Month: August 2015

It’s All About Trust

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I’m constantly amazed of TJ’s attitude and willingness despite his fears and what he’s probably been through in his life. He’s  always happy to see me and, as afraid as he is, very willing to do what I ask as long as I’m on the ground next to him.  We’ve taken a few walks down to the creek, a nice long walk in Green Lane and a few around the farm. It’s obvious I’ve gained his trust on the ground.

Once saddled, it’s the difference between night and day. Doing new things and going new places scares the hell out of him. Apparently he’s lead a very sheltered life and the majority of his abuse came while being ridden. Gently asking him to move his hind quarters caused worry and bounce. A 15 minute trailer ride must have scared him badly. He was soaked from nose to tail when he got out. I try to ride in familiar places so he gains my trust. A short trip up the road where he can see the barn is fine. Last weekend I thought a nice little ride in his pasture would give him comfort. I was mistaken. It caused a major melt down before we got 20′ in. For whatever reason he couldn’t wait to leave. A short ride down the street, into somewhat unfamiliar territory caused a bit of anxiety, but we got through it without incident. I try to make our rides as pleasant as I can so TJ starts to enjoy being ridden and stops worrying about what will happen. We usually end hanging out and grazing.

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It’s difficult to gain his trust under saddle when he won’t let me take him places. As comfortable and confident as I am, he’s still nervous. We’re working on it. Someday he’ll make a good trail horse … it might just take awhile.

Haunted By His Past

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TJ was bred by Patti A. Hamlin & foaled in Angleton, TX in April 2006. From what I’ve been told, his breeder fell on hard times and had to sell him. She sold him to what she thought was a good home. In Oct 2012 he was registered to Kristine Reuvers of Faribault, MN. I don’t know when his breeder sold him or how many hands he’s passed thru that never bothered to register him. At this point I can only go by the ownership records on his papers. Somewhere in this time frame TJ’s horror story began and didn’t end until June 2013.

In June of 2013 he was run thru Camelot auction in NJ. He was ridden into the sale ring dead lame & was forced to slide & spin despite his inability to walk. Nobody wanted him. Even the kill buyers passed him up. Fortunately Sara (different person than took the photos) rescued him from the auction. He was featured in the 2013 Horses and Hope calendar,

photo from June 13 Horses and Hope calendar.
photo from June 13 Horses and Hope calendar.

as well as in Thoroughbred Daily News Staff Blog in November 2013.  Unhappily quarantined for several weeks, but in a new home, safe from abuse. Vets, farriers, special shoes, trying different ideas to get TJ sound. Nothing worked …. he was still constantly limping. Sara would try riding him, but quickly got off because she thought he was in pain.  She couldn’t keep boarding a horse she couldn’t ride. It looked like TJ would never be sound and usable. Sara was forced to make the difficult decision to have him put down. A trainer she knew convinced her not to put TJ down. He’d buy the horse, try to get him sound and use him for a roping horse.

Within a week TJ had gotten shoes with poured pads and was shipped off to the trainer’s partners farm in PA to sell. I guess that trainer saw a quick buck to be made on a well trained pleasure gelding and took advantage of it. Fortunately for TJ, he did. TJ escaped the kill buyers at the sale and narrowly escaped being put down. About a month after TJ’s arrival in PA, I went to see him.  The beginning of our story can be found in “How It All Began” and “A Rough Start”.

I’ve had TJ for about 7 1/2 months now. He’s shoulder muscle is becoming stronger, he rarely limps and we’re able to do more things together. After all he’s been through, he has the biggest heart and try of any horse I’ve ever known.  The more we do, the more he tells me the horror stories of his past. I listen to everything he has to say. He’s learned to trust me to get past some of his fears – more on the ground than under saddle. From what he’s told me, his abuse was mostly under saddle and at horse shows. He was afraid of being ridden in the ring and we got past it. He never went trail riding, but he’s learning how to be a trail horse. Anything having to do with horse shows (bath, clipping, fly spray, 2 horse straight load trailers, gymkhanas at his barn & the list goes on) terrifies him. We’re slowly and patiently getting him over his fears.

After everything this horse has been through, it’s beyond me how he retained his puppy dog personality and has so much heart and try. He’s finally healed where he can enjoy life and has a great forever home.

What A Difference A Few Weeks Make!

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The weather here for the past few weeks has been typical for this part of PA …. Hot, humid & buggy. Riding has been hit or miss (mostly miss). If the heat and humidity aren’t enough, it’s green head season and TJ’s thin Thoroughbred skin can’t handle green head bites. I really can’t blame him. Those blood sucking evil things hurt worse than any insect I’ve ever been bitten by except bombers.

Last Sunday I finally got a chance to ride. 30 minutes of nervous, bit chomping and bouncing. I started to think he’s finally ready for harder work. Now if the weather and flies would permit it. Today was an unusually cool day with low humidity and it was beautiful for an evening ride. Horses were still in when we got there so we pulled them out of their stalls & brushed them. The other horses were being turned out as we were finishing. TJ watched his buddies bouncing around in the pasture. We went in the ring so the herd could be transferred from the indoor to their pasture. I’m standing there watching the girls walk past. Apparently that was more than TJ could deal with and up he went. The front feet hit the ground, he bounced & tried to take off (I was still attached to the lead). After being reprimanded for his bad behavior, he was lunged a little before I got on him. Apparently he’s feeling much better! His grain is being cut back a bit & his work is increasing starting today. It turned out to be a nice ride. I started using spurs to cue him a bit better, which makes him very nervous.

This morning was beautiful for a ride. Cool, low humidity and no bugs. After last night’s want to be rodeo, I wasn’t sure what to expect today. Our work today started in a snaffle bit and we softened and softened more. I changed to a curb I’d never used on him before. After a short warm up, he seemed to like the new bit. What a change in attitude from last night! I was (more or less) ready to ask for a canter. Since TJ has been feeling better he’s gotten to be a bit of a handful at times and with last night’s performance, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I held him a bit shorter than either one of us liked, but the last thing I wanted him to do was get his head down. He’s 16h, I’m 5’2″ and is about 14x my weight. If he plays games I’m most likely not sitting it. Apparently I got the right buttons and he went off in a canter. Short canters, both ways with no games. He was very bouncy, but controllable. More progress! We took a short ride up the road (after convincing him the desk at the edge of the road really wasn’t going to eat him). I hosed him off & let him graze for awhile before putting him in his stall for the day.