Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Tuff Nut to Crack

The roan horse has issues. Lots and lots of issues!!

But I believe that underneath it all, he has a good heart. That belief is his only saving grace at this moment. No one else will touch him. He is a horse to be feared and avoided by all in my family and by any "trainer" we have talked to about working with him.

So I have ignored my brother's warnings and my mother's worry and have taken on the task of taking the big red brute and trying to turn him back into a productive member of the equine society. Why? Because I look at this eye...
And I see worry...and a touch of fear. I do not see a mean horse. I do not see a horse that cannot be changed. Do I think he will be easy? Not in the slightest. He very well may be the toughest challenge I have ever undertaken.

This guy is the perfect example of a horse I would walk the "loose pens" looking for. He is not the type of horse I probably would have picked though. I always looked for horses that seemed to want to come to a person. He would have been a horse that hung at the back of the pen and avoided any contact with people. Not usually a horse that can be transformed into a gentle family-type saddle horse.

The sad part is...this is a horse we raised. How did he get this way? We are not abusive towards our horses. We do not let people ride our horses that might be abusive. Nothing happened to this horse that was extreme or should have caused him to become an outlaw. He may have been "cowboyed" a bit, but still nothing that would or should have caused him to become the serious bucker they claim he is.

Not even his breeding would indicate he should be this way. Megan's blue roan, Rip is his 3/4 brother...A gentler, kinder horse you will not find than this blue roan horse. They are both by the same sire out of mares that are 1/2 sisters(same sire) and bred the same way on their dam's side.

So what possibly could be the reason for this particular horse to so strongly object to being ridden? I believe the answer lies in his base personality. Surprisingly, this very large, powerful horse is timid. He is probably one of the most timid horses I have every ran across. My mother remembers him as always being standoffish and rather spooky about things, when he was a colt. Other horses pick on him. Definitely not top dog in the pecking order.
Strangely enough, his first instinct with people induced stimulus is fight...not flight! That makes for a dangerous combination. He spooks and then attacks it. He has never once shown aggression toward me, only the object I am approaching him with. I would hate to be in the wrong spot at the wrong time though.

He didn't get started until he was four. And then, there was a bit of a problem with some of the skin on his back being attached to the muscle. A very strange and unusual phenomena. That was surgically separated, allowed to heal and then he went to a good friend of ours in the Sandhills of Nebraska. He got along with him fine. He did say to take care with him. He would like to buck, but had never tried very hard with him. Miles and miles of checking cattle in the often deep sand in that country takes a lot of the starch out of horses that think they might like to be rank. I do not think this guy did anything bad to this horse. As far as the scars on his back from his skin problem, he don't seem to indicate any soreness or tenderness when they are palpated or pressure is applied. Also, the "chiro" guy didn't seem to find any spots that would indicate pain as the issue. He said he "fixed" a couple vertebrae in his neck, but I never noticed the horse indicating discomfort in his neck or problems with flexion, up/down or laterally.

Anyway, the real drama started when my brother got this gelding home, let him set for awhile and then made the mistake of treating him like one of his finished horses. My brother rides well, ropes well and is a very good cowboy. He just doesn't have a lot of ability to "read" horses and didn't pay attention to the fact that this horse was pretty nervous. The roan horse promptly made my brother pay for his lack of attention to detail. He bucked him off right in the yard. Brother dear, got right back on and got him under control. He went to the pasture to check cows and the roan horse bucked him off at the farthest end of the pasture. He got back on and made it home.

Now my dear brother is a good cowboy, but he is the first to admit, he don't like horses that buck. So the roan horse went to a feedlot for some more riding time. He promptly bucked that guy off. He was unsaddled and turned out until my brother could come get him. The guy said he could not take a chance that the horse would buck him off in one of the cement alleyways at the feedlot. Can't say that I blame him.

So the roan horse came home and my brother and a friend of his, set about taking turns riding him. He did okay for awhile. As long as they rode together. Until, the fateful day when they were checking cattle and the wind was blowing 60mph. As they were coming across a prairie dog town, my brother stepped off his horse to kill a rattlesnake. His horse got away. The other kid was riding Roan Dog and set about catching my brother's horse. They got squared away and headed for the house. Roan Dog suddenly become very interested and worried about those prairie dog holes(he is very smart!). When the wind whipped the reins into his front legs, he cut loose. I guess it was a pretty wild ride for that kid. Roan Dog was half bucking, half spooking, across an area that was riddled with prairie dog holes. Finally the roan horse just cut loose and went to full bore bucking and bucked the kid off...then stopped and stared. The kid opted to just walk home leading the horse. When they got home and unsaddled, the roan horse was turned out to pasture and that is where he has spent the last 4 years.

So now, I get to put what little knowledge I have accumulated to use to see if there is a chance he can be fixed. It is going to be slow going, but I think in the long run it will be worth it. He may only end up being safe for me. That happens sometimes. Some horses attach strongly to the one person who figures them out. I can see him being one of those. He's pretty attached to me already. Nevertheless, it is going to be interesting to see what can be done and hopefully to watch him bloom into a confident, secure athlete.

20 comments:

Mrs Mom said...

Bet you find a strong horse under there, once you teach him it is OK to be brave and control things.

Hang in there and exercise care. That colt has damage "inside", if you know what I mean. You just the lady to heal him though! ;)

cdncowgirl said...

I think you can do it. You seem to have the patience and perserverance to take as much time as that roany pony needs.

As for my boy Quinn. You had made a comment awhile back that I meant to reply to.
Just before he sold I was trying to figure out if I could send him to you. And how I would have gone about asking! lol
Oh well, he's re-homed now and apparently they love him. He truly was a good horse, I just don't know if I ever could have trusted him again.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Cdn-Funny you should mention that. I often thought of your Quinn and mentally tried to figure out a way to see if there was any way logistically and economically feasible to get him to my corral. I would have taken him for you in a heartbeat just to see what could be done. But I am glad to hear he has a good home and that they are enjoying him.
I have often told my friends that send horses to me, if you aren't comfortable with that horse, it is time to find them a new home and find yourself something that you can enjoy.

MM-CAUTION at all times!;) Sometimes it is hard to remember though-he is turning into such a love bug.

fssunnysd said...

Good luck! He's a lucky horse to have someone interested that's willing to take some time with him. Hopefully he'll come around.

Leah Fry said...

I recognize that worried look. My Poco gets that too. Everything with him takes a LOT of time, but he's coming around. And you may be the only person Roan Dog trusts, just like Poco seems to trust only me. I'll be watching your progress closely. You can do it!!

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

It is rather interesting to put on your horse psychology hat and figure things out as you go. If you do crack this nut, you'll be feeling really good about it. In some ways, solving a horse problem is a bigger high than having a good ride.

Andrea said...

Oh, I like his eye too. I love a good big brown eye. Have you checked his teeth? We had a mare that would "randomly" buck people off. She had a broken tooth. Then there was this palomino gelding at school. I was the first one to ride him and I was bucked off. Three more students rode him and he bucked them off. Then Gabe rode him, with big spurs, and the horse bucked, and Gabe won. Talk about a cowboy!! That horse was sold. He was a one owner horse. I do believe there are horses like that. I bet if you work with Red Dog he will love you. I am still madly in love with Blue!!

Adventures Of A Horse Crazed Mind said...

Hey, just a thought....maybe he'd make a good rodeo bronc. If you cant take it out of him, you might try putting more into him. They get a lot of $$ for the good broncs. lol ...

Okey, you dont like that idea...no problem, please just be careful! I love your blog and think it would be great to keep you around for a while longer. On a serious note, I would go back and start him from scratch. Do a whole lot of ground work building confidence and drive him from the girth line. I agree that it sounds like no one has payed any attention to the fact that he was never comfortable with the whole riding gig. Good luck girl!

Pony Girl said...

I agree, a horse with challenges like this could end up in bad hands. It's great you are willing to take the nutcracker at him, so to speak. I am curious to hear how it goes, be sure to track your progress for us!

Jamie said...

I hope you get his issues figured out. I bet he wants to be a "good" horse but he's just more than a little bit scared.

kdwhorses said...

Good luck girl! You can so do it! Just be careful! I do love his eye! Brown eyed beauty that he is!

kdwhorses said...

Oh and my mare doesn't like men at all! She tolerates hubby if he ropes off of her. She really is MY horse! A man walks by and she flattens her ears and just glares at them! She was raised by a man and woman breeder they are nothing but sweet. Who knows! I agree it is just there personality sometimes.

I'll bet you that when you find what makes him work and get him going he will be one working fool for you!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Horse Crazed-Great minds must think alike-LMAO. That is exactly where he will go if he really, really just wants to buck. I have no problem with that at all.

There is a son of Sun Frost in one of the local bucking strings. They make a huge production about him at the rodeos. They toute that Sun Frost produces athletes of all kinds-LOL. But man oh man is he a super nice saddle bronc. Big high jumps and straight out kicks. The cowboys love him.

So if it is the case that Roan Dog just likes to buck and can buck big and honest like that, he will have found his niche in life.

But then there is a local barrel racer that has a SUPER nice mare that bucks her off regularly. Her dad hates the horse, she won't part with her. The running joke at our house is that I can run barrels on Roan Dog and even if I don't win the barrel racing, I might place in the Saddle Bronc riding. I wonder if they would charge me double entry fees? (hehehe)

Flying Lily said...

He is so lucky you have faith in him. All that time with no job hasn't helped him sort out the world, but he now has a chance thanks to you. The eye picture is so expressive: it just says 'help' and 'I'm anxious' and 'please come to me' all at once.

heidiwriter said...

What a wonderful project! You are a courageous young lady, but I'll bet you can do it! I had a strawberry roan when I was a kid--he was a rocking horse, very gentle, very placid, a good horse to learn on.
Best of luck to you!
Heidi Thomas
http://heidiwriter.wordpress.com
www.heidimthomas.com

Vaquerogirl said...

Horse Crazed Mind said what I was also thinking. Confidence may be the key to winning this horse over. I'd do exactly as you are planning- lots of ground work with plenty of confidence building mini lessons. And with that said I think the most important thing to do with horses like this is to 'wait'. I mean when working an exercise, explain it to him, implment it, and do a lot of waiting while going through it. A trainer I work with tells me to 'wait' and PRETEND to have a cigarette. In the middle of a trail obstacle, stop and wait. Lope three beats, stop and wait, trot some corners-stop and wait...I sounds boring, but I find that it gives my horse ( who is spooky) a little time to process and anticipate the work, not to fear it. Good luck with your project. and remember Some days you 'get'the horse, some days the horse 'gets' you!

Holly said...

Good luck with him. I agree that he looks worried. I hope you can relieve that worry for him.

Melanie said...

Good luck, and be careful! How old is the roan boy now?
You seem to have a way with horses, and it appears that you are being very thorough in ruling out potential causes for his bucking,so hopefully you will be able to crack his shell...in a good way..lol!!

Saddle Mountain Rider said...

Give the pony a good chance to come around, but stay safe. If he has the proper groundwork, you may see a real change in him. He, obviously, doesnt have trust and relies on the prey animal instinct to protect himself. But, gosh! He is a beauty. Keep us posted on your work with him, please.

KD said...

Be safe !