wanted to race and was willing to oblige, so I let him have some rein and held on.
All in all, my friends said Diamond and I did well on our first outing.
By the time we got back to the trailer, Diamond was noticeably sore due to arthritis in his front knees. For this reason, I only plan on taking him on short trail rides.
As I write this, I am looking forward to the 2023 Kansas Equifest in Salina in March. I already have my hotel reservations made and the workshops scheduled.
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Alexa has been working with horses for over 10 years. She began helping in barns as a teenager in exchange for riding lessons, and had never stopped! Alexa has worked as an English and show jumping riding instructor, a working student with an eventing trainer, a trail guide, and a private barn manager.