Excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for release winter, 2010
Handling the crazies
“I spend a lot of time bonding with any horse, but especially one that has been started badly. I’ve had some that are so messed up you can’t even catch them in the stall. I’ll stand in the corner of their stall holding their feed bucket and won’t move until they come and eat. Some won’t come near me for hours, but eventually they’ll approach. I’ll do that for days. Then I’ll rub on them until I can get a halter on them. As soon as I can get a halter on them, I’ll take them out on the road for a walk with just the lead line for an hour. The next day, the breaking roll goes on in the stall. Then, I’ll teach them things like how to cross tie. I do get them to join up with me, but not in the round pen. When I am finished playing with a horse, they will follow me around without a lead on. This is what happens when you build a horse’s trust.
“I had one Thoroughbred horse come through my hands going back about ten years ago. She was trained to race and had run. When she came to us, she was virtually unridable. She was a head case. She had no brain. I decided, along with my dad, that we would start her with the usual bonding and long lining. This mare was such a freak show that she actually jumped over a hedgerow in the long lines to get away from me. I could never get her to settle down. There was no reasoning with this horse. My feeling, and I know where she came from and it would surprise me if I was right, but my gut told me she was badly beaten and abused. She didn’t trust anybody. It didn’t matter if it was male or female. She had no work ethic. You know how some horses are always willing to please, even if they have been spoiled? You can always find a common ground if you use reverse psychology. You could almost make them think it was their idea to go over that jump. She had none of it. She was the kind of horse that wouldn’t even take a treat out of your hand. She was the first one that I could actually say got the better of me and I had to give up. I will say, I did spend close to fifteen weeks working with her before I said this is going nowhere. She was only four. It was very sad. What was even sadder was that her dad was a European Triple Crown winner. It’s funny, because a lot of his stock finished up being nasty pieces of work. I didn’t find that out until later when I was following the sales in Europe.
“Sometimes, it is in the bloodlines. I knew another Thoroughbred stallion like that. All his foals had a favorite trick. You’d be coming down to a fence with them, and two strides out the sucker would drop the left shoulder and duck. They all did the exact same thing, duck out to the left side, and dump your ass on the floor.
“I will say, though, I learned more off that Thoroughbred mare than I learned off a lot of the good horses. I learn from my mistakes. I’ve have had very few failures, but you remember them.”
About Fleur Bryan
Fleur has over twenty years experience breaking young horses and retraining problem mounts. While in Ireland, Fleur spent fifteen years breeding, training, and competing show jumping horses. Now based in Kentucky, Fleur breeds top-quality Irish Sport Horses and focuses riding time on turning retired racehorses into hunter/jumpers. She is currently available across the US for clinics with a specialty in working with problem horses and nervous riders as well as mature riders.
http://www.parkmorestud.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, (502) 649-2037 cell