Tuesday, February 11, 2014

All Play And No Work Makes Jack A Naughty Boy

I came across this gem from Horse Nation on Facebook yesterday morning.  It's a collection of rather dubious Craigslist ads.  The one that caught my eye was the description for the "17.5 hands horse for sale thoroughbred 14 years old Good Ryder".... particularly these parts:

"She is very gentle when she is worked. She is a full thoroughbred and a retired race horse. (has a tattoo on her upper lip) We have had her for 2 or more years and we really don’t work her enough."

"After you work her for a few mins she is very submissive but she gets worked so little that it can be tough to catch her. When I first got her she didn’t have that problem. We just don’t need a horse that needs this much work."

I chuckled at that description, it sums up every Thoroughbred I have ever known pretty well.  I have met many horses that you could throw in a field and not touch for months or years, then get them out and pick up right where you left off.  None of those horses were Thoroughbreds.  Thoroughbreds love to work, they love to be busy and stimulated.  This is probably why so many Thoroughbreds develop vices like cribbing and weaving. In my experience, a Thoroughbred left to its own devices will invent things to do.  These things are never things you want the Thoroughbred to be doing.

My Thoroughbreds are currently bored out of their minds.  The ground is frozen, the weather is awful, and my ribs are still messed up from my bout of bronchitis. I haven't done much of anything with either one of them since January. They follow me around like sad, lost puppies when I go out to do chores, poor things.  They're also starting to invent new games.  The current favorite game is one Spider came up with that I like to call "Bite The Baby".  It involves Spider biting Jack and then holding on like a pit bull while Jack tries to run away.  Somehow, Jack is actually OK with this game and comes back for more when Spider loses his grip.  They are strange creatures.

Yesterday evening I was reminded of that Craigslist ad during dinnertime.  Jack decided that I wasn't dumping his dinner into his tub fast enough and decided to "get big" at me and threaten me. He arched his neck, shook his head and stomped his feet.  It was all very impressive, as he is a little over 17hh and not as skinny as he used to be.  I'm sure he thought his display would intimidate me into dumping his bucket faster.  Unfortunately, he messed with the wrong person and it back fired on him.  I "got big" right back at him, and didn't back down until I had forced him to back up several feet away from his feed tub and stand there quietly.  Then I dumped his bucket and let him come up to eat.  

He was a perfect gentleman this morning, the lesson obviously stuck, but I still need to start working the little guy again.  (I call Jack "the little guy" because he's young. This confuses many people, as he is anything but "little"!)  I had started doing some clicker training with him, but never really got past the "intro" stages before the weather and various illnesses got in the way.  I need to start that back up.  

I'm actually sort of proud of the little guy's initiative and spunk.  I know that seems counter-intuitive, since he did something really naughty and potentially dangerous. I've never liked an "easy" horse, though, and I think that good horses, especially good competition horses, need a lot of attitude.  That "attitude" is the spark that takes a horse from "just another horse in the arena" and elevates them to something special.  That spark must be channeled into something productive, though.  I've seen too many people get a horse with attitude and then just let the horse do as it pleases, usually because they don't have the time or desire to work with it, are afraid to "destroy its spirit", or are just afraid of it in general.  It never ends well for the horse. 

Jack was just being a typical bored Thoroughbred, and a 3 year old Thoroughbred at that.  He's still a baby, and hasn't lived here long enough to know all the rules yet. That doesn't mean I excuse or ignore his behavior, it just means that I correct it, move on and give him less opportunities to act a fool in the future.  

I have a feeling that Jack's going to be a fun one....

I was trying to take a picture of something else here, but somehow Jack snuck in.


  1. People will sometimes ask me why I love riding Winston so much when he is such a handful. You nailed it exactly. It's that spark. I understand exactly what you are saying -- and I've done that "don't get big with me" lesson, too. :)

  2. Val's had three months off.

    He snaked his head and turned his butt in my general direction just this morning - I backed his a$$ up right quick. A little licking, a little chewing, and it's all good again. :D

  3. Ha! I actually think Courage is little, since he sticks at 16.1, but I call him that too.

  4. Tucker tries to intimidate me all the time. The big difference with him is, that he never quite learns the lesson. I correct him every time and he will still try the next time. Talk about determination. I think it runs in the Bold Ruler bloodline.

    Waiting for this weather to go away. At least my Boys get plenty of "out" time as yours do. It makes a huge difference. Haven't seen too many wrestling matches here lately, but the fence to the riding arena is totally destroyed from "horse volleyball--without the ball."

  5. Oh, just what I need to hear today! My own OTTB gets worked at least four days a week (CA's weather doesn't interfere with winter riding), but if those days aren't consecutive, I am guaranteed to have a rough ride. And sometimes, even if the rides are consecutive, he's a bear to ride. And "attitude" is the perfect description. Sometimes it comes across as anxiety or fear, but I really think he just has an opinion about everything. :0)

  6. Oh my goodness!! Those craigslist ads are so stupid lol.

    I like my easy horse hehehe!!! I love that if I'm sick, out of town or the weather is crappy that after time off I can pick right up where I left off with no problems. :D Different horses for different people lol! I used to like the ones with the attitude too, but now I'm so tired all the time that I just don't want to deal with it. I want to enjoy my time with my boy and relax (as much as you can around horses). I'm glad Jack is fitting in so well! I've been too busy to read blogs, but I got caught up and have to say he's gorgeous! Congrats!


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