Part of the process of opening a place like ours is insurance and the biggest issue is horse insurance. As I mentioned before, there are no laws that protect stables from the inherent risks involved with horseback riding.
So the insurance agent offhandedly said, "I'll just check your horse's record and as long as it's clean we can insure the horses."
And thus we learned that every recorded incident goes onto the horse's record. So if a rider falls off the incident stays there for the animals life. On one hand, advocates for this system might argue that buyers can look up a horse's history. Because, world over sellers lie. Buyers lie too. Really, everybody lies except the horse. So I just get my information there.
Today, I was thinking about a safety video we will be making. It's a basic don't go under that horse, don't run behind a horse and so. Our horses really don't care what we do, but a lot of horses haven't had the time put in that takes. In fact, if you run up behind Pan and Super, you will find yourself roped into to butt scratches.
However, probably because I'm in quarantine, I suddenly realized how sad this is for a lot of horses. Even the kindest, best trained horse in the world can spook and kick or bite. An injury might cause a bite or being surprised might cause a kick. There is now amount of training to erase the fact that horses are horses. They are big, lovely animals.
This is a song Gabe wrote about our horses. Superman is my best friend. Thunder Girl is grumpy. Hold your brains Thor. Whoa Panther. Horseback riding is fun....
He has written another song "Pets" in which he asks, "Mommy, can I have a dog?"
"Mommy can I have a snake. "
"Why? I am capable."
And so on. His "Pets" song is now going to be in a music book filled with songs taught in public schools nationally. He is writing a third song about the cats. It's quite cute because it's literally about cats, but from an adult's perspective its about a young man and a girl. "Why do you only want attention, when you want attention. " This is paraphrased because I don't know the lyrics exactly. But is has been decided that the Pets and Girl Friend song will be in both English and Korean.
Gabe is young, just in third grade, but he wrote this song in first grade and finished it in second grade. Though he plays drums, ukulele, piano, guitar, and violin he doesn't yet know all the instruments. Or play anything better than above average.
Sound harsh? I said he is talented in music. But he is like any kid. He likes to play games and not study, And he isn't forced to play any instrument outside of lessons and the practice the teacher assigns. He is best at drums and piano and will play those on his own for fun. He will never pick up the violin on his own, but he likes understanding the instrument if that makes any sense. He probably will never play it for fun, but to use the synthesizer well, he has to understand the instruments that make them.
So each new set of lyrics is a start to a long, intense learning process from writing lyrics to sheet music, to singing the song.
There is a saying in Korean: "Your arm is bending in." This mean you are favoring your family, not necessarily reality. Our arms bend in a lot toward Gabe. But we keep him grounded as well. He recently got cast for a national ad campaign for a very big educational company. We didn't know how big it was until filming day. There were 60 support staff and Gabe was the star. When he asked for a hamburger, all the kids got hamburgers. Later, one of the kids said he didn't drink milk. The staff said so what. Gabe being Gabe, used his power to get everyone a smoothy. But his mom told him that if he ever acts spoiled she will pay the fee and end the contract and go home. He can do this or not do this, but if he does, he must honor his commitments.
There have been a handful of other jobs before this and also KBS came to the farm and filmed Gabe and the horses. During shooting, they asked him the same questions 20 times. He had a real attitude at times... because he is a kid and someone asking you "So how many horses do you have? " again and again... it's hard not say, "I already told you. Four."
KBS was a great learning experience for us all. And the farm is a little bit famous now.
And perhaps he never well. Thor has sagging lower lip happy face. Thunder has the ' I'm not tossing my head at you and pinning my ears right this second' happy face. Pan has curious face. He sticks his nose at you and smells whatever you have. This is a huge development for him. He was easily frightened of all things human and he's just now 16 or so months after we first got him, not exploding in fear every time he sees the flag. He's started sniffing it and mouthing it. I feel joy when he comes up to explore whatever we happen to be carrying through the pasture. He is gaining confidence.
Superman too took a long time to gain confidence and he still today is our resident coward. The pond, which spent most of last year a dry pit in the ground that we debated on filling, has had water since about December. Glad we didn't fill it in. I suppose I need to take photos to show everything. But I just can't find the energy to photograph and I don't know how people YouTube about projects and stuff. The project itself is so much work. For now, the farm is really coming together.
So both Pan and Super are butt boys. They love butt scratches. But the difference between the way they ask is huge. Super looks at you turns his butt really slow and then backs up on step and a time. If you're not careful while cleaning manure, you'll take a step back and bump into him waiting patiently for you to notice.
Pan on the other hand is like a retriever leaping into your lap. You're cleaning manure and suddenly the air rush out of your lungs as the butt of a 700-kilo horse has you pressed against the stall wall. Not dangerously so, but not so gently that you're like awe, so cute. Instead you're like "Pan!" This shout is followed by guilt because he responds as though you hit him and scurries away from you.
So you call, "Pan, honey, whoa. I'll scratch your bum."
And I'm touched because these days he hears my tone, slows down and waits for me to love on him. He never means to be a big oaf. He just is in the same way Superman is the gentlest of the herd. They are themselves but the longer we have them, the more trust each has in us. Thunder and Thor are much different than Super and Pan... we got them from the track directly. They lived the regimented thoroughbred life which isn't always awesome, but it is predictable. Pan and Super had lives before us with people before us. And Superman, perhaps more than Pan because he was 6 when we got him and Pan was three. And yet they are similar. They have taken a long, long time to trust. Where as Thunder and Thor have always been, "Um, you want to clean me with a noisy air compressor. Okay. And put that air under nose so I can eat it."
Yum, yum air compressor air.
.First, I paired a voice warning he knows, showed him the muzzle and then put a grazing muzzle on him. I repeated throughout the day and left it on overnight. At first he didn't understand, but about a week after I started, there was voice warning he chose to ignore and I carried the grazing muzzle out of the barn. For the first time, he was hard to muzzle. He understood at least, this was something he didn't want to happen.
Because he understood that much, I was then able to give the voice warning, then the warning and show him the muzzle. I only had to put it on him one more time after that. He stopped with my voice warning. Also, along the way I made a bid deal of inspecting all the horses for bites and and fussed when i found any. It's been about two months since we've had anything more than a minor nips.
Then about a month after the grazing muzzle, Pan started chasing but not biting. He ran Thor into the fence and one night we went to the farm after 10 pm, and saw him nearly running Super through the fence. Thunder was helping, because she could and also some payback for all the times Super chased her for entertainment.
Again, stalling was an option but not a long term solution. Thus, after way too much overthinking., I settled on the idea of a breakaway halter and a lead rope. In theory this would allow Pan to do his bossing around but prevent him from too much chasing. Also, I thought if Thunder decided to help him harass Superman, she'd probably step on the rope too.
While the mental adjustment took about two weeks, the rope was a constant correction.. Then, during the days, I started taking it off and only putting it on if he got too aggressive. A few days before I took it off both day and night, he snagged the hay net with the clip of his halter. It was one lonely loop of net and yet he stood tied for hours. he was so relieved when I let him loose. Poor baby, but now I know we can go overnight.
Anyway, today, I came out from the barn and he was standing in his stall holding his food bowl by the handle. I couldn't get my camera out to catch him holding his bowl like a dog. So I cleaned some manure and as I came back around the the side he was standing three hooves in his food bowl. Sadly, I only managed to catch him stepping out. If he could speak, he'd probably have said something like, "Just trying to communicate that this is where my food should be."
Below is a short clip of his recent favorite place to be petted. His gums and lip. What a silly boy.
while these photos are extremely different, I love everyone's expressions. They are content and that brings me joy.
Thunder is happy because she has a stall. We now have a system of swinging and removable panels that allows to go from two large stalls to four box stalls. Right now we have it configured with two always open box stalls and one giant stall. This is Thunder's spot. Pan has chosen the other box stall and Thor and super share the big stall. But Thunder spends part of her time with Pan in his stall.
Pan has reached the two month mark since being gelded but he and Thunder are still a couple of sorts. I personally never been through gelding before, but the internet said it was no big deal. For me it was a big deal. The vet did the surgery with Pan standing and sedated. He was quite happy- our vet, not Pan- because a lot of horses don't stand well even after sedation. We've desensitized all of our horses nether regions along the way for times like this.
Prior to gelding Pan, we had dived our paddock into two sections. This was about March. Pan fought with Thor for head horse and won, and being that he was a stallion, went after Thor and Super. Our Superman was used to being chased off, so took no offense. But Thor had a life crisis. When his mind is clear and stress free his ability to work all four legs at the same time can leave a bit to be desired. When his frightened mind and hooves go different directions. It was often cartoonish as Pan said go away now and Thor stood in place looking around frantically, speaking without words "What can I do? What can I do?" By the time "Run!" was processed Pan had clamped down on him, not with the nips of horses teaching, but the flesh tearing bite of a stallion. Thankfully, Pan didn't actually know how to inflict really wounds nor the desire to really harm Thor. He just wanted him away from his mare... further than our pasture allowed away. So up went the electric tap.
And because Pan was a good stallion it didn't take much. Thor was not such a good gelding. He pined after Thunder much as a stallion would, even calling to her. This made me think he might be proud cut (one testicle remains inside the horse.) After much speculation, Liz pulled up his medical records. He was not not proud cut... anymore. When he was gelding one testicle remained, and then, perhaps to see if it would make him faster, it was removed in a very costly surgery. We thanked our lucky stars that it wasn't left for us to do. But, it also explained Thor's behavior. Well, the calling part. The trembling in fear at when Pan looked his way was all Thor. He was beside himself with what to do.
Eventually things settled. Then the hurricane blew through and took out our sad divider. It's important to note that Korea does not have electric fence poles so we use aluminum garden poles. Unfortunately, the wind was strong enough to sheer several poles off and we had four horses running together. By this time, Thor and Pan were on seeing terms. That is Thor could see him and not tremble with fear and Pan could seem him with out wanting to run off to China. In the meantime, Thunder DID NOT GET PREGNANT. Pan was a lovely stallion in that he was soooo easy to handle. He was a terrible stallion in ever other respect. Even with help, he could not seal deal. And then the poles got knocked down and Thunder got a puncture wound which sealed Pan's fate.
We'd been on the fence about snip, snip but, while Pan didn't knock the fence down, the ensuing chaos of two geldings, a stallion and a mare together knocked us to the other side of the fence. For our situation and set up it was the best choice. There is of course always a chance that a stallion will retain his stallion behaviors after gelding and we are still managing those a bit. But for the most part Pan is a lovely gelding. Thunder had already stopped coming into heat strongly around him before the surgery and continues to be a low key mare. I suppose to a great extent her life has improved. She has all the benefits of being the girl friend of the only "stallion." She is learning that she can tell the boys off and run behind Pan and they can't do anything about it. She's getting more brazen all the time. On the other hoof, she doesn't have him biting her incessantly and then not performing the one thing all the biting is supposed to lead too.
Which is perhaps why she is so content these days. She has her space, she has a buddy who does not say," Oh, it's you go away." She can grump at him all day long and he's happy to have a mare. And perhaps they are just best buddies. Thor on the other hands says, "All I have is Super." Everybody says that. He has the "I'm not a quitter unless you put a saddle on my back and then I quit. No really, I quit .. I mean about riding. Not that grass you keep telling me I'm not aloud to eat right now." motto. Thus if there is grain to steal or hay to steal or butt scratches to get, he usually gets his way. He is the Steve Urkel of horses. And he used to, but no loner, chase Thunder around the paddock for entertainment.
Over the weekend my friend's friends came to the farm and Super got painted. Thor was going to be painted too but he had a sudden weird problem of separation anxiety.
Because it's been rainy and wet, the horses generally are all sand bay. In other words covered in sand. Liz took Super out of the pasture to rinse him off before painting commenced and Thor ran around crying for his buddy. He doesn't usually get so upset but he can be quite the insecure horse. Perhaps he was anxious because the previous Sunday we went down to the riverside... because we have no trailer this means leading them behind the truck... and did a very short trail ride.
Back when I was 20, I used to ride 45 minutes along the road to get to the trail. And I would do that too here but there are a few factors to consider. We have a herd of cowards, so we only get so far from the farm before they can't cope with a rider on their back. Warwick Schiller talks about the 50 foot trail ride and because of that we can get all the wall to the bottom of our mountain road if we are riding and they trail ride nicely on the on property trails. Another factor are uncovered ditches. These waterways are just large enough and deep enough to swallow a small car. They run along most roadways, sometimes on one side, sometimes on both sides. On the other side of the ditches are often crops: apples or potatoes or rice. If a horse spooks and doesn't break a leg backing into a ditch or has enough sense to jump over the ditch (trust me when I say Thor does not) lurking everywhere are thousands of dollars of crop damage an wires or supports strung between crops that need them. This is not an environment when I recommend pushing a horse's limit.
Our horses will go about anywhere we lead though. It's that follow the leader thing. I think often people don't realize how unnatural it is for a horse to have a leader, leading from behind which is what riders actually do.
Since walking all the way down will take forever and some how our entire herd loves all things with engines, leading them behind the truck works really well. While I've know people to tie the horses to the truck, I find that unsafe so I sit in the back, hold the ropes and when someone really refuses to move, I sometimes have to jump out and grab the lead ropes. This happens less and less as Liz now knows what things are liking to scare them and slows down or even stops and also how fast to drive for a good working walk.
To add to the adventure, last week we encountered a giant crane as one of the businesses along the roadside was building something. In productive fashion which is practically the hallmark of Kore, the large equipment was parked in the road, raising beams while the small farm traffic flowed by. This included us and the horses. I have to say they were frightened, but years of trust and you can do it paid off. We got to the park area, let them eat a bit but Super was determined to go home... well eat his way home. The previous time he grazed quietly but the clovers were dry from lack of rain and he said in his way, "What is this. Why did I come all this way for this crap. The farm is yummier."
So we mounted up rode about ten minutes along the riverside which paved for people and bikes. But our horses not only like things with engines, they really just like things with wheels. It's strange. As a young rider motor bikes, four-wheelers, bikes, strollers, kids on skate boards, and all the other things bothered most of the horses I rode. I would get really nervous about riding in certain places because of that. Mostly, we're just getting the horses broke to urban trail riding which means going under roadways and random objects. Thor seems really okay with most thing while Super on the other hand passes things with great suspicion. Since he finds some inanimate object to be worried about every few feet, I plan to use some clicker training with him the next time we go. I will give him a treat (from his back) for looking at scary things. I'll build on that until he'll approach and give it a sniff for a treat. Soon he will associate all these things with food and that will build his confidence.
After we got done riding, we led the horses down a steep bank, took off our shoes and gently coaxed the horses into the river. Thor went right in. Super came in with quite a bit of coaxing and after having two feet in the water leapt from the there as if he might be able to jump over the rider. I had a good laugh. Thor seemed to realize it was quite nice and stood with Liz quite happily. She said that he felt very different to her.
Which brings us back to horse painting day. Super was in the barn drying and I was clearing manure for the pasture. TAs she walked to go get a patch for the inflatable pool, Thor nickered after her and called for her three more times as the truck drove down the road. He did that nervous walking around thing, and was just upset. I brought him up and tied him. If a horse ties well, sometimes this can settle them. Well, if you have a patience pole your horse doesn't have to tie quite as well but we don't. we have a string and a rope and pretty much every tie in the place has clips secured by folding over rope and wrapping it with electrical tape. This is my own personal safety measure.
There is a school of thought that if a horse breaks free, they will always do so. I used to adhere to that school, but these days, I find that if a horse knows he or she can get lose in a pinch, the less likely they are to panic in the ties. That said, the really key to tying well is the horse's ability to give to pressure and a gradual build up of time spent tied. Boredom or frustration or both always sets in because being tied and left alone is boring. Learning how to pass time is something that marks maturity in both humans and animals. I find horses that cannot pass time while tied are usually very baby like in other ways too.
And worried as he was, the years of slow conditioning that being tied is boring, payed off. He danced around a big, pawed a bit and then settled into the passing time stance. Finding relaxation this way is advanced groundwork. If he were less far along, I would have had to be with him for him to settle. But since he really struggles with attachment, the most useful thing I can teach him now, is how to calm himself.
There is a slippery slope in bonding deeply with any animal. Its nice to feel needed. But even animals need independence. Super, our resident coward, is quite the independent pony these days. If he gets a chance to graze, he'll be off by himself no problem. He used to not be that way. Thunder to. Infact, she escaped today after I brought her up and when I brought down Thor and Super, she didn't follow like you'd expect. Instead she took advantage of the open gate and crossed the road to the neighbor's apple orchard. The apples aren't ripe yet but she was after the clover growing between the isles. So I had to make a third trip up the hill. I went with grain hoping to lure her, but no. She didn't run from me, but she wasn't going to give up her clovers either. Sigh. Independence has it's drawbacks.
Anyway, isn't that a lovely photo above? It's what the farm looks like now. All it is is a white fence. We still have the electric fence to keep the horses off of it because this stuff bends really easy. But, it looks lovely.
Warwick Schiller said that horses can only understand 7 words. We know Pan understands I Love You. Thunder's favorite word is "Thunder!" Everyone knows "Good Boy/ Girl" but Thor really loves to hear it. And even if they don't understand "You're my favorite," or "Did you sleep well?" they do seem to enjoy being talked to.
There is this meme on Facebook about how you know you don't have much of a social life when your life doesn't change much with the virus. I guess that's true because my social life involves a lot of one way conversations.
Facebook is full of people staving off boredom in creative ways. I envy them and to some extent wish (at least for the short term) that I could change places. .First, I'd binge listen to audio books and assemble very time consuming puzzles. I'd also write for hours... perhaps put in those marathon story sessions lasting 12 hours. I'd draw again and bake. I miss having the time to bake and decorate cookies. I wouldn't miss not eating them. That's the problem with baking. You have to eat at least one of what you make and if you like to cook a lot it's hard to keep that waistline in line.
Instead, I get up early and go to the farm. I clean manure, feed the dogs, horses and cats. And since the farm is once again under a form of construction, I clean up after the construction. This has meant cutting almost 100 apple trees into logs and stacking them for use as firewood later. The old apple orchard is now just a field. There are still plenty of apple trees. But the horses now have a bit more than an acre to used as both a pasture and a riding space.
There was a pond in the space as well. We had hopes that it was connected to a natural spring, but as it turned out, that wasn't the case. Or it dried up. At any rate, the old pond is mostly filled in. There is one low spot. This is a permanent trail element. There is a pile of sand in front of it so you can ride up the hill and down into the depression which will have water from time to time, either because of rain or because we put water in it.
Most of the work has been done by the excavator guy that's worked for my friend for years. He comes with his big truck as he did before. He wears a mask... we all wear masks when in close proximity. Other than that, life is the same as before.
In other, less rural places, the impact of coronovirus has been more pronounced. But in the countryside, in farming communities life must continue. If it doesn't, there will be food shortages. Of course, nothing we're doing is so dire, but the garden will be quite robust this year just in case, with cabbages, carrots, tomatoes, peepers and more.
Food will go up this year. For one thing, there aren't enough day laborers. Many went back to their countries. As with most first world countries, South Korea relies heavily on migrant labor to do the jobs that educated (and Koreans are really educated) don't want to do. But its more than just a shortage because what farmer wants the risk of getting sick, or perhaps even worse, becoming known as the farmer who hired workers who spread coronovirus.
What's worrisome are the horses. The farm continues because it's past the point of no return. My friend said that, in the worst case scenario, she will finish the facilities and then rent them out to someone. But what does that mean for our horses?
Much of managing our horses has been reliant on opening a stables. However, if we cannot open and my friends other business has a major slump, something will have to give over. Because its EXPENSIVE to have horses in South Korea. Lots of horses are coming for sale, and even though it was already a small market, it's gotten smaller as those who have them try to offset the cost of feeding them.
Our vet called to check on our kids... he doesn't see the same horses all that often. Mostly, because his primary work involves racing stables, but also horses just change hands a lot in Korea. The news is grim for the racing industry... it is an industry much like a care manufacturer . Except anybody can invest into a horse and that horses costs about $5000 usd a month to maintain at the racetrack and at least 1200 a month off track. With no races, businesses and owners want out.
More horses are being sent to slaughter, some are simply not being fed, and others are being fed anything that their owners can afford, not necessarily safe or healthy. Of course we can't say much on not feeding healthy things. All of our guys love cookies, bread, pizza crust, try to steal our coffee. Every couple days they get banana peels, apple cores and the like... grandma refrigerates the non-toxic vegetable and fruit scraps and they get a bucket. We also dump brambles into the pasture now again.
But none of this is about nutrition. It's about enrichment. They dine on timothy, but get to pick through the other things for fun. Super loves banana peels, Thunder eats everything, Thor likes the carrots and apples, and Panther being higher than Thunder but more polite about food than any horse has a right to be, waits his turn (which never comes). So, I'm not sure what he likes the most.
The brambles on the other hand (consisting only of things non-toxic) are not particularly yummy. You can often see the "Yuck, but I don't have anything better to do," face as they pick through it. Or they just go take a nap.
They really are pets, which has been commented on at length because its so rare. I know that because of their training they can find homes in Korea. But I wonder what they will think about living in a stall without constant enrichment to help counteract the lack of grazing.
This is about horse training so get your mind out of the gutter and into the manure pile.
So over the years I've followed quite a few horse trainers. In the beginning I worshiped (and recently though to a lessor degree) insert horse training guru here. I can successfully say that I have unsuccessfully been pure to half a dozen or so trainers. That is, I followed the try, try again if you don't first succeed kind of thinking with varying results.
There are a variety of reasons for that. For one thing, horse trainers don't always make good people trainers. Another is that every trainer, I mean every trainer, keeps something back. Sometimes it is intentional and other times, the trainer is unaware of something small but important they do and or consider things they do as understood. So there's that. Then there is your ability not only to understand what they are talking about, but the skill to execute it. For some unempirical evidence, I present to you my experience using the training stick. I use a training stick well. I use a lunge whip expertly. And just returning to a tool I've had twenty years practice with upped my training game.
The variables continue: riding ability (or as in my case, lack there of) breed of horse (yes, it does and doesn't matter simultaneously), and I can't think of anything else coherently right now, but there are a lot. One less coherent problem that popped into my head and by coherent, I mean hard to understand unless you live in South Kore are open ditches. So alongside most countryside roads are this 4ft uncovered, concrete drainage ditches. If you want to go trail riding, you pretty much have to deal with these and this silver, sun reflecting, apple ripening plastic. It glittersas far as the eye can seen from late July until Novemberish, Though to be fair (to the farmers) from September on, there are also the flying silver sheets of plastic that got away from the apple orchards, didn't manage to snag on a tree, bush, or fall in the ditch.
Everyone but Thunder is really good about. And Thunder being a mare has opinion changes by day and sometimes minute to minute. Well, to be accurate, circle to circle in the round pen.
This brings me to things like side reins and what not. The purist natural horseman will tell you your horse just needs to relax more or something. But with a horse like Thunder, relaxed is relative to now. Having said that, an equine chef baking that special trained horsey cake, probably would have less trouble because after the first few thousand horses its pretty much the same right?
Okay, now that this is nice and long, here's my point. Draw reins are not bad. Lots of very good trainers use them. Probably because the people they learned from use them and so on down the line, Just as not using them isn't bad. It just is.
Thor, our not so bright ex-racehorse went through a really spooky couple of months. Not as in two or three months of Halloween or in the I was scared sense of the word. Well to be honest I was scared so I did what most trainers wouldn't do.
I didn't ride him on Monday or Tuesday or at all for as long as he was jumping out of his skin at what some might say was nothing. But to him it was not nothing and to me it was a big something. Not the spookiness, because that was a symptom of something much bigger going on in his head. He started to see the world.
Racehorses can have a varied experience, and this is not to say they are abused. What one horse can tolerate, other horses simply can not. One thing is certain, they are started under saddle where between their first and second a year of life. This is done in theory to get them ready for the races at two. But there is also a very practical... Once at an auction I watched four men pick up a frightened yearling and put him in the horse trailer. I've suspected all along that something similar happened to Thor.
There is a term in psychology called learned helplessness. The experiment (which I blogged about before but I can't remember when or why) involved dogs, cages and electric shock. It was mild shock, probably similar to what we use for our electric fence.
So the psychologists put the dogs in cages. One side of each cage would be turned on, and the dogs would move to the other side. This was repeated until the psychologists had enough evidence to be statistically significant that dogs would move from the negative stimuli. Then both sides of the cage were electrified so that the dog could not escape the negative stimuli. So the dogs just laid down and accepted. And because the dog learned there was no better place, when the dogs were put in a cage with no electric and then one side turned on, the dogs did not even try to go to the other side.
And this is pretty much Thor in a nutshell. I do not believe he was abused but whatever his training, it was overload for him. And he learned when he was a baby, there was nothing he could do about it. To a great extent (and despite hours of ridden and ground work) he's been like a kid with their hands over their ears singing "lalalalala." It's how he coped with being overwhelmed. Yes, horses can get overwhelmed. Its something to think about when buying any horse.
A quiet horse may not be a quiet horse if they've actually just checked out on life. These horses often come with a certain unpredictability. You might hear something along the lines of, "It's like he never saw a bike before." That's because he or she actually may not have seen a bike before. And I think all the things the parts of being a racehorse lend itself to a variety of coping mechanisms.
Taking Thor for example. We've had him almost two years... that's how much time it took for him to mentally be able to cope with the world. Suddenly, he was spooking at the neighbor's dogs, the cars going up and down the road, the birds, the sounds of anything and even the grass blowing. Some might say he lot his mind, but that's really a misunderstanding of what he felt. I can't imagine how mind boggling it was for him and I didn't want him become so overwhelmed that he shut down again.
Not riding was one way I helped him. Riding places a horse in the position where their behavior has a direct impact on their human's safety and well being. I do believe with all my heart that horses do not want to hurt people and take personal responsibility for the people they love.
I also helped him with clicker training. After about a week of nuttiness, I realized he just wasn't coping well with seeing everything. He was being he best boy he could be. For example, one day something behind him startled him and I was in front. Thor never rears, but he started to gallop and could run into me and, as he often does, didn't think about left or right, so it was up, up. Cute, but also telling. Because when I send him to the left or right, sometimes he gets so worried about the consequences of being wrong, he doesn't know which way to go. I say consequences, because if you learned to round pen from any number of trainers, they are loud with their body language. So I broke with the tradition. I asked him to go around in walk trot and canter and brought him into the middle for some target training with the clicker. Rinse and repeat. S
Suddenly the horse we joked about being not so bright, is our star pupil. He is already picking things up and giving them to me. But it's not only that. Things that took so many repetitions for him to learn before, he gets after one or two tries now. He's learning how to learn as well as how to cope with the world. There is an alertness there that wasn't before. He pricks his ears at sounds and looks at things. You can see him thinking about the world, and while I kind of miss his dopey, "huh" expression, the gain is greater.
When I take into account all four of our ex-racehorses, I see a pattern emerging. One that is filled with a lot unknowns. That said, all four of our guys are have enriched our lives immeasurably.
Mariel R. is an ESL teacher, horse trainer, writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. She lives in South Korea with two house cats, three horses, a German Shepherd and three barn cats .
Bear (Gom in Korean) )
Geumbi (Goldy in English) R.I.P February, 23, 2018