Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Spencer is a Famous Boy!

Spencer had his 15 minutes of fame recently on another website. One that is popular with some and not so popular with others. So far he has 478 comments. Most have to something to do with him, but many don't. And I really do feel empathy for what was said about his previous owners. They seem like very nice people. (The motives of their friends are questionable however.)

But the blogs owner, Cathy, is just a brave gal who wants to clean up "horse messes" that others leave behind and she hopes to keep new ones from happening in the future.

If you're curious, the site is fuglyhorseoftheday.blogspot.com. (See: "I stumbled upon a happy ending last night!" in the August posts.)

That isn't her first post about him. She previously had posted his original Craigs List ad back in May and the comments about how others felt about that, were interesting. Just not what the previous owners had in mind when the posted the ad. I didn't know that post existed until recently. (Okay, I hadn't ever seen that post until the August post.)

Cathy's, main message is that unless you have an outstanding stallion, get him gelded and just because your mare has a uterus, doesn't mean you have to fill it with something. Think about the market. Are horses selling right now? No. Don't breed for the profit alone because there is none and horses are being shipped to slaughter faster than rescuers can keep up with them. I have 16 horses here, most are rescued! We feed them on our own dime and it's gets very diffucult. Yes, I'm the one who chose to take them in, but I couldn't let the alternative happen either.

No slaughter, you say? Yes there is, and a horse being shipped to Canada or Mexico to get to the plants, don't receive the most comfy ride there. Transportation laws or not.

Spencer is one of those messes. And I've got my work cut out for me, but I hope I can get through to him now that he is no longer a stallion. I want to transform him into a safe and predictable horse. He's predictable now, but the problem is he's predictably dangerous.

Yesterday, I was attempting to flick an itchie piece of grass off his belly (well, actually it was sticking out of his sheath and it was driving him nuts.) I wanted to help him, but I didn't want to get my head too close to his bottom parts. When I reached out, I'm sure I seemed to be sneaking and I figured he wouldn't let me get close, but I wanted to at least try to relieve him of that annoyance.

Dang! He swung out with a kick that would have landed me in the hospital or worse, if I hadn't been ready for it and moved.

What message did I end up sending him? "I kick, she moves." Not smart on my part. I should have been ready more ready than I was to let him know kicking is not the answer to his problems. Soon...we are still just getting to know each other. Trust first! Dancing later.

A slower person would not have avoided that very purposeful kick. And to think I received several calls and emails from the previous owner's pesky friend asking when she could come and get him. I know it was just a ploy to get me riled up because these folks were the ones who couldn't catch him for 2 years.

But what did they think they were going to do with him if they got him back? Shoot him? Well, probably. A smarter person than me, would have told them to get their asses over here and load him up! But I'm a glutton for punishment, I tell ya.

These pictures illustrate Spencer's attitude when you approach him with the look of, "I would like to do something with you, Big Boy."
I make sure I give him a lot of advance notice that I'm coming to see him.

Look at his ears!

Those ears are NOT saying, "Well, looky here! Here comes that nice human who feeds me and cares about me."

Those ears are saying, one step closer and you'll find out just what these ugly, neglected hooves are capable of!

Here too, this means, "I notice you. Leave me alone. This is your last warning. I don't want to hurt you, but I will if I have to. "

Forrest is behind me. I can snuggle up to him and have no worries about getting hurt by him. What a difference in animals.

Here he's saying, "I MEAN IT! You are a dead woman and I know you know it. Get the hell out of here...

...unless you have more grain for me."

I remain calm, smiling and relaxed and don't threaten him with further approach.

He lowers his head a bit in response. (Adrenaline isn't fun for them to be up on. Nor for me. Sometimes you must pretend to appear relaxed.)

Even his ears have relaxed a little.

I'm telling him that I have a rope, but I mean no harm. He's getting that message. After this shot, I left the paddock. I rewarded him for giving in a little bit with the release from my presence.

What he's actually saying in horse language includes too much profanity to repeat here. But what I did in that few minutes was huge for him.

I read him, he read me. I rewarded him. I didn't get a rope on him and knock him around for behaving like an ass. This is the beginning of trust.

Novice horse people ask me why I'm not "doing" anything with Spencer. But what most don't understand is that doing, what appears to be, "nothing" for him or with him," in this situation, is way more important than "doing something to" him. "Take the time it takes and it takes less time." PP.

He's skeptical that anything a human wants of him is going to be bad news and painful. I've got to take the time it takes to reverse that logic.

I've seen this in horses before who are either beaten or a stud chain had been used on them in a very inhumane way. Some people have no clue how much that chain hurts a horse's tender face. They have so many nerve receptors in their skin and no fat or muscle under the skin in their face. It's skin to bone. It's a very delicate area.

So many of the horses who are not treated fairly on-line, even if there were born buttheads and seemingly deserve it, will become vengeful at liberty and that is Spencer.

It's a game for him, of "I can get you, before you can get me!" But it's a deadly game, because he figures he's fighting for his life.

He does just fine in a rope halter and lead. I'm not sure why we use chains on most horses anyways when a rope halter offers just as much control, in most cases. But my customers in a few cases have used the halter and chain on horses for a quick fix when a horse is dangerous to work on their feet. I don't mind, being safe in this situation, but like I said, it's a quick fix and not be a training tool in my opinion. Because it's not a tool at all. It's a replacement for horse savvy.

Some of you won't agree with what I'm saying here, but I've been trying so hard to be politically correct lately that if there is one thing I've learned from the fugly blog, we have a right to our opinions and if there is anything I have it's opinions! I think honesty, is going to be more helpful to horses in the long swim than striving not to make any waves.

Some say Spencer should have been put down before he was given away and (he nearly was) and I can't really say one way or another how I feel about that. If he takes me out, I will have a better opinion!

I was advised that for two years, he was untouched. Well, if no one ever gets near a horse like this, he's not dangerous to anyone! But if you try to make a usable horse out of him and he kills you in the process. It's too late to do anything about it.

Now that I know better what he's capable of, maybe the decision to euthanize him is the right one. I was told that he's not a mean horse, it's just that he doesn't trust humans. That's true, but it doesn't matter. If he's capable of seriously hurting someone on purpose, his existance is questionable. And I'm aware of that. I'm not fooling myself there.

I've come to terms with what I'm up against with Spencer and we'll see how it goes with him and me. Stay tuned. I hope the outcome is wonderful!

Optimistically Yours!


Latigo Liz said...

Nice job. Keep up the good work and if you get in a tight spot, don’t forget to ask quality people for quality help. I can recommend a few names if you need them.

Go slow and you’ll get there faster than you (and everyone else) think.

fssunnysd said...

Wow - normal-sized horse feet aren't too pleasant when they come flying at you. The punch those platters pack... yikes. But it looks as if you're reading him, and he's reading you, which is a really good start.

I love using the "monkey-see, monkey-do" approach of other animals to help lead by example, and now that Spencer's out with the herd, he'll have plenty of "monkeys" to follow.

Best of luck! (I don't think I can wish you too much of that, can I?)

KD said...

Good luck with Spencer ! Boy, he's a lot larger than I first thought. Glad you are safety minded AND quick !

One Red Horse said...

Hi Pat, You have my endless respect for your approach to rescuing - you are taking an at-risk horse and giving them the training to make them safe and usable around humans and in so doing you are saving their lives. This is the same approach of Julianne of Serenity Training - TRAIN THE HORSE YOU RESCUE. Thanks for your work with this boy!


cilla said...

hey pat,

well done on taking on such a gorgeous creature. i hope it works out for you both. i read your blog with great interest and bless you for doing this.
may i politely suggest you turn your body away from spencer so you belly button isnt facing him and therefore putting pressure on him. try standing sideways a little with your eyes away and soft focussed and see if he puts his ears forward....

love cilla xxx

Evergrey said...

Great work and best of luck!

megan colleen said...

Good luck with spencer!

I started to follow his story on FHOTD, and jumped over to your blog on him. I think you are wonderful to at least try and I wish you all the best.

But if you decide that he can't be trusted after all of your trying, I think it'd be a good idea to put him down.

I keep a pit bull mix who is a big baby, but I decided when I took him on that if he ever became human aggressive he would be crossing the bridge by my hand. Fortunately he has stayed true to his love humans all the time colors so it's not as much of a worry anymore.

Take care.

Hannah said...

I definitely agree with you on the stud chain bit. I work with a lot of Mustangs, so I understand the trust thing, and how hard it is to earn. As a result, I've taken to treating all horses like I do the Mustangs: moving slowly and gently, giving them time to get used to me as an unfamiliar person.

One time, I was asked to hold a large, young pinto Thoroughbred while she was being clipped for surgery (I help at a vet office). She was being a little antsy, and because of her size, it was determined that she needed a stud chain, just as a reminder to stand still. She looked like she was going to kick the person doing the clipping, so he asked me to jerk down on her head with the chain to get her attention. I did, gently, but the tech wasn't satisfied with that. He took the rope and jerked down hard, causing the horse's head to go up almost to the ceiling, in obvious pain. I decided immediately that I would NEVER do that. Stud chains are ok if you're gentle, just adding a little pressure for a naughty horse. There's no reason to jerk down onto it.

So, I guess I'm trying to agree through example. Good job, and I think you and Spencer will do amazingly in the horse world, should you choose that direction.