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Turning Sneak Peak

Somtimes horses are just plain crazy

Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners. Due for public release in 2010.

Red

Red came to us after having been “broke” by a girl who had little experience and less heart. She gave up after this four-year-old filly began flipping immediately following her hopping in the saddle. Apparently this went on for awhile, and this steed learned she could immediately and successfully end the lesson

with this strategy.

We spent some time on the ground with Red, as it was apparent she needed some preliminary guidance that had been skipped. We also wanted to establish communication benchmarks. She was actually responsive and compliant when we proceeded to under-saddle lessons in the round pen. Once we moved out of the confines and routine of this space, however, the flipping penchant resurfaced. In this case, we were able to step off as she went past perpendicular and hop back into the saddle while she was still on the ground, staying with her as she returned to her feet. That was the last time she flipped.

We had another week or so of good progress with this filly before her behavior deteriorated, and this time, she decided to lay down after we stirruped up. She was flat out on the ground and wouldn’t move. We sat on her neck (this is usually referred to as sitting on their heads, but that’s not really where you want to put your weight – horses cannot get up without their head and neck to use for momentum and the back of the neck is the safest place to be for both you and your horse) to immobilize her with a strategy designed to discourage this behavior in the future.

Horses tend to panic when they can’t get up and trapping an intentional flipper immediately generally teaches these horses to never go there again. She didn’t care. Red lay there, on the ground, perfectly content being stuck. This was a first. There was something really wrong with this filly. We didn’t have

enough information to determine if there was some major underlying physical problem that was causing this behavior (she traveled sound and seemed to be unencumbered by pain, but we didn’t dig too deep) or if she just had a major screw loose.

Either way, this was one of the few we quickly determined was best to toss back. We called the owners and admitted defeat.

They decided to forgo any future starting attempts and bred her instead. We’ll let someone else tackle that progeny beauty when it’s time to start riding lessons.

Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners sneak peak

Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners due for public release in 2010. Discounted bulk pre-publication orders now being taken.

 

 

Chapter Eight

Sometimes they’re just plain crazy

On occasion, you really do find yourself burdened with a nut. While preliminary bad breaking definitely exacerbates problems, when you strip it all down and finally get past the baggage, there are times you must admit that the horse you’re working with is simply just not right in the head. Interestingly, these critters can be very predictable in what sets them off, but how they react is never a given. Surprisingly, they can usually handle distractions and circumstances that should make a sane horse blow, but freak out with stuff that shouldn’t be a concern.

Crazy horses rarely give you an opportunity to completely relax. There will always be issues that make them occasionally frustrating and often dangerous. Horses that are totally governed by fear rarely consider their own welfare when reacting, and this is a common trait of equines who are nuts. Mean horses are always limited with what they will do by a self-preservation instinct, making them at least predictable in how far they will go. Not so with crazy horses. They’ll crash through fences, impale themselves, flip, run off on unsafe ground, and have occasions when they go deaf, blind, and oblivious to immovable objects that cross their panicked path, while reacting to ghosts in ways that make no sense.

Sometimes, you’ll encounter a psycho that has so much talent it seems worth the effort. Usually, it isn’t. Still, we’ve had some success with crazies, and some failures too. Most, ultimately, leave you shaking your head on the time and money spent to get them two strides forward and ten steps back, wondering if the sanity issue extends beyond your equine’s behavior and if there’s a white jacket in your size.

While it seems prudent to try to recover your investment, sometimes it’s best to cut your losses. Time and money gone is just plain lost — and putting good money after bad is rarely a good idea.

If you’re determined to proceed, the anecdotes below may help guide you in your quest.

Flash — hurdler extraordinaire

Flash was a narrow, five-year-old, 15.1-hand Thoroughbred that somehow wound up as a lesson horse at an area riding stable. He was a terror with students, running off at will and occasionally unseating the brave kids who dared to try to conquer him. One of our former riding instructors asked us to take a look at this horse. She was considering buying him. He was deemed unsuitable as a lesson horse (imagine that) and was on the block. We hopped on him in the arena, and after a brief flatwork primer, pointed him at a 2’6” line (there was something about this horse that squealed natural talent over fences). He cleared the fences easily, correctly, and with a ton of finesse. He had never jumped. We leapt off immediately and said “buy him.”

She didn’t, and we landed the prize for $500.

The next three years netted unimaginable nightmares. We figured he had just been mishandled, poorly started, and conditioned to react inappropriately. Certainly, with patient and skilled guidance, he’d transform into a cooperative steed. We were wrong.

We’d spend minutes or hours working with this horse one day, progressing to a new understanding, only to find those lessons not only lost but problems magnified by the next day.

Compounding the frustration was the fact that this horse would willingly clear jumps of any size placed before him, but was out of control after hurdling the fence, not to mention during flat exercises. We progressed to the point where we were competing in events, and if we didn’t get eliminated in dressage (this was a common occurrence — he had no qualms about hopping over the arena perimeter, particularly when the judges used a horse trailer for shelter), we were sure to go clean during cross-country and stadium, almost always finishing in the ribbons. Consequently,

we were thrilled if we were able to complete the first phase. We were also convinced his incredible talent over fences made it worth the temporary embarrassment and extreme frustration borne while we worked through his issues.

Turning Challening Horses into Willing Partners sneak peak book excerpt

Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners. Due for public release in 2010.

Horse Sense for sour equines

• Rule out physical issues that may be causing pain and the horse’s associated frustration in his failure to communicate.

• Do not continue to push a sore horse, or you will only make him sourer and could turn him mean. Give him the help and the time required to heal prior to resuming training.

• Figure out whether routine or varied activities are the preference of your sour horse and give him what makes him happiest.

• Be patient, flexible, and accommodating with a sour horse when their behavior is justified. Conversely, if you’ve taught a horse to be sour by rewarding bad behavior, resolve to stop the pattern or get some help.

• Try getting a horse out of the routine with some fun activities, trail rides, and long walks if his sour behavior is likely due to too much of the same grind. Some sour horses will bounce back pretty quickly once relieved of the drill that has made them bored and cranky.

• It is rarely effective to discipline a sour horse for his behavior. If a horse has come to resent riding, punishing them aboard only reinforces this conviction. Instead, try finding an easy activity they enjoy and rewarding them for their cooperation. Once you’ve gained a rapport, reintroduce them to the discipline training in lighter doses and with greater rewards for their achievements.

• Horses that have turned sour rarely become standout competitors (unless you change their career to something they learn to enjoy), nor fun pleasure horses. If your aim is to put them back into the routine that created their sour nature (unless this is due to pain you address and correct), you are likely to be disappointed. Consider a different project.

• Find some riding activity that’s really fun for your sour horse and reward him with this after every positive response to a lesson (this could be trail riding, jumping, riding with a companion horse, going fast, going slow, a long rein, a swim in a pond – each horse is different and you need to figure out what makes your horse happiest).

• Know when to call it quits. Sour horses are some of the toughest to turn and sometimes there is no reward for the effort. If you come to hate riding or working with this horse, it may be time to say goodbye. Quality of life (yours and theirs) is something worth considering with these projects.

Horse Sense for encouraging a timid equine

Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners, due for official publication in spring, 2010

• The round pen provides the close quarters to begin to develop a rapport and trust with a timid horse. Here, you can establish some basic body language cues supported with voice commands to present yourself as a confident, kind guide while you encourage and reward your steed to tackle future requests with courage. While many contemporary horsemanship methods advocate considerable training time in the round pen, we’re not convinced this is a good approach, and have found it is not effective with timid horses. It’s a good starting point for a few days to see and guide the horse, but not the best environment to bring a timid horse along. Exposing them to various concerns in differing environments with a steady and unflappable nature is more effective in helping these horses blossom.

• Timid horses tend to respond much better to praise than punishment. Most timid horses love a pat or an encouraging voice when they face and conquer a challenge. Conversely, a stern voice and/or training that incorporates stimuli designed to discourage behavior tends to make them more wary.

• Take your time with timid horses. Their condition is often the result of too much, too soon. It’s important to gain their trust, and bolster their confidence, by encouraging them with your steadiness to tackle easy tasks they can understand and learn to enjoy.

• Make early lessons quick and easy for an immediate win. Timid horses blossom and excel after just a few sessions if they have a confident hand and are rewarded for their effort.

• Buddies can be a good tool for encouraging timid horses, but don’t overdo it. While another horse can help avoid some challenges, it’s equally important to establish a trust in the human handler to keep them out of harm’s way. If all issues are resolved by another horse leading the way, the timid equine will not gain the confidence in themselves and their rider/handler to excel.

• Give timid horses the time to process a lesson. Rush them and they will become more concerned and less trusting of you.

• Be fearless with timid horses. They will sense your concern and react. If you can’t be confident, patient and calm in all situations you introduce them to, find someone who can.

Sour horse approaches

Chapter Seven

Turning a sour mount

There are a number of circumstances that can make a mount

sour. One who has been drilled too hard in the arena and given

little opportunity to relax in different surroundings can often

be transformed by backing off of the flatwork and jumping.

Simply choosing a varied routine that gets them fit and supple

on the trails or in other new and interesting environments can

quickly improve your mount’s attitude. If your horse is sore and

hasn’t been forced to the point of resenting the mere appearance

of a rider, giving him time off to heal and adopting a subsequent

sensitivity to their pain can work wonders. Some horses

are inadvertently taught to refuse. If there’s been a pattern of

curtailing every lesson as soon as the horse starts acting surly

toward requests, this behavior will escalate, and the horse will

object more frequently and dramatically to even simple tasks.

These equines can usually be corrected with the aid of a seasoned

and clever trainer, but this will often require that you

watch on the sidelines initially, proceeding with closely monitored

riding lessons after the horse is sufficiently schooled to

discourage this behavior.

If you’re dealing with a horse that has learned to resent with a

vengeance the competitive arena for which they were intended,

however, it might be time to find another project. While turning

these animals to a point where they get the job done is possible,

they’re generally not very much fun to work with or be around.

Plus, their attitudes leave them performing short of their potential.

If they’ve turned mean, they add a considerable degree of

danger to the mix. Mean horses that have learned that violence

and refusal is their only recourse for avoiding pain are almost

impossible to completely turn. You can make a lot of progress

with them and often diffuse much of the mean behavior, but

if they are sour and have been taught that belligerence is their

only relief, they may be tough to tackle.

With any sour horse, it’s important to be creative and responsive

in how you approach the training and communication

regimen.

Studley

All deemed Studley a lost cause, except his insightful, reticent

trainer who wasn’t ready to admit defeat with this horse and

his green owners, who were enamored by the idea of having a

racehorse stallion. The moment he arrived, we began to question

our creative capabilities with this monster, not to mention

our sanity. As noted earlier (see Chapter Six — Turning Mean to

Green), he was a vicious stud who had a history of maiming the

humans he encountered and a quarrelsome attitude that rendered

training attempts at the track impossible. After we developed

a strategy and system that, over time, was effective at dissipating

the meanness, moving from a survival to a success focus

to address his sour nature became a priority. Ultimately, it

was clear we’d have to work around his bad attitude to get this

beast fit enough for speed training.

Encouraging a timid equine

Sneak peak excerpt from Chapter Six of Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners (due for release in winter, 2010).

Timid horses are very different than those that have been
conditioned to be scared. Usually, they’ve been rushed and
overwhelmed. Consequently, a timid horse is generally insecure
about surroundings and new experiences but not terrified
about how their handler or rider will react when the horse responds
with a fearful instinct. While many of the strategies in
dealing with a scared horse apply to the timid mount, the process
for undoing the damage is often considerably easier and
less time-consuming. It’s critically important, however, not to
reinforce the learned fright by overfacing these horses. Slow
and patient introduction to lessons and challenges is essential,
as is being able to read the horse’s readiness to proceed, if your
intent is to turn your mount into a reliable and confident steed.

Exorcizing the crazies
Spook was a claimed four-year-old Thoroughbred filly immediately
deemed crazy by the new trainer. We were told she had
spent little training time on the track, instead logging most of
her exercise days in the pool, presumably due to behavioral and
resulting soundness problems. She was promptly sent to Halcyon
Acres for some reprogramming to settle her mind and enhance
her conditioning for sustained soundness. Obviously, the
endgame was to improve her racing performance.

When Spook arrived, we discovered that the perceived crazies were merely an expression of her insecurity, likely exacerbated by fearful riders who bolstered her concerns. We weretold later that exercise riders working for her former trainer were terrified of this gal, and proven right as her behavior deteriorated.

Sometimes, it’s amazing how much the humans handling a horse can unknowingly dictate the horse’s attitudes and reactions.

As is the case with most tentative horses, this filly needed
some basic groundwork to build her confidence and learn to
trust people. We started in the round pen with tack for a day or
two. She almost immediately relaxed and settled into a comfortable
routine that asked no more of her than she was ready
to handle. We were able to hop on her back pretty quickly. Of
course, consistent focus on praising her for quiet and responsive
reactions to our requests was an important step in gaining
her trust and confidence. Once she was calmly walking the
perimeter of the arena, stopping and proceeding to walk when
asked, we brought her to the center of the round pen and lowered
a stirrup to climb up on her back. Interestingly, after a couple
of days of discouraging her penchant for ripping around the
round pen’s perimeter, while encouraging a calm and slow approach
to training requests, Spook didn’t blow when asked to
stand and bear weight on a stirrup, likely for the first time in
her life. (Few Thoroughbred racehorses ever learn to stand
on their own and bear weight on their left side prior to a rider
landing in the saddle as they are generally held by a handler
who “legs up” a rider by tossing him into the saddle.) Still, we
took our time and watched her eye, bellying over her first before
slowly and gently swinging the right leg over her back, after ensuring she was relaxed and ready. The first two days under saddle were spent walking and stopping. Sessions lasted less than
fifteen minutes.

Once we were convinced that this filly trusted her rider and
was ready to proceed in a slow and composed manner, we
hit the trails. The first few days, we only walked. Interestingly,
she tackled challenging terrain and the steep hills with relish,
gaining confidence from her rider and blossoming from the
praise she received for handling requests boldly and artfully. Of
course, Gatsby, our canine assistant trainer, helped her tackle
the goblins along the way by forging ahead to prove scary-looking
objects wouldn’t attack. It was critical to never react anxiously
to her fear. She had already had enough of that. Instead,
calm, patient, and insistent reactions to encourage her to proceed,
while giving her time to assess and accept the sights and
sounds that unnerved her, was a necessary approach.

Alpha sneak peak excerpt from Chapter Five

Overwhelmed and cagey

Rosie spent two days at the racetrack after being “broke” at a

distant farm. She wheeled about thirty times in a single trip

jogging around a half-mile training track, terrified of oncoming

traffic and the scene that presented itself to this unprepared,

frenzied baby. At Thoroughbred racetracks, generally jogging

(or trotting) horses travel on the outside rail moving to the

left; galloping horses and those moving at a faster pace track

right toward the inside rail. On day two, in a half-mile gallop

(we tried a different approach to the oncoming traffic concern

and started tracking right), she slammed into the rail at least a

dozen times and ran at full speed in a panic — sans steering or

brakes — not seeing, hearing, or feeling anything in her path of

sheer, all-out, running terror.

She was trucked to Halcyon Acres that week for some reprogramming

authorized by a trainer in a huge hurry to get her

back. He failed to recognize the increased challenges associated

with retooling a horse that had been poorly started. Still,

we were determined to help this filly cope with what would be

ahead of her. Of course, the idea of the imminent broken human

body parts that would result if she wasn’t removed from

the track for a more controlled turning process was a factor.

Since time was of the essence, we started her in the round pen

the day she was trucked in. It’s preferable to give young horses

time to settle into a routine prior to tackling performance challenges,

but, sometimes, you make less than ideal choices with

the horse’s ultimate welfare in mind. We began with a brief lesson

in responding to body language and voice commands that

set the tone for future success with a quick reward for responding

to easy requests. She understood.

Day two was a lengthy session, as was the case for the term

of her stay, struggling to encourage a filly who had apparently

no good ground-handling experience to perform simple tasks

like picking up her feet and accepting basic grooming. First, we

spent more than an hour each day in the stall, tackling activities

that most yearlings are prepared to easily tolerate. This was

a filly that was expected to perform on cue with a rider atop at

the track! No wonder she was unresponsive, as terror set in, to

requests she was woefully unprepared for.

We proceeded to the round pen and then the trails for under saddle

activities with Gatsby (our canine assistant trainer) as a

constant companion and teacher. Generally, it’s best to implement

short sessions, quitting as soon as a win is achieved, but

we had twelve days to get this filly ready to go back to a track

with a trainer who wasn’t likely to permit patient daily regimens.

Plus, Rosie wasn’t very cooperative and it often took more

than an hour to achieve a proper response to a single request.

The trails were tough at first as Rosie had little confidence in

her mount and seemed to have no confidence in herself. Gatsby

helped lead the way through troubling areas and trotted at her

heels the rest of the time, getting her accustomed to traffic and

noise behind her . . .

Athlete baby of the decade returns as bronc champ re-break

Jay merits mention in both our Turning Challenging Horses and

Don’t Get Thrown Starting Horses Under Saddle books because

she was a dual challenge that came to Halcyon Acres for initial

starting (which wasn’t completed) and then back to fix her

subsequent, learned talent for unloading riders at another farm

that tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to take her on.

We were making good headway with this difficult Thoroughbred

filly during her first stay at the farm, having gotten to the

point where she was accepting a rider on her back and handling

some basic leg, seat, and hand commands at the walk indoors,

but were far from finished when the owner made a decision to

stop for reasons that were not related to training efforts. Jay left,

but the owners were given a dire warning concerning future

handling and an advisory to keep others off her back until she

returned for finishing.

She came back all right, but it wasn’t until after another tried

to “start” where we left off and managed, in the process, to reinforce

her penchant for winning — effectively launching and

terrorizing anyone who dared hop on her back. Taking her back

was a tough call. One of the things we had avoided in early

training was giving this filly any reason or opportunity to use

her athleticism to unload a rider. She didn’t during the time she

spent at the farm, but it required very careful and observant

handling. We knew, if she learned how to use her extraordinary

ability and determination to unseat her mount, that even an extremely

able rider would have a tough time sticking with her.

Yet, we also saw the tremendous, albeit latent, talent she possessed

and were convinced if it could be channeled, she would

become an impressive performer. The owner contacted us with

a query on what to do — just about convinced she wasn’t worth

the trouble and ready to log her as a lost cause. With no guarantees,

we persuaded him to try one more time to see if the filly

could be reprogrammed and properly prepared for a racing

career.

When she arrived, we spent some time working with her off

her back in the stall and round pen to try to reestablish some

ground rules. These she accepted pretty readily and easily, having

recalled earlier lessons (a typical trait of Alphas is that they

retain information seemingly forever — good or bad — and it’s

rarely necessary to revisit a successful session).

Once we introduced a rider into the mix, the big problems

began. Reprogramming can go both ways — and in her case,

what she had learned during her absence was extremely detrimental

to the forward progress initially established under saddle.

We decided to start in the stall to limit her movement and

reduce the likelihood of her getting up enough room or speed

to launch her passenger. Yet, she was now accustomed to a routine

that included a triumphant lesson with a swift dump in the

dirt for anyone who straddled her back. She was quickly aggravated

with the new approach that made it tougher to unseat the

rider and immediately began to integrate new tricks. It took her

less than two days, after exhausting her developed arsenal unsuccessfully

and throwing a whole lot of new ideas at the problem,

to learn to rear and flip over backwards. With this development,

it was too dangerous to continue in the stall, and we

moved to the round pen.

Often, with Alphas, it’s best to work with them one-on-one.

We found this an effective early strategy with this filly, so decided

to forgo a handler at her head for the move to outdoor riding.

For about a week, we bellied over her first, watching her eye

closely and dismounting prior to the blow, and then, as she accepted

a rider across her back quietly and willingly, put a leg

over her other side and sat up. During the first few days (these

lessons were anywhere from one to two hours in length), simply

standing and accepting a rider was a sufficient note to end

on. As the week progressed (although the time involved for the

lessons remained lengthy), we added walking and stopping on

cue to the mix. The mere addition of movement added some

athletic explosions to the sessions and, ultimately, we decided

it would be best to try to proceed with a lead pony as a companion

before she learned again that her gyrations and gymnastics

could dislodge her passenger. She had been exposed to

our lead pony, Porky, during her prior stay (albeit without a rider)

and appeared to enjoy the activity, and so it seemed a smart

and safe idea to put to the challenge.

Alphas provide the biggest challenge and greatest joy

Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners, due for official publication in winter, 2010

Chapter Five: An A for effort comes with Alphas

Some of the toughest fought battles are the most rewarding. Interestingly, it seems the most determined cases, able and willing to wear you out to the point of giving up, acquiesce right about the time you’re ready to walk away. These are almost always Alphas and will make you earn their respect — with the bruises to prove it.

Alphas are idiosyncratic horses to deal with and are fairly easy to recognize. They are also your most likely — albeit toughest — cases to turn. Most rule the pasture, and the strong ones have yet to encounter a horse or person who has stood their ground with them long enough to persuade them to “listen.” Once they find an animal or a person that has the staying power to earn their respect, they often soften and relish the opportunity to have a leader. These horses usually turn instantly and dramatically when they acknowledge you are a worthy guide. They also tend to be extremely willing, predictable, dependable, and outstanding performers who aim to please those they esteem — to extremes. Of course, getting there is no easy task.

Usually, discipline and hostility toward an Alpha is a mistake. Never back down; instead, demonstrate your power by holding your ground and remaining calm, fearless, and insistent as they launch a bevy of scare or avoidance tactics at you. Typical young Alphas will throw tantrums anytime they are asked to comply with a request that doesn’t suit them. They can be kind, smart, and compliant foals for early handling and lessons they find interesting, engaging, or fun. Once they are asked to respond to a request that isn’t on their agenda, however, they can turn into monsters. Those that are effective at intimidating a novice or tentative early handler into compliance tend to be difficult horses to start under saddle. If the attitude isn’t rectified in early under-saddle activities, it escalates, and these animals become problem children who need reprogramming if they are to be safe and honest mounts.

Turning mean to green

Sneak Peak excerpt from Turning Challenging Horses into Willing Partners, due for official publication in winter, 2010

Chapter Four

Turning Mean to Green

Most mean horses are smart. They’ve learned, through ongoing

provocation, to terrorize human counterparts who have

taught them to resent training. Granted, some are born mean

with bloodlines being the cause, but most are conditioned to

behave badly through a trial–and-error process where they find

viciousness their sole recourse to alleviate agony.

Bertha

Bertha came to us as a transition project, having served as a

former hard-knocking racehorse, and more recently, an intended

broodmare. After a two-year period of nothing but pasture

time, we got the call for the career change. A cyst was discovered

on her ovary that would require an operation for any

possible success in breeding attempts. The owner had recently

died, and the widow decided not to invest in the operation.

She shipped Bertha to Halcyon Acres to be retooled as a riding

horse. The cyst also affected her behavior — in bigger ways

than we had initially imagined. This growth ultimately presented

considerable issues on the ground, although we were able to

correct problems under saddle.

The agent handling the mare warned us she was nasty, aggressive,

and destructive, but her lovely gaits, large-boned

frame, and size made her a good prospect for competitive arenas,

particularly as a dressage performer. We also wanted to

start her over fences to determine her proclivity for jumping

and to explore other possibilities for this mare.

The first month was a nightmare. While we were able to deal

with some of the socialization issues by pasturing her with our

clever lead pony Porky, handling and under-saddle challenges

were immense. She was vicious in the stall, leaving a bruise

on a handler’s arm the size of a grapefruit, after a bite with no cause.

She shattered boards in the stall as she lambasted the

walls because feeding wasn’t quick enough, or the turnout routine

didn’t suit her, or simply because she felt a need to intimidate

the horse next to her. She charged a naive photographer,

teeth bared, as he entered the pasture, uninvited and unaccompanied,

thinking he could slip in to capture images of this

mare. She couldn’t even walk a twenty-meter circle sans rider,

without falling toward center, because she was so unbalanced.

Bertha’s meanness was evident on the ground, but we were

curious to see if this would also be an issue with under-saddle

training. This wasn’t a mare that would be fixed by groundwork

as her behavior was induced by the cyst, and the owner and

agent were in a hurry to find her a new home. . . .

The initial concern, namely eliminating the meanness, was a

relatively easy task under saddle, once she understood that rewards

came when requests were met. Bertha wasn’t a typical

mean horse, in that her attitude stemmed from a physical issue

(the cyst) that made her hormones go haywire. Over time,

we found there was little we could do about her destructive behavior

during nonriding hours. Fortunately, she learned to enjoy

training and the activity gave her (and us) a respite from the

chemical issues that made her difficult during the rest of the

day. . . .

Sometimes, simply being able to recognize what allows a

horse to shine and accepting the things you’ll never be able

to change is enough to enjoy what a horse can offer. In Bertha’s

case, we’ll be glad to see her leave our farm, where fitting

in with the crowd and embracing the routine is a requisite for

long-term tenants. Still, we imagine her new owner will find

her a delightful performer and a welcome companion — particularly

if she’s stabled at someone else’s facility. It is amazing

with this mare how easily and adeptly she embraced undersaddle

work and came to eagerly enjoy the lessons. Daily riding

definitely improved her demeanor in the stable, so it’s likely an

owner focused exclusively on this mare will be able to reach her

in ways not possible at this farm.