Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The wild stallion is gone

The wild stallion is gone,Matai has moved off to his new life today.

I don't know whether to laugh or cry, to be relieved or be sad. I miss his presence already, but at the same time I'm so relieved to have seen him go to such a good home. It also cannot be denied that having one less horse on the property is a relief at the moment, as we are definitely a bit short of grass and have more horses than ever. But most of all i just miss him, hes only been gone four hours, and i have noticed his absence, so has Sonny the colt Matai's paddock mate. Now who is going to give me a good morning whinny from their stable each morning, and an afternoon neigh as he trots to the gate to be brought in at night? Matai was one of those special horses, one of the animals that i will always remember, who taught me so much, and was just a happy little brown presence in my life.

Matai wasn't actually meant to go today, there was still so much i wanted to do with him, cliche last ride and photos etc etc But it just didn't happen and with the competition season fast approaching again, as well as four new horses arriving to be worked, i was having less and less time to spend with my special ex wild ex stallion. so when his new owner came by to drop off an old mare shed borrowed to keep her child pony company after her own horse died, we talked about it and she decided to take Matai home with her. Part of me screamed 'No don't take him! I'm not ready yet!' but the sensible part of me let out a huge sigh of relief.

She had already ridden him today and it just confirmed my belief that this was the right home for him. With his wound site from gelding still not healed, he also needs to be monitored closely, and i knew she would take such good care of him, probably even better than i could. So off he went. he just loaded quietly into her float and they drove off together to start there new journey. I watched him go and heard one last nay as he went out of sight and thought my heart would break, it felt like a huge sense of loss to see him go.

But now as i sit on the computer typing i read something that makes selling him all the worth while, as i checked my facebook account the first thing that came on my screen was this
"Just bought my wild pony home hes such a sweet heart thank you so much chloe im sure we r going 2 have so much fun 2gether!" this was posted proudly for all to see by Matai's new owner..

I think that horse is going to go on to have a very happy life indeed. Whats even better though, is that she excitedly plans to take him to all the kaimanawa shows, as well as competing him in dressage events. together they will be promoting the wild horses, hopefully next muster this means even more horses may be adopted into loving homes, this can only be a good thing!

Just as she was about to leave i snapped a couple of quick pics, of her and Matai together. There not flash, he looks like he normally looks, chilled out and covered in mud. But that's what its all about really, she loves him and doesn't expect him to be a flash glamour horse, and he just is happy and content with life. Happy horse, happy owner, i think this is true success, cant wait to see whats in store for these to, I'm sure this wont be the last any of us see of them.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Balls be gone

The days are n't long enough, theres too much work, to many horses, no matter how many hours i work, i never get everything done at the moment. But yesterday one thing did get done, the wild stallion got gelded. I sadly no longer have a wild stallion but a wild gelding, which does not have quite the same ring to it, does it? And really hes not even mine anymore.... It feels a wee bit like the end of an era.

I wish i had the energy to write a long post about the whole process, because it was actually fascinating. But tonight I'm too exhausted. I will just summarize.

Vet came, Matai being the lovely boy that he was stood there while she sedated him, and then lay quietly down on the ground when the anesthetic kicked in. From there, i grabbed his back legs, the vet his front and rolled him onto his back. i came round the front, straddled his front, braced his shoulders between my knees, and held onto his front legs, to keep him on his back. With his back legs spread wide, lying on his back, me holding his front legs, and his head on the ground behind me with his mouth open, and eyes glazed over, it was an odd picture in the middle of the paddock.

But we got it done, the vet cut through the scrotum, pulled the testicles out, attached a drill (yes a drill just like you'd use for building your house) to the cord, switched the drill on, which spun around and around, until 'pop' the family jewls just came right off, one by one. That was it Matai was gelded, very little blood, no stitches, just twisted cords, and a very sore spot where his stallion parts used to be. After about 20minutes, he woke up came to his feet, and spent the rest of the days walking around like, well, like some had just twisted his nuts off. This morining though he seemed non the worse for wear happily greeting me from his stable, before going out to graze wiht the rest of the boys.

i will keep you all posted, but my poor little wild stallion, while no longer mine or a stallion continues to be his happy horse self, hopefullyhe will heal up well wiht no complications, ifngers crossed.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

the last wild stallion ride??

I have to say now that Ive made the decision to sell my precious wild stallion, i have been much happier, and feel i have made the right choice. But knowing my days with Matai are numbered, before i have to hand him over to his new owner, i going to spend every minute with him just having fun. Today being no exception. So with the help of my terrible photographer, who shall not be named (my mother), we managed to take some of the worst photos, the wild horse project has ever seen, of what might be my last ride on the wild stallion, on Thursday the vet comes and he will instead become the wild gelding...

Going back to just having fun instead of 'training' made me remember the good old days, where as a kid, i used to spend all day galloping around bareback, usually in bare feet, untied and unbrushed hair tucked behind my ears, across the farms, with friends, taking our ponies through the steepest hills, deepest mud, leaping the biggest logs, and basically causing havoc on horse back. But this is where i learnt the most important lessons in horses and life. You learnt just what a horse was capable of, how steep they could climb, how deep the mud they could crawl through, and just how big an obstacle those ponies could jump. Galloping furiously to beat your friend on her pony, and pulling up just before you crashed into a gate, those were always the best memories.

In winter, i refused to use my saddle because i was so proud of it i didn't want it getting muddy, so i use to ride this one winding trail, bareback through the bush over in over again bareback, flying around the bends and leaping over thorn bushes that i progressively stacked higher and higher. Yet these things that i don't do anymore, they are what taught me how to sit on a horse, stay balanced and soft, to go with the motion, and let a horse jump without interfering. These were all skills i developed and have helped me in my career ever since. Riding Matai today reminded me of all those great adventures and skills, and how much fun they were.

Those years on horses growing up running feral, although unconventional, and probably not the safest, taught me more about 'feel' than a lifetime of lessons in an arena ever could. it means on days like today when i just want to have a bit of fun, i can go back to my old ways, blast around the paddock, jump things at random and cool off in a stream, you know what the horses love it too.

But what about everyone else? did anyone else learn any great life lesson this way? not just on horses, on farms, in the city, what is your story?

Monday, August 15, 2011


Well i think i have made up my mind, I'm going to go ahead and sell the wild stallion. Although the money isn't in the bank, it looks like the sale is going to go through. The rider definitelywants him, and i agreed to sell him finaly.

I think for him, it is the best thing possible. loving permanent home, with people i know. The lady buying him will be able to go on and keep progressing with his training. She plans to continue him in dressage, and even talked about doing some jumping (something she has not been confident enough to do in years), all because she feels so safe and confident, not on an old schoolmaster, but on my little stallion from the wild.

I will miss him so much, he really does have a special place in my heart. But it also means, apart from all the other reasons, i can adopt another little stallion from the next muster, and save another life. While little Matai, with his new owner will continue to promote these awsome horses, and hopefully get more of the equestrian public involved in giving homes to some of them.

It is always a bit frustrating from a trainers point of view though, that the horses that are easy to train, enjoyable to ride and work with, are always the ones you end up selling on. Well that's how it works for me anyway. I would never sell a horse if i thought it couldn't cope with a new person, as well as life in the big wide world. So the horses like Matai, who love everyone, handle life really well, and take care of themselves, are the ones that i get to spend the least amount of time with.

instead i spend extra months putting work into the panicky, unreliable, skittish, spooky, thick skulled or super hot,and less enjoyable animals. While i love all horses, they are not created equally as far as mental and physical ability.usually its the 'mutts' of the horse world i end up keeping, because i don't trust them to go to other people. You have to repeat every lesson to them a million times before they can reliably be expected to remember it when it counts. You have to ride every movement with exaggerated carefulness in a competition ring so they don't have a emotional meltdown. These are the horses that spook again and again at the same little things, and no matter how much time you spend, always look like they never seen a human before when your handling them. These are the 'enjoyable' creatures i keep for myself, not the Matai's of the world who feel like from the moment you sit on there back, that they are taking care of you.

A couple years ago i got a group of racehorses off the track. There was one i absolutely loved, he was intelligent, athletic and sensible, he actually reminds me a lot of the wild stallion. With in a few months he could do fantastic dressage, jump anything and was always there waiting at the gate to be worked. I did a handful of competitions for a few placing, which was awesome for such a green horse. Then i sold him to a young rider, even though i would have loved to have kept him for myself, he went on to be a really nice horse for his new owner. The horse in the bunch that i didn't like at all, but was by far the best looking, i spent 2 1/2 years riding before i could find a suitable home for her and i only ever got half as much money as the little gelding that i loved. horses with a good temperament are priceless, and will do absolutely anything for the right rider. Where as difficult ones teach you a lot, but will never be anywhere near as enjoyable or memorable.

Enough whinging though, i choose this career after all. Really it makes me so happy to know that Matai, the little wild stallion is going to such a fantastic home, and the horse that i love so so much, is going on to be loved just as much, and will bring endless joy to another family. Horses like him, you just cannot put a value on the happiness they bring, and are the real reason i choose to work with these animals.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


there are always tough choices in life. How many times have i sat and wished a decision, especially anything to do with the farm and horses could be easier. hundreds of times I'm sure. I don't think even once in my life, Ive thought to myself "wow i wish it was a bit harder to make that decision". Nope, when deciding anything i always wish for it to be a little more clear cut, a little bit easier to decide.

Well in this case, my wishes might be coming true, not completely, but the choice as to whether or not to sell Matai, the wild stallion has become slightly less painful.Why? Well because the friend who's interested in him, has come for two trial rides now, and loved him. Not only loved him, but absolutely adored him, even more importantly the wild stallion seems to like her to. This important to me, i have very strong morals when it comes to selling horses, i will not send them to a home where i think they wont be cared for, or be thrashed for competitions, or where the rider isn't going to be able to cope with them if things don't work out. i care about my horses and put months, sometimes years into training them, i don't want to see that destroyed by a thoughtless or ignorant rider in a few short rides. Luckily if i sell Matai, i wont have to worry about this. The little stallion had no problem adjusting to someone else riding him, happily doing everything asked, and the rider, she was thrilled to be riding him, they looked so happy together, and more than competant of handling any challeges, this definatly put my heart at ease. My moral compass says that this sale, would be a good one for all three parties involved, Matai, myself, and the girl/ lady wanting him.

In fact it was great to see Matai go so well with somebody new, not just her, but for one ride, she brought her mother and two young daughters along as well. The little stallion from the wild, stood very quietly while the young girls admired and stroked his long flowing mane. The mother thought he was gorgeous to, and loved his calm disposition. He was a huge success, even better was that one ride took place at the local Pony club grounds. With kids, ponies, and parents coming and going the little stallion, was the picture of calm, except for a few wolf whistles for the ladies at the start of the ride, he was perfect, again allowing everyone to come up and meet him, standing quietly among all the comings and goings.

I still haven't accepted the money, so hes not sold yet, but at the moment I'm feeling a little bit more like the sale will go through. Like i said in the last blog, it is hard to guarantee a good home for your horse once they leave you hands, and this would be a fantastic one, where he would most likely never be sold on. Although I'm a little bit hurt that its not just me that Matai has a special bond with, and that he goes just as well for another rider, i also realise horse training is not actually like a Disney movie, where the horse just magically loves one person. in real life i think the sign of your success as a trainer, is that your horses can go on to cope with other riders, and be safe, happy, well adjusted animals, isn't that the real goal? If it is, then i think Ive done a pretty good job, as Matai was definitely a happy well behaved boy for his potential new owner.

I'm still thinking though and there are also plenty of pro's for keeping him too, but i just cannot decide if the pro's for keeping out weigh the pro's for the horse if i sell him......

any opinions are i said you always want a decision to be that little bit easier.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

sell out or not?

Readers, i have some tough decisions to make. It was only recently i wrote a post about a friend who lost her beautiful mare in a freak accident. Well that same friend, who has always admired my little wild stallion, now wants to buy him. Do i sell him? The pro's and con's have been playing through my head for days.

For a little while now, i have been playing with the idea of actually keeping Matai, the wild stallion for me. I've never advertised him for sale, or even thought about selling him before.I absolutely adore that horse, one of the few, that will always have very, very special place in my heart. Every time i ride him, I'm blown away with his willing attitude, trainablity, and the sense of safety you get sitting on his back, like hes genuinely trying to take care of you. he has beautiful paces as well. Everyone i talked to or rode with in the last few weeks, encouraged me to keep him, saying he was far to special to sell, including the girl who now wants to buy him.

I still had in the back of mind the idea of turning him into a little dressage pocket rocket. a dream you might say, of going from the wild to the the top level of the sport, with one little brown stallion. With his great attitude it actually wouldn't be impossible. He would never be a superstar Olympic horse, but he would easily be trained to do all the tricks. On the flip side, all my other horses, are not really appropriate for anyone else to ride, too big and powerful (16hh &17hh warmblood), for my mid fifties mother returning to riding, and my occasional rider boyfriend, to be safe riding. Where as i can see both mum and boyfriend being well taken care of on the little wild stallion. It is always good to have one horse on the property that everyone can ride...

But, horse riding is also my business, and i do have to make money. I cant keep them all, and i definitely do not have enough hours in the day to ride and train them all. So i would always struggle to find the time to really train the little stallion to his full potential. time is money too, and he would always have to come after the two competition horses and clients horses. Where as the friend, has no other horses, except her daughter's welsh pony... Selling him would also give me breathing space, to be able to finally get around to working with the other wild horse, Fern, and mean i would have a little money so i don't have to take on any more horses for other people, for a little while at least.

So back to horses being my means of bread and butter, i also truly love and care all the animals own, and even if i didn't, i would still do my best to ensure they only go to good homes. If i sold him, this would be the best home he could ever hope to end up in. He would be cherished and loved, she would have the time to train him, and I'm sure he would go on to be ridden by her daughters when they are old enough. Matai is fantastic around children, happily standing still while they climb all over him, he would love being a kids pony, and is definitely more than capable of fulfilling his potential owners dressage ambitions. This would be a way for me to ensure his future, it would be horrible if i had to sell him somewhere down the line, and couldn't guarantee him as good a home as i could give him now. I'm pretty sure he would never be sold again, if this girl brought him, and it would be a loving home forever.

Another on the positive side of selling him, is that i would still get to see him all the time. he would never be far away, if she wanted help or advice, or just to go for a ride like we usually do, i would be just down the road so to speak. Best of both worlds i would still see my lovely little boy, but without the cost of keeping him, or the guilt when i didn't have time to ride him. I would also see him him in the hands of a rider, who is talented in her own right, and a delicate, sensitive and patient rider, she would be more than capable of training him, riding and handling him, in a way that would carry on and improve the work i have already done. This is not something i say lightly or believe of other horse riders.

Part of me is selfish though. I feel i would be handing over the reins, just as the all the work i have put in, is starting to come together nicely, just as people stop rolling their eyes and give compliments when the see me riding my little brown stallion. All the hard slog, believing in and not giving up when he was a skinny, scrawny, unremarkable, underwhelming hairy thing, that stepped off the back of a cattle truck. Now when it gets to the fun part, i don't get to enjoy it, somebody else does. Part of it is also giving up the ' wild stallion' day dream i have been entertaining since he arrived. He would go on to be someone elses wild gelding. Not that is such a horrible thing i guess.

decisions, decisions. I haven't decided what to do yet. but if it all works out i will probably sell him, because it is the logical choice, if not what my heart wants. It is hard though, all that work to hand over now, what about Sonny, who will become his new mentor without Matai to baby sit him. The Wild horse Project also just wont be the same though, without one little wild stallion.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Hospitals & horsemen

Hmm i have been kicked a few times in my line of work, most of the time it hurts but you carry on. Sometimes you sit on the ground for a while, get a bruise and limp for a few days, but your OK. What doesn't usually happen, is that you end up in hospital from complications 5 days after you have been kicked, but that's what happened to me. Never has one little pony, costing a grand total of $250 dollars, been able to wreak so much havoc.

That kick hurt, allot. I was on crutches for the first two days, and every movement was agony, a x-ray showed the little ratbag, had managed to not only chip a tiny bit of bone in my hip, but also managed to focus the full force of the blow across the femoral artery in my thigh. It basically looked like i was wearing black and blue bikini bottoms, so swollen and bruised was my thigh/pelvis region. The chipped bone i could live with , no real damage done, the femoral artery on the hand while not torn, had been compressed, not only by the kick but by the subsequent haematoma, and this is where all my trouble started.

i thought i was fine, i was beginning to get my mobility back, was hobbling around the farm, and had even ridden the wild stallion, the horse i most trusted to take care of me after injury. I was out of breath all the time, but put this down to limping taking a lot more effort than walking. My family however did not like my gasping for breath, and just when i thought i was ready to be back to full work, they literally dragged me off my horse, i had been sitting on the stallion for about thirty seconds, and took me to the doctors.

This doctors visit, resulted in being sent for more tests, a ultra sound of my artery and vein in my thigh, and a blood test for something called D-dimers. This done i went back to the farm and work to wait results, well in truly thinking my family were being ridiculous.

The blood work didn't come through until the next morning, again i was feeding out horses, oblivious,when this time my father arrived. He ordered me to change as we were going back to the doctors,i rolled my eyes, argued and eventually gave in. thinking id be home in an hour i just threw on some clothes, and left he horses in the stable.

I wasn't back for two days. Doctors visit, resulted in being sent to hospital, apparently my blood work showed i had clots in my blood, suspected in my lungs, that was causing me to be out of breath. I waited in the emergency ward all afternoon, i had CT scans (which hurt, as they put a dye in your blood that feels like white hot fire), a chest x-ray, and was examined by another doctor, who admitted me to hospital for the night. By then i had a sense of disbelief, i couldn't believe there was this much fuss, i felt fine apart from a bruised and stiff hip. I asked to be allowed to home, but that request was firmly denied. Not only that, they said i had to have a series of injections in my stomach, to help break down any clots left in my system. Needles jabbed into you stomach, is not a pleasant experience, i still have a row of bruises to show for it.

To add to the humiliation, they would not let me walk, the put me in a wheel chair, and wheeled me to my ward for the night. This is after id spent the last few days, working on the farm and riding my little brown stallion. i felt like a complete fraud being there, as i had limped in feeling pretty healthy, although what ever was in those injections, sure had me feeling like death for a while after. Everyone else on the beds next to me looked far worse, and actually sick, as well as about 50 years older than me. It all felt so wrong and unreal.

The next 48 hours were misery. Endless hours of boredom, broken up with nurses and doctors, poking and prodding and sending me off for more tests. I was sure after a while, that i had no blood left in my veins to be tested, i felt more bruised from having my already sensitive thigh pushed on with ultra sound equipment, even my heart ended up being scanned, an now we know i have an incredibly healthy heart. Even though i tried to convince them i have a naturally low heart rate, and blood pressure, they didnt listen and woke me up every hour during the night, to take my pulse and bloodpressure, apparntly my heart is, although healthy, about 20beats slowere than normal people. So i was bored, tired, grumpy and feeling worse than ever before. What were they so worried about anyway?

Death. when i finally asked what the alternative to these endless tests and treatment was, the doctor carefully explained that with blood clots, they can either pass harmlessly, or kill you. No in between. Now the catch was they thought, i had already had a clot in my lungs, but it had actually passed harmlessly, while i was still limping around the farm blissfully ignorant, by the time i got to hospital i was already healing, my breathing was better, and they were just seeing the left over signs of what could have killed me, but didn't. They thought, and i gues i do to, it was better to be safe than sorry, when it comes to potentially deadly blood clots in a ptaients lungs.

But by the end of the second day i was going out of my mind, i wanted to go home. I felt sicker for being around all the sick people. I had one final ultrasound at 3.30pm, thankfully it was all clear, i raced back to my ward, having kicked the wheel chair along time ago, i waited to be dismissed. But the doctor was busy and they wouldn't have time to see me 'blah blah blah', i was fine, i felt fine, my tests showed i was fine, i wanted to go home, so i used my most charming voice and begged the nurse to let me go. she wanted to keep me one more night, but i begged some more, convinced her to take my IV needle out of me arm, and was allowed to go home on 'leave' if i promised to come back in the morning.

i never went back. i rang early the next morning, explained to them that i was felling very healthy, and thankfully they agreed to discharge me with out having to go back. five blood tests, four ultrasounds, four injections and four bruises to the stomach, two x-rays, an uncomfortable CT scan, two more days than i ever want to spend in hospital, and my ordeal was over. I survived, i know i should be grateful, and i am, I'm actually extremely appreciative to all the doctors and nurses who took the time to look after me and ensure I'm not six feet under ground. But its a funny feeling to never have felt in danger of my life, but know i survived what could have killed me.

It also really hammered home, the lesson, no matter how good a horseman you are, how experienced, even if you are rushed, teach ground manners, it doesn't matter the size of the horse. I knew better, and by god, i know even better now, how important those ten or so minutes you spend teaching a horse basic respect and manners can be. I never had problems with the wild horses, because i never underestimated them, took the time, and from the instant i was around them i enforced the rules, that they would not run over, swing there bum at me or treat me any differently from the boss mare. i underestimated the little pony and i have been paying the price ever since.

If their is any good to be taken from the whole situation, it is that i was put in a bed next to a old man who had come in with a heart attack. We got to talking, he was old,about 90, left all alone in the world, and wanted to chat. Turns out as a young man he spent years in the Australian outback, with a team of 16 Clydesdale's horses, building damns for livestock on isolated farms. He talked about driving a team of eight at a time breaking earth, pulling logs, and trans forming barren earth into farmland. he would work for months at a time just him and the horses never seeing another human being. Those horses were his family, friends, income and only chance of survival out there. He told me of the respect and responsibility he had for those horses, amazingly 70 years later, he could still remember most of their names. I should have got his autograph, the man was a living legend, a souvenir of times gone by, when horses were n't a luxury but a way of survival.