Gathering clues from the past
Determined to start Mr. Valentine’s rehab with the best possible chance of success, I made the decision to piece together fragments from his past, then I might be able to deduce how he had become the injured, pushy, dominant gelding. Lucky for us both, I come with a few personal traits that make me perfect for the job: endless patience, incredible stubbornness, a tender heart for the misunderstood, a very open mind and a little psychic ability or maybe I’m psycho? I always get those two confused [big grin].
So I started asking questions and found out that his first owner had started him at the tender age of 2 years and had Charro trained him (I will go into the various methods I saw used to accomplish this type of training, at a later time), people said they remembered seeing him being cantered around, around and around for long periods of time. The owner had occassionaly put his baby daughter on him and she was able to ride around on him, so he must have been pretty gentle at that time.
Valentine is an Azteca (half-Quarter Horse, half Andalusion) I was told that the owner had been offered $7,500 at one time which he had turned down. The general consensus was that he had started going lame between 3-4 yrs, intermittently. Sadly, the original owner, got ill, lost his job and moved back to Mexico. His family either wasn’t able, or didn’t want to pay the board that was owed on him.
During the time of the legal issues surrounding his abandonment, poor Valentine was locked in a box stall for around 6 months and I was told he didn’t get to come out of that stall the whole time, even for a brief turnout. He was fed Alfalfa hay and since everyone felt sorry for him I bet he received lots of treats, peppermint candies, carrots, apples, etc. The owner of the barn had two locations, in different towns. It was my experience, while boarding at both facilities, that the stalls were not attended to properly, shaving were added weekly, but very little manure or wet matter was ever taken out.
As I write this, I’m feeling the anger my horse felt at being imprisoned in a stall filled with a strong ammonia smell, eating a high protein feed and receiving high sugar treats and horseshoes that were to tight on feet that needed to be trimmed. In fact, I feel Valentine wants me to be his voice, so people will know his story, he is indeed a VERY smart horse after all.
Eventually he became the stable’s property and they used him as a lesson horse, I’m sure it was a much better time for him. He was taught to jump low fences, they laughingly described him as looking like a cute little piggy horse, since he was on the chubby side and only 14.2 hands tall. They said he would gallop up to the fences, gather himself up as if it was a giant fence, then he’d squeal and kind of hop over the fence, I’m really sorry that I never got to see that, I bet it WAS cute!
It was interesting to see the various expressions on people’s faces as they talked about Valentine, some loved him, a few would say, “oh, you’re talking about Valentine” (with disgust) and others had no feeling in their expression. The little girls that rode him in lessons all adored him and had nothing but good things to say. They added that they were really glad he got a great home and seemed so much happier. One girl said he used to get spooked and try to run away with them, but eventually incredibly they thought, had changed on his own, to a better behavior. With the new behavior he would freeze to an instant halt if something scared him. Speaking from experience, I much prefer the latter. This is an example of Valentine adjusting his own reaction to fear to protect his little girl riders.
There was an unusual thing I took note of. . . most of the adults that had handled him spoke of his biting problem and they had ALL used VIOLENCE to solve the problem. Here’s a sample of what I’m talking about. A young girl that worked at the race track, smirked and said he tried to bite me once, he won’t do it again, I slugged him in the eye. A trainer said, “he’s spoiled and probably needs the snot knocked out of him.” “Holy Crap” I thought, what planet am I on or did I just wake up from a 20 year coma? Where did all this hurry up and hit the horse come from? I watched a girl laugh with delight when she found out that her trainer was using spikes under the noseband of her horse’s bridle or something barbaric like that. I wonder, do these people go to their daily jobs and if they don’t perform according to their boss, get flogged for not being fast enough. Do they get beaten if they ask a question or don’t understand what is being asked of them? Do they get tied up to a chair for hours at a time, so they’ll learn patience? (I saw sweaty Charro trained horses tied up with saddle and bridle on, for hours, eyes white and rolling with fear, no telling what happened to him before he was tied up)
Here’s just a brief history of my association with horses. I started riding when I was 10 years old. I leased my first horse soon after that, and went to the stable or rode just about every day for 25-30 years. Then I got out of horse showing and into dog showing for the next 15 years, until I finished the championships on my dogs, retired from showing. Then Mr Valentine and I found each other.
(to be continued)
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