Crazy Cow Country Farm

Your daily dose of manure

Crazy Cow Country Farm header image 2

How to ruin a horse, Part 1

September 29th, 2007 · 3 Comments · Uncategorized

First let me say that all I know of training horses can be condensed into a very short paragraph.  I am not, nor am I claiming to be, any kind of a trainer.  But I understand common sense and I understand “the old way” of training them is literally to “break” the horse – break his spirit right out.  We don’t cotton to that around here and it won’t be tolerated.  Our first boarders turned out to be like this and we promptly ran them right out.  However, lesson learned and man was it a valuable one.  My game is on and we thoroughly interview anyone coming to our farm as well as changed our entire operation thanks to the education we received.  We’re very grateful for that experience because it gave us the confidence to learn and set our own boundaries for our business and our own behavior.  All that said, my heart is broke for Blue.

Ed commented the other day how wonderful it was to see Blue again but that he appears to have lost some of his mojo and just isn’t the same horse.  Well last night Ed was proved right.  Blue needed a trim on his hooves and the owners asked us to do it so we set about it right after Ed arrived home.  As we started I was about a foot out of Blue’s “space” and he was practically holding his own foot up for Ed – all was well.  And then I made a crucial error.  Yes, *I* screwed up.  Blue got a tiny bit off balance and I moved him to steady him and get him set right again but as I did I entered his space and began stroking his nose talking calmly to him.  Blue attacked.  He didn’t do his normal playful rubbing his head on my shoulder but instead threw his head against me with all the force a 900 lb. horse can muster repeatedly and damn near knocked me over.  Then he started biting as well.  We immediately turned circles to calm him and my tears started flowing – from shock and from pain.  Ed asked if I was ok and I agreed we should try again.  This time Blue wouldn’t even let us near him and began rearing while attacking me again.  At that moment his owner arrived and was very surprised by what she was seeing.

As we explained what we were doing and what was happening it dawned on me, Blue was used to being hit in the face.  His previous owners and the trainer they used believed that if a horse enters your personal space you should punch him in the face.  By the same token, should you enter the horses personal space he should yield and move away or, again, get a punch.  Blue was used to being hit for what I’d done and he was scared.  He had decided to fight back.  Frankly, I can’t say I blame him.  If you’ve ever been attacked by a horse your first instinct is to run and then you feel anger, at least I do.  In this case, I just cried some more.  I can’t believe someone would have ruined this horse that way.

At this point we were in a quandary, as we’re not trainers by any stretch of the imagination, but we had a horse with dangerous behavior and we need to get it stopped.  We chose to let him get away with it.  We decided to let him see that he fought back and never once got punched and then we stopped the trimming.  Every person I know with horses will tell you a different opinion on how to care and handle them.  Every. One.  And I’m willing to bet there aren’t many who would think we made the right decision.  See, horses remember.  Tomorrow when we trim him again, he’ll remember that the attack worked to get us to stop and we’ll have to be fully prepared to spend several hours working with him to calm him enough so he’ll trust us to give his hoof and allow me in his space.  Several hours.  But we knew that and discussed it with his owner.  She trusted our decision and agreed.  Ed spent the next hour just walking up to Blue and sacking him out his hands while as “in his space” as possible.  Blue allowed it but Ed wasn’t asking anything from him other than to let it happen.  Blue was loose in the house pasture so he was free to just walk away at any moment.  Most of the time, he allowed it.

As I sit here with bite marks and bruises on my arms I am so angry on Blue’s behalf.  I am not the least bit upset with Blue at all because he wasn’t responsible for his actions and these bruises.  Someone did that to him.  Someone scared him enough to fight back.  Someone taught him to be afraid of people and not to trust them.  The worst part was seeing him actually attack rather than try to get away.  Horses are flight animals, like deer, and they just run from any sense of danger.  They don’t attack, on a normal basis, unless there’s a damn good reason.  I don’t blame Blue at all and I sobbed in his neck last night as I gave the evening treats.

Blue was purchased at an auction.  The owners put their own child on him and he rode in the ring.  Then they removed the saddle and again had their child mount bareback.  What a wonderful riding horse!  I believe most would agree.  The ring is very closed in, the audience is loud, the auctioneer is louder, and it’s a very distracting environment – difficult for the best horses even at times.  But Blue was calm and collected that day.  No one bid on Blue (I’m telling you the horse market just sucks right now!) and so the auction owner purchased him either for slaughter or to trailer directly to another auction out of the State.  The lady who owns him now approached the auction owner after the sale and bought him then as she had fallen in love with him.  After my post the other day explaining that she’d purchased him as a riding horse for her daughter I received an email from Kim, his previous owner, explaining that after Blue had left here he’d received no formal training whatsoever and just because he was calm that day at the auction doesn’t mean he should be ridden.  I have my suspicions on just why Blue was so calm, especially after I guessed that he was the first horse through the ring and learned I was correct.  It’s quite common to drug horses at auctions.  At any rate, his new owner said last night that after her daughter had a few lessons she would have saddled Blue then had her mount him.  She has a pretty clear picture what would have happened (especially after we told her he flipped backwards on the previous owner twice) and she said she would have shipped him right back to the auction after that – hopefully with her daughter still alive.  I don’t blame her as it would have been terrifying to witness.  But luckily, she happened upon us and now she’s better prepared to train both of them, not just her daughter. 

I’ll keep an ongoing update here as to Blue’s progress as well as explain our experience with strangles as I noticed I received several visitors yesterday who came across this site after searching for “horses strangles” yesterday.  But that’s another post for another day.

 photo mylivesigfinal_zpsbe6e7807.png