Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Spencer gets worried about the people around him and at times he is jumpy, angry and intimidating. I continue to wonder why a horse would behave this way.

Sometimes you just have to try to get inside the head of an animal like him to try to figure him out and help him to become a safe, member of equine society.

I finally came to grips with the fact that I have no idea of what Spencer’s past really was like. I’ve heard things…but have no way of knowing how much of what I’ve heard is fact or fiction. I’m only certain of his last two years before coming here.

We know that he was young stallion who after being loose and living alone in a paddock for 2 years, untouched, was caught after being chased for 3 hours in 90 degree heat and running on a severly abscessing hoof. (This was after several other failed attempts to catch him had taken place during those two years.)

After he gave up and allowed himeself to be haltered, he was hauled to a new location where he was put in with, and brutalized by, another stallion who was protecting his mares who were in the same small field with them. The assault seemed to go on and on with Spencer being cornered many times with no where to run.

In fact, the clash between the two stallions was so horrific neighbors finally called police to the scene. That's how bad it was and that's how bad he looked afterwards. I thought it was awesome that the neighbors intervened on a horse's behalf. The idea for putting him in with that stallion was to teach him a lesson about who was the boss.

Several months later, we adopted him. And I think I finally figured out why he gets so belligerent sometimes. I believe he thinks we might do the same thing that other stallion did to him. And that humans before us did to him. He's anticipating the worst and he's simply protecting himself.

Self preservation! I get that. If fact, I figure, he believes we just want to kill him and eat him!

After all, bottom line, when our horses get worried, isn’t that a common concern of all prey/herd animals? And to add to their concern, I’m pretty sure horses know they taste good.

So after enduring the winter weather for the past few months, I was finally able to do some things with Spencer this weekend. We played the 7 games, we worked on hoof handling, (yes, still working on that) and then I decided to go looking for my clickers. And I found them!

Spencer LOVES treats so he LOVES the clicker! You may recall from an earlier post, when he first came here, he would not take treats from my hand. He would turn his head away when offered food from my hand. He’s been hit, I’m pretty sure, and it took watching Forrest take carrots from me to understand that I wasn’t going to hurt him for taking food from my hand.

When I would offer carrots to Forrest, Spencer would put his nose on the carrot and follow it all the way into Forrest’s mouth. It was the funniest thing to watch and Forrest was like, “What the heck are you doing, Man? Sniffing my carrot? Go sniff your own carrot!” (Amazing how similar their blazes are. So tornado like.)

Then when he realized treats were okay, it was the way he took the treats from me that was worrisome. He’d suddenly reach out with his mouth open, teeth-bared and snap the treat away…before he could get hit, I imagine, but I was careful about my fingers.

So while I was working with the clicker last weekend, I happned to take note of how gentle and gracious he’d become at taking treats from me. He was slow and thoughtful and careful about my fingers. If he felt my fingers against his lips, I could feel him avoid them even if it meant the treat might be dropped. That is why, I believe in hand feeding horses. They need to know “how” to take offerings from human hands because one day a small child might be the one offering from their little hands. There was a day that would have been a dangerous situation with Spencer.

I was so impressed with the changes in him, after I thought about how far we’ve come. He really is starting to remind me of an big old teddy bear. Who still kicks out from time to time and won’t pick up his feet for me to trim yet. But hey, we’re making progress.

Spencer is hanging out in his loafing shed on a rainy afternoon.

I got up on the fence for this shot. A site I don't see very often - his top!

So how do you eat a draft horse?

One bite at a time!