Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Meet the Babies

If I'm going to work on my grand scheme of becoming an even better trainer than the nephew of the guy at the feed store, I might as well introduce my horses. Now I'm sure the nephew is a fine trainer, he loped colts for a reiner for a month or two, so that guarantees that he is ready to hang up his shingle. But I'm ready to duke it out for the title of "Dumb Enough To Crawl On Anything With Hair."
My plan is to write about how it's going. I welcome thoughts on how I can get things to work better. I'm always open to a new train of thought. I mean it. Bail me out here.
I had one go home this week, so I'll cover who's left.
Mamie is a three year old Hancock bred filly. I am not fond of Hancock's. I know, I know, those who love them are foaming at the mouth. Yes, they can be wonderful. They are tough, hard working beasts. They are also a bitch to break out. Nothing bucks like a Hancock.
Sunny is a darling two year old. In an ideal world I would not have to start two year olds. But I need to eat. I am really good at starting these little ones, and leaving them with a sense of confidence and trust. This filly is a gentle spirit. She has been an easy start.
Patty is a rowdy little dun filly. She is so dainty that we won't be on her before fall. She is such a little loon she is beginning boot camp with all the other kids. I don't have to teach her confidence. I have to survive her exalted opinion of herself.
Emma is a stout, pretty, foundation bred filly. She is the 3/4 sister of the boss's champion grulla mare. We take perverse pride at taking our foundation bred horses and wumping some serious ass in the AQHA and NRCHA show circuits. The BIG PLAN is to prove these horses in the show pen, and then cross them out to the winning, current bloodlines. Emma is our next great foundation hope.
They're pretty good looking critters, Fugly, genetically screened and clean, and they win, so behave.
Grunt is a very fancy bred three year old colt. He is everything that happens when you only breed for bloodlines. He is a Genuine Jeep out of a Bon Hari mare. Hot, hot, hot. Small, weedy, with two very crooked front feet. He should have been casted as a baby, but wasn't. We call him Forrest Grunt. He was a double cryptorchid. Why we have him I don't know. Soundness issues loom in the near future. He is reactive, loaded with talent, and has no physical potential.
Emma and Patty were bred on the place. The others are outside horses.
And so we begin.....


  1. Hi MugWump -- just found your blog today, read it all and love it!
    My post is related but kind of off topic.
    I have a just turned 2 and in training own daughter of a famous reining stallion. She was found for me by my trainer, was expensive and gorgeous and is sweet. He found her along with a few other prospects, called some of his clients and we each said yes at the suggestion we buy. I like him and take riding lessons from him and we have a couple of horses with much less potential boarded there too.
    They are starting her "lightly" and I go to watch some times and am always welcome. She walks, trots, lopes spins (slowly) stops and has just been fitted for sliders now that she has passed her actual 2 year birthday. At the moment she is butt-high by at least 4 inches so is awkward.
    All this time I have been worried about starting her so young and yet when I mention it to the head trainer he says that is standard time and she is behind the others in her progress so no time off.
    They also say it is better to keep them gently fit and progressing than to train up really hard and sudden as 3 year olds. More injuries in that scenario apparently.
    I have no huge desire to have her enter futurities and with her height - already over 16hh at the butt withers at 15.1 I don't see a huge future in reining.
    I feel like I am walking a tight-rope of chance -- could she REALLY end up mentally and physically ruined from this -- or is the whole thing as my trainer says -- just a myth perpetuated by NH horse people who don't believe in riding!
    I want a horse that is broke, well trained, can perform but also trail ride and that will be happy and healthy at age 20!
    Advice? How many ruined horses have you as a trainer really seen? Is it the truth that they shouldn't vbe start so young or a myth started by namby-pambies?

  2. Anonymous,
    It's YOUR horse. If you don't want it started, much less pushed, take your money elsewhere to someone who does things the way you want! Stick up for your horse.

    I have a comment coming for your post, but I gotta get dinner done first. It's already WAY past dinner time.

  3. You know I guess the problem is that I am only a very basic rider and a bleeding heart for animals. I will often spoil a horse by asking them to do only what they want to do - which isn't good. The problem is in this case the trainers are the experts I am just a person who often makes judgement errors by being too soft and not "leader" enough with horse so I am suspect of my own opinions in this case. Still she is in a stall all night , trains for 1 hour and then is in a tiny turnout next to but not touching another super expensive show horse -- no way for any creature to live IMHO - no playing or running or physical contact with other horses cuase thats when they are usually injured. So my heart tells me -- take her out of training and let her be a horse -- but my heart has also told me in the past -- well if he (my gelding) doesn't feel like working today, or loping or turning or whatever I guess he can have the day off. So I am confused by my own thinking and often have the wrong instincts when it comes to treating horses -- I have learned not to follow them and go by what the experts say and usually end up with a much better behaved horse as a result.

  4. anonymous-listen to Latigo Liz!
    It is your horse.
    I have seen some totally trashed at two. I have seen the same thing happen to three and four year olds.
    It depends on the trainer, the strength of the horse, the program they are in.
    If your horse bows a tendon, ends up with hock injections at three (you'll be told it's no big deal, everybody does it)or falls apart mentally it will be your liability, not the trainers.
    In defense of your trainer, he's right. For industry standards your horse is behind. Your trainer can't control what is expected of these young horses, he can only do the best he can within the boundaries of staying competetive.
    I am NOT an NH trainer. I compete. I am continually torn between what we have to do and what we should do.
    I would consult a vet outside the reining circle. I would ask about hocks. When the knees on a young horse fuse.
    From what I understand the taller the horse the longer it takes for them to physically mature.
    I started my personal horse as a two year old. I was careful. She was not shod at all until she was three. She earned money as a three year old. Not a lot, but enough.
    She is sound at six and a steady, reliable competitor.I still show lightly.
    My next up and comer will be ridden for 30 to 60 days as a late two year old. Then he will go back out to pasture to run like a rabbit until he is three. I will NOT rush him to catch up. We will hit the derbies as a four year old.
    That is my choice.
    You have to make yours.
    I'm sure your trainer will do the best he can to take care of your horse.
    His future is ultimately yours.

  5. Can you take your horse home and start it again at three?
    Is it for you to show or your trainer?
    If the horse is for you then it doesn't matter how old it is when you show. Non pro is non pro.
    Can you keep the horse at home and bring it for lessons?
    These are all things to sort out.

  6. mugwump,

    I am sooo enjoying your blog. Inspiring, thoughtful, full of feel. It sounds like you have a full barn of horses to learn form and have the benefit of being able to take the time on many of them. I really do admire that. I am just a stay-at-home-mom trying to find a way to ride more and also fit in trying to find a way to make some $$ to get do some clinics (which I oh so love). Reading blogs and some message boards at least gets me into the mindset I need to be so that when I do get around to riding that I won't feel like a totally rusty greenhorn.

    I have heard, mostly from my mentor's wife, that the Hancocks are sensitive. I also have a friend who has had a few and they seem like a GREAT line if you have the feel to get along with them OK. The bucking part...well, that sounds a bit scary, but I don't think that Hancock horses buck any more/harder than some other QH lines (at least from what I have seen). You gotta know that I am an Arab person at heart, so I can deal with sensitive, but hard bucking...well, I'll leave that. I am just hoping that the QH girls I am getting later this month are not genetically predisposed to buck!

    Starting young isn't all bad. There is a lot you can do (and I am sure you already do) that gets them ready for the tough stuff later on.

    Poor Grunt. Sounds like he's been dealt some rough cards already. Hopefully he will end up surprising a lot of people some day!

  7. Hi and thanks mugwump and latigo for your comments and advice.
    The horse is for him to train and show -- I am nowhere near a good enough rider to show -- I am one of those timid older riders pushing herself to keep going in lessons on my quiet gelding to try to densitize myself from the fearfulness I seemed to have developed for no good reason.
    I have had lots of good help from this trainer -- he gives me lessons and has helped me through my confidence issues. When I broached the subject of how sad it is that this filly can't get out and play and has to live in what I think is the human equivalent of being locked in a bathroom sized room and then outside in an equally small pen he just shakes his head at me in pity, smiles and says they have no real concept of that kind of thing, she is behind in training, she is more likely to get injured if you give her a break and then start her up later.
    If I take her out of training I may be able to bring her back to train for derby at an older age - I don't know.
    So I am thinking of how to get her out and give her a real life -- I think I would go crazy if kept under those circumstances. But it may mean the end of my lessons and maybe mean the need to train her later elsewhere. I think he may be mad becuase he went to alot of trouble to find these prospects for us with the implicit understanding that they would be trained and shown according to the normal schedule and with the goal of making it into futurities in Oklahoma. So in some ways I bet he as a trainer will feel that I have backed out of my part of the deal. Not just the horse but the trainer makes a good name and $$ when their horse wins. He will probably say why didn't you buy just a regular average horse if you were going to waste her talent.
    But if there were no futurities or they were held with 5 year olds he wouldn't be in such a hurry either.
    I am thankful for your advice as a trainer in that you have seen those kind of early and permanent injuries -- they are not just a rumour/myth and it sounds like they are fairly common -- not just the rare occurrence. And yes although he is a kind and gentle trainer it is really common for 4 and 5 year olds to have Legend injections -- most do. Not good.
    So I now have more info than my own possibly misguided heart to make my decision with. I will need to change things for her sake. People will say what a waste of $$ and of potential to turn a potential performance into just an expensive pet but I am ok with that.

  8. People will say what a waste of $$ and of potential to turn a potential performance into just an expensive pet but I am ok with that.

    She's your, and it's your $$. And you are OK with your decision. THAT'S ALL THAT MATTERS! If more trainers would do more that is right for the horse, instead of what makes money then the horses would last longer and maybe even make them more money in the long run. Of course, that opinion is coming from a non-pro who doesn't even compete in QH events at all. ;) And it's not just a QH issue anyway. Just look at the Arab show world, and the TB race world, and on and on and on.

  9. >>Nothing bucks like a Hancock.<<

    I said something similar on FHOTD and everybody who loves 'em jumped all over me. But they DO buck, dammit. So do linebred Poco Buenos.

    Anonymous - Here is the deal. The horse is your employee. Be a fair boss. A fair boss DOES make you come to work and do your job. A fair boss DOES NOT ask you to do things you physically can't do, or work when you're hurt, or punish you because they're having a bad day. Does that analogy help you to draw the line? You can learn to be a fair boss, and not a pushover. If you want your filly sound and riding at 25 - take her home and give her another year to grow up. She's not gonna get unbroke from a year off.

  10. And why are you buying horses for your trainer to ride? Good lord girl, buy something you can ride and show if you want to. Maybe a reiner isn't it. Maybe you ought to think about making her into a western pleasure or hunter under saddle horse. Or even a pleasure driving or just a showmanship horse and your trail horse. ENJOY YOUR OWN HORSE, YOU'RE PAYING FOR HER! :-)

  11. (Sorry for the triple post but I'm catching up after being offline for days)

    From the Captain thread:

    >>I rode him a while back and its not her, he is unsafe to be around, he bolts, tosses his head, he's stopped doing the thing where he gives a little hop on his front legs when he gets angry but I imagine it will re-surface at some point. He had never done anything like this before, and he's 15.<<

    OK, he's never done anything like that before? You guys have got a pain issue! 15 year old horses do not just SUDDENLY decide to be rank, dangerous flipping over beasts if they have truly NEVER done anything like that before. You need to get the vet and ideally the chiropractor out for that horse right now. I want to hear the verdict, too.

  12. I gotta agree with you and VLC about the Hancocks. Big, tough, and they buck. Just like the Music Mounts.

    The Poco Buenos--well, let's just say that my Chocolate Chic Olena mare throws back to Daddy, and she was a bucker to start with. Mind you, she's not a talented bucker--either she launches herself straight up forehand high or she kicks her rear end up high--but she's strong and powerful about it.

    At least she doesn't have that funny little launch yourself up forehand high, crack the back and twist before popping up the hindquarters trick that my old Music Mount mare had.

    And she got over the bucking.

    To anonymous--you're the one paying the bills. Yeah, if you're a timid rider, you need to get some perspective--but if you're not wanting to be the owner of a major competitive horse, then you need to revise the plan.

  13. Sounds like you got a barn full of work Mugs.

    I am just starting three horses this spring. None of which are mine but all are going to be very time consuming.

    1. Just turning 3 Morgan mare. Theres no purpose to her being broke other than to make a safe riding horse but she is a GORGEOUS mare. She has very good conformation. If I could change anything about her it would be her face. I don't like her eyes and her face is wide (you have to look at it from the font). Shes already broke to the cart which I did last year, road safe the whole nine yards. She shouldn't be a problem because I deal with her every day. She was easy to break to the cart (cept that rearing episode we had to have a long talk about)

    2. 4 (or 5?) year old grade FUGLYEST OF THE FUGLIES pony mare. She is going be a driving/kids riding fugly (shes got the disposition) Shes got a lot of action but terribly pigeon toed. Shes got the worst case of sow mouth I've ever seen and I don't even want to get started on her back legs.
    I am the only one light and small enough to ride her. The lady wants her broke in time for her grand kids to be old enough to ride her (So I have 3 years lol)

    3. A fjord mare. They already drive her single and in a team. I've seen the woman/her father drive this mare and let me say, as much as I love these people they make the WORST mouthes. This mare isn't going to be a handful because shes already been there, done that but shes going to be a piece of work to getting her soft to the bit or any bridle for that matter.

  14. -So do linebred Poco Buenos.
    If it works it's called line bred, if it doesn't it's called inbreeding:D

    Just to keep it going, I don't like Skipper W's either.
    And since I train in Wiescamp heaven, they're everywhere...

    Mort was Poco Bueno, and so is my boss's foundation stock. Bucking? Only when they think they need to. Ahem. I guess you learn to ride what you like.

  15. Mugs- I was so horrified with Alyssa's tale I didn't even go to pain, nor did I pick up on that it was new behavior, good call.
    Anon- I am currently riding a reining program drop out. She weaves in her stall, tosses her head back and forth, over collects herself, rears, refuses maneuvers, and has hock issues. She has already been given a year off to have a baby.
    She is seven. Which means all of this happened to her before she was five. Her trainer was nationally recognized, and a good guy.
    Why do I ride her?
    Because I'm the only trainer they could find willing to take her off all her drugs, give her turn out with other, carefully selected horses, and try to piece something useful out of her.
    Of course, if I don't ride her, they will take her to somebody else. They are owners who bought the horse for the trainer. Her bloodlines should make her valuable.
    Since she keeps getting shown and not placing, even her bloodlines won't save her.
    Keep in mind, I AM NOT one of the top riders in the country, or even in the state.
    I'm good enough to get to rub elbows with them though. And to get the blown up horses in my rehab.
    All trainers agree, it's the ones that don't fall apart that become the rock stars. The others are just left in the dust.

  16. Mugs- I was so horrified with Alyssa's tale I didn't even go to pain, nor did I pick up on that it was new behavior, good call.
    I mean FUGS!

  17. LOL I knew what you meant, and I was horrified too (I hate hearing stories like that, flipping is SO scary) but the "he's never done anything like this before" jumped out at me. There could be a million things going on there - spinal problem, rib that got cracked from another horse kicking in the pasture, got cast in the stall and threw himself painfully out of alignment, etc. I hope they read this and have him checked out - it could save his life.

  18. Question for you all.
    I have a Hollywodd Dun It, with Poco Tivio and Flit Bar bloodlines. He does great arena work, no tiedown just does everything he is asked, he was an arena show baby in reining, working cow horse and has done barrels and some english classes with him for fun. I am using him for barrels, poles and trail riding. Trail riding and riding outside in general gives him anxiety to the hilt. He gets twitchy, will snap and pull at the bit, flap his lip around like Mr. Ed. It is ridiculous! If he is really freaked he gets chargy and we can lope until the cows come home but he is still full steam ahead. I am looking for suggestions to help him be less anxious or maybe a different bit? Anything? Anyone?

  19. Hey Anonymous-
    When I have an issue like that one I have a few things I try.
    I want the trail ride to be pleasant. Always.
    First I have an gentle bit (ring snaffle) or hackamore (bosal) that I use it on him every time I go out on the trail.
    At first we only walk.
    I start out with a loose rein.
    As soon as he speeds up,I gather him up and start moving him, a couple steps to the left, a couple to the right.
    I use one rein at a time, even if I usually neck rein.
    I don't just turn his head, I make sure the whole horse moves.
    I use a lot of firm, but gentle leg.
    This is almost a half pass.
    He still goes forward, but not very efficiently.
    Eventually, the horse will walk a few steps.
    As soon as he does I throw out the reins,release my leg, and assume he will always be perfect, forever and ever, amen.
    Of course he'll speed up again, but I will immediately start up again.As soon as he slows, I release again.
    This can take a really long time, but it always works.
    Gradually work up to the trot, then lope. Always insist on a consistant pace, no speeding up!
    Any time he gets worried, it's back to the walk.
    You can move him back and forth in all gaits.
    Go out with a patient friend on a quiet horse.
    If he doesn't ride in the arena on a loose rein, practice on the rail first. Same drill, left, right, left until he'll work on a loose rein.Then take him out.
    If he is anxious about leaving the barn, then take him out only about 100 yards or so and then dismount. Loosen his cinch and lead him home.
    Increase your distance gradually. Always take him a little past the last place you stopped before.
    Always dismount a ways from the barn and lead him home.
    I usually begin and end my rides in the arena, not at the tie rail. It helps my horse keep his focus where it belongs. On the work place.
    They know they're done when I loosen the cinch. Not back at the barn.
    I don't worry about what they're doing with their head.
    The left, right drill will get them flexing.
    That will get them to relax and think about their feet. When you have the horse's feet, the head will quiet.
    Be patient, it will come. Good Luck!

  20. Sorry, it's me again...the reason for all of this is to make it more work for him to goof, and a pleasant little walk when he doesn't. It's never punishment, just more work.

  21. If the horse is that bothered outside, and you are not sure about your abilities to stay on/with him in the saddle, there are some other options to consider.

    Go for walks. Lead him and do lots of groundwork until just being outside isn't that big a deal.

    Pony him from another steady horse. If you can't do that, have someone else do it for you.

    It sounds like he isn't getting much "support" from his rider. Direct and support and lead him. Eventually he will check in with his rider/handler before he "checks out."

  22. Mugwump, thanks for introducing your crew!

    Hancock = buck! LOL Yep, that's the common understanding out here, too. but they sure do have their supporters. I haven't seen any of the young headstrong ones out and about lately, but there are a fair number of Hancock bred horses around here. I know a few families with older Hancock geldings that've outgrown the headstrong obnoxious stage (8, 10, and 15+ respectively). They're all going strong, packing grandparents & grandkids, and are pleasant horses to be around. All of them were (reputedly) hardheaded colts, and they all bucked.

    I'm with latigo liz -- I'll take the sensitive Arabs and thank my lucky stars that I'm not in a position where I have to ride the true babies! We'll be waiting another year to send our 3-year old Arabian filly to a trainer. She'll get groundwork, saddling, and some very light riding this summer (by me). Next summer when she has the size and muscle the trainer can put some finish on her. At three, she's not up to a lot of weight or heavy work yet. Since she's going to be my husband's riding horse for a - hopefully - long time, we figure why push it now when she isn't ready.

  23. Thank you both for the advice, I will try all of these suggestions and be patient in getting results. My other horse is great outside no issues, works great in and outdoors...goes on trail rides just fine. So sometimes it is hard to fix when you haven't had a horse with the problem, Thank you both!

    Latigo might be on to something there with him not being sure about me. I was more timid when I first got him ( just me being a wuss) there was nothing to be nervous about he is well trained and very steady. It is probably my insecurity transferred to him and now I have to fix it! It is just the older I get the longer I know it takes to heal so then I get a little insecure. Obviously I now see what that can create in a sensitive horse like my boy. Thank you again! I will get to working!

    Mugwump....I am writing yours down too so that I can put them into action. I appreciate the help!

  24. MUGWUMP: I appreciate your advice. I've put up the final two parts of my horse's story. Please read if you have time, it may change your advice/opinion.

    ANYONE: I've been told Sir Quincy Dan horses are "oversensitive" and can be a bit "emotional". Any opinions?

  25. Mugs -- love to hear more Big Kahuna tales whe you get the chance BTW how big is this Kahuna? They come in many sizes of big -- are you talking level of Tim McQuay, Shaun Flaridy, Andrea etc or one or 2 levels down -- or is this a self-proclaimed big kahuna?

    Anyone -- does anyone know what exactly the rationale is for 2 year old futurities and for racing 2 year old TBs? They are faster and more athletic when super young? it costs less to feed and care for them if you only have to do it for 2 years rather than 4? No patience for results? Anyone have any insights to this?

  26. Anonymous- Does top ten at 2008 Worlds Greatest Horseman work for you? I won't give you anymore, I don't want to edit my opinion about him here, and I still have to show against him.
    I'm the one that's two levels down.

  27. I would like to know if there is any reason why the sound older horses with good conformation are not being shown.
    While I understand that there are some nice purses in the futurities, I would think that a 17 year old stallion that won a major competition would more than pay for himself in stud fees.

  28. There are very few sound older horses in competition. I have beaten the drum for years that cow horse training should start when a horse is four. A traditional bridle horse takes five years to develop.
    The problem is we have competition for each level. Snaffle bit, hackamore, two-rein, full bridle.
    So the pressure starts at three.
    It's a combination of economics, and a lack of patience.
    All the disciplines suffer for it. But mostly it's the horses. They are considered a disposable commodity.
    Studs are retired at six and seven. They are sought after for their athletic ability, and the ability to win at three.

  29. wow MUGS so you are actually a very modest trainer -- we should would be calling you THE BIG KAHUNA!

  30. I agree with VLC's analogy of the good boss. The good boss also gives the employee time off. So yes, Anonymous, horses need time to be horses and kick their heels up. Regarding injury, as my brother-in-law told us when he gave us our first horse: Horses are born trying to kill themselves. Sh_t happens.

    I also agree with VLC and looking into behavior as symptom of pain in 15 year old "who's never done that." I've got an 18 year old gelding that had a buckfest last week after being saddled. There was no obvious pain when I ran my fingers down his back. Behavior or attitude? Well, the chiropractor did enough adjusting to his lumbar, ribs, withers and neck to answer that question for me. And he was quiet when I rode him Sunday. It's just a shame the old boy had to shout for me to hear him before the adjustment.

    Yes, Anonymous, it's your horse and your trainer's agenda. So what if he's upset you've changed your mind?! How does what he wants fit with your core values and beliefs and how you want your animals to be treated? Be true to them! What's right for your filly? You don't have to buy in to what the industry standards are. Look at the late Eight Bells who had COMPOUND fractures of both front legs in the cool down AFTER the Kentucky Derby. What drives the behavior? Money--sales of foals, stud fees, (and indorsements for the likes of Big Brown), etc. Will you be able to live with yourself if something physical or a mental break happens to your filly?

    Nuff said!