The last place I worked out of before I threw in the towel and retired as a horse trainer was a small 70 acre facility.
The couple who owns it raise foundation quarter horses.The wife was my friend and had taken a couple of those foundation horses and had some serious success in NRCHA competition.
I moved in with 10 head and set up shop. The goal was to help them start colts, improve both husband and wife's performance in the show pen and continue on with my own training business.
I fed at night, they fed in the morning. There was a large pasture with young horses in it and another turn-out for broodmares with babies, cattle and our big arena.
This couple had always impressed me with their horsemanship skills and their sensible approach to horse keeping. I soon had an important truth pounded home yet again when I started to feed their horses.
You don't know anything about people until you live with them.
These mares launched an assault on me as I carried their hay like a coyote on a cat. Bam! I got hit with a shoulder. Another mare starting lunging and squealing at the surrounding horses. Whack! I was about run over by a frightened, bolting filly.
Horses were grabbing hay from my hands and I got a good pinch from some teeth in my back.
The mares knocked me over, the hay flew everywhere and the horses went to eating.
I lay on my back, contemplating the crystal blue sky and wondering if the bite on my back was bleeding.The mares snorted and stomped at flies,content in their explanation of how things stood,and settled into the scattered hay.
I got up, dusted off my butt and went back into the barn. I dug around until I found a longe whip.I picked up another load of hay and walked out into the pasture. The mares slung up their heads, saw the new load of hay and came running in for round two.
I set the load of hay down and squared off holding the whip like a batter at the plate.
As the mares came running up I let go with everything I had.AAAAGH! I shouted at them. Whap! The whip cracked across them. I didn't care what it hit. Some horses were hit on the legs, some on the chest and some across the face.Yes,I left marks.So had they.
I didn't look, I just kept swinging. These horses had been treating people like animated bags of feed for so long they became angry when I whipped them. They squealed and kicked at each other and me.
Stepping into them, I cracked the whip on them as hard as I could. The grulla boss mare in the back shot me with a wicked look as she drove the younger horses at me.
Finally the fillies in the front decided I was scarier and bit harder than anything behind them.They broke off to the sides and bolted.
I headed straight into the grulla and just pounded on her with that whip. She spun and tried to kick me and I yelled again swinging all the harder.
I was pretty taken aback and a little freaked when she started backing up to me with her ears pinned.This mare was truly a bitch.
I shouted louder and started whipping her hind legs. She kicked at the whip and I just kept at it.The grulla broke and tried to circle around me back to the hay. I stopped her this time with just a crack of the whip.
I ended up driving them all back out to the field. Once I was sure they would wait until I said different they got the rest of their hay put into feeders.When I left they warily came up and quietly began to eat.
A short while later my new bosses came home from work.We stood visiting for a few minutes and I filled them in on the day. I didn't mention the pasture incident.
"How'd feeding go?"
They flashed a quick glance at each other.
"Took me a few minutes longer than I thought, but it went OK," I said.
"We usually sneak the food out before they see us with the hay."
"I just explained to them it was best if they waited to get their hay before they came up."
That was the end of the conversation. I was pretty much blown away. How could two people with so much going for them on horseback be such total idiots when it came to pasture management? I found out later a visiting brother was put in the hospital when he tried to help feed. They considered it his fault for being in the wrong spot.
By the time I left the horse training biz each horse knew to wait patiently until I walked away before they ate. Not only was I safe but the horses quit brawling with each other. They were too busy wondering who I might bite next.