Friday, May 1, 2009

Bad Horses

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.


SunnySD said...

Yikes! That's a nasty situation. Shame on them for not warning you - and for letting those mares get away with that behavior with them. It's bad enough when the footing is good. What if it had been mid-March and slippery/sticky with mud?

mugwump said...

Laura Crum talks about that very thing happening at her uncles place!

Deered said...

Ouch - I thingk I was very lucky - I never realised how pushy ponies and horses could be until later in my teens - my Mum didn't let the ponies away with anything and we were taught her way... The first time I had a horse try to push me of it's feed was my sisters QH x bitch - who just happened to be an incredibly good show jumper. I'd been at university for a semester and she thought she's remind me who ran the show... she started off walking with me - on the opposite side to the feed buckt - nice as pie, then when I had to empty the rain water out of her feed bin, she put her hoof on mine and leant on me...she got a swift jab in the ribs so then she tried to shoulder me out of the way... lead rope clino hit her preety hard in the shoulder and she had to back up and behave... I fed for the next week - even though my sister was back home, and never had another issue.
Mum told me when I got back in that that was apparntly one of her favourite tricks, and wwhy my sister ended up with her for a very cheap price - nobody else who had taken her on trial could handle her bossiness...

Deered said...

Oh crap typo city there. Please excuse me - and on a writers blog even!

littledog said...

That's so true that some of the best riders are clueless about horsemanship/horse management. I could tell some hair-raising stories from when I was a barn manager years ago...
I wish lessons ALWAYS included basic horse management skills, as well as riding--even for the princesses who will never be without paid groom help in their lifetimes.

Laura Crum said...

Yep, Janet is right. I fell down flat on my back in the deep mud one stormy dark night in March and lost both my rubber irrigators boots in the mud. Fortunately it was just a case of my slipping and falling, not caused by any horses. The whole herd actually leapt back in fright at the sight of my sprawled body and stood at a respectful distance as I hobbled barefoot through the mud to distribute their cubes. (My uncle fed cubes--I don't, by the way.) I don't know whether it was the hideous yell I gave when I fell or my continued loud and angry cussing at the stupidity of the whole situation that gained their immediate respect. I do remember vowing that when I had my own place the feeding would be arranged such that I could do it from the nice dry non-mucky other side of the fence. And so it is...

I never had to deal with horses quite as "bad" as those in Janet's post, though. The grulla mare sounds like a real she-demon.

Jami Davenport said...

Wow, I can't imagine.

When I kept my mare at home, I taught her to stand against the opposite wall of the stall, head about a foot from the feeder and wait for me to put feed in the feeder.

Once I moved away then she was free to eat.

The funny thing was that others would have a such a problem feeding her. She'd charge them and bully them. I didn't have that problem.

autumnblaze said...

I occasionally have to bring a gelding through a pasture with 3 mares. Generally, well behaved mares who live over the fence with him. Um... but when they're in season? I better bring my biggest, meanest, bitchest mare attitude.

I'm not gonna lie. It's kinda fun being able shoot them a look and watch the two less dominant scatter and the boss mare stop in her tracks.

Cassie-andra said...

Pushy horses are a huge pet peeve of mine. My mare has to wait and have her ears forward before she gets the okay to eat. Occasionally when I am mixing grain with her in her stall she will sneak up and very gently try to wriggle her nose in. Since it is in a "please I am so cute and starving plleeease" manner and she isn't aggressive with it I usually overlook that part. :)

mugwump said...

Cassandra - I have a tendency to do the same thing. The horses I actually own can work me much better than horses I have in training.

Shanster said...

Very cool post! What a story! Yowza!