***I have been trying to crank this post out for almost a week, but between writer’s block, being tired, and lack of insprition to keep it going, I have had a hard time finishing. But now I am home with “Sick Boy” and he is engrossed with Phineas and Ferb, I have a little time…and I will preface, it is LONG, but I hope I kept it interesting and good read. So if you read everything – THANK YOU – this whole story means a lot to me. Im also probably full of typos and bad grammar, but will edit when I find things!*****
So as I sit here on the momentary coffee/caffeine hit I am experiencing, I figured I would try and crank something out while I am somewhat coherent and alert. You know? Let me chat about my boy and his horse buddy and why a terrible decision at the time turned out to be the best decision for the future.
So back in May of 2006, the husband and I were finishing up all we needed to do to be put on the waiting list to adopt a child from South Korea. We were also in the midst of a frivolous, and I mean frivolous lawsuit that had nothing to do with me, but as our court system dictates, I have to defend myself. (I will chat about that at a different time and I will title that post “Karma, its What’s for Dinner” and will go through the time line of how people basically suck, and how no good deed goes unpunished, and how the adoption of our son was almost derailed, and how the judge threw out the case because it was ridiculous but I was still out thousands of dollars and how I could have sued back to get my fees and damages and would have won but didnt want to because we just wanted our kid home, and how as a result of all of this, the true nature of these individuals was exposed and they were shunned by the economic community they served and are now subsequently on the run from the law for unscrupulous business dealings.)
So as we were dealing with a lot of stuff, I just kept getting this NAGGING feeling to do something that was just NOT the right thing to do at the time. Get a horse. I enjoyed riding and took lessons and because of the circumstances above (“Karma”) I left, but found a very nice group of folks who allowed me to lease their horse at their backyard barn around the corner from my home, so I continued to ride, and I enjoyed it very much. It was good for me mentally and physically. Even though I was leasing a horse, the NAGGING feeling to have my own was just ridiculous. I have no idea why, but my husband said OK. We could pull it off. I had a good job. I made good money. I could work off part of the Boarding Fees. When the baby would come home, I could still head to the barn and see and ride the horse, and do the work for board exchange. It wasn’t a good idea, but I just couldn’t let it go.
So, with the husband giving the green light, it was time to search around for a horse. I had heard that the dealer who brokered horses out of the “Bad People/Karma Gonna Git Ya” barn I used to take lessons at had also experienced something similar to me, and he pulled all his horses out of there and started selling out of a different barn. He was the only broker I knew, but I knew that he was great at matching horses to riders. I also knew that he was a bit like a used car salesman, but he always had “a guarantee” if something was wrong and I could return the horse at any time for any circumstance. Seemed like a safe bet that if I couldnt handle the work load with the baby, I could give the horse back and get my $$ back. I hunted him down and met him at the barn he was now at. I explained that I was looking and he said he would head up to a sale to find something for me, as the horses he currently had were not a good match for me, as I am a timid rider, have the physical issues, etc. This was at the end of May.
By June, I called him to see if he had found anything. He said he was heading to a sale that weekend. So I called him the following Monday and he said “I think I have the perfect horse for you”. Sounds good! So the following weekend I head over there, and he directs me to a bay horse in a back stall. I had my tack with me to take him for a test drive. The dealer…………..
**** coffee wore off – lost inspiration ****
**** Finishing off at 8:00 PM – of DAY 1 Attempt – cannot be held responsible for lack of cohesion****
OK, where was I….
Oh yeah….so I go check out “the perfect horse for you…me…..you know what I mean”….Dealer guy says to go ahead and tack him up because he is very good and will just stand there. Well, he was right! I tacked him up and we headed out for a test ride. Problem: no mounting block. Ok, I cannot mount a horse from the ground (that sounded wrong). I just dont have the leg strength. So here is how I knew this horse was calm and spook proof….Dealer guy went on one side of the horse and held down the stirrup so the saddle wouldnt shift, and then my husband somehow managed to push me up. It looked quite horrible…embarrassingly horrible….but the horse just stood there…
I trotted around with him and he was responsive, listened to what I asked, and things seemed really good. We agreed on a price and I asked to think about it.
I asked my friend, whose horse I was leasing, if she could go check him out for me, being she was far more horse experienced than I was. She of course offered to help me out and took the horse for a REAL spin. If you asked him to move, HE.WAS.FAST. After she ran him around, we took him to get hosed off since it was a bit hot that day. She checked him out and being he was going to stay at her place, she gave the green light, from the perspective of a person who has been around horses her whole life….
****************** Thats all I got out that night….continuing at lunch time 2nd Day*********************
So I arranged to have him delivered on July 4th to my friend’s house and he was going to live there, I was going to work off board, the equestrian park is literally a walk across the street, etc. He settled in great….at first….he walked right off that trailer….we put him in a paddock that separated him from the other horses………and he was just indifferent. We let him gather his senses, then we put him in the paddock he was going to inhabit with 2 other horses.
ALL HELL BROKE LOOSE.
Nice, happy, indifferent horse turned into S.O.B/GONNA KICK YOUR ASS/YOU ALL SUCK horse. The SCREAMING that emanated from this horse was ear piercing. Now, horses naturally set a hierarchy within a herd. It was apparent that he was going to be the boss, and there would be NO shenanigans, and all food would be his. It was bizarre and we were ALL shocked at his behavior. He was a REAL bastard.
I opted to let him settle in before trying to ride him, even though I wanted to right away. I mean, after all, I now owned a horse. Everyday I would go to clean and help feed, and every day for about a week I would hear about how he kicked the shit out of this horse, bit the hell out of that other horse, pinned his ears back at the barn owners when anyone approached when he was eating…...I thought FOR SURE at that time, I HAD made the most terrible decision. But, he was “bomb proof” and in the grand scheme of things, that was important, in that he was safe for me to ride. So I will deal with the attitude crap. One horse was going to be leaving in about a month, so we could put him in another paddock where he would be alone.
So after about a week of acclimating, I decided to take him for a ride. I could go into the paddock and say hello, and pat him down, and scratch him up, especially if I had food. BUT, he was just “flat“. Thats the only way I could explain it. He had NO personality. While the other horses followed you around like puppy dogs, he could care less. While the other horse owners would get nuzzles from their horses, he was devoid of any of that. Again, I could go and pet him, and scratch him, etc, but he was “just there”. HOWEVER, the second he saw me walk in with a halter, lead rope, and saddle that first time, IT.WAS.OVER. Thats it. I DID make the worst decision of my life. Not only did he try and avoid me, he would spin his butt at me. He wouldnt kick, but sent a clear message that I WAS NOT going to go ANYWHERE near him ESPECIALLY if I had a lead rope, halter and a saddle in the distance. I was devastated. He HATES me….
I was able to bribe him with some carrots, and was able to catch him and halter him and take him out of the paddock. Thats when I noticed something VERY sad. That “feisty, you’re not gonna get me, I dont want to work” guy became BROKEN when I put that halter on him. It was like a complete removal of any free will. He was aloof when unhaltered, and fought to get away when you tried to halter him, but once you got him, it was like his spirit was broken. There is a difference between a BROKE horse, which indicates they are excellently tempered and have good training, so they are predictable, and BROKEN, which is basically taking the spirit and drive out of them.
He was good when I got on him, and listened and was “safe”, but the two personalities were so polar opposite. I rode him around the property and then let him go back to his paddock where he went as far as he could away from me.
A couple of days later, he was put into his own paddock, as the other horse left sooner than expected. The barn owners said that he was spinning his butt on them too when they tried to put him in his new place, and when putting him in the barn at night. The asked if it was OK to keep a halter on at all times, because when the farrier came out earlier, he did it to him as well, and it would just be safer….
I agreed and sure enough, he was easier to get when he had that halter on, but I noticed that same “sadness” in his eyes and change in his personality with the halter on vs. halter off.
In retrospect, when I first got him, he had halter marks on his face: areas of missing hair from where a halter was left on too long….
**** Continuing 1/17 – lets see how this goes ****
So I decided at this point that yes, I was sold a BROKE horse, but yes, he was BROKEN. But these were issues I believed I could fix. When I started getting interested in horses, I researched NATURAL HORSEMANSHIP. First I read the books by Monty Roberts – THE Horse Whisperer (Robert Redford’s the Horse Whisperer movie was loosely based on him, more as a character than as a biography). He studied the natural behavior of wild horses and picked up on their communications between each other, then basically applied his knowledge to “gentle” horses – AKA use their own language to communicate with them, which in return, leads to better working and training relationships between horse and human. He went so far as to apply his techniques to a WILD Mustang, IN THE WILD. It was amazing.
So basically, I realized I needed to build a trusting relationship with Indy, as I named him, and work with him to help him realize that A) I am not a threat, B) I can be trusted and C) He can be comfortable with me.
In addition to Monty Roberts, I also looked into Pat Parelli and his techniques, as well as GaWaNi Pony Boy, a Native Smerican who uses Native American techniques to work with horses. Both men focus on Monty’s principals of trust building, communication, etc and have created their own systems of training.
In accordance with Parelli, I spent WEEKS just SITTING in the paddock with Indy and DOING NOTHING! Yeah, it was great. I had this horse I was paying board on, and was cleaning 7 stalls and paddocks twice a week, and was paying insurance, etc. and all I was doing was sitting in the corner of his paddock for hours….
Basically, as I deduced, Indy has no connection to me, or anyone for that matter. People would come in, grab him, make him work, and put him back. That the only thing I could think of. No wonder he wasnt thrilled to see anyone. By sitting in his paddock, I was showing him that I come by for more things than just working him. The first couple of days he would just stand at the far end of the paddock with his butt towards me. A few days later he would at least look at me. A day or two after that, he would face me from afar. The next day, he would walk up and sniff me, then would retreat to his corner. Then finally, he would just come over, stand and hang out. Literally. He would “Hang Out” (see You Have to Clean His What?!) In all seriousness, a horse that is just “hanging out” is a horse who is VERY comfortable. Eventually, he would greet me with it. Lucky me. So after about 2-3 weeks of just chillin’, I guess I was OK in his book.
Once he got to the point to where he would actually greet me at the gate, I started him with a different halter. I used a very basic rope halter like this:
It is VERY basic and I wanted him to have a POSITIVE association to a halter, as the typical halter like what he was wearing was associated with being “BROKEN”. I did the Parelli Natural Horsemanship Games with him to garner trust and to let him know I could be a pretty awesome and consistent alpha horse. Click the pic to learn more:
Parelli Level 1
Can I tell you that after a week or so, IT WORKED! TRULY amazing. The next step was to garner a relationship with the saddle. Unlike the previous time when I saddled him and he went “flat”, he was content with what was going to come next. I kept his ROPE halter on, as he knew it was A GOOD THING that meant COOL FUN STUFF, and knowing that he was safe, I used a BITLESS BRIDLE. Riding him was like night and day. He was still safe, and listened to what I asked of him, but the difference was that he WANTED TO work with me vs. BEING FORCED to work with me.
The barn owners were truly thrilled by the transformation, as his “attitude issues” were pretty much gone too. It was such a WONDERFUL affirmation one day when I was there, and he was right at my shoulder, being nuzzly. She said to me how great it was to see that he and I finally had that great relationship. So I got him in July of 2006, and he was good to go by the fall. It took that long but he was now happy.
But then there was some other stuff that wasnt so great. UGGGGGGGGGG
There – I hopefully have your attention again!
So during my research about Natural Horsemanship, I discovered a dirty little secret about the horse industry: HORSE SLAUGHTER. Being naive as I was at the time, I thought that horse dealers go to sales, much like used car dealers go to auctions to pick up stock. Well, they do, and they do bid on horses run through a sale, and they can get a real nice deal on a horse that they can then turn around and sell for a profit. Sounds good, right? Well, unlike used car auctions, where many folks are there to buy to sell or drive, there are KILL BUYERS at horse auctions that aim to pick up horses CHEAP so they can in turn be sent to slaughter. And its not just old, decrepit horses that get bought by the kill buyers. Its the racehorses that dont make the grade, its the horses at riding barns that cant pull their weight anymore, its the extra camp horses that are no longer needed when the summer is over. When there are too many horse at the sale, and not enough private buyers, they go to the bad place.
The reason why there was a link between Natural Horsemanship and Horse Slaughter is that horses that were deemed “unruly” and sent to slaughter, we often saved by rescued and “gentled” by Natural Horsemanship to create great horses. There are no bad horses, just people who mess them up for them to turn “bad”…
So what does this have to do with me and Indy. Well, one day, he came up LAME. He was running around like a buffoon sometime that august, and he hurt himself. He was limping on his front right leg. My friend and I checked him out and he had no heat anywhere which would be indicative of an injury nor did he have any swelling. We kept him calm and within a day or two, he was fine. I thought about that “Money Back Guarantee” I was given but wasnt going to give him back as I put a lot of work into getting him to like me, but more importantly, if I gave him back, HE WOULD GO TO AUCTION. A LAME horse at an auction is pretty much an instant death penalty, and I knew that he would go right back to the auction so the dealer could recoup some money. So yeah, the money back guarantee suddenly had a different meaning and I wasn’t going to have him befall that fate.
Fast Forward to December 11th, 2006 – WE WERE MATCHED WITH A BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY half way around the world. He came home in quite a crazy manner (TBD later!) on February 14, 2007!.
I couldnt wait until I could introduce Seoul Man to Indy, as both will become part of each other’s life. I just had no idea how much so at that time. I was afraid to have the baby close to Indy because although we were doing well with Indy and his Crankiness,I felt I couldn’t trust him with the impulsiveness and erratic motions of a 4 months old.
Dontcha know, I get out of the car holding the baby, and Indy walks to the fence as if to say “ITS ABOUT TIME YOU GOT HERE KID!!!”
Their first picture together is worth a thousand words:
SeoulMan and Indy
So Seoul Man and I had a nice routine when I was off from work. Every day we would head over to the barn to see Indy. Usually, SM would fall asleep in the Jeep, which would allow me to do my “work exchange for board” chores and be able to work with Indy. When he would wake up, I would grab Indy and bring him to the Jeep to greet SM through the window! Again, I dont know which one was happier to see the other! And you should have seen what would happen when he would cry (the child of course). It was like the giant horse turned into a panicked worry wort. “WHY IS HE CRYING! IS HE HURT! IS HE SICK! IS HE HUNGRY! WHY IS HE CRYING!!!”
NOW HERE IS SOME INTERESTING STUFF I LEARNED ABOUT INDY AFTER JACK CAME HOME! YOU’RE GONNA LOVE THIS!
So some new boarders came with their horse to stay in the back yard barn of my friend. This person used to also take lessons at “The Bad Karma” barn, and purchased HER horse from the same dealer as me. She knew ALLLLL about the stupid lawsuit against me as she was still at the place at the time, and she also knew stuff about MY horse. So are you ready? Remember I said horse dealers can be like used car dealers?! So, she takes one look at my horse and says “Is THAT Lynx?” I was like, what? “Is that horse Lynx? You got him from <dealer> right? Well, yes, his show name is Lynx B Naughty, and he didnt have a name when I got him, but that seems too close to be coincidental. “Yes, YES, that IS him! I would recognize those ears anywhere!”
Sooooo, I discover that Lynx, or Indy as he is named now, used to be at “The Bad Karma” barn. He was owned my the horse dealer’s MISTRESS! Yes, he was having an affair. He was having an affair with this new boarder’s (I will call her X) friend. So X’s friend, who owned Indy, boarded him at “Bad Karma Barn”. “Oh! He was lame! He used to have this issue with his hooves!” Oh really now?
“X” went on to explain that one day, the Mistresses’ husband found out about the affair, and went to “Bad Karma Barn” and beat the shit out of the horse dealer. Shortly thereafter, horse dealer left, (for reasons I explained before), and “X” and her friend pulled their horses out and rough boarded them somewhere else. Then Mistress has to abruptly get rid of Lynx, know known as Indy, as it was not good to have the horse who she got from the guy she was cheating on her husband with. Are you with me?
OK, merge in my phone call back that June, and “I have the perfect horse for you”. Yup, he never went an auction like he said (at least that weekend), he was just GIVEN BACK a horse! Lynx AKA Indy. Literally, the day before I called. I told you horse dealers are like used car salesmen!
So as I talk to “X” she tells me that Indy was lame, and that was another reason her friend got rid of him. She kept saying it was something with his shoes. She also said that, since she was friends with “the horse dealer”, she called him out on it! He fessed up but said that in the end, he was in a good home, which he was, and for what I was going to use him for, the mystery “recurring injury” wouldnt be an issue.
Now, knowing how horses were taken care of at “Bad Karma Barn”, it made sense that he was an asshole with other horses. It was not uncommon for horses to be packed into small turnouts with electrical fencing. Cram a bunch of horses in a small area with the constant potential for electrical shock, I’d be an asshole too. Added to that, I believe that in his rough board situation, he may not have been fed regularly, hence the reason why he was a dick around food.
“X” realizing that she probably said too much, and that she was also friends with another party in the frivolous lawsuit, the party who would be brought into an easily winnable “lawsuit to get my fees back and then some” lawsuit if I chose to, opted to leave my friend’s barn in the middle of the night with no notice. QUALITY!
So there ya go. Cliff note version: Sold a knowingly lame horse of the horse dealer’s mistress who needed to get rid the horse quick for the sake of her marriage. Much different than the: got him at an auction that weekend and he just came up from Texas after working cows on a ranch.”
SO NOW, HERE IT IS, THE INCIDENT that, at that point, I said THIS HORSE WILL ALWAYS HAVE A HOME WITH ME.
One day when Seoul Man was about 10 months old (he wasnt walking yet) I headed over to the barn to see Indy and do some work with him. SM was sound asleep in the Jeep and I took Indy out of his paddock to just hang out with him. I dont even remember if I rode him. Anyway, Indy had a lingering problem with tight spaces. If in fact, he was a ranch horse, he was probably put in a cattle shoot to herd the cattle. Its narrow, its crowded and ya, I could see why he would be nervous. He would DART through a narrow space. So, when being lead to his stall, he would DART through the opening in the stall. He would DART through the gate to his paddock as well. One of the things I worked with on was “lets walk through the door/gate SLOWLY”. Again, he made BIG improvement. After talking to “X”, she said the previous owner had a tendency of working him hard and fast (see why he didnt want to work, especially because he was in pain?) and then whipping him back in his stall and leaving. So yes, he had many negative associations. I made GREAT progress with him and he was no longer doing it.
On this particular day, when I was done with him, I was walking him back to his paddock. As he entered between the gate and the fence, the gate started CLOSING in on him. He saw this AND PANICKED. He BOLTED through the gate (ripping the lead rope right out of my hand), and the gate CLOSED IN and SYNCHED his ribs. He BROKE the gate and then proceeded to TAKE DOWN THE FENCE. It happened in a matter of seconds. So obviously concerned about his safety first, I go in to see if he is hurt. What does he do? He REVERTED RIGHT BACK to that horrible “I DONT TRUST YOU” phase and wouldnt let me ANYWHERE near him. I stood watching him stand as far in the corner of the paddock as he could, with his ribs twitching. Every time I go anywhere near him, he goes butt first. I was panicked and devastated at the same time.
I went and rigged the fence and the gate to keep him in, then ran to the house where I grabbed my friend’s son (13 at the time?) to tell him what happened. He came out and we figured out how to temporarily fix the paddock until my husband could get there (I called him and he was on his way home from work anyway). He also saw Indy butt spinning at me and running to get away from me. At that point, I knew I wasnt going to get anywhere near him, but I knew who could.
I went to the Jeep and Seoul Man was awake, probably because of the commotion. I took him out of his car seat and he was all smiles because he knew where he was. I walked into the paddock, and when Indy saw him, he turned around to face us. I swear, and I had a witness, that with SM on my left hip, I was able to approach Indy. I kid you not when I say that Seoul Man put his RIGHT HAND on Indy’s forehead, and his LEFT HAND on Indy’s cheek. Indy put his head down, which is a sign of comfort, and while trying to keep SM in this position while balancing him on my hip ,was able to feel all around to see if Indy was seriously hurt. He wasnt.
I decided at that point, that these two had a special bond and I would not break that up.
It seemed like after that point, Seoul Man and Indy were closer than ever before too. When SM started walking and talking, he would RUN to his paddock to say hello. And his SECOND WORD? (The first was Daddy) INDY! (Interestingly, when SM lost all his words – one of his red flag Autism signs – he still retained INDY).
SM dressed as his FAV person that Halloween:
When Seoul Man began the long road that would become Attachment Disorder, later followed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder, and the resignation of my job (and subsequent loss of income), I had to make some hard decisions regarding Indy. Do I give him back and pray he doesnt end up at a slaughterhouse? Do I try and sell him privately? There was no way I could afford board down an income. Then I remember, that when making THE POORLY TIMED DECISION, I always had a PLAN C in the back of my head. If need be, my home is actually zoned for horses. I could have 2 horses on my 1/2 acre. So THAT is what I did. Sure, it would be a lot more work, but heck, it meant I could keep him! So I got a small run in shed, 2 goats to keep him company (story to follow!) and began the daily chores of an onsite horse owner, and yes, it is a lot of work, but I wouldnt have it any other way.
The day I walked Indy over to our house from my friend’s, I kept it a secret from Seoul man. I had my husband take him out so it would be a surprise when he got home. And yes, it was a surprise! He took one look outside and yelled INDY INDY INDY INDY INDY!!!!! Needless to say, I havent looked back or questioned my decision.
Its been 3 years since Indy “moved in” and he it has been a lot of work, but he has also been a lot of help. During those horrible Attachment meltdowns and anxiety attacks, I would wrap SM up in a blanket in the middle of the night and run him outside. Indy calmed him down. I would get a much needed laugh as I would watch SM slide down the slide of his swing set, only to be met by the 1000 pound nervous Nelly at the base of the slide. “What is he doing???!!! He’s going to get hurt!”. I see how the two of them have “grown”, to the point now where SM and Indy ride together, and I see how the two of them will do great things in the future.
So yes, my BAD decision was for a reason. Somewhere, somehow, these two needed to cross paths. I needed to help Indy heal, and then Indy needed to help my son heal. I actually look at Indy as my first “Attachment Parenting Case” as I needed to do right by him to make him better. Then he helped to make our son better, I can can say with confidently, that I could not do it alone.
It took me DAYS to write this, and I hope folks can stick through it to the end. I discovered some more stuff about Indy that truly makes me believe in Karma and Fate. I have his Quarter Horse registration papers. I wanted to put him in my son’s name, so officially, he would be owned by him. His papers say he was born in North Dakota, then was purchased in South Dakota to a rancher. He was then sold to another rancher in South Dakota, then somehow wound up at a sale barn in Minnesota. I have no owner information after Minnesota, but his Coggins paperwork had him under the “ownership” of a sale barn, who sends midwestern horses to a sale barn in Massachusetts once a week. Judging by his Hip Tag info that I received with him, along with his papers, I deduced that he was sent to this sale and that is how he ended up in the North East. So, he was never in Texas as I was told. I was then told when I called The American Quarter Horse Association, that I cannot change his registration papers, unless the previous owners listed sign him over. So I did some Googling, and was able to track down the 1st owner, who directed me to the 2nd owner, who directed me to the 3rd. All three people said “HE WAS LAME. THATS WHY WE GOT RID OF HIM”. Everyone said he was a good boy, but just lame, and in the industry, a lame horse isnt useful. To me, its amazing that he was shuffled from auction to auction, and never wound up in a kill pen. If you know how many horses, especially LAME ones, end up at the slaughter house, you would know why I say this. I wonder if Indy ever thought he would wind up in a back yard on Long Island under the care of a 5 year old boy.
And regarding his lameness. I pulled his shoes, which caused his hooves to strengthen and widen out. He also is a giant lawn ornament. I think this combination have allowed him to heal. Every once and a while, if he twists the wrong way, he hurts himself, but it is nothing like when he came up lame on me the first time.
Isnt he handsome!