Thursday, January 20, 2011

A Paddock of My Treasures

My three horses are all horses that someone else threw away.

My riding horse, Cash, is a standardbred. The majority of these horses will find themselves destined for the horses sales and a certain death that is found in a can of pet food. They are bred, broken to harness and when too slow to race are then duly disposed of. On the whole, the standardbred horse is easy to work with, tries their heart out for you, are level headed, can tolerate almost anything being done to them and are a dime a dozen. It is that last point that I feel is the biggest hurdle for the breed. They are purchased by beginner horse rider/owners who are after a cheap horse and do not have the knowledge or experience to re-train them to saddle. Both the horses and riders come unstuck, the horse gets confused, the rider loses confidence and the breed has a reputation of being difficult to retrain into a riding horse with an established trot and canter.

However in the right hands, with a good riding instructor who does understand how to retrain standardbreds, the horse, a general rule, can become a good safe riding horse. As a standardbred owner, I have no grandiose delusions of EVER riding for Australia on my ¨throwaway¨ horse. To me, Cash is a legend. He is smart....sometimes too smart for my own good, has been a dream to train, will tolerate the beginner rider and riders of all ages. I know he doesn´t mind being ridden as he can be found waiting at the gate for me every afternoon at about 5:30pm, which is what time I set aside for our training/riding sessions. He is not pretty but he does walk, trot and canter....he is not a standardbred to me, he is my horse.

Throwaway horse number two is a very cheeky monkey. He is an appaloosa cross clydesdale, a gorgeous chocolate brown with a spotted blanket. This horse is into EVERYTHING. If you have anything in your back pocket, it will end up in his mouth. He fears nothing. Stand in the paddock for 30 seconds and he will be there next to you, taking off with your bucket, wheelbarrow or other horse that you are trying to lead out of the paddock. He was sent to the horse sales as a very young horse....he still smelt of his mother´s milk; that warm milky coffee smell, we think he was barely 5 months. He is Mr. Personality Plus.

The third throwaway horse also came from the horse sales. He is a paint clydesdale cross, all of only 14hh tall...and at least 14hh wide!!!! Again, young when he was sent to face an uncertain future. He came from the same seller as the cheeky monkey. This boy is a very gentle, sensitive horse. He is the one who will come trotting up to you in the paddock and place his soft white nose in your hand and just stand there with you. There is no hassling, there is no making off with what you have got. For a very shy, unsettled horse that many would have classified as being a dangerous horse to handle, he is an absolute gem. But, it has been a very long and slow training process, and for some of it, a specialist horse trainer to come on board and make serious breakthroughs with this horse. That trainer is John Chatterton, and he deserves his own post, which I fully intend to write.

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