I heard a good quote today "75% of horses are okay with 80% of riders"It has gotten me thinking. I have worked with horses for a few years now, and come across a lot of differant types. there are some that no matter how bad you handle them will probably be okay, and not hurt anybody. There are others that you make the slightest mistake and they will injure you or themselves. But how do you judge, how do you differentiate between a horse that maybe has bad habits or training, or is it that horse that may only ever be for that small percentages of really god horsemen?
Im not saying that the horses that don't fall into that 75% are "bad", in anyway. Just that they are more fragile creatures that can run into problems easier than the rest of the horse population. I don't think horses have to be hot blooded, cold looked or somwhere in the middle to fall into these categories either, and no horse that comes into that 25% will have the same set of problems, reactions or even reasons. Some won't even have had a bad history. Funnily enough I think that a lot of top horses, as far as competition goes probably fall into this 25% category, they are talented, emotional and not for your everyday rider, it's what can make them great or terrible.
So out of all the wild horses, this lot and the last, the only one I worry about is Bear, he is the only one that won't ever fall, into the easy 75% category. He's not a bad horse, in fact he's the one that everybody notices, big, strong and has the whole wild stallion look going on. But he is very introverted, and scared, the image of the cowardly lion off the Wizard of Oz, springs to mind. Where all the other wild boys are progressing rapidly, Bear takes time and lots of reassurance, for him the world is still a worrisome place. It's not that Bear scares me, I'm more worried about his future, he's the type of horse that in the wrong hands would be dangerous, or end up on a meat works truck because people don't understand him. Really all you have to see, is that Bear is inside the big stallion exterior, a very frightened flower,he just hides it well, because that is what nature intends as a survival stratergy for him. Hes a type of horse that fools the majority of horse people, who don't take the time to read his behaviour for what it truly is.
To compare, there is Drifter, and there's Bear, both I'd say we're horses that are naturally quite timid. Drifter there is no hiding what goes through his mind, he has a strong flight reflex, and is very reactive,with a big expressive eyes and alert pixie ears, you can read him like a book. In the stockyards he was by far the most timid, every action showed it. Yet once handled he loves the safety of someone telling him what to do and he constantly watches you, while staying on the alert for possible threats, he is actually vey sweet, cuddly and happy around people. If he's going to get a fright you can tell way before it happens, and he immediantly looks to you for support, nothing hidden in his behaviour, you know when's he learning, when he's relaxed and when he worried,easy to predict, easy to work with.
Bear is the opposite, he shuts down, he pretends he's okay,when really he's scared. You never quite know what's going through his mind, other than the fact he's tense. The reason this worries me more than drifter,is because to most people,bear looks like he's okay, when he's really not, so they could possibly keep pushing him until he explodes. What he really needs, is more time, less asked of him, and to feel safe. The more people try to push Bear the more introverted he's going to become, when we want the opposite, for him to become more open and trusting, to let his guard down a bit.
Drifter is lucky I feel totally happy with the home he will be going to, the lady loves, understands and more importantly takes the time with him and offers him the reassurance he needs. The moment I saw him I thought this was the horse for her and luckily she feels the same way.
Bear I worry about, at this point, I'm not really happy for him to go to any home at all, other than here, because I feel there is so much potential for problems. I think we take these horses from muster, and i personally feel a huge responsibility to ensure they go on to lead happy lives. Of course he's the horse everyone wants...
Just to give a Bear example, people come to see the wild horses, and all the other boys come up to say hello, be patted, and eat out of your hand in the stable, if they aren't comfortable they move back a step or two. Bear stands stock still, neck up, clenched jaw, unblinking eyes and tries if possible, not to even look at you. To me, he looks scared, other people they go 'oh look how brave he is' and try to pat him, he's a good boy,tries to be brave and let's them, but they don't back off, once they've patted him most people keep going, instead of rewarding and giving him time to think, so he gets more scared until he can't take it anymore and shoots backwards suddenly, and then people say 'oh that ones really unpredictable'.....he's not, people just don't watch for the signs, and so,reinforce his idea that people are scary,they are to busy caught up in wanting to touch the stallion from the wild.
Im just going to repeat myself, Bear is not, nasty, vicious, stupid or lazy, just worried. He needs time, I don't think it has anything to do really with him being a wild stallion, I think he could be any breed and have the same personality, in fact ive come across quite a few horses with similar issues, they just didn't have near as many reasons to be scared as Bear does.
I love bear, he teaches me so much working with him. More in fact than the rest of the wild horses put together. He is a challenge, not in a battle of wills kind of way, but in a way that tests my abilities, as a trainer, and makes me find new ways of working with him, compared to the others. For drifter it was easy, you work him in a way that never turned on that 'flight' reflex, you offered calmness and safety, and within no time you had a loyal freind for life. Bear is going to take a long time to build up that trust, and break down his insecurities, for him you never one to put him in a position where he either shuts down or feels he needs to fight his way out, you want o encourage him to learn and interact, and this is where the challenge of working with him comes in. If I can make him into a happy relaxed horse who wants to work with you, instead of just being obediant,I will really feel I have trained a wild horse, and be proud of myself. I think I can get there, Bear has a very special place in my heart and I am definitely committed to taking the time with him. horses like this need a little more understanding, people realizing they don't fall into that 75% of easy going horses, but they dont have to be called feral, dumb or crazy, at the end of the day it's only the horses own fear that driving them, they need our understanding not labeling. I think Bear will surprise everyone I look forward to seeing what he's like when the wild stallion gets his confidence.