Saturday, January 17, 2015

Rough Day - The Long Version

I haven't posted on this blog in quite a while.  However, since this was originally meant to be my horse blog and I've got something horse-related that's really bothering me...  Here I am.

Today was a rough day.

It didn't start out that way.  We got up early this morning and went to buy a load of hay for Bo.  For a few years now we've been buying from a guy who lives about an hour away.  It is great quality and the guy is very nice.  It was nice to spend the time with Jeff, we talked about a lot of stuff on the way there and back.

At the barn, we unloaded the hay and I stripped out Bo's stall, while Jeff called his grandma to chat with her for a little bit.

Then the trouble started.

I won't go into details, but let's just say the scene before me evolved into 5 people trying to catch a frightened young horse who'd broken away from one of them.  The situation was getting ugly and I stepped in.  Longer story short, I caught the youngster and then helped them get him back into the barn.  There was so much about the situation that bothered me, from how it started to how they all tried to handle it.  On top of all of that, the whole thing was easily preventable.

I think what bothered me most is that the person the horse got away from is the person who is supposed to be training the horse.  Two of the other people were the owners, who were dropping the horse off for training.  They are paying this "trainer", who couldn't even keep the horse under control and then couldn't catch him when he (of course) got away from her.

I said I wouldn't go into details, but I decided I'm going to.

I was bringing in a load of bedding for Bo's stall when suddenly I see a horse coming down the aisle toward me, backwards.  I couldn't see what was happening, but I got the heck out of the way.  Here comes the horse, with a lead rope around its neck (??) towing the "trainer" along down the aisle...  while she is yakking on her phone.

The gate behind me was open, I'd just come through with my wheelbarrow, and the horse dragged her right on through it out into the field beyond where the barn manure pile and shavings pile are.  He was heading forward now and she had NO control.  I said to myself, "not my circus, not my monkeys" and went to dump my wheelbarrow in Bo's stall.  I wasn't going to butt in on her "training".

Then I realize the horse had gotten away from her and is now being chased by 3 dogs and 4 people...  the people screaming at the dogs, but of course the poor horse didn't know that.

I decided to go help.

Turns out she had put a halter on the horse..  an adult-sized halter on what appears to be a yearling colt - who is not even halter broke.  The halter had slipped off his face and down around his neck.  Everyone was repeatedly grabbing at the rope as he ran by them, and promptly getting it ripped out of their hands.  I even tried it once, picking it up as he walked by, but he panicked and took off.

Finally, Jeff was able to get the dogs under control and the rest of the people managed to get the colt cornered by the open gate leading out of the field, but on the wrong side of it.  I quietly picked up the trailing lead rope and snubbed it on the gate.  The colt tried to leave again, found out he couldn't, threw a bit of a fit, and then finally stood quietly.  The "trainer" went and got a different halter, still too big, but she put it on and I fed the lead rope through the noseband, still hooked to the halter around his neck in case oversized halter #2 came off. 

I kept the end of the lead snubbed to the gate, but started working on getting him to give to pressure.  He gave a couple of steps and then I was able to lead him to the barn.  He was afraid to step back into the barn and here's where the fun continued.  Picture this colt with 5 people crowed around him trying to bribe, baby talk, push, pull, drag him into the barn.  I was standing back, holding the end of the rope in case he took off again.  Hell, *I* was overwhelmed by whatever the hell was going on in that crowd.  In those moments I witnessed about every single way people try to get a horse to go somewhere they don't want to go and those ways DON'T. WORK.  Jeff, for his credit, had corralled the dogs in their run and walked by me with a look on his face that said it all.  He knew what was going on was a complete cluster and probably knew that I was getting pretty frustrated with the whole thing.

The "trainer" was pulling and pulling on the lead rope and at one point, he did give a little, to which she acknowledged out loud, "good, you gave" and I almost said to her "you didn't."  She kept pulling and pulling, no matter what he did.  I think I was just appalled, so much that I was speechless.  Finally she let go of the lead rope (so I had it) and went to get a whip.  She started rubbing him on the butt with that, while I kept an even pressure on the lead, still allowing him to toss his head and fuss a bit, without letting up on the pressure.  As soon as he took a step forward, I released.  Then some pressure, 2nd step, release.  After that I led him through the barn like he'd been halter broke forever.

Getting him into a stall was more of the same, but then it was over.  I took off all the crap on his head and neck and loved on him.  He's not even my horse, nor am I the one being paid to train him, but I tried to take the time to reassure him after all of that crap.

After Jeff and I left the barn, on the way home I had a surprising and unexpected reaction to the whole thing.  I started crying.  Jeff was alarmed.  I told him that I felt like life wasn't fair.  How is it that someone is earning money training horses who doesn't even understand the basic concept of releasing when a horse gives to pressure??  I know there are a lot of people who don't know things like this, or aren't good at it.  (I know there's a LOT I still could learn about, well..  everything.)  But if you are going to market yourself as a professional, you better at least have the basics down. 

I had, very briefly, tried training horses for other people years ago and all it got me was hurt and disgusted.  I ended up mostly with horses that were 7-8 years old, spoiled rotten, and dangerous.  They were owned by people who wanted a kid's horse in 30 days or a trail horse in two weeks (I'm not even kidding).  That was not the kind of training I wanted to be doing, so I quit.  My specialty is babies, building a relationship, taking an unhandled horse and creating a willing partnership, a horse that LIKES people, but is respectful too.  I won't toot my horn much, hell I don't think very highly of myself at all, but I will say that I am GOOD with young horses.  I've worked with many of them over the years, my own and others, and when it comes to horses, that is my true passion. 

It hurt my heart so much to see the amount of sheer incompetence that resulted in this little colt being so terrified today.  I know that if *I* had been hired to train him, things would have been much different for him.  It hurts me heart to think of all of the young horses out there who never have a chance, are never handled, never taught how to live with people, never given the insurance that good handling and training can provide.  Or the ones who are handled and trained, but are abused.  I had quite a good cry today, out of the blue, about all of those things.  It left me feeling drained.  I pretty much don't want to deal with people, as far as offering to train for others, and I don't have the resources to start taking in young horses and training them - as much as that is my dream.  So what do I do?  I don't know. 

The world feels heavy tonight.


marlane said...

I just read your blog as it was the next one over from mine. Take heart that their a lot of good trainers who do know how to release. What you did was excellent. Do not worry about what you can not see.

Sheila Roberson said...

It is times like the one you wrote about that make the good days even better. I feel you sister. No shame in shedding a few tears - shows you how much compassion is inside of you.

Panharith said...

What you did was excellent. Do not worry about what you can not see.

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