September 17, 2012
I met a guy the other day that is the most knowledgeable person in the world as far as horses are concerned. And no matter what anyone might say or suggest he would never be convinced otherwise. Let's call him Eric. I'm not too fond of Eric, I'll just say that upfront.
One thing Eric said, that now really bugs me, was that he broke the horse himself and that's why the horse doesn't like him so much. Hmm...I wonder how he broke him and honestly if the horse doesn't respect you something went wrong, perhaps you weren't as experienced as you thought to be able to start a horse. He also kept saying the horse was originally trained dressage but he kept chastising dressage training...okay somethings amiss with this story.
Eric went on about how the horse, Baby, was heavy on the bit and ran through the bit because he was trained dressage. "Dressage teaches a horse to latch on to the bit and pull" he stated. I tried to mention how to "massage" on the horses mouth with the bit to get them to lighten but he said that this new trainer he took the horse to tried him with a snaffle for two weeks but then put this harsher curb on him and said that Baby wasn't able to work in a snaffle. "You just need to quickly pull the reins and he responds. Dressage makes a horse dead in the mouth," he said with utter conviction. I think it's the exact opposite dude, I thought but I just smiled and said hmm as I began to groom Baby. He was a nice size 14.3 hand chestnut (SORREL!!!) quarter horse/Arab cross. A horse is sorrel if they have any quarter horse in them....fine, he also has Arab so I'll call him a chestnut, I said. Eric didn't seem to like that remark. Get over it dude!
Baby loved getting groomed on his neck and made a "that's the spot" face. He was very cute. Hoof picking was not too bad, he was more difficult to get the hoof up but after he learned what I wanted I had no issues with the other three legs. Eric chided in while I hoof picked that I needed to be in really close to the horse while hoof picking and totally leaning on him to prevent him from kicking. Really!? Do you really think you need to man handle a horse? I stand pretty close in by I don't or SHOULDN'T need to "all my weight" lean into the horse to keep him off balance so his leg stays up while I hoof pick; he should properly hold the hoof for me and I should secure it for him so he's comfortable.
After getting him tacked up with a really heavy western saddle, Eric helped out because with all the straps I was not in my element as far as tack goes, I asked Eric to mount up and ride him. He rode him in his pasture and Baby fought him a bit, he did some jump/jigging movements and really didn't seem to like the pulling on his mouth. He had a calm look when he looked at me but when I was ready to get up, I had the owner stand next to him to make sure no funny business would occur and then the stirrups were quite long so those had to be adjusted. Out of my element again with a western saddle!!
I rode him at the walk in little circles, he did a jump or was kicking at a fly on his belly; that same jigging. He stopped and I had to show him who's boss but afterwards we did much better. He worked nicely off my leg and seat at least what I could do with not having worked in a big western saddle often. I had to be easy on the reins for I didn't want to hurt his mouth with the harsh bit. Outside of the paddock I rode him up and down the driveway, a little bit of a trot...enough to know he had a nice trot. Several times he tried to get into the trot without my asking so I had to be quick to tell him that was not alright. We got along quite well. I liked him but didn't have the confidence to try him in a snaffle because of what the owner had said. If I'm interested I can have Laurie try him out. After I was done testing him out his owner, Eric's wife rode him a bit on the road near the house so I saw him at walk, trot and canter. He was a bit ornery, and wanted to get back to the barn fairly quickly; the owners said that it was because it was dinner time...ok then.
One habit he has is a little bit of wind sucking. It was very slight and hardly noticeable, he did it without grabbing onto anything like a cribber does. I'd never seen a vice quite like this and wasn't sure what to think of it. Eric said he'd never coliced or had ulcers and 3 vets had told him that there was no problem. Great to know but sorry dude I'll do my own research if I would even consider a horse with this vice I thought! This guy was very much a "know it all". I said thank you and that I would get back with him about when I could potentially come out there with my trainer to evaluate him. I pondered the horse on the way home and had the sinking feeling that this was indeed the deal breaker I feared.
I emailed Laurie with all the information including how the horse was very responsive off the seat and legs and that he was a sweet horse on the ground too. He had some positives. I also told her about the wind sucking and sent this video to show as close as I could find how he specifically "performs" this vice.
I also did a lot of research, I was up past midnight with thoughts on this vice. I went to forums, equine magazines and websites and even read some primary literature about this particular vice. There are definitely some health issues associated with this vice even if he hasn't shown any issues in his 9 years of life. I worried about boarding facilities having an issue, horse insurance companies increasing my premiums and then having difficulty with other riders not wanting to go on rides with me for fear their horse would pick up the vice, there is conflicting evidence that they learn the behavior but enough says it can be learned to validate all these fears.
The next day I texted the guy via his request and told him that I would not be bringing my trainer out, I wasn't interested in Baby, and the reasoning why. He went on to say that the vice hadn't caused any problems and he had 3 vets look at his horse. Eric said "I had no idea what a vice really was since I'd never owned a horse and why would I go by one trainers thoughts when 3 vets with a medical degree said the opposite. Since that was the case, perhaps I wasn't ready to have a horse." I was floored but reiterated my reasons, thanked him for his time and wished him luck with finding Baby a home. I so wanted to rip him a new one I was so pissed!!!! Most people in my position would have made the same choice if they knew anything about horses, health, and vices. Vices are often a effect of an underlying issue. Perhaps a pain that makes them gulp air that then releases endorphins. It could also be a way to reduce stress from a rather unnatural environment. Once learned they are hard if nearly impossible to cure.
Now if I was an Olympian and this was a horse that was too talented to pass up a vice could potentially be overlooked and then managed. Why would I as a first time horse owner want to buy a horse with a known vice that could lead to a health issue? Not all horses with vices have health issues or major psychological issues but why would I seriously consider a horse that does when there is a plethora of horses that don't have an issue like this? It's not worth the risk.
Most boarding facilities balk at this type of thing and I think it's too much of a liability to have a horse with a vice, I could be up creek without a paddle, a horse with no home and few if any options. This is just one thing, the other is the potential issues of his past training and breaking. I don't know what holes are in his training and would not have known until Laurie evaluated him or I worked with him more.
None the less, I'll pass.