Monday, June 28, 2010

Horses are narcs

A few years ago I went on a trail ride with a friend. I was riding an arabian gelding that her daughter had taken over. He was super cute, really responsive and smart. After ducking forward to avoid a tree branch I learned two things about my friend's daughter: she likes to run and she has a nasty habit of leaning forward when she asks for it.

I'd forgotten about that experience until last Friday. For a while now I've been thinking that the quarters will need a buddy after the move- otherwise I'll never be able to ride without knowing that the horse left behind has engaged in war with the fence. I found out about a 15 year old warmblood mare that's free to a good home through a coworker. According to the back story she was kept at a dressage barn for years and just wasn't working out, her owner wanted to move on and was going to euthanize (!) her. My coworker's friend offered to take the mare just in time. Sadly this friend has too many horses, too little time, and just got screwed over by her landlord- thus the free mare. Since I can (sort of) ride now I went over Friday for a test ride.

The first thing I noticed was that the mare, Laurel, shifted away when I tried to put the saddle on her back. Later she shifted away from the mounting block, I had to ask someone to push her hindquarters over so I could get on. Once on her back I asked her to back up since the other horses going were standing right in front of us. Nope, Laurel has no reverse. We got started down the road and she rushed off, I asked her to halt from my seat and got nothing, she completely ignored it. I asked her to move off my legs and she blew right threw them. She only responded to a strong pull of the reins and then only for a split second before plowing through again. Besides that she was tense and inverted. With my ankle at only 75%, I was starting to think that this ride was a bad idea.

Laurel was telling me that her last owner rode like a clod. I could see why she wanted to get rid of Laurel, riding a horse like that is no fun, but she had created that herself! It was obvious that she had extremely hard hands, used way too much leg, and had no concept at all of the seat aids. Her bad riding had created a horse that just plain didn't like to be ridden. I'm also willing to bet she has a temper, Laurel spooked when one of the girls I was riding with smacked a bug on her horse.

There I was, feeling worried but trying hard to stay relaxed for Laurel's sake. Dreading the point when we would turn around for home because I didn't want to fight her the whole way back. But something interesting happened. All the while I had been asking her for little half halts off the bit, when she'd give me an ounce I'd give her the bit right back. She slowly started to soften, eventually she asked for more rein, stretched out her neck, relaxed and started swinging through her back. All of a sudden I was riding on the buckle and having a good time. Perhaps her last rider didn't totally sour her on riding.

Maybe I will take that horse home...


  1. It sounds like she had an abusive or rough rider and being smart she has learned to protect herself. If after a short ride she was trusting and listening to you, it might be a good match.

    She sounds like she needs to be rehabilitated very gently. Perhaps she would be so grateful for a caring rider that she would give you her best. You might want to see if it's possible to work with her a few more times before you make your final decision. I think there are no bad horses just bad riders and unfortunately this poor girl was probably under the influence of a real clod/idiot as her owner.

  2. She may also have some physical/chiropractic issues going on - the shifting around for saddling and mounting can indicate discomfort, and inversion can also indicated this too.

    Good luck with your decision!

  3. You're right GHM. Laurel probably had a solid foundation before that oaf got her hands on her and she would probably remember how to respond to the aids very quickly with a sympathetic rider. I would plan on spending a lot of time with her just walking and relaxing.

  4. Hi Kate, she probably does. She felt sound but her right side was really stiff. She turns to the left like a tractor trailer. I'll spend a little time rubbing her and checking for sore spots when I see her again. She also needs her feet trimmed really badly, poor thing.

  5. Well if you are getting her first and foremost as a companion horse for your other two then you will start off with no real expectations for her right? I think that is a great place to be with a horse that has some obvious mental issues and possible physical issues as well.

    Horses are amazing aren't they? Research has shown that they have these amazing memories though they are so quick to forgive and trust again. So amazing! She sounds like a lucky girl to come to home that will give her the care she needs and a positive human experience again! Pictures coming soon I hope ;)

  6. Hi Golden, you make a good point. I am leaning towards getting her, she's a doll on the ground (aside from taking forever to catch) and she didn't actually do anything nasty while I was riding. Really she's quite a nice girl.

    I don't have any pictures of her yet, I can tell you she looks like a fresian. She'll tower over my quarters, that's for sure.

  7. Wait a sec! Did the anesthetic from my surgery erase memory cells?? Did you end up buying the place you were talking about with acreage? Sorry if I missed that post!

    You certainly have the experience, patience and kindness to help Laurel and you understand that you will have your hands full with the quarters, too - you seem to be approaching this logically and with your eyes wide open. Fresian, eh....if it works out, post some pics! You know I am partial to big black horses... ;-)

  8. Nope, still haven't bought it. But it's family owned so we can move in before we own it. It's not the greatest course of action but that's all we've got at the moment. When will we move? I have no idea but it has to be within the next 2 months because the lease on our apartment has run out! I cannot wait to no longer be in a boarding situation, Gwen + boarding = not good.

  9. I think it's going to be wonderful to have your horses on worries. Gwen will particularly benefit from this move.