Thursday, August 23, 2012

The rest of the story.

Thanks for all the constructive comments. It reinforced the positive for me and I appreciate it.

After processing it all further, I guess I should be satisfied the original owner told me what she knew. I have struggled with whether it's good or not for me to put his past to words but I guess it doesn't really matter all that much at this point. Y'all know now there's a skeleton in his closet anyway, if I tell, maybe to some of you it won't even sound all that unusual.

In the beginning, Joey was one of the stars of her young sale prospects. He broke well to saddle, was very calm, kind and willing. All the things she presented him as on his page, he was.

Then he was sold, and she got good money for him. I don't know how long after that it happened but apparently he bolted or spooked badly and ran off with his new owner, causing her injury. New owner's trainer tried working with the horse and he did it to her, going through a fence and sending her to the hospital. Joey was returned to the original owner and traded in for a different horse but the damage was done. It was also revealed he was returned with a sore back, like extremely sensitive over the lumbar vertebrae. (I've never noticed any extreme reactiveness or pain in his back.) My first thought was my God, what did they do to him?

The owner tried to salvage her investment by having her trainer work with him and he went along okay for awhile and then did it again to her trainer. I don't think her trainer was hurt but the horse was deemed unfit for riding by the original owner. She also said he failed a vetting after he was returned and she pointed out the lump on his fetlock that I noticed in my own studying of his legs. (I had that fetlock x-rayed in my vetting of Joey and my vet said it was a "callous" on the bone, that he was not sensitive in that area and it would not affect him as a pleasure horse. He also passed the ridden flexion test in my vet exam, too.) He was supposedly sold from there as a pasture pet only. In all, she must have lost a lot of money with him and wasn't about to put any more into him with a damaged history. Obviously, he no longer fit her profile of the quiet, safe horses she sells.

And surprise, I call out of the blue maybe 2 years after horse is gone and tell her I have this horse and have been riding and working with him for a year and he's wonderful and the nicest horse ever and I just wanted her to know such a nice horse is safe with me. I guess she was caught off guard, too. She seemed surprised to hear the horse went on to a different dealer (who I bought him from).

She warned me he'd do it again. Out of the blue, with no warning. I said well, it's been a year and I've never had anything like that happen under saddle. She said well, she had him in her rotation for a year before he was sold and he never did anything like it and then it happened. She told me at the very least, never to allow anyone else to ride him. As I think on it now, it bothers me that she kept blaming the horse.

I know Joey is a sensitive horse. He is calm and by all appearances bombproof but will not tolerate heavy handling. He has so much "try" and will go along with almost every task I've asked of him. He's never refused any jump I've put in front of him. But I've moved slowly, I wanted to "take as long as it takes" for us to become partners.

One thing I noticed almost immediately after starting with him, he's very wary of crops and whips and you have to be very savvy in your use of these tools. I carried one in the beginning because he's so lethargic and was surprised how as soon as he saw it in my hand, he became worried and had trouble focusing. I noted that - especially since Monty also had a very big fear of whips and crops. But my experience with Monty taught me how to be very subtle with that tool and I have to say, Joey has become much better about me using it.

Hmm, Monty also was started in Virginia and fox hunted early in his career. Same fear. Just sayin'.

I had one instance in a lesson where my trainer told me to ask for a lead change after a small jump as we cantered to the corner. I just tickled Joey with a dressage whip behind my outside leg to emphasize my "ask" and he zoomed off into a gallop from fear of that little touch. But I simply circled him, told him a gentle "whoa" and he stopped immediately. Then we settled him and joked about how the poor thing is scared of the whip and we will definitely not be using that method to ask him for a long time.

After I described his past to my trainer, he said well, maybe that explains a little more why he's so scared of the whip. Maybe it had some part in his bad experience.

Now that I know what breeds go into Joey's genetics, obviously he's presenting more Thoroughbred than most of her crosses and though he looks drafty, there's a very sensitive, emotional horse in there. Maybe the problem was, he was sold and handled as a bombproof draft cross but needed to be ridden a little more as if he is a Thoroughbred. Which is exactly how I've been handling him. Because that's how I had to ride Monty, too.

One more thing, when I had his teeth floated this past fall, the vet said the poor horses' teeth looked as if they'd never been taken care of. He had hooks and a few ulcers in his cheeks from the condition of his teeth. If that is true, we have all heard stories of horses reacting badly in the bridle due to pain in their teeth.

Anyway, I could speculate and ramble on but I think it's all said. We move forward. We build on all the many good things so far in our partnership and we progress.


C-ingspots said...

I'm no expert, but in my experience, when a horse has a problem, it usually stems from a human mishandling him in his past. You know Thoroughbreds, they're very sensitive and all/most horses are honest. I'd treat him with respect, and that's likely what you'll get in return. You and Joey sound perfectly matched...just like you and Monty were. Have fun with your boy!

Promise said...

In my experience, horses don't do that stuff for no reason. It can be pain, frustration, whatever, but there is ALWAYS a reason. Do they overreact sometimes? Sure, but so do we.

I have a feeling there is a piece missing to Joey's story from that first person that bought him...that involves some abuse and/or rough handling.

He sounds a lot like Promise in some respects -- and she would have done ANYthing for me, but only the basics of handling, etc. for anyone else. She trusted me completely to lead her herd, and that made all the difference in the world.

You may very well have a one-person horse on your hands - but that's not necessarily a bad thing. I wouldn't have traded Promise for the world, even on her worst day.

K.K. said...

It sounds like his previous owner was very bitter about how much money she lost on the horse. The “he will do it again” part make me think that. It’s kind of like talking to a scorned ex-girlfriend of your boyfriend/husband. The horse has been a saint for you, but since she lost big time money she is pissed that he is working out for someone else and IS the horse he was showing potential to be when she had him.
AND it sounds like some miss handling from the people who bought him. The horse we got at auction this spring was more than likely dumped there because he had MAJOR head shyness issues, and a slight bucking problem. The Vet did his teeth and cleaned his under carriage and he’s been a DREAMBOAT! More than likey his previous owners didn’t have those things done and ditched him because he was a pain in the butt.We’ve had no problems with him bucking or being head shy since we had those issues addressed. He’s a great horse and we got him for cheap! I’m sure if his original owners saw him now, they would say the same thing “he’ll do it again”.

Lisa said...

You have hit the nail on the head - he must have been treated as a draft when he needs to be handled with sensitivity. That is how you ride and he trusts you.

I wouldn't worry about it more than you already have - if you start getting nervous then he won't be able to trust you any more.

He is your horse now - you know him best.

OnTheBit said...

Poor Joey. And you have to wonder what "bolting" really means to that woman. I have seen some people who are not the best riders pick up a fast canter and just panic, leaning forward, dropping the reins and doing all of the other things that encourage a horse to go faster!

I wish you had never called because you know have in the back of you head, but in the same breath I think that as long as you keep him healthy he will be fine. How badly must his back have hurt if there was an actual BUMP showing! That must have taken at least several rides of pain before it turned into a bump.

RiderWriter said...

I agree with everyone else... I wouldn't be surprised if the person who bought Joey originally was a newbie, who didn't really know what s/he was doing, and expected him to be really "easy." Maybe she was told to "make him go" and suddenly got after him in such a way that he panicked. I've certainly known adult riders like that, with more money than riding experience. I can think in particular of some who decided to take up foxhunting because it seemed like a cool thing to do... and were aided and abetted by trainers more than happy to make a buck.

Following the wreck, trainers decided to show him who was boss and panicked him further. I'm just speculating here, but I could easily see that being the case. Once Joey had been given up for lost, and had time off (not for the right reason) he got himself together. It is a great honor to you that Joey has clearly decided to trust you and overcome his fears.

I don't know if it's sour grapes from the breeder or if she is genuinely concerned. If it was my horse I'd take all this with a grain of salt, maybe be a teeny bit more aware of his reactions/body language/etc. and keep on doin' what you've been doin' so well so far. And that sucks about his teeth! Who knows, that could be the whole deal right there.

Dreaming said...

Pain certainly makes horses react. Pippin went crazy on me when I first got him because he had an abscessed tooth. He never reacted that way after his tooth was removed.
It really sounds like Joey's reaction could be from pain, and possibly fear of the crop - maybe a combination.

Jean said...

keep Joey healthy and free from pain and I rather suspect he will still be your "good horse," despite his history. Both those teeth and a sore back could well account for the behavior.

Anonymous said...

I agree that it's important to let the past go and ride the horse you have today. He undoubtedly did the things he did in his past for a good reason - they sound like fear/pain responses to me. You're doing everything you can to make things good for him, and expecting him to do well, and he is - he feels safe with you which makes all the difference.

Annette said...

I also agree with all the other comments. I suspect that Joey had some abusive harsh treatment with that first trainer. The day he galloped off with you when you tickled him with the whip is most likely his bolting behavior and seems to be linked to fear of the whip. He clearly trusts you and you are sensitive to him, something I doubt he had before. It seems to me that the two of you have a partnership going and you are both happy. There's a great horse inside Joey, and you are finding it because you believe in him and you understand him.