Freedom and I grew pretty close. She also reached the age when they start horses back then and there. A little young by most standards but I was a featherweight and she was ready.
I however was not.
I didn't know much about riding and the style my uncle rode and "breaking" (training a horse to be ridden) was different from what I read. It was a little backward I admit. I also didn't have a saddle. I did get a bit and bridle. It was a curb bit. She did not enjoy it at first but over time she got used to it but decided not to use it on her first rides. Of course hahaha.
They made a one rein halter out of her rope and took her to the river. My uncle rode his horse. My cousin, the brave soul was going to be the first to get on her. I will admit, the river is a brilliant idea. By most standards you do a lot of groundwork, then groundwork with a saddle. Then you mount and do more work. The transition should be smooth and painless for everyone if done correctly. Ahem, well that was not how my uncle did it but it was surprisingly effective. We were all expecting a wild ride for my cousin. They went into the river, my uncle on his horse. My cousin leading Freedom in.
I had already gotten her to use the river and swimming in it so this was not something brand new to her. I will say introducing a horse to swimming is the funniest thing you will ever witness. They are not graceful about it at all. In fact, they look like they are drowning skinny snorting hippos. Freedom once again was surprisingly mellow about learning to swim. She went in. We went deeper and deeper until we were floating and couldn't touch the bottom. She had her moment of wide-eyed wonder reaching for the bottom with her back legs but she quickly found her stride and followed me around. Boom! She knew how to swim. I mean it comes pretty naturally to them once they get used to it. I did worry about her thinking of me as a floaty but I found out I could easily outswim her. Haha.
Back to the first ride.
They got to where the water level was at Freedom's shoulder. My cousin was a bit nervous because he was very new to riding. ( Do you see why I say this horse has a heart of gold and that young teenage boys are fearless!) My uncle told him to jump on and hold on. We all held our breath, especially my cousin as he jumped on. I think I remember the first attempt being difficult as the water bogged him down so he kind of body-slammed her and slid down her side. He was like oh boy this is a bit scary.
2nd attempt, 1...2...3 JUMP! He made it on!
Freedom just stood there. I don't even remember her facial expression changing that much.
A little surprised and skeptical my uncle told my cousin to encourage her to walk. So my cousin squeezed his legs and clucked to her as my uncle had his horse walk out of the river while holding Freedom's rope. Freedom followed and she carried my cousin like it was nothing. No bucking, no fear. Nothing. I think us humans were more fearful of it all that day.
And if you watched the Black Stallion. They were on to something. No that is not where we got the idea but this river technique was used on my next two horses with similar results. I think to build that bond and being in the water discourages flailing and moving that they quickly realize: Oh. Ok. Welp, this ain't so bad. Would I say this is the best and only technique? No, but it is certainly unique and honestly not that stressful for the horses.
My uncle and cousin on the horses walked all the way home with us following on foot, with no problems. Freedom didn't even seem to care. My cousin got off.
Everyone looked at me. Well, she is trained now. It is your turn to get on.
I'll have to ask my cousin if my memory of this whole event is accurate haha.