Monday, August 18, 2008

Spoiled Rotten Babies

I don't have time to post today. But I have to add this to yesterday's very interesting discussion. My daughter and Loki grew up together. I didn't pay much for the coarse headed, foundation bred filly. She was bred by the color breeder I worked for at the time. As you can see, I didn't buy her for her color. I liked her shoulder, her good feet, and her mother. I still do.
We did just about everything wrong with Loki.
I pretty much turned my little girl loose with her. It kept my daughter busy while I worked.
We can go on for days about the stupid things I let go. Like the time I found my little girl standing on two-year-old Loki's back, changing a light bulb.
The folks that bred Loki had given all three of their granddaughters a foal also. So I had a barn full of little girls roaring around with their babies. Once again, I could go on.
When Loki was two she was playing broom ball with her brothers and sisters. My daughter and her barn buddies were screaming and shrieking bareback, waving their brooms over their horses heads.
At three, we had moved on to another barn, and I started training Loki for cowhorse.
By four, my daughter and I shared Loki in competition. The photo you see is from a shoot we were doing for the NRCHA magazine. My daughter was the only snafflebitter in the Youth Limited Finals at the NRCHA World Show. She placed fifth at the world show, and stood fifth in the national standings.
My point is, (other than bragging on my girls) we made a lot of mistakes on Loki. The end result was a lovely horse that was successful in youth and open competition.
We were always well intentioned with Loki. We never hurt, or frightened her, (on purpose anyway) dumb bunnies though we may have been.
Horses are amazing in their forgiveness.
They will overcome our most bumbling errors. As long as they trust us.
I guess what I'm getting at is, don't be afraid to mess with your horse. Try new things, relearn old things, your horse won't care. As long as it's delivered with thought, and kindness, your horse will be open to just about anything.


  1. Lookey me! I am first! yay!

    Forgiveness is my appys first name! After having to quit riding for a few years to take care of my son, my appy helped me relearn and regain my confidence on horses again. He is now the horse that couldnt get ruined if someone tried! He loves to be a kids mount and have them knocking him in the mouth and the sides and never takes a bad step because of it. I have been able to try new things with him and figure out the best way to approach something with my less forgiving mare. Although she will forgive me with a cookie in my hand....

  2. Lookey me! I am first! yay!

    Forgiveness is my appys first name! After having to quit riding for a few years to take care of my son, my appy helped me relearn and regain my confidence on horses again. He is now the horse that couldnt get ruined if someone tried! He loves to be a kids mount and have them knocking him in the mouth and the sides and never takes a bad step because of it. I have been able to try new things with him and figure out the best way to approach something with my less forgiving mare. Although she will forgive me with a cookie in my hand....

  3. It's funny what horses will tolerate and what interesting things kids and horses will get into...

    I can remember us getting a horse stuck in the tackroom at our lesson barn (he could go in, but we neglected to factor in turning radius), friends playing "water polo" with tennis rackets and a beach ball, playing hot potato at a gallop, using our horses as a diving board in the river and so much more.

    Thing about it was and still is. We trusted them and they trusted us- we never got them into anything the 2 of us couldn't handle. I think a lot of that came from the sheer amount of time we spent in the saddle (or bareback).

  4. I've only been in horses three years. So I have learned much & have much to learn. My QH gelding I've had for 11 months is 8 years old. Forgiveness & trust...the foundation of my boy, Tony & I. I can't count the number of times I've fumbled putting the halter or bridle on him. Clunked him in the teeth with the bit. Or saddled him with the cinch too close to his elbow, where it probably pinches. Or poked him in eye accidentally. Or knocked his leg as I'm dismounting. I could go on..all the things I sometimes fumble with or do wrong as I'm learning. Tony is eternally forgiving..I think, as you said, because he trusts me. Nice post that hit home!

  5. I've said before, you can't train in a brain. Loki had a good brain. She handled things, she forgave mistakes, she didn't look at them as opportunities to become a rank, nasty SOB. You can do an awful lot of crazy stuff with a good minded horse and survive and prosper...the problem is a lot of kids grew up with that good minded horse, and then as 40 year old re-riders they acquire the other kind of horse, and the horse promptly stomps them into the ground in a variety of ways, and so they buy videos and go to clinics and keep Pat Parelli in business...

  6. Good ol horses :) My 7 year old mare that was just trained has only had 2 riders in her life. The trainer, who is uber experienced, and me, not so much experienced. I knew my way around a lesson horse and that was about it. Although in my mind I had all the confidence in the world, because I was riding our 23ish year old mare that is super sweet, until I rode my crazy mare for the first time 1/2 way through her training. I was shaking in my boots, pulling on her reins WHILE squeezing with my legs to stay on (a very sensitive sided horse), just in case. They weren't the right things to do and probably made her uncomfortable or annoyed, but she's never done anything besides a scoot with me. I attempted to exhert some sort of confidence because that's what trainer boy told me I HAD to do because my horse had none. Yesterday, I'm proud to announce, we had our first out-of-an-arena riding experience. We rode around the hayfields, by the corn field and past the woods. My girl didn't spook once. I think I probably was more looking for things for her to spook at than she was, but thankfully she's more of a sight spooker than sound spooker. I heard all sorts of things going on in the corn field and woods, expecting something to come running out at any minute. I was exhuberant and my husband told me she was good because although I wasn't really riding right, she knew I was safe and wasn't going to let anything happen to her. She trusts me. My crazy girl really trusts me :)))

  7. Well, I have to say that every trainer I know started somewhere. They were not born with all this wonderful knowledge, they made mistakes and figured out how to clean up the mess and not make the same mistake again. It is all part of the learning curve. I still make mistakes in judgement with horses, the key is to learn from those mistakes and keep trying.

    I have a wonderful gelding that, bless his heart, it is a wonder he ever made it to 4. I did many of the same things you have done. Let my daughter run wild with him, have swept spiderwebs out of the rafters of a barn, and trimmed the tree limbs over the trail from his back. We never intentionally tried to hurt or scare RB, but god knows it is really a wonder he isn't bat shit crazy.

    To this day he is the coolest horse in the barn. He will do anything you ask to the best of his ability, has the best personality of any horse in the barn. He isnt' the most fearless creature because he is sure at some point you are going to do something absolutly stupid from his back but you coudn't ask for a better horse.

  8. Dear Mugwump, you must be so proud of your daughter and Loki. I have a little daughter, riding for about 4 years and she's 10, so I know a mother's pride :).

    I watched some working cow horse videos. It looks like a total blast!! No wonder you love it!

  9. Thank you, mugwump. I love how you are showing that there isn't one right way to do it. Lots of things can work--much has to do with the particular horse/human combo involved. I know I read this on some horse blog or other, and I honestly can't remember which one, but a whole lot has to do with learning to "read" horses. And all of us made a lot of mistakes while we were learning that skill. And some of those horses didn't turn out so bad, anyway. Persistance counts for a lot. Great photo.

  10. I missed yesterday's conversation, but I wanted to add my thoughts.

    I've handled them all. The spoiled brats that were raised by people who handled them every day of their lives as well as the 5 year old that has never had a halter on.

    The untouched ones were much lighter and more responsive to cues, yet it is unrealistic to think you can have a horse and not need to handle it.

    With my own foals I halter break them and haul them with their dams as weanlings. They learn how to tie, lead, pick up feet and trailer. They live in a herd environment in pasture. When they are weaned they are kicked out to pasture and only handled for regular work (de-worming, hooves) but never for anything else.

    They aren't pet, they aren't taught to lunge, no blankets etc.

    At two or three years old (depending on the horse) they are brought in for 30-60 days, started under saddle, maybe hauled to a few shows with the big horses. Kicked back out until I'm ready to use them at 3 or 4.

    I've found this to be a happy medium. Still giving me respectful horses, light to the touch, yet they also have the basic manners needed for horse ownership.

  11. It's the motto I live by with my horses. I may do crazy stuff, and I'm sure I screw up plenty of times, but I know my horses will forgive me. I don't think I could handle owning a horse that didn't.

    It's great to hear about all the fun things your daughter did with Loki :)

  12. Thank you, the reaffirmation of permission to just be with your horse and TRY things, is priceless.

  13. The broom ball part reminds me of things me and my friends used to do only a few years ago. They are mostly all out of horses.

    I need to find a riding buddy to do crazy things like this again with me on a regular basis. I miss the old days where you would do crazy things to see whos horse spooked first or whos could canter controlled wile you drug a huge blue tarp with one arm.

    Good ol days.

  14. Mugwump- the pushy 2 y/o will apreciate the broom ball suggestion b/c we are going to try it. He is very tolerant in an aloof sort of way... I figure that the simple act of making precise movements to reach the ball will be a good exercise for him. The soft 3 y/o is going to spend some time trotting around in our 5 acre pasture to build up some muscle. Since I'm a midget and I plan on selling him, he'll need it for riders over 5'2. Loved this post, really brings home how much we owe our 37 y/o gelding for being the wise and sound old guy he is.

  15. Hey look! I'm last!

    Mugwump, one reason I like your blog and FHOTD's is that, even though you both have experience and knowledge, you are willing to question yourself. You both acknowledge the need to learn, and that makes less experienced people like me more inclined to listen to you.

  16. Well, yeah, at least we can admit our mistakes!

    Our mare, who's now 7, came to us as a scrawny tiny yearling. We kept her because she was so mellow and gentle. My kids (who were 8 & 6 at the time) had their hands all over her, and the filly seemed to love the attention.

    If anybody suggests to me that they're thinking of "buying a horse for the kids" the first thing I say is, "Get a teenaged horse who's done it all already!"

    Then I confess what a hypocrite I am. I sort of trained my own pony when I was less than 10 years old. I got my kids to help me train our filly: they led her around, played with her, and rode her once I'd been on and felt I could trust her.

    So there's that TRUST word. This horse has never been abused, always treated fairly and knows that she'll always be fed and given a few acres of pasture every day to run around in. I know this horse. My kids know her. She's not the best trained horse around, but I'd put almost anybody on her and feel confident that she'll take care of them.

    Maybe it's not ideal, but I think if there's an adult looking over their shoulder to see what the kids are doing, the kids-and-young-horses arrangement can work. The horses usually end up ridiculously bomb proof, in my experience.

    And I agree that they're forgiving. I've made so many mistakes with my horses. They still come up to the fence when they hear me calling...

  17. Wow! Just when I'm in need of a little bit of encouragement! Your statement about trust blew me away. That is exacly what I believe about working with horses though you read all kinds of conflicting theories on this. If they don't trust you, they aren't going to work for you. Well, they will, but in my mind, not the way a partner sould work with you.
    My sons haven't been very interested in horses, well, they are in their 20's now. One day, I have a feeling I'll have a grandaughter. I've already informed my sons, if they have daughters, this grandma will turn them into cowgirls!

  18. OT but I need your expertise! My three year old filly has a small abrasion on her leg, nothing significant. However, trying to put antibiotic ointment on that leg is impossible. Might as well be acid. She flinches, moves, pulls away, stamps, kicks, etc.. and will NOT let me put medicine on it. I can touch her other legs just fine. She seems to be really sensitive to pain, a wussy girl. Did you have problems like that with Sonita? I remember you doctoring her leg also. I would appreciate advice from you or other readers about doctoring a hurt filly.

  19. texasmissy: If she's kicking at you, the first thing you have to do is make sure that she knows that that response is NOT ACCEPTABLE. Then you can deal with the leg. Keep yourself safe, first.

    Is the abrasion something that you can get at from the other side of the horse? Sometimes if one of our horses is getting all squirrelly about a leg / hoof treatment, we try to fake her out by getting the meds on from the other side.

    Also, try doing things to the leg that have nothing to do with treating the injury, so that she doesn't anticipate pain / annoyance every time you reach to handle the leg. it minor enough that you might be able to use something like furox (the aerosol spray) on the area just to give it a bit of protection? That way you wouldn't have to dab on the treatment with a finger.

  20. And them you have people like one of my colleagues. Goes out every 8 months to 'ride' her 7 yr old, green stallion. Gets mad at him when he doesn't know what she asks, beats him and brags about it. Guess what...the crazy horse STILL forgives her. I am so afraid that one day he will snap and she will get really hurt. She's the one who last year spend a week in ICU with a head injury from getting thrown by a 2 yr old (and still rides without a helmet). This is a woman that weighs 87 lbs.

    Ok, vent over

  21. I finally had a chance to read comments from yesterday. Thanks for responding to my question. You are absolutely right - he is a little stinker and I KNEW somewhere inside me that I should just tie him and make him deal with it (you mentioned this in a much earlier blog post, I think). I've just been too afraid to make a mistake :) Today's post helped me get over that! I'm much better when it comes to saddling and feet - I get it done and don't let him push me around in the process...though he still sidesteps etc. I think it's easier for me when there is a goal and action (like saddling) as opposed to inaction, like tying.

    Again, thank you. It feels kinda like cheating to get free advice :)

  22. I've made so many bumbles and errors with my mare, who is my first project horse.
    I really appreciate your acknowledgment that horses have huge capactity for forgiveness. Mare and I aren't perfect - but she's tolerant and she tries for me, even when I'm unclear or awkward. Bless her heart!

  23. Still catching up on posts....

    I think a bay is the classiest color of all!