Friday, October 7, 2016

The Baby Horse Process

I am enjoying the young horse process far more than I thought I would.

Although Crimson has the basics down, from what I understand, he is pretty limited in terms of life experience. He was born in April 2011, grew up on his breeder's farm in Massachusetts and at some point was sent to a farm in Western Mass to get broke. In the meantime, the nearest track, Suffolk Downs, closed in November 2013. At some point, he was sent to Finger Lakes to train. He was there for 4 months, his breeder had a falling out with the trainer and brought him home, where he then sat for another 10+ months.

Lest you think all has been perfect thus far, we have had a few baby moments. Crimson definitely has claustrophobia issues. He doesn't like to be in a stall or on a trailer. His go-to response is to get light in the front end. He half-rears and flails around like a giant orange marlin on a fishing line.

Luckily, I have the guidance of an experienced trainer, who has started and re-started many babies and greenies of various breeds and backgrounds and currently has 5 OTTBs of her own, with another two in training. I jokingly call her the horse whisperer, because she has a lot of 'feel' for horses. She has good timing and understanding of the whys of horse behavior.

Our first experience with Crimson objecting to anything was the farrier. I feel very strongly about my horses being safe to handle by the farrier, vet, etc. No one should have to sacrifice their safety to handle my horse - ever. Crimson has been barefoot and it is pretty clear his feet haven't been done in some time. I had already ridden that day, he was standing quietly on the cross-ties. I wasn't expecting his reaction to the farrier handling his feet, but we were in for a surprise. When my farrier picked up his hoof, we were treated to the rearing and flailing that I have now come to know is his signature move. I took the cross-ties off, put the chain over his nose and we tried again. This time with more violent flailing. At that point I called Heather for help. She came in, we put on a lip chain, and he stood quietly to get his feet rasped. Heather noted he was shaking and was genuinely scared.

Through all this, I wasn't upset, angry or nervous. I was surprised by his response, but I was interested by the puzzle this represented. My assumption is that he has had some negative experiences with having his feet done in the past. I already have some ideas on how to work with him on this and I'm confident that we can make this a more pleasant experience for everyone involved.

I'm kind of surprised by my own patience, how fun and interesting it is to work with such a clean slate. Of course, I enjoy it mostly because he is such an easy baby, and it helps tremendously that his happy place is under saddle.

Overall, this is not the experience I expected to have -- giant, green, young, TB -- but it is one I am enjoying a tremendous amount. I like that I am doing 98% of the work myself, with occasional guidance from my trainer.

I feel like Crimson already trusts me a lot. He comes to me in the pasture, is interested and engaged in what I am doing, feels more secure in the barn when I am there - even if he has the company of other horses and people.

I'm planning on taking things pretty slow with him. We don't have anywhere to be in the next six months. I want him to know that when I introduce him to new things, that they will be fun, that he is always safe with me, and that I am his person. I'm sure we'll have our ups and downs along the way, but this is definitely the honeymoon stage.


  1. :-) With that attitude, you'll go far with this guy.

  2. lol i LOVE the visual of the 'giant orange marlin on a fishing line' !!!! oh Crimson, poor dude. life just keeps happening! sounds like you have a fantastic approach. i am similarly surprised by the zen and patience i feel in response to the unexpected green moments from my guy. it's kinda a neat feeling!

    1. Life is hard for a giant orange marlin! LOL

  3. I'm glad you are enjoying him. He seems like a fun guy!

  4. He's gorgeous, and I'm so happy he's fitting in and you're enjoying him :)

  5. Ahhh I'm so happy this is going well!

  6. I am really enjoying riding both of my young horses (which surprises me as green horses were always a super scary thing) but when you have a good relationship with a horse and they trust you... it all sort of works out! So happy you're enjoying Mr. Crimson :)