Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Today is a good day. I'm excited, spring is in the air and it feels great. the grass is growing, the horses are all running madly and bucking across the paddock, shedding their winter hair and starting to get that sleek glossy look about them. Spring also mean horse dentist time. which also meant that today i saw Matai, my old wild stallion.

It was horse dentist day at the local pony club. So i loaded up the two of my horses that needed their teeth done the most, a black and white midget and a ex racehorse and headed over. I knew Matai's new owner was going to be there with him and her daughters midget pony, so it was a good chance to catch up, gossip about horses and of course see my beloved Matai. But also i was quite fascinated to see what the dentist had to say about Matai's magical teeth, that had never been tampered with, and were the genuine wild horse teeth that he was born with.

For those who weren't followers back then, i will summarize the magical teeth story. Matai arrived a year and a half ago, a scrawny under-developed little bag of bones, straight off the muster truck. When i first got the chance to look in his mouth, his teeth showed him to be around 2 1/2-3yrs. well that was OK, he was young he needed time to develop. But then towards the beginning of summer he was no longer looking like a 2-or 3yr old, he looked like a fully mature horse, so i peeked in his mouth again, and what did i see? not the mouth of a baby horse that was for sure. Low in behold he had all his big kid teeth, making him look like he was about 4yrs old. he aged 2 years in 6 much for teeth accurately telling a horses age. although I'd say that malnutrition played a big part with Matai, as when he was getting adequate food his teeth caught up with his actual age.

So where are we today? well after a lovely ride, me on a crazy thoroughbred i ride for a client, and Matai with his new rider. In which the ex-wild stallion looked gorgeous, with his newly pulled mane and his legs wrapped in new white boots, he looked every inch a little dressage pony super star ( i cant wait to get some photos). The dentist finally got around to doing Matai's mouth. Both me and the new owner, waited for his verdict? how old did a qualified dentist think the wild pony was? well after a poke, a prod, and a arm elbow deep in Matai's mouth, the verdict was, five. Spot on i reckon, for what he looks like developmentally and about on track from when i last looked in his mouth. Good to know also, that he hasn't continued to age at the rapid rate of two years every 6 months.

Matai teeth were pretty good, except for his two wolf teeth that were not only huge but growing sideways into his mouth. So according to the vet who pulled his balls out, and the dentist who pulled his teeth out. Matai has 'big, tough, wild horse teeth and testicles that just don't want to be detached' those big teeth took a lot of tugging but did eventually pop right out, his new owner kept them as souvenirs. The little wild horse stood quietly through the whole thing, quieter than the pony who reared, ran backwards and basically had a full mini mare meltdown. Love the fact that a horse from the wild is quieter than the school pony that kids learn to ride on.

Anyway it was great to see Matai, he looked so happy and healthy, his owner is obviously besotted with him. it was interesting to know more about his teeth. But even more excitedly, his new owner and i have a plan, we have been talking up a storm and may have some exciting news for the this space...

Friday, September 16, 2011

Why did i want wild horses again??

I wanted wild horses for a reason, I'm sure i did. I just cant remember at the moment, why? I have after all gone against my own better judgment, and purchased four non-wild, but pretty feral ponies, and taken on, 3 ex racehorses, and two other, excuse my french 'f*cked up' problem horses to re-educate in the last 6 weeks. So why on earth did i think last year it was good idea to get wild horses, when i could buy 'pretty coloured' feral, for $250 and make a healthy profit on, once broken in and schooled, or actually get paid to ride ex-racers and problem horses? Im struggling to remember..

O that's right now i remember, because all of these horses come with baggage, the amount and intensity of baggae may differ, but all of them are carrying it never the less. While all of the above horses, come with attitude, behaviour problems, are naughty, panic, kick, bolt, rear, buck, are anti social and have no sense of self preservation. The wild horses just came with worms and lice, which all of the above horses seem to come with as well anyway. The very reason i wanted wild horses to begin with was because they were a clean slate, a blank canvas, they were just horses.

They were not some one's or syndicates, spoilt million dollar racehorse that wasn't fast enough and could only run around in a circle, that was looking for a new career because it had already failed at its first one. That came with a with a iron mouth, no slef preservation and a pretty good panic button to boot.

They were not some backyards breeders money making scam to breed "pretty coloured' ponies, that while a fashionable colour had every confirmation fault under the sun. Who had been dumped, when the couple divorced, had been half broken in, before the divorce, before the wife lost interest, before it was realised that working with cute ponies was not butterflies and daises, but after they had learned to kick, to pull away, to shoulder charge and to bite when asked to do something.

The wild horses were not, prone to to wild fits of behaviour when being ridden, they did not hate there work so much they would do anything to get out of it. They were not pressure cooked, by to many expectations to young, and they were not cocky from not enough work to late. they were not sour, and they were not arrogant. they didn't attack other horses in the same paddock with them, and they did not endlessly pace fences until they were skin and bone.

the wild horses just behave like horses. In the last few weeks i have had to deal with every range of man made problems relating to equines. i have as you know been kicked, but also barged, bolted on, nipped at, ears pinned back at me. I have spent hours teaching them that i am in fact boss horse, and they do need some ground manners, and that work doesn't mean punishment, that tthere are other speeds beside flat tack, that they don't need to lean on bit and can in fact carry there own heads. but none of this i have ever had to teach to the wild horses.

Fern got ridden today, you know hard that was...not hard at all. Do you know why it wasn't hard, because she just behaved as she should.I put the saddle on, did some groundwork , got her happily walk, trot and cantering, and then had my assistant climb into the saddle. We lunged her in circles, the assistant could lean over rub her on the rump, on the neck, wave her legs around and the wild grey mare just kept happily doing her job as she should. She handles all these things because she never learnt that she shouldn't. Shes always been happy to work, because work has never been bad. There are rules to our relationship, no pushing, shoving, or misbehaving she knows the rules and happily follows, and the rules having been in place since they very first day of her arrival.

Horses just behave like horses, until we teach them otherwise. I cant stress this enough, like every other creature that is capable of learning, horses only learn what we teach them. By never setting boundaries, by creating bad experiences, or good ones, by asking to much or to little, by thinking something is cute until when its a wee little foal, but not so cute when its a fully grown 500kg animal. These are the things that determine the good horses from the bad ones, the crazy from the sane and the horses that live to a ripe old age and those that end up on a meat works truck.

I got wild horses because wild horses are easiest of all! I wish i had never forgotten. I wish other people would realise that training horses is not rocket science and not whispering and unconditional. I wish that people would realise all horses can be good horses until you teach them otherwise. Wild horses are just horses without other issues, its the domestic ones that are the wildest of all.

Monday, September 12, 2011

then and now

Where has time gone? Ten years ago my mother woke me up and told me World War III might be starting, i will remember that day the rest of my life, watching the Twin towers fall to the ground. As a proud New Zealander, that was born in America, and holds an American passport, i was horrified that my birth country was being attacked. Five years later and i had finished school and was about to start my equestrian career, the world was also a slightly different place. we knew about terrorism, and there was now polarized opinions in my quiet little country about America and the middle east. Two years ago, i was riding in Germany, the horse riding equivalent of going to university, and about as opposite as you can get from the way we do things here. Fast forward even more and a year and a half ago, two little scraggly wild ponies arrived and another journey started. So where are we today??

Its a recession, horses are not selling, and the equine industry is struggling, yet i am busier than i ever have been, I'm turning down horses to ride, working harder than ever, more horses than ever, and the horse i wasn't planing to sell, has sold on gone on to be the most fantastic of all. Matai the ex wild stallion, is doing fantastically in his new home. I keep getting regular updates, She has been riding everywhere, leading her daughters pony off him, and has enjoyed him more than any other horse she has ever owned! I have seen photos of him on her Facebook page, hes gleaming with a beautiful pulled mane and looking stunning, obviously thriving in his new environment. From the wild, to my house, and now on to be the perfect family pony, he takes everything in his stride.

The wild mare, is finally getting some work. Today, i got around to putting a saddle on and riding her for the first time. She too took it all in her stride, no bucking, bolting or broncing. I have free jumped her over winter, and with that big butt of hers and snappy jumping style she looks well on her way to becoming a super little jumping horse. Bring on the jumping season, cannot wait for the comments when i arrive with my 17hh warmblood and my 15hh wild horse.

Sonny, the shy little foal born last spring, i now a strapping young man. He has been weaned, and went to live with Matai. When Matai sold, it was like weaning all over again, he cried for days for the wild stallion that looked after him, that shared a stable together at night and even ate out of the same bowl. Yet now he has taken over the roll of caregiver. Two weeks ago, i picked up an 11hh pinto mare with her four month old foal that was already bigger than her. there were a million things wrong with the situation i got these horses from, but that is another story. The foal badly needed some extra nutrition, that she couldn't get from her mother, she also needed a slightly better role model. So now Sonny is her special friend, as the stallion cared for him he now looks after this pint sized fluff ball, teaching her that humans are friends, hanging out with her in the paddock, and at night the stable he used to share with Matai, he now shares with the foal. When i snuck up to check on them the first night, i found Sonny lying in the hay, with the tiny foal curled between his legs fast asleep. I Don't think i have ever seen anything so sweet, this in horses is a rare and special sight.

You never know where you will be in the future, how the world will change, what forks in the road you will follow, what you will learn on the journey. I know with horses i have had my share of highs and lows, bumps in the road and educational experiences. I look back at 10 years to the day that really did change the world, and cant believe where i am now. I look back at the scrawny horses that arrived in 2010 and cant believe where they gone, how much they have changed, all i have learned and all i keep learning.

Monday, September 5, 2011

how is sucees measured?

How do we measure success? Is it how much money you make, the car you drive, the trophies you win. Is success based on how happy you feel, or how you well other people perceive you doing? I think success comes down to how you perceive it, some people will finish a race and have a overwhelming sense of success just for participating, while another might do the same race and come 3rd and perceive it as failure because they didn't win. Likewise at a horse event a rider might be over the moon to come home just having finished without penalties, while another did the same and viewed it as failure because their score wasn't good enough. whose to say which attitude is right? We cant all win every time so are we failures every time we dont, or are we successfull because we are doing somethign we love.

What about the pony that carries endless number of children around gymkhana rings, along endless trails, and over countless jumps safely, but never wins the champion ribbon, is this the real success story? or is it the fiery pedigree pony the only an expert can ride, but with its beautiful looks comes home with the awards? whose really to say. I think that the safe pony with the heart of gold, and the super model looking fireball are both success stories, in their own right. Just like with people, the stay at home mother who raised well loved happy children, is probably just as successful as the woman who gives up everything to prove she can foot it in the professional world. Its definitely just how you perceive it, because no matter what you choose to judge it on, other people will have other opinions and other standards for success.

Where am i going with this??

Well, that little wild stallion, and a phone call i received today got me thinking. Up until now i felt a bit disappointed with myself that i didn't do as much as i could, with Matai while i had him. I am a competitive person by nature, i like wining, or being the best at something, and its a huge driving force behind me. This doesn't mean i don't get a sense of achievement, just by accomplishing things, just that i am always looking to do that little bit extra. I tried to convince myself that it was still a success to get that horse, from being totally wild to being the tamest horse on the property, and from being skin and bones to glossy and healthy, but until today is just had the ring of excuses to my ears.

Then the phone rang. It was a number i didn't recognise, and when i answered a very small child voice greeted me " Matai wheely likes me", i was taken aback who was this little voice on the other end of the line?, and then i clicked as the little voice continued talking " Mummy wode him today" the wild stallion's new owner has two very young girls, four and two years or around about that age. I was clearly having a conversation with a four year old girl, who was very importantly telling me about her day. I heard about "making mooseli wth gwandma" who apparently like all grandmothers has the nicest food, and all about her own pony, but most importantly i heard through a little girls eyes, about how much the wild stallion likes her, and she likes him to, when asked. After a few minutes of talking we said bye-bye.

Not long after that i got a text from the mother, who owns Matai. It said something along the lines of, her daughter was very excited and had wanted to talk to me all day, as she thinks Matai is pretty cool and cuddles him all the time, she herself has been riding him everywhere, and that he has been perfect and the whole family loves him. Basically the wild stallion is now the perfect lady rider mount and little girl cuddle buddy.

After that i felt that his adoption and training had truly been a complete success for the first time. It just took a four year old girl to adjust my perception. That horse has gone on to make so many people happy. I gave him the start he needed, to be able to look after himself and behave in a way that will guarantee him a loving and permanent home. He is a special horse and he didnt need ribbons, or to learn fancy movements, or jump massive obstacles to be successful. He justed needed to be calm and happy enought to let a little girl walk out and cuddle him, and a mother to feel safe enough to ride him everywhere. It takes a lot of effort to make a produce a horse to any level, a now to me it will always feel like a success now, knowing that the months of work put into a horse,have worked. He has gone on to be so loved straight away by his new family, surely that is the true measure of a successful horse??

On another note, people like me who truly love the horses we sell, it means the world to us, to hear back from their new owners. To know that they are being well loved, well taken care of and appreciated in their new homes. Sometimes it can be a truly thankless profession training and selling, the money is pretty low and hard to come by, so sometimes, a thankyou note, updates, an email, or in this case a text and a phonecall, make all the world of differance. I know today it made my day.