The story continues in regards to the Hanoverian herd we had been contracted to train, prepare, and present for sale. The first group had arrived in September but on January 1st, a new mare was added to the herd by the owner, a lovely 8 yr old registered mare sired by a well known hunter stallion, and with both sire and dam bloodlines by the famous RCMP breeding program, this mare was black, beautiful and exquisite. Only broke to lead and pick up her feet, at least this one wasn't trying to kill us. So according to the terms of agreement, we began her training program with the intention of selling her into the hunter market when she was presentable and ride-able. It did not take long....
By the end of February, all of the horses from this client, were loading and shipping in a trailer, standing in cross ties, quiet for vet and farrier, leading anywhere you wanted to go, lunging, and ground driving quite proper, The mature horses were riding under tack, doing simple lead changes and cantering cross rails and small verticals - it truly had been a miracle, and the satisfaction of a job well done is sweet success for a trainer, that money just can't buy. But money does come into the picture.
From the start, the owners paid our service fees as stipulated and agreed upon within the terms of the contract. We are not low budget. And most people can figure out the bottom line when you have 7 horses in training. The owners also assigned us as sales agents, expecting the horses to sell.
Well before these horses should have been presented for sale to the public, we had four prospective buyers come to see them, (they were in the market to buy green, just started under saddle, quality show prospects), and received four offers to purchase, amounting to $48,000! The owners did not accept the offers, which left us confused and the buyers upset (they spend money to come to Canada to shop for horses, they don't do this in January for the sun and sand).
At the end of January we heard a few words spoken that the bills were getting too high, they were paying too much ....yet we had money on the table for sales which were not being accepted, and for every horse sold, the monthly invoice would go down. It was a dilemma in my opinion. How could someone be upset about costs, if they would not sell? So we continued to honour the contract as stipulated, and continued to care for, train and promote the horses for sale.
Mid February it was clearly apparent to us, that the owners were unhappy. Unhappy there were no sales (?), unhappy when their acquaintances (and our competitors) told them we were expensive (?). Four days prior to month end, the owners made arrangements to take their business elsewhere and notified us that the horses would be leaving.
Our prices are not a secret. $1255.50 per month for basic training, including board, grooming, riding and/or schooling, training, handling. The yearlings had arrived in September completely untouched. They had to be caught, haltered, handled, trained to lead, groom, stand tied, accept blankets, clippers, farrier, and veterinarian. By the first of December the youngsters improved into normal, big, confident coming two years olds, I began to reduce my fees to accommodate the decrease in time required for non riding horses.
The big brutes, they were rough stock. The owners were charged $1500 per month for the same service we offer to our competitive training students. Full board, care, handling, grooming, equipment, daily work, daily lessons, every day. We didn't charge for damages, We didn't charge for incidentals (soap or grooming tools, no charges for clipping, shampoo, blankets, miscellaneous this or that). And as sales agents we waived the commissions. IF a horse sold, we didn't charge the traditional fee, we actually contracted to work ourselves out of a job. Anyone who would offer a discount for the work that was required for the big, dangerous and extremely difficult adult horses that had not been handled or trained would have had to been crazy. We are in business, not a registered charity or not-for-profit organization.
The contracts were clear, outlined what we provided, and how we hire both contractors and facilities necessary to provide our services, plus fees and payment terms. Very basic. All parties signed, acknowledging they had read and understood the terms.
The horses arrived malnutrition, loaded with parasites, unkempt, in poor summer pasture condition and completely unhandled or broke in any manner. Within 5 months ...150 days, they had transformed into horses that the RCMP breeding foundation boasts about. Gorgeous, big, black Hanoverian horses, who respect their handlers and their environment, and ride confidently under saddle. We have all the video and pictures to prove it. We have the disappointed buyers to prove it, we have many colleagues and associates who watched in horror when this herd arrived, afraid for human life.
The horses had been rough and angry, belligerent and aggressive, and the entire group walked like well schooled show horses up into the trailers that took them away, and off into the stables that received them. Wild to Willing in Five Months could be the name of my new book. Stay tuned.....
In the fall of 2016, you will not find many horses running wild in modern society, especially in Eastern Ontario, Canada. Wild horses, as in untouched, untamed, independent of mankind, 90% of today's young horse enthusiasts can't even imagine what its like dealing with real live wild-a-beasts.
Training horses to most people, means taking a quiet animal that leads, and walks into a stall, without much fuss and teaching him how to accept a human on his back, or how to become proficient at the job in the competition ring in one of the many riding disciplines.. The horse is not afraid of you and you rarely meet one that wants to attack you physically, just because you are in its space.
September 2016, we met a herd of 13 Hanoverian horses that could only be called untamed. The three original Mama's, aged 19, 20 and 21, had been purchased 9 years earlier from the RCMP Auction, as someone had the idea they would raise black Hanoverian horses. I don't recall hearing if there had been a plan with the purchase, or if the original broodmares had been purchased because someone got caught up in the vision of Black Beauty and many little Black Beauties running across field and dale. Regardless of a plan or lack of, pregnant mares had been purchased, these mares in turn had foals, and then more foals were born, and so on until the dream died with the passing of the herd owner in early 2016.
We were asked to do the impossible. Take four 8 and 9 yr old, fully grown and huge (16.3 hh - 17.2 hh) horses AND three big, 15.2 hh yearlings....all who had never been touched, never haltered or lead, never asked to give to the will of man, never entered a horse trailer and had never been separated from their large 100 acre pasture. The owner asked, and we were confident, that we could take these wild brutes, train and prepare them for sale to the average buyer who we have looking for quality just started under saddle prospects! They were beautiful, well bred for performance and why not, the owners had a need to recover their initial investment and settle the estate, and we pay our bills by training horses for over 45 years..
These boys and girls were rough! And tough! AND wild! If you have ever experienced an angry horse, upset AT you IN its space, angry that you shut a door on them, furious they could not climb over the wall or kick their way through it ...you have not experienced true excitement in your life. Everyone wore helmets and safety vests. Strike, kick, bite, attack. And those were the ones we got in the contract.
The five broodmares were sent to a breeding farm who thought that once healthy, the ladies could be sold to other breeding programs and that is another story of wild and unfettered boss mares ruling the world. .
In the beginning the horses were so stressed, angry and totally living off basic instinct. Every person on the farm took their life into their hands, every minute of the day, when working around or near them. Duke was the leader of the herd, the warrior, the defender. He would accept your presence, but you did things his way or he would attack - teeth bared, hind end swinging. Dumas was the follower, he wanted everyone and everything to just be nice. Fight was not in his name, and he would only respond to his flight instinct IF the others ran. So he made every attempt to run over you, every.single.day. Sandsy was insane. His anxiety level instantly went to red alert over every little thing, and nothing you could do would bring it down. He lived in perpetual adrenaline over load. Walk into his stall with water - you were the enemy, he couldn't run as the wall was there, so he attempted to climb over it, fall down and then get up and attack you with front feet slashing, teeth bared and screaming with fury. Samson may have been a nice guy, but he went into stress overload upon separation and could not and would not get down off the walls. His only way to self sooth his anxiety was to put his feet up high in anything hanging...feed tub, water pails (taken down for his safety) he promptly stood on his hind end, hanging his front feet over the 10' stall wall, and would not stay down! Horses get hurt if they hang their feet into and over things beyond their head, he didn't care, once he trapped himself he was at peace and only then, he would quit fighting his demons.
Then there were the 'babies' - huge, bold, never touched, year and a half old Hanoverian 'babies'. By luck, we managed to slip halters on the heads of the two half siblings Sindy and Cujo. Sergio was defiant and afraid, and it took two weeks before he managed to allow us close enough to sneak the halter on. Then it took two months before we could touch any part of him other than his neck, without a full rodeo around the stall. Only option was to be quiet, murmur sweet nothings, and stay in his zone so he had no choice but to accept you as part of the furnishings - hours and hours and HOURS were spent with these beasts.
It took guts, skill, and a good pair of dancing boots, to teach the big ones to lead to the paddocks. First it was just a controlled run-away between gate and barn door. Once in the paddocks they settled down to eat grass and visit with each other, except Samson.
We were told by the old farm manager, that Samson was a fence jumper and that they had to add 3 feet of extra fence and electric wire to keep him in with the herd. Samson jumped alright, stall walls, barn walls, arena walls, smashing high and falling back...but a fence paddock had only sky between the top rail and the clouds. We would stand at the sides and keep him away until he appeared to enjoy his outside time. But he would not accept boundaries and one day, he managed to get himself hung up, front feet first on the 5' fence panels. Veterinarian was called, stitches were made, and Samson went thru 4 weeks of healing and rehab. During that time, and with the help of tranquilzers, he had no choice but to accept handling, cold hosing, wrapping and he became the sweet horse he was always intended to be. But he damaged himself beyond repair, and the sad day came when we had to hold the end of the lead when the veterinariran euthanized him.
Within 2 months after arrival, they horses remaining would allow you to put their halters on and to sip off over their heads, they would lead (in a straight line) between stable and paddock quietly at your side, they even let you pick up front feet...back feet they still nailed you to the wall. Did I say they were rough?
The dark cloud over the herd was Sandsy. He was truly mental unhinged. One day quiet to lead, groom and tack up. You got fooled into thinking he was coming along...you would get excited as it appeared he 'got it' and then next day BAM, he would blow up like a raging bronc in his box stall. A full 30 minutes of bellowing, bucking and roaring before he would come to a standstill and you could get the equipment off, calm him down, brush him and start over. Day in and day out. But between his rodeo acts, we thought there was a good horse lurking....yet we experienced the same thing with leading to and from the paddock. Some days a normal saint, others - without warning - an attack dog with full intention of taking you down. As November came to a close, I made the decision that he had to leave, be put down so no-one unsuspecting could get hurt. I was also very worried one of us was going to get hurt, as our high level of awareness was hard to keep up, especially as the others were coming along so nicely. And sure enough the day happened. One of us did get trampled and stomped into the mud... and that was the day I made a call to the rodeo rough stock buyer. Sandsy found a new career the next day.
After Sandsy left, the owners decided to send us the lovely mare Sierra from the broodmare farm. She had already spent three months getting handled, and understood that a box stall was safety and privacy, people groomed you and made you feel good, and her basic temperament made working with her a dream. In only 30 days she was lunging, ground driving and ready to be sat on. IF only the boys had been as easy as this sweet pea, we would have been riding them for clients by Christmas - hah that may have been in a perfect world, but these horses came from a different place.
By December 31, all the horses were wearing blankets, quiet in the cross ties, standing for the farrier, leading AND ground driving while wearing tack. One big boy even started under saddle in the round pen. We never had to snub one to a post, never had to tie one up, never had to lie one down, never had to get rough with them. It took a lot of smarts and sometimes nimble steps dodging teeth, front feet and hind kicks, but we got into their heads and they began to think alpha mares came with 2 legs, and blond hair tied in a pony tail, under a riding helmet. The herd had become manageable and malleable and ready to ride!
See next post - The Saga Continues