Sunday, June 23, 2013

A String of Horses

I’ve been working with several horses lately. I’m always intrigued by the different personalities and abilities of each animal. But first, I have the news that Tex; the hard to catch Kentucky mountain horse has a new home. A lady came by the farm, looking for a new horse, and Tex caught her eye. She was fully aware that he was hard to catch, and that he might freak out if she touched his rump while mounting. But Tex’s smooth mountain horse gait, and rock solid trail horse performance won the day. She was riding on the road in front of the farm when a loud hot rod full of teenagers roared past, well over the speed limit. The lady got nervous, but Tex never broke his stride. Tex was her horse before they ever got back to the hitching rail.

Apache is a new horse in the line up. I believe he will stay a while. I gave him an evaluation ride, and found that he is a push button trail horse. He knows his job, and does it smoothly and seamlessly. Nexie is a 14-year-old standardbred, retired from harness racing. She has been off of the track for about 6 years now. Her previous owner took her in and cared for her, but never put a saddle on her. She said she did sit on her bareback a time or two. The boss put a saddle on her and longed her around a bit and Nexie seemed to take it all in stride. I worked with her the other day. The saddle didn’t bother her at all. I pulled on the stirrups to put some weight on them, to see how she would react. She stood calmly for it. I tried to step up, but found she wouldn’t stand still. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t being contrary or trying to avoid being mounted. I got the feeling that she’s just never been trained that she is supposed to stand still during this operation. I asked the boss to come over to hold her. I climbed halfway up and draped myself over the saddle. Nexie seemed puzzled, but not nervous, so I swung all the way over and got settled in. The boss let go, and when Nexie tried to walk off, I put some pressure on the reins, and gave the command “whoa”. After some hesitation, she complied. We stood there a moment, then I put some pressure on her sides, and we moved off at a walk. We maneuvered through some turns and I noticed that she readily turns left, but seemed to resist right turns. She didn’t seem jittery at all, so I took her to the rail and gave the command to speed up. Nexie flew around the arena with no hint that she’d never had a rider. Even though she was traveling rather fast, the arena was too small for her to open up to full speed. Later, I spoke with a friend who has years of experience with racing. She confirmed my suspicions that not standing to be mounted, and the reluctance to turn to the right are vestiges of Nexie’s racing career. Another one is a pinto walking horse named Rebel. He is nearly 5 years old, but has never been trained beyond wearing a saddle and tooling around a farm with kids. That experience has made him a gentle and willing horse. In the arena, I quickly found that he does not understand the cues for turns. I used several cues simultaneously to get him to understand what I wanted. If I wanted him to turn right for instance, I first touched his neck with the left rein, then gently pulled on the right rein. If he still didn’t get it, I touched his left shoulder with my foot. That usually did the trick. After about 30 or 40 minutes, Rebel was negotiating turns around barrels and poles set up in the arena. We weren’t setting any records for precision, but he was catching on to the cues.

Apache will move right into the rental / lease program at Beaver Hollow Farm .  Nexie and Rebel will get more saddle time to work out their minor issues. I’m just enjoying the challenge of figuring out how to work with each horse as it comes along.

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