Monday, February 22, 2010

Scared or Mad/Cupcake2

"I'm sorry I got you into this," my boss, Rainie, told me,"she didn't give many details."

The red colt spun around in the stock trailer. He whinnied a scared baby call to the horses in the pasture. The plaintive sound was enough to make the broodmares raise their heads and nicker back to him.

"How many days have I got?" I asked her.

"30, from what I understand," Rainie told me.

"Huh," I shook my head and walked to the front of the trailer to look at him again.
"It sure didn't take 30 days to turn him into this," I grumbled.

I opened the back of the trailer and walked to the divider in the stock trailer. The red colt flattened himself against the far wall. He pinned his ears and drew his nostrils back in disgust, or hate, or rage. Whatever it was it sure wasn't love.

"Hey Bud, hey Bud, hey hey hey," I talked to him in a low sing song,"C'mon you stupid bastard, come on now, come on, how am I going to get your lead rope, hey Bud, hey Bud."

He relaxed a little. I put my hand through the slats in the divider.

He whipped across the floor like a snake and lunged at my hand. I pulled my hand through the bars and slapped the wood a few times. He bit the slats and the splinters flew.

I kept slapping and brought my other hand through, hooking the lead rope. I worked the rope through the divider and pulled the colt up against the side of the trailer. He squealed and kicked at the restraint, but I was able to reach through and make sure his halter was knotted tight.

I attached a second lead rope to his halter and my boss and I took a strong hold on him and we eased him out of the trailer, keeping him balanced between us.

The shape he was in became evident once we had him out in the sun. His harsh, dry coat stood out stark against his ribby sides. His matted mane and tail were thick with manure and his long feet had big chunks broken out of the side. He was just a little thing.

He glared at us from under his heavy forelock.

"He looks like the horses we rode back in high school," I said.

"His head is sure Arab-y," Rainy said, "he'd be kind of cute with a couple hundred pounds on him."

"He's barely bigger than the dogs," I said, "I don't understand why he's a stud."

The colt decided he had stood long enough and we soon had our hands full wrestling him to the barn.

When we brought him into the barn he completely lost it when he saw the pricked ears and curious faces of the other horses.

He hollered as loud as any herd stud and reared his full height. He hit the ground running and charged the horses. They spun and roared in their stalls and Madonna started to kick the walls. It was complete chaos.

"I have about had enough," I said,"let go of your rope."

Rainie let go of the rope and scooted out of the way.

I gathered up her rope and started swinging. I would snap the end of one lead rope and swing the other at his shoulders. The bull snap on the end of the lead would pop him in the jaw with every swing. The knot at the end of the lead rope left welts.

I jerked and swung and cursed while he squealed and charged and struck.

I was the grown up. He was the baby. Within minutes he stood at the end of the rope, his legs spraddled and his head down low. He shook all over.

"Hurry up and open the stall door, could ya?" I asked Rainie,"he's going to catch his air in a minute."

Rainie slid open the door and I turned and headed straight for it. When I hit the end of the lead rope the red colt jumped forward and ran past me. He shot into the stall and about pulled me in with him.

I stood in the doorway and tried to catch my breath. The colt cowered in the corner. His head was rubbed raw from the halter and his jaw dripped a steady stream of blood. The bull snap had really torn him up.

I stepped in a few feet and his head shot up and he pinned his ears. I backed off a step and he lowered his head just a little.

"Get out of there," Rainie said, "what are you doing?"

"I want to get the halter off of him," I said, "he's a bloody mess."

"He's going to eat you. Get out of there."

"It's all right,hey Bud, hey Bud, hey little Bud," I was already lost in our song.

I'm not sure how long it took, but Cupcake finally agreed to let me untie his halter. There was a long moment when I was wrestling with the sweat soaked knot and I looked deep into his rolling, white rimmed eye. He looked back into mine and I felt he was taking my measure. His ears flattened for a brief second and I held my breath. The sharp smell of sweat and old manure filled my nostrils. I could see his pulse beating in the hollow over his eyes.

He relaxed his ears just a hair and I was able to loosen the halter.

I turned and left the stall, letting the leads drag behind me. I could feel his hot breath and his teeth sinking into the meat between my shoulders with every step.

When I stepped out of the stall and turned to shut the door Cupcake was still, pressed as far into the corner as he could go. I shut off the light and left him in the dark. I heard his sigh of relief.

Rainie was sitting across the barn on a bale of hay.

"Either she gelds him and he stays at least 60 days or she can come pick him up," I said.

We started the evening chores in silence. I was too tired to talk anymore.

25 comments:

Becky said...

Wow.

Brutally captivating.

And for the record, I think your method of "story-teaching" us on how you train your horses is helping the lessons sink into my brain faster than it would if you flat-out told me what I should do.

Amazing work, Mugs. Thanks.

Melissa said...

Holy crap. Knowing how even handed you are with your animals, that must have been one messed up little colt. Hope the butt-kicking did him some good.

Also, remind me not to run into you in a dark alley. Especially if you're armed with lead ropes.

TCavanaugh said...

OMG! I know it must have been the hardest thing for you to go through, but all I can do is feel sorry for Cupcake. Why, why, why, not geld (and geld early).

stilllearning said...

Again, wow.
No one would have blamed you for walking away from this one.

Were you that sure that you could handle him (when you told your friend to let go of her rope), or were you just mad?

I think the best horseman don't always think first. Usually, but not always. Sometimes there's just not time to think.


I think way too much.

Shanster said...

Yowza! Can't wait for more. I was glad there was a second or two of progress and softening in his eye...

mugwump said...

still learning-I lost my temper. To be honest I was mad at my boss for putting this on me.
My decisions in training are not always good ones.

mugwump said...

Melissa- Some of my old students and clients will tell you I'm scary.
Of course they are the same people who felt perfectly comfortable saying,"Shut up Janet!"

Diane I. said...

Have mercy on us, Mugs.....don't make us wait TOO long for the rest of this story!!!

glenatron said...

Sounds like a very interesting horse. I'm looking forward to hearing how things progressed from here.

You know, at some point you'll be able to put these stories together into a book and people will totally want to read it. I reckon you could sell nearly tens of copies at the very least.

wilsonc said...

Looking forward to the rest of the story too. I agree with the poster that said you could put these stories together in a book and people would read them. I, for one, would buy that book.

gtyyup said...

WoWza...I sure hope I never meet up with a horse like Cupcake.

Humans...sometimes they're the stupidest things on the planet. That owner is unbelievable...how could she let that poor horse get that bad. And treated as he was by her, how could he not be mentally unstable?

Jackelopette said...

Can I pre-order that book?

HorseOfCourse said...

Aaarrgh.
As I do not have any finger nails left,I am on to my toes now.
My back really can't stand it Mugs, so have mercy on your middleaged readers and post that follow-up NOW!

badges blues N jazz said...

okay, where is the rest of the story and how long do I have to wait????

I am really looking foward to how this plays out! When you get a book published, I will be first in line to buy it. that would be awesome..Short stories/chapters on each horse, mort, sonita, and your ones in for training.

AKPonyGirl said...

Becky said "And for the record, I think your method of "story-teaching" us on how you train your horses is helping the lessons sink into my brain faster than it would if you flat-out told me what I should do."

Ditto.

stilllearning said...

Sometimes righteous anger is a good thing, and lets you act more instinctively. Sounded like you were having one of those flashes, and it gave you the adreline and confidence to face Cupcake down.

But still...wow.

Sydney said...

Poor guy. Aghh cliffhanger D:

cdncowgirl said...

I'm still amazed at the owner for keeping him locked up in the barn for so long.
What the heck could she possibly have been thinking?! If I were to have a youngster out of my beloved old mare I'd sure as heck be doing something besides keeping him locked in a dark barn.

Heila said...

I also like the story-teaching.

OT Mugs, how many posts have you done on Leland? I want to refer someone to them but I can only find the initial one in which you explained one-shot training.

lopinon4 said...

Yeah, this is like the Sonita stories. Gobble it up too quickly, then pout because I have to wait for more. It's not fair that Mugs brings out this type of bad behavior in me....

And, Mugs, TAG...you're it! http://lopinon4.blogspot.com/2010/02/ive-been-tagged.html

Becky said...

So I almost don't want to ask this question because I'm scared it will get in the way of whatever installment you're planning next--- it doesn't matter where you go, I'm hooked on all of them.

Still, the question has been plaguing me for some time and it kind of ties in to the your scared/mad stories.

Are there any quick fixes for horses that are great under saddle but terrified of people on the ground? Two horses come to mind that I've known: One was my TB--- I sent him off to be trained and he came back completely abused. When I would lead him he would walk at the very end of the leadrope (six feet long), setting his weight back tentatively against the rope. He'd move at a snail's pace, and any attempt to try to get him to hurry up or get any closer to you would result in him exploding with fear (think panicked horse setting back when tied.) It took about 2 months before I could convince him to lead normally, and what I did was just quit worrying about it and let him realize that I wasn't going to eat him. It worked, but it was a REALLY annoying two months (everywhere I led him he walked at about 10% of the speed of a normal walking horse. It was really weird and ANNOYING after the first few weeks.)

The other horse was one of the string horses we had on a dude ranch---Stubby. FANTASTIC under saddle--an absolute blast to ride, and completely calm/brave, he was a total nutcase when you dealt with him on the ground. You couldn't tie him and you had to move at a snail's pace doing everything or he would explode. Saddling could take up to 30 minutes (which is a long time with a well-trained horse!) I tried to toss him in the round pen a couple of times to see if I could get him to connect with me but it never worked. He ran in a measured, terrified gallop round and round and never once noticed me in the middle of the ring. Although he would spin if I stepped in front I could tell he had completely checked out.

Aside from loving on a horse and treating them well until they decide to trust you on their own, is there anything you can do to...well, hurry the process up? It's a terrible question, I know, but it felt like I should have been able to DO something with both horses that could have helped them learn I wasn't out to get them a little faster. (I know I sound impatient but keep in mind, I was working/interacting with these horses every day of the week. Months seemed like a really long time waiting for results!"

mugwump said...

Becky-Wish I could be more helpful, but no. It takes patience.
Sometimes a horse like the second one can simply be ranch broke.
If he started his life like many ranch horses, he was roped, snubbed, saddled and broke.
Not mean, not friendly, just business.
He gets so he understands it. He gets roped, a saddle slapped on his back, he works, he gets turned loose.It's the way it is.
Then he gets sold at a sale and bought by someone who wants to love him, longe him, be nice to him, maybe round pen him and HE IS HORRIFIED!
Some horses may leap into the love offered to them. I've seen many a mustang do it.
But others are freaked out by it and get all wonky.
If they are afraid on the ground and not in the saddle then it's a man-made fear, guaranteed. Therefore, it takes months. Because the horse can't believe your good intentions. They've been lied to before.

mugwump said...

BTW- Ask away...if these stories don't start generating some conversation I just might go back to lecturing(yawn).

Becky said...

Thanks for the answers. Darn. I guessed as much, but I was hoping for something else. Actually, what I was really hoping was that you'd say something like "Feed them two-parts A&M mixed with 3 carrots and two neck scratches and they'll be cured." Oh well!

There are two big issues getting in the way of us asking questions: #1, you’ve got us all afraid that any question we ask is going to detract from your free time to finish the stories we’re all jonesing over like a bunch of heroin junkies.

The second reason is that while I may know in my head that there are no dumb questions, Sonita’s giant, judgy eyeball you’ve got as your profile pic doesn’t seem to know that. She looks like she’d nip me if I asked a stupid enough question. Don’t get me wrong--- I love the pic you’ve chosen. It’s VERY appropriate for your blog. Unfortunately, it’s also very effective at making me feel like a wayward colt. That mare you had has the art of giving others the stink-eye down to science.

mugwump said...

Becky- I lived under the willful gaze of that bulgy eye for years. You can too.

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