Thinking of my last horseback ride with my friend here in Scottsdale, I remember listening to her brag for hours about how much her boyfriend loves her and spoils her. So on this day of love, I ask myself ‘What is love?’ And I have to remember: ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not rejoice in evils but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.’ I have a beautiful image of my two Chihuahuas in love. My little dogs are my role models and a source of my own hope for human love.


If I approach Zum with the saddle and he begins to move, I take the saddle to the middle of the round pen and set it down. Then I take Zum on a lunge line to the round pen and I make him work hard with many changes of directions until he is glad for a chance to relax and to stand still. I approach him with the saddle again. If he moves, then I make him go in circles on the lunge line. I repeat this sequence until Zum is solid in standing calmly while I set the saddle on his back and then take the saddle off several times in a row. These saddling lessons take time but eventually Zum wants to stand quietly as I swing the saddle on and off.


Once Zum is at ease with the saddle pad rubbed and thrown over his entire body, then I can slide the saddle pad on his back. I am working up to laying it on his back without him moving an inch.


I throw the saddle pad all around Zum. I want him to get used to moving things all around his body. He will recognize that there is nothing to be afraid of when the saddle pad is all around him.


I have learned never to tie Zum when I am bridling him. He will feel trapped and be more apt to resist and pull back. And I have also learned to only remove the bridle when Zum’s head is lowered and he is relaxed. I don’t ever want to pull the bit out of his mouth. I rub on his forehead to teach him to lower his head. Then I wait for Zum to release the bit by opening his mouth. I can also hold a treat below his nose so he has to reach down for the treat.


All last summer, Zum stood perfectly still while I put on his hackamore. I did a lot of groundwork with a focus on stopping and standing still. He learned that whenever I say ‘Ho’ he must stop moving and he must not move until I tell him to. When he stops and stands still, he is rewarded with lots of praise.


I am putting the bit into Zum’s mouth finally! I stand next to him on his left side by his face. I put my right hand on his forehead putting pressure down. As he lowers his head, I put my left thumb into the side of his mouth and slip the bit inside. I cannot be in a hurry. I have noticed that the less threatening I am about it, the more cooperative Zum is. Fighting a horse makes a horse more aggressive. I release pressure on his head when he responds properly and I position a treat so he has to lower his head even more!


I am learning how to get better at seeing, doing, feeling and understanding Zum. Zum never hides how he feels. There is no difference between how he feels and how he acts.


I have become a big part of the process of training and caring for Zum. As long as I am involved with Zum everyday, give him guidance, try hard, make mistakes, get it right, fall down and get back up again, there is no magic, training tools or techniques as good as me.