Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cupcake, Scared or Mad

I had him.

His short silky coat gleamed as he trotted around on the longe line. His ribs were just a shadow under the glossy hide and his pointy little butt was beginning to get some muscle. Cupcake tossed his head and struck out a foot in play.

He flicked an ear at me, which was all I needed, I didn't snark at him for goofing. It was a nice day anyway, I felt like playing too.

Cupcake stood quiet as I saddled him. I hauled around on the saddle some and patted him on the butt before I stepped up into my stirrup.

He stood quiet while I got my feet in the stirrups. I kept my reins loose and jostled around in the saddle. He didn't shift a foot. There was no sign I was annoying him except for a slight swat of the tail.

Cupcake stepped out in his long strided walk. He looked out over the pasture and raised his head in the air as a couple of broodmares took off at a run. He squeaked and shook his head. His front end got light.

"Hey!" I told him and took a hold of his sides and his face. He snorted and rattled his bit, but his ribs gave and he moved his hips over with a light, pleasing swing.

"You need to blow off some steam," I told him, loosened the reins and goosed him into a trot.

The bright little sorrel moved out with his big bouncy trot and I posted along with an easy rhythm.

The boss led her buckskin filly into the arena and led her to the center. She sent her around her at the end of the rein and pulled her back in when she was satisfied there wasn't going to be any buck. She stepped onto her horse and sat for a minute, watching as I started to serpentine Cupcake across the arena.

"He's sure moving around nice," she commented.

"I'm pretty tickled with him," I told her and gave the colt a scritch at the base of his neck.

"He sure packs you around, it's like he doesn't know how scrawny he is," she added.

"Now don't go hurting his feelings, we say he's "refined." I told her.

She kicked her horse up into a trot opposite of us. As she passed she said, "dinky."

"Elegant." I muttered as we passed again.



"Arab ass."

"Light boned."

"Keebler elf."


I asked Cupcake to stop and he tucked in nice as could be. I looked behind me at his foot long slide track.

"Check it out!" I grinned. "A perfect eleven!"

The boss laughed, "Good boy!"

She stopped next to me. Cupcake was standing quiet, catching his air while he could. He pricked his ears and went to nuzzle the boss' filly. I reached up with my foot and nudged his neck. With a resigned sigh he turned away and kept his face pointed straight ahead.

"Push him a little," I said.

The boss stepped the buckskin's hip into Cupcakes shoulder. She stomped her foot and pinned her ears in irritation.

I pushed Cupcake up into my hands and we side passed a few steps away. I relaxed my reins and he stopped. He eyed the filly for a second and then dropped his head.

"You ready for him to go home?" she asked me.

"Yeah, I filled his stall. If she feeds him and keeps him outside he'll grow up into a nice little horse," I said.

"Well, I hope she gets it."

"What do you mean gets it?"

Her brows crowded each other and her lips thinned. She pulled off her battered, blackened glove and rubbed her eyes."She keeps cornering me at work and asking if he's sliding yet. Or how well he spins."

"Ah geez," I slapped my leg with the end of my rein and the red colt skittered a few steps. "I should have known. She's worked with trainers before, she knows whats involved here."

"You'd think."

We sat in silence for a few more minutes.

"Well, we better get loping, every time I look at the tie rail I'd swear there were three more horses tied." I sighed deep and tried to shake off the darkness that had settled on my shoulders.
Cupcake trotted off straight and strong and found his lead at the first try.


  1. It's so funny sometimes when you start posting and it ties into what I am doing!

    I lunged my new gelding last night. He's had 30 days a few years ago (by a Parelli trainer, which has to have some undoing), and then trail ridden. Seems he's stuck at the 30 days...nothing but trail riding was done with him after that (he is *very* mellow).

    He is *so* green! I don't mind, but am surprised as I know his previous owner, and I am sure she was very happy with him as a trail horse.

    However, I want a tad more..and can see I need to go back in fill in the holes. He has almost *no* voice commands at all. But he is nice and light on the lunge compared to my mare who was lunged with a chain - all I have to do is tweak the line and he'll stop.

    We have a way to go, but it's nice to know I can have people trail ride him if I want while I put on his bells & whistles!


  2. Nice story. I'm so happy that Cupcake is doing well with you, now let's see what happens when (if?) he goes home.

  3. Yay - another Cupcake installment!! I'm hooked :)

  4. I love the Cupcake stories!

    Your stuff does make me wonder what the point of sending a horse to a trainer is. For the first 30 days, sure, I'm paying someone to assume the risk of getting dumped, but after that? Either the horse doesn't stay long enough to learn anything advanced, or the horse DOES learn advanced stuff that I have no idea how to ride properly. For me, the issue is never that the horse doesn't know something, but that I don't know how to ask the horse to do something.

    I think for my next horse I'll figure up how much 30 days costs and spend that on lessons. I think the horse and I would learn more, even if it takes longer...

  5. Well you have me pretty scared for Cupcake now. Seems like he may be better off taking his chances with the owner sending him down the road at this point. I am frustrated that someone could ruin a horse like he was and then expect you to progress in training as if he came to you ready to go, never got sick and there was nothing to fix.

  6. Great Cupcake installment, but that mention of the owner towards the end sounds really ominous... I hope Cupcake makes it.

    There's a 6 year old reining horse for sale at the barn where I keep mine. I rode him (just bopping around - I haven't a clue about reining) and he's sweet and kind and just a plain Good Citizen. He looks like a classic AQHA horse, beautifully put together.

    When his owner rides him, it's a wonderful thing to watch. She knows his handles - she spent time learning with the trainer - and they're a great team.

    Still, some of the "handles" are nothing more than grunts - she explained some of them to me, and it was cool getting him to drop his head or back with nothing more than a guttural "hrrrmph" and a slight weight shift or leg movement.

    What worries me is that his next, or next after that, owner won't have learned the grunts and other cues that this very sweet horse knows. The possibility for misunderstanding and abuse... argh. You just never know what an owner - or in this case, new owner - might know themselves, or expect of the horse. Or their willingness to act on - or even listen to - the information you pass along to them about the horse.

    I guess this is why I keep a horse until he dies...and mine aren't exactly highly trained NRHA competitors. :)

  7. Sigh. Thanks for the Cupcake installment. Sigh. As for the suspense building ominous reminder that the owner is ,after all, the owner. And poor of judgment.

  8. My dressage trainer told me a story about a time when she brought a client's horse to ride in a clinic (I forgot who the clinician is). The clinician was going around and getting to know all of the participants, and when my trainer mentioned that she was riding a client's horse, the clinician told her that he was not going to teach her that day, and to come back tomorrow with her own horse.

    She asked why she couldn't ride the client's horse, and the clinician responded with, "The owner isn't here. They are not interested in learning how to ride their own horse. I think that it is cruel to the horse to show him how nice it *could* be and then give him back to his owners who couldn't be bothered to take interest in the training process."

    My trainer did eventually convince him to let her ride, stating that she was there so she could learn how to be a better rider and trainer for herself, not the client. But ever since that clinic, she has required that owners take one lesson a week from her, even if the horse is only learning really basic things, like ground manners or longeing. One client she had didn't ride due to health issues, but bought a fancy expensive horse and wanted my trainer to show him, but my trainer still made her be present at one training session a week, even if it was just to watch.

    Luckily my trainer had the luxury of being able to turn down clients. I feel bad for trainers who need the money to pay bills. What a tough spot to be in.

  9. #@!#@!%


    That's all I have to say about that.

    How many days did you have him before you sent him home?

    And you mean you didn't enter him and win the NRCHA in that time period after rewiring his brain?

    Lazy, Mugs. Lazy.

  10. I've got a dog that's a lot like Cupcake was. We compete Agility these days, but it's been a long road.

    After five years working with this dog, my Bailey the rat terrier, I stand amazed at how quickly you brought Cupcake around to general good citizenship.

    Sigh. Poor Cupcake.

  11. Funder- When most people sent me a colt to start it was to give them a solid foundation. My reputation was that in 60 days you would get a sane, well started young horse. They had ground manners, allowed themselves to be handled and had a good WTC with both leads. They had the base of a stop and spin.
    But I never write about the easy stuff, horses or owners. That would just be BORING!
    Believe me, most of them were just that.
    Scamp- Most horses go to the riders level. A well broke reiner will do fine in the hands of anybody with enough skill to just ride them. You don't have to know all the right buttons to push.You just won't get the big moves unless you know how to ask for them. When they are asked for the horse will quickly tune up again. They don't forget.
    Becky- I had him 60 days.