I went to the local horse sale a few weeks ago. To call it interesting was an understatement in the least. What was there was a whole new level of ignorance. As if nobody knew or expected that?
There was of course the horses in the stalls that were rescues waiting to happen and one of them was a BIG draft cross of some kind. Sweet horse but man was he in r.o.u.g.h. shape. He had overgrown hooves and coat and was skinny as hell. Another thing he had was scabbed over cuts across the front of both pasterns on his front legs. From what others said, they were infected and his legs were swollen from the knee down, which I could see without having to touch as some were doing. His left front pastern was in worse shape and rather than having a nice straight angle to it from the fetlock thru the hoof, it looked sort of 'broken' in the middle. He was around 15 y/o and probably the kindest thing would be to put him down, but man oh man the bleeding heart ignorance was rank around him. I heard one woman say that all he needed was a trim. Another girl had spoken to her farrier and he said he could fix the horse (without even seeing him mind you) and from there I had to walk away. I couldn't take it. I honestly don't know what happened with or to him. I hope he finally found some peace.
Then there was the girl with the two animals (a horse & small pony) she had attempted to body clip. Lines. all. over. the damn place on both poor critters. Maybe I'm spoiled, but for me it is so easy to do a great job, I can't imagine doing such a shitty one. Being a rather creative and artistic person, clipping just comes sort of naturally for me. I picked it up quickly, learned from someone who did a good but not great job and perfected my craft over the years. Yes I still charge $150 per horse, can do them in 2-3 hours and in the process I teach the horse to relax and that there is nothing to fear. The one horse I was doing for another trainer/blogger a few years ago, had learned the few times I did him, that being clipped was ok. Nobody was there to hurt him or torture him. The better he behaved the quicker it went and before long we were done so he could go back to his stall.
One of the girls I went to the sale with, ended up buying the pony and after seeing him with lines and patches of hair still left on, I couldn't take it and grabbed my clippers. The girl at the sale barn had said the pony was a rescue case and clipping him was hell. If she meant she did a "hell" of a job on him, I guess she was right in that sense. The pony was okay until I turned on the clippers. Whatever trumatic events he had been thru before, he was making it clear he didn't want to be around for it again and wasn't going to willingly submit to any type of torture to get things done.
What happened was the pony would back off away from me and the clippers. When that was no longer an option, he tried pushing his way past me. That didn't work so he tried going Up. One of the women at the barn Ms. D, asked if I wanted to tie him up. Now she is a nice person, but from getting to know her, her scope of information is limited in some areas. I'm not saying she's dumb, but rather she just doesn't know. She has a very kind heart and hand for the horses, but I don't think she's ever dealt with difficult horses and just doesn't know how to help them get past their fears. No big deal.
What ended up happening with the pony was that he was in my mares stall and I placed him in a corner where he couldn't go backwards because of a wall and going forward I could aim him into the wall too. There's a large window on the wall I used to block the forward motion, but it has a strong wire mesh over it and is high enough the pony could look out, but not get out. With the pony looking out I turned the clippers on and ended up just putting them on his side. I was talking to him the whole time and he quickly relaxed. I moved them around a bit and slid the clippers over his body. The pony was tense, but he tolerated it. so as I was moving the clippers, I moved them to a postion where I could start clipping him and the hair started to come off. He was beginning to learn it wasn't going to hurt.
Before long, the pony had relaxed enough that I had the rope just draped over my shoulder, one hand up on his neck and my clippers buzzing away in my other hand taking the hair off with each stroke. When I got into tickly spots or the pony started to tense up when I clipped certain areas, I talked to him, rubbed him with my free hand and he soon relaxed again. When it came time to do the othe side, he started off a little rough again, but he relaxed pretty quickly and I was able to clean him up pretty fast. My friend Ms. S had been watching over the door and before long, her camera phone was out and she was taking pictures & video. I will cover that flustercluck in my next post.
In all honesty, I was not able to completely finish the pony. I wish I could have, but I'm also not disappointed with how much I was able to do either. Sometimes you just have to do the horse in stages. You work with them and help the horse expand their comfort zone. A little at a time, you start working into areas where the horse may be tense, unsure and possibly even scared, but if you remain calm, take it slow, back off a little and ease back into the problem area, before you and the horse know it, the problem area is done and not such a problem anymore. After doing them once and helping the horse move past their anxiety, the next time around often goes much easier. By the third and fourth time, they know you're not going to hurt them and while you recognize their tension and fears, you will also help them to get past it.