I hadn't thought much about Toadie's past life as a race horse at Emerald Downs until recently. After winning that day at the races with a race horse owner at the auction last weekend I've been thinking more about it. Then a friend of mine posted this video on Facebook the other day and I've been watching it trying to imagine what it was like for Toad. From the way she acts, it seems like she was taken out to run and led around but didn't have much "training" or much time to develop a relationship with anyone in particular. At least not a real "one on one" bonding time, really developing trust and learning how to politely interact relationship. She's kind of like some of the kids at the fancy, "emergent" private school the boy I nanny for goes to. Where they just let the kids run wild and don't give them much structure or guidance or education because they don't want to stifle their inner-essence. So, she got to do her own thing and continue any kind of behavior - good or bad - and just be herself as she would be with no real structure or discipline to her day-to-day behavior. And in her case it turned her into a high-strung, neurotic mess. I think there are probably horse personalities that could handle that lifestyle just fine, but she is definitely not one of them.
I was marveling again today how just having a trusting relationship with someone and a consistent schedule and routine has made her a completely different horse. I wanted to ride her in my lesson this morning but got there too late to do all that is necessary before a ride with her (ie: free lunge and then work on the lunge line) so I rode Misty in my lesson instead. But after my lesson I went out to the paddocks to bring her in and I remembered being very nervous about that last August when I first bought her because she would try to race back to the barn. Trainer K. warned me she does like to rush through the gate because she's afraid of the electric fence so to be prepared and not let her. But she didn't even try to rush through. I went into her paddock, she walked right up to me and ducked her head so I could put on her halter and I made a point to walk through so I was on the side of the gate where it opens so it was a little less scary for her, and she walked through very politely. She started to rush when we got out toward the driveway to the barn and I asked her to stop and she not only stopped, but sighed and backed up so she was behind me and not in front of me anymore - without me even asking her to back up! She is trying so hard to be a good girl!
I was also marveling at how well she relaxed her hind legs today when I was doing her stretches that the vet showed me last week. I was remembering the story that Trainer K. told me about how in winter of '10 when the teenager owned her Toad got mud fever on her back feet and nobody could touch her feet enough to actually scrub them with the medicated shampoo, or even dry them off enough for it to heal up quickly on it's own. Trainer K. said even the vet pointed out that someone needed to start working with this horse or they'd have to sedate her for something as mundane as when she eventually got a cut on her leg and it needed to be cleaned. Now she is so relaxed she just let me pick up her leg and move it in circles and stretch it forward and back - and she didn't just let me pick it up, she relaxed her leg and let me move it around to get a good stretch. I'm hoping that will help her back which has been so tense and tight lately from all her working out.
Speaking of hind legs and large horses - my thoughts and prayers are with my friend, Pete today who is having surgery on his leg. I saw his wife this morning and she didn't seem too worried so hopefully that means it will be a simple procedure and be the end of his problems. Apparently, he was clipping his horse, Zeke's legs (Zeke is an 18 hh Belgian who weighs literally a ton) and something spooked Zeke, which knocked Pete over so he fell down and was lying on the ground. Seeing his "daddy" lying on the ground after hearing a scary noise made Zeke going into a panic and he started dancing in the cross ties in a panic and managed to stomp all over Pete. His wife took him to the hospital and nothing was broken, but now a week or so later something has been bleeding in his leg because it apparently swelled up and turned black. Ugh. So, they're going in today to drain it and find out what happened. Zeke was kind of a mess today and I think could tell something was wrong. That will definitely not convince my husband that people with horses aren't crazy.
Here is a picture from a few months ago of Pete and Zeke. For scale reference Pete is 6'3".