Saturday, June 27, 2009

Watch What You Name a Horse

I've been pondering all weekend about the subject of my next EI post and couldn't think of a thing. After reading Laura's last post, it occurred to me that I'd never told the story of Broker, a story very similar to Ready's.

Eleven years ago before I bought my current horse, Gailey, I had a wonderful Morgan/Quarter Horse named Moses. Well, Moe was 18 and not inclined to be good at dressage, too short-strided, too stiff, and too lazy, and now too old. I loved Moe. You could do anything with him, and I did; but his story is best saved for another time.

A very good friend of mine had bought a horse for a foreign exchange student staying at her house. The boy had ridden hunter/jumpers in Europe. The plan had been that he'd train the horse to be passed on to her daughter after he returned to Europe. Well, that didn't quite work out, and she decided to sell the horse. She offered him to me for a VERY reduced price. I checked him out. He was a big, beautiful mover and wonderful on the ground. Under saddle, he seemed a little piggy. I put my leg on him. He sucked back instead of moving forward. No big deal, I thought. He just needs some training.

I paid her and took him home. I decided to rename him, Stockbroker, and called him Broker (Mistake Number One}. If there ever was a prophetic name, that was it. A few weeks before I purchased him, I remember commenting to a friend that I'd never been injured on a horse in all of my years of riding (Mistake Number Two).

I bet you see where this is going.

The first day I rode Broker in my arena, he slugged along and refused to move. I decided to take him for a little trail ride on my trails. We didn't get more than twenty feet out of the arena gate when he quite calmly stood on his hind legs. I slid right off his butt onto the ground. Surprised and pissed. I caught him, got back on, and rode him back out on the trails. I was ready for him this time. As soon as he started to rear, I whipped into a circle then drove him forward. This continued for several minutes before I took him back to the barn and contemplated that I'd been had. My "friend" had to be aware of this behavior. The horse was obviously quite talented at rearing.

The second time I rode him was in a lesson taught by a clincian who is also a trusted friend. We lasted about five minutes. He was slugging along, again, and she told me to take the whip in one hand and give him a solid smack. He started bucking in a way that would rival any rodeo bronc. Again, he knew what he was doing. I went flying. Unfortunately, I heard a snap as I landed. I'd broken my collarbone in two places and two ribs.

Giving Broker the benefit of the doubt, since I hadn't really given him much warm-up time, I asked the working student at my trainer's barn if she'd ride him while I was laid up. She could sit a buck a lot better than me and was fearless. She lasted about ten minutes before he dumped her. She tried to ride him one more time, same result. Next came another friend, equally talented and fearless. Same result, again.

Not wanting to risk these girls getting hurt, I took the horse to a trainer with a reputation of being able to rehabilitate problem horses. She had him one month and suggested I try to sell him to a rodeo. She didn't want him anymore and considered him dangerous.

Now, my dilemma. Here I was with a horse I didn't like, and I was afraid of him. I wasn't the one who ruined him. Someone else did. Yet, I was stuck with him. I called my "friend" who sold him to me. Of course, she didn't want him back. I ended up doing something I never thought I'd do. I took him to an auction. I put a note on his stall that he was not a beginner's horse and needed an experienced rider and that he bucked and reared. I paid a girl to keep an eye on him and show him in the arena then I left. I understand some cowboy bought him for a sheriff's posse horse. I have no clue how that worked out.

Broker left a legacy that I live with to this day. I have a fear of being hurt that comes out under pressure. I don't like riding horses I don't know, and I'm often stiff and defensive when I ride. I'll never buy another horse without trying it several times in different situations.

I called my next horse, Gailey, because I wanted to make sure that her name had a positive connotation. You live and learn. And what happened to the friend? I haven't talked to her since. I understand she divorced and left the area.


Oh, and by the way, I just discovered that The Gift Horse is now in print, as of this weekend. You can find it at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.


Fantastyk Voyager said...

That's what "friends" are for! No really, that was a terrible thing for that person to do. Why not be up front about it? Someone is usally up for the challenge of taming the wild beast.

I think you did what you had to do. What a shame you had to get hurt.

Unknown said...

I had a horse once that I sold because he reared when pushed to do something he did not want to do, and I was not able to correct this problem. He got very adept at this move, and my trainer was not able to get him past it. I did tell the buyer about the horse's problem. I have often wondered If I did the right thing. I bought and sold him for less than a thousand dollars. If I had it to do again, I would have had him put down. Are we doing the right thing when we let a horse with dangerous habits go? Does it matter what we paid? Or who gets him next? With so many "good" horses available, must we keep giving "bad" ones more chances?

FD said...

Ye gods. This kind of thing gives us all a bad name. Don't really see what else you could have done - bar sue the 'friend' who sold him to you. Although over here, if it's a private sale and not one through a dealer or horse professional, caveat emptor applies. Unless the horse was advertised, or otherwise provably described as being of different temperament than she actually turned out to be.
Sucks all round really.

FD said...

Mmmm. Afterthought. With this one, what you do I guess depends on where you fall on the ethical line - do you believe it's better to give the horse a chance and sell on with warnings, put the horse down yourself to prevent any possible future trauma to rider / horse, or suck up the fact that you have a horse you can't use and as a result may not be able to afford one you can use.
I know there are hardliners who find slaughter unacceptable, but I personally think sometimes it's the most ethical thing to do. Albeit deeply unpleasant. And very hard to define where exactly the point is that you feel that it's not right to keep trying.

mugwump said...

I think deciding to put the horse down depends on the level of competence the rider has who gets it. In Jami's case I think she was an able enough rider to put the horse down without guilt.
On the flip side, she did put a serious warning on the horse, so she was much more responsible than the woman who passed him on to her.
Exactly how much do we owe a horse we're stuck with?
Excellent question.

Laura Crum said...

Jami, that's a tough one. I might have hauled that horse to the sale, just as you did. The difference between you and Broker and me and Ready (in my previous post) was that I trained Ready. I did the best I could with him, but he remained the resistant horse he was genetically programed to be. He did become a reasonably safe riding horse. I hoped he'd found a good home as a trail horse. I didn't want to keep him. However, I was also, in many ways, attached to him. I couldn't forget the handsome colt I fell in love with. That's why I agonized over him so much. If I had purchased a horse that turned out to be as dangerous as Broker, I would either put it down, or try to sell it to someone who was tough enough to handle it, with very clear descriptions of what the horse was. I don't think I would agonize over it too much. So I don't think you did the wrong thing. You put the warning out there for the buyer to see. People who buy horses at the sale, know (or should know) that the horse might have a bad vice. Its the nature of the sale.

Jami Davenport said...

Truthfully, if I had it to do over again, I probably would have put the horse down. I don't think he was salvagable. He wasn't exactly safe on the ground either. Though he loaded like a dream, his one bright spot.

I found out later from a previous owner that the problem had been there for a long time. They had sold the horse to my "friend" and thought that he just needed a stronger rider. They were quite ignorant about horses.

I couldn't, in all conscience, sell him to anyone else in a private sale. I felt that if you buy a horse at an auction, you should be aware that there may very well be an issue with the horse. I knew the note on his stall would bring me less money, but I didn't really care.

It was unfortunate, and I suspect his issues were all due to very bad training, but they were ingrained and dangerous. Once a horse figures out that there are ways to get a person off its back, you're in deep do-do.

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