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!


Rachel said...

YAY! I love Spencer updates!
Can't believe I never noticed how similar those blazes are up-close! That is uncanny!

You already know this about me (I'm trying to scale back, really I am!) but I agree on the hand-feeding for the same reason.

I watch my 2-year old saunter up to the fence with a handful of grass all the time.

What is amazing to me, is that at his tiny age, he already knows the differences between the two horses. He will not offer anything to Cassie because he knows Kona is gentler about accepting his treats. He somehow recognizes which is which, and seeks Kona out. He'll say "No Cassie" when she tries for it.

So I can totally see the value in Spencer's progress - especially with your busy little grandkids! :)

Can't wait to come over and play! And really excited to meet your gang too.

cilla said...

hello Pat! hello Spencer!
so good to read another post on the gorgeous teddy bear. bless you for all your continuing hard work. it will take forever i know, to rehabilitate old Spence but it will be an incredible journey. please keep posting. i have missed you.
i was reading the savvy club magazine the other week and theres an article about a US zoo Parelli-ing elephants. the staff are learning the 7 games with draft horses first. . . . that made me laugh. i have often thought in elephant terms about my own Lizzie! i am eating my way through my own elephant! bit by bit lol.

Pat said...

Hey Guys! Nice to hear from you!

Yes, Rachel, that's just what I mean. Little guys like your could just go strolling over innocently with a treat and I'd like to know that my horse will carefully take the offering from his little hand.

And I'd forgotten about that elephant article. But that's so similar, Cilla. We are training elephants!! LOL!

So I've been noticing that my pictures are not as clear and colorful, and when I uploaded the picture of Forrest, taken with my old camera, to the others taken with my new(er) camera, it really brought home just how poor the picture quality has been.

So I checked and my flash has been turned off! Sheesh! It sure took me long enough to sort that out.

I hope to be uploading better pictures from now on!

I need to get over to your blogs and check out what you've been up to!

megan colleen said...

Oh that's awesome Pat!

It does sound to me like he's been abused, as the treat taking thing is usually a good indicator. (with dogs at least - which is where my experience lays).

Keep up the good work with him. :)

- Meg

firecoach said...

Hi Pat,
It is so fun to see the progress that you make with Spencer. I have a miniature that I suspect had a hard life before she came to me. It has taken her a year to realize that her life here is different. But there is a world of difference with draft horse and a miniature.
My half draft Tank, was very "worried", always looking over his shoulder, not real jumpy but enough. I thought he needed a probiotic, so I tried Uckele's Absorb -All. I am also giving him Source. I have noticed that when I give him these products, he is calmer, not "worried". He did not get these products for a week, when we went to my father in law's funeral. When we got home, I noticed that he was "worried" again. Once I got him back on the products, he was calmer, much more relaxed, which is a good thing with a big horse!
Pat, have you seen Jerry lately?

Pat said...

Thanks for the tips on the supplements, Marla, I will be checking those out.

I haven't seen Jerry lately. In fact, I just sent an email off yesterday to Cora asking about him. She took my trimming clinic and has been trimming her horses hooves. When I hear back from her, I'll let you know or maybe she will read this and let us both know!

Hopefully when the weather improves she and I can get together with our horses.

Good to hear from you,

firecoach said...

Let me expand on my reasoning for those particular supplements. Spencer like Tank was under quite a bit of stress in his life. Spencer's stress lasted much longer than Tanks. The stress depleats the body of B vitamins. I know when I am stressed if I take B vitamins I always feel better. So I thought I would get Tank some sort of B Vitamins. The Absorb All seemed to have it and with the probiotic he would be able to absorb it. It took him a while to get depleted, so I am sure it will take him a while to get built back up. I am on my second container of the product. I had no idea that Spencer was in a pasture with another stallion. Can not get much more stressful than that. He could not really relax or sleep, and I am sure he was always on guard. Jerry too was picked on by other big draft horses before we got him. He was so defensive that he attacked first when he got to our place just to keep his place in the pecking order. But that was not hard with my Morgan Mare and the mini's. But the time at the trainer's really gave him self confidence and helped to get rid of that chip on his shoulder. I am looking forward to hear how good he is doing.

Vicki said...

Hi Pat
Your horses are gorgeous! Love the little one too - mini me.

I am in a similar situation to you - just having acquired a miniature horse that has been abused. I have not touched him yet - he arrived on Jan 1st this year. But we are making great progress. He is looking at me differently now - he is finally interested in me. He also snatches treats and jumps backwards if I hold the carrot so he has to bite it - I never thought that he may have been hit when taking treats but that does make sense. All I know is that he was tied up and had things thrown at him.

I hope one day soon he will trust me enough to take his head collar off that he arrived with.

I have also done alot of clicker training and I think he is ready for that too - thanks for reminding me.

allhorsestuff said...

Yea! Hi Pat/ Spencer and all!
Great to see him looking at your while you do the games there...nice to read about him and thoise bvlazes are uncannily similar!
Wa says "nicker hello" too!

Pony Girl said...

I've just been browsing through your blog. I am particularly interested because I love any story about wonderful people like yourselves making a difference in a horse's life. Spencer deserves another chance. It sounds like you are making great progress with him!
Also, I just had the chance to see and snap some pictures of two Belgians a few days ago! I will post them on my blog on Friday. They were lovely. Their hooves were HUGE! Anyway, good luck with your boy and I'll be back to check on his progress.

Pat said...

Thank you Pony Girl!