Friday, January 2, 2015

TOABH: I'm A Loser, Baby

Let’s talk about your horse’s biggest fail. What did Thunderhooves do that embarrassed you, scared you, shocked you or just annoyed the hell out of you?

Whoo boy. You guys, Tristan was the biggest asshole in the barn for so long. Surprise!

I know, he's an angel today, but holy mackerel did he take a while to get there. When I got him he was wholly untouched - he had to be put into a squeeze chute to have his feet done and get his vaccines. Not wild anymore, but not domestic by any stretch of the imagination.

Things Tristan used to be bad at: standing to be groomed, getting his halter on and off, picking up his feet, being longed, getting on the trailer, getting caught in the field, standing for a bath, standing in the cross ties, being ridden in the open, being ridden on trails, being ridden in the outdoor arena, being bridled.

Of that whole list, the absolute worst was probably getting bridled. Once he got over having his head handled, which was ~3 months of constant work, we would take a bridle completely apart and re-assemble it on his head, slowly, over the halter. Then, with the bit dangling from one cheekpiece, I would wrap my right hand in the right side of his halter and hold on tight. Then I would cup the bit in my left hand and bring it inch by inch toward his mouth.

The first few weeks (yes, weeks), as soon as the bit touched his lips he would lose his everloving MIND. We would usually do this in a stall, and as soon as the bit touched his lips, he would rear. High. Fast. Hard.

Remember that I had my hand twisted in his halter? Yeah. For a reason. Up I would go with him. WHAM, I would go into the side of the stall. Over and over. Some days as long as an hour or a little bit longer. If I lost my grip, he wouldn't let me touch his face again, so I had to hold on for dear life and keep the bit near his face no matter what. I would show up at work moving like an old lady, two black eyes, having cried myself to sleep the night before.

The next few weeks, we could get the bit against his lips, but getting it into his mouth involved just as much drama. Up. High. WHAM.

Finally, when I couldn't take anymore, I squared my shoulders, walked into the stall, twisted my hand in the halter, and got ready.

He dropped his head, opened his mouth, and waited.

Ever since, he has been absolutely perfect to bridle. He lowers his head. He waits. He reaches for the bit and settles it where he wants it. A toddler could put a bridle on his head while he's ground-tied.

I wish it hadn't been so awful to start, and I wish anything else had worked (believe me, we were committed to patient, gentle methods with him, and nearly everything else eventually worked out with time and positive reinforcement). But I'm glad it did.


  1. That's pretty extreme - but good job to you for sticking through it! Tristan sounds like such an angel now :)

  2. Wow that sounds brutal! Glad that he finally came around.

  3. yikes that's intense!! i can't even imagine how much work it would take to domesticate a mustang, let alone have one that ended up as nice as Tristan...

    they are such an interesting (and smart!) breed tho! the lesson program at my barn just added a mustang to the herd, and he is an absolute ambassador for the breed - such a cool horse. (i even think of tristan when i seem him - similar coloring and tails!)


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